- Trapped in the inevitability of what’s about to happen on Friday.
- Ashamed, thinking that I need to do more.
- Abandoned by those who are able to attend the March in Washington.
- Scared that I’ll be too scared to march in NYC.
- Governed by social anxiety of the magnitude I haven’t experienced in years.
- Proud to be escorting on Saturday morning.
- Grateful to have somewhere to be on Friday night, with like-minded, revolution-minded friends.
- Thrilled to be doing a play that actually fucking matters.
- Depressed and alone, on the couch, unable to work or think.
- Stuck in a spiral of news that makes my heart and head hurt.
I like this.
I can tell instantly as when you step up, darling. I know. The posture, the sleeves over the hands, something in your eyes – you the girls who are struggling right now.
Some of you are hard and tense with overeating. Others, anorexic, feel like starving baby birds when I hug you – a handful of brittle bamboo canes. Maybe your arms are furious with criss-cross razor lines, or studs in your ear, your nose, your tongue, where you have tried to reclaim your bodies from something, or someone, with the snap of a piercing gun.
Sometimes your parents are there – standing in the background, nervous, their faces anxiously projecting, “She likes you. Please make her feel better now. Oh Christ, don’t break her.”
Other times, your parents aren’t there, but still present – their carelessness or rejection as tangible as if they were standing a foot away, casting mile-long shadows.
What do I say to you girl – you beautiful girls? You girls who are having the Bad Year – the Bad Year where you cannot remember why you were happy aged 12, and cannot imagine being happy at 21? What can I say in one minute, two minutes, three minutes?
So many things. That panic and anxiety will lie to you – they are gonzo, malign commentators on the events of your life. Their counsel is wrong. You are as high, wired and badly advised by adrenaline as you would be by cocaine.
Panic and anxiety are mad, drugged fools. Do not listen to their grinding-toothed, sweaty bullshit.
e is a promise, and a fact: you will never, in your life, ever have to deal with anything more than the next minute. However much it feels like you are approaching an event – an exam, a conversation, a decision, a kiss – where, if you screw it up, the entire future will just burn to hell in front of you and you will end, you are not.
That will never happen. That is not what happens.
The minutes always come one at a time, inside hours that come one at a time, inside days that come one at a time – all orderly strung, like pearls on a necklace, suspended in a graceful line. You will never, ever have to deal with more than the next 60 seconds.
Do the calm, right thing that needs to be done in that minute. The work, or the breathing, or the smile. You can do that, for just one minute. And if you can do a minute, you can do the next.
Pretend you are your own baby. You would never cut that baby, or starve it, or overfeed it until it cried in pain, or tell it it was worthless. Sometimes, girls have to be mothers to themselves. Your body wants to live – that’s all and everything it was born to do. Let it do that, in the safety you provide it. Protect it. That is your biggest job. To protect your skin, and heart.
Buy flowers – or if you are poor, steal one from someone’s garden; the world owes you that much at least: blossom – and put them at the end of the bed. When you wake, look at it, and tell yourself you are the kind of person who wakes up and sees flowers. This stops your first thought being, “I fear today. Today is the day maybe I cannot survive any more,” which I know is what you would otherwise think. Thinking about blossom before you think about terror is what girls must always do, in the Bad Years.
And the most important thing? To know that you were not born like this. You were not born scared and self-loathing and overwhelmed. Things have been done – which means things can be undone. It is hard work. But you are not scared of hard work, compared with everything else you have dealt with. Because what you must do right now, and for the rest of your life, is learn how to build a girl. You.
One of my favorite movies of last year was Short Term 12. I saw it on recommendation from a friend’s mother, of all people, and dragged A to see it in theatres (we both love movies, but his penchant is generally not quiet indie fare).
It was incredible.
It’s on Netflix instant, which meant I just rewatched it tonight (I had a good day, but I was in the mood for a cry. Know how that is?). It is just stunningly powerful.
Short Term 12 is about a group of kids in a group home (Short Term 12) and the twenty-somethings who are basically their caretakers. Everyone in this movie is delicate and damaged, but clearly also intelligent and complex and fierce.
I had a really nice childhood, except for that whole mental illness thing. I never lived in a group home. But I do remember distinctly what it’s like to fly into banshee-like rages, to utter vile things to people who are trying to help, to simply become too overwhelmed to manage human interaction. I also know that when Nate and Mason hold Jayden down, sitting with her on the floor as she screams, and Grace says, “You don’t have to like me right now. Just let it pass,” that is exactly what ten-year-old me would have needed to hear.
Mental illness is devastating, and I feel so lucky to have come out the other side relatively unscathed. I am grateful to my parents even though they didn’t do everything right. I don’t know what I would have done. I forgive them.
No one wants to rage. No one wants to scream. No child who actually loves their parents wants to hurt them, really. I remember talking about those feelings, that violence, like a mutant bacteria, or even another person inside me. If I focus in, I can still find her. I will never forget how visceral those experiences were. I can never quite explain to anyone on the outside how little blonde me, little perfect home me, little meticulous focused me, flew into rages that involved knives and fists and and and and and, which I couldn’t control. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced could really understand what that is.
Short Term 12 does a great job of humanizing these characters– their anger, their affection, their inability to let themselves be revealed, even when they are able to help others do so– and in doing so, it’s kind of unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Five stars, highly recommended, two thumbs up, and spread the word.
P.S. I can also vouch personally that John Gallagher Jr. (who plays Mason) is a cool dude.
As everyone knows, Robin Williams was found dead of suicide yesterday. His son went to my high school. He was 63.
Less people know that a costume designer I worked with died yesterday too, from complications from breast cancer. She was 41.
Everyone is about to learn that Lauren Bacall passed away today. She was 89.
Life is so delicate. I’m doing a play called Steel Magnolias, and the title is hitting me very hard today. We are all always on the edge of it, you know? Depression is a terrible disease. So is cancer. And aging? We’re all on our way, every day.
I whine occasionally because everyone I know (it seems) is getting engaged. It makes me feel behind, in a way, but simultaneously closer to old-maid-dom (even though I’m in a very serious relationship anyway). And isn’t that the thing? We are all things at once– past and future selves, behind in some ways and ahead in others.
As the boy (now a man) from Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood states at the end of the movie, “It’s always right now.”
I am grateful for my right now— more today than usual.
I’m sure you’ve all heard now about the tragic shootings in Santa Barbara. 7 people dead, shot by a young man who shot himself in the seconds before the police got to his car.
It’s terrible. Truly awful.
What is really different about this case is the fact that this young man, Elliot Rodger, left behind a deep, horrifying blueprint all over the internet. Comments on forums, an enormous (over 100,000 word) manifesto of his “retribution,” and YouTube videos that outline his disturbing views on, in particular, women. One video is titled “Why do girls hate me so much?”
I’m not sure what my feeling about the whole thing is, beyond the most basic sadness and horror and disturbance.
But watching his videos, in particular the one he posted hours before the attack (now taken off YouTube, but of course accessible elsewhere), makes me feel such incredible sadness. Not for him– although it’s hard for me to not feel sad because he was so lost– but because I am honestly unsure what could have prevented this.
People did call the police on him. He was questioned. They didn’t find the gun in his bedroom.
His parents were clearly not the best parents (not that I blame them) but they also made an effort, at least when he was a kid, and he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. He was incredibly wealthy– mental health care was accessible to him.
Gun control would have helped. Perhaps if he hadn’t been able to buy a semi-automatic weapon.
There will be the assholes who blame women (like he did) for not giving him a chance. “That was all he wanted!” they’ll say, “He’s not unattractive, why won’t you feminists just fuck him?”
And of course, that’s one of the real tragic parts of the whole thing, and what disturbs me so much. We always search for reasons for acts like this– Elliot Rodger gives us one. “If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you.” Obviously there are societal issues in place that allow this opinion (and those who defend it) to profligate. Again, you can’t hang his actions on society. But I think this brings up an important conversation.
I’m not sure I’ve ever written about my one experience of harrassment (mild, but it happened). This is also brought to the fore in my mind because I’m working on a short film about relational abuse. I spent a summer at a theatre festival, which has a program that admits two apprentices per summer that have some kind of special need (things like blindness, asperger’s, amputees, etc). There was one young man who had Asperger’s. I was kind and friendly, of course, as always, and we ended up in a lot of the same groups. Fairly quickly I realized that he was attracted to me. This happens, and I gave off the signals that normally do the trick. That didn’t work here, which makes sense, considering his diagnosis. So I became more clear. But he continued to approach me, to touch me, to engage me, and also to hug me– hugs which went too long, and, more than once, devolved into his thrusting his pelvis on me. I was incredibly uncomfortable with this, but didn’t know what more I could do beyond what I’d already done. I had told him to leave me be, that I wasn’t interested in him like that. So eventually I approached the program director and asked if we could possibly stop being put in groups together, or at least LESS (it was every day now) and explained how I felt very uncomfortable. In no uncertain terms, I was told to “get over it” and just be nice to him. “He just wants to be your friend,” and “You have to be clear with him.” Completely unhelpful. Eventually, the flirtation took a turn, and he started making comments about how “nobody likes him” and “girls never want to date me because they have something against people with asperger’s.” It was a very sophisticated guilt trip and made me feel terrible. That little voice was always saying “there’s something wrong with YOU that this is happening, YOU must be a bad person, YOU must be doing somehting wrong, YOU are hurting this person.”
So reading about Elliot Rodger, I think I become extra uncomfortable because I’ve heard that rhetoric before about “girls don’t like me” because “girls are bad.” Obviously there was other stuff going on, both in my personal experience and with Rodger, but the repetition of it strikes me as problematic. No one “deserves” a woman’s body. No woman is “required” to date or sleep with a man just because he’s attractive.
Anyway. Long story short… This is a sad day, and I don’t recommend the internet wormhole I just fell into.
What the EVERLOVING SHIT is going on with me right now?
I had a pretty shitty weekend, emotionally. A was gone. I did some work and relaxed a ton, but got about as close to binging as I have in a loooong time. Had those terrible thought cycles and got constantly caught up in the emotional soup. Had what should have been great sex last night but wasn’t there at ALL.
Now today, I feel shaky and sad. This isn’t the numbness I felt this weekend, it’s a heavy wet cloud in my chest. Tears or screams or something always feel just on the VERGE of coming out. I have a cracked lip I can’t stop picking at and a pimple the size of Pluto that I can’t stop thinking about. My brain feels far and distant and it takes an exceptional amount of power to convince my self to do my actual job.
I don’t know how I feel. I feel depressed but also manic, unfocused and flighty, epically sad but also terribly anxious.
Is it just this time of year? Where things are ending and new things are supposed to be starting, but instead the days just slide into the thick humid fucking loooooooong days of New York summer? Why does the “future” look like a total jumble, just weeks and weeks of IcantevenimaginewhatIamdoingIhavenocluecanItakeanapandwakeupandsuddenlyhaveapurpose?
This better pass by tomorrow, because I’m turning fucking 25 years old and I deserve a good day. Goddamnit.
It’s finally beginning to be real.
I’m losing my job.
Yesterday we interviewed 4 applicants, all qualified, although there’s already someone in place to take the job from within. Today I’ll have my very last program meeting, where the students and faculty get together and talk about news and auditions and departmental happenings. I have gone to these monthly since August 2007.
I’ve been recording a lot for these audiobooks I’m working on, and the ones that pay the best give me about $100 per finished hour (plus royalties to come), some more than that. It’s not bad. But I’m realizing that if I were to “rely” on my audiobooks, I’d have to be doing at LEAST two full-length books per month to get up to the pittance I’m currently making. It’s not really feasible.
And also, I no longer have a safe space. I don’t have a computer not in my home. I don’t have somewhere quiet to escape to. I don’t have the comfort of a door I can close and a chair that’s mine and a printer I can use and the people who I have surrounded myself with for the last 7 years. SEVEN YEARS.
I think that’s the hardest part. It’s sort of like graduating all over again, and it hurts. It’s scary, but it’s more sad. It’s more like leaving my therapist or graduating from school or having a show close than it is money anxiety or anything like that.
I don’t know how I’m going to make money, but even more, I don’t know where to focus my energy. I’m not sure where my “home base” will be. That’s very scary.
So many endings. So much uncertainty. Starting from zero again.
And not knowing exactly what the next step is.
..you can go from feeling good, solid, grounded, successful, PROUD…
to feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and stuck.
Questioning every decision.
Hating hating other people, and resenting resenting their success.
“Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic – jealousy especially so – but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.”
― Anne Lamott
“Jealousy always has been my cross, the weakness and woundedness in me that has most often caused me to feel ugly and unlovable, like the Bad Seed. I’ve had many years of recovery and therapy, years filled with intimate and devoted friendships, yet I still struggle. I know that when someone gets a big slice of pie, it doesn’t mean there’s less for me. In fact, I know that there isn’t even a pie, that there’s plenty to go around, enough food and love and air.
But I don’t believe it for a second.
“Jealousy is the most dreadfully involuntary of all sins.”
― Iris Murdoch
The last month has been very strange.
For the last few years that I’ve had a salaried part-time position., my schedule has been relatively set. I work from 11am or 12pm until around 5pm. LOTS happens around these times, but this was the basic structure of my weeks. Every day but Thursday.
Thursday was the day I had therapy. For about a year and a half, it was also the day I saw my nutritionist. Most other appointments were also scheduled for that day — GP, gyno, psychiatrist, dermatologist, dentist. Now, I could care less about those other appointments and doctors. Those weren’t what Thursdays were about. Thursday was my recovery day, my healthy day, my day where my only job was to be well.
I stopped seeing my nutritionist in 2011. I only see my psychiatrist every four months or so. I only go to the GP once a year. And as of December 2013, I stopped seeing my therapist.
It is a very strange feeling that Thursday had this meaning for me, for so long. I think about it differently than other days. Even now, after about three months of Thursdays without requirements, it’s hard for me to reconcile it as just “any old day.” Last week, I took Wednesday off instead of Thursday at work. It was a good choice for my exhaustion, but it felt like a Thursday. And the Thursday I worked? I kept thinking it was Wednesday. No joke.
And another thing.
I miss my therapist. I am 100% certain that I don’t need her in my life right now, and 100% certain that I’m doing exactly the same thing I would have been doing had I still been seeing her, but I miss her. Four years of Thursdays. She knows me better than anyone on earth. And now we don’t speak. How weird is that?! I want to tell her about my successes. I want to cry in my chair across from hers. I want to talk about things that irritate me. I just… kind of want to see her face.
I expect this is normal. Even she acknowledged that leaving a therapy relationship is strange and hard. She shared her own experience of it. And it’s actually been less hard than I expected. I thought I’d feel heartbroken, like every time I thought about her I’d feel sad. That’s not the case. I just miss her. You know?
I talk to my mentees a lot about therapy. Many of them have had bad experiences with therapists, and it breaks my heart. I somehow lucked into finding the most incredible woman who trusted me and believed me and respected me and was there for me and worked with me in a way that worked with who I was. She is the best. I just want all of my mentees (and all of everyone!) to find this kind of person. Someone who is with you 100% every time you’re in her chair, and anytime out of it. Compassionate, caring, but not demeaning or diminishing of your agency.
But I don’t know how to help anyone find that, unless they’re in New York City and can afford her.
What I HAVE been sharing is the website for the specific type of therapy she frequently practiced with me, AEDP. I only know what it is because she sent me referrals for other practitioners of AEDP in other states. From their website:
There is no better way to capture the ethos of AEDP than to say this: we try to help our patients—and ourselves—become stronger at the broken places. By working with trauma, loss, and the painful consequences of the limitations of human relatedness, we discover places that have always been strong, places that were never broken.
Crisis and suffering provide opportunities to awaken extraordinary capacities that otherwise might lie dormant, unknown and untapped. AEDP, as a therapeutic approach, is about making the most of these opportunities for healing and transformation. Key to this experiential enterprise is the establishment of the therapeutic relationship as safe, secure base.
Tomorrow is Thursday. I will not go to therapy, I will not go to work. But I will go and perform a show. Because that’s what I’m lucky enough to be able to do. And much of that is thanks to these past four years of Thursdays.
If you guys are interested in learning more about AEDP or finding a certified therapist, here’s the website. http://www.aedpinstitute.org/
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery– air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'”
–Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“‘You have the luxury of time. You’re young. Young people are doing something even when they’re doing nothing. A young woman is conduit. All she has to do is exist.’ You have time. Meaning don’t use it, but pass through time in patience, waiting for something to come. Prepare for its arrival. Don’t rush to meet it. Be a conduit. I believed him. I felt this to be true. Some people might consider that passivity but I did not. I considered it living.”
—The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
One of the strangest things about day-to-day life is how mundane it seems. I get up. I go to the gym. I go to work. I go home. I make soup. I watch bad TV. I try and get auditions. I go to bed. Ostensibly, “nothing” is going on in my life.
I never really listen to music, except when I’m doing something else, like playing a game on my iPad or cooking, and it’s even more rare that I listen to music while walking down the street. But the other night, I did. I was on the train, and an Iron & Wine song came on shuffle. Now, there are LOTS of songs that bring up memories for me. But all of a sudden, this song jerked me into taking a step back and actually looking at what this “nothing” really is. And I’m shocked to discover that these days– morning to night– that feel so devoid, so par for the course, are the building blocks for an amazing life.
Sometimes I feel that way in New York. This place is idealized by so many people (I, for one, never really did– I guess I just always assumed I’d be here, and didn’t fantasize about it at all), and this is where my “nothing” life takes place. The capital of the WORLD. I have to stop myself, often, and marvel at this city. I literally stop in the street sometimes, and look up at the skyscrapers, like a nerd, and think to myself, “I am living a life that others dream of. No matter what else I’m doing, being here is a success.” Because it is. Because New York is fucking hard.
Also, because I am someone who comes from a state with two professional theatres (yes, I said “state” and “two”), I can’t forget my artistic life here. I don’t know how many Broadway and off-Broadway shows I’ve seen for free. This year alone, examples include but are not limited to: Hands on a Hardbody, Romeo and Juliet, The Nance, The Testament of Mary, Little Miss Sunshine, Golden Boy, Picnic… I have seen Julie Andrews in a bathroom, given Liam Neeson back the hat he forgot in a theatre (he was so sweet about it), and seen Patti LuPone, Phylicia Rashad, James Earle Jones, Dianne Wiest, Ellen Burstyn, Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christopher Lloyd, Fiona Shaw, Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths, Zosia Mamet, and ENDLESS MORE live onstage, often from a few rows back. How cool is that? And I’ve met some of them too. I did a reading with Anthony Rapp. I did a reading directed by Shirley Knight. Stephen Sondheim saw me act. (sorry, Braggy McGhee just got excited).
L received news that she will receive her last chemo treatment on December 17. That’s literally two years and ten days after her initial diagnosis. She texted me and asked me to be there. I will. And I’m can’t believe it. Walking with L down this path has been so strange and awful and important and… it’s hard to talk about. When I talk about it too much, I feel like I’m being a “poor me” jerk who thinks she was more important than she actually was. But I have to be honest– I was there for a LOT of it. Probably more than anyone else besides her parents. That’s not nothing. And cancer, like all diseases, is powerful. It is a nuclear bomb, and anyone who is nearby when it explodes is infected with radiation. And those of us who bear it, and live with it, uncomfortable though it is, emerge with superpowers. Like Spiderman. (someone shut me up)
Then “Now We Can See” by the Thermals came on as I was trudging up the subway stairs. The last song in the first show “my” company ever produced. 2010. We were very young, kinda dumb, but with enthusiasm and self-confidence, poured to overflowing into this strange group of young people. What a strange, wonderful first New York theatrical experience. We won awards and got raves, yes, which was amazing and thrilling and great, but even more special was the feeling that washed over all of us as we sang this song, stomping, clutching the mikes, shaking our styled hair, in one of the most historic theatres in New York. What was that feeling? A strange mix of confidence, hope, and more than anything, joy. We overflowed. Regardless of what would happen next, those moments in the Ellen Stewart Theatre were unforgettable.
I spent four years with my therapist, and now I’m phasing out. I think I have two more sessions. WHO KNEW I’d ever get to this point? I sure didn’t. I frankly didn’t know what I thought, but in the last four years, I’ve felt so far from “stable” that leaving wasn’t even a thought. But here I am. Moving forward, out of therapy, because I have done so much goddamn work. And that’s the most amazing thing– not, “oh my god, weirdo me is leaving therapy! Crazy!” but “Look at all this SHIT I had to fight through, tooth and nail, to get to this point. Look at how hard I worked. Look at all the time I spent fighting for the life I have now. I battled an eating disorder, crushing anxiety, self-hatred, depression, mania, self-injury in every way you can imagine, and I’ve come out the other side. And I have confidence that I can care for myself, for the first time in a long time. Isn’t THAT crazy?”
My life is nothing special to me, as I walk through it. And yet, I realize that I have walked through incredible forests, forded wild rivers. I am lucky to have it, and I am grateful. Overwhelmingly.