All she has to do is exist.

“‘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.

 

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I have an idea.

I have an idea.

Let’s get a credit card. Doesn’t really matter what since someone else is gonna pay it off.

Let’s board a plane and fly somewhere beautiful.

Like the British Virgin Islands, perhaps.

Here:
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We’d be sure to pick up enough food to keep us going for a week. Fresh island foods. Fish to grill.

We’d wake up in the morning to the sun rising over the bay. Breakfast on the veranda– coffee, and fruit, and eggs.

We’d while away the mornings reading by the pool. When the sun is too hot, we’d drop ourselves into the pool and lap about, splashing.

Lunch is eaten half wrapped in towels. We probably have hot, damp sex that smells like tanned skin.

In the afternoon we walk the beach. We stop to admire the way the sand sparkles in the sun. Our feet skim the shallows.

Hunger, and the taste of crisp white wine, drives our wander home. The sun is setting over the bay as the smoke from the grill drifts into the air.

The bed waits.

We don’t close any doors.

We never worry about how to pay.

Never feel guilty for what we’re “missing” in our lives “back home.”

Sound good?

Seismic Shifts

I’ve been thinking about what to write for a few days now, and I’m just now sitting on the couch, hoping to scratch some of it down. It’s going to be jumbled, but sometimes there’s poetry in chaos. My dad always said to start with a free write.

The window behind me is open a crack. The air is wet and full, but the breeze has a chill. It’s been a rainy June, but we’ve had a couple of miracle days. Days of perfection– bright blue skies, calm air, just enough warmth to release the sounds and smells of spring, as if every piece of the city was perfectly placed on its coordinates, suddenly allowing things to flow just right.

I have moments in this city, like I did yesterday on the way home from working with my boss while he was in rehearsal at the Barishnikov Arts Center on 11th Ave, where the pieces feel like they fit just right. I can glance at the skyscrapers uptown and wonder at how a homebody from Idaho made a life here. I’m not hungry, but I’m not overfull. Breath flows, unobstructed. Heading home in time for dinner, the sun just starting its descent over the Hudson.

I’m alone, usually, when this happens. It’s like those toys we had when we were kids– the beak of an eagle perched on your finger balances the whole bird. Miraculous. Also, temporary, and also, solo. If a bee lighted on the back of the small plastic eagle, it would crash down, all memory of balance gone. So I relish those moments– solo, balanced, and necessarily brief.

I have found that I am still very young. This is not shocking. I mean, I’m not crazy– I’m 24 years old and I’ve known I’m young for about as long as I’ve been alive. But I don’t have a life pattern yet. I have little to base what’s next upon. I was in school for 22 years– day care and preschool, elementary school, high school, boarding school, college. And now I’m entering my second year of true "adulthood." That’s not a very long time to develop of sense of what "life" is.

So I falter. I compare. I long for last summer’s career arc, and I pine for my college friendships. I am a different person now than I was two years, four years, ten years ago. Which surprises me, in some ways.

Perhaps personality develops through a series of catalysts. Choices we make that echo long after they’re done. Battles we fight until we can finally emerge, bloody and mutilated, but victorious. Sometimes the mere shape of the world around us– a high school, for instance, or a mother-daughter relationship– catalyze what’s next. I wonder how long I will keep changing. Will who I am ever cement? Or with every shift of the seismic plates, every strong Noreaster, will my "self" be changed a little bit too?

 I come from a town that is bigger than a town but smaller than a city. There were cul-de-sac suburbs and junky trailers off the highway, but where I lived there was a front yard and a backyard, an elementary school in walking distance, piano lessons, ballet class, and gymnastics. I had a younger sister and two parents who worked. My dad, a PhD and a Rhodes scholar, professor of English and author of creative nonfiction, my mother a labor and delivery nurse who often worked odd shifts but could be counted on, when home, to prepare stir fry or pesto pasta and knew when we should finish our last snacks so we had room for dinner. I had some friends from school– Heather, Keako, Andrew, Evan. We went camping in the mountains during the summer, alternately covered in dust and damp with lake water.

This was the structure of my life from age 6 to age 15. And yet, the inside is so much more complex. I was a difficult little girl– tempermental, moody, destructive, obsessive. My parents fought often, and for some time, slept in separate bedrooms. My mother sent money, and then refused it, to my drug-addicted cousins (there’s more than one), and she learned that her sister was in prison. My father still struggled to come to terms with his childhood sexual abuse at summer camp. It shuttered him. I didn’t know my sister, despite the fact that her room was next to mine.

The facts of my life are these:
I live with my boyfriend. I’m a professional actor. I’m a resident of New York City. I graduated summa cum laude as the salutatorian from college. I take the subway every day and see a therapist every week. My eyes are blue, or green, or gray, or a mix; no one can decide. My hair is blonde, or dark blonde, or light brown, or honey-colored; no one can decide.

Underneath, the struggle:
I can no longer see food without considering whether or not I should eat it.
I know when I’m depressed when I can’t read.
I am terrified that I have alienated the dearest friends I have.
All I really want is for people to love me as much as I love them.
I feel trapped and terrified and lost nearly every day.
I fantasize about a childhood that I know didn’t exist.
Sometimes I go through days in New York where every single person I see, I resent.
I want to write powerful personal essays like my father, but I don’t know where to begin.

Everything changes. It would take years and years to trace each seismic shift from its starting place, to its catalyst, to its change. There are patterns, of course. My triggers are familiar. Many of my dreams are the same.

But the way I see myself, the way I see the world, has transformed, and on more than one occasion.

I’m okay with that.

As long as I still find those moments where all the pieces of my life, my desires, my city, can balance momentarily on a finger. As long as I feel those sharp flashes of knowing I’m exactly where and what and who I’m supposed to be. The inside transforms the outside, and the same is true the other way around.

And maybe that makes me hope that I’ll never stop changing, that with each turn of the season and spin of the axis, I’m finding my balance on the point that feels just right, at least for a moment. And then I’ll fall off, only to tip and spin and flounder until I’ve found my perfect, temporary fit again.

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Bloom

Sitting on an ice-cold bench across from the theatre where thirteen years ago, I saw my first Broadway show.

I think about the simplicity of that joy– of the rush of feelings. I think about how my heart still picks up its pace when the lights dim.

I came from a 2hr Alexander workshop, and I’m wasting time before an audition, which will be followed by a volunteer ushering gig at an off-Broadway theatre.

If I separate out the politics, the anxieties, the “too much” I know… I can feel that ten year old me watch me in awe. I’m doing it.

And yet, sitting here myself, in the center of the world, I feel desperate and off-kilter. I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, what I want. I walk past it every day. I circle it in my mind every hour. I feel it like a lump in my throat. My want blooms so fully, sometimes it feels like it chokes me.

A man approached me just now. “You a very lucky lady.” I smiled at him. He began to rattle off questions. “This is your lucky year– no 2011, no 2012, in March this year you be very lucky lady. He put a crumpled piece of paper in my hand. He had me close my hand, put it up to my forehead. “Name three flowers. Okay, daffodil, rose, posy, D,R,P. Count the gurus in this picture.” A laminated photo of Gandhi and ho followers. “Open the paper.” On the paper, D,R,P. “Now a number under five. Turn over this paper.” Three. Three. “Give donation and I tell you your name, age, where you from.” I don’t have any cash. “ATM card.” I have a card but I’m not going to get money out. “Here, take this paper.” A bright rendition of Ganesh and Shiva. “Laminate it. Put in your bag. You very lucky lady.”

I don’t believe in fortune tellers, but I will allow myself to feel that instinctual tug towards magic. I want to believe I will be lucky. Most honestly, I want to believe that I will get what I want. That I will live the life that I have given my whole self to cultivating.

That in 2013, this want will bloom into a Daffodil, a Rose, a Posy.

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Find Me Someone

For someone that should be an asexual shut-in (considering my abilities to handle intimacy and significant time spent with people other than my cat… okay, and that includes my cat), I am dying for some male up in my life.

To be fair, my last KISS (not to mention sexual experience) was my birthday. And let’s reiterate that my birthday was OVER two months ago. The last time I had sex… god. That was in December 2010. TWO THOUSAND AND TEN. I have not had sex since I graduated from college. That is a SIN.

Last night, we watched the movie that the playwright of this show wrote and directed, and his wife, one of our actresses and my closest friend in the house, was in. Their company produced it as well. It was, A) damn good, and B) featured a cast of actors I KNEW– perhaps not movie star famous, but definitely “oh, yeah! He was on Smash!” and “oh, of course, RENT was my first big musical, I know him.”

There’s one actor, though. One who I’ve known these guys were friends with since day one and I’ve been sort of squirreling info out of them.

1. He’s 29. (that’s only 6 yrs older than me)

2. He’s on Broadway right now.

3. He was on soap operas and won daytime Emmy’s (2 of them)

4. He texts my friends constantly with support, and even called my lady friend during his two show day in the middle of our tech to talk her down off the ledge of “oh my god why am I an actor I suck I hate everything I hate everyone.”

5. His mom was his date to the Emmy’s both times, and he cried thanking her. She also came to our show a couple of nights ago, loved it, will come again, and there’s a picture of her, her sister, and me and the two other ladies in the show.

6. He has a dog. A big one. (he also has two hands… big ones.)

7. Oh and he’s single.

So over the last month my lady friend has been joking about setting me up with him. She slaps my ass and tells me he’s an ass person. We talk about our dresses for industry nights and tells me it’s for him. She and I held hands during the lovey part of the movie between them. I’ve joked along with her about it… but unfortunately he is too good-looking, too talented, too fucking goddamn nice for me to just leave it at jokes.

She’s set my heart up. And I’m certain it’s just gonna fall back down.

He’s coming on our Monday industry performance. And I’ve already fallen in lust for him. The bad news is a play a 14 year old. I may wear short-shorts… but I’m still playing 14. Plus, I ain’t no soap star. Honestly, the most interesting thing about me is my intelligence, and I’m not sure that’s something that reads from the stage in this play (I play a smarty-pants… but again… fourteen).

We’ll have to wait and see. I have to keep forcibly pushing my expectations back into the ground. It’s stupid, it’s dumb, we don’t know each other, he’s a grown up, I’m a depressive mess of an unsigned, non-union actor who people think is teenaged. It doesn’t help that my body ain’t soap-opera sized.

So I’m trying to let it go. I can’t control it, and shit never works out like this anyway. It’s gotta be serendipity.
But if anything, this who emotional lustful experience has taught me that I’m ready. I want to have sex again. I want a man to throw me up against a wall and pin my arms back. I want to push him over onto his back, my hair falling on his face, and kiss his neck. I’m ready.

But am I?

Wait and see. Find the right road. DIscover it as it comes. I mean, it’s fucked up. I am too self-conscious and self-deprecating to think anyone in the world would find me interesting and attractive, so I just go back to those old flames, the ones that broke my heart.

Hey universe. I swear, I’m great. Find me someone to love, huh?

Wrap Me Up

Another vivid dream last night.

Somehow, someway, maybe because I was feeling like a good actor and like I had friends who were really fucking big deals and that somehow made me feel I was a really fucking big deal, I had another great dream of success.

I don’t remember much, but I do remember that I was in the process of preparing to give out an award at the Tony Awards– my first time at the ceremony and an honor that truly says, “You’ve made it.” Much of the dream was me, my normal, completely overwhelmed and beyond excited nerdy self trying to figure out where to go and who to follow and “oh my god you made my hair so beautiful!,” running around in preparation.

And then a boy, one I’ve only met once, but with whom I’ve been communicating via Facebook ever since (quite a lot, actually, though that’s the limit of it) showed up. Again, nothing has happened and I’ve only met him once, but he showed up. And he covered my face with his hands as he talked to me… it sounds odd but it was lovely. I could feel him near me, feel him touch me, fell his energy, but I didn’t have to do anything but enjoy it. I didn’t feel observed or exposed… just protected and treasured.

It was lovely.

 

Falling Slowly

I had a really lovely dream last night.

One of my favorite shows of the year, which I saw off-Broadway months ago, and which won the Tony very recently, was Once. I loved the movie, but I love the show even more… It’s heartfelt, highly theatrical, funny, sad, and utterly human in its heart and simplicity. My parents went to see it when they were in the city this past weekend.

One of the things that sets the show apart is that the actors are also the musicians. They dance, play instruments (from accordion to guitar to piano to uke to cello etc), sing, and act beautifully at the same time.

In my dream, I was working backstage, or nearby, a production of Once. I don’t know quite how this happened, but it doesn’t matter. It was during my 3 days back in the city, which are a struggle for me (this is the second chunk I’ve had, and although it’s less horrendous, it’s still hard). Somehow, I had to step in to replace one of the actors.

I had my flute, and we were all seated in a semi-circle on the stage. I was placed next to the lead man in the show– the character is called “Guy.” I was very excited because I love Guy as an actor, and to be this close meant maybe he’d see me or talk to me. Big nerd alert!

We rehearsed, and I was just fine, and he maybe gave me a smile or two. But then somehow we got to a different part of the show, where all of us were lined up on the lip of the stage, me at the end stage left next to Guy. There was a bit that had been staged between Guy and the guy I was replacing, which couldn’t be done with me. So Guy began to chat with me about ideas about a new bit. Soon enough, we were trying some bits, and then soon enough, we were doing that flirty tackle thing where you really just want to be touching someone so when you play around you end up just holding on.

Unlike some of my dreams, where there’s kissing, or handholding, or going through the world as a “couple,” the dream sort of just stalled there, in each others’ arms, and we began to talk. We talked a lot about L, as I recall, and somehow my subconscious presciently laid out the whole struggle I’ve been having these couple of days. I want to see her. I want to see all my friends. But it’s exhausting, and I’m already exhausting myself. I am so afraid of abandoning her, of losing her friendship, but at the same time, I can barely get out of bed in the morning for work, for myself. We discussed all this, and I’m sure more, and at some point the dream faded out, quietly, simply, just as it had come.

I hate waking up from dreams you wish were true. Of course it had to be a great talk, of course it had to be a big show that I love, and of course it had to be this handsome, wonderful, kind-seeming actor.

I wish my subconscious could run the real show. Maybe I’d have more good talks.