Have You Seen Short Term 12?

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.

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Day 44 (and Vent City)

journal44 copyI was doing so well with:

1. Filling out these daily pages

2. Not stalking A’s ex

But lately, I’ve been failing with both. Horrifically.

What is my fucking obsession? What? I really calmed down for a while (she moved away, didn’t post as much, etc) but now it’s constant. I think about her a lot. I look at her Twitter, her Instagram, her Facebook, her Pinterest, obsessively. I look at all her pictures. I think about her when I talk to him.

SHE DOESN’T EVEN LIVE IN NYC ANYMORE. So why is this starting up again?

Maybe part of it is the prep for R’s wedding. My rational mind isn’t at all ready to marry, and doesn’t want to, but my emotional mind is screaming, “why doesn’t he want to make the commitment?! He wanted to make the commitment to HER. I wish he would SAY things he said to her, like ‘I can’t wait to get on one knee’ and ‘you’ll be a great mom.'” I truly, truly think that if I didn’t know that he’d had that with someone else, I WOULDN’T care, because I don’t really care about those things in a vacuum.

But she existed.
And she lived here.
And she was going to marry him.

And he doesn’t talk about her anymore. I’m not sure he thinks about her anymore. And instead of that making me feel better, it makes me feel WORSE. It makes me afraid that I’m just as disposable. That, in time, I will transform from his one love into “whatshername,” which is what he calls her now. He doesn’t have as many friends as I do, and he doesn’t get particularly attached to things. When it comes to relationships, that scares me. I don’t WANT to be scared of that, and if I believed him 100% of the time I wouldn’t be scared of that. But for some reason, a part of me doubts.

Why can’t I believe him when he tells me that I’m special, and I’m the best, and he loves me more than he ever loved anyone? Do I really not believe him, or do I just need a bit more encouragement? What kind of encouragement beyond what he already does– tell me he loves me, can’t wait to see me, misses me when I’m gone, touches me, makes me things, takes me places, goes places with me…? That’s more than most get.

I have a really bad habit of comparing myself to other people. Including this girl who is so far out of our world now, there’s no reason to even know her name.

And yet.

And yet.

Clingy

A comes home on Tuesday. He called tonight from his barracks. I could only hear about half of what he said, I think because he’s so rural, so it was an awkward conversation. He becomes frustrated when I’m unresponsive– when I’m not talking enough to him, or not fully answering questions, like I’m irritated with him or something. This has been a pattern with boys, and it terrifies me to no end. I had an ex break up with me because he felt I was always “disconnected.” So by admitting that I was having trouble hearing, I thought I would ease some of that. You know, “this is why I keep saying, ‘uh-huh,’ and ‘sure.'”

And yet… it didn’t help. When I admitted that I was having trouble hearing, I felt awfully guilty. It still felt awkward.

I don’t know what’s going on with me right now. I’m anxious about having him back. Of course I’ve missed him, of course I love him, of course! But it was awkward on the phone.

I shouldn’t be worried. I can’t even form a cohesive thought right now, god knows why. Honestly, I’m exhausted. I can’t think straight. I can’t focus on anything beyond what is happening right now. This is an incredibly exhausting place to be in. I think that’s probably what’s going on with my nerves.

In other news, I still stalk A’s ex. Now that she doesn’t live in NYC, it makes me feel less of… well, anything, really. I just get bored and my own friends are less interesting. 😉

Anyhow, one of the things A and I have discussed about her is that she tends to hold onto things very tightly. She needs to belong. So she is super loyal to her hometown, super proud of her college, converted to Mormonism for her first husband (YEAH), GOT MARRIED AT 21, and of course, A was also one of those things. That seems to be part of the reason they lasted as long as they did. Even when they were going in different directions, he was her stability.

I look at her Instagram and I can really see this trait. When she’s in a show, all she can talk about is the show. When it’s over, she misses it. When she’s working at camp, she’s 100% IN LOVE with camp, and when it’s over, she misses it so much and posts about it all the time! The show is not present anymore. Nor is NYC.

Now, I get attached too. When I’m working on a project, yes, I do get invested in it. And yet, there’s a sense of overwhelming neediness to her postings. “Miss my crew today!” “A box full of fun memories!” “Sad to leave my best friends in the world!” And all of this about people she knew for a month, maybe.

I post about my shows. I post about my life. But I don’t ever really talk about what I “miss.” Here I do, sure, like about last summer in Jersey and whatnot, but never really anywhere else. I guess I’m lucky that my life is full enough that I can focus on each new project as it comes.

So. I guess I’m being judge-y, but there are my two cents.

I’m glad I’m me and not her.

Chapter Complete

Closing night.

My heart feels very full. Mostly of love, but there’s a bit of heaviness.

I have had struggle after struggle with this company– this universe that I helped create and populate that recently became a stranger to me– and with the friends therein. Our relationship has changed. More importantly, my expectations have changed. What I wanted from my relationship with this group of people turned out to be unrealistic. They cluster and cling, but I need some independence. I wanted them to feel like my best friends even when I wasn’t ensconced in their apartment. My friendships with L and K are like that. But that’s not who they are and how they function. This doesn’t make them bad people. They still like– no, love– me.

But that’s all backdrop to this moment. This is the first play I’ve done since last year’s amazing NJ triumph. Readings and workshops and short films don’t count, because working on a full play requires am inordinate investment. You dedicate a month to daily 5 hour rehearsals and another to nightly two-hour performances that leave you sweating and exhausted. You dedicate hours of time outside of these parameters to learn your lines, think about the role, remember your blocking. You can’t fake that stuff. And in the rehearsal room, you are an explorer– finding what works, nixing what doesn’t, working with partners who are all independent and trying to cohere into a single vision. That’s tough.

But this process, from start to finish, from the first read to tonight’s closing performance, I have had. So. Much. Fun.

I loved the atmosphere in the rehearsal room, full of laughter and silliness and big choices and mistakes and breaking when someone was genuinely too fucking funny.

I loved the one-on-one scene work, working with a director and actors I’m completely comfortable with. It was like the most fun scene study class ever.

I loved seeing the playwright laugh at his own jokes when we nailed them (or improved them).

I loved suggesting a joke and having the director guffaw and okay it: “Yes. Genius.”

I loved the twenty or so minutes of waiting in the dressing room once the house opened, a cast of six clowns in knee pads, all equal, all trusting, cracking jokes and rolling our eyes at each other.

I loved each pratfall and fake bump and trip, even when it got fucked up. My body felt alive when I leapt and fell and tripped.

I loved the sweat that dripped like water down my face every night. It was embarrassing, yes, but it was pure ME, pure energy. (It mainly happened because I was doing a super physical show in sweatpants and a sweatshirt in the summer… And I was in a clown squat for 80% of the show).

I loved every moment on that stage. I always do (I mean, in most cases!), but this just felt like pure, unfettered fun.

I don’t think the show is spectacular. I think it has flaws. Lots. But I do think it’s funny, and I had such fun doing it. Such fun. And I didn’t care about getting agents or casting directors to see it. I invited them (none came of course, including the one I’m signed with!) but it felt good to just let this be about joy. I didn’t need to sell this show. I just needed to enjoy it. And boy, did I.

After tonight (and tonight’s festivities), I’m back in rehearsal for the Fringe show. I’m there 4 hours a night Sunday through Thursday, with opening night on Friday and five shows spread through the next week. This monday I have jury duty (how about that?!). I have to go into work on Tuesday, I have a haircut on Wednesday. On the 20th, A is home, and on the 21 he’ll see our closing and we’ll leave for CT.

It’s a race to the finish. I’m sorry to say goodbye to this lap of the relay. It has been truly, purely wonderful.

Creepy Stalker

Sometimes, I wish that one specific person would read my blog.

And by one specific person, I mean someone who I have this weird obsession with. Someone I have never met, and someone I don’t like on principle. Someone who I want to obsess over me.

By one specific person, I mean A’s ex.

I can’t explain this consuming obsession I have with her. I check her Facebook and Twitter daily. I read her blogs. I stalk their old correspondence (most of which is gone because A is incredibly sweet and generous and 100% mine and deleted it or threw it out). On a daily. basis. Not good, team.

To backtrack briefly, my therapist lent me this book called Attached— mostly to glance over in regards to my relationship with my mother. Most of the book, though, is about romantic attachments. It posits there are three types of attachment: secure, anxious, and avoidant. Our relationship is remarkably secure (the ideal attachment style)– we are independent, but comfortable relying on each other, equally loving, good at communicating through issues, etc.

However, I definitely have traits of anxious attachment. This is a problem in my general life, too, and something that’s a constant topic in therapy. If someone is upset, I blame myself. This ain’t great for relationships. Luckily, we’re good communicators, so we get through it. The ex-gf stalking, though, is like, EPICALLY anxious. What is it about?! I really can’t explain it.

Back to A– he’s remarkably secure (almost textbook). However, he has a few, I dunno… “concerning” avoidant traits.

1. He cheated on the first girl he lived with (who is the one he loved the most fully before me, according to him). He describes the total detachment of it. That’s not, like, a great sign.
2. He’s lived with two girls prior to me. Now, that means nothing, really, but it could be a sign that he doesn’t see living together as as big of a step as maybe I do. (do I?)
3. He was 110% going to marry the last girl for the first years of their relationship. Although, of course, they didn’t marry, and that was really because he realized they were going in separate directions.
4. He’s not nostalgic. This is just plain weird to me. God knows I’m disgustingly nostalgic and loyal. I can’t let ANYTHING go. He doesn’t speak to his exes. He doesn’t really speak to, like, anyone, except me.
5. He doesn’t speak to anyone except, like, me. I know he hasn’t been in the city as long as I have, and most of his friends are back in Philly, but… he doesn’t really have friends. That’s weird to me. All I usually have are friends.
6. He went from working with his ex DAILY for YEARS to not speaking to her (and this is post-breakup years). It has been months. That seems abrupt. And he doesn’t seem to miss her. Which on the one hand is GREAT! But on the other… feels like a red flag?
7. He lies. He lied to his ex about little things while we’ve been together, which is fine. But he’s lied to her before. And he’s not particularly open with anyone but me about anything in his life. I learned over Thanksgiving that his parents didn’t even know we’d done a weekend trip to Amish country and Hershey Park in September. THAT seems like a huge omission.

So. Does any of this make me doubt his love?

I don’t know. No. I don’t doubt he loves me. I have never felt more loved, supported, cared for, important. I have never felt so sure of a relationship and so confident in myself with another human being.

So why do I stalk his ex-girlfriend? Some theories.

1. I want to know what happened to this LONG relationship that they both thought would lead to marriage.
2. I want to know if he loves me more than he loved her, and I’m jealous of their long time together (4 years).
3. I want to feel like the most important part of his life.
4. I want her to feel jealous of me.
5. I want her to be single. (WHY do I want this?! Am I evil?! But I DO!! I can’t wait till she breaks up with her new boyfriend!! What is this demon inside me?!!)

I have no explanation, is really what I mean. But I think I need to detox. Or something.

Okay. Here’s what I’m gonna do.

1. My sister’s here this week, so I’m going to not talk to him about this yet. We should be alone.
2. When we can be alone, I’m going to tell him that for some reason, I feel a lot about his ex.
3. I’m going to ask him to just tell me everything he can about her and their relationship. I don’t care if I’ve heard it all before. I need to hear it again. I need to hear that our love is different.
4. I’ll detox from my stalking. Just 100% cut. that. shit. out.

Okay. HAVE to go to bed.

(it’s been a shitty weekend because A’s away at Army, and my sister’s in town but not with me. I spent the whole day alone. I didn’t binge, but I ate more than I wanted today and especially after losing 5 lbs from being sick… I’m thinking about it. I HATE thinking about it. I want my love home to me. It gets worse when he’s away.)

(Ohmigod also THIS IS IT: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/valley-girl-brain/201003/the-power-the-ex-girlfriend )

Musings on the Wild Waves of Feeling

I’m alive. I’m okay. In fact, I’m in love and I’m on a sort of half-baked vacation, so really I’m doing great.

Except for the moments when I’m not.

Isn’t it funny the way that they way we feel has such fluidity?
I can instantly retreat inwards, protectively, at the drop of a hat. He doesn’t immediately introduce me to someone. WHOOSH. He talks about the tour on which he met his ex. SWOOSH. He talks about himself in the past– a him I never knew. BAM. I close up tight.

But then, sometimes the little mushy parts are so easily exposed, and I can let myself NEED and FEEL and LOVE. Tucking my head under his arm and on his chest. PHEW. Feeling him reach for my knee under the dinner table. AAH. Having him ask about my family situation, and seem to really want to hear the answer. SWEEE.

There have been moments of this relationship that I’ve felt so in love, I’m afraid I’m manic. Because I was bipolar primarily as a young kid (I stabilized around 14 with the help of Zoloft), I have noticed the “manic” tendencies less apparently than the depressive ones. I doubt if I’d even still be diagnosed as bipolar at this point– but there’s no denying my moods are ever-shifting, and my ups and downs seem to move at a pace and an intensity that is, let’s say, more than most other people.

If I were to look at larger moments in my life as manic (after age 14), I could tag off my years at boarding school– I was an overachiever, always put together and organized, and eventually crashed into a horrific depression after I wasn’t accepted to Juilliard– my summer as an apprentice at a fancy-pants theatre festival– the beginning of the unconscious restrictive behavior, bouncing back from an illness by working EXTRA hard– and perhaps moments of this last summer– enormous joy quickly supplanted by depression upon returning weekly to NYC. I could pull out a number of times in my life that my bipolar moods (whether clinical or simply active) vacillated from mania to depression.

But maybe actually being in love isn’t clinical mania. I’m not restricting, I’m still messy and imperfect, I still get angry, I still tell him when I get angry. But is the excess of love an OVERexpression set in contrast to the amount of times I feel scared or upset or sensitive? Or is that what being comfortable with a person is like? I know that’s sort of what being with my family is like… And when I was a kid, oftentimes the mania was expressed by clinginess and an excessive need to express my love. Is THIS love THAT love?

I don’t think so. But again. I have to get used to feeling this way about someone. I’m so used to my own moods now, to allowing myself to regulate myself, to separate when I need it and feel when I need it and not have to do any of that in front of or around anyone else.

But with A, I have to negotiate my feelings with HIS feelings, my moods with HIS moods, my affection with HIS affection, my frustrations with HIS frustrations, etc etc and on and on. A lot of times this makes me anxious. I’m afraid that by feeling angry/frustrated/unloved/uncomfortable I’m pushing him away– I’m not doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing as a girlfriend/roommate/lover etc. But the fact that I am willing to go through that process with him, and I never want him to NOT be there, to NOT interact with me and my feelings, is a sign that there’s something right in all of this.

I tell him all the time that I’m still relearning how to BE with someone else. I’ve grown so used to only dealing with my own cyclical moods and my own mental hangups. I ask him to cut me a lot of slack… which I know is asking a lot. And THAT makes me anxious (of course). But I haven’t scared him off yet. I have been a bitch and a depressive and an angry, irritable crankster around him, and he’s still here. He still misses me when I’m not by his side.

And I feel the same way.

I’ve never really approached love in a way that tied into my mental issues. They have been the END of relationships, and I did have one relationship in which I said “yes, I want to” to someone who I eventually had to leave because it was a selfish kind of thing– I wanted his affection because it made me feel beautiful and special– but I’ve never been someone who had a lot of manic sex or lashed out at significant others or kept them out of my struggles (at least in a conscious way). And I’ve never felt more in love than I do right now.

Every day. Every fucking day. Isn’t THAT crazy, you guys? We muddle through every day with a portion of our brain always processing, always tuned in, because if we stop, we fall. If I don’t process what I’m feeling, it will take me over. That’s sort of how the ED stuff happened. But it can be an exhausting task. That’s one of the reason I like having A around. He helps me stay on the boat, even when the water is rocky.

    • “Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.”
      Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

All of a Sudden

This morning in the laundry room with A, I felt a stickiness in my pajama pants. I surreptitiously glanced down, and I saw a dark splotch in the crotch of my pants. I was bleeding.

I put on a face and we came upstairs, where I went to the bathroom. Yep, dried blood around the top of my thighs, in my PJ pants, and all up in there. I washed the pants the best I could, turned on the shower, and came out of the bathroom.

I’m bleeding again,” I told A. His face softened, and he looked at me. “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I said, “Just annoyed. I don’t know why this keeps happening, because I’m not on my period. It’s really frustrating.”

And then I was in a bad mood. A quiet morning turned more quiet because I didn’t want to talk. Because I felt upset for some reason.

Why did this happen? Why did I suddenly feel sad and angry and quiet? Yes, irregular bleeding is annoying and irritating and brings up all kinds of feelings about my body… but that’s not the only reason. Stress? Overwhelmedness? Fear? Transition? I don’t know. All of these things and more, I’m sure.

There’s something great about the fact that I can say, “Why all of a sudden am I in a bad mood?” to my boy. But I wish I didn’t have the thing where all of a sudden I was in a bad mood, you know?

Have a headache.
Am stressed about food.
Too much prep for auditions.
Work work work.
Responsibilities and rehearsals and meetings and readings.
MOVING.

My brain is in eighteen different places at once. And I need to just find some stability. And I don’t have it right now.