Every Day, a Little Gratitude

I am working. Not only that, but I am working at one of the top theatres in the country, making LORT B (second only to LORT A when it comes to regional theatre) pay, and playing two leading roles. It’s a three month contract which means I will get another six months of health insurance. I am housed. I have a car I share with two other actors. This is the DREAM.

Which means I want to remember this feeling when I go back to NYC. I’m already dreading it… that discomfort of not working, that pain of not auditioning, that hurt of wanting so hard you think you might break.

But right now?

This.

sitting on the yoga mat, thinking

I thought about cutting yesterday.

I was sitting on my yoga mat, eyes gazing, out of focus, at the plant in the corner. That tightening in my chest as I breathed in, breathed out, breathed in, breathed out.

I didn’t move. I just sat there, breathing, feeling this strange sensation as it hovered around me, like a thin, gauzy curtain.

Eventually I stood and went to the kitchen, where I started cooking and cleaning. In very little time, the feeling was gone.

It didn’t scare me. It was almost like seeing an ex on the subway, halfway down the car. You recognize him, you’d prefer not to see him perhaps, but you can sit there, coexisting quietly, until one or the other gets off the train.

***

I’m thinking of calling my therapist when I get back from this trip. Since June, I have been weighed down by the loss of my friend L, the vicious purging of her life from mine, done while I simply kept moving as though I was still whole.

This is shameful, but:

I sat with her from the first day of treatment in 2011 to her final chemotherapy at the end of 2013. I was there when her girlfriend broke up with her on Valentine’s Day. I knew her doctor’s names. I scheduled her visitors. I learned what I needed to learn to be her advocate, and to be her friend. And now, she has excised me from her life entirely. It doesn’t seem fair, which isn’t really a fair thing to say. Cancer is cancer is cancer, and sadness just is.

My feelings are many, and they are muddy and muddled in my body: puffy and thick in my throat, deep and hollow and aching in my stomach, a thin film over my eyes, a tightness in my lungs that stops my breath halfway in bursts. It is a sadness I have perhaps never known before– a unique sadness that is not depression. I have been sad before, and I have been depressed, but this is a new one– this is grief, trapped in a cage of shame, with loss holding the key, smirking at me as a I look back, lips tight, brow furrowed.

***

My home state just shut down a bill that would add the words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the Human Rights Bill. After nine years of work to merely get the bill to be considered, it was shut down before getting to the stage where it could be voted on. It is heartbreaking, and I grieve for the many women, men, and children who remain unprotected in the name of “religious freedom.” We are not equal until we are all granted equal rights. BY LAW. I kept thinking of the movie Selma, which is remarkable and an absolute must-see. There is a right side and a wrong side of history.

Also, this is probably the worst clip from the testimony (most were supportive of the addition of the words), which I share so we can all see what bigotry looks like, and also because my mom (who was a major volunteer working to pass this bill for years) is in it, in the red sweater. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1N6tn8-oA5M

Folks? This is the dream.

Winter vacation. One day in Salem, MA, one day in Portsmouth, NH. One day in somewhere, Maine. One day in Old Sturbridge, MA. Tucked into our bed and breakfast in York Harbor.

He’s reading a used book. Today we met a cat named Peter in in the oldest American homestead of all time. I petted him. Tonight we drove out to the Nubble Lighthouse and stood on the rocks looking at the stars in 15 degree weather. Tomorrow we’ll go past the land where I spent the first six years of my life– where my first dog and first cat are still buried or sprinkled, where we had bonfires, where my parents used to wake me up to look at fireflies. We might ice skate. We have dinner reservations.

The only thing I wish we had was the cat.

Otherwise… This is it.

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My Year in Numbers

1     friend I lost

1     job I lost

2     jobs I got

3    plays I did

6    friends of mine who got engaged

10     places I visited

Idaho, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Waynesboro, PA, London, Scotland, Amsterdam, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine

25    days it took to find an apartment in NYC

26    plays I saw (in NYC and London only)

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Mothers and Sons, Richard III, Big Fish, Murder for Two, The Oldest Boy, Our Lady of Kibeho, A Delicate Balance, Lips Together Teeth Apart, Sex with Strangers, The Village Bike, Hand to God, Your Mother’s Copy of the Kama Sutra, The Happiest Song Plays Last, Under My Skin, Sweeney Todd (NY Philharmonic), Fast Company, The Substance of Fire, The Killer, Cinderella, Mala Hierba, American Hero, Hotel, Bring up the Bodies, Showboat (NY Philharmonic), You Got Older

34    blogs I posted

Better than I thought, actually.

73    books I read

My favorites: The Invisible Front, The Circle, NOS4A2, A Tale for the Time Being, Into the Darkest Corner, Dept of Speculation, Tenth of December

365   days I got up in the morning and went to bed and night and existed on this earth.

Dear Annelle…

I underestimated you.

I think we all did.DSlcX.AuSt.36

But, like you did after that nasty thing with Bunkie Dupuy, you bucked up and faced the man. You may have stumbled and fumbled your way there, but you got there. We’ve been lots of places together, and I think it’s safe to say that I love you. I love your clumsiness, I love your conviction, I love that you’re quick to love. I love your hair when it’s good, and your hair when it’s REALLY not good. I love that you are just… well… you.10678660_10152694594135833_6475396379663879078_n

Some of the things we’ve seen together:

–packs of coyotes howling from less than 500 feet away

–spiders taking up residence in your curler drawer

–holding for an audience’s medical emergency on opening night, right in the middle of doing M’Lynn’s hair

–a sagging pregnancy leotard (don’t ask)

–so many bugs it’s impossible to comprehend10628582_10152694593610833_6605070146464692797_n

Don’t let anyone reduce you to a stereotype. Keep changing, and keep taking risks. Keep letting love win, and keep giving of yourself. No one puts baby in the corner. Thanks for letting me hang out with you for a couple months. I’mma miss you.isXPQ.AuSt.36

We close on Sunday, and my gratitude knows know bounds.

I

Tomorrow I turn 25.

1. What was your favorite birthday and why? Who was there? Did you have a party? What presents did you get? Be very specific about what made it so special.

I was lucky in that I always had really successful birthday parties. They were almost always themed, based on my interests (Italy-themed party, animal party, mystery party, etc). Probably my favorite birthday, and certainly one of the most memorable, was my 18th birthday. I turned 18 on the day of my senior prom in high school, which is kind of insane. I was in boarding school, and spent the night with my best friends downstairs. That morning, when I woke up, my friends rolled down a blanket over the bottom bunk, where they tucked me in with headphones and some episodes of Sex and the City while they made secret things happen. After a little over an hour, they rolled up the blanket and I was treated to an incredible sight– a dorm room covered in balloons and signs colored in marker with various memories and statistics (the average girl loses her virginity at 17– me too!). Also there were boxes of sugary cereal and treats– donuts, Lucky Charms, Fruit by the Foot, Gushers. I wasn’t allowed to have these things when I was a kid, which my friends knew. The best surprise, though, was that somehow they got approval to have my boyfriend join us. I don’t know how they did it, but it was magical and glorious and gave me such joy.

2. What was your worst birthday and why? Be extremely detailed about what made it such an awful memory. As always, you can make it into a character’s story and exaggerate all the details to an extreme degree.

My best birthday was 18, but it wasn’t perfect. I’ve never been a huge fan of dances, and I was shy all night. And THEN I lost one earring (beautiful earrings my boyfriend had given me). I found it, but there were tears.

Also tough was my 21st birthday. All my friends were in a play that I wasn’t in– and this was also a time of very tenuous recovery from my ED. I ended up finding something wonderful to do– my parents paid for a nice dinner with one of my dear friends from high school (who was a part of that 18th birthday), but I still felt slightly abandoned.

3. How do you feel as though you will change with your upcoming birthday? Will your responsibilities change? Will your clock start ticking a little faster to do something that you’ve been meaning to do? Be specific and detailed.

25 is a big year. I won’t lie. And yet, even today, when i was freaking out about my life and my career, I never once thought “I’m 25, and now I’m old.” 25 is still so incredibly young. All that will change, I think, is that I will continue to grow and change. I will ride all these waves of feelings, and hopefully will continue to grow and change and have to redefine myself at every turn. Not that I enjoy that at all. It would be preferable to understand everything all the time. 😉

4. What is the best present that you’ve ever gotten for your birthday? Not necessarily the most expensive, but the one that was the most important to you. Talk about it and try to remember where that present is today. 

So many good presents. So, a list.

This year, a trip to the UK with my folks.
Luggage. Well-, well-used.
Those earring from my high school boyfriend.
Every piece of art my sister has ever given me.
American Girl dolls. I loved them ALL.

5. You have been given a five million dollar budget for your birthday party (from an anonymous donor). You can only use this money if you spend every penny. What do you do with this fantastic party budget?

Oh man. I would rent a large space. Perhaps somewhere outside. I would hire caterers. I would invite every single one of my friends to come and eat and drink and play with me. Or I would schedule a whole week where every single one of my friends came over to my place and dinner was provided and we just gossiped and loved. Or maybe a totally all-expense-paid vacation somewhere warm with A (and all my friends maybe!!) Haha, this is like the 25 million dollar party.

13 Things I Learned in 2013

1. JANUARY: You can get an A+ in “being an actor,” but it still doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.

It’s about being ME, and living my life, and knowing, deep within myself, that this moment is temporary. To forgive myself when I get another “no” or I’ve gone months without a “real” job. To acknowledge that I’m WORTH forgiving. To trust myself enough to believe that the next job will come.

It’s not that you don’t do the hard work– it’s that you don’t depend upon it to make your life perfect. I don’t think I expected that when graduating from high school, or when I moved to New York, or really… ever. Until the last two years of being in the world. I’ve become more and more comfortable with it, but I have to constantly remind myself that the balance is the key. As one of my favorite professors loved to say about the process of acting (and, ergo, the process of living) is “always balancing, never balanced.”

2. February: I want all the things.

This is something that has surprised me about my relationship with A. I never dreamed about my perfect wedding, I never felt like anything was missing when I was alone, I never wanted anyone to spend money on me. But with A, I google engagement rings (not that I want him to propose yet, but again… suddenly I want all the things). I want him to buy me nice dinners. I want him to get his book deal so he can take care of our little family. I want to cook for him. I want him with me all the time.

This is not to say I’m going to get married and become a housewife and give up everything I’ve dreamed of– I’m just as ambitious as always. But I realized that I maybe do want some of the things we’re told women want, and that’s okay. Like Hannah, I feel weird about wanting all the things, but truth be told… I kinda do.

3. March: I know that there’s no quick fix to this.

Everything hurts me.
I’m easily irritated, and I hate that.
It is physically difficult to do anything, and mentally even more so.
I feel as though I’m wasting my life.
I am not entirely sure that “I am enough” for this business at all.

My spirits are very low. And the thing that makes me the most happy in the world is so far away from me. I have nothing to look forward to. I don’t know what else to do. I’m scared and feeling very hopeless. Why can’t the universe throw me a bone? A small one? Any one?

I know this will pass. I know I will eventually work again. But right now I feel like my insides are made of hardening cement– heavy and painful. Nothing give me joy right now. Everything hurts. Everything makes me cry. I want to be nowhere; to hibernate until this time is over. And I just want it go away.

4. April: Our love is the truest thing RIGHT NOW, and for the time to come.

We talk about love a lot. So do most couples.
But my darling, I UNDERSTAND you. We FIT. “I” am not a “thing” without “you.”

Just wanted to share.
I never take you for granted.
I never am not surprised and grateful when you make me coffee.

Our love is energetic and exciting and romantic, but it’s also comfortable. It’s home. And that’s something that’s harder to put into words than the platitudes and poetics that make up the language of most relationships. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine a love like this.
Now, I can’t imagine my life without it.

5. May: Self-harm is the is the easiest game to play.

I’m always amazed by the ways in which I know how to hurt myself.

Food.
Cutting.
Watching videos of my boyfriend’s ex on his computer.
Saying “no” and staying in.

I have hurt myself more than anyone has ever hurt me.

6. June: The way I see myself, the way I see the world, has transformed.

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.

7. July: I hate this business sometimes, I doubt my strength when the going is tough, but I honestly CANNOT imagine my life any way but this.

And those raw moments of the play, where the only thing that exists is the look in Reed’s eyes-the kiss or kill- or the way Angie skips onstage after a betrayal, like nothing has happened, or the genuine nerves and laughter of the epilogue– I am so much myself. I get to experience worlds different from my own, physical contortions, and heartache and lust and love, it really just boils down to ME, really looking, really hearing, really standing there and taking it, and letting myself feel every bit. No hiding.

It’s not really disappearing, I guess. It’s allowing honest feeling to seep out and be seen. I am actually standing there, actually slapping his face, actually kissing his lips, actually blocking her way.

And unlike life, much of the time, I get to experience it fully. That’s what I share with the audience. And that is joy. That is release. That is certainty.

8. August: I ate pasta for dinner. And I feel A-OK about it.

Starving made (and makes) me angry. Being hungry sharpens things, sure, and I’m more productive, but I’m also touchy. I’m isolated. Everybody and everything annoys me. It’s manic, but it’s also pissy. I’m never more outwardly angry than when I’m hungry.

Binging makes me sad. I turn inward here, too, but for different reasons. I want to be invisible. People don’t piss me off– I just feel as though I don’t deserve to be near anyone, like I’m worthless and I want to be alone. It’s almost more painful because of the shame. Not eating isn’t shameful. I don’t care what anyone says. For women, and anyone who has ever experienced an ED, eating is shameful. Not eating means self-control. This is not the objective truth, but it is the truth we live every day in this society. I would get more auditions if I was starving than if I was binging. If I’m sick from not eating, that’s almost understandable. If I’m sick because I tear into myself with food, punish every body part, my stomach and my brain in particular, I lack self-control.

9. September: I am a participant in so many tiny universes.

Looking at A’s Facebook page today, loaded with those lovely “Happy Birthday!”s that pop up through the day, I noticed my universes converging. That’s how life goes, I guess, and love is the catalyst for it. Actors I worked with last summer post greetings after friends from college share their blessings. A knows these people and they know him because I exist. I love A, so I bring him places. I love my friends, so I make a point to go to those places.

I know I’m not the only one with these many orbiting galaxies, meshing and meeting, with only me, my strange and special life, at the center. How did I become someone whose world has so much variance? It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I exist.

10. October: I have confidence that I can care for myself, for the first time in a long time.

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.

11. November: Eventually, someone will reach out to me because they want me.

Andddddd. Here is me letting go. After a day of excitement, then a day of so much nervous energy I could have powered NYC… And the video audition is taped, looks just fine, and was sent off to my agent. Now. I can feel good about this. I just need to stop fantasizing about it.

What’s next to get me excited?! Anyone? Mom and dad are coming for thanksgiving in two weeks! Artie and I have two movie dates next week! I have a play audition on Monday! I have amazing supportive friends! Life is good, y’all. And that’s the end of this chapter. Page turn, cover close, on the shelf, as high as it can go. :)

12. December: I love that in spite of EVERYTHING, every time the lights go down, my heart fills and beats just a little harder.

I love this community, despite its flaws.

I love this craft, despite its strangeness.

I love these shows, despite some of them being kind of dumb.

I love this city and its passion, despite the fact that it’s exhausting.

13.  2013 was not a “banner” year. My career was slow. The first bumps in my relationship appeared. I struggled with friendships, I struggled at work. I fucked up a lot. It’s hard to look at the strides I made last year (huge show, Equity card, agent, new boyfriend, moving in with boyfriend, new cat) and compare them to last year. Yet 2013 was not devoid of growth. It was just that the growth was subtler, harder to see, less exciting, less bright.

I rekindled incredible friendships through the process of R’s wedding.
I did a show that reminded me why I love the theatre.
I shot my first lead in a TV episode, and did really well. And had so much fun.
I am happier with my body, and also more content with my “recovery,” than ever before.
I took some great risks (new dance studio, solo vacation, new doctors).
I supported my boyfriend through a career change and the ups-and-downs therein.
I watched my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend in a play, then watched her leave the state, and slowly stopped letting her hurt me (still working).
I had my final appointment with my amazing therapist.
I said what I wanted and boldly asked for things (“I want an audition for this.” “Could you please do the dishes?”)
I reconnected with my relatives (though my grandmother would disagree).
I attended my first wedding.
I looked more beautiful than I have ever looked before, and I felt that.
I accepted that there are things that I can’t do because they make me feel bad, and that’s okay.
I was more in love than I’ve ever been.

So yeah. 2013. Things happened. As we enter a new year, I want to continue to make things happen. I want to continue to take risks. I want to give back. I want to be kind. I want to keep learning.

What did you learn this year? And by the way, I’m so grateful for your presence in my life this year. Happy new year!