Here I Am

One of our actors’ wives is the editor- in- chief of Cosmopolitan.
(would you vajazzle your frenemies hoo-hah for anything you want from Tiffany’s?)

I spent the weekend with one of our actors and our stage manager without awkward incident.

Tonight we cooked dinner and drank wine and ran lines and got drunk and it was glorious.

There was an entire conversation about how perfect I am for this part. What the fuck.

I wish I could lose ten pounds for this role but I can’t, because we open in a week and a half.
Perhaps it’s better that I just have to accept this moment, this body, this self that got cast.

Here we go.

“there was this red-haired girl… she was awful.”

“it wasn’t like everyone else sucked… B was just the best of all of them.”

“You came in and everyone was like… Oh. Here’s our baby.”

Dreaming in DC

Lying alone in a hotel bed, I let feelings and thoughts wash over me. Memories of overnight, snow-bound delays, of brief holidays past, of transient times in between momentous ones.

Yet also my mind sweeps forward, into imagination, into a body beside me, a bottle of wine to share, a firm chest instead of a pillow to rest my head on. I’ve never traveled with a boyfriend, really. One came to my Idahome once, slept in the basement, where I joined him after my parents fell asleep and then scurried away before they woke. Another I visited– Memorial Day after freshman year, missing the fireworks because we veered off the road to avoid hitting a deer. And I came to him again at Steppenwolf, in Chicago. He was the star. It was an experience of momentary cohabitation. Within days from when I left, Obama was elected , i was opening a show, and I had been unceremoniously dumped.

I like hotel rooms for this reason. There is enormous potential in them. Perhaps I have a hotel fantasy, of days lounging on fluffed pillows and clean sheets, lolling naked as we nibble on hard cheeses and drown ourselves in wine. An escape. An opportunity to be purely with another, all responsibilities irrelevant. That’s it, I think. Hotels are blank worlds where pure, unencumbered connection may occur.

I don’t yet know what my weekend will hold. Yet at this moment, eyelids drooping, cocooned in clean white sheets, alone in a room in our nation’s Capitol… And coming off a first, frustrating, extreme, exciting, draining, dreamy week of rehearsals… I do feel like not much could go wrong these three days. just don’t let me slack on the memorization, bitchez!

Hasta mañana, and hola Washington DC.

B.

High School Yearbook

It’s the 50th anniversary of my high school alma mater, and when I open my senior yearbook the spine cracks like a knuckle pop.

The first picture of me is three page-flips in, hidden in a right corner. I’m wearing a frilly purple dress that someone’s mother made them once for Halloween and they decided they should bring to boarding school. There’s a bow on the top of my head. I’m pulling a face while next to me an Arabian gypsy, a King of the Jungle, and a Porcelain Doll grin.

In black and white are the faculty, haircuts so-five-years-ago. Familiar faces leap from the page and nestle straight into my heart.

Cutest Couple. I remember. I made the finals.

There are a few poems in the Creative Writing major’s section. I read them again, for the hundredth time, words penned by friends wise and young. They seem overwrought, now, heavy with simile and prose, thick with the maturity that comes too early in adolescence.

Page after page of round, grinning faces in suits and blacks. Musicians. Beautiful brown-haired girls with reeds to their lips, completely unaware of anything but the Shostakovich. The lopsided grin of the tall, flax-haired organ major, far from his native Texas in the non-denominational chapel, pedaling and pounding.

My heart drops as I flip through the Theatre section. I hunt around the space it leaves for the feeling there. I don’t know what it is. I let my eyes flick past the production pictures, there and gone.

The dorms are named after artists. Writers, painters, musicians. The photos of each hall, organized by RA, look like team photos for any high school club. Boys in hoodies, hanging off each other. Girls with their arms wrapped around each other. It’s easy to see them as gaggles of teens at a sleepover. I like to remind myself that they are world-class artists. It makes anything seem possible.

Faces fly past that haven’t crossed my mind in years. That girl fell into the orchestra pit and broke her nose. I fell for that boy on tour. Those boys are our class ambassadors. That girl intimidated me. That RA had a thing for my boyfriend. Those boys got expelled. I once tripped over that girl’s euphonium in the hallway.Those girls were my roommates.

There we are in our prom dresses, glowing with sweat from dancing. And there at senior dinner, spring light finally illuminating our cheeks outside the cafeteria. And look! There we are at the end of the year dance, arms looped around each others’ necks, my boyfriend and my friends bound with limbs to me. And in that photo, the end of the year party, I see a glimpse of my favorite sundress, and just obscuring the rest are three boys, all of us crouched, mouths open, singing. So many moments in dresses, celebrating one thing or another, celebrating all the many more moments we had in our uniforms, struggling through coursework or a particularly hard passage from Shakespeare.

And then the senior pictures and quotes, ensconced in black. Senior pictures were “student’s choice,” so there are the boys with their oboes and the girls with their horns, the dance photos or the artsy-edgy shots. The senior quotes run the gamut… permanent reminders of what was in our hearts all those years ago.

S– Theatre
“I want to live and feel all the shaes, tones, and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.” –Sylvia Plath

J– Creative writing
Water for my horses, and whiskey for my men!

B– Euphonium
“I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.” –Miles Davis

E– Motion Picture Arts
“I wasn’t born yesterday, you know. I’ve seen movies.” –Aqua Teen Hunger Force

J– Visual Arts
Do unicorns wear bikinis?
Do they complain about their thighs?
Will they strut their stuff, wink,
At those fiesty uniform guys?
In the winter, will they fake bake?
Make their pure coats a scandalous brown?
Will they count their unicorn calories,
Refuse to keep their food down?
Does your unicorn wear bikinis?
Is it low on self-esteem?
Reassure your unicorn,
Feed it fatty ice cream!
— A, Creative Writing

And my picture, sharing the the frame with a Shakespeare bobble-head doll. A picture of three-year-old-me, a daisy crown on my head. So we’ll live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies. —King Lear

Glowing

My Junior year of college, I was at my lowest weight. In the Fall semester, I took a scene study course taught by a relatively famous actress (anyone seen Star Trek: The Next Generation?) She commented about how “she would kill for my body,” how she wished she still looked like me. She assigned me great scenes and took a deep interest in me– I played Maggie the Cat from Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Emma in Betrayal by Pinter, Claire in Auburn’s Proof. In early summer, I saw her at the opening night of a Classic Stage Co production starring Dianne Wiest. She gave me a hug and then said, “You’ve gained like, a pound.” My face flushed, and I just responded, “Ha, ha. Haven’t we all?”

So she scares me. I fear that she’ll lose interest because I gained weight.

But I invited her to the show I starred in in December, and she came. Afterwards, she brought me, a costar, and a friend (all of whom were in her class) out to dinner and wine next door. She wined and dined us and effusively complimented our work. She told us she would do her best to get her agents and managers and friends in the biz to our show. At some point, she turned to me and looked into my eyes. “You look beautiful. Truly.”

Last night, I emailed her to tell her about my exciting new project. She responded with this email. I’m glowing.

I am tremendously proud of you! I am not surprised, but I am thrilled to see that not only are you made of wonderful complexities, colors and textures as an actor but you have the steel to go with it. B, this is a great accomplishment for an actress of your age and experience and anyone in this industry would agree with that. I am going to do my level best to pass this information along to people who I think might actually make an effort to go to New Jersey – including myself – although I must tell you that this summer is pretty crazy and that I’m all over the place. If there’s even a remote chance that I will make it – I will. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see you walk out on the stage as the leading lady – and thus I am sure it will be for the rest of your life. Brava!

Empathy.

Empathy.

I tend to be a very warm person. I like to think the best of people. Perhaps it’s how I grew up, in a small town in Idaho with a wonderful family, safe from danger and protected from most cruelty (except, of course, middle school girl cruelty and the cruelty of my own brain). And perhaps part of it is because I have struggled so much, I feel great compassion for those who are struggling too. That’s part of the reason I read blogs of those who have EDs, depression, other struggles that I have experienced. I feel enormous empathy.

It’s not sympathy. I don’t feel pity for others. I don’t look down from a place on high and think, “oh, you poor dears, you are struggling so, so much. I pity you.” Frankly, most of the time I don’t have much to say but “Yep. That shit SUCKS. I have been there too. Sorry you feel like that now.”

I honestly think the most deep part of the recovery process of my own struggle with an ED was to give myself empathy, compassion. When I fuck up, my usual response is self-loathing, anger, sadness. This has been my pattern since I was ten years old, and after acting out towards my parents, would be sent to my room and would pound my head against my pastel-painted wall to punish myself. I once dressed in shorts and a tank top and climbed out my window, barefoot, onto the roof of the garage, and stood ankle-deep in the show until my parents noticed and secured a ladder to get me down.

That doesn’t work for recovery, at least for me. I remind myself every single day that recovery is NOT “fixing it,” but rather “failing less.” That sounds tragic, but if I think of it like that, then look at my success!! Over the last three years, my greatest struggle has not been to change the eating behavior, but rather to change how I treat myself about it when it flares up. It’s not that I don’t hold myself accountable, but I allow myself room to mess up sometimes. I give myself the same empathy I give to everyone I meet.

This is not a finished struggle. It’s not something I’m even that good at. But it has changed the way I see myself totally. I am still a hard, hard worker. Still dedicated and strong. Still a good friend and an excellent actor. But I now have many colors, not just “perfect” and “not perfect.” I have the power to change my outlook, to discover what I really want and pursue it. I trust myself. I don’t feel like the world is out to get me (most of the time :)).

I slept in today because I get tired when I’m on my period. And instead of saying to myself, “What the fuck! Why are you sleeping in?! You should have been awake an hour ago!” I breathe, get up, stop worrying, and start my day. “It’s okay. It’s your body saying you need more. And you’re not breaking any plans. It’s fine. You’re awake now. Take your day. Have a great one.”

Mad Women

Here. In J’s apartment uptown. Drinking prosecco. Prepping for the Season Five premiere of Mad Men. After a tea party in L’s honor.

And I just want to go home and feel sorry for myself and email my therapist and cry and cry and cry until there’s no fluid left in my body and I fall asleep for months.

I wish I could show my friends how fucking depressed I am in a way that would make me feel better, but I can’t. So I just stare blankly and drink as much as I can without igniting suspicion and feeling the fierce bite of anger inside my chest with every word said and every action made.

Save me. Cure me. help me.

I just… can’t.

I’ve gone through a long route in my blog reading– as long as my ED and recovery process has been. I’ve read all kinds of blogs (starting with recipe blogs, to healthy living blogs, to recovery blogs) and now just have maybe 8 or so blogs I’m subscribed to about the process of struggling with an ED. I don’t get email alerts so I have total control over whether I feel like reading about others’ EDs or not.

Sometimes when I do read blogs, I discover new blogs via comments or links. If the blog speaks to me, I’ll read a number of posts, and maybe then, I’ll subscribe. It’s a totally subjective process that makes me safe.

But this morning I stumbled across a blog that is causing me some angst. (note: this person does NOT read my blog and I have never commented there– please don’t take offense at this personal response. As you who read this know, I am only here for venting for MYSELF. I don’t want anyone to feel bad after reading this.)

I’m not “triggered” by reading blogs. I don’t give them that much power, frankly. What disturbs me about this blog is that the writer claims to have “recovered” totally from an ED, but I find his/her eating to still be highly disturbed. He/she offers advice about recovery and has many followers who worship him/her. Maybe they are genuinely inspired, but I find it distressing.

The thing that really put me over the edge was this comment in regards to eating:
question: why is it acceptable for people to accept a vegan diet as means of controlling cancer whereas it’s considered as disordered eating to implement a vegan diet after experiencing diseases such as anorexia and bulimia? that thinking is so hypocritical.

Okay. I havenothing against veganism. I myself am a vegetarian– have been for over 10 years. I was vegetarian before, throughout my ED, and still in recovery– a fact my nutritionist never challenged me on. HOWEVER. Contrary to popular belief, eating a certain way does not “control cancer.” Cancer is a disease. Cancer must be treated. You can’t just give up meat and dairy and be cured.

EDs are a disease too. I am not claiming they are equivalent to cancer— as someone recovering from an ED and having my best friend fighting lymphoma at the moment, I would NEVER claim that. What I’m saying is that the writer is so caught up in his/her own system of doing things that he/she is unable to see how disordered his/her eating actually is.

My best friend is on a feeding tube. She has been since December, when due to the chemo she lost about 20% of her body weight. She’s also had to have TPN, which is calories/fat transmitted through her mediports directly into her veins. She’s almost back to her normal weight, which is wonderful, and she’s over the feeding tube. What she wants, more than anything, is to normalize her eating.

I don’t begrudge anyone their diets (again, I have a specific one too). But, at least for me, the process of recovery from an eating disorder is to be able to live in the real world, the world where I can’t always control what happens, and feel normalized.

This blogger is far from normalized, and yet he/she cries that he/she’s completely without disordered eating (he/she also claims that EDNOS is too loosely defined in the DSM-IV and therefore not a valid ED, which is bullshit). He/she is WRONG:

1. Only eats alone. Writes “eating like a slob at restaurants doesn’t mean that i’m disordered… i don’t really care to socialise with anyone else because it’s a waste of my time, not a disorder. ” Keeps no food in the house, ever. No flexibility of meal times. No snacks.

2. Literally screamed at a barista, called over a manager, and threatened to contact corporate because the barista added simple syrup to a black iced coffee (which they do at Starbucks unless you ask for “unsweetened.”) It would have been really easy to just ask the barista to make a new drink.

3. Screamed at a store clerk (who he/she referred to as a “girl [who’s] biggie sized every french fry in her life“) and her manager because he/she couldn’t locate the vegan cheese which he/she NEEDED. Continuing on the hunt for vegan cheese, this writer went to a store he/she avoids because of binging triggers, then take the time to think about how he/she’s going to binge on this stuff long enough to take pictures of it (long enough, also, to probably go through the thought process of simply not buying it), then proceeds to binge and “ruin her night.”

4. Screamed at his/her parents and storms out because while eating lettuce and salsa, a tiny piece of cheese appears in the salsa. He/she refuses to acknowledge his/her parent’s apologies for maybe accidentally spilling a sliver of shredded cheese into salsa while making tacos and accuses them of using a “cheese infested fork” to put the salsa back in the jar. His/her father responded by politely suggesting the writer be “more flexible” in “dealing with hiccups in life” — i.e. normalizing— to which the writer responds that this comment makes him/her “feels like [he/she’s] experiencing a bad dream.”

Sorry, I just can’t with this. I can’t do it. And before I get even bitchier, I should just stop.

And no, I did not subscribe to this blog.

Love,

B.

The goal for a person suffering from an eating disorder is to normalize their relationship with food by letting go of the power they give to it… There is no such thing as perfect eating… People who do not eat with their families or co-workers do not have the connection with others that people who ‘break bread’ together do. All cultures celebrate with food. Healing from an eating disorder involves the flexibility to eat, more or less, what others do. This doesn’t mean the client should become a junk food junkie but less rigidity and fear is essential to normalize eating.” —Monika Ostroff, MSW is the Program Coordinator at the Eating Disorder Treatment Center at Hampstead Hospital in Hampstead, NH.