I've been thinking a lot about my life from when I was about 13 to 16 years old. It’s such a short period of time. A blink. But so important in developing the tangled ball of yarn that is my psyche.
When I was 18 I had a nervous breakdown and spent hours literally trying to untangle my stepmother’s skeins of yarn. Only now do I see the metaphor.
Anyway, after my mom died I was angry. I don’t begrudge myself that anger. I had a lot to be angry about. I had a great therapist, but beyond that I had very little support. My father was dealing with the loss of his wife of 26 years and was not able to be there for me in the way that I needed. I was largely left to my own devices. I went to school if and when I felt like it. I smoked cigarettes like a fiend. The group of kids I spent my time with smoked pot, so I did too, even though I hated the way it made me feel. I would be gripped by a paranoia so intense I would end up curled up in a fetal position inside my own mind. But the alternative was not smoking pot and not fitting in. I had spent so much of my childhood being uncool and I desperately didn’t want to go back there. So, I would get high and retreat into silence, trying to seem cool with a bunch of kids who I already knew didn’t think I was cool to begin with.
It's remarkable how many people I meet who say it took them well into their adult years to shake whatever image they felt that had in high school, or even grade school. So many of us look in the mirror and still see a nerd, a dork, a freak. Inside, so many of us are still an awkward kid who just wants to fit in. That shit sticks.
When I was 14 I went to Chicago to shoot a movie for six weeks. When I came back my two best friends had made friends with two different groups of people who were complete strangers to me. They were “ravers” and street kids. They did drugs, died their hair, wore crazy clothes, got into clubs, never seemed to go home. They were cool. And they were not shy to let me know I didn’t fit in. All they knew about me was that I was some bougie actress who had been away shooting some big movie and I didn’t fit in with them. They mocked me for how I dressed. They teased me for double-knotting my laces. “Eiw, you don’t want your shoelaces to come undone? Laaaaaaaame.” I was embarrassed that I had money even though I had earned it myself. One of my best friends had a boyfriend, Andre, who would regularly call me a bitch and tell me to “shut the fuck up” regardless of what I was saying. Apropos of nothing, he would get in my face and yell, “Shut the fuck up, bitch!” And no one defended me. And worse than that, I didn’t defend myself. I just took it. I was so desperate for friends I would let these people treat me like garbage. I was so eager to fit in, I hung out with people who were never shy to make sure I knew how much I didn’t fit in. And I would go home, frequently to an empty house, and cry in my room, finally letting the sting of their cruel words escape my tight, burning throat.
In the end, after months and months of trying to ingratiate myself to these kids, they all abruptly shunned me. Maybe it wasn’t abrupt. The signs were there. It was no secret how they felt about me. But it sure felt abrupt at the time.
Even the people who had actually been my friends for years, the people who had known me since before my mother died, the people I considered closest to me, began to mock me openly. The friends I used to laugh with were now laughing at me. They were openly hostile. There was never any explanation. They just turned their backs on me.
In truth, I don’t blame my friends for cutting me loose. I was no longer just Daisy; I was Daisy Whose Mom Died. When a kid’s parent dies they become a reminder of impermanence. If their parent can die, what’s stopping your parent from dying? And who the hell wants to think about that when you’re just trying to smoke terrible weed you bought at Washington Square Park in your single-knotted laces? No one, that’s who. Also, I don’t think I was a picnic to be around. I was angry at the world. I lived in abject terror of being abandoned and I managed to alienate myself from the very people I needed most. I think I expected unending sympathy from everyone. People needed to be nice to me because I was the victim of tragic loss.
None of that was conscious. I didn’t wake up in the morning and think “Yes! Everyone has to be nice to me now!” But I think, subconsciously, I thought I was due universal kindness.
The thing is, you can only be nice to a person whose attitude is generally shitty for so long. Eventually their doom and gloom wears on you and no matter what hardships they’ve endured, you kind of want to run whenever they approach. One of the reasons Eeyore is such a popular character is because we want to believe that we will be accepted even at our gloomiest. But truthfully Eeyore would not have friends in the real world. He would probably be that kid who sits alone in front of his computer in the dark trolling people who seem happier than he is. Oscar the Grouch needs a lesson in being nicer to the people around him. No one who isn’t a felt puppet would put up with that shit for long. And Maria, because Maria is a goddess and we all know it.
It’s okay. I’m friends again with those kids I had been friends with before my mom died. We all managed to make it through our adolescence and put a lot of stuff behind us. I forgive them for not knowing how to treat me. I hope they forgive me for being a fucking nightmare most of the time back then. I’m working on forgiving myself for that.
I’m learning to look back with love and compassion. We were all struggling. Being a teenager is hard. It’s the worst. That’s a scientific fact. It is scientifically the absolute worst. But if we can look back with kindness and empathy we can start to untangle those impossibly snarled balls of yarn that are our psyches.
I have forgiven myself. I have forgiven them.
Except for my friend’s ex-boyfriend, Andre. Seriously. Fuck that guy.
Several times now I have posted a blog here declaring I would begin posting more often, only to then fail to keep my word. I’m like that friend who keeps saying, “Let’s tooooootally get together soon!” but never actually makes a plan to see you. Yeah, I’m that guy.
I’ve been trying to figure out what’s keeping me from posting more often, or even, in truth, from simply writing more often. (I say “simply writing” as if writing were ever simple. As if sitting down to write wasn’t excruciating.) A conclusion I’ve come to is that I tend to write with rigorous honesty which is exhausting and scary even when you don’t plan on sharing what you’ve written with the world (and by “the world”, of course I mean the modest handful of people who read this blog).
We are supposed to project and air of success. People want to work with successful people. Our persona on social media is supposed to be one of cheery optimism. No one wants to work with a drag. But I suffer from depression and anxiety, as I’ve made abundantly clear in previous posts, and I tend to share the world as I see it, through blue-tinted glasses. It turns some people off, I know. It may cost me some jobs. But I believe it a) is more interesting than being Sally Sunshine (which I couldn’t be if I tried), and b) can help others who experience depression or anxiety. The more we share our struggles, the more normalized they become and the more likely people are to reach out for help if they need it.
When Monty was born I was given a clean slate. A fresh start. I was able to forgive myself my regrets and “bad” decisions. Every step of my life brought me to Monty. It was and is the ultimate lesson in gratitude.
I left NYC in 2003 because I was restless. I left because I wasn’t disciplined enough in my career and I felt I had developed a bad rep among casting directors for giving less than terrific auditions. Whether this was true or just a paranoid perception, I can’t say. But I was auditioning very seldomly and getting cast even less. My heart wasn’t in the game anymore. I felt beat down and tired. So, I escaped my life and went to Los Angeles.
When I moved to L.A. I was in the middle of what I now call my “20 Year Lost Weekend.”
I did not spend 20 years in a drug-induced, blacked out stupor. I worked. I made a few movies. I was on Broadway for a third time. I played a variety of women in various states of duress on TV. I got married and divorced. Bought and sold a house. Quit the business. Finished school. Got back into the business. I lived my life. But generally, when I look at the time between when my mother died when I was 13 to the time I had my son, almost exactly 20 years later, I don’t recognize that person. It’s as if a stranger was living my life for two decades.
And suddenly I had a human life I was responsible for (“Suddenly” means 41 weeks of pregnancy, of which I was only away of 30 weeks…). I had a white, cis male that I had to raise to be… better. Better than a lot of the white, cis men I have known. Better than the toxic representation of white, cis men that he will be bombarded with from every corner of our culture.
Better than me.
I take that responsibility very seriously.
The great weight of that responsibility, coupled with depression that was now hormonal and chemical, meant I have spent much of the past four years feeling as though I were treading water. True, I’ve managed to make huge strides in my career. I wrote and produced a one-woman show before Monty was a year old. I won awards for my writing. I made the gigantic (and terrifying) leap to move back to NYC. I have managed to turn a corner in my career with regards to my discipline and my abilities. I have worked hard. (Success! Success! Success!) But, if my achievements were taken away, what would be left? I am Monty’s mom. I am an actor. I am a writer. But who am I beyond that?
I have made the agonizing choice to leave Monty with his dad in Seattle while I pursue my career with a focus and discipline I’ve never had before. I feel like a monster most of the time for doing this. It feels incredibly selfish. But my other option is to move to Seattle and, what? Try to make a living doing theater in Seattle? Give up acting again? Be miserable? I would be with my child, true. But I would be giving up my dream and who would that make me? What kind of mother could I be? How can I teach my son to follow his heart and never give up on himself if I am doing just that? How can I teach him to be better if I’m not being my best? How can I teach him how to be better than me when I don't know who "me" really is?
How can I stop being a stranger in my own life?
I’m hoping he will forgive me for not being there. Hopefully he will understand this sacrifice. Hopefully he won’t resent me for too long. I am his mother. He will resent me. Just hopefully not for this or just hopefully not for too long.
I am incredibly lucky that Kurt, Monty’s dad, is a superhuman with a massive capacity for understanding. I would not be able to do any of this without his seemingly endless support. There are times I worry that all I’m doing is traipsing around New York City, seeing shows and schmoozing, while Kurt works full time and raises our son day in and day out. He is there for all the stubbed toes and ear infections, the bathtimes and bedtime stories, breakfasts and dinners, tantrums and nightmares, hugs and kisses. All of it. And I’m here. And he never fails to remind me that what I’m doing is vital. He reminds me that in order for me to be the best mother to Monty that I can be, I need to be here. And he does this despite the fact that we aren’t together romantically anymore. He does this while knowing that I’ve been falling in love with someone else. He does this while being the world’s best dad.
Monty is in the best hands possible.
But he’s not in my hands, which torturous. And necessary. At 37 years old, I finally get to figure out who I am. I have to figure out who I am.
I recognize that this is intense navel-gazing. So, feel free to move on. I hear there’s a great piece about single, working motherhood on Goop…