Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
I was listening to my news podcasts while making breakfast just now, yelling at my phone every two minutes in response to the horrific GARBAGE going on in the world, and I felt compelled to sit down and write. I don’t know what I want to say, necessarily, but considering I call myself a writer, I figure I should heed the call to write when it strikes, regardless of cohesive ideas. Especially given that I have seven rounds of Words with Friends waiting, and a new Nintendo DS (Thank you, Liza Walter!!) with a handful of games I’m eager to play, the compulsion to write is unusual. As Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
And yet (or and so?) here I am.
I don’t know how or where to begin with the state of the world. It is honestly terrifying. If I were unemployed right now, I’d probably head down to Alabama and help Doug Jones. I don’t know much about him besides headlines I’ve seen in passing, but I do know this: He’s not a pedophile. Jesus Christ.
Al Franken resigned today. Democrats have generally taken the high road when it’s come to dignity and morals, not stooping to levels many republicans will to win votes, or calling on fellow democrats to do the right thing in light of accusations or scandal (Bill Clinton notwithstanding), and sometimes we (I) wonder if we should go ahead and play as dirty as the other side does. These are scary times and sometimes it seems like we’re moving backwards, but all in all, haven’t we, as a country generally moved forward in terms of civil rights? I’m talking about the larger picture. Yes, our record is still deplorable in many, many ways, and we have a long way to go in terms of granting every human being basic human rights, not to mention equality, but we have been moving forward in incremental steps and I wonder if that’s because we have refused to get into the mud with the other side. We take a few steps forward and a few steps back, but I think the momentum is generally in the right direction. So as scary and as important as the loss of Franken is to the Senate, it may be the right thing in terms of the way this country deals with abuse toward women. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance.
It seems like the GOP’s long game is about securing money and power for a very small group of people so that when the shit does inevitably hit the fan, they imagine they’ll be shielded from it (perhaps they should ask the French how that worked out for them…). Maybe our long game is securing basic rights and dignity for everyone so that life gets generally better for everyone. And that means sometimes falling on our sword?
I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed and sad and California is burning.
But. Monty asks to cuddle with me every morning. So, I have that. I don’t know what I’ll do when my time in Seattle is up. I may end up Tindering my way through the country just for cuddle-buddies. (TBH, full disclozsh: Monty is the only person I actually want to cuddle with.)
He’s a bit obsessed with my belly. I think it started last spring when he learned that he was in there when I was pregnant. He asked to get back in. I explained that he was too big, and he curled himself up into a ball to try to be small enough. Ever since then he wants to look at, squeeze, and sleep on my belly whenever he can. He likes it when I push it out and make it big. Last week I told him that someday he’s going to meet someone with a big, fat belly, and they’re going to fall in love, and he’ll get to cuddle that person and their big, fat belly. This morning he made me tell him that story again.
When I dropped him off at school this morning, his classmate, Kennedy, who was seen yesterday morning sobbing in the corner because her breakfast plate was blue and not pink, announced that she was going to marry Monty. She going to have to stop worrying about the color of her plate and start eating what's on it if she wants that to happen.
I'm really good at parenting.
Notes from the Road
Part one: Seattle
When Monty was about a year and a half, a friend with a kid the same age asked what she should do about her kid trying to climb out of her crib. I suggested she put her kid back in a sleep sack for a while to discourage her from climbing at night. Another mother with a kid around the same age as ours said, “No, no, no! She needs to learn how to sleep with a blanket!”
She needs to learn how to sleep with a blanket.
Take a moment and imagine an adult who never “learned how to sleep with a blanket.”
“Where does this thing go?! Do I sleep on top of it? Do I throw it in the air and somehow position myself so it lands on me? Do I wrap it around my neck? How does this work?! WHY DIDN’T MY MOTHER HELP ME LEARN HOW TO USE THIS THING?! CURSE HER!”
Kurt and I recently went to a parent-teacher conference at Monty’s pre-school. Monty’s teacher was a bit concerned because Monty brings his stuffed rabbit to circle time every day and always uses her for show and tell. She also mentioned that he’s having trouble putting letters in the correct order when he’s writing words. Also, he holds his fork in a fist.
In his defense, he’s four.
I went to his class for a Thanksgiving lunch and saw the posters all the kids made. In true American schooling fashion, they all made exactly the same damn thing. A collage turkey with the words “I’m thankful for” written at the top, the things they’re thankful for written in the feathers, and at the bottom “Happy Thanksgiving.” I told Monty how proud of him I was and how impressive it was that he wrote words. Then I saw the other kids’ posters and realized, Monty’s was really a mess. I mean, it was truly a collection of letters in a mish-mash. Two feathers had the words “mom” and “dad” which he never calls us, and the third was just scribbles. At the bottom, as best I could make out, was written, “THAXXXX4Y HAL,” in a variety of font sizes. The closest another kids’ writing was to Monty’s was one that said,
Which, at least, is decipherable.
So, yes, we need to pay some attention to Monty’s writing skills. And it’s a good reminder. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in how good he is at drumming, or how comfortable he is around adults, or that he’s doing pretty well with reading, that we forget there are other skills he might need in life that require our focus.
That said, he’s four, and I’m fairly confident he’ll figure out that letters need to be written in order from left to right to form English words. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to walk into his freshman orientation at college holding his stuffed rabbit. And the chances are good that eventually he’ll develop the dexterity to hold his fork in an “acceptable” manner.
THAT BLANKET THING, THOUGH.
Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
I was talking with a castmate and friend the other day about my co-parenting situation with Monty’s dad, Kurt. It’s too complicated to explain, and since I’m interested in keeping readers, I’ll skip it. Suffice it to say, I’ve been living in NYC since May while Kurt and Monty have been in Seattle. It’s largely due to finances. It sucks and it’s far from ideal, but it was the only way we could find for me to continue pursuing my career. We didn’t know how long this arrangement would last, only that it wasn’t permanent and that the end goal was to get to a place financially where all three of us could live near each other in NYC.
I told my castmate that it may be we end up finding a three-bedroom place. It would be more affordable than getting two two-bedroom places, and certainly more livable than the both of us living in studios with Monty shuffling back and forth between us. That shit ain’t cute.
No one is suggesting that this is an easy solution. For instance, it would make dating difficult, to say the least, but frankly neither of us are at a place right now where we’re trying to find partners. It turns out I love being single. Also, between my career, my child, and the tornado that exists in my head, I don’t have time for anyone else. And whoever we both do end up dating, they’re going to have to be 100% on board with our arrangement. Kurt and I are close. We get along really well. And we’re raising a human together. And that’s that. Neither of us have room for jealousy, possessiveness, or insecurities.
My castmate asked if I thought maybe we were setting Monty up with false expectations about the way the world works; That parents who separate usually don’t live together anymore. It’s a fair question. But here’s the thing, I think the way the world works now is pretty terrible. Extreme hetero- and gender-normativity, along with virulent misogyny and homophobia have created a system in which most families can’t function in a healthy way. Parents stay married “for the kids,” or because it’s financially impossible to separate, and if they do separate and make their kids deal with the logistics of their failed relationship. People marry who never should have. People have kids who definitely never should have. And MOST of the time, if one parent has to sacrifice their career in order to raise the kids, it’s the mother. No one sneezes at the thought of a father working so much he’s rarely home. But people ask me constantly if I feel guilty for not being with Monty. (The answer by the way is “yes,” but I’d be suicidal if I gave up my career.)
So, what’s the false expectation? What’s the damaging lesson we’re teaching Monty? That two people who love each other in many ways and have a kid together can figure out a way to make it work so that their child grows up with both parents around? That making enough money two have two separate places big enough doesn’t seem to be in our wheelhouse? That people don’t have to be romantically involved in order to make a relationship that is “supposed to be” romantic work? That people are capable of all kinds of different relationships? That his parents love him so much that they decided to buck tradition and figure out what worked best for their family?
I told my castmate that when Monty is old enough to understand the concept of romantic love we can explain to him that his parents used to feel one way for each other and they’re relationship changed, and they figured out how to make it work. God forbid he learns that people are complicated, and relationships are nuanced. What if he grows up to be the kind of person who doesn’t blindly accept what everyone else tells him about the way his life should be? What if he learns that men and women can have relationships with each other that don’t involve sex or romance? What if he learns that even after we stop loving someone romantically we can still care for them, be kind to them, and carry on with them in our lives? What if he realizes that he can choose to keep people in his life based on how they enrich each other’s lives, and get rid of the ones who are damaging? What if he comes to view relationships as living things that change and grow and require maintenance and attention?
I left my castmate and met up with Monty and Kurt at the playground. I asked Kurt what he thought about how we would explain things to Monty when he’s old enough to understand what romantic love is.
“Daisy,” he said, “I’m almost 50 and I still haven’t figured out what romantic love is.”
Amen, Brother. Amen.
Notes from the Road
Part One: Seattle
For years I hated autumn. I never knew why, exactly. But well into my twenties I would get depressed when September rolled around. Both serious breakdowns I’ve had in my life were in the fall. Fall of 2007 was particularly awful. I got fired from two shitty survival jobs; one as a customer service rep for a psychic hotline and one as a front desk “girl” at a pole dancing gym. I got fired from a pole dancing gym. My car got towed one night when I went bowling to try to blow off some steam. It cost hundreds of dollars I didn’t have to get it out of impound. And I spent hours sitting in the hallway at the psych ward of UCLA medical center waiting for a doctor to tell me to admit myself (I didn’t). I got kidney stones two years later. In the fall. Fall was not my season.
I can’t remember when, but one year in late August I felt my hackles go up as I braced myself for the onslaught of September, and I finally took a moment to examine why I was pre-freaking out. Future tripping. And I realized it was because I associated fall with school starting. Even though I was a good 15 years out of school, I still felt the same dread I’d felt as a kid, packing up my backpack and lacing up my off-brand high tops, to drag myself to that special torture known as school. All those post-school terrible autumns were, I think, due in large part to my belief that fall was a nightmare. Perception is half of life. Or something pseudo-profound like that.
Every year I’d buy a new Trapper Keeper and vow too myself that this would be the year I kept it neat and organized. Everything would go into its designated folder or pocket. And every year, by the end of week one that Trapper Keeper was a fucking disaster area. Papers everywhere. Plastic pockets ripped and rendered completely useless. A pencil hole right over Donnie Walberg’s face from when I absent-mindedly took my math class anxiety out on the Trapper Keeper’s pristine cover.
I’d be disappointed in myself. This year was going to be different, I’d told myself. This year I was going to be that person. And when I’d proven myself wrong, I’d give up. As though there were no coming back from a messy Trapper Keeper. Like promising yourself you’re only going to have one slice of cake, then realizing you’ve eaten half of it, and then finishing the whole thing because fuck it, you’ve gone that far, might as well finish the job. School for me was one experience after another that proved to me I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t organized enough, smart enough, disciplined enough, pretty enough, popular enough (or, like, at all).
When I realized that my hatred of fall was linked to my hatred of school I was able to rewire things enough in my brain so that when I did start feeling that inevitable panic as back-to-school commercials began to play I could remind myself that I wasn’t going to be going back to school. That I had, in fact, survived school, messy Trapper Keeper and all, and came out on the other side, and could now enjoy fall with its crunchy leaves underfoot and fireplace fire smells. And now I love fall. This year in NYC, it didn’t feel like fall until late October and that was a disappointment. The first day it really felt like fall was thrilling.
Now I find myself with a new conundrum. Every time I have an out-of-town gig I think, “This time I’m going to unpack right away. This time I’m going to get on a responsible, adult-like schedule. This time I’m going to wake up at a reasonable time each day. I’m going to take advantage of the free continental breakfast in the lobby. I’m going to go to the gym regularly (or, like, at all). I’m going to buy groceries and actually eat them. I’m not going to go out to eat. I’m not going to stay up late. Or drink too much. Or watch garbage TV. I’m going to write every day!
And I find myself on day four, sleeping until almost 11 a.m., missing the continental breakfast, looking at the groceries I bought and deciding to go out to eat, throwing out left-overs from take out I bought and didn’t eat, and completely not unpacked.
BUT, I am actively fighting that voice that’s saying, “Fuck it. It’s too late now. Just go all in. Spend all your money. Drink that whole bottle of wine. Watch another episode of Friends. Sleep until 11 a.m. Free breakfast is for suckers. Make your bed? For who? Rifling through boxes and suitcases is almost like rifling through organized drawers. You’re just going to have to pack up again. In a month and a half…”
My Trapper Keeper may already be a mess, but it’s not falling apart yet. I can salvage this. My utter lack of organization is not inevitable. I AM NOT MY TRAPPER KEEPER!
Or, more to the point, my Trapper Keeper is not me.
I’m sitting in my hotel room in Queen Anne on day three out of town with The Humans tour. Seattle Rep and our housing is within spitting distance of the Space Needle (or the “Speece Naddle” as Monty calls it), but my view is of downtown (I assume it’s downtown. That’s usually where they put the tall buildings) and of a lot of construction. Seattle is under-going massive new construction now that Amazon is in town. I count 14 cranes from my living room window. Most are building those hideous glass, and grey, and often orange (?!) “luxury” condo buildings that became a scourge on the skyline of downtown Brooklyn in the last five years or so and are everywhere.
I haven’t listened to my morning news podcasts, yet, or checked Twitter, so I don’t know what awful tragedy took place over night, though I’m confident there has been at least one mass shooting. Do we even call them “mass” anymore if fewer than 10 people are killed? I remember when Columbine happened. I was horrified, but somehow not shocked. Even though it was the first attack of its kind and we were all supposed to be shocked, I remember feeling kind of numb. I felt awful for the victims and survivors and their families, but I never felt like it was out of the realm of possibility enough to be shocked by it. I felt some shock after Sandy Hook, but even then, I thought, “Yeah, people are sick and awful. This is what happens when awful, sick people have access to killing machines.”
DO NOT MISINTERPRET ME, I’m not saying our mass shooting crisis is the fault of mental illness. I have mental illness. The only person I’ve ever wanted to kill was myself. And my sister’s ex-boyfriend… And, frankly, I think we’re all mentally ill to some degree, or at least suffering from PTSD to some degree or another. My generation was raised by two generations of survivors of horrific wars. Our grandparents and our parents survived World War II and Vietnam respectively, even if they didn’t serve; war permeates every aspect of our lives. War really is hell. Vietnam was not just some montage of walking through jungles while Credence Clearwater played in the background. It was a living nightmare. And thousands and thousands of the men and women who did survive it went on to have children without ever processing the atrocities they committed in the name of patriotism. Those are the people who raised us. Of course we’re all damaged. And then there’s our joke of an education system and organized religion, both of which teach blind obedience to “God” and country, both of which are completely false concepts.
Anyway, we’re all broken. And we’re being “lead” by a group of sociopathic monsters whose hands are bound by the NRA and the Koch brothers. So, no, I’m not shocked when a broken person, who is a product of this backward-ass broken system gets his hands on a tool built for ONE PURPOSE and uses it for that purpose. And if you are still shocked by that, then you’re deluding yourself.
We made some progress last night across the country in local elections, especially with women and people of color being elected, including electing the first trans woman to a delegate seat. In Virginia, no less. So, that’s good. Maybe the system really can be changed from within. Maybe we don’t need to upend the whole thing and start from fresh.
Monty’s dad talks about visiting a museum when he was a kid that proclaimed to have George Washington’s ax that he famously chopped down the cherry tree with. “Come see George Washington’s actual ax!” When they got there, a museum guide explained that, over the years, many parts in the ax had to be replaced due to age and wear. So, George Washington’s “actual, authentic” ax had had its handle replaced. And its blade. And its handle again. And the parts that held the handle and the blade together. “So,” Kurt said to the museum guide, “It’s not actually the ax that George Washington used.” “Sure, it is,” the guide said, “It’s just been refurbished!”
Maybe that’s what we’ll do. Piece by piece, part by part, we’ll replace and refurbish the parts of our country that have been worn away or have become outdated due to age and wear. A legislative seat here, a law there. And eventually what we’ll have is a brand new country that pretty much resembles the original but with new, working parts that serve it better.
“Come see ‘The Original United States of America!’ Now with more tolerance, fewer guns, and a lot more grey and glass ‘luxury’ condos!”
And now I’m off to rehearsal where I get to play make-believe and get paid for it. Now that is shocking.
Trigger warning: Rape
When I was 16 or 17 I was in college at a school that catered to younger students. Ostensibly we were intellectually done with high school. I don’t know how many of us really were ready for college, either academically or socially. I think their main criteria for acceptance was whether students could pay tuition or not. Most freshmen were 16 or 17. I turned 16 in my freshman year.
There was a small group of boys whose parents were low-level somebodies; one of their fathers was Slim Goodbody. They were wealthy, white, NYC prep school kids, complete with the privileged attitudes, blaring-loud rap music, and baggy pants. They were snotty shits. They were also not attractive. By any stretch. But they had a facebook (an actual facebook) that they used as a catalogue for girls. They put stars next to the girls they wanted to fuck. I have no idea what their stats were. I don’t care. But I would bet that they didn’t get much action.
One night I ended up in one of these kids’ dorm rooms with a friend of mine. I’m not going to use his name, but I will say he had no neck. Like, his head ended and his shoulders just began. I can’t remember if this was in my first or second year. I feel like it was in my second year, but I’m just not sure. For some reason the three of us were watching porn. I was really uncomfortable. I didn’t understand the point of watching porn with people you weren’t planning on immediately sleeping with and I wasn’t planning on sleeping with of either of them immediately or, ever. When the, ahem, film was over, my friend said she was heading back to her dorm. I got up to go with her and the No-neck asked me to stay. I said no. I looked around for my shoes and could only find one. He told me he’d hidden the other one. My friend laughed and left. I’m going to repeat that. My friend laughed and left. She heard me say I wanted to leave, heard No-neck say he hid my shoe, and she left me there with him. She’s a therapist now.
No-neck came on to me. I said no. What proceeded was an hour or so of him talking me into having sex and me saying no and asking for my shoe. Maybe it was less than an hour. I have no idea how long I stood there telling him I really didn’t want to have sex with him and I really wanted to go home. It felt like forever.
I finally gave in. I said, “Fine,” and sat down on his bed. Then he asked me for a blowjob. And the whole thing began again: me saying no and him begging. My old roommate and I had bragged the semester before about how good we were at giving head. He said I needed to prove it. I held firm and refused. I guess he decided to quit while he was ahead and take what I was extremely reluctantly giving him.
He humped me for a few minutes and came. I felt filthy and small and filled with shame. He got up, dumped the condom in the trash, walked over to his stereo, and said, “Hold on,” and stared into space for about 10 or 15 seconds, and then said, “I was farting that entire time.” He turned his music on full blast, walked out of the room, came back with my shoe, and tossed it at me.
“It was in the freezer,” he said.
I got dressed, put my freezing shoe on, and walked back to my dorm alone.
I dropped out of school shortly thereafter, had a nervous breakdown a few weeks after that, and ended up in a psych ward. That was not all a result of the rape, there were a lot of factors, but it was definitely one of the final straws.
It took me many years to come to terms with what happened that night and admit that it was rape. I have carried around the shame of this. Even now, 20 years later, I hear myself thinking, “You could have walked home without your shoe,” “You shouldn’t have been watching porn with him,” “You shouldn’t have bragged about blow jobs,” “You shouldn’t have said yes.” I said yes. Well, I said “fine.” And even if I had eventually said yes, it would have come after many, many “nos.” No one should have to say no twice.
I can not imagine wanting to have sex with someone who says “fine” after I’ve coerced them. I can not imagine coercing someone into having sex with me. Recently I was with a woman who said she didn’t like doing a particular thing and it never occurred to me to ask her again. Why would you want someone to do something to you or with you that they weren’t totally enthusiastic about?
No-neck is not alone. Hell, he’s not even the only person who sexually assaulted me. This is common. I have an ex who’s entire m.o. was “getting women” to sleep with him. Some men think coercion is foreplay. Listening to some of the stories coming out about Harvey Weinstein, I’m not at all surprised, though it is traumatizing and deeply triggering. Listening to him beg Ambra Guiterrez to come into his hotel room and to not “embarrass” him is sickening. I started shaking when I heard it. I’ve heard those words. I’ve heard that tone. I have been Ambra. So many of us have.
Coercion is rape. Coercion is rape. Coercion is rape.
To anyone who has experienced sexual assault (and there are billions of us), I love you and I stand with you. You are not alone. It was not your fault. It doesn’t define you. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
We are strong. We are beautiful. We are warriors.
I woke up this morning to the news about the shooting in Las Vegas. More than 50 people dead and over 200 injured. I wrote that sentence and then sat here staring into space for lack of any words to possibly follow it up with.
I watched the clips of the concert from when the shooting started. I listened to Up First and they played audio of it. The rapidity with which those shots were fired is breathtaking. Aside from the horrific images that it invokes, I keep thinking, why do these weapons even exist? Not just why would a civilian have access to them, but why do they even exist in the first place? I don’t see justification for it.
I think a lot about the very beginnings of civilization. I imagine two small tribes living across a river and a few miles up and downstream from each other. One of these tribes finds their crops or their animals dying and they need help or they face starvation. I imagine a gathering of some kind, maybe the elders, to discuss what’s to be done. Someone mentions the tribe across the river. Their crops are healthy. And a decision has to be made. Do they approach the other tribe peacefully and ask for help? Maybe offering some kind of trade or help in return? Or do they ambush them and take what they need forcefully?
I know that animals are naturally afraid of the other. I know that it’s in our makeup to not be too trusting. In order to survive, it’s in our best interest to be suspicious. But humans are supposed to be intelligent. We are supposed to be able to use reason and logic to supplement our instincts.
When I think about these hypothetical early tribes, they always decide on violence. There is a small contingency advocating for a peaceful solution, but their voices are drowned out by those using fear as their main argument. “We don’t know these people. They could kill us all the moment they see us coming.” And so, they go down river and ambush this unsuspecting tribe and they feel righteous and justified because it was all done in the name of survival.
I know that if this kind of thing happened, it happened the world over. Wherever there were tribes of people, these kinds of decisions had to be made. But I think of these two imaginary tribes and the moment of decision as a turning point in humanity. We could have chosen something better. We could have taken a risk and made the decision that ultimately benefited the species not just the tribe.
And I know this sounds naïve. Clearly we, as a species, have proven that we are not that intelligent. Even if that mythical tribe had decided on a peaceful resolution, another tribe further down river would have made the opposite decision. I think it’s in our nature to destroy each other.
We are ridiculous. We are stupid and scared and we don’t learn from our mistakes. We have let those in charge, since the dawn of civilization, cultivate fear and mistrust for their own gain.
When food storage was invented the people in charge quickly realized they could use it as a method to gain more power and, even better, to pit people against each other. Before we figured out how to store grain, we had to eat what we harvested before it went to waste. And if there was extra it went to those who were in need. But then we knew how to store the extra and suddenly there was something that needed to be inventoried and guarded and doled out. And it no longer belonged to the people, it belonged to those who were keeping the inventory and paying the guards and doling it out. And there were taxes placed on it. And there were punishments for trying to take what wasn’t yours. After all, you can’t just let anyone come and take what they want or there will be chaos. The food and people were controlled for the good of the people.
I realize this seems way off point. Someone let loose a barrage of bullets into a crowd and I’m talking about grain storage.
My point is, we made this world. We had a blank slate and could have made anything we wanted. We could have designed a hedonistic, orgiastic, peaceful utopia. But, instead, we used fear, suspicion, and mistrust to guide us and we created a world in which someone can send their loved one off to enjoy a concert and never see them again because a weapon exists that can fire off dozens of rounds per minute.
Yes, yes, I KNOW this sounds naïve. And insane. I’m arguing that grain silos led to last night’s massacre. And even in a hedonistic, orgiastic utopia someone could send a loved one off to a concert and never see them again. But it’s hard to imagine that, short of a natural disaster, hundreds of people could send loved ones off to a concert and never see them again.
I could spin off into another theory about how natural disasters would have resulted in the use of assault rifles eventually, but I realize I’ve already given you a lot to swallow.
That’s all I can say.
As per usual, I haven’t been posting new blogs because I want them to be perfect. Perfection is the enemy of creativity. So, I’m lowering my own bar and trying to just get words out.
I’m in an in between place right now, having just spent a day on set, filming a small part for a TV show I’m a fan of, and waiting for my next gig to start in a couple weeks. Here's a picture of me on set:
I can’t say what gig I’m about to start as they haven’t announced the cast officially yet. I’m just waiting to suddenly get a bunch of texts and Twitter notifications to tell me the press release has gone out. They won’t even tell those of us who are already cast who else has been cast. So, I continue to wait.
I’m finally getting my room unpacked and set up. It’s stressful because I’m painfully aware of my lack of design talent. I bought red curtains in an attempt to add color to my room and I think it was a regretful choice. The good news is, I’m leaving in a month for nine months, so the curtains will hopefully be someone else’s problem.
Yesterday was the first cold day of the season. After weeks of summer-like weather; swampy, soup weather, it was suddenly fall. Cold and a bit blustery. I spent the day in-doors battling a headache and depression. I had plans with a friend that I bailed on. He’s annoyed with me. But I did get some work done on my room which I’m seriously behind the eight ball on. Walking in here for the past couple months and sidling past boxes and bins has been making me insane. So, it has to be done.
I have always been really bad at unpacking. Suitcases are left untouched weeks after I return from trips. I moved to Los Angeles in 2003 and unpacked my last box in 2005, after moving in to my fourth place. I moved this box from New York, into a house I bought in North Hollywood, into my last apartment I shared with my ex-husband, and finally into my first place by myself and when I finally got it together to unpack it I found half-burned candles wrapped in newspaper. And not expensive or sentimental candles. Just random shit you can buy at Rite Aid.
Worse than the tangled-up mess of cheap Christmas lights that don’t work anymore, and the empty notebooks, and the bottles of expired vitamins, are the notes and letters. I have learned at least to not open old diaries (that trap will have you sitting on the floor until four a.m. crying and eating Entenmann’s cake right out of the box). But I have hundreds of postcards from when I worked at a university for a few years. I asked people to send me postcards for my office wall and I got an enthusiastic response. I have held on to nearly every card and letter I have ever gotten. I have old cigar boxes full of them. But I made the decision that I didn’t need to carry most of these postcards around with me anymore. They’d served their function when I had an office, but for the past eight years they’ve been sitting in a box. So, I went through them with a largely indiscriminate fervor. I kept the ones whose images spoke to me and the ones loved ones sent and tossed the rest.
The hardest part was reading the ones Kurt sent. And he sent dozens. I had nearly forgotten how funny he was. His sense of humor was one of the things that drew me to him in the first place. He sent postcards that were images of random street scenes from the past and ascribed dialogue to the people in the photos. He wrote of the fates of the subjects of the photos. He gave horses punchlines. I sat on my floor, pouring through these, laughing and feeling tremendously sad.
He and Monty have moved into their own place near Seattle. I Skype with them twice a day on good days. At breakfast and dinner. Monty shows me the latest thing they’ve added to their apartment. They have a map of the five boroughs over their kitchen table with pins marking where Monty’s important people are. Monty is, as always, happy and well-adjusted. Kurt is shouldering full time work and parenting on his own and he never complains. The most I’ll hear is “Weekends are hard.” I tell him how terrible I feel that I’m not there and he tells me that they’re proud of me how important what I’m doing is. Is it? It’s not like I’m saving lives. I’m not doing embassy work. Or even teaching. I’m just… being an actor. But Kurt is endlessly supportive.
And I’m sad that we can’t be together anymore. I’m sad that we can’t make it work. Sometimes I think we can try to fix things, and then I remember that even if we could work out whatever emotional wrinkles we had, I’m not attracted to men. That, as far as I can tell, some switch has been flipped in me and I generally find the thought of being physically intimate with any man akin to licking the bottom of a shoe. But I’m reading these old postcards and laughing and crying and wishing things could be different. Wishing I could be different.
Maybe the upside to all this is that because there’s no possibility of a romantic relationship anymore we may be able to find a way to live together platonically and co-parent. We certainly like each other enough to make something like that work. Or, at least, I like him. I assume he likes me, too…
I want to write here about the relationship I had over the summer – with the woman who flipped my switch, as it were – but we have mutual friends and I want to be respectful. I loved her (and still do, I think?) and think about her every day, even nearly two months after it’s been over. The relationship was unhealthy for a host of reasons; we triggered each other enormously. Ultimately, I think our major error was moving far too quickly. We tried to build a house without putting down the proper foundation. So, when the house came tumbling down it did so hard and fast and we were both badly bruised in the process. I still think I’m digging my way out of the rubble.
I am overwhelmed by what’s happening in our country politically. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is doing unspeakable damage. Every day we all seem shocked at how much lower he has managed to sink, taking us down with him. The situation is Puerto Rico is devastating. I feel helpless. I don’t know how his party allows him to remain in office. I keep thinking they must have some kind of plan. Nefarious though it may be, and it most likely is, they have to know what they’re doing right? How can they just be letting him dig himself and his party (and the entire country) into this hole without some reason for it? Are they just willfully destroying their party? Are they trying to set the stage for some kind of Tea Partyesque take-over?
Honestly it feels trite to even address any of this. There are others doing it much better than I ever could. I have nothing significant to add to the discourse.
But, I don’t know how pushing policy that kills poor people is helpful to them. I understand they think poor people are detestable, but they do know they can’t continue to benefit off the labor of the poor and struggling if they kill them all off, right? Isn’t there some fine line they have to walk between keeping us sick and barely surviving and out-right killing us off? Doesn’t it seem like their policies are designed for the latter? Who’s going to clean their toilets, serve their food, and raise their children if they kill us all off?
Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox now. Mostly because I still need to unpack it. It’s probably filled more junk I’ve been dragging around with me for 38 years.
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…
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