October 2013 archive

I Drank Wine. So Much Wine.

photoI started writing, recording, and editing podcasts for my company last month. After I casually mentioned how much I wish to be Ira Glass at a breakfast meeting, my partner told me to start doing it now. Like any other daunting challenge I’m not qualified to undertake (no communications degree, no radio experience), I decided to have a panic attack instead of actually trying to do it. Once I realized my heavy breathing and stuttering wouldn’t sound good on the recordings, I decided to relax.
I wrote my first podcast script in about an hour. It flowed out of my fingertips, so easy. I took a story that one of our clients told on a recorded phone call and narrated it. I recorded my narration, edited the call, and viola. Podcast #1 was complete. I felt like a million bucks. So, of course, I figured Podcast #2 would be just as simple: water, wine, happy hour.
It wasn’t.
I got so stuck. Trying to edit this second piece together felt like trying to knit with no fingers. I kept getting tangled up, searching for the story within the calls and how to best deliver it to the ears that would be listening. I fought with the script for days until I finally felt like I had something to work from and then…the disaster every writer everywhere fears most. It disappeared. I toggled from one screen to the other and BAM. It was gone. The ENTIRE script, 3 days worth of pining and writing and thinking was all sucked into the interwebs, gone. I searched saved files, recently opened files, Time Machine, autosave back-up files. I searched my computer from A folder to Z folder and the entire script was gone. JUST GONE.
I drank wine. So much wine.
No way am I going back and re-writing that entire thing. No WAY.
So, of course, I went back a few days later and started rewriting the entire thing. I plodded through, trying to remember what I’d done, running into the same exact pitfalls I’d experienced the first time around. (What’s the definition of insanity?) Line after line I read and re-read, trying to make it just as good as it was before it disappeared. I desperately reached recreated the work I’d done. I consulted with other members of my team, asking for inspiration and guidance and help getting past this block to re-produce the script. When I’d finally finished and was ready to begin importing sound to the editing software and chopping it up according the script I’d written, I listened. I didn’t listen for my cut-cues or the places I knew my own voice would need to come in. I listened to the voice on the recording telling her story. I listened to the story. I just listened.
I ended up listening for over an hour, crying with my client as she shared her own experience. I heard her in a new way, I heard the story in a new way. And I realized all this time I was trying to write the story, the story was sitting right there patiently waiting for me to stop trying to write it and just listen.
Ain’t life’s metaphors grand?
After I’d listened to the entire call, I sat with it. I sat thinking about how many years I’ve spent trying to write my own script, how many years I tried to tell a story that was just patiently waiting for me to pay attention and live what was already there. It was liberating. Terrifying. Overwhelming.
Holy shit. I’m not the story-teller. I’m the one that’s meant to live the story.
This doesn’t disqualify any attempts you have made to achieve your own goals or go after your own fate. Because this starts before that. Way before that. It starts in the listening to the part of you, inside, that actually knows why you’re here. Going after anything before you listen to that inner story is fruitless because it’s not in alignment with who you are. We ask kids, 9th graders, to decide what they’re going to be when they grow up but if they don’t know how to listen to their own stories, they’re just going to choose what they think will make you happy/proud/content. Well, guess what? I haven’t been much better than a 9th grader.
But I am now.
I’m listening now. I’m paying attention to the things that light me up, make me want to get out of bed in the morning, give me grace. That story will unfold if I stop writing and just let it happen. (And yours will, too.)

Look at Me

Let’s talk about how many “I love you” texts I got yesterday. You people can seriously take a blog note. 😉

(This one’s a sad one. Prepare accordingly. I’d choose wine.)
bigblueI sat on her wide blue porch on a white wicker chair while best my friend’s bright blue eyes stayed laser focused on my stillness. Staring at a single nail, flush with the wood it was driven into, my focus was as keen as hers. Someone handed me a beer I didn’t want but I drank because please anything to numb even a small percentage of this confusion.
It was quiet for a long time.
“Look at me,” she broke the silence. I reluctantly creaked my rusty neck in her direction. “Just look at me,” she repeated. I peeled my eyes away from the nail flush with the wood it was driven into. “Just…look.”
I finally did.
“You’re not angry,” she whispered. “You’re sad. And the only way to get the sad out is to gently break the anger apart and let it go. You are safe. I’ve got you. Let’s move past the anger together and feel the sadness.”
I was angry that she asked me to look at her. I was angry that she interrupted my quiet moment, just me and the nail. I was angry that she even suggested I was angry.
I was angry at the angry.
But I followed directions because when you trust someone that implicitly, and you know you can’t trust yourself in that moment, you follow directions. So I looked at her. I looked long and hard for what it was she was trying to get me to see. I searched my brain while I looked at her, wondering where the relief would come from and how it would feel. After a while I almost rolled my eyes. Sure. Please. I’ll just stare at you until the anger goes away and then what? I’ll just suddenly start crying like a baby? I don’t cry at all. Even when I watch sad movies I don’t cry. This is simply not going to be the thing that…
And then I felt a tear. It was in my right eye. It gently slipped out, a small one, and landed halfway down my cheek. Before I could remember whether or not I’d put mascara on that day, another one. A bigger one this time from my left eye. It landed on her hand, the one that was gently resting on mine in my lap. I continued to look at her, now surprised. Am I crying? my brain asked.
I began to feel the anger break apart, physically break apart in my body like the fibers of a white sweater being separated by pulling it down over your bare knees. And slowly, between the fibers, a sadness emerged that I didn’t even know was hiding there. Each tear that dropped invited a friend, a plus-one if you will. They poured out of my eyes until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I put my head down and went along for the ride, loving hands keeping me up. And then some more hands, and then some more. I was safe, finally safe, wrapped up in so many arms just waiting in the wings to play their part. Knowing that there isn’t any judgement, no ulterior motives, and I can just be a pile of mess for as long as I need to be is the greatest gift I’ve received in years, probably because it was a gift I didn’t even know I wanted. Surrounded and held and touched and loved while all the sadness dripped out. Poured out.
No one wants to feel any of this. Just like a muscle that is stretched and torn only to be re-built bigger and stronger, there’s no option but to feel the discomfort and grow. I tell people that all the time but living it is different. There aren’t enough arms in the world to keep the discomfort at bay. But knowing I am not alone as each new wave of, “What is happening?” washes over me gives me the strength to keep feeling it.
“You’re not crazy,” someone whispered reassuringly. “You’re ok for feeling this way.”

You Wanna Know What You Can Do To Help?

I’ve been showered with extreme examples of goodness; like, primetime TV-worthy goodness. There are moments I feel like I’m getting a disproportionate amount of the love, like the rest of the world might figure it out soon and take some back.
So. I’m going to tell you how I’m being supported. That way, if you know someone who is getting separated, you can use these as examples of what you can do for them and the love keeps flowing.
If someone you know is getting separated:
Ye-hes-please.

Ye-hes-please.

1. Ask them what you can do for them. And when they respond, “Nothing” (and they will), do something anyway. Bring them a frozen dinner. A bottle of wine. A good book. A yummy blanket. A picture of Channing Tatum. (This works for either sex, I think.)
2. Visit them, but don’t expect to stay. Stop by, give a hug, a high-five, ask for nothing, and then leave. If they ask you to come over, just be present and hold the space for them. They might not want to talk or watch TV or cook or do anything. They probably just don’t want to be alone. Bring a magazine or something.
3. Don’t assume you know anything about the relationship or the separation. You know 10, maybe 20% of what goes on behind closed doors in a situation like this one. I know you think you can manufacture an informed opinion because you think you know enough to do so. You don’t. I promise. Be kind and compassionate to both people involved, even if you choose a side.
4. Text, email, Facebook, call. Constantly. Don’t expect an answer or a conversation. Just letting them know you’re still here when everything else feels like it’s falling apart in a supremely alone world can be the thing that gets them through the next hour.
5. Send them laughter. Whether it’s web clips, movies, or hilarious memes, send laughter.
6. For a period of time (at least 6 months to a year), be a completely non-judgmental friend. Don’t comment on their lack of personal hygiene, or how poorly they’re eating (if at all), or how much they’re drinking before noon. Give them a grace period of non-judgement. Let it all slide. For bonus points, compliment them on their sweat pants after you bring them pizza.
7. Listen to them. It’s important, great even, to validate and agree with their points of view or experiences, but it’s so much more important for them to be heard than validated. So just listen.
8. Find a way to do what you do best for them.
Example: My best friend, a music and choir director, sends me a song-of-the-day everyday. She includes a note with each one, like, “This one might make you cry,” or, “A little old school groove with the call of adventure at it’s core!”
Another example: My dear friend writes a goodnight letter every. single. night. for me to read before I go to sleep. He reminds me I am loved and I will be ok. Nothing more.
And yet another: My girlfriend sends me a reminder in the late afternoons that I’ve nearly made it to the end of another day, and I survived again. Low and behold, she’s right every time.
9. TELL them when you’re taking them out to dinner or a drink. Don’t ask when’s a good time. It will never be a good time. None of this time is good. Tell them you’re coming over Friday night to take them out. If they say they can’t, tell them you’re coming Saturday. And then try Sunday.
10. Love them. Tell them you love them. Show them you love them by holding them when they cry and hugging them for no reason and sending a text message that just says, “I love you.” Reading those three words over and over again in the past few months has invariably filled my heart, every single time. (And if they have kids, love their kids, too.)
And here’s the kicker: if YOU’RE the one getting separated and someone does any of the above for you…let them.

 

 

Untitled1Shameless self-promotion: I started a podcast series for RTC (my real job) and our brand new community site called Around the Table. The new site just launched featuring yours truly. Check it out, as well as all the other juicy deliciousness being posted everyday. I’m kinda proud of it.

OCD – A Two Parter (Part 2)

(If you haven’t read Thursday’s post, it’s Part 1 of this one, so read it!)
In one of my more depressive “I’ll be forever alone” episodes, I watched this video of Neil Hillborn over and over again for 2 days. (Yes, you have to watch it if you want to understand the rest of this post. It’s 3 minutes. Relax.)

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 2.51.45 PM

I listened to Neil describe his OCD, his quirks, his repetitive behaviors over and over again. (Sort of like I had OCD.) I watched the world stop when he saw her the first time, I heard him audibly smile through his words when he described the way she waited for him to avoid cracks in the sidewalk or the curve of her lips. I totally get it, man! I’m so with you! He used to lay out my Subway subs like a boss! I repeated, “LOVE IS NOT A MISTAKE!” with him every time I watched it. Eventually I got so worked up that I constructed an entire imaginary rant to his ex-girlfriend about what an idiot she was for leaving this amazing man who loved her so much. I don’t remember most of it, but it ended with, “…and no one else will EVER love you like Neil did!!”
(Of course, after watching this video on repeat I also decided my new career of choice was Spoken Word Poet. Sure, I won’t make any money, but I’ll be so interesting! I wrote poem after poem, repeated them aloud in bed, practicing the parts I would emphasize, where I would pause when people snapped instead of clapped. Hell, I snapped for myself because they were damn good poems. It was an adorable 2 days.) 
Truth is that she probably had her reasons for going away, just like I have mine. I can’t walk in her shoes or know what it was about their relationship that made her choose to leave and go to her mom’s. What I do know is that somewhere, someone is going to love all of his quirks, love him despite of that beard and those suspenders, love him through the moments he can’t get out of bed because he’s over-thinking everything. Someone will want the whole him and when she does, he will write new poems.
If I can apply it to myself I realize that yes, someone is going to love the fact that I curse too much, that I leave all the cabinet doors open in the kitchen, that I kill houseplants. Someone will love me through my need to have the laundry separated into colors long before it’s laundry day and even through my disgusting habit of putting ketchup in my cold macaroni and cheese. Someone will think it’s cute that wet paper towels make me convulse and if I could I would brush my teeth 12 times a day. Someone will love the fact that I don’t want anymore kids, that I don’t want to get married, that I don’t even really want to own a house because renting seems so much more convenient to me.
And you know why someone will? Because I love all those things about me.
The point is this, my friends: I’m going to be ok. You’re going to be ok. The new normal starts now and it’s weird and it’s different and it’s uncomfortable, vulnerable even, but it’s going to become just plain normal again someday. Today I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants in the car from a text message a friend sent me. I had to pull over to finish laughing. My sides hurt. I forgot what laughing that hard feels like and after about 30 minutes of reverberating chuckles, I noticed…Hey. I’m laughing. I know how to laugh and I am doing it!! Look at me!!!
Whether someone loves my obsessive need for reusable water bottles or not, I will be ok.
“Become a prism.
All the places where you’ve shattered can now reflect light and colour where there was none. Now is the time to become something new, to choose a new whole.”
-Julie Peters  

Have a beautiful weekend.

OCD – A Two Parter (Part 1)

25b094b8b86d890fd1cd4e89a055bf9d(Keep in mind many of these posts were written a while ago!)
It had been a really long time since I’d experienced pain like this: the pain of thinking I would be forever alone. I think the last time it hurt this much to get up in the morning was when the guy I was going to marry in college broke up with me (which seemed like an awful way to start our life together). It was horrible. I called friends at four o’clock in the morning asking them to come over to my room and listen to me talk about how much I missed him. I stopped eating, barely showered, chased people down in parking lots to cry in their cars (that’s not a joke, it’s really what I did). Men who hit on me in bars got to hear the whole story over White Russians and Marlboro 100s. (They were all very interested in pursuing me after that, as you could imagine.)
Eventually I missed him so much that I began hacking into his email. Daily. I checked it constantly, obsessively. Because, you know, that would bring us closer. Eventually I read an email he wrote to another girl. He told her he liked hanging out with her. He thought she was funny. That he had a fun time at WALMART with her. I went ape-shit. I flung my body onto the ground outside in hopes that SOMEONE would see this was not just a break-up: this was the actual apocalypse happening right here at Rollins College in 1999 on the steps of the theatre houses. This was DEATH. Because no one would ever measure up to this guy. The way he laid out my Subway subs on the dining room table before I got home. The way he looked into my eyes and told me I was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen before kissing me. The way he sang every love song on the radio to me in the car on our drives home from dinner and a movie. Never, ever, ever would anyone love me the way that he did, and I would be resigned to live life a spinster, starting at the age of 20.
It was death for a long time. Now, of course, I look back and think That couldn’t have been so bad, could it?! (My friends whose phones rang at four o’clock in the morning would beg to differ.) Eventually other boys showed interest and, while none of them laid out my Subway subs the right way, they did other things. Nice things that I liked in a new way. It wasn’t a “before you know it, I was just happy” sort of a thing. It was a long slog. But eventually, I did get happy again.
***
The biggest fear that comes with separation or any break-up is that no one will love you ever again. And if they do, it’ll be the wrong way or it will end in a horribly painful breakup and you’ll just want to stay single forever and maybe get cats. (For the record, I will NEVER get cats. It’s just an example.) It’s certainly my biggest fear.
“Oh, but Erin, you’re so outgoing. You’re charming. You’ve got so much going for you! You’ll find someone.”
Do me a favor…don’t ever say that to anyone. Ever. It doesn’t help. Because even if I am all of those things, I am also 32. And right now the only way I see to find love at 32 is on Match.com and I’m not paying $30 a month to get winked at. I’m just going to go to Target, pick up a rotisserie chicken, and come home to eat it straight out of the container while watching Sons of Anarchy and wishing Jax Teller would come over later because good lord that body. (For the record, did you know that Target rotisserie chickens come with handles RIGHT ON THE BOX so you can conveniently carry out your dinner-for-one and the whole world can see that you’re alone forever? Thanks, Target!)
It’s a vicious cycle of “I’ll be forever alone” mornings I can’t get out of bed and “I’ll be forever alone” Target rotisserie chickens. And if that isn’t bad enough, I started watching spoken word poetry. Like, a lot.
Yeah. This post gets better. To be continued…

Life is Suffering and Other Adorable Things

(The love from you people continues to pour into me like sunlight. It’s overwhelming. All I can say is thank you.)

Alright, so the Buddha said, “Life is suffering.” 

  • The first time I heard that I thought they misquoted the effing guy.
  • The second time I heard that I thought Well, that is just not true at all. Life is awesome! The Buddha and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
  • The third time I heard that I thought It’s soooooooo truuuuuuue. LIFE IS PAAAAAAIN.
  • Then I heard it again for a fourth time the other day. And this time I think I get it.
    Laymen’s terms: If you’re not living life, you won’t suffer. But if you are living life, hold on for the ride.
1234929_10151965278029617_1377039875_nThere’s a certain kind of living that is so incubated, built in such a way that disturbance and pain aren’t even options in your daily life that by the end of it, you can’t really claim you lived. But if you’re seeking, if you’re a fellow traveler trying to find your best and greatest self all of the time, the next step, the next chapter, the next thrilling (but not life-threatening) risk, then you’re living. And that life is bound to come with suffering.
OF COURSE there’s some suffering you simply can’t avoid. People die. They get fired. They lose their homes in disasters. You’re going to get that in any kind of life you live, right? (Right. Glad we agree.) And people say things like, “Why is this happening to me?!” Well, because it happens to all of us, my dear. And if you stay on the straight and narrow, you’ll still experience that kind of suffering at one point or another.
But if you live your life balls to the wall, going after big desires and big love, your passions and your dreams (even though you don’t have the degree or the  support system or the GUARANTEES you think you should have in place before you do any of that), you might fall super freaking hard while you’re climbing. Most people like to avoid that kind of falling, so they simply don’t climb anything too high. The trade-off, though, is you never once get that view from the very top. That view is breathtaking. It’s life-changing. It’s that love at a soul level, a contentment in your bones, success swirling around you. It swallows you whole and gives you a clarity/joy/peace you weren’t even sure existed for you. Those moments in life are what make you YOU and make life such an incredible experience. And you don’t get them by being safe.
I could have quit climbing, stayed married, and experienced a perfectly adequate life. My husband could have done that, too. But truth be told if we want more, we have to live life. And life is suffering. It’s also crazy joy, crazy beauty, crazy passion, crazy love all over the place. (Buddha just didn’t mention those last parts in this particular quote.) You don’t get to have the view without the suffering. You just don’t. You suffer and get the view over and over again in life, until you reach enlightenment (whatever that is). So as I walk through the suffering I have to trust that the upside is the view from the top that’s waiting for me, even if only for a moment.
Caroline Myss says, “When you say something shouldn’t be happening to you, well, yes it should. Because it is.” I’m not modern day mystic, but I do think she’s right. Suffering is a part of the deal, and if you can learn to survive the suffering, you get to enjoy some crazy cool stuff.
(If all of this ends up being untrue and I suffer for no reason, I’ll let you know.)

These are real things that happen when you get separated.

First, for all of you who wrote me, called me, and commented, thank you for your love.
Second, if you haven’t read Monday’s post, you probably should.
These are things that happen when you get separated.
This is for the woman who is considering getting separated from her husband/partner or is currently separated. (It is also for the people who know a woman in this situation. She’s normal if any of these things happen. Just go with them.)
1. Your deodorant will stop working. You’re not hot. And you haven’t been exercising. You can buy new deodorant, you can even buy the clinical protection kind, and it will still be like you never put any on. You’ll feel like a middle-schooler with wet pit stains. There’s no explanation.
984dfeadf14a0fa8a7eed6bcae8a5d322. You will eat weird things in a weird order. For example, today I had a hard boiled egg for breakfast, followed by a pickle, and then I topped it all off with a glass of red wine. Don’t worry about it. I’ve heard this doesn’t last long.
3. You will tell random people, including complete strangers, that you are separated. You will make them uncomfortable. You might cry. They probably won’t hug you. They’ll just slowly back away while telling you to have a nice day. I told the lady at the check-out counter in the grocery store as well as the woman sitting next to me in the nail salon. It’s fine. You’ll never see them again. 
4. You will drink. You will drink a lot. The rules for appropriate drinking times will no longer apply to your life and you will find it completely acceptable to drink with any meal. Or without a meal. Or in the middle of the night.
5. You might start smoking. A lot of people do. Try not to. (I can’t finish this one because I have to go find my lighter…)
6. You will catch yourself listening to Alanis Morisette’s entire Jagged Little Pill album. You won’t even know how you found it on Spotify. You will immediately realize what a complete cliche you are, but you will still listen to the whole thing including the secret songs.
7. Some people you assumed would be there and show up for you during this, one of the hardest times of your life, might not. And then, some people you never expected to ever hear from ever again will break through and be the greatest support you’ve ever had to date. Try to let the people who can hold you up do it. Focus on them and let them focus on you.
8. You will take inordinately long, hot showers 2 to 3 times a day. You will change soaps and maybe even the kind of shampoo you use. It just feels good to be in there cleaning all the filthy separation off of you with new stuff.
9. You will find a recently separated or divorced friend and the two of you will become BESTIES. You will be a support for each other, laughter for each other, and you will bitch about the same exact things at the same exact time EVERY DAY via text while you’re drinking your 11am glass of wine and eating your black olives straight from the can. (And you’ll say, “You go girl!” Like, a lot.)
10. You will change your entire career. Twice a day. For about a week. And then you’ll end up with the same one you had at the start. If you haven’t ended up back with the same one yet, keep going.
11. You will break lunch dates, dinner dates, phone dates, skype dates, and text dates with your friends. You will be POSITIVE that THIS TIME you’re going to get up, get dressed, and go. But you won’t. And the people you’re meant to be meeting will totally understand.
12. You will be convinced that NO ONE will ever love you again. I can’t say for certain that this isn’t true, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. Unless you’re just a total jerk, someone is going to love you. Someone will love the whole you, inside and out, for all that you are. But don’t worry about that right now. Just focus on finding your lighter.

It’s Not Just Me

It didn’t seem as if the day would ever come that I would be ready to write this blog. It felt like a monster secret, clawing around inside of me. It felt like the dust would never settle, the pain would never clear itself far enough out of the way for me to see anything that could lurk past it. God forbid there were more monsters back there.
And for a while, there were more monsters back there. What-If? Monsters, Guess-What? Monsters, You-Suck! Monsters. I kept looking around for someone to kill these damn things. If only I’d realized sooner that I could kill them my damn self.
When you hear someone say they’re getting separated or they’ve been separated, it’s like anything else you can’t really relate to unless you’ve experienced it. Everyone told me I would have no idea how hard it would be to raise a kid and to work from home. Now I hear women younger than me say they’re ready to have kids because they work from home and I don’t even correct them. I don’t tell them that it gets to be too much and eventually you will have to choose work or a sitter or a daycare or a nanny. They wouldn’t listen anyway. I didn’t. No matter how amicable, how loving even, you can’t know how it will feel until you’re smack dab in the middle of it wondering how you got there.
Surrounded by loving arms, friends who show up, and pizza, I walk one step at a time. I kneel down in the closet to cry or play the same sad song over and over again while I take the world’s hottest and longest showers. I drink. A lot. I have coping skills and when I don’t, my friends do. The love that has filled my life in the past month makes me feel like my chest will explode while it simultaneously contracts with fear. Lucky for me, the love is starting to win.
I will never go in to specifics about my relationship on this blog, or the new blog that I will be launching soon. I care too much for everyone involved to ever feel as though they have to choose a side or make Team Anniston t-shits. And frankly, I care too much for my husband to ever leave him feeling unsafe. But I will honestly and sometimes with a lot of pain share with you what this separation feels like. When I shared my struggle with infertility, my pregnancy, and being a mom, reader after reader reached out saying, “I thought it was just me!” It’s not just you.
And it’s not just me, either.
Whether we experience the same challenges or different ones, just knowing there’s one other person out there who is willing to be real about it all can and does help the whole. I believe that. So here we go. A whole new chapter. In advance, I am so grateful for your love and your support.

RENT

I stood in the kitchen Saturday, screaming the words at the top of my lungs.
HOW DO YOU WRITE A SONG
WHEN THE CHORDS SOUND WRONG?
THOUGH THEY ONCE SOUNDED RIIIIIGHT AND RAAAAAARE!!!
rentlogoRENT The Musical was the soundtrack to my teenage years. It was incredibly dramatic in hindsight, but damn did I blare it from my speakers and waaaaaaaail it out in the shower, or the car, or in the theatre green room. We all did. We all loved being able to sing these words of the people, OUR PEOPLE, the ones we thought we would be: starving artists fighting for a cause. Fists in the air! YES! DAMN THE MAN! WE’RE NOT GONNA PAY RENT!
Of course, now we all have mortgages and tax returns and three year olds and yard work.
RENT’s flagship song, Seasons of Love, asks how you measure a year. In sunsets? In laughter? In strife? In truths you learn? In times you cried? In bridges you burn? The in the way you die? The song itself suggests you measure it in love. And because, the ultimate irony, Jonathan Larson (composer and playwright for RENT) died the day before the show went into preview Off Broadway, how else can you see much to measure it in love? Love, love, and love some more. Right?
You grow up, and not too far along into the grown-up journey you realize that – damn…I am 10 years older than those characters were in the musical. Ten years older, still no idea what I’m doing, and seemingly right back in the place I was when I started becoming a grown up. I grew to like grown-up things, musicals dealing with more modern issues, real causes that are really worth fighting for. I did that until I noticed that I’d totally lost my ability to dream, to think crazy things could be possible. Ten years in and I’d already found myself squarely on a manicured path with properly maintained foliage and little if any risk-taking. I never looked at my landlord and shouted, “WE’RE NOT GONNA PAY RENT!” I called the mortgage company and said, “If I make a lump-sum payment, can I lower my finance rate?” The grandiose ideas of my 20s gave way to the more solid, intellectual goals of the 30s.
And then I listened to RENT again.
A piece of my soul was awakened, the piece that imagined the protests I would host and the shitty little apartment I would live in while doing community theatre. The road trips, the mismatched plates and glasses in my cabinets, the same 4 black t-shirts over and over and over again. The world wasn’t comfortable with that, though. The world was comfortable with career, tangible production of something that made money, manicured path. As soon as I conformed, the world got quiet and left me alone. Which, at a certain point in life I thought I wanted. Quiet.
And then I listened to RENT again.
I don’t want quiet. I want loud. I want joyful. I want singing those damn songs in the kitchen complete with choreography on a Saturday afternoon with feeling and fervor because THESE ARE MY SONGS. THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!

“Mommy, please be quiet.”

And then I listened to RENT again.
I want to be swept back to the years I spent with MY PEOPLE singing and dancing and dreaming. Before the manicured paths even existed.  Before we knew about them. Everybody said I’d miss it, but you can’t miss something while you’re experiencing it now can you? The only thing you can do is never stop living it.
And listen to RENT again.

The Waiting Until You Know

I sat yesterday in a neat, organized, relatively well-designed waiting room. The wall decorations sort of looked like boobs.
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The curved couch in the center of the room was the only spot open; all the chairs against the floor-to-cieling windows were taken, so I had to sit with my back to the big blue sky covering the city below. I wrote in a little notebook as I listened.
“Ok, honey. I’ll call as you as soon as we know.” The man next to me on the phone was doing the same thing I was doing. Waiting. Waiting “to know” and to call people as soon as we knew. His wife was in the office getting scanned, as was my best friend.
It’s the waiting. It’s the, “When will I know? Because when I know, I will be OK.” But with cancer, when you know, you very soon after don’t know again. There’s another scan, or another check-up, or another lump to ultrasound…and then you are back in the not-knowing. Three months out and we’re waiting to see if all that radiation was worth it. The waiting. It goes around and around, again and again. “I won’t know until I know, but when I know I’ll be OK again.”
But you never really know. Anything.
If you wait until you know, you’ll be waiting forever. You’ll be waiting to feel happy. To feel good. To feel safe. To feel fulfilled. To feel loved. You’ll be waiting forever because how could you ever really know? So the question then becomes, how do you stay, “OK” without needing to know? If you can figure out the answer to that question, I’d like to hear it. But I suppose it has something to do with being present…
When she walked back out into the waiting room, her big blue eyes looked at me with curiosity, as though I had the answer we were waiting for.
“Hi…” I said, full of anticipation.
She smiled.
“I’m cancer-free today.”
Of course, I lost it in the waiting room. I grabbed her tightly and held on for the wild ride of a cry that had been waiting to escape. In that moment, I knew. But in the next, I wouldn’t. And so I was going to have to live right now, right here. Just crying and grateful.
“I need wine,” I joked as I slurped back my tears.
“Yes. Me, too,” she said, a little shaky.
We drove to a local bar to meet friends and drink beer and buy her shots. The palpable anxiety was beginning to give as we all let go and shouted, “CANCER-FREE” with every drink. The more we drank, the louder we declared our independence from cancer, and the more people heard us and sent us more shots. Each shot came with a new stranger and a new story, that of survival or of loss. It seemed everyone in the bar was only a degree or two of separation away from cancer, and knowing someone in their presence was winning caused everyone to celebrate. It was a beautiful night. A drunken, beautiful night.
The waiting until you know something different from what you know right now is a waste of time. The anxiety, the fear, the belly-tightening kind of waiting feels so unavoidable, and it also never really seems worth it. I’m not suggesting we plow through life without experiencing the emotions that come along with waiting for the results of a cancer-screening; that example is a microcosm of a bigger point. We can’t go through life waiting for all of the choices to present themselves. We can’t wait until “we know.” Because we won’t ever know enough. There are some days we just have to stop waiting and act on what we know today in this moment. Stop waiting to know more. You know enough right now.

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