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Posts Tagged ‘love’

I’ve been trying for the last few weeks to find a way to talk about the death of an old friend from college. Every time I’ve sat down to write about him or the stroke which took his life after an agonizing 10 days in ICU, I’ve come up short. I think it’s a thing that happens to us when we grieve – the hurt and the memories take up so much space in our heads that our language centers become unavailable for a time. We say “words fail me,” but what we really mean is “I fail words” – the words to describe what we are going through exist, but we are unable to grasp them. Like a sound repeated too many times, they lose their genuine meanings, and we fall back on cliche and platitudes.

A little time has passed, and I’m ready now to talk about the regret I have of letting go of C, his wife E, and the loving family of friends we shared in college. I had seen him last on the 4th of July, at one of the two annual gatherings that R and I usually manage to make it to. In recent years I’ve felt necessarily outside the group. It’s that thing that happens so easily in our business – you work nights and weekends when most of your non-theater friends work a regular 9-5. Over the years, you turn down invitations to Saturday afternoon movies and Friday night poker games. People start to forget about you when they make plans, or they don’t forget but assume you’re not available – which is usually true. And you, because you don’t see them often, forget to include them in your activities on the rare nights that you ARE free. Suddenly, you wake up one morning to discover that your friend is in the hospital – someone you used to know well – and you haven’t seen him in six months. You spend every spare thought hoping and praying that he’ll wake up so you can tell him you’re so, so sorry, that you will do better, that you have learned. And then he doesn’t, and you’re stuck trying to put words together with a brain that can’t comprehend them anymore.

I write this in the quiet aftermath of a mass killing in Connecticut, where at last count 20 children and seven adults are dead. My Facebook feed has exploded with expressions of sadness, anger, horror. Many of my friends are like-minded and so the calls for stricter gun control laws and better mental health services are loud and clear. Each new shooting incident rips open the old wounds of the survivors of previous ones, and so the pain for people in Minneapolis and Red Lake must feel fresh and raw all over again. Someone today observed that there are no wrong expressions of grief; that each of us must do what we feel we must do to make sense of these things. Silence and screaming are both appropriate.

I guess my answer to the shock of the many is to mourn the one. Death isn’t fair, no matter how it comes, when the person it takes is so young. C was the first among us to go; E is the first to survive and feel what it is to have to live on after the loss of the person you love. I do not have a child of my own and cannot imagine what the parents of those children are feeling tonight, but I know how it feels to grieve. I miss C, and so I will feel that ache as my way to relate to the more general pain. I will let my regret for things unsaid and unshared shape my empathy for those who are feeling those regrets for their loved ones today. As time passes and we regain our ability to speak, I hope we can take these feelings and voice them in a way that produces change. For myself, the loss of C has taught me to say yes, to love deeply, to throw myself into the lives of others. As a nation, I hope we can learn similar lessons that lead to fundamental changes in the way we do things. Now, however, it is time to acknowledge that words are inadequate, and observe a moment of silence.

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During the show, I have a lot of time to kill. Most of the time, I knit. There are some days, however, where I’m falling asleep behind the board and I turn to the internets to keep me entertained and awake. I’m not a member of Reddit, but when I run out of blogs to read and Pins to pin, I sometimes turn to the site for cute videos of funny animals.

Today, a particular thread caught my eye. The question was “Lots of people talk about not being part of the ‘popular kids’ in high school. I think it’s time we heard the popular kids’ side of the story. So, if you were popular in school, what was that like and how has that experience affected the rest of your life?” Find the original thread here.

So I thought I’d answer it. Again, not a member of Reddit, so I don’t have posting privileges. But I have this space, and it seemed like an interesting jumping-off point.

I was desperately, painfully unpopular in Elementary and Junior High school. I got picked on mercilessly by the girls in my class from grades K-6, and the boys started to notice and joined in about then and helped through grade 8. In a class of GT (gifted and talented) nerds, I was one of the nerdiest. I got mocked for my second-hand clothes, for my know-it-all-ness, for my glasses and braces and red hair and crooked teeth. I was not pretty, and I was excruciatingly shy. Add to this a tendency always to have my nose in a book, and you have a recipe for Dweeb.

Things began to change in high school. I still wasn’t cool, and I was still too shy, but I managed to make a few friends that shared my interests and taught me some new things. I got involved in clubs and Drama and spent lots of time with people who loved the same things I did and cared as passionately about getting good grades and going to college as I did. I was always aware of being an outsider, but it began to matter less because I’d found somewhere else I could feel “inside.” It was around this time that I started to molt out of my Ugly Duckling phase as well, and I started having boyfriends. That’ll do wonders for a girl’s self-esteem, even if it’s not the healthiest. I began to figure out who I was, and having my own personality made it harder for other people to define me. So I wasn’t one of the “Cool Kids,” but I was popular enough – people liked me and I liked people, and I didn’t have to worry so much anymore about what might make me cool.

How has this affected the rest of my life? I learned not to worry so much about having the right friends, and concentrated on having friends in general. I learned that there is a difference between being liked and being popular, and it mostly has to do with things that don’t matter. And I learned that finding a space I was comfortable in did a lot to eliminate my anxiety over other people’s negative image of me. I was able to make a choice about what I cared about and what I thought was important, and then do my best to live up to those standards. If someone else thought that taking calculus was nerdy, or that it was lame that I didn’t want to skip class and go to the mall, that was fine with me. It was a club I didn’t want to belong to. That’s served me well as I’ve made decisions as an adult. I took a job I wanted to do, even though it was different. I married a man who I love and who loves me, even though he’s not a doctor or a lawyer or a supermodel. I have dear friends who were also not cool kids, and who have tremendous compassion as a result of that experience. And you’ll be glad to know that all that studying paid off – I got into a good college, and from there I did all the things that have evolved into a life I love and am proud of.

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The Big Day

Ok, yeah, I know. I’ve been gone a long time. A REALLY long time. Like, 6 months long.

In my defense, I did throw a wedding. A really lovely wedding. And I worked 60 hours a week all summer long, right up until a week before said wedding. And then we went on a really well-deserved vacation.

And then I came back home and teched another show. I’m just now beginning to resurface.

 

There’s been so much happening this year that it’s been hard to have time to do it and write about it. I realize that not writing will never make me a Famous Blogger, and it’s not going to get me invited to fancy parties or to give motivational speeches. I’m hoping to get my groove back in the coming weeks. The husband (still getting used to that!) is a great inspiration – he’s now running a blog of his own. It’s a cool project based on a box of postcards we found in an antique shop in New Orleans – Postcards to Joe. R spends a lot of time wandering down the “Wikipedia hole,” exploring all kinds of topics and getting to know this Joe guy in the process.

Mostly what I’ve been doing is feeling completely overwhelmed. The house is a mess, the Halloween costumes are barely begun, I’m staring at another 60 hour week this coming week, my car needs work, and the repetitive motion injury in my hand has been acting up lately, leaving me in various amounts of pain. I dream of having a week off just to stay home and try to get my head around it all. I don’t know how people with kids do it – I can barely keep up with the messes my cats make.  (This morning, it was discovering that the wee gray one had knocked over a water glass and ruined an entire stack of knitting magazines. There is mold growing on my desk. Ugh.)

I spend more time than is strictly good for me surfing Pinterest during shows, and it seems like all the pictures link back to “Happy Housewife” blogs, where pretty women with very white teeth explain how you can clean your oven for three cents using baking soda and a toothbrush, all while home-schooling your five kids and cooking wholesome organic meals from the veggies you grew and canned yourself. Whilst I realized that this is a form of masochistic torture, I can’t look away. It’s captivating. It’s all Martha Stewart-y. Thank God for the Yarn Harlot, who adds a little much-needed perspective. It’s nice to know that there are other women on the internet who accidentally wear their underwear inside out and consider the dining room clean if at least one person can eat at the table. Of course, she’s a jet-setting Famous Blogger, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

 

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She walks in beauty, like the night

   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
   Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
   Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
   How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
   So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
   But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
   A heart whose love is innocent!
George Gordon, Lord Byron

This poem, dredged from old days as an English major, has been playing through my head for the last couple of days. The celebration of these two are always the most problematic for me, because I think they’re the least straightforward. Flowers, jewelry, dancing, even luxury are open to a certain amount of interpretation, but in the end pretty concrete. Love and beauty, however, are notoriously difficult to pin down. Every year these two lead to a great deal of introspection and a certain amount of navel gazing, and in the end I do them a little differently each time.

Today I thought about beauty all day long. It ranged from the simple – putting on a favorite shirt and my moonstone earrings – to complex thoughts about the nature of art (or Art) and finding beauty in the most mundane parts of our days. I set aside the never-ending parade of chores for a few hours (work that produces its own kind of beauty) and concentrated on some projects that often get neglected but are the essence of the person I think I am. That person is a Maker, a crafter of beautiful objects and ideas, a sculptor of light, and a fashioner of grace from old, unwanted, and broken things. My workroom has been piled under a combination of junk and treasures for the last few months and essentially unusable; I’ve been working hard to get it clean for the last few weeks and I’ve finally reached a point where it’s not clean, but it’s livable. Today I played with yarn, washing and blocking the swatch for the green sweater, winding off some skeins for my next project, and putting things away. I opened up one of the boxes of my Great-Grandmother’s linens and washed a few things, and looked at how to clean and use a lovely piece of woven wool tapestry that is damaged and fragile. And I read some Byron, and thought about the ideals of beauty that people have had and changed for the last umpteen thousand years.

Yesterday was my day of Love. In Vodou, there are many Erzuli and each has her own complicated relationship with the idea of love. Erzulie Freda wears three wedding rings, one for each of her husbands. Erzulie Dantor embodies mother love, and is a protector of women and children – and often associated with lesbians. Other Erzuli deal with hiding secrets, revenging wrongs, or helping women though childbirth. Some are fierce and some coquettish, some dangerous and some nurturing. All of them love passionately, though, and all of them weep tears of pain and sorrow for the heartbroken, the wronged, and the downtrodden. I think that for all the celebration, the central image of Erzulie is of a lover with a complicated relationship to the things she loves. The practitioners of Vodou recognize with their Spirits the realities of love that are sometimes overlooked in other religious or philosophical contexts.

Love can also be controversial. All we have to do is open a newspaper, turn on the radio or tv, or do a little web surfing to find people from all ideological camps arguing about who may love whom, and how, and whether or not it is up to God, society, or individuals to even make those decisions. I certainly have strong opinions on the subject, and I’m not shy about them.  R and I are planning a September wedding, and we think it is a travesty that many of our friends and family who will be in attendance cannot enjoy the same privilege in most of our country. The entire point of the American Dream is that we strive to be more free, not less – and we certainly shouldn’t try to make others less free. Yet in the US we have a long lineage of “moral” tyranny including slavery, indentured servitude, Jim Crow, miscegenation laws, disenfranchisement of the poor, the indigent, and the different… the list goes on and on. The United States isn’t alone in this history by any stretch of the imagination, but we may be the biggest hypocrites, since our nation was founded on the preservation of individual freedoms. In Minnesota, there is an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot in November that would codify institutional homophobia here. These so-called “Marriage Amendments” have been cropping up in states all over the country, and in every state to this point the people have decided to ban same-sex marriage. It’s hard to guess what will happen here. The Twin Cities are two of the most gay-friendly in the US, and yet they’re ringed by the suburbs that elected Michelle “Pray-The-Gay-Away” Bachmann to the US Senate. People in the Upper Midwest are conservative by nature, if not by politics; I fear that those are the people who will take their uncertainty and distrust to the polls with them this fall.

I’ll wrap up this already-too-long post with a lighter note: a Litany of What I Love. These are the things that were circulating around in my head yesterday as I mulled all this stuff over.

  • R, the idea of getting married, and the joy of having a partner in life
  • The Kitties, who are still trying to kill each other but getting better
  • My family who keep me honest and my friends who enable me
  • God, in the complicated way that you come to after many years of disagreement
  • Having a job where they pay me to play
  • Having space of my own and time in which to work
  • And last, myself, my journey, and the gratitude I have for life

Thanks for hanging through this whole thing with me. See you tomorrow for DANCING!

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