New York: Write Me! (Back soon-ish.)

I apologize for my absence. I will be back, fully(ish) very(ish) soon(ish).

Off train and at diner next to Algonquin April 13

Arrival day. With Duchess Goldblatt at the Red Flame, a diner next to the Algonquin Hotel.

I was in New York from April 13 to April 20. I meant to blog during my trip, but carving something beautiful and precise from the huge, heavy block of emotional and sensation-filled all-of-this-ness New York stirs in me felt beyond my skill-set.

Besides, I was busier than usual living a life.

Too, I stayed at the Algonquin. The pressure! One has an obligation, there is history; if I was going to write while staying there, then my words needed to make story-shapes in the tradition of Dorothy Parker and Lillian Ross, to resonate with rigorously ringing truths and insights and wit. My dears, you know my insecurity issues and the Manhattan energy considerably exacerbated my “they’re going to find me out and vote me off the island” paranoia, even if the only island on which I’ve ever fit was the Island of Lost Toys.

So, how fantastic was it that from the moment I arrived at Penn Station it seemed as if the Universe has conspired and aligned to embrace me anew and fill me with a sense of belonging, being loved, appreciated and seen? I had lots of adventures, took in many shows; She Loves Me, The Father, American Psycho The Musical, Fun Home, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and Patti LuPone In Concert; I had a delightful birthday dinner at Joe Allen’s, visited St. Patrick’s and Bryant Park and Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum, and walked miles and miles, soaking in the unique vibrations of Love and Light, invited the city to permeate me — body and soul — with an understanding between us this was a  No-Strings-Attached, temporary union meant to recharge me, invigorate me, reawaken parts of me long dormant.

At P&J's LAUGHING

So much New York joy.

And the people! I’ve visited with dear ones and met new dear ones and my cold, dead heart has been thawed, too. Turning fif — forty– Having another birthday in Manhattan with old friends, new friends, Twitter pals, well, it has changed things. Changed me.

I am back in Frederick now, still processing, still contemplating, still marveling that during my birthday week I saw Patti LuPone and Jessica Lange during their birthday weeks — in fact, I saw Jessica Lange on the day she turned 67. Patti turned 67 a few days after I saw her. We three legendary, mythical divas had birthdays in one seven-day period of time.

Back in Frederick. And who shows up here? Ted Cruz. Polluting the loving atmosphere in the theatre where I grew up, spreading his vitriol and hate-isms in my home town.

Yes, much to process. Much thinking going on. So, I’ll be back-ish.

 

 

Some observations from rock bottom

Today, one of the people I follow on Twitter — a friend I’ve never met in real life, but who I hold dear, as I do so many of my Twitterati — wrote this:

Each time I’ve made significant changes in my life, I’ve hit rock bottom first. I need a strategy to help break that cycle.

Although I don’t know her very well, I felt the truth of her sentences all the way to the center of my heart and soul. I too feel as if I have never managed to change my life-path until issues were forced, walls were hit, dead ends and edges of cliffs reached.

If you wait until things are so bad it seems the choice is between change or death, then you don’t have to take responsibility for the change. If you wait until things are so out of control it feels as if the choice is between killing yourself or upending everything and starting anew, then you don’t have to take responsibility if things go badly, if the change turns out to be a mistake, if your choice is wrong.

Many times in the past few years when things have been less than optimal I have said, “Well, I didn’t have a choice. I was going to die if I didn’t change things.”

So, reading the quote from the Twitter-friend pushed many, many buttons in me. Buttons that are almost worn away from being pushed, time and again, especially of late, buttons not unlike a snooze-alarm that goes off at regular intervals and I keep pushing, turning away, tearfully (or angrily) pleading, “Just give me some more time, please,” before crawling back under the covers and refusing to face the challenges of the day.

I answered:

Sometimes, find I’ve allowed cultural/others’ expectations of/for me to supercede my heart/soul path & pain is that divergence.

Which is a deep, soul-truth of mine and a major part of why I keep pushing that button. I have lost track of knowing — if I ever really did know — what it is I want, who I want to be, how I want to be, because the noise of the world’s expectations has always been too loud for me.

When I was born, the local Irish-Catholic ruler/seer of the small town in which my father’s family was centered saw me and did one of her vision-gasps, predicting: “He’s the one, that one, God picked him, the first American Pope!” A story I was told, again and again.

When I was seventeen months old and my father died, I stopped crying. Aged into near adulthood in infancy overnight. My aunt told me that since I had been born I had been comforting people, that I had a gift for empathy and holding others up. I don’t think this is actually true, but it was told to me, again and again.

When I went to school, I was already able to read, thanks to my aunt, Sissie. By second grade, I was so far ahead of the other children, the nuns had nothing for me to do. They assigned me first graders to “read” with, as in, tutor. And when we took Catholic school testing, I was pulled aside and told I had tested higher than any student in the country and God must have a very special plan for me and I should be very careful not to fail Him. I doubt my test scores were that high, but it was told to me, again and again.

When I dropped out of school at sixteen, a local theatre teacher took me under her wing. She sent me to a program at a theatre in Baltimore. One of the teachers there told me, “You are great, but you are not good,” (which I later learned Ruth Gordon had said about Barbra Streisand, so, plagiarism) and then said, “A talent like yours — that voice and that ability to bleed truth from the soul, is a great responsibility. Don’t fuck it up.”

When I grew older and it became clear I wasn’t going to be a pope, or fulfill any plan of any — now small g — god, nor any sort of real actor, singer, performer (I was not only not good, I wasn’t great either), all that I had left was my empathy, my gift for holding other people up. And, again, Sissie saying, “What you really are is a writer, and sooner or later, that book will happen!”

I felt, always, it was my role — my job — to take care of everyone else. Which is funny, because I am practically unable to take care of myself. Or, so I have always believed.

Here’s the thing: I realized that the definition of “take care of myself” by which I was measuring me — like the definitions of “god’s special plan” and “a talent like yours” and “success” and “love” and — well, all those yardsticks by which we try to measure the answer to the question, “Am I good enough?” were parameters set by other people. On real examination, most of them didn’t ring true to me.

But I was programmed to please. So much so, I spent decades of my life trying to make happy where happy would never be made. I couldn’t have friends or love, because to do so was a betrayal.

My problem. My choice. No one but me to blame. But it took rock bottom for me to say no. It took a few years of me praying every night that I would die in my sleep, or that the chest pains and sorrow I felt, the physical force of my unhappiness, would finally make my heart stop beating.

I left that situation. Am I better off? Yes. I’d have died had I stayed. I have made many friends, soul-deep friends, casual friends. I have done things without fear that what I’m doing — joys I might have — would be judged as betrayals. I have slowly come to believe I am entitled to some joy, some self, without having to ask permission.

I am about to spend a week in New York during which I will visit with new friends (and old friends with whom I have reconnected) and meet people in real life who I have only spoken to on Twitter, and, equally important, I will spend time with myself in a place that has always felt like home to me, always felt like the location where my heart and soul are most at ease, a place that has always been my impossible “I’m not good enough” dream of a life.

It wasn’t, it turns out, this life. And, for the past few days, I have been crying, berating myself, wondering what I might have done, songs I might have sung, loves I might have loved, books I might have written, had I learned — believed — earlier that I was enough.

I need your help, to remind me that the yardstick I’m using to measure “enough” — of all the cruel others who told me what I was not, or what I ought, the most harsh judge of all has been me.

This, right now, is bottom — again — for me. Stories I can’t quite tell, ways in which I have set myself up for rejections and affirmations of the sort: “You are not enough. Not smart enough. Not young enough. Not pretty enough. Not employed enough. Not forgiving enough. Not empathetic enough. Not Not Not Not.”

So, I’m in some pain down here at rock bottom. But, since I’m here, a change is gonna come. Right?

 

Weeping

I have always been a weeper. I was six when I saw my first musical: a high school production of Carousel in which my brother played Jigger. Before the show began I left my seat, in the middle of the auditorium, beside my family, and I dashed alone to the empty front row. It was a sign. I was a usually terrified child. I did not do things alone. I did not cause waves. But something up on that stage called to me. I knew there was something there for me behind that red curtain. When the music began and the swoosh of velvet parted to reveal a tableau of high schoolers posed behind cardboard carousel horses, circling the stage, I began to cry.

I’ll spare you the tale of my sobbing so loudly at Billy’s death, my mom promising me during the ride home that she would never again take me to a show. What I won’t spare you is this: I still cry when a musical overture begins. I cry when I get off the train and arrive in New York City. I cry walking the streets of Manhattan. I cry having coffee in the lobby of the Algonquin.

In a week I will begin my first extended trip to New York City in years. I am already weeping. This morning this was brought to my attention:

— and as soon as they started, I started. I tell you this for a couple of reasons.

One, if you live in New York city, frequenting Manhattan, especially the theatre district, you may well hear or see me weeping at any moment between April 13 when I arrive and April 20, the last day of my scheduled stay.

Two, I do have plans for some of the evenings, and I plan to spend every morning in the Algonquin lobby, drinking coffee, living in my head and writing in my notebook, and I would love to meet any of you, but, be warned, I will probably cry. And I am a vigorous hugger. In fact, around here, I am known for my hugging, my weeping, and a few other things but we’ll let those go.

Seven days. That’s what’s left.

 

Adrift

despair 4

Sometimes I feel as if I have always been alone, waiting, weathering storm after storm, not sure why no one else has arrived, wondering when the show will begin. I hear sounds, I know the world is out there, but, somehow, here in the bleachers, I am solitary, forgotten, and have missed everything going on anywhere but inside my head. And I’m too tired to get to the exit. Too tired, with nothing left except an ending for something that never really began.Then, no, I think, no, there were once people here, the seats were filled, there were lights and songs and festivities and I think some of them knew me. Maybe, wait, was I out there too, being watched from these seats? But, no, I think, finally, not. But then, where did this shirt I’m holding in my left hand come from. It was yours, I think. It was yours, I know. It was yours. It was. I know. Damn this weather. Damn those steps. I’ll just sit here. And wait.