time heals everything (but loving you)

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Time, a British drag queen with hit records once told me, is like a clock of the heart. Meaning, or at least this is how my 10-year-old self interrupted those words, time passes and feelings along with it. But love?  I don’t know if love ever passes. If all of this seems rather sad and confusing like that girl you sat next to in 10th grade art class, that isn’t my intention. It’s just that I think a lot about time and loving someone forever during the summer. I think about all of this and I think about Bernadette Peters.

In 1997, I had returned to Los Angeles from a jaunt around South America. I was 24 with no job and no apartment. So I couch crashed, went to clubs 7 nights a week, did extra work in movies and somehow found a way to drink and party every night with no money. Oh to be 24 in the 90’s in LA. I gathered a group of good gal pals and a boyfriend so I lived my life-like some flapper song about a party girl who danced her cares away. Of course it was way messier than that and always problematic. It was particularly troublesome when real life interrupted my Playboy-gayboy lifestyle. In June of that year, I received a voicemail (on a real-life answering machine!) that my grandfather had died. All of the sudden, the gin joint darkened. The record playing “Anything Goes” stopped. The lights went out. I was numb for the first time in my life not due to drugs or alcohol but because of real, deal category 5 grief. I fell into a black hole and didn’t feel shit until I was able to get on the plane and go the funeral in Denver. Except for about two hours with Bernadette Peters. La Peters in 1997 was touring with an album called Sondheim Etc. wherein the Broadway songstress performed, you guessed it, Sondheim songs as well as songs from the zillions of musicals she starred in. My roommate at the time who worked at a big time talent agency scored tickets to her show in Los Angeles. The timing was shitty. Just a few days after my grandfather died and the night before I went home for the funeral. But timing, schiming. It was Bernadette Peters. A legend. A goddess. An icon. Especially to musical theatre nerds like myself. So we went. The grief of the time coupled with my 90’s drug induced memory loss has made the exact details of the show fuzzy. However, I do remember seeing 80’s stars like Joan Van Ark in the audience. I do remember feeling special because we got VIP parking and entered backstage. Most importantly, I remember Bernadette Peters blowing the roof of the place with her voice, warmth and personality. Each song was an education in Broadway, Sondheim and her career. And I lapped it up.Music,in the eye of that grief hurricane, delivered as it always had. Music took me outside of myself. Music let me know it was all gonna be okay. It never mattered the genre or where it came from. In this case, it came from Bernadette Peters. I’ll be forever grateful to her for providing light in what was about to become really dark period of my life.

Even though he was in his seventies, I naively thought my grandfather would always be around. Because up until that terrible fucking voicemail, he always had. In fact, I had talked to him just days before. According to family lore, I was the last grandchild to speak to him, a distinction that should have made me feel better but somehow always made me feel worse. This guy, Bob, my grandfather and my grandmother lived around the corner from us when I was growing up. They cheerfully showed up to every lame sporting thing I miserably participated in, cheered me on whenever I was on stage and most profoundly, read everything I ever wrote and loved it. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. I discovered many years later that I was so heartbroken in fact that I drank myself silly in hopes of forgetting how heartbroken I truly was. What I didn’t realize at age 24 was this guy Bob taught me much of what I knew about compassion, about helping people and about love.  He did all of those things seamlessly and without condition, without wanting applause. He, although not an alcoholic himself, was instrumental in helping my dad get sober some 30 years ago. This wasn’t unusual for him. His funeral was filled with people he helped. People he helped at work. People he helped at church. People he helped learn how to read. And people like me who he helped simply by being himself.

Flash forward some 19 years later and I still can’t help thinking of him every summer. Except now it’s different. Now, it’s not this throbbing pain I’ve ignored and allowed to fester and getting worse due to neglect. That pain has been healed by time. Well, time and a fuck ton of personal growth. Today, I’m left with love. At age 43, I woke up on the anniversary of his death and I felt lucky to have loved him and to be by loved by him. I feel even luckier to have been shown how to love by him. I even feel lucky to have grieved him, as crazy as that might sound. I have healed and changed. Since getting sober in 2009, my life has been turned on its head and for the better. I’ve even seen Bernadette Peters again too. The last time was on Broadway in Sondheim’s Follies, the day before I married Michael in Central Park.

As I sit here with coffee in hand, on a hot summer morning, I remember something else from that show some 19 years ago. Bernadette Peters sang a song that night. A song that made a promise. A promise that time healed everything. It sounded lofty yet I clung to that promise. for the most part it’s turned out to be true.  What I hadn’t heard in that song until recently, however,was the caveat.”Time heals everything”,the lyrics tell us, “but loving you.” That “but” in the song has also turned out to be true. Maybe hurt can go away. Maybe pain can dissipate. But love? I don’t think love ever passes. Thankfully.

 

the bullshit of busy

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“I’m so busy.”

“I’ve been really busy.”

“You know me busy, busy, busy!”

“Just stayin’ busy!”

If I answer the simple question, “How are you?” with one of the above statements, you have my permission to roll your eyes and say, “Girl. Please.” I’m serious. I’ve had it with busy. I’m breaking up with busy. Busy can take her buzzin’ ass and go make excuses for being flakey elsewhere. For me. Listen. I’m happy you are busy. I’m happy there are so many planets rotating around the sun of your life that it makes your head spin. I’m happy that being busy keeps you out of trouble and fulfilled and helps you sleep at night. But for me, busy is some bullshit.

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My first problem with defaulting to “busy” when somebody asks how I am begins with the redundancy of the statement. The last time I answered “I’m really busy” I later thought, “Who the fuck isn’t?” That’s like saying I’m tired. Aren’t we all busy? Aren’t we all tired? Somebody asked me how I was. They don’t give a fuck if I’m busy. This person is busy too but they’re being nice and asking me what’s up. I could say, I’m good or if I’m being honest and not wanting to over-share, “Things are hard but I’m doing alright.” Answering “busy” to that question is essentially saying, “I’m so busy and my amazing life is so full that it’s exhausted me beyond the point of being polite.” It’s no coincidence that “unavailable” is a synonym for busy. Ouch. Also? I sort of feel like “busy” is this passive aggressive way to get people to respond with, “Oh yeah? Busy with what?”  so I can then ramble about all the amazing things I’m doing. The reality is if people love me, they know what I’m doing or they’ll ask specifically about that. Or If we’re really close I can launch right into my life trials and tribulations without the I’m busy buffer.

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The other thing about slapping the busy label on my life is that it really helps me inflate my ego to Macy’s parade balloon status. Like busy is a valid reason to not call people. Being busy is a hall pass to be inconsiderate. Busy mean I can seamlessly transition to being bitchy and I have an excuse. Busy means I can flake out whenever I want because I’m so important and so busy, busy, busy. Barf.  Like bitch. You are not running some multi-million dollar conglomerate. You have to call two people back and you need to feed your cats. Calm down. You’re not J-Lo.

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This is all fresh on my mind because I just got home from the day job where I basically played crazy person dodgeball for 7 hours. I took my pants off (because nothing says “I’m over it” like walking in the door and immediately taking your pants off), collapsed and drooled on myself during the world’s most coma-like 15 minute nap. I wanted to write. But, you guys. I was so busy all day. Plus? I’m really tired. Can’t I just have sparkly ideas and a team of happy birds would read my mind and then use their cute little beaks type them out in WordPress? Shit.There I was using busy to get out of something that actually makes me a happier and more fulfilled person. And that’s not fucking okay. 2900.gif

I made a promise to myself last month that I’d publish three times a week. It’s a promise I’ve tried to honor and by doing so it’s a promise that’s already paid off. But here I was trying to poo-poo it (a poo-poo-romise, if you will) because I’m busy. Sat down at my computer anyway. I opened what I started working on yesterday and turns out, I hated it. It wasn’t funny. It was trying too hard. It was annoying. See? My instincts were right. I was too busy and tired and writing wasn’t worth it today. I’d get back to it but not now. Sigh.

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Like all good thoughts, what happened next happened because of a little coffee. I sipped some coffee. I opened a new document and left the old one in my drafts to sit and think about what it’s done. The empty headline blinked at me, waiting patiently.  I’ve had this idea about the bullshit of being busy for a while and like Celine Dion says, it’s all coming back, all coming back to me now. And here we are. The biggest reason why I think busy is some laughable bullshit is because I am lucky to be busy. I was busy getting fucked up or having a hangover for the better part of 20 years. I think I can balance doing writing work I enjoy and taking care of a home and relationship I cherish. I got this. Busy negates the gifts I have in front of me. Busy gives the finger to a life I actually really love. And those things I can’t get to because I’m busy? If they’re important and make me happy, I’ll get to them. If I don’t have time, I’ll make time. Or they simply reveal themselves eventually to be not that important and fade away.

It really is that easy and I’m really not that busy.

 

 

Your Permission Slip

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Yesterday sucked. I know this late-breaking news for you. But yeah. Yesterday was horrible. And there’s something freeing in just saying that. For me,anyway. I spent a long, long, long, time acting like everything was okay and dealing with the toxic fallout from that kind of delusion. So now when things are really sad and fucked up and totally senseless like yesterday’s shooting, it’s a gift to be able to say, “I am in pain and this sucks.”

And that’s what I did all day yesterday. My morning started with me at a meeting. I did not want to share. I just wanted to be with other people used to drink or use drugs whenever terrible shit would happen so that’s what I did. Thankfully a woman talked and ended her share by saying, ” I just want to take 10 seconds of silence for the people who died in Orlando.” Well that fucking did it. The tears ran down my face and I straight up did not care. I cried the rest of the meeting and cried when I thanked her for her share. She looked at me like I was crazy/like she felt really bad for me. Again. Didn’t care. Later on, at home I sent out text message carrier pigeons to all the people I knew would get what I was going through: My sponsor, who told me that crying was a good thing. My bestie in LA who was devastated and told me not to be alone. Another queer person from the program who told me they got. And all of my online homies who were crying alongside me. I cried at work as texts from playwright friends came in which also said how sad they were and how awful they felt. A lesbian couple came into my work and we were all mutually really nice to one another. We were laughing and generally chatting like we’d known each other for decades. But what it felt like we were saying is , “I know. This is terrible. I love you.” Much later back at home with a chocolate bar in hand and Game of Thrones on my television, I got a text from a family member who just wanted to say they loved me and that they always had and they were thinking of me and Michael all day long. More tears.*

The point is, despite my years of acting like everything was peachy, I felt my emotions yesterday. No it wasn’t fun but it felt appropriate. It felt appropriate to mourn the lives of 50 people I did not know. It felt appropriate to feel scared and angry and depressed all at the same time. It felt appropriate to reach out. This is still new behavior for me. Back in the day, everything from September 11 to the death of someone else’s family member was dealt with at a bar. Not coping was my way of coping.  That’s a hideous strategy, by the way. It only means that you’ll numb yourself into being an emotionless, alcoholic cyborg and when you finally do deal with your shit, it’s turned into some kind of demon that multiplies the longer it’s left in the dark. Yet I feel like we all still need permission to actually feel shit like a human being. At least I do. Having my sponsor tell me to keep crying yesterday immediately poured gasoline on my old cyborg circuitry. Being a human is some messy ass business and yesterday I felt like I was given a pass to do that.

Therefore I would like to extend the favor. Please cut out the slip at the top of this page and use it to feel whatever the fuck you want. If you are heartbroken, use it. If you are angry, use it. If you had something really good happen and feel bad about being happy, don’t and use it. But mainly don’t let people, including my bossy self, tell what you need to feel. This slip also allows you to be a white woman who identifies with Beyonce’s Lemonade even though they tell you cannot. This slip lets you cry for people in a foreign land whose lives are torn apart by war even though you are thousands of miles away. Finally, the slip lets you feel anything you want for the people killed at a gay bar in Florida yesterday even though you might not be gay or from Florida or even American. Plus, it never expires.

Which is good since I plan on using the hell out of mine.

*Actually crying when I wrote that sentence.  

a seanaissance

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find myself.

lose myself.

find myself.

lose myself.

be myself?

That’s a taller order. I’ll warn you right now that what’s about to go down could be a total narcissistic shit show. I mean seriously. This could be navel gazing of the highest order but this is blogging. We love this sort of crap, right? Thing is, what’s on my mind is me. I know. An alcoholic obsessively thinking about himself. What are the odds? Other than “because I’m awake” or “because I’m breathing” there’s a reason I’m on my own mind.  Change the “you” to “I” in the following song and continue:

Since I got sober in 2009, I have honestly tried not to chart my progress or beat myself up for not being perfect. But for the most part I’ve failed. I’m an addict, for crying out loud. I want results and I need them yesterday, thank you very much! I want my whole life to be the last scene of a home makeover show wherein a former shitbox suddenly becomes the Palace of Versailles and I want it in 30 minutes, with no commercials. Needless to say, progress is always slow-moving and never immediate and it all takes time and blah blah blah. Intellectually I know this but my inner Veruca Salt doesn’t care how and just wants it now.

And yet despite my impatience, things have changed. Life has changed. I have changed. But I’ve also stayed the same. In a good way.  Let me explain. I am currently writing a lot more in both my professional life and my personal life. This is a return to the kid I’ve always been. In my first year of sobriety, I for some reason wound up watching a lot of that crazy ass Discovery Health Channel. The channel, which is now deceased and reincarnated as the Oprah network or something, had the craziest shows ever. Things like I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant or The Man With the 132 Pound Scrotum were these wacky television oddities that I couldn’t take my eyes off. Plus, anything more dramatic and fucked up than my current reality of getting sober, I was instantly a fan of. But somewhere in this medical sideshow was a program about the human brain and the developing of personality. A doctor charted how the human personality fully developes around the age of 7. This was like a lightbulb going off. I remember that awesome 7 year-old. The kid who liked to tell endless stories and create imaginary worlds for his stuffed animals and dolls. A kid who drew until his hands were sore and looked for a billion ways to pretend to be someone else. That kid was incredible. Despite being teased for being effeminate and despite not fitting into what a normal, white american boy in 1979 should be like, that kid was his own person. He somehow stayed true to himself no matter what. So as I watched that show, I remembered that kid. that person I was. And I felt bone-crushingly sad. I all but obliterated that kid with drugs and alcohol.

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So I wanted him back. Not in some learning to give your inner-child a purple balloon bullshit way. I wanted to live that awesomely, sparkly, imaginative personality and be that kid, no matter what. Slowly, he has come back. My love of storytelling returned and sobriety has afforded the luxury of seeing some of my own words on stage, in print and online. But hanging onto this magical storytelling kid isn’t always easy, even in sobriety. Last fall, I got really, really sick. My ass wound up in the hospital for a few days and I was told it would be months until I felt like myself again. They were right. Goddamnit. My energy was zapped. My brain felt like it was asleep. The rest of the world moved around me and being exhausted was the only thing I could do with any success.

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I am elated to say that 7 months later, the spell has been broken. I feel more creative awake and grateful than I have in a long time. I have more ideas than I know what to do with and I’m saying yes to all sorts of cool collaborations. My committment to keeping that kid alive, safe and creating stuff is stronger than ever. Yet I know that if life deals me curve balls and I fall off track, another “Seanaissance” is just around the corner. Inspiration, for me anyway, is always simmering on stove somewhere in the background. I trust it. It’s always there. And I know that creative kid knows just what to do with it.

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