Up there? It’s all aspiration. There’s nothing to soar into. Nowhere to wish to be. Dreams? Dead. Wants? Dead. Needs? Enflamed. Goals? Your skin is frozen and the ebullism has caused you to swell to twice your size. Because that’s what happens when the sky says, “Hello, have you met my Dad, SPACE?”
My success meter is broken. My compass for achievement continually points southsomething. I don't know where notoriety lives, but I'm turning down the radio while looking for the address.
I have no gauge for whether or not if I've succeeded at one of the 97 things I try to do, because I'm too busy telling myself I'm a failure in multiple disciplines. "At best," I silently hiss to myself, "I'm mediocre on a good day."
I see Success in the distance, unattainable yet hovering in close proximity. Like it's in my feed with a soft focus filter and enough likes to have a K after the number, but we've never met IRL.
It certainly won't meet me here, in this adorable breakfast spot, having a tense conversation over eggs and fancy biscuits. While I hold my teal stoneware mug and sigh with furrowed brow, Success wants no part in the couple's "are you sure you support me cause you didn't freak out Price Is Right style when I told you about this gig" talk we've had for 15 years. Success does not want this weird emotional unpacking session in hushed voices so as to not disturb other customers. Success disturbs all the customers with free coffee and shiny glee. Success has sequins and smiles without eye strain, it has open-mouthed surprise face and big, squeezy grateful hugs. By design, Success can't handle hand-wringing over the cost of childcare and arguments stalled because my damn jaw threatened to lock up while chewing. That's new. It's probably arthritis, but we just lost insurance so I can't find out right now. Success wants nothing to do with insurance.
Success isn't really equipped for plan comparisons, discount codes, or last-minute texts to sitters. It certainly can't map the fastest route to somewhere it should have left for twenty minutes ago while making two separate dinners. Success just provided a balloon-drop of delightful news, and you want to talk about calendars? Next, you'll want her to take off her lucite platform heels and walk somewhere, you ingrate.
I'm 43 years old and I don't know what Success is supposed to do with or to me, or how I'm supposed to treat it. For starters, I don't believe it exists for me. It's a ghost other people have seen, a MagicEye puzzle I can't decipher. I dismiss it when it approaches and run after it when it's busy elsewhere. I'm a goddamned cat with a career.
When I left my corporate job in 2015, my husband issued a dire warning. "When you do this," he said, a steadied, pleading gaze and strong hands on my shoulders, "please...please. Please enjoy the journey. There won't be one thing that will make it worth it. Because then there will be another thing to get and do. And if you're still miserable, what's the point?"
Such sage wisdom emitted from the man receiving my death glare in a diner while I'm resetting my jaw over a greens scramble.
See, he didn't see Success walk in. I got something. I booked something. That was his cue to jump up and down and look at me, wild-eyed yet earnest, pledging his support to make this work no matter what. Instead, he made a calm note of his support and wanted to get down to the business of scheduling and making sure we didn't lose all our money on sitters while I rehearse and he counsels people with actual problems.
My six-year-old, on the other hand, LOVES Success and her sparkly dress. She likes her hair all curly and up like that, and she likes how she smiles so big. So when she heard I got work, she shrieked and jumped up and hugged me. She danced she screamed so hard and so loud, she gave herself a scratchy throat. THAT'S how you greet Success. Take note, adults with decorum and social skills or whatever.
Of course, my Success is not the Success of my youth. She's slightly pale and has saggy bits she holds up with shapewear, unlike the easy, comfortable beauty of the Success of people half my age. And what is Success for if not comparison and scrutiny? That's how that works, right?
I hang out with some younger people in the same industry as me. They're vibrant and woke, covered in Fenty, with all their boob tissue up top and they wipe Malort from their chins before heading to Steppenwolf for a Front Bar mingler and a role in someone's reading from that tv show they watch. Their Success doesn't settle for sequins and a good contouring cream. It has natural glow. These folx don't start basement theatre companies that will fade into obscurity along with four-sectioned newspapers. They build empires to topple the old ways, new works that excite audiences and build careers. The Old Guard finds themselves submitting their headshot and resume to be a part of the party, trying to get a little of that Success Shimmer (the newest My Little Pony) on their older, weary I-Guess-This-Gig-Works version of themselves.
We tend to think we've been passed by, and so we're not successful.
My husband left the table, having finished his egg biscuit with expensive aoli, and waited outside for me. Realizing Success was not going to pay the tab (she was busy playing peek-a-boo with the children next to us), I gathered myself and headed to the parking lot. I told him I knew scheduling was part of accepting the gig, and so was the constant job search. I admitted that his wanting to discuss logisitics doesn't mean he isn't happy for me. It likely means I'm not happy for me. It likely means I don't think I'm enough, that Success has taken off, and that what I accomplished will never measure up to the list of things I don't have.
While I wallowed at home over these thoughts plus my husband being right (again), an old friend called. He needed some Chicago-specific advice, as he might be coming back here to stay for a while. He's been isolated and focused very intently on his work because he has a razor-sharp vision of what Success looks like to him. It's Godlike, his version, berobed in gold and placed upon the highest and most lush mountaintop. I mean, it's...it's a lot. And it was killing him. What he wanted was everything he thought he worked for and deserved. What he was missing was a community.
I talked to him for a couple of hours - on the phone. Who does THAT anymore? In that time, I found myself telling him to accept that a vision of Success can change, and that you have to appreciate the journey or you'll be miserable. I extolled the virtues of the Chicago Theater community up and down as though they were physically cradling me and gently rocking me to sleep each night. To be fair, I firmly believe they would if I or anyone asked.
I told him everything I needed to hear and be reminded of. We lamented our secret hope of being better than everyone else while simultaneously thinking we were rotten at all of it. We laughed about our horrible actor-writer brains, our need to please, and how the other people around you can either keep you sane or ruin you. I opt for the former.
He thanked me for the call, telling me I was the most positive person he had spoken to yet. It meant a lot to him. It meant a lot to me, too. That right there? That was Success in all her swaggering glamour.
Later that night, I got an email from my daughter's teacher. She commended her advanced reading skill, already where 1st graders should finish the year (she's in Kindergarten), and thanked me for raising a smart, kind, and thoughtful child. She called her an incredible girl. My heart swelled, and I felt like I had done something right. Like I had succeeded in something.
Sure, it's taken me three days to churn this blog out, and it's not what I intended to write. But I've decided I'll take Success where I can, putting her in as many outfits as possible so she's more accessible. Those sequins need to go to the cleaners for a bit anyway.
Scene: The night before my deadline, 11:30 PM.
I should be sleeping. Why am I not sleeping? I love sleep. I mean I only do it when I’m supposed to be doing something else, but that does not diminish my love. I’m going to bed. No no I can’t. I have to finish this piece this is shit I am shit everything is shit.
I am a professional Later. I am Forever Late, and it isn’t out of disrespect for anyone’s time. I’ve read that article, too, all of them all of the articles I know, and it’s a dick move I pull consistently throughout my life until it’s one giant dick in perpetual motion. I am responsible for all of the dick movements in time. I’m sorry. But the thing is, it isn’t you. It’s me and my mismanagement of time. I just can’t seem to--
Goddammit. Ok ok ok. I mean, I’d be up right now anyway. This is when the good stuff happens. If you’re in your twenties or a sociopath, all the good party stuff happens late. When mistakes happen. When shit gets good. Or, for a regular human, when you can watch whatever you want cause everyone else was asleep as soon as they heard the Taxi theme song. So -
Fuckstick. Focus. Come on, focus. I gotta be up with a five year old in the morning.
Whom I had late, by the way. I had my daughter late, and I was made to believe that was a bad thing. Like, if I had just ignored the fact that I was living in payday loan cycles while chain smoking and waiting tables in my twenties, it would have been a great time to give birth. Sure, my early thirties were spent understanding what communication and validation are, but babies don’t need that until they’re like 12 or whatever so I should have just spat one out from one of those fumbly pretend-it’s-good one night stands, right? NO. Late means I’m physically older but emotionally prepared for when she melts down and can hold and comfort and teach her. 25 year old me woulda been all, “you think YOU have problems? I can’t pay this phone bill!”
If you die and you’re revered, you are the Late Great. Great is even implied when you say, “late.” No one quotes the Early James Joyce that’s weird no one does that don’t do that. Belated, even. It’s so ok to be late that they made us a prettier word to use if we wanna dress up for it. Happy Belated Birthday! “Oh thank you that’s just as good as the regular kind. In fact, this feels like I was forgotten about and then remembered by someone special. With a monocle.”
Sure, I’ll make coffee. You know I failed more than one college course by being late with a paper? One of them cost me my degree. Who messes up a BFA? Me. I do. Once, I was early to work and people dropped shit on the ground and couldn’t take the shock.
Because fuck early. Late is for terrible delicious food choices you’d never make by the light of day - tell me you ordered a chicken fried steak during regular breakfast hours and I will call you a liar. Late is for lovers and their darkened alleyway trysts; for one more that turns into three more, for raiding the fridge, for getting your child when they cry out because you’re the only one who can make it better, for talks that you meant to have at a decent hour but they just didn’t come up and here you are when you should be in bed, finally laying old grudges to rest as the hours move into closing time. Late is for scandalous clothes and dance floors and secrets you weren’t supposed to know. How else are you gonna find out how many people think you’ve died in a ditch if you don’t make them worry? Also, PSA: no one actually dies in a ditch. We’re all just late. LATE. It’s magical, it’s forbidden, it’s sexy, it’s wrong, and it’s perfect. “I should go, it’s late,” is a beautiful way to start a conversation.
I’ve forgotten how sleep works. It’s fine. Maybe I’ll try whiskey?
My husband and I have made each other late for 15 years. The most vital conversations, the heart wrenching, honest, naked, keep-your-voice-down-we’re-discussing-the-certainty-of-our-marital-and-financial-future-and-our-daughter-might-hear conversations happen when one of us is supposed to be getting out the door. He’s not up now, in the wee small hours, because he works two jobs six days a week and crashed out trying to play a video game to unwind after helping people recover from drug and alcohol addictions all day. I’m up because I perform in places with a bar. We make each other late because these talks need to happen, and I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to let a silly construct like time get in the way of the man I love. We could find a better time to talk, but it hasn’t been invented yet.
Being late perpetually means I can problem solve on the fly. It means I know every alternate route and possible CTA/Lyft combination to get to my destination. It means I am intrigued by things, usually shiny ones, and it means I am an optimist. Think of how remarkable that is, considering the flaming heap of whatthefuckery we live on. I am hopeful that I can change time’s linear structure. Which means, I AM A TIME LORD. BOW DOWN, NERDS.
ALL NIGHTER, You know superheroes don’t get up early, right? They work under the cover of darkness. That means late. You don’t see Batman movies and think, “man, sure is bright out.” Superheroes need masks and dark corners because you don’t best baddies over brunch. Also? Brunch is late breakfast with booze. Which means it’s better. I can’t believe I have to spell that out.
Look, you show up late to the party, you’re arriving. You show up early to the party, you’re awkwardly expecting me to entertain you while asking if you can help because I am still setting up while applying eyeliner and that’s just weird, Larry. Why are you here?
It is after 3am now.
I’m half delirious. It’s moved from late to early in the morning, which means it’s time for me to sleep. This piece will still be abhorrently late, which means I will still be on brand. Forever running to catch up. Forever being ok with it because I know all of your secrets. You can be mad and stay mad, but I’ve sat with you in diners and on couches and you’ve spilled your guts and told me what everyone’s problem is in the late late hours. You’ll forget because you can’t seem to handle your whiskey mixed with your minutes and hours. I’ll remember every word, because late is when I shine. Am I blackmailing you? Now? At the end of this thing? Better late than never.
I was raised by serial liars. This makes things complicated.
I stand before you, a serious threat. I’m a middle aged woman who’s had a lot of sex solely for pleasure, and is bleeding profusely out of her unregulated vagina. Right now. The only way I could be scarier is if I weren’t white. My right to my own body, to birth control, to cancer screenings, to terminate unwanted pregnancies, to vote, to speak, to exist on the internet, to have emotions, to walk alone, to seek justice against assault, to not be blamed for rape, to not have my clothing policed, to find heroes, to gain weight, to take up space...is constantly doomed.
When the show wanted a teen-opinion spinoff, they shot part of it in his house. This effectively killed that sweet gig for me, even before they hired public school normals. I was doomed as soon as I knew it would be a location, that they'd be anywhere near this guy and his belongings. His house was a masterpiece of embarrassment.
The obvious commentary about why this kind of activity is seeing a bold uptick due to the country being run by the combined intellect, tolerance, and timeliness of an aborted contraceptive sponge, will be skipped this time. It’s a holiday.
We've reached several milestones in what feels like minutes. Today was a great one: the first day of Kindergarten for our daughter. She's been through pre-K and can navigate full days of school without a problem. She was ready, scared, a little sad, and excited - all the right emotions for the first day. We were allowed to wait with her as the classes lined up, and we waved as she walked away, then temporarily panicked as she passed the bagged breakfast she was supposed to grab ("She didn't see the pears! Pears are her favorite! OH GOD THE PEARS."), and then we left. No tears from her, me, or him. Good job, family.
Tomorrow, when the novelty of Day One has worn off and I am not allowed to walk inside with her, I fear a bloodbath of clinging and crying and prying off of hands. You might think I'm overreacting, but you weren't at camp this summer. That shit was brutal.
We took a picture that we love and put it up on social media. We tried not to make her pose for too long so as to not increase her anxiety in our quest to capture the moment. "You'll be great OH MY GOD STAND STILL you have nothing to worry about I NEED TEN MORE PICTURES HOLD ON." Then we sent some photos to Grandpa and Omama. She didn't have a dry erase board or a wee chalkboard with her grade and teacher. There was no pencil and apple background. We don't have Pinterest, so I don't know all of the cool and creative ways we're failing as parents.
She laid out her clothes the night before and dressed herself - including tying her shoes - this morning. I got a call from her teacher today letting me know she did well, and that they start homework next week. She'll probably drive herself to school tomorrow and have a spreadsheet for my overdue medical bills. She needs to get on that, cause Rush Hospital is pushy.
She told me she's excited for her second day, and that's good news, because she's already going to miss three days next week. Not to be relegated to a One-Milestone-A-Month household, we've also reached the First One Of Us To Have A Sibling Die milestone as of three weeks ago. My husband's older brother, John, died suddenly, leaving behind a wife and two children, along with a father who has to bury his son, and two brothers. We will be heading to California for services on Sunday, marking the second trip in two years. The last one was for services for my mother-in-law. If she were alive, this would likely kill her all over again. I cannot fathom burying my child, and I know so many who have. I am not ready to think about losing my sisters. I've been without parents for years.
My father took his life when I was 12 years old. My mother died of COPD months before I was married, and never met my child. I keep thinking that, since I've gone through these things, my husband won't have to. That isn't even remotely how life works, and I'm stunned at how stunned I am. I'm baffled by my inability to understand my inability to protect him from the death of loved ones.
I become morbid pretty easily. Sometimes, after my daughter falls asleep, I think about how much time I'll have with her. I was 38 by the time she came around, so I start doing math in my head, and the answers all lead to the things I'll miss. "I won't be here for her 60th birthday party. What if I'm not here when she's 50? 50's pretty young. Oh, shit, what if I don't meet her kids? Dammit, I should have..." and then I start crying because that is a really productive and awesome thing to do when your kid is finally asleep. There are great shows on Netflix, you have bourbon, but no you should sob over the future and all the ways you'll disappoint her by dying. That's good.
Tonight, as I put my girl to bed, I sang her songs that she requested. "Dream A Little Dream" and "Ten Cent Wings." That last one requires an adjustment, with all due respect to Jonatha Brooke. The line, "And I will fly, and you'll be with me: my wings, your heart" is to be sung correctly once and then repeated as, "And I will fly, and you'll be with me: I sing, you fart," because when you're singing that song and someone farts and you rhyme that on the spot, you keep it. After the songs, I told her how proud we were of her for her first day. And that I hope she loved that dark chocolate ice cream treat cause that was expensive.
"I love you, my brave girl."
"I love you faster than a cheetah," she said, invoking my new favorite game we play.
"I love you stronger than a hurricane."
"I love you stronger than a tornado."
"I love you brighter than lightening," I whispered.
"I love you louder than thunder." She didn't even skip a beat.
"I love you bigger than the universe."
"I love you hotter than the sun." Did I mention she's 5?
"I love you deeper than the ocean."
"I love you deeper than a lion's mane." I have no idea how deep that is. It's perfect. "Mama," she asked, "do you love Daddy that much?"
Someone's noticed it's been tense around here lately. I say this knowing she asked me the other day why we call her, "someone." Well.
"I do. I do love your Daddy that much. So so so much. Even if we sound frustrated or sad. There's a lot going on. But I love your Daddy so much. I think he's the best. The kindest, handsomest, smartest, funniest, strongest ever. Just like you."
And then she fell asleep. I didn't think about what I'd miss with her this time. Just about what I have.
My eyes are constantly darting around the room. The street. The train car. The bus. Not just in the high alert way - which is absolutely a part of my makeup, so much that living on a street with activity, with voices, with...you know...LIFE...pouring into my windows puts me at ill ease to the point that my husband tells me to "stand down" while we sit in our living room, lest I jump up to save someone from being attacked by what turns out to be screaming giggles - but in a way that is desperate. It is seeking. It is a flitting, fluttering, looking for a place to land my gaze. I put so much behind the gaze itself and what it means if I focus on a plane overhead versus a person's eyes versus the virtual life on my phone, that I cannot land anywhere. My gaze is indecisive and anxious. I've parented the hell out of that gaze, after all. It's just like me. I am thinking of an answer to the inevitable question. "How are you?" "How's the knee?" "How've you been? You had a thing? A knee...what happened?" I take this question to heart. I don't know how I am. I don't know how I feel. I'm having a hell of a time coming up with a good focus. A good place to land my gaze.
I am really tired of being compared to your grandmother. I know you mean well. I know that a knee replacement at 42 isn't common, and so you compare it to the experience of the only other person you know who's lived it, but hearing that Nana's just gotten the second one done and is soldiering though really isn't a consolation. I politely nod anyway, my knee bobbing furiously under the table. I can't sit still, as I'm likely going through withdrawal of one form or another. The Norco, the Tramadol (prescribed to get me off the Norco), the sleep...one of those. My body is angry it can't have one of those things and it's fidgety. Also, this constant comparison has helped me realize I have a deep seated bias against the elderly.
That's real ugly, what I just said. I know. Hear me out.
We don't treat the elderly like people. Look, they have their own category. THE. Like The Homeless. The Working Poor. We other them, judging their worth by their accomplishments from when they were younger. When they looked more like a person and less like a sentient dried apricot you're supposed to call on holidays. I'm speaking as someone who had older parents, and whose grandparents died when she was very young. Plus, my older parents died relatively young, so I've been unleashed to be a judgmental jerk to the world for some time. Mainly, though, it's because I fear the otherness. We all get there if we're lucky, right? Aging means you live. And our reward for a life long and well lived? Discounts. And to be recognized only by the children we've had or didn't have, the home we're forced to sell or the one we're thrown into, and some adorable nickname a child forced to see us gurgles when we see them for 15 minutes. We are celebrated when we do something normal, like climb stairs or dress ourselves, and I can hardly imagine being yelled at by my own child to follow a doctor-mandated diet. We humiliate those who know better than we do about the world. Our medicines to help them counteract one another, leaving them sicker than they need to be, and we leave them in the dust of new technology and faster paced living. Omama can't walk fast, so we'll just go to Old Country Buffet so she can sit. Then we'll drop her off and head to Target.
It's no wonder that, as my young daughter gently breathes in sleep, I silently cry thinking about all I'll miss in her life because I waited to have her until my late thirties, and as I wonder at what age she'll dread calling me.
I know. It's AMAZING I don't get out more, right? What a delight. Truly. BURSTING with joy. Well. There's always my art...
So I've been writing one scene for two months. I was paid to write it. I struggled for a while with not feeling worthy of being paid for something I already do, cause that's a super productive use of everyone's time, and then wrestled with subject matter. I let characters rattle around and then talk to me, and I have about three scenes now. They are wildly different, and only one of them will be the result of pay and a promise, but at least I like where the latest one is headed. I should probably stop talking about it, writing blogs about it, and finish the damn thing.
I haven't felt like myself in so long. First, I removed all foods that allegedly do my body harm, but I still consumed some that do animals (and, apparently, my body) harm. Whatever the ethics there, I reduced my pain and my weight, and my energy was sky high. Then I got titanium and plastic put in where a joint without cartilage used to be. Everything changed. Everything changes every day. The pain level, the location of the pain, the nausea, the hunger, the energy, the sleepiness, the anger, the defeat, the motivation, the progress, the frustration, the hope, the sweat, the worry. Each day, I comfort myself knowing that I have tomorrow to take over the world. I look forward to grabbing the day with both hands and meeting deadlines with a firm gaze and a firmer grip. I will write my own path, finish the drafts and the web series notes. Instead, the day comes, and all I want to do is sleep. I ask friends about getting together, because I want to initiate that connection. I want - genuinely want - to see the people I love. So I ask, usually careful not to commit to strictly social plans and giving myself an out. When the time comes, I cancel or say it's just not happening. I wish I could...and I do...but it's not.
So I sleep. Or, I did. Lately, sleep brings pain, as extra fluid pools in the joint and I have to ice or do some exercises to cycle the fluid through my system so it won't stay there and keep me awake. I'm grateful there are remedies, but it isn't easy to do them several times a night and feel refreshed in the morning.
Lest this sound like a screed of mere complaint, know that throughout all of this I am keenly aware of how lucky I am. We are in debt, and our income isn't enough to conquer it, but we're living. And we're able to afford our needs and indulgences here and there. I have excellent healthcare and physical therapy for my surgery and recovery. Our child wants for nothing (save a house and a yard with a dog, but even she knows that's a goal and not a given), and my husband and I are very much in love. We are doing what we've always wanted for a living. And dammit if I am not surrounded by some of the kindest and most compassionate people on earth. I have easy access to mind blowing art and literature created by people I know and deeply respect and love. I am asked to do cool shit. I am also white in America. Granted, we're all gonna be nuked to the sun by idiot man children in a dick spitting contest soon, but as luck of birth goes, I rolled pretty damn high.
I had the good fortune to run into two friends in one day. With one, we talked broadly about deep things very quickly. I sat in a circle with her less than a week ago, welcoming the new moon by writing thing down which no longer served us and burning the paper on which they were written. We cried as we talked about emerging from the fire anew, and casting off doubt, fear, smallness, and pain. We were able to shorthand most of this in our quick run-in. I told her I have been trying to think of a better answer for when people ask how I am, or how my knee is. I've hated how negative my answer has been. She told me she has discovered the power of, "I'm working on it" as an answer. I love it. It's honest. It's brief. It's kind to oneself and doesn't burden the listener with pain - no one asks for that when they ask how you are. Come on, we all have shit to do.
I saw another as I sat down to write. He came in, took my face in his hands and asked how I was, and was able to hang out to hear the answer. We spent the better part of an hour talking about acting, agents, imposter syndrome, gender, changing times, and terrible, filthy jokes. This served my soul just as much as the previous encounter. We contain multitudes, etc etc.
Shortly after that, I had physical therapy without pain. I spoke to my friend and partner as she drove to Iowa for film work and we covered career, money, auditions, and self worth.
I have only a bit of time before I pick up my child, and I have work to do for at least three clients. This rush means I have clients. I have work.
I'm working on it. Thank goodness I'm allowed to do that.
I’ve had a hard time writing lately. I mean, sure, it’s my job in a cobbled together kind of way, and I spend hours scrolling through Facebook instead of reading actual books and I keep reading news and thinkpieces and pieces about what to think of those think pieces and that news, and their influence lasts about half a day and it’s most likely rotting my brain, but gosh darnit I’m at a loss for inspiration! It’s like I’m only looking into a teeny thought bubble that echoes what I already know and dilutes it over and over until it’s a cat meme of any opinion I could possibly have, rendering my thoughts unoriginal and defeatist. That’s probably not it, though. I probably just need a change.
I think what I’m missing is living. I am forgetting to live my life. I have a hilarious, gorgeous, and loving husband and a smart, adorable daughter, tons of friends, and performance opportunities. But I get depressed sometimes, so it must be that I’m living life wrong. Lots of articles tell me so. Sure, I had a knee replacement in May and I’m in constant pain and experiencing a dance of withdrawal and vomiting from painkillers, but I should live in the moment. Live every moment.
Looking at the sharknado that is our political climate and our timelines full of violence towards marginalized populations, I realized...what could be more important in this moment than a white, 40ish half Jew spouting her neuroses to a bunch of people so she feels alive? Nothing. Nothing could be more important.
The internet once said, “Cherish every moment in your life, for we will all crash into the sun eventually.” That’s a lot of pressure. But I’m trying. My 5 year old is currently experiencing a renewed separation anxiety and screams when I leave as though I’m being dragged by horses to an unending war. And I just...breathe into that moment, you know? When she asks me to go with her to the bathroom so she can lock eyes with me as she poops, I just put the moment in a mental scrapbook of precious things. Yesterday, my husband and I talked about how we will never love one another as much as we love fries. I journaled about it, but really fast so I wouldn’t miss the next moment.
According to a Vox article I read on the way here, living in the moment means going back to our childhood, which seems counterintuitive, but they had a really cute photo for the thumbnail, so I clicked on it. I wanna get back to that. Get in touch with my childhood. I mean the discovering new things part, not the almost suffocating fear of school and the question of where I would be in the caste system that day, not the alcoholic father killing himself and the poverty that came crashing down once our debt ceiling crumbled, and certainly not the living on a gravel road which gave actual weapons to children who wanted me to know, REALLY FOR SURE, that I was ugly. But...the wonderment, you know? The joy.
We forget that carefree, walk and bike everywhere spirit of discovery. Life is hectic. When the words aren’t coming out, it means we need outside influence. I mean, that’s what the Buzzfeed Quiz I took ten minutes ago told me. Also, I’m a Gryffindor and a pepperoni pizza. We need to experience things, not just read about them on our phones when we should be sleeping or talking to loved ones begging for our attention. We need to rebalance, reset. Recharge. Cleanse. To get our bodies to alkaline. I don’t know what it means to have your body like a battery unless it’s the Matrix, but it’s what my friend who sells products is going for so I bought her protein powder. You know...get ourselves back to neutral. Away from inflammatory junk foods that make our liver process toxins and gluten vegan BigAg organic single source sustainable artisan nouns. (I think I covered it.) It’s time to unplug. To rewind. To be kind. To lean in. To really prioritize and recalibrate our focused resources. (Ok, now I think I covered it.)
There’s so much pressure to have it all. To be informed. To be successful. To save the environment. To remember what you were talking about five seconds ago, you goddamned squirrel. Right. Being thin. So I did the Whole30 right before I had a knee replaced. And continued it during my recovery. As I woke up and asked for a bucket to throw up into, I was handed a turkey sandwich. I peeled back the bread, eating the carageenan-laden lunchmeat, and hoping I could still consider myself on plan. Also, the president signed an executive order that day allowing churches to get involved in politics, destroying the Johnson Amendment, but I resisted. The bread. I did the plan for the anti-inflammatory properties, but I can't pretend like the weight loss is a bad side effect, because Self magazine keeps telling me it's a thing I really want. And it's called Self. That's me!
I haven’t really been living my truth since the surgery, because the truth was that I could hardly see letters on a screen thanks to drugs, let alone meet my deadlines. Also, I'm now so agitated when I wean off the drugs that I can't sleep or breathe or control my movement. Who wants to live that? Pema Chodron. That’s who. She says that we should use fear and avoidance as signals that we are close to the truth. I took them to mean I didn’t want to spend two and a half hours in the bathroom again after painkillers cemented my insides and made every meal revisit my mouth and use it as a launch pad. Also, I had no auditions from my agent and straightening my leg was torture, my daughter wanted to know when I’d be better, and my husband was waiting on me hand and foot while working two jobs. I had zero prospects for steady income, and I lie awake wondering if putting titanium rods in my body was a mistake. If these are the truths that put me on the precipice of a great understanding, I’m ok being stupid. I’ll continue to get information from listicles. If these feelings of inadequacy were the stuff of humanity’s soul, I want to be a soulless vacuum of need, because nope.
So in order to truly have it all, to connect to my inner child while remaining focused and present, I must take responsibility for my truth. That was the headline for the article from Slate I just got a notification for a moment ago. My phone’s on silent - it's fine. And that truth is that the world is on fire, and yet I still stare at my midsection in pictures of myself. The world is on fire, and I want to remove myself from group texts and Facebook messages asking me to put a heart on my status so we can all giggle in shame about breast cancer. The world is on fire, and my navel gazing and keyboard activism isn’t going to help anyone. I can have my neuroses - no one else wants them. But they need to move over. The truth of my insecurities obscuring my own view of myself and the world is really not going to open my mind to anything but more fear. I’m still white and carry more privilege in my finger than my friends of color and non-binary gender identity. I can own and cradle my neuroses, but they aren’t terminal. I will not be shot for them, most likely. I still love my family even if I miss a few moments. I still want news and pictures of your kids, even if I log off of Facebook. I might need to look up from my phone and look down into a book. I saw that on a meme once. There was a cat reading Twilight. It was adorable.
I have a great idea. Stop eating everything you love.
No. Wait. Hear me out, here. Do it right before you have a joint replaced and you have a small child at home.
WHERE ARE YOU GOING. JUST LISTEN.
In the days before your surgery, you will experience miracles. You will spend lots of money at the grocery store because you never went out to eat. You will remain in your kitchen for what seems like days, jumping out of bed in the morning to send your husband off with lunch that you diligently prepared. You will eat all the homemade mayo and avocados you can handle. You will do all the dishes ever. You will hate everyone and wonder how that person walking with an iced latte has the UNMITIGATED GALL to be smiling and carefree while you choke down bitter black brew. You wonder if you can body swap with people eating ice cream, and then realize you're cravenly staring at children and the verboten frozen treat in their hands. However...
You will be in less pain. You will play with your daughter and you will move easier (aside from that one knee you're gonna swap out for robot parts). You will go to sleep without a problem, stay asleep, and get out of bed easily. And early. And happy. Clothes will fit differently. You will be proud of yourself. You will look in the mirror and say, "DAMN," even though you SHOULD have said that before this, at least you're starting now. You like this. It's so weird. You even get the hang of it and your husband packs up his own lunches and makes dinner and tells you to relax.
Then you have surgery. You get titanium rods in your leg and a big plastic disc to replace your nonexistent cartilage. You look like this now:
When you're in the hospital, post-op, you will be incredibly nauseous. Just like you were pre-op -when they were afraid you'd choke on your own vomit because you wouldn't be able to tell them in twilight sedation that you had to hurl and they didn't want to intubate you. The nurse looked at you and said, "I don't want to be mean, but you don't look like you feel very well," and you realized that nurse doesn't know what mean is. Somehow, you make it through without aspirating on regurgitated food from 12 hours ago. When you wake up, you're still really green, so they bring you food. A turkey sandwich. Now, keep in mind, your body is in shock and you're high af. Not a court in the world would convict you for messing up on the plan. Also, what the hell court is that? Sounds like a massive waste of taxpayer dollars.
You will, without even making a deal out of it, peel the bread off the sandwich, eat the turkey, tomato, and all the fruit. You will mention that perhaps the turkey has carrageenan and sugar in it. But you're ok with that. You leave the bread, cheese, and crackers on the tray. You followed your fucking plan after surgery when you DID NOT have to. But hey, you were on day 23...you think. What day is it? Can you go to sleep yet? What the hell do they mean, "Get up and walk?!" You've had an epidural, you can't get up and - holy shit, you got up and walked. Time to go home.
You'll lose some time in there for a while. You know your delightful husband made you this delicious cauliflower rice stir fry:
You sleep for...a long time. At some point, he gives you more of the delicious porridge you had before, because porridge goes well with a cane, which is what you're walking with now.
You sleep some more. When you wake up, you are given fistfuls of medication. And then this for dinner:
That's right. He went out and grilled for y'all. It's simple, delicious, and helps keep you from vomiting everywhere because it has substance to it. You're so grateful, you pass out again.
There's been physical therapy and nurses in here somewhere, but that's not relevant and involves a lot of crying and cursing.
Saturday is going to be rough, you think, because your husband will be at work and your Father-In-Law hasn't arrived yet.
You're wrong, Your village comes out in full force, and one friend plays with your kid all day while getting you whatever you need. Another drops treats by. Many text and call to see if you're ok. Once there as many people as possible in your house to surround you with love and support, you throw up into a crock pot thanks to your meds.
You always liked to do things in front of an audience. So.
While you were in surgery, a saintly friend cleaned your whole house while another took your kid to school. The same one who cleaned your house came in with groceries and made food for you and your husband for the entire week, all plan compliant.
You are the luckiest human alive. You try to thank them, but all that comes out is drool. Damn painkillers.
Over the next week, uou eat carnitas with pineapple salsa and almond flour tortillas, autumn orange soup, chicken salad, and delicious potatoes. Notice there is slaw on the carnitas. This is NOT the bullshit you made previously. This is actually tasty and perfect in this dish.
To celebrate, your daughter draws a picture of you with a potato.
The end of your Whole30 happens while you're still recovering and you father-in-law is still visiting. According to the reintroduction, you can bring booze back first. They suggest gluten free hooch, like potato vodka and tequila. You aren't ready for shots yet. So your very generous FIL brings you a giant bottle of Chopin.
You take about two sips. You're a goddamned lightweight now.
Over the next couple of weeks, you will try reintroducing some foods, but not so much the heavy hitters (gluten and dairy). Now, why would you NOT bring those back? They're your favorites!
Because you're taking painkillers and an anti-inflammatory so strong, it has torn your guts to shreds. You throw up, you feel nauseous, and your digestion has gone straight to hell. All the beautiful work the Whole30 did for you has been replaced with fitful, painful sleep, almost no stamina, and one TWO AND A HALF HOUR stint in the bathroom.
It's as awful as it sounds. Actually, it's worse. You try not to think about that day...but it haunts you still.
Therefore, you are UTTERLY TERRIFIED to have a sandwich. Or ice cream. Or an ice cream sandwich. You don't know what it will do to you, so you decide to wait until you're done with your meds.
On the upside, there are a lot of clothes you can wear that you couldn't wear before. You're super stylin at physical therapy. It's important to look great while you cry and scream, "MOTHERFUCKER" at the really nice therapists.
So, while the author of the Whole30 goes on about how you aren't allowed to say this is hard, you challenge her to do it while getting a goddamned knee replacement. You fantasize about standing over her while she works on flexion and ask if she packed an Rx Bar for snacking and she's not allowed to complain. Because you're petty. And no diet is taking that away.
I'm gonna switch back to first person. Here's the thing: I will continue eating this way most of the time. I shudder to think how this would have gone if I was sitting on my ass in recovery shoving pizza in my sad I-Will-Never-Be-Normal-Again face hole. It would have been gruesome. I look great...until I try to straighten my leg for long periods of time. Then I look like a very angry monster.
My energy has been entirely focused on recovery, which is why this is so late. I had paying clients that had to wait for their pieces because the pain killers made letters wavy when I looked at them, and because I wanted to fall asleep after standing for 10 minutes.
I'm getting back to good, ever so slowly. I will keep most of the Whole30 on my menu in order to keep the inflammation down. Also, I'm really digging how my pants fit so I don't need to buy new ones.
But I swearddagod. As soon as I'm done with these meds? I'm having a giant baguette that I will wash down with a waffle cone.
Coffee isn't better black. Nope. I'll drink it, but I feel like I accomplishedsomething if I finished a cup. "Oooh, I did it! I drank a whole mug of burnt water from Starbucks. Good for me!" Fuck you, it's better my way.
Look. I'm behind. I'm hopped up on painkillers for a knee replacement at the moment, so if I'm gonna try to remember one or two days, let's just cram in four. I have no sense of boundaries right now. LET'S DO IT ALL. I'll keep em brief.
This is pre-surgery, so I'm not hallucinating at this point. I mean, not any more than the usual dreams of swimming in rivers of linguine while chugging a Manhattan and toweling myself off with a baguette. But I went for braised short ribs with eggs instead. Afterward, I was gonna -- GODDAMNIT.
I just went ahead and set it all on fire. That was fastest.
I got the bird to school, and then sat down to work: new monologue commissions, telling people to come to Write Club, telling people about free vocal coaching, and a bunch of other stuff. I had enough energy to keep writing for hours...just not that pilot I'm supposed to be finishing. Apparently, I'll just let that sit until it's done. Let it ripen. I'm sure that's how it works.
Lunch was chicken salad on top of some veggies (seriously, throwing these things together is getting easier all the time). This is why I don't food blog regularly. I can't make what I ate all that suspenseful and interesting.
Dinner was this amazingness. Again, there are quotes in this title, because someone decided that no one would understand , "Thai Chicken With Spicy Sunbutter Sauce." Or just....sauce. Nope. You have to say, "Spicy 'Peanut' Sauce." I mean, they have to. I'm not doing this quoted food business.
Now, as I've mentioned, we don't have the bird on this plan. Because she's 5. Plus, she's picky and fickle because 5. She's currently in a phase where everything she's previously enjoyed is now disgusting to her. We can no longer clean her plate for her (the Scraps of My Daughter dinner special), so we save it, or throw it away if it will go bad soon. What I'm saying is, LOOK AT THIS PLATE OF BULLSHIT.
Yep. That's a fried chicken patty and tater tots. That she asked for. In her defense, she ate all of the fruit and most of her carrots. I quietly wept as I put these leftovers into the refrigerator. Later, I would give away all of our fried things stash and boxes of mac and cheese to a friend to take home. She no longer digs them, and they are CALLING MY NAME. They're LOUD.
All this heroic resistance - shut up, I'll call it what I want - made me tired. This plan has me getting up easier, but also wanting to call it a day at about 9. It's probably my body's defense mechanism. "GET HER TO SLEEP BEFORE SHE EATS CEREAL AND CHEESE. AGAIN."
You know that kind of tired where you lay down and you're just so damned excited? For sleep? Like, you wish you could be awake for your falling asleep because it's gonna be so awesome? Like you're telling yourself, "Oh, you are gonna LOVE this." No? Just me? Fine.
I made sweet Meuslove to my bowl. I AM SO SORRY. I'll figure out an appropriate way to talk about this dish someday. Today is not that day.
The husband got a surprise freezer soup for lunch. I was running out of room, and I saw this container of soup. It had to be at least mostly compliant, I thought. So I did the generous thing and made him find out. Hey, honey, was it ok?
I packed up most of my belongings so I could go see My Fair Lady at the Lyric Opera and then head to rehearsal. See, my writing partner and bestie is amazing, and she gets to be in that shit while I write about what I ate. I keep waiting for her to get famous so I can just ride her coattails. It's really inconsiderate of her not to have done that by now. I digress.
I bolted as soon as the show was over and made it to rehearsal...so that I could be relieved from rehearsal 10 minutes later. I'm a professional, I tell you. Good thing I spent $35 on a cab to get there. Between that and the grocery bill, these entries will all be written from our spot under the viaduct. Mama needs a recurring role or writers' room work if she's gonna keep this up.
Since I was home for dinner, I decided to make one. Easy roasted salmon. from Mark Bittman, replacing the butter with ghee. Ever notice that "ghee" sounds like "glee?" And tastes like joy? No? Again. Just me?
I made another round of cauliflower mash because I love it so. This time...something went wrong. I mean, it looked great.
I bit into the cauliflower mash and wanted to cry. This was my revenge for sending the husband off with mystery lunch. See, when you boil the cauliflower, you also boil the garlic cloves. I forgot that part, and just added the cloves straight to the food processor. RAW GARLIC. So we won't have colds, upset stomachs, vampires...or friends...anytime soon.
Good damn night.
Ohhhhh this day wanted me dead. I'm sure of it. I started it off beautifully. It started off with sweet potato, chicken, and eggs. I know. I said I didn't photograph it anymore. i lied to you.
That might have been the last good thing that happened that day. My child has decided that 5 is a GREAT age to start having tantrums. Never did it before, and just...suddenly...perfected it. Over nothing. Girl was mad I couldn't wear my computer glasses to take her to school because they'll give me a headache. She made me AN HOUR LATE for a meeting with a client who wants help writing a book. Sure. Cause I don't need any income. Just keep scream crying and be inconsolable. No job necessary. We'll live on my charm!
W'ed be dead in two days.
Finally got to the meeting, and it went relatively well considering the everything else, and then wanted to eat again because I stress burned through that whole breakfast. I ordered a modified version of something I've had at this cafe lots of times, and I was delighted that could do it. They've encountered crazy people before! Crazy people who almost sold their child to the gypsies!
Dinner was this curried cream of broccoli soup . This means delicious smelling things in my prized Le Creuset.
The soup contains coconut cream, which is what I want to eat for the rest of my life.
And that was my Friday night. Remember when Friday nights were spent out? Drinking and laughing? This no longer exists. It is only kitchen. Only eating. This is all there is.
This was a Test the Restaurants day. We had food at Replay in Andersonville. Husband got a salad, and I got a turkey burger without a bun. Meanwhile , the bird ran around and played video games, cause that's the point of the place. I had an actual factual date with my husband later. We saw 3C at A Red Orchid Theatre. Good Lord. That show was the bestworst thing I've ever seen. I sang the opening and closing song, which was a take on the Three's Company theme song. The show, however, was nowhere near that cheerful. Funny, wonderful, and disturbing as hell. But not cheerful.
After that, we went to Kamahachi for sushi with no soy products. Please don't ask me how we pulled it off, cause I was too busy pretending my mouth was Pike Place Market and throwing raw fish into it.
I think we triumphed. I'm pretty sure. Actually, I don't know anymore. HOW DO I WIN THIS? IS THERE A PRIZE? IS THE PRIZE PIZZA?
Shut up. Right now. Tell me my lists and recipes. Tell me the health benefits. Tell me all kinds of stuff...except how to complain. NEVER tell me how to complain. That way lies madness.
I had to work and then hit the store, because I have a cot in the back where I nap now. Just a place to, you know, collect my thoughts while I spend half my life there. They're real cool about it. It's right behind the butcher counter, and I just walk in, wave hello to George while he whacks an animal into parts, and I just lie down under my dreamcatcher. It's peaceful.
This particular Saturday was the day before the bird's birthday party. A happy and momentous occasion, that we paid someone else to throw because they have inflatable things and more room than we do. Putting a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds in here would be like putting thrashing ferrets into an ice cube tray. Ain't happening.
We've been cast out into the cruel, cruel world. Alone. To forage.
Eating all the fat while cooking up some fat to garnish the fat.
Can't stop won't stop...cooking and washing dishes like it's 19fucking50.
I am a mountain eater. I am the stuff of nightmares.