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.