Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What a legacy.

What about me and my life right now made it seem like I could possibly handle any more problems?? Can't you see that I am BARELY HANGING ON HERE???? Barely hanging on. I mean, is this some kind of joke? Because I've had enough of these fucking cosmic jokes. I'm so tired of having everything go wrong at once and feeling like it can't possibly get any worse, only to wake up to another huge bombshell or three or four. And why NOW? Why do I get to deal with yet another problem when I'm already at my lowest emotional point?? I'm so completely drained and I have nothing more to give so just STOP PILING IT ALL ON. I'm drowning and I have no more fight left in me. None. I'm not even sure I have the strength to fix anything that's gone wrong. I just want one damn thing to fix itself. Somebody to just give me a fucking break. I'm sure anyone else could be strong enough to be an adult and take care of things. But I can't.

And I'm sorry that I can't go into more detail about what's happening.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Christine Triptych

(I wrote this earlier tonight. Eclipse was posted to give you some background if you need it.)

One day when I was in elementary school, Christine took me out to buy a piƱata for my upcoming birthday party. We went to Sonic for lunch. After we ordered, we waited and waited for nearly an hour but our food didn't come. I began to get silly and pushed the button, not thinking they could hear me. I jokingly said, "Look, BUSTER!! If you don't bring us our food right now, we're just gonna LEAVE!" Then we collapsed into laughter. Literally ten seconds later, a Sonic employee came running out the door to our car. He didn't say anything or apologize, just sheepishly handed us our burgers. I think about that every time I go to Sonic.

Christine spoke Spanish. She taught me all the Spanish colors when I was really little. I could say them expertly. Rojo, azul, morado, blanco, naranja, negro, amarillo, rosa. I liked saying amarillo the most. She taught me other words, too. I speak six languages now.

I remember spending the majority of my childhood driving around with Christine and Margie. I remember one time, I rolled down my window and smiled flirtatiously at high school boys in jeeps while the Gin Blossoms sang "Hey Jealousy" on the radio. I was obsessed with "Stay" by Lisa Loeb and "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison. I had dark brown eyes growing up and I thought he had written that song about me. My sisters had the songs on cassette tapes, and I would play them over and over again in the car. There was a button on the stereo of Christine's off-white 1991 Infiniti that would rewind the tape backward just one song. I would hit that button every time my songs ended. Loud music, laughter, a six year old fluttering her eyelashes at high school boys, my sisters asking "AGAIN?" in disbelief as I reached for the rewind button. Yes, again.


NOTE: This is a narrative I wrote in 2005 about my sister, Christine. I will occasionally reference her in my writing or entries, so here is background on who she is.


Usually reunions in the airport are a joyous event. There are hugs, laughs, stories of travel. But on one particular day, there was a family waiting for someone. They were all crying. The entrance of the person they were waiting for only brought on more tears. And they were not tears of happiness; they were tears of unexplainable grief.

* * * * * * * *

I was just a little girl, nine years old, playing marbles in my blue gingham-print dress at recess. I admired my fourth grade teacher because she always reminded me of Miss Honey from Matilda. I played on the playground; elaborations on the game of tag--giggling with my friends as each of us had a turn being “It.” Math lessons were a time for zoning out, for making elaborate designs with markers on the pages of my notebook. I realize now that there was nothing but happiness in the simplicity of my fourth grade life.

On the night of September 27th, 1996, there was a lunar eclipse. My older sister, Mary Beth, and I had spent most of the evening on the lawn outside of the planetarium. We looked up at the sky, feeling autumn in our hair. She dropped me back off at our house just in time to watch my favorite program at the time: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I put on my pajamas and flicked on the TV in my room; he was in the middle of his monologue. I sat down on the floor to watch, laughing with the audience whether I understood his jokes or not--doing so made me feel intellectual and adult like my six older siblings.

The phone rang.

I was used to these late night phone calls since my Dad is a pediatrician and almost always on call. I thought nothing of it.

I was highlighting things in the American Girl catalog for my Christmas list when my Dad came running down the hallway in a panic, wearing the same pinstripe pajamas that he’s worn for years. He woke up my mother, and I glanced out the open door, annoyed at the ruckus. I don’t remember exactly what he said to my Mom, but I know it ended with this, in a shaky tear-stained tone that I’d never heard out of him before:

“…Chrissy died…”

Chrissy. Christine. Christine Anne Callie. My second mother; my twenty-year-old sister. The only one who smoothed back my hair with her perfect fingernails, singing Tears in Heaven, Fields of Gold, or Under the Bridge off-key. The only one who would hold my hand at night when I awoke from a bad dream and was too scared to go back to sleep. She spoke nearly fluent Spanish and was spending her junior year at Colby College abroad in Salamanca, Spain. We found out later exactly what happened to her: she collapsed and died of cardiac arrhythmia. It didn’t make any sense--a healthy twenty-year-old’s lungs just randomly filling up with fluid--but that was the reality we had to face.

Three months before my American Girl reverie was interrupted with news of an unthinkable loss, I saw her for the last time, boarding her flight back to Spain at Tucson International Airport. I was the last person she touched before getting on the plane. After the flight attendants closed the heavy doors and the plane took off, I cried uncontrollably and couldn’t stop. When my Mom asked me what was wrong, I told the truth.

“She’s never coming back,” I sobbed.
“What are you talking about? Of course she’s coming back, don’t be silly.” My Mom told me. I wasn’t convinced. “Before you know it, she’ll be home for Christmas,” she continued.

Unfortunately, Chrissy never made it home for Christmas. And the calm voice of reason that tried to comfort me at the airport that day was now replaced with a painful sob that only a mother whose child has died could make.

One by one, the rest of our family showed up at our house. Albert, Trina, Mary Beth, John and his girlfriend Violette. Margie was beginning her freshman year at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. She would fly home a few days later. That night is a blur of ad nauseam hugs, tears, frowns, cries of disbelief, horrible sobs whose sound I’ve repressed over the years. John didn’t want to believe it, and kept asking for an autopsy report. Violette held me as I stopped crying but entered a daze of grief and disbelief. My little brother, James, was only three at the time--he didn’t understand. The only thing that I remember vividly is my Mom’s futile attempts to talk to Chrissy’s host family, but the language barrier only created confusion. She would hysterically repeat broken atrocious mixtures of Spanish and English until she gave up. No one knew what was going to happen. All we knew was that our family had lost one member, and grief began to ravenously and mercilessly consume us whole.

The night of the funeral, Margie came and picked me up early from Girl Scouts. We were in the middle of a game, so I was angry to have to leave. Upon returning home, there was a flurry of activity--everyone was rushing, putting in earrings, drying their hair. I was told to put on a nice dress and comb my hair, and my Mom clasped a gold crucifix around my neck. I had no idea what was going on because no one told me that we were getting ready to attend Chrissy’s funeral. When they finally told me, I went downstairs by myself and danced to Sarah McLachlan’s Angel until it was time to go.

My heart nearly stopped upon entering the church--I don’t remember anyone ever explaining to me what a “viewing” was; that my sister would be in the room with us in an open casket made of bronze and surrounded by bouquets of flowers. I got more and more nervous as we approached her casket, and I barely recognized her. Her nose was crooked from when she collapsed on it, and her skin was deathly pale. I reached out, shaking, to touch the hand that once held mine, but I abruptly gasped and yanked it back when I felt her cold, waxy, stiff skin. Our family sat in the first few pews; I sat in my Mom’s lap. A single tear fell off my face and onto her hand. The evening was a slow haze of eulogizers and tacky songs, and the murmur of the ten Hail Mary’s--a Catholic funeral tradition.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee,
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.

I can honestly say that my family was never the same after Chrissy died. She’s not even “Chrissy” to me anymore, she’s “Christine.” Her room is thick with haunted silence, and I don’t like to go in there. Sure, we got over the grief eventually, but it was never the same. Oddly enough, this loss only strengthened my parents’ faith in God and Catholicism. I, on the other hand, wanted to sever all ties with the higher power that had taken my sister away. My faith in God has recovered a little since then, but not much. My Dad has never really recovered. He still cries at the mere sound of her name. I became, and still am, extremely bitter about it. I don’t like to reminisce, and I inwardly roll my eyes at his tears.

I’m pretty close with my siblings, but I’ve never shared a bond with any of them that was as close and deep as the bond between Christine and I. That’s probably why I’m so bitter about the whole thing--no one ever smoothed back my hair or sang to me like she did. That void has never truly been filled. Our family, I’ve grown to realize, is not defined by religion or customs or holiday traditions--we’re defined by Christine’s death, by that late night phone call from seven years ago.

I still flinch when the phone rings at night.

Painting and Writing

I had my second Alternative Painting Processes class tonight. I had to miss last week's lesson because of Sweet Charity (I hate Thursday shows!) so I'm a bit behind. But still having fun, even if I'm a very awkward painter. I can't get the hang of using a palette knife and am struggling with mixing colors. I seriously spent SEVERAL hours tonight during and after class back at home just trying to mix the shades of gray I needed. Who knew that gray would be so hard to make?! I got the hang of lighter grays, but am currently stuck on dark gray. My dark gray attempts keep turning out too green. Aghh. 

Anyway. Our teacher, Ryan, does some cuh-razy shit with acrylic paint! A running theme throughout his work is making silicone casts, filling them with acrylic paint, and incorporating the result into his paintings. It's like he literally makes 3D objects out of PAINT. I never would've thought that was possible. See an example HERE. All those little sheep are made out of acrylic paint using silicone casts. And he doesn't only use little plastic toys, either. He's made big boxes out of paint, full body casts, hands...INSANITY! So tonight he started teaching us how to make silicone casts so we can eventually do it ourselves. And that's only one of the awesome things we're learning...the other stuff is hard to explain in words. But SO. COOL.

One of my favorite authors, Natalie Goldberg, wrote this book about writing that I'm obsessed with called Writing Down the Bones. My sister lent it to me when I was really young and I loved it so much that I never gave it back...What a little shit I am. But anyway, Natalie Golberg has written dozens of books about writing since then, and I recently bought one called An Old Friend from Far Away, which is a book about writing memoirs. I've always loved reading and writing personal narratives and memoirs. So I started digging into the book over the past few weeks.

Oddly enough, I've been really scared to actually start writing. She gives all these great exercises and prompts, but every time I grab a pen I freeze up. I absolutely LOVE to write and I write very well, but getting started is always the challenge. I think it's because I'm a good writer and therefore I feel like I should always produce good writing (it's the same with choreography, oy veh). Last night I went to Target and bought a cheap 70-sheet notebook and then just stared at it when I got home. Too scared to move forward. But tonight I started writing. I intended to start small and write for 10 uninterrupted minutes, but ended up going for 40. I've been reading in her books about how if you just get started, everything will come out of you. But lately I just haven't trusted that sentiment. It is SO TRUE, though. Particularly when you are writing about memories or personal experiences. One memory triggers another and another and all of a sudden 40 minutes have passed. It's incredible how it all just pours out. And of course that scares me, too. Because remembering things can be so emotional and bring back feelings that we may or may not want to feel. But I'm hoping to overcome that, because I have so much that I want to write and have been holding back for a long time. I've been scared of my thoughts and memories. But now I don't want to stop. I'm hoping to fill the notebook by the end of the month.

READ NATALIE GOLDBERG. Her books can actually be applied to a myriad of other things besides writing. I love her.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Anticlimax and "Fiction" Reading

Sweet Charity closed yesterday. It's always bizarre closing on a matinee. Matinee performances almost always have mellower crowds, which is just weird energy to end a show on. In my experience with Phoenix community theater thus far, the second-to-last performance is always the best one...and I usually prefer to remember those performances as the "last" ones. I remember doing Man of La Mancha at exactly this time last year, and I remember our second-to-last show being electrifying. The house was completely sold out, I had tears streaming down my face during the finale (so good for high notes), and we got a standing ovation. Then the closing matinee the next day was...fine.

It was the same with Sweet Charity. Saturday night's performance was hands down our best of the run, despite some minor mess-ups. We had a big, responsive, energetic audience that was FULL of people I knew. Some I already knew were coming--Kay and her brother Paul who came up from T-Town (yayyyyy!), Marissa and Steve--and some I had no idea were coming and was so overjoyed to see! The incredible Felicia who was one of my Harlem dancers in Ragtime who I haven't seen in far too long, Jeff who played Tateh in Ragtime, Michael Stewart who I saw in World Goes 'Round last year at Desert Foothills but didn't officially meet in person until last weekend at the City of Angels cast party, and the wonderful Cat who was in Kiss Me Kate with me last year who came with her sweet husband Josh (they're such a great couple). I think that's everyone? It was just a blur of awesomeness so I may have forgotten some people. It was a great night. Annnnd then the closing matinee. My DST friends Chris and Jennifer came and it was so great to see them, but it was a pretty small crowd (Easter Sunday) and not our best performance. IT'S ALL JUST SO ANTICLIMACTIC.

After gathering all my stuff, saying goodbyes/see you laters (another anticlimactic part) and discovering that the restaurant I wanted to go to was closed for Easter, I grabbed Panda Express and went home. After I washed my face, ate, internetted, and watched some West Wing (DAMN that "18th & Potomac" episode!), all the post-show adrenaline had worn off completely and I was EXHAUSTED. Even the glorious new Star Wars review couldn't keep me awake! I watched one part, then ended up falling asleep. AT NINE O'CLOCK. I'm NEVER able to fall asleep at nine!

I woke up this morning at 4 AM, inexplicably craving pasta like mad, and couldn't go back to sleep. So I went through 63 pages of updates on my Tumblr dashboard--that's what happens when you neglect Tumblr for a few days--and watched some Gilmore Girls and started reading blogs.

There's this girl I was vaguely acquainted with in middle school and high school named Gina. I knew her because she was part of the musical theater crowd and I filled her soprano spot in the girl's quartet I sang with. Now she's a military wife, personal trainer, nutritional advisor and raw food chef who I recently discovered writes a prolific blog called The Fitnessista. I've been reading it a lot lately. Even if her writing is full of silly slang/substitute words (please don't ever call a banana a "nanner" around me), emoticons and Spanglish, it's still an enjoyable and fascinating read, and she really knows what she's talking about. I find it fascinating because I do NOT know how this girl has the energy for her lifestyle. She works out every day in addition to teaching group fitness classes and personal training appointments, and eats raw/vegan meals and snacks until dinnertime. The amount of effort that goes into that kind of diet just staggers me. I don't even know what the hell she's talking about half the time. Maca seeds? Millet croutons? Chia seeds? Shallor? Good GOD. Even if I wanted to take on a raw diet, I don't know what any of this IS let alone where to buy it or how to pronounce it.

I do wish I could cook, though. Or rather, have the patience and energy to cook. I also wish I could be as active as Gina is. She has all these fitness plans on her blog, and I was like "Oooh, I want to try!" ...and then I stopped reading halfway through because I knew there was no way I'd ever be able to do all that. These gym people fascinate me. Which is the reason I've been oddly addicted to her blog recently. I read blogs like this almost as if they're fiction, because I feel like a lifestyle like that is so impossible. That's really the only way I can describe it. And this is all similar to my weird addiction to reading The Pioneer Woman or various cupcake blogs for hours on end, as if I'd ever be capable of cooking like that. Even the easy recipes feel too hard and time consuming. Plus I have no idea how to dice garlic cloves or whatever the hell she does. So until my Fairy Godmother knocks me on the head with her magic wand and bestows some magical cooking/gym-going power on me, I live vicariously through these crazy blogs and wonder how they do it all.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

If My Friends Could See Me Now...

I am terrified of myself. I'm not really sure what I've devolved into, but I'm terrified of it. I feel all foggy and blocked up and confused, and scared because I can't break out of it. There is something that is keeping me asleep and behind closed doors all day, avoiding sunlight and people and anything else that I can possibly avoid. I don't think I've ever been this scared of myself. There was this person I used to be, the person dancing in that video, who was excited and passionate and on the verge of huge things. I'm not that person anymore. Or at least, that person is trapped under something heavy and can't move or fight. I used to feel everything and now I feel nothing. Except sadness and fear over the fact that I feel nothing. And that's all. That's who I am now. And I have absolutely no idea how to break out of this and fix myself. I thought I did, but it turns out that everything is so much more difficult than I ever could've imagined. Practically impossible. I don't know what to do.