Two days before Christmas, I took a stroll at sunset through a beautiful old cemetery, one of my favorite places. Built on the side of hill on the very edge of Paris, Illinois, it is where I clear my head when I am home visiting. While I was walking, I came around the bend to see six white tail deer, as they were frightened by a car pulling through behind me. It is not uncommon to see deer in that graveyard this time of year. It is hunting season and they often seek sanctuary from rifle bullets and arrows where the town lays its dead to rest…
Looking through old photos while at my parents’, I remembered how we always had great Christmases, how much I missed my Grandpa Joe, how crazy and wonderful my Grandma Alice was.
During my visit, I became aware of more patterns that I had from my upbringing that were not necessarily good. My folks were a bit young and volatile when we started out. I remembered how my Grandma Toots could say any awful thing in the moment – true or not – to try and get what she wanted. Though I have never lived near her level of mean, I confronted my own cruelty with words when my anger runs too hot. I remind myself to be humble in my rage and not self-righteous, and to try to get a handle on my expectations.
When I was in my mid 20s, I had these numbers in my mind as to how old my parents would live. So, I came up with, what were astronomical figures at the time – 84 for my father and 92 for my mom. I would be in my early 60s when my father died and in my mid 70s with mother. At the time, it was so far away…
In twenty years, my father will be 84. God help me, I hope he lives at least that long, but twenty years is nothing. It will be gone in a flash. It kills me to think, even for a second, of a planet without my dad on it. But, that day will come. And as far as my mother’s death – she has been a constant source of light in my life and I couldn’t imagine I’d even want to be here without her.
Unless we are touched by it prematurely, we think for so long, that death is something that happens to other people. Or, something so far away, it might as well be forever. Some day, I will be dead. It’s not one of those things where you can beat the odds. It is inevitable. Everybody dies. If you are lucky, you live long and full.
Back in LA, I am busy – producing, maybe picking up a directing project, writing, still trying to learn the fucking guitar…finding a routine that will give me some structure and raise my productivity. And, I must get out and meet people. Been doing it. I want to do it. I am happy again. I am feeling adventurous, though a little tired from work. Also, I am coming to terms with all that I have missed due to my own bad choices.
I was out the other night, locally, and I caught some, not uncommon, Venice Beach dynamics among a crowd of older, long time residents – competition, little control and fragile self esteem stuff… I thought, you know, it is not my job to judge this. It is my job to sit here and love. Then, it is funny how your vision expands. I felt more heart and less ego. I saw myself in this woman who was much older than me: Needing a certain kind of attention even when giving support; insecurity; wanting others to see the light inside and draw it out, instead of simply believing in it and offering…I let a lot of that go back in my mid 30s, but not in every aspect of my life…
When I used to be an actor, because of constantly auditioning, you get in a mentality of always trying to make the most of short windows of opportunity. There is a lot of work and sweat that leads to three minutes in front of some people who, by slim odds, might give you a job. Then it is over and you rarely hear a thing. And you get into this kind of ”PICK ME” mentality, instead of driving choices for yourself. Doing theatre, it can be the same thing – short intense build up to a show that lasts two months or so. Stapled, safety pinned and glue gunned together, it only has to look good enough for stage, and if you’re lucky, manages to be entertaining.
These patterns are not how you build a life. Because of my impatience and need to prove I am smart, I have burned more than one bridge that may have led to a career opportunity. In the past several years, I find I rush things emotionally with men. I think that’s why I have had a lot of interactions with men who push things sexually – aging players or guys who need sex as some kind of validation. You get these extremes. They want to steam roll over me, so I blow them up. I have to be done with that. Too fucking old. I see now, how it’s usually not about one night or a magic moment like in the movies. It happens with work, friendship and mutual investment.
I can’t start all the way over. There’s no need really. I have picked a decent plot of land on which to build. The foundation is level and well poured. I’ve got good materials. It’s a little overwhelming at my age, but I have got to find the patience, focus and energy to construct a solid, comfortable house that will last into the long term future. Maybe it will take more time than I would like, but what I cannot afford is for my life to fall apart again, because it’s all shortcuts and slapped together.
Brick by brick as they say…I’ve got my truth. Now, I want the work.