Bliss

For the first time in my life, I have to (gulp) admit to the reality of my mother’s fears. I could have got a big head doing this. A really big head.

I was admired, complimented, and helped to within a hair’s breadth of my life.

Got there early because, well, that’s what I do. Always, if possible. The director was working on script changes. In 20 minutes I had a new script in my hands. Essentially the same, but the group couldn’t find a fake hand that looked good, so they changed it to brains. So, arms to brains, move around the eye references a bit…basically, screw with the dialogue just enough to make it maddening. No worries; that’s what rehearsal is for, right? Use the new script and learn it. Met my fellow cast members, and I’ve got to say the group did an excellent job. The female playing my daughter has my blue eyes, and the man playing my husband is appropriate looking age-wise and body-wise (not to tall nor too short). We could be a family. Spent the afternoon running scenes, trying out different approaches, different timing and actions. Worked on establishing a believable connection between daughter and mother characters.

But it was the side stuff that truly affected me. The fact that during the rehearsal runs, I received no corrections, no ‘try this’ – nothing! – while the other actors were asked to do it again, try this, I don’t believe you’re feeling that, etc. In fact, I just had to ask. Is this working? Do you like what I’m doing? Oh, the shiny, happy face the director turned to me! Yes, he said, I love it. You’re believable and creepy all at the same time. Or how silent the room became every time I opened my mouth to give my opinion. Or how everyone stepped back when I offered a suggestion to another actor. How the casting director took me shopping afterwards to find a dress for my role, how she told me she’d noticed me during the theatre open meetings, that I’d stood out from the rest of the crowd immediately for her, that I was SO bleeding good and would I please help the other actors and lead them in warm-up exercises before the shoot? Goddess! She even told me how she was the driving force behind hiring me, even before auditions. I kept telling them they want you, that you’re the one who can do this, she said. They kept asking me, why are you pushing her before the auditions? Let’s see what she can do. I told them they don’t know who they’re dealing with, that they should be thanking you for taking the role… Or how my ‘daughter’ automatically helped me in our fight scene to gracefully fall to the floor without hurting myself. The sheer respect I felt! Wow! Now I know why old white men fight so hard for that chairman’s seat on the board of directors. Power and respect. Heady stuff.

I kept in mind everything I ever said about having acting opportunities. I made sure to compliment the other actors. I thanked everyone. Cracked a few jokes now and then (it wasn’t hard; my wig kept falling off) to make everyone laugh. Be not just a good actor, but a good person to have working on your team because she’s pleasant, nice, and just fun to be around.

Was told that of course there’s an opening night to which I’m invited. Hells Bells! From what I heard yesterday, it sounds like this is a very serious final project. They’re going to be advertising on tv. The school also hosts an awards night for best this and that, including actors (the casting director told me this with a knowing tone in her voice, as if she felt I really had a chance at winning an award).

This is bigger than I anticipated. …What did I fall into? A dream?

…No, it’s not a dream. My feet hurt too much for it to be a dream.

Scheduled for two hard days of filming, Thursday and Friday. Hopefully they won’t need me on Monday, but we have that, too, if we need it. Most of all, I’m worried about sweating. Can tell I’m off my exercise schedule; my hot flashes are back with a vengeance. And the wig is hot. The dress is hot. I’m just really, really hot the entire time. In some ways, that’s working for me. I can’t get too excited right now when I’m in costume or I’ll sweat all my make-up off. But it’s a forced calm, and that takes effort in itself.

Really need to use my mini-break today to get to the gym. Stood for most of yesterday, and my hips/back are feeling it. Add in hours of travel on the metro, and I need to move for sure today or I’ll be in agony by Saturday. Also need to meet the casting director downtown. Overheard a concerned discussion on lighting, and offered up our two LED stage lights. My bro mentioned them earlier, and here was an opportunity to ‘shine’ (ha!) just that bit more with the group. So I’m bringing them downtown to her, since she’s traveling from Den Haag. Easier. Meet half way. And it goes on my expense account.

Did not smoke yesterday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And it was only on the trip home that I even thought about it. Then, I wanted it. Before then…never even crossed my mind. Who needed a toke during all that excitement and fun? I had a reason to stay sharp and clear, a reason to stay sober. Everything I expected from myself. Get me into an environment I can truly engage in, and I don’t even think about smoking.

Two more days of standing. Two more days of heat. Of early mornings and a plastered, false smile. Of false eyelashes, a dress that’s a little tighter than I want, and nylons.

Ah! Bliss.

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I ain’t that dumb

I do not feel like an idiot. That’s gotta be number one today, because so often I do feel stupid. …It’s awful nice not to be beating myself up for something or the other.

Exercise. Back at the gym on my regular rotation. Took the cross-trainer up to level 4 and blew through my first km at 6 minutes 44 seconds. Ran – RAN – more than four km in my 30 minute stint (that includes slowing down for 10 minutes of back peddling). I’m gonna break 5km in 30 minutes before I’m done! Yesterday was tough, naturally. New level, new push, far more aching in my ass muscles. It was worth it.

Language class went well. Maybe my Thursday teacher has been talking to my Monday teachers. Don’t know. What I do know is I was given more time to collect myself before answering, and not once was I given a disappointed look – even if I wasn’t perfect. The other students laughed at me; I was given a very long sentence to read aloud, and kept repeating it to try and pick up the full rhythm of the words. But my teachers nodded at me and smiled in agreement when I said ‘It’s like music’. There’s a cadence to speaking fluently that you need to master. Certain syllables get emphasized in a sentence to help convey meaning. I guess some people never hear that. I can’t help but hear it. …Was satisfied to intercept a look between two other students at one point of the class. We have a know it all (even worse than ME) who interrupts everyone so she can give her answers. I was concerned my irritation with her was purely my thing, my bipolar, my anger. No! Caught that look and I knew – I knew – I wasn’t alone. In fact, one of the people involved in the look caught my eye and smiled, bringing me into the joke. It felt good to be included. Got to say I’m now concerned about this know it all woman. Oh, she irritates the hell out of me. She doesn’t really talk to anyone during break, just sits by herself. But…I can’t help but feel for her. Cultural differences, personal differences…who knows what makes her tick? I don’t. But I do know what it feels like to be on the outside. Too often I’ve been in her shoes – the know it all no one can stand. I just…I don’t know that I want to be the one to work so hard to be nice to her. And…it was so pleasant to sit at a table with several other students, drinking coffee and chatting in Dutch. So light. I want more of that. Is that wrong of me?

…I am THRILLED to find the theatre group has collapsable knives and a prop toy gun. No worrying, no fretting, no re-thinking the death scenes. I can move forward with the thriller trilogy without massive re-writes. Yea! I didn’t really want to give up my final scene with the gun. It’s powerful. And the knives – that’s just icing on the cake. The second act can stand as is.

Ready to finish Taman today and get it off my system. Might even devote ten minutes of brain power to looking at the submission requirements.

And writing… I’m beginning to write in Dutch. I have a little story thought out, front to end. I think I can handle the language needed to write it. It’s a kids’ story, nothing earth shattering. But it’ll be my first attempt at really writing in the language. Strange, thinking in Dutch. Strange, hearing the turns of phrase in my head. Not fully there yet, but I’m close. Very close. I know this will just be another step. There’s still many more to go before I’m fully proficient. But I look forward to really trying my hand at a narrative. My own story, thunk up outta my brain.

Yeah…(extra space left for dreaming my dreams).

Two days ’til I turn 52. Really can’t quite believe that number. I thought I’d be dead by 40. No reason in particular, I just felt I was gonna die rather early. Now I almost feel like I’ve lived beyond my sell-by date. Doesn’t help when I read news of David Cassidy dying. His picture was up on my wall when I was a kid. People my age are dying. Every day. My friends and comrades are vanishing into memory. Makes me think even more over my own mortality. Makes me wonder when my body clock will go off, when I’ll hear the word ‘terminal’. Will I feel ill and tired? Or will it come at me when I’m at the top of my game? It’s the latter I worry about.

Have an appointment with my very cute physiotherapist today. Don’t really feel I need it – and that’s a good thing. I’ll push my next appointment out even further. Maybe I’ll be able to take my visits down to 4 a year. Wish I could break thru the patient-doctor barrier with him – and not just because I find him so damned attractive. He’s a nice guy, and easy to talk with. He could be a friend if the situation were different.

Now there’s something to get me into trouble: friendships with men. I prefer them, on the whole – right up to the point where the man gets a little drunk, or a little bold, and finally says to me that he’s always fancied me and why didn’t we ever hook up? Oh, fuck. I’m leery of that now. ‘Cause it’s just not there. It could be, if I gave up all sorts of ME. I’ve been sexual, and could be again. I just. don’t. wanna.

I operate best as a big kid. Bumbling around, making observations no one wants to hear, learning, watching, digesting it all and spitting it back out. I don’t want to be distracted by grown-up stuff. That’s what makes me feel like an idiot.

And I ain’t that dumb.

I’ll take the stars

Well. I took my time off right to the edge. Don’t think I could have sat around on my ass for another hour without going ballistic. Headed to the gym, ready to kill anyone in my way or myself if no easy victim showed up between home and there. Did not hold back – couldn’t hold back. Impressed myself with my iron stomach muscles, easily lifting both legs off the floor and holding for a count of 10. Impressed myself again on the cross trainer, blowing thru an 8 minute kilometer and topping 3.7 km at 30 minutes. And then the free weights – DAMN, girl! Is that muscle I see in your arms? Lift, lift, pant, think about the meaning of life, lift, pant some more.

I’m going back for more today.

My rheumatologist is happy. My condition is stable, and my joints show no signs of decay since my last x-rays. Yippee. Even said I could try to take the methotrexate down if I felt up to it. Assured her that although my hair loss continues, I know I can’t go without these drugs – and if I do go bald, I’m tattooing my entire head. Got that gold star I always want from someone plastered on my forehead: good on me for exercising, good on me for weight loss, good on me for doing so much. I needed that.

Upset with myself. Realize I’ve got a mother-thing going with one of my teachers. They gave us a spot check test just before class ended – those pesky irregular verbs. Oh, the look of disappointment that crossed my teacher’s face when I didn’t get the answer correct! And the gut wrenching hit of guilt that washed over me – I didn’t do enough, I didn’t try hard enough, I’m not good enough or smart enough or – … That shit has got to stop. Right here and now. I am NOT learning Dutch from a mother substitute. I refuse. For the last 36 hours I’ve been telling myself I’m doing what I can, when I can. I’m learning faster and faster, more and more. I’ll get it. I’ll get it. But Gods! It feels like one of my old nightmares. I get surrounded by these huge, disappointed faces (in my head; I’m not actually surrounded by monster faces – tho mentally, that’s the picture I have). I feel small, ashamed, and trapped. It’s not a good combination. Working to shrink those disappointed faces down to mini-size. Being as triggered as I am, it’s a real challenge.

Bolstering myself up with my newly grown confidence in my English writing. Think I’ll take time – this morning, while it’s quiet – to read part three. Haven’t had the time to do so since I banged out the first draft. I’m already reviewing it in my head, making mental notes of changes to add. But I want to just experience it, front to end, without interruption. How well did I capture what I see?

Had a good, long, hearty laugh yesterday. Was talking to my bro (big surprise) about social situations. We’ve both got our problems. Mentioned my lack of filters, how I can’t stop blurting out these deep truths. My brother laughed, and said ‘What do you expect? You learned your social skills from an agoraphobe.’ Yeah. Dad was very anti-social. More than six people in a room and he got real nervous. As a kid, I didn’t realize this. I knew Dad was less social than my mother. But he didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t until I was 15 or 16 and we had tickets to a show downtown that I realized Dad had problems in public situations. He became more and more wound up the further into the city we drove. He was tense, angry, swearing a lot. After the show was even worse: the crowd let out, and I thought Dad was going to have an heart attack. And Dad…he said whatever was on his mind. I grew up thinking politics, religion, and sex were good to go topics at a dinner table. Had a lot of missteps with friends and acquaintances. Still do. Dad welcomed my input, welcomed me to these cultural and philosophical debates. Even, I think, wanted me to speak my mind. Why was that? Now that I think about it, why did he do that? I’m replaying memories in my head right now, and I see him encouraging me to lay out a sound argument. Back up my statements with facts. I don’t remember him acting that way with anyone else in the family. My oldest brother would say something in support of what Dad said. He’d get a nod, maybe an additional exclamation. My sister would add in her two cents: generally a snide comment, again in support of my father’s statement. And then Dad would look at me. Challenge me with his eyes. Say it, his eyes would plead. Bring out your views. Tell me how wrong I am. As I grew older, these debates would get hotter. My logic improved, my access to facts to back up my statements was wider, and I think I was cutting too close to the center at times.

Did my father think that at some point I’d change? That money would change me? Or was that part of the original challenge I read in his eyes: can you stay true to who you are right now for your entire life? Can you hold onto your innocence, your faith, your dreams, in the face of everything life has to throw at you?

In the end, Dad was very clear about what he wanted for me. I want you to be happy, he said. Over and over. Not rich, not famous, not thin, not smart, not skilled, not useful, but happy. I know happiness is a mode of travel, not a destination. I can look at life with stars in my eyes or a sour pussed expression that will ruin everything before I even touch it.

I’ll take the stars.

Pretty fuckin’ crude

Feelin’ good about yer English? Cool. Now let’s do Dutch.

Was worried my recent writing high would make me feel twice as bad about mistakes in language class. Just the opposite; yesterday I cut myself more slack and was more understanding of myself and my mistakes than I usually am. It’s okay, I thought. Look how far you’ve already come. Must admit it helped that most of the class wasn’t up to speed. Some hadn’t written their story for homework. Many hadn’t worked on the irregular verbs.

I picked up my third novel in Dutch. Yep! Only one in class to finish any book – and I’ve finished two so far.

And, English or Dutch, my twat side comes to the fore. The teacher’s eyes popped when she saw my story – two pages stapled together. The writing is big, and I’m using every other line so there’s plenty of room for corrections. Still…it was the longest of any student’s story. By far.

But I’m a writer. I think I’ve accepted that fact now, right down to the tips of my toes. I write, and I write well. Another language? Well, don’t expect that to slow down my brain. You’ll still get startling statements from me. They’ll just be a little immature and have a few grammar mistakes.

This week’s assignment: write something in Dutch every day. Nothing fancy, just what we did during the day. Like a diary entry, my teachers said. Yeah…like I have any hope of keeping THAT simple. And it could hardly be like a diary entry, in truth. My blog entries are stilted, many sentences lack full grammatical structure because of the casual nature of my writing, and once in a while I pull a purposefully poor sentence and/or spelling out of my hat because…well, I just do (either I think it adds color, or it’s an echo of what I think my family would say to me). I’ll get marks off if I pull that in class. Full sentences, proper grammar, proper tense.

And it ain’t so much my sentence structure I be worried about, it’s the thoughts and ideas behind my words I got the willies for.

That truth I can’t stop speaking.

Case in point: this week’s assignment. A little story about your family. I confined it to my dad, someone I felt I could be at least a little bit positive about. But what did I write? I wrote about his depression, and the depression and alcoholism of his father. I wrote about my dad’s brother, who died in WWII. I wrote about my connection with my dad, how I had his blue eyes, his dimples, and his way of looking at the world. …Pretty sure the rest of the papers are going to say stuff like ‘I have two sisters. My oldest sister is married with three children. They live in Timbuktu.’ I mean…yeah. I could write that. I could bore myself silly with that shit. I’m beyond it already, and eager to write more.

There’s so much more to words than just plain facts.

Been being extra, extra good with my ankle. Maybe it was hurt more than I realized. Took longer than I care to admit for it to not hurt when I just touched it. But now, my back is beginning to seize up. I gotta move. Been getting out, doing more each day, but today has to be a gym day. I’ve got to get walking again, for at least an hour. I can’t sit comfortably at night. That shit’s gotta stop. Tossed my agenda around; was going to get my blood work done today, but that means an extended public transport ride into the hospital. Can’t do that comfortably, so put it off a day or two. The doc told me I could get my blood tests done first thing the morning of our appointment and the lab would be able to process everything in time for our meeting, so no time constraints on that side. Tape up the ankle, get to the gym, and walk.

Hoping getting back to the gym will simultaneously fire up and calm my brain. My brain has been working – but it’s often static. Grey noise meant to distract me. Flighty thoughts, with no beginning and no end. Circular. That’s dangerous territory. Often it ends up with me berating myself endlessly, caught in some web of thought that won’t let me go. I want to find my rock, nail down an end of my thoughts, and start spinning. For that, I need a moment of calm, a little quiet pool in the river of my brain. And I can’t get that with static going on non-stop. Gotta turn that tv off.

And how do you turn that tv off? By turning the animal on.

It’s the visceral part of you you must empower. For me, that means exercise. Nothing to wake the animal up like running the body hard. I don’t think about my family or my past while I exercise. All my attention is given over to my heart rate, pumping my legs, working harder, enduring even when I want to give up. Oddly enough, tho…while I’m aware of all that and while it drives the static out of my brain, other things do come to the forefront. Connections I can’t see while I’m caught in some self-imposed web. Sometimes the connections have to do with me, sometimes my writing, sometimes the world in general. But that’s what I want. The animal push quiets that all pervasive low level angst I have over things not being right. It’s not right, what we do. It’s not right, how we treat other people. It’s not right, it’s not right, it’s not right!

How can we all have heard as children the lessons about sharing and caring and turned out to be such SHITS? How baseless, how crude is humanity, truly?

…Pretty fuckin’ crude.

Choice

Yesterday, I chose to care about myself. Just a little bit.

Hauled back two heavy bags of groceries late morning. Noticed my ankle hurt a wee bit with every step. Didn’t matter how careful I was, how I placed my foot – when I stepped, there was an edge of pain. I was all fired up to go to the gym, to push, to not care. Dare I say it? To hurt myself. But the reality of that bit of pain with each step weighed on me. I sat in my bedroom, a large bandage in my hand all ready to wrap that damned ankle up, and suddenly my bad mood telescoped out into the future. I saw myself hurting my ankle – badly. Saw the weeks, the months down. Saw the just sitting there feeling like a fucking idiot on a thousand levels. And some quiet voice in me spoke up and asked, ‘Do you really want to risk sitting around and going even deeper into this for months due to injury?’

It was hard to say no. Because I wanted to hurt myself. That’s my thing: go to the gym and push my body until it breaks. And I suddenly realized it wasn’t about health or endurance, it wasn’t even about getting some endorphins going so my mood improved. It was about punishing myself.

Hating myself.

Self-flagellation comes in all forms.

Acceptance of the moment, my reasons, my self-hate, was the key to opening my mouth. I’d not said much to my brother up to that point; still in a hissy fit. But once I stopped and accepted what was going on with me, I communicated. And I found it easy to avoid angry communication. In fact, it wasn’t even part of the equation. My anger left me as soon as I realized what I was doing. I had no need to harangue my bro over his SIM game. He enjoys it; why should I spoil that for him? And I found no reason to nag about the housework, either. It never really takes that long to tidy up. No. I admitted to my bad mood, my twisted anger, my desire to hurt myself – and all that surface shit just slid away.

So I did not go to the gym, despite my angry ‘no matter what’ declaration yesterday. And I learned something. Thought it was only exercise that would release my anger in this fashion. But it isn’t. If I can get to the core issue and admit it, I can let it go without all the sweat and effort. That’s a big IF. Everest height. And it’s not a mountain I care to scale too often. I suppose I shouldn’t say that. It should be my goal to handle my mood swings in such a manner, right? Find the cause, accept it, move on. No acting out, no mad blog writing at 5 a.m. But I am comfortable with my old methods, with the exercise push and mad writing, the slamming of doors and gut-churning anger. …How utterly sad to say that. I’m fucking used to such horrors.

…I’m fucking used to being such a horror.

Ah! I was going to say I see my sister in all this – the acting out, the hissy fits, the slamming doors. I do see it, and I do hate it. But I also realize now what’s probably at the base of my sister’s actions. Self-hate. Makes me have a drop of empathy for her this morning.

Could we just stop with the epiphanies? Just for a little while? This hyper awareness…I welcome new levels of understanding, but hey! You’ve got to give me time to digest one bit of info before shoveling a new load into my head. Feels like there’s just too much to grasp, too much to know, and as soon as I get a hold of one idea something else loosens and gets away from me…

It’s like learning Dutch. If I concentrate on the correct verb and sentence structure, I’ll get the verb tense wrong. If I think too much about the verb tense, I’ll screw up the syntax. I can’t seem to hold all that info in my brain at once. I know it’s a matter of practice. Go slow, go steady, and keep trying.

But although I suffer embarrassment over my poor language use, I do not have to go through emotional turbulence over every little word. Setting out to change the way I think…now that’s difficult. I get triggered left and right, have to stop and sort myself out, fight against the depression, reign in the mania…it’s bloody exhausting. There’s no manual out there for this, no instruction booklet to make things easy. What I would give for a big Book of Life with easy to read chapters and answers in the back!

For now, I’m choosing to care about me. It’s not a choice I’m comfortable with. Not. at. all. But I am more afraid of months down, unable to get out or do much of anything, than I am of carrying some extra weight on my body or feeling guilty from missing a day at the gym. Until I can take a step without pain, I’m choosing to be careful. Choosing to not push. Choosing to not hurt myself.

I can do this. I can learn to take care of myself.

It’s a choice.

I’m learning

The only time during the last 24 hours that my head has managed to shut the fuck up has been when my distinctly short sleep post performance caught up with me and I dozed off from exhaustion. Other than that, it’s been nag, nag, nag…

I be the Queen of Second Guessing.

The words ‘I need a little sunshine in my life’ escaped my lips sometime around midday. At that moment, ‘a little sunshine’ consisted of a lemon popsicle, licked and slurped like I was a five year old. Part of me noted it, noted my falling mood, noted, too, the yellow I use more and more around me and in my wardrobe to help keep my fickle mind from falling into the depths of depression.

This is the backlash from time off at the gym. No endorphin rush. I’m jonesing. Jonesing so bad I don’t even know I’m jonesing…

My ankle is still ‘soft’ and painful when I take a step.

On the up side (keep looking at it, even if you’re not there), my day off yesterday helped my injuries. My hand is only bruised now – an ugly bruise, spreading from my fingers all the way down the side of my hand – and the swelling is gone. And, hey! My ankle didn’t hurt when I turned over in bed…or not too much. It’s an improvement.

Managed to write my letter yesterday. Took over an hour. Tried just writing it, then checking later on google translate. Some sentences I nailed, some were horribly wrong. All things considered, not too bad. Could be better, but I can say that about a lot of things. Did my best to devote some brain power to memorizing those irregular verbs. But it was an uphill battle against exhaustion, my head-speak, and a hangover. Hopefully I’ll retain some memory of at least seeing the words…

This morning I’ve a dental appointment. Now there’s something I blocked from my memory until the play was over. Ugh. Well, it’s only a cleaning and hopefully now that I’m back on track with dental checks it’ll go quickly and without any pain problems hiccups. Will have to take my school stuff to the dentist’s and leave from there in order to make class on time. Lovely. Get my teeth polished up so I can go somewhere and have a crappy cup of coffee served up that’ll just coat those clean teeth with brown gunk. Hm. Maybe I’ll just say no to that coffee. Then again, I was up early and will probably need the caffeine to get thru all the Dutch in the afternoon. …Time for a Red Bull run?

Been thinking about my honesty-blurting. Realized I got no filters in some places. Hit the right word, and everything comes out of me – no holds barred. I know that’s weird. Especially when you I do that with people who are essentially acquaintances. But I consider it a step up. It’s honest. Maybe it’s harsh, maybe I’ve no social graces anymore, but I’m being honest. Case in point: I remembered (oh, Goddess! The self-flagellation I’ve committed over this one!) that during the evening’s celebrations I came out with my stunned reaction to their casual money conversations. Admitted to envy. Someone – my acting partner, who seems very attuned to my moods – apologized. We didn’t mean to make you feel bad. Oh, fuck! I remember back-tracking a little, or trying to. Then I stopped myself, admitted to the envy, how that kind of spur of the moment travel to another country to buy 16 bottles of expensive wine was just beyond my means. How I couldn’t actually imagine that kind of living. I am deeply embarrassed to have said all that. Deeply embarrassed. …But it’s true. Where and when I was raised…well, put it this way: my parents had to work all the time to afford a little more. A little more to me meant things like a summer cabin to go to over the weekends (said cabin being uninsulated and very, very ‘rustic’ in amenities), or camping in the mountains with our cousins. It did not entail my parents whim-purchasing expensive items. Those were planned and budgeted for, sometimes for years. Holidays were part of that ‘expensive item’ thing; even our simple weekends or camping out (eating mac ‘n’ cheese, because that’s what we could afford) had to be budgeted. …And we were thought of as wealthy because we had that cabin with barely running water and bats in the walls, because we could drive non-stop out to the mountains and go cheap, cheap, cheap for a few weeks in the summer. I caught a lot of flack at school for that stuff. Later, my parents experienced an increase in wealth (their first stock market haul). We began taking holidays other places, staying in cheap hotels. My dad bought his first sailboat – barely 25 feet, not in good condition, and he couldn’t afford to keep it tied up at the marina. None of that helped at school. I was under constant pressure from the kids to not have too much. I was called a princess and stuck-up. And so I began to think what my parents had was a lot. That we were rich, that I was stuck-up, that I was spoiled. But…we weren’t. I wasn’t. And I’m not. My eyes have been opened to the first layer of what ‘rich’ really is, and we weren’t even in the neighborhood.

Here, I suppose, lies the crux of the middle-class: we are shamed by both sides. I was shamed in my youth for having too much. Now I am shamed for having too little.

…I knew finding my balance post-production was going to be tough. Did not expect any perception-altering revelations. I suppose that, more than anything shows it.

I’m learning.

Pearls before swine

I’ll start with this morning, ’cause it’s in my face.

Another uncle comment. This time, it’s a ‘You need some coffee’ with a Google link to coffee houses (NOT coffeeshops) in Amsterdam after I called him out on NOT being funny and NOT making a joke. Here’s my reply:

What does my caffeine level have to do with our discussion? And why are you trying to change the subject and blame me for your poor “joke”? A joke is supposed to be amusing – yet your original statement, “I won’t be in that area then” isn’t amusing, it’s simply a fact. There’s no cause for laughter. No cause unless you feel uncomfortable for some reason. Shifting attention to my caffeine intake is simply a distraction from your discomfort. Why are you uncomfortable? ..Plus, get it right. I live in Rotterdam, not Amsterdam.

I’m proud of my reply. Called him out on it. Kept my cool. Even left with a little jab about him getting the city wrong. Ha fucking ha, uncle. Are you laughing now? I’m particularly proud over pointing out his discomfort (several times) and calling him out on his attempt to distract and blame me.

You wanna play games? With words? You DO know I’m a wordsmyth, right? Plus, I was taught by your sister – my mother. Your OLDER sister. The woman who knew every game you ever played and one upped you continually.

You ain’t gonna win.

I said I fucking had it with this shit.

…NEWS ALERT: Just had a notification from FB. An instantaneous reply from my uncle. DAMN! I really got him. Here’s his reply (including the typos; he was obviously in a hurry to say what he needed to say): “I was hoping some caffeine would wake you up and you would see my joke…;.clearly you have seen my joke all along. And….I won’t br in Rotterdam to see the show either.” Oh, I’ll continue with this charade. If it winds him up so much he’s got to reply the moment he reads what I say, I’ll continue.

Give him a little tit for tat. Generally I’m against that type of behavior, but some people just don’t learn!

Onto happier things.

Three point seven kilometers in thirty minutes. Wanted to write that out, because it deserves that much respect. That’s topping 7 km an hour on the cross trainer. And I felt flipping tired. Have the last several times I’ve gone to the gym. But I keep amazing myself, pushing more and running faster than I ever imagined I could. I believe soon to be 52 year old me could easily lap 22 year old me. Upped repetitions on my arms. That’s difficult, and I have to stop often and take a break. Still hate doing my abdominal exercises, but I might be ready to add a few more crunches to my routine. Walking is, as always, the easiest – though I’ve got to confess I feel awful slow walking at 5km an hour after running on the cross trainer. Find myself wanting to pick up the speed on the treadmill. Haven’t, yet.

Feeling strong in my body, my mind, and my soul. A bit unshakeable. Like I’m suddenly too together for anyone (including my uncle) to get under my skin. I like this. If this is the level other people operate at, I can see why they don’t understand when I fall apart. Doesn’t give them license to be assholes about it, but I get why they might not fully understand why someone like me struggles so much. It’s easy to let things slide off your back when you’re here. World trouble? Yeah, always is. Emotional turmoil? Yeah, it’s a pain, but what are ya gonna do? Financial trouble? It’ll sort itself out somehow. All those pat answers spewed ad infinitum via memes suddenly make sense.

I blame the endorphins. I’m getting a regular blast of them when exercising. And let’s face it: they say ‘peptide’ and ‘hormone’, but in reality they should say ‘drug’. It’s an all natural drug, I’ll give you – but it’s a drug. You get a drug response, it’s addictive, you need more to keep getting off – it’s a drug. More: it’s a drug I like. So I keep pushing to get it. Now…doctors get very pleased when they hear about an exercise regime. Oh, good! You’re getting regular exercise, toning your body, and losing weight. What could be better? No one acknowledges the drug interaction in your brain, unless it’s to say something like ‘well, exercise is GOOD for emotional turmoil’. Why is it that a drug naturally produced in our bodies is better or good, while drugs we take are bad and evil? I just don’t get that. It’s a drug, either way.

Blanket fucking statements. They ruin the damned world.

Today, I work. A few errands to run, and I plan on using the travel time on the metro to read Dutch. Then it’s time to tear into Taman. Make those changes I keep talking about. Start arranging a read through. Want to read through the play I’m doing, too. Keep my lines fresh over this break. And I need to call for an adjustment to my shoes (more Dutch; ugh!).

First, though, I will fashion a reply to my uncle. He doesn’t get the last word on my page. Even if that means this discussion goes on for another year, back and forth. And I know what I’m doing. I’m staying coolly disconnected. I know the necklace is tearing, and the mud is thick.

I know I’m casting pearls before swine.

Kill them all

How many times have I woken up far too early, thinking ‘I should have just killed them all’? More than I care to count, and this morning numbers among them.

Funny thing, my morning moods. Never know what’s gonna come out of me. Sometimes it’s hate – pure, unadulterated. Sometimes it’s understanding – a compassion I often lack, but always aspire to.

This morning, it was a no-nonsense approach.

Replied to my uncle. Simply wrote “What’s so funny that you put ‘LOL’? You didn’t make a joke.” Straight up called him out on it. It’s a method I’d prefer to use on a daily basis, but I must admit my own emotions often get in the way. Today was a mix of disgust and anger, cooled by the knowledge that he couldn’t touch me, couldn’t hurt me, and nothing he was going to say (or no tirade he was going to throw) could ever really affect me.

To quote a sample used in a very old song I participated in, I’m sick of this shit.

So if he’s mean, I’ll tell him he’s mean. If he’s wrong, I’ll tell him he’s wrong. If he’s an ignorant shit (most times) I’ll have to find the courage to say that, too.

Fuck “saving” this relationship. There’s nothing to save but a board my family uses to strap me down to while they whip me with lies and old, unrelated shame.

I hate them.

Shoulda taken one of the hundreds of guns they keep ‘in stock’ or ‘for sporting purposes’ and blown every single one of their heads off. That includes the small children, because I know from experience that if they were raised in THAT family, they’re fucked. Forever. Might as well free their souls and let them try again.

That’s horrific, isn’t it? A terrible thing to say or think (or at least that’s MY knee jerk reaction).

Stuck in the usual place: hating, and hating myself for hating so much.

…Spent time yesterday doing all those chores I haven’t done for a month. Cleaning. Ev-er-y-thing. Laundry, dishes, floors, cabinets, bedroom, toilet – you name it, I did it. Not perfectly. It was a nice day, and a Saturday, and I didn’t want to work that hard. Got it back to livable standards. My bro’s radar was on full blast when he got home. First thing out of his mouth? Wow, look at how clean everything is! Walked into the toilet: Wow! Everything shines! Yeah. Funny how appreciative he is of cleanliness, yet how reluctant he is to join in on the work to get there…

Today it’s back to the gym to be stared at as I stretch, and sweat, and push. Watched a recorded Graham Norton show last night during which a guest commented that she doesn’t have very good eyesight, but that worked to her advantage because audiences just became a blur. I can relate. My eyes aren’t terrible, but my long vision is fuzzy. Things are soft. All the ugly and hard edges are taken off, and the world is one big bouncy castle. Much different when I put on my glasses or stick my contacts in! But I don’t wear my contacts or glasses at the gym, so everything is in soft focus. I can’t tell if people are looking at me or just in my direction unless they happen to be close enough. And any facial expression of shock…well, that’s just blurred away. It’s as good as blinders. I don’t register anything directed at me, so I act like nothing is directed at me. Unless someone actually speaks to me, I’m totally alone in my head.

But I gotta admit…I might start facing the wall during my stretches. ‘Cause I now know they watch me. For sure.

Haven’t found the head space to begin work. Determined first to make the changes I know I want to Taman. That should take all of an hour if I’m really slow. Then it’s on to part 2 of the thrillers. Know what to change there. It’ll take a re-write, but hey! When I know what I want, a re-write barely takes any times at all. Been cooking up part 3. Bringing back a character from part 1. Have a particular actor in mind for this role – one of the troupe I’m working with. Not sure why. He’s not a great actor. Not even very good. But I’ve seen him in a couple of things now, and…he’s getting type cast. If there’s a gay man, he’s the actor playing it. Always. Great that they want a real gay person playing a gay person, but…he never gets another role. And they’re always the same type of gay person. Flamboyant. Never anything else. The character I’m writing for him IS gay, but not flamboyant. And he’ll have to stretch. In part 3, he’s close to a nervous breakdown.

Realize as I mull over the trilogy that I’m asking a LOT of this troupe. It’ll take more than memorizing lines to pull this off – but in them I see the desire to do more and, oftentimes, the boredom over not being challenged. Am I projecting? I realize those are MY emotions. But now I see the tiny habits of everyone. The surreptitious phone checking, the whispering, the fidgeting and distractions. The yes, we can do this and it’s fun but it’s not really challenging us attitude. And I sense they’ve worked, as a troupe, in one direction: improv. They stress it, they’re good at it. I want to see them stretch in another manner.

I want to see them act.

It could very well end up a disaster.

But I’ve my ace in the hole: sound. I know exactly what I want and how to get it – plus I’ve the skill and equipment to do it. Set your audience on edge with sound, and the acting can be a bit sub-par. It’ll still work.

And I really want to do this. Why? Because in my writing, I really did kill them all.

No One Makes it out Alive

Success. Responses to enquiries, searches that reveal that yes, Virginia, my press release about the upcoming performance is out there. Sadly, there’s only half a dozen sites in Rotterdam written in English – but I hit them all.

Headed to the gym early. The woman never showed. Kept an eye out for her – which is why I saw, for the first time, the way people look at me while I stretch. That woman is not alone in stopping whatever’s going on and standing still with a slightly open mouth while I move. Everyone in the gym did it at some point during my warm-up. Don’t you people stretch? – Oh, wait… You don’t. I ‘member now. You’re all about jerk lifting heavy weights, and running on the cross trainer for 10 minutes. Yeah…

There’s not much reason, in my opinion, to be jealous of me. I’m not super beautiful, or super fit, or super rich, or, (seemingly) super talented. Just a bit of this and that. But my flexibility…Now that I can acknowledge as a thang. You can be jealous of me over that: next month I hit 52, and I can still take my forehead to my knees and straight down to the floor while stretching. Don’t know anyone who gets turned on by that, nor any way to market it as a talent and make money off it. But it’s mine, and when I stretch deeply I automatically begin Ujjayi breathing – a thing I learned long ago as a child, watching Hatha Yoga on PBS. I focus. It’s one of the beautiful feelings I can create in my body without thinking or trying.

Surprised to find more energy in me than I expected. Did my full-on work-out, no holds barred. Pushed hard, sweated loads.

Doubly surprised then, to find myself pacing at 7 p.m. Up and down, back and forth, maniacally stalking the tiny walkway in the apartment. I was unsettlingly unsettled last night. My bro was out at a band rehearsal (second band; they REQUESTED his uber talented presence – yea!) for the evening, so I was solo for tv time. That never goes very well – I prefer, in the evenings, to have someone with me so I can talk to them and have a bit of companionship to slow me down. But I expected, after such a push at the gym, to be tired.

Ha! 

Had to force myself to slow down. Forced myself to sit in the chair, watch the film I’d chosen. Forced myself to keep lighting up (thought: good Goddess, something has to slow me down!). Took it down to reading. Quiet, still. Relax, I told myself. Finally began feeling less manic. Slept.

I’ve time off from language lessons this coming week. Need to read thru Taman and make a few corrections and changes. Also need to begin the process of a read-through. Ask the teachers if they’ll come so I can use a classroom at Erasmus. Set a date. Get emails out.

But what I really want to get back to is my thriller trilogy. My experience with the theatre group has made me re-think a few things. What I once envisioned as three stand alone one-acts that have an arcing storyline are now expanding for the stage. I’m pulling the surviving characters through the one-acts for continuity. Wasn’t part of the original plan. However, while performing this play I’ve noticed what people have said to me. The number one thing people comment on is my tiny cameo in Act 3, where I’m seen dancing at a party held in the other room. Part of that, I know, is because it’s the last time they see me on stage. But there’s a definite glee the audience gets, seeing a character from an earlier story inserted into a later story. It offers a thread of continuity to the audience, and seems to bring the entire play into some sort of reality: this is the real world, and people’s paths cross. Here you go; proof. Okay. Good. I’ll use that. It’ll take a bit of re-thinking, but the basic story lines can hold.

Might use the following as a tag line for the production: No one makes it out alive. It’s a good overriding line for a thriller trilogy done over Halloween – though I’m concerned it’s too old hat and cliche for my production.

…It’s not a bad tag line for life. …Damn! I might have to get a T-shirt with that on it. Just for me.

Reality check: another comment from my uncle on FB. Ugh. Meh. Not even sure if I want to honor it by deleting it. Maybe I should just let them stand, without comment, and let the world see what a fucking eejit the man is. This one was strange. Or, at least, I found it strange. Re-posted one of my press releases from a site I successfully loaded the info into. This is not the first post about the play on my FB page. Maybe the 10th. Something must have finally clicked with my uncle, because for the first time he’s commented on it: “I imagine this will be funny….sorry, I won’t be in the area then. LOL”

LOL? Um…I realize he probably thinks he’s making a joke (which is weak in and of itself, because there’s nothing joke-like about his statement), or that’s what he’d claim. But is it really? I see a pandering to me in the first half (I imagine this will be funny: note, though, the comment is in general and not directed towards me or my acting ability) and a discount in the second half (he lives half way around the world and I never imagined for even a split second that he’d come for a performance). Pat on the head, and a slap in the face. Or so I see it.

For now, it stands without reply.

I got bigger fish to fry.

‘Cause it’s true. No one makes it out alive.

Yes, it is

Two weeks from Saturday is our last performance of the play. So I checked. Did a Google search – even setting the search parameters to the name of the play and the name of the group. Found a couple of notices on page one…in Dutch…for the first two performance dates. Nothing for our upcoming show.

It AMAZES me how all these business school teachers (who all say ‘yeah, yeah, we know all about marketing’) fall off the bus when it comes to actually doing any marketing work.

And maybe the director doesn’t want the group too big… He said that during the last performance. Doesn’t want the group too big, doesn’t want things to get out of control, doesn’t want to step aside to allow other people to do things with the group. Okay. I get that. But we at LEAST want to break even, right?

I sure as hell don’t want to continue ponying up money for the privilege of performing.

Found the group’s write-up about the play in English on their FB page (had to HUNT for it). It was half a press release – all teaser info but no facts. So I did what I do: I fixed it. Added in the missing data. Corrected some clunky English. And found half a dozen online Rotterdam agenda sites that’ll publish the info for free. Spent half an hour on the headline… The play isn’t well known enough to push that as the opener. The playwright isn’t well known enough to push that aspect. The group isn’t well known enough to carry the headline. In the end, I choose ‘English Comedy in Rotterdam’ because I’m posting to English language sites targeting ex-pats and I figured those four words were the most important in the entire thing. It’s in Rotterdam, it’s comedy, and it’s in English. The info is already sent to two places, and I’ll tackle the remaining sites after my language class.

Had a real surprise yesterday at the gym. Went in for my second day in a row (yet another attempt to raise my activity level). Saw, out of the corner of my eye, a woman watching me while I stretched and warmed up. Sure enough, she came over and began talking with me.

Surprising enough to me that I slipped into Dutch like a comfortable shoe. Didn’t even bother with my traditional ‘my Dutch isn’t very good’ line – she got that from my stilted use of the language. But we communicated (she spoke very clearly). Talked, even! She asked me about the exercises I was doing. Did I make them up, or did I learn them somewhere? A bit of both, I told her. Then she asked if I knew of any exercises that were good for a person’s balance. I actually had the audacity to question her – is it your hips? I asked, remembering the word for ‘hips’. Yes, she told me. Ah! We’ve the same problem. Do you go to the physiotherapist? Yes, but she doesn’t like him and he’s not doing her any good. How about these exercises? I asked, showing her the three golden rule exercises my physiotherapist gave me. Never saw them before. I walked her through them, told her to do them every night. When are you here? she asked me. I want to come back and exercise with you.

Wow. Seriously? This hip heavy old woman? You look at me and think ‘yeah, she’s got it together’? Don’t get me wrong – I’m pleased as punch. Pleased to have an opportunity to get to know someone, pleased to pass along what knowledge I do have about staying in shape, pleased someone thought that much of me. I’m just really, really surprised.

What I’m NOT thrilled about is the idea I’ll be opening up my head space during exercise time. Exercise time is a very inner thing for me. I’ve got the best drill sergeant I know under my skull, and all I need is her egging me on and really loud, fast music in my iPod. If I’m helping someone else, though, I won’t be able to lose myself in loud music. I’ll need to talk, be present…which will be DAMNED difficult, because I blast the music and close my eyes so I don’t HAVE to be uber present in my body while it works and sweats.

Saw the woman talk to a few other older women as she left the gym. Oh, nelly. In a few weeks time will I be writing that I’m leading a handful of mature women through some basic stretching and yoga exercises?

As long as they let me be on the cross trainer. That’ll be my one rule. I get on that machine, and no talkie-talkie with me. Let me sweat. I’ll be done in 30, and very pleased to help you then.

Sounds reasonable.

Also, in my searches for websites to post the press release for the theatre group, I stumbled across a call for writers. Writers in English, right here in the Netherlands. It’s all free lance, pay as you go, first come first served on story ideas. But I’m thinking I might give it a go. Even if I only get one or two stories a month, it’s something. A bit of cash to get my hair cut. Maybe I could take my brother out to dinner for once. Pay for my own metro card top up.

And isn’t it nice to get some sort of recognition for your efforts outside of your own head?

Yes. Yes, it is.