I came upon this blog I wrote when I lived in LA. It's apropos still today, even in a different town.
Acquaintances. This city is full of acquaintances. I’m so tired of fighting for friendships. Relationships that mean something and actually stand for something. This whole city is full of wannabes – people who are trying to make it in this industry, and yet no one wants to help a brother out. No one, save a few exceptions, wants to support someone beside themselves.
Right now I’m in a show. It’s a big show – My Fair Lady – and I’m playing Eliza – a big role. It’s a damn good production. Our leads are stellar, and everyone I know who’s seen the show is beside themselves. The main mantra I hear is, “I’ve seen this show a thousand times, and this is the best production I have every seen of it – including the movie.” So, with that kind of feedback, I feel confident that if my friend shells out the money and time to come see me in it, they will not be disappointed. It’s also an 8 show a week, 3 month run, so basically, one has about 100 opportunities to see this sucker. It’s also a little out of town, so I’m not around at church or parties these days. In other words, everyone knows where I am and what I’m doing. Before I left I also told everyone, and everyone said they were so excited – that they wanted to come. Again, most of these people are or have been in the industry, so we’re all on the same page of what it is I’m doing and what it is they’re proclaiming to come out and support.
It’s during moments like this, you learn who is a real friend and who isn’t. I’m over, OVER, the lip service. I’m over this fake “I am coming – can’t wait”, then procrastinating til the last weekend and feigning astonishment that the show is sold out. Or even worse, making up some lame reason why you can’t come the last three weekends of the show. What about the other 8? Again, these are not the computer nerds my husband works with that are flaking that I have a problem with. It’s my friends, my close friends, who are in the entertainment industry, who invite me to their shows and their open-mike nights in their kitchen, and I come to see them. I kill myself getting to their shows sometimes. If it’s a one-nighter, I still somehow make it. And yet. And yet, with the close ties, the many opportunities, the industry understanding, and the promises spoken, a whopping 3 people show up to the show. 3. 3 out of I don’t know how many I invited and how many said they’d come without any prompting from me.
So, here’s the end of my rant, and the beginning of my plea. Can you tell I’m pissed? People, get over yourselves and go out and support your friends. The “busy” excuse has got to be eradicated from our lips. No one’s that busy. Okay, maybe a few, but most of us, when we use that lame-o excuse are really just saying, “At the end of the day, I found better things to do.” I would much rather hear that, than “Oh gosh, we wanted to come, but blah blah blah.” Stand by your word, people. Make plans. Write things on your calendar and go. Whenever I get an invitation, I immediately write the address and phone number of the theatre on my day planner, so I have no excuse. All the information’s there, and when I check my calendar, I already see I have plans and won’t find something to squeeze the event out. This is what friends do. Do I want to go see all my friends shows? No! Do some of my friends have serious lacks of talent, and I know that I’ll be squirming in my seat most the night? Yes! But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m there telling them by my presence that THEY matter. That I love and care for them. And you know what? A lot of times I see GREAT theatre! I see some shows and some actors I never knew about, but they blow me away and it’s really exciting. I get ideas, I get tips, I get monologues, I get casting sneak-peeks, I get inspired, I get moved. And I never regret going.
I once heard someone say, “A friend isn’t someone who necessarily remembers your birthday, but they’re the person that shows up on your doorstep to help you move.”
I think that’s true. It’s the people that sacrifice their time and money that are your real friends. Don’t believe me – look at your credit card or bank statement. Whatever is on there is what’s important to you. If someone called you at the last minute and said they had tickets to go see your favorite band, but you have to go in two hours, would you go? I think so. You’d find the time. Even last minute. Even at a monetary price. If we can do this for strangers, why can’t we do this for our friends?
Through all the years to come
And through all the tears to come
I know I’ll be yours
From this day on!
It’s a little line at the end of a not well known song at the end of an equally not well known musical called Brigadoon. It’s a fanciful musical that hasn’t seen the Broadway stage since 1981. And yet this line haunts me.
It’s some of the most gloriously romantic chords I’ve ever heard in a song, complete with perfectly synced lyrics. It makes me stand in awe of the writings of these men from the 60s who wrote such timeless, aching, hopeful music.
And this refrain at the end of the song just gets me. I cry every time I hear it and I’ve been hearing it a lot lately as I've been practicing singing the refrain.
There’s something so eternal about that line of music. It escalates so effortlessly and protests of an eternal love we all long for and maybe feel every once or twice in our lives and yet still cling to the hope that that kind of love really does exist for us.
Some people get that love. A few couples’ faces come to mind. I often wonder about these couples: do they lay in bed next to one another and dream together and whisper their undying devotion to one another year after year after year. I think they do.
I used to have those moments, as I lay in my boyfriend’s arms half asleep after making love and I’d hear him whisper, “I wanna marry you.” But he doesn’t believe or say those things anymore, and I don’t know if I want to marry him anyway.
But the dream is still there.
I want to punch my friend in the face who this past weekend started asking about that dream.
She inquired if I wanted to get married again. I brushed her question off with a very, in my mind, well thought out and confidently mature response of “Nah, I’m okay without it. I’m not opposed to getting married again, but it’s not something I need. Been there, done that.”
“Is it because you feel like you don’t deserve it?” and I waved her query off just as easily. I have no regrets over my marriage or my fight to save it. I have no regrets for falling in love with a married man and trying to make it work. Yes, adultery is wrong, but cheating on a cheater doesn’t register as too foul in my book, so I have no regrets.
“No, that’s not it at all. I don’t need to get remarried because last time it was so hard fighting for it that I don’t have a burning desire to do that again. It’s not out of fear, but rather fatigue, and so I’d be peachily content with a long term commitment of sorts. And the second reason is is that speaking to women who are separated or divorced and me being remarried just kinda sounds annoying. It rings a little edgy and progressive not to need a ring.”
“Yes,” my friend says, “but you really don’t think it’s because you feel you don’t deserve it?” and as I started to repeat my so-sure response, tears welled up in my eyes and I realized she got me. Dammit. I actually said that out loud when I realized she was right. Dammit.
It’s not that I don’t think I deserve remarriage, it’s that I don’t want to fuck up someone else’s life. I don’t want to burden someone with so much baggage that comes with me. And I realized it’s why I turn away men in their 20s or 30s because I see how they have their whole lives ahead of them and even though I’m smack dab between 30s and 40s, unless you have an ex-spouse and children too, I don’t want to give you that kind of weight if you don’t already have it.
Dammit. I’ve been sitting on this thorny truth the last few days and I don’t like what it brings up, because what am I supposed to do? Pray to God that he’d make me feel worthy – that He’d orchestrate some poor guy to want to take on my burdens, my past, my fucked-up-ness? And then what if God doesn’t answer that prayer? Then I’m left feeling whole and healthy and ultimately unrequited in the love I’m ready to give?
No, it’s easier to believe I am damaged goods and not that I’m undeserving of something good, but in my humanity – my humane-ness, I don’t want to weigh a sweet man down. And the kind of man what would want to be with me would be sweet and wonderful, because I am sweet and wonderful and therefore HE doesn’t deserve the ugliness that comes with my past.
And so I come full circle to this beautiful song that haunts me because it cries of an everlasting love – a love that transcends time and plunges the depths of all knowledge and pain and the mysterious eternity. I want a love like that. I always have. I always have, and when I hear it it brings tears to my eyes because I want to believe love like that exists. For me.
I am staring at an ocean, God.
I think back to where I was a while ago.
The ocean looked different then.
It was wide and glorious and I was happy looking at it.
Then You came and threw in the fish.
And the sea was teaming with life.
And it was more glorious than before.
And I stood in awe and thankfulness.
And then you took the fishes away.
And the ocean wasn’t teaming anymore.
It was empty then.
And it doesn’t seem as beautiful.
I cannot forget the way I once saw it.
I cannot forget how it had been.
And now I feel You asking me to stare at an empty ocean again and be happy,
And forget it’s empty.
I liked it better when I didn’t know.
Last night was the most significant conversation I’ve ever had with my son.
It was a normal school night and I tucked my son in bed around 8:30. Went to my room to finish a book for my new book club starting tomorrow. About half an hour later I heard a funny noise coming from my son’s room. I walked down the hall to his room and heard the tears before I got to the door. He was curled up, sobbing.
“I miss Dad.”
I pause here because there’s no way to accurately describe the type of feeling that comes upon a single parent when they hear this. For each parent I know it’s different depending on the circumstances (is the other parent deceased, on a long term work project far away, on the other side of the country because he doesn't give two shits about being near his son?), but the range of emotions is wide whenever I hear my son say this. Because there is nothing I can do to fix it. And there are no words I can say to fix it. It’s a mixture of helplessness and anger and frustration and sorrow and just about every feeling one can feel watching the creature you love more than anything in the world be tormented by the actions of their own flesh and blood. I cannot undo that divorce. I cannot make his father care. I cannot open up his Dad’s brain and scream into the abyss “DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO HIS HEART?!?!?”
So, I crawl into my son's bed and say, “Tell me about that.”
It's the phrase we learned in those adoption classes I took a few years ago after we brought my daughter back from Siberia. “Tell me about that.” It’s a magical phrase. It works every time – it’s direct enough to elicit a response and gentle enough to sound safe.
And my son continues to sob and repeat how he misses his Dad. And then the next line. “Everything was great until we moved to New York.”
And then the feeling of frustration and defensiveness overtakes the feeling of concern and openness.
Up to this point, my son has never phrased the timeline of our lives in that way. And I knew I was at a crossroads where I could continue to kick the can down the road of WHY his father and I divorced or I could be honest this time. He was 10. 10 ½ actually, and being the old soul he is, more with the emotional maturity of a 12 year old.
It’s time. Time to tell him the truth.
So I did. Gently. I didn’t talk about how awful his deadbeat Dad is, but I did correct my son’s understanding of the timeline: No things didn’t go bad once we moved here. Things were bad before. Way before. Before you were born kind of before. And the reason we moved here was BECAUSE it was bad.
I then went on to explain that his father just didn’t want to be married. And that the reason he wasn’t around was because the first year of our separation, his father was on drugs and making terrible decisions like filing for divorce because he had a new girlfriend, and moving to California to be near her. How else should I explain why his Dad chose to do that? I can’t shroud it in love. I can’t say it was due to work or that he had a great opportunity out West he couldn’t miss. What’s more important than being with your son? No, the only way I could make sense of it to Drew was to explain it away with drugs and that drugs make you do foolish things and that his Dad isn’t probably on drugs anymore and it’s why he’s making an effort to see Drew more now.
To quell any thoughts that maybe things could have turned around when we got to New York, I make it plain to Andrew that even before he was born Daddy betrayed me and that I forgave him, but that he just couldn’t will himself to stay married. That he wanted to have more girlfriends and you can't do that when you're married. So he didn’t want to be married and that’s why we’re not married.
And the thing that sucks about this is that I WANT to build his father up. I WANT to be able to say, “Hey, he was a lousy husband but he loves you so much and that’s never gonna change and he’s such a good Dad.” But I can’t. Because he’s a shit father who doesn’t pay child support but rather flies ladies on around-the-world trips with him. The kind of father who takes our daughter to Vegas for her 8th birthday so he can bring a ladyfriend and leave our daughter in the hotel so he can go out and gamble with a woman, but be able to tell everyone he went there for his little girl’s birthday. I WANT to say the opposite. But I can’t. And I won’t lie because how could I possibly say that THOSE kinds of actions are love? I can’t. I won’t devalue the term of what love is by bringing it down to some sentimental level with absolutely zero substance. No, Drew’s father is shit. So I just state facts. I don’t go into detail about how awful and hard it was or how angry it makes me – I’m honestly not trying to trash the guy because I know it will not help the situation. But I do want to bring clarity to the confusion my son has held for four years that I’ve never explained away.
And so sitting on my 10 year old’s bed last night, I did. I explained it. I let the cat out of the bag. And I did it in the most gentle and direct way I could. But there’s not a whole lot you can do to ease the sting of such truths. Adulterating drug users who choose an escort girlfriend from Vegas over their 6 year old son is kinda hard to sugarcoat. But I tried.
It didn’t work. Shocker.
My son started crying more. I asked him what was bringing on more tears and he cried, “I thought my father was good!”
Ohhhhhh. Oh, son. A truth a little body like yours should not have to ingest at such a young age.
“Just when you think you can trust the people you know, you can’t. No one’s good! No one!” and my son is quoting scripture though he does not know it.
“You’re right honey. No one is good. Not one.” And with this I think he is confused because he is expecting me to say otherwise – to ease his fears: no, people are really good and your Dad really is good and here’s how your thinking went wrong. But I’m not gonna do that either. I can’t. I can’t lie like that.
I explain that ultimately no one is good and everyone makes mistakes and sometimes people make mistakes for years and years and years but the important part is that we eventually try to make amends. We eventually try to do good things.
“What’s the point of being good?!” my son cries.
MORE deep philosophical questions from such a young kid!
So then we’re off talking about temporary pain vs eternal rewards and how bad guys sometimes win though they have internal misery, and my son bats, “Well, what’s the point in doing good over someone who does bad? You tell me bad guys can't sleep at night. Well, I can’t sleep at night because I'm miserable, so what’s the difference?”
And then I tell him age plays a part and that if he wants to try being selfish for a while and seeing where it gets him and how it makes him feel, he can try it.
I finish with some stories about God and answered prayer in my life and that God still loves Drew’s Dad and hasn’t given up on him even if I have at times. Drew starts to smile with these stories.
And then Drew shares a way in which he heard God speak to him that day, and it is the most incredible thing I’ve heard in a while. I am surprised by the simple truth that God has a private separate relationship with my son and hears his prayers and speaks to him. I know I’ve always known that’s true, but had never really considered how very real that bond is, as real as mine, and just starting, but the newness doesn’t make it any less intense or real. Drew, in silence that day, posed a question to God. And then asked for a sign. And God answered.
God spoke to my son yesterday. And he heard Him.
At this point Drew has come full circle. The tissue box is spent and has sputtered a flurry of white all over the floor. But my son’s face seems at peace. We’ve been talking for nearly two hours. It’s late. I tell my boy I love him and he falls asleep.
I know my words weren’t perfect. I know maybe I said too much at times or too little. But I rest assured that every other time Drew has asked about what happened between his father and me I’ve always told him I’ll tell him when he’s older. I haven’t wanted to rush this. And in that moment it felt it was the time.
This morning before school Drew seemed happy – at peace. I meant to bring up last night and if he wanted to say anything, but instead we were busy learning how to unlock a lock he was bringing to school for his new locker. He was very excited about learning how to turn the dial and get the shiny thing to open.
Going from closed to open.