London: Day 1

I’ve been back from London for 2 weeks now and finally things are settling down. Steven’s musical has opened (Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), we’re back to routines, and I’m catching up on the pictures I need to process.

While I was there, I bought a little journal and journaled at least the first 3 days. I didn’t get much more done as I was actually doing things and processing the pictures I’d taken. But I wanted to share the journaling I did do about those days.

Day 1 – March 25, 2018

Wow. I’m actually in London. I successfully navigated Heathrow, even though it too,  nearly an hour to get through passport check. And I couldn’t remember the name of Maggie’s school – I worriecd they’d think I was lying!

But, my GOD, the walking! After immigration, I got my suitcase & found an ATM, where I couldn’t get cash. GODDAMMIT!! But I exchanged the US cash I had at a place by baggage claim. Then walking forever to the tube.

I navigated the tube well. Got my ticket, found the platform, and found a seat. My huge suitcase quickly became an issue as I was having trouble getting it between my legs, so it blocked a seat, which annoyed other passengers. Finally did it, though.

Got off at the correct stop (YAY!) and found the hotel. Oh. wow, this hotel. It’s so lovely and charming while also being luxurious. My room wasn’t available yet as it was only 10am, so I ventured across the street to Muriel’s Kitchen, a small restaurant with breakfast fare. Eggs on toast, stripey bacon (so good). The egg yolks were orange, which surprised me and I’ll need to research. I finished and didn’t want to take up space, since people were waiting for a seat. I went outside to wait for Maggie. A lovely flower vendor making astonishing bouquets was just around the corner in a little square outside the tube entrance. Pigeons, children on scooters, people walking their dogs. So many languages, looks, journeys, stories. I watched the black cabs & red double decker buses. 

The hotel is marvelous. Lovely bed with a fresh & modern color scheme. The bath has a shower to die for. Hot, fierce, and refreshing. Then I pull the towel off the rack and it’s WARM. Bloody heated towel racks, y’all. Absolutely amazing after my long, grungy flight. Maggie waited for me as I refreshed & then we ventured out.

She took me to a local Thai place where she’d been before. I wasn’t tremendously hungry as I’d had breakfast on the plane and then food at Muriel’s Kitchen, but I had some fried rice and a glass of wine. It is so different relating to Maggie as an adult – having a glass of wine, discussing life and issues. She is so mature, and has a lot of clearheadedness for a 20 year old.

We walked to the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was quite impressive. A very different type of museum with sculpture and artifacts, but also neat exhibits like fashion & a wonderful theatre collection. With England’s great theatrical history, it’s marvelous to see the impact recognized on a national scale. I was especially taken by the collection of costumes, not only from their “panto” but also from big West End shows & film.

Super cool was the collection of set models. I’ve always be so impressed by Lew’s set models and these are just as impressive. Seeing how different set designers interpret different shows is enlightening & so beautiful.

There was also a great exhibit by a photographer who’s famous for dance & theatre photos. There were 2 that really grabbed me – one of the Queen Mum in a garden & one of the Blairs in an unscripted moment. Both were honest and unposed, capturing more of who they really are inside. Of course I didn’t get a picture of either one, but they showed me more of the kind of photographer * want to be. Anyone can shoot a portrait. It takes heart and skill to get beyond that & find honesty.

Having made it through the day without sleeping in order to avoid jet lag, by 7pm, I was pretty cashed. Maggie and I said goodnight and I went back to my room and was in bed by 8:30!

So that was day one. I was overwhelmed and excited. Couldn’t believe I was actually there and really wanting to experience so much. I already miss it!

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#blessed

That stupid hashtag is way overused. Instagram celebrities using it for really good coffee or finding a nice parking spot or otherwise finding/getting some sort of cool swag. Puh-leeze.

You want to know what truly makes you blessed? Friends. People who love you. People who go out of their way to show you that they love you. Add that to the “coincidence” of having it happen when you might be feeling especially bad about yourself or your depression (or other mental illness) is acting up, and you’ll really, truly know what it is to be #BLESSED. So much so that I wish I could somehow embiggen that word to make it more meaningful. Or add a serious “MFer” to the end of it or something.

You may or may not have read my last post. That’s how I was feeling after the first weekend of my appearance as Ursula in The Little Mermaid. I know. Ew.

But the universe or God or just the amazing kindness of people who care about me gave those feelings a massive can of whoop-ass over this past weekend.

Friday night, I knew my mom was coming to my show and she told me that 2 of my cousins were also coming and bringing their kids, which was more than enough. So nice that they wanted to come and share this lovely show with their kids, as well as support my return to the stage after so long! They live more than an hour away, so it was a big deal and I really appreciated it!

My cousin Johanna, brother Andrew, me, and cousin Katie

As I’m getting ready for the show, I had about half my makeup on and my costume. It was time for vocal warm-ups, so I had stepped out of the dressing room, talking briefly with my fellow cast members, when we heard pounding from what used to be the stage door, but now is just a door that stays locked to the outside. I was closest to the stairs, so I started down. About halfway down, I recognize the figure in the window, but my brain won’t allow me to believe it. It’s my brother, Andrew. With his daughter, Ella. WHO HAD FLOWN IN THAT DAY FROM CALIFORNIA. For one day. They flew in only to see my show and flew back the next morning. I was BLOWN AWAY. My brother, the professional actor, flew himself and his 3 year old from California, came to a night performance of my show and then got up the next morning and they flew back. And they did it because he loves me.

After the show, I ran down in my makeup and costume so I could show Ella. And she LOVED IT. This amazing child, who’s only really met me once, ran right up to me, sat on my lap, explored my makeup and costume and wasn’t afraid at all. And she was happy! I introduced her to the actress playing Ariel, too, but Ella wasn’t having it. As I introduced her, Ella saw that she didn’t actually have red hair. She said, “I’M Ariel.” Then Deanna asked her if she was a mermaid, and she said, quite sassily, “No, *I* have legs,” as she squiggled out of my arms and ran away. SO FUNNY.

It was so cool – the next morning I got to talk with Andrew about the show and get his impressions and feedback. It made me so happy to know that not only did he like my performance, he enjoyed the show in its entirety. For someone with his theatre/acting experience to be proud of me, meant everything.

Needless to say, after that surprise and the preceding performance, followed by Saturday’s matinee, I was TIRED. It takes a lot of energy to perform Ursula well. She’s constantly “ON.” Every moment is a performance for her – whether she’s complaining to her eels (the only beings she has to talk to) or putting on a show for Ariel to get her plan in motion, every single moment is carefully plotted and performed with clinical precision. And it takes a lot of energy to do. So by the time Saturday night’s performance rolled around, I was ready to perform, but knew it was going to drain me.

The audience Saturday night was every performer’s dream. They were on fire. The were with us every step of the way, laughing at every joke, applauding for every special moment, bursting into raucous cheers at the end of every song. They fed us every bit of energy we needed to amp up our performances and give that extra 10% that took it over the top.

Then comes curtain call. I’m the second to last one to bow and I have the delicious pleasure of getting to enter from far upstage and the cast parts to let me parade downstage – very Ursula-like. As the crowd parts and I walk, the freaking audience ERUPTS. Cheers like I’ve never heard. Then I see, in the last 2 rows of the main floor, a whole bunch of white fans waving and bobbing. I KNOW those fans. Those are the fans we’ve made for the high school musicals for the past 3 years to sell with the kids’ pictures on them. I know who makes those. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? (Actually, “what the fuck” is what I mouthed as I turned around and walked to my place with my cast mates.)

Without my glasses, I can’t see who the people are. I just see white fans. And blurry faces. As the stage lights go down, I race downstairs, get help removing my wig and costume, and run downstairs to see who the heck is here?

As I round the corner, I see something along the lines of this. (Not quite this organized and lined up, but these faces and fans.) Friends. Friends from more than 30 years ago. Friends I haven’t seen in 10, 20, 30 years. Friends who have FLOWN AND DRIVEN IN FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY. To gather, reunite, and support this one old friend who’s returning to the stage. Friends who love me enough (why??) to come in from NY, Michigan, Iowa, Seattle, and also from closer by. Friends who planned this gathering, bought tickets, gathered, and came. For me.

I have never been so overwhelmed in my life. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t think. I felt like I was out-of-body. I’m looking at these amazing people and I can’t function. I can’t do anything but cry & hug & stumble over words. My head hurt. I couldn’t…..I just COULDN’T. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced an outpouring of love like this before. I kept thinking…why?? Why would they do this for me? I haven’t done anything for them. There’s nothing they’re repaying me for. How on EARTH could I have built up such a credit of love? I don’t deserve it. I can’t wrap my brain around it. IT DIDN’T MAKE SENSE.

They gathered around me, taking pictures, sharing their love and their amazing positive feedback about my performance, and I just stood there, gaping and utterly flummoxed. Because this kind of thing is what you see on TV or for someone who’s worked tirelessly for years helping children with cancer or something.

I cannot possibly, no matter how long I type, convey my absolute, overwhelming feeling of gratitude for what my friends and my brother and my cousins did to show me love this weekend. You made me feel so special, so thankful, so overwhelmed with love. You showed me that how I feel inside – no matter how strongly I might feel it – isn’t true. That I’m worthwhile, no matter how I look. That I matter. That what’s inside me has made a difference somehow.

Amy, Tammy, Tim, Dean, Tammy, Jannah, Sonia, Cha Ron, Linda, Leon, Jeff, George, Tony, Kathy. And your families. YOUR FAMILIES. Who came along somewhere they didn’t know to see someone they didn’t know do something they probably didn’t care about. Thank you. There will NEVER be words. I hope I can do something like this for you or someone else sometime. I want nothing more than for others I love to feel what I’ve felt.

Oh, and I have to tell you guys something interesting. That night, while I slept, I dreamt of you all. We were all going somewhere – like a field trip or going somewhere on a visit or something – and all of you were there. We were laughing and walking and having a great time. In the dream, I turned my head to the left, and right next to me was Tim White. Smiling and laughing with us, traveling with us where it was we were going. He was with us when you gathered at Amy’s. He was with us when you all sat in the Opera House. He was with us when you came down and met me. He was with us at the PourHouse. I believe it wholeheartedly.

Andrew – I know you’re my little brother, but your opinion and love and support of me means the world. Before, you HAD to see my shows. You didn’t have a choice, you just did. This time, you  made the choice. And I recognize the work, sacrifice, and time it took to do that. And I love you more than I can ever say.

Thank you all. You showed me what I can’t show myself much of the time. Acceptance. Love. Support. Belief. Caring. You are the ties that bind and I cannot believe that, 30 years later, y’all still care about me. But maybe I can believe it. Because I care deeply about all of you. Never let anyone tell you that high school friendships don’t last. Because they DO. If they matter.

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Mashed Potatoes

 Welcome to Self-Loathing 314: Not For Amateurs

This is my problem. I know who I am. I know what I’m good at (singing, photography, edification) and what I lack (conventional attractiveness, the desired body type, nuance). I also know that I tend to lean quite heavily toward the “self-loathing” end of the spectrum and, while I’ll say thank you to people who compliment me outside of my comfort zone, I never actually believe them.

These past couple of months have presented me with a new equation with which I am having trouble coping. Wait, let me back up.

I have never been one to whom the typical attractiveness compliments have been copiously used. I’m not “beautiful.” I’m not “gorgeous.” I’m not “sexy.” I’m not “hot.” There were times, back say, 25-30 years ago, when I might have been considered those things because I had a conventionally attractive (bombshell-type) body, I was young & fit, I had great hair and was pretty attractive. Here, I’ll throw in a picture of me at my height of attractiveness. I was 22 and hot enough to appear as a stripper in “Gypsy.” I was tall, thin, muscular but not jacked. You could see my collarbone. Hell, you could have taken a drink out of my collarbone. But even at this point, when most people would have agreed that I could be described as any of the above adjectives, I wasn’t. They might say I was “striking” or “statuesque,” but never the others. So, by default, my brain because accustomed to the idea that they don’t apply to me. I’m not a beautiful woman. No, I’m not a woman who would cause one to turn to stone, but I’m not beautiful.

While I always WANTED to be the beautiful one (or the sexy one or the hot one or…..), I accepted that I am who I am and, honestly, I’d rather be accepted, liked, LOVED for who I am inside rather than for any subjective definition of attractiveness. Really. But down deep, like probably a lot of women, I would have been nice to be the hot one for once.

Now, believe me, I  know that to whom it matters, I am beautiful. My husband believes that and says so all the time. So I do hear it. But sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to have the physicality of my 22 year old self along with the strength and power within myself that I have at 49 and be able to wield that in the world. To flirt with whomever I chose without fear of being shut down with disgust. To draw attention when I entered a room and to know what to do with that attention. To know that I was good enough to pick up any person I was out with if I chose…..and then choose not to. I wonder what that would be like. Because when I was attractive, I had no confidence and was sure no one would be interested because there was always at least one other girl who was the “hot” one and it wasn’t me. I would never flirt with anyone, really, because I was sure I had no worth. On the other hand, now, at 49 and mumble pounds overweight, I have the confidence and power within myself to flirt and trade barbs with anyone and I know the power I have as a woman and I’m not afraid of it. It’s interesting to contemplate.

Anyway. :sheesh: cut to a couple months ago when I started rehearsals for Ursula in The Little Mermaid. I am in this cast of unbelievable people. I mean, like WOAHMYGOD. Not only is every person in this show talented beyond belief, they are all attractive. Of course, 90% of them are under 30, so that helps, but they are also BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS, SEXY people who dance like Beyonce and sing like Sam Cooke & Sutton Foster. And those of us elders in the cast (4 of us) are not unattractive either. I would sit and watch these people rehearse their dances and, literally no exaggeration, my jaw is hanging open and I’m gobsmacked. Because I can’t believe what they can do and that they can look so amazing doing it.

As rehearsals continued, my interpretation of Ursula emerged. My Ursula is a combination of Tim Curry, Lafayette Reynolds, with a little bit of Patsy Stone, and a whole lot of plus-sized VAVOOM. She’s sensual, sexy, bawdy, and loves to masticate her words. And I think my interpretation surprised a lot of people. For some reason, I started hearing people call me “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” “dead sexy,” and other things like that. Which…….I don’t know what to do with. I’m not those things. Ursula might be, but I’m not. I would poo-poo it and just blame it on the Tim Curry as Dr. Furter voice.

But it kept happening. People repeated it. New people said it. Straight guys in their early 20s. Gay guys in their mid 20s. Women of all ages. They’re using these WORDS at me and I don’t know what to do. BECAUSE I’M NOT, Y’ALL. You don’t understand that I’m not. You’re not allowed to use those words at me. It’s false and if you keep it up, the earth will open up  and eat us.

I should have known. Because there’s only one thing more potent than the loving words of others.

Photographic evidence.

When I processed the pictures that our social media manager had taken at a dress rehearsal (I without makeup or my wig), I stopped short and literally felt a kick in my stomach. There it was, the proof that not only was I NOT THOSE THINGS, but that everyone had been lying to me. And I shattered because, for the first time ever in my whole life, I realized that I had allowed myself to believe their words a little bit. And now I was faced with the proof.

Yes, they’re bad pictures of me mid-song with no makeup and a wig cap on. Yes, I look awful. AWFUL. But beyond that, I saw that the vision I had of myself in this costume, in this ROLE, wasn’t true. I wasn’t dead sexy, I was like a pile of mashed potatoes in a corset. My breasts and chest gooping out of the top like a bad cafeteria meal. My arms are the size of hams. My underarms are bigger than the thighs of others. I’m HUGE. Which is great for Ursula and she rocks that body. But it shattered my perception of ME. And sometimes it really, really hurts to accept the truth about yourself, especially if you’ve allowed yourself to feel good for a little bit.

I honestly think it’s easier just to view yourself negatively. That way, truth bombs don’t shock and shatter. I don’t know. Yesterday was bad. It was hard to come to terms with. But today I’m better. Because I accept it. I am a very large woman. I am nearly 50. I  am not beautiful or sexy or gorgeous or hot. I am a beyond middle-aged housewife with raw bread dough for abs. I could probably change that a little if I wanted, but very minorly due to my knee problems. It’s best if I just accept who I am and stop trying to be a different, younger, more energetic, more electric, more vibrant version. At least that’s how I feel right now.

But I least I can live through Ursula. Right?

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I Don’t Give a Ripe….

I haven’t been able to talk to my kids about this. To warn them. Prepare them.

I don’t know how to appropriately address this with my 2  boys who have Asperger’s Syndrome. My older will analyze, dissect, plan, and try to figure out how to construct the mental box that this goes in. My younger who will truly panic. Who will end up thinking about this every day, worrying about when it will happen and who will probably end up talking about nothing else at school.

And Henry, who won’t and can’t understand and whose very life would depend on the teachers and associates who care for him and who would be charged with figuring out not only how to protect their disabled students, but how to convey to Henry that he has to hide and BE QUIET. For the same reason that I know we’ll never survive a zombie outbreak, his class wouldn’t survive a school shooting. Because he CAN’T be quiet. And the more you ask him, the more he’ll talk. And sing. And draw attention to the fact that people are in there. And why should paraprofessionals, who aren’t paid nearly enough for the work they DO in our special needs classrooms, also be expected to figure out how to keep a room full of autistic and otherwise disabled children hunkered down for 2 hours, keeping themselves and their charges safe. 


I’ve been convincing myself that “it won’t happen here.” That our community is somehow immune to this insane, terrifying bullshit that is spreading like a horror movie virus. I know deep down that we’re not. That at any time, our bucolic town could be next. That I could be running to Henry’s school or Steven’s school or even William’s school, blind with panic, desperate to see if my kid somehow survived.

And I feel impotent. Utterly. Because I have no power. I can’t stand against the NRA and the cartoon villain politicians who, time and time and time and time and time again choose their well-lined pockets over actual lives. Who, every single fucking day, offer meaningless thoughts and prayers while cashing checks from the murder weapon makers and then turn their backs while we bury our children. I can’t fight them. My anger and rage and disbelief and terror cannot make a dent compared to soulless monsters who have chosen money over children’s lives.

I no longer give a ripe shit about your 2nd amendment rights. About what you or the NRA think you should be able to buy at your local gun show held at the same county fairgrounds where your community’s children would enjoy the fair’s carnival rides and funnel cakes if they hadn’t been slaughtered by an AR-15 bought there last year. If you, at this late date, cannot support reasonable gun restrictions, detailed background checks, and the idea that NO ONE NEEDS WEAPONS LIKE THIS, then there aren’t enough insulting, offensive swear words for me to throw at you. Yes, mental illness is part of the problem (and don’t get me started on how it then makes all the sense to cut mental health care from any GOP BILL and remove restrictions that prevent the mentally ill from buying guns), but the most mentally ill person can’t slaughter this number of people with a knife. So sit down and stop talking so the rest of us can save our children’s lives.

Because I promise this. If you don’t? We mothers are going to come for you. And there will be a RECKONING.

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Self-Betrayal & My #MeToo Perspective

What do you do when you have a story, but it’s not like everyone else’s? When you relate, but differently and in a way that might not be seen as “valid?” When the circumstances of your life have created an unusual narrative inside of you that you don’t feel like you can share, but you have to because it’s causing you emotional turmoil?

If you’re me, you let it fester and rot for a bit and then you blog.

#METOO

Because, yes, I have at least one story of sexual assault. (Like EVERY OTHER WOMAN, if you believe the posts. And I do.) But I also have this other. This weirdly nebulous, not specific, not anything I can grab onto and hold up to show you that lives inside me. And it’s really angry right now. Really, really furious. Because it wants to be recognized, but it doesn’t know how. Even within the safety and sisterhood of #metoo, it just…..well…ISN’T. It isn’t the same. It isn’t like everybody else. But it HURTS. And I don’t know why.

Okay, let me back up. I’ll give you a little background.

There was no “defining moment” or “traumatic incident” that I can remember. Of any kind. Of course, I have to take into account this very weird and uncomfortable fact that I don’t remember. Much. There are large chunks of my life – everything before middle school, except flashes of events & things I did – where there is just nothing. I can tell you facts – where I lived, how long I lived there, what I was for Halloween (because: pictures), the layout of my house, along with random stuff here and there. But there is no reliable memory of what life was like and what happened day to day from that time. Things clear up a bit in middle school and even more in high school, but there are still gaps. I mean, literally. People I’m still friends with will remind me of something that happened or something I did and I have NOTHING. I even doubt that they’re remembering it correctly because I don’t remember anything about it. But they insist I was there and can tell me what I did. So take all that into account as I try to explain. Because it’s not like I can trace any of this back to “well, this happened and after that I was different.”

I’ve seen this quote posted in the past couple of days that really sparked my subconscious to start messing with me.

“Relenting doesn’t equal consenting.”

“Right on!” I thought. And as time went on, my brain started processing that and my life and how I’ve gone through my experiences with this kind of stuff. Because I’ve been a serial relenter.

Not in any kind of “well, this is happening to me, so I’m going to not fight and just wait for it to be over.” But in a much more insidious, creepy way. See, I cannot remember a time where I didn’t feel this sense of ‘obligation.’ Of ‘owing.’

God, how do I explain this? It’s really difficult.

It’s as if I’ve always felt that my body didn’t belong to me and therefore I didn’t have the right to body autonomy. If someone wanted to touch me or grab me or kiss me or comment about me or have sex with me or whatever. I had no right to say no, really. That I should be glad and flattered that someone would even want to, and therefore, I “owed” it to them. You want 14 year old me to touch you in a back lot when we’re out at night with friends, even though we’re not dating or anything. I guess I have to. You want to be someone who graduated 3 years before me, but I’ve never said 2 words to, come up to me in a bar when I’m dancing and ask me inappropriate questions and tell me to kiss you? Who am I to say no? You want to cover an entire page of my yearbook with the words, “EASY” and “UGLY” and claim it’s just a joke and I shouldn’t be upset? Okay, you’re right. Besides, I probably am.

I have never felt like I have the right to say no. So I relent. If you’ve taken me out and think you should get to park and make out now because we saw a movie together? I will figure out a way through that that doesn’t include the word “no.” I can’t even remember the number of times a guy I knew, but wasn’t involved with in any way, would demand a kiss and I just did it. I am obliged for existing.

Maybe it’s because I always felt so unlovable and unattractive that I just wanted recognition or acknowledgment? That my payment for existing in the world as such a useless shell was to give people what they asked for. I know it isn’t because I enjoyed it. I wasn’t finding any pleasure in any of these “relentings.” I didn’t know any other way to be. I didn’t value myself (still don’t, to a large extent) and therefore didn’t ask for anything in return. And, because I never said no, never resisted, never had enough self-acceptance to realize that I was being used, I can’t blame anyone but myself.

And that HURTS. I feel, in way, like my own pimp. I never protected myself, never demanded more respect or kindness from people. And so they didn’t give it to me.

So how does one deal with this in the wake of people acknowledging and speaking out against sexual harassment & abuse. I mean, it qualifies, but I did it to myself. No wonder my subconscious is so rageful right now. I betrayed MYSELF. And I have no reason why. I wish I could at least point back to something and say, “well, this happened, so it explains why I was like this.” But….nothing. I just began and went through my life with no autonomy and no boundaries and no self-respect. So I’m grieving, I think. I’m hurting. I’m angry. Maybe this is why I eventually gained so much weight. If I can’t trust myself to ward off unwanted advances, then at least I can make sure that there are no more of them. And it’s worked.

However, there is one thing I want to say. Yes, a lot of men took advantage of whatever this is in my wiring for their own benefit. They didn’t know that’s what they were doing, but they did it. But I can’t really blame them, because I never said no. However, I want to raise a glass to the men who DIDN’T. Who were either raised right or had enough sense to never even try to push themselves on someone without the ability to resist. Most of those men also had the barrier of my being drunk to deter them, because they knew enough to not move forward on a drunken girl who couldn’t really consent. And they could have moved in and “gotten some.” But they didn’t. And I thank them for being better to me than I was to myself. I honor you and thank you for caring about me – or even if you were just caring enough about yourself to avoid a questionable situation. It doesn’t matter to me. Because in the end, that’s one less self-hating memory I have to deal with.

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