Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Defying Gravity

When I was very young I had dreams in which I couldn't run at full speed.  No matter what danger was chasing me (it was a werewolf in the first of these dreams I can remember) I would try to run away and instead I would take giant, leaping steps in slow motion.  My feet would barely touch the ground before I was launched into another leap, covering maybe four or five feet with each step.  Imagine running on the moon.  Despite the distance I would make, I moved so slowly that the possibility of being caught was always very real.  I still have these dreams from time to time.  They are extremely frustrating.  I will myself to run faster.  To get my footing and take normal steps.  To feel the ground beneath my feet with each step.  But no matter what, I always end up in this weird balletic movement that I know will be the death of me.

I was thinking about Lena Dunham last night as I tried to get to sleep.  I haven't watched Girls.  It's not like I'm boycotting it.  I just don't have HBO.  I was not a big fan of Tiny Furniture, though I was extremely impressed that she actually made it.  Admittedly, it wasn't easy for me to put my own ego aside and I kept thinking, "Fuck!  Why don't I do something like this??"  So, it was hard for me to be as objective as I might have wanted to be.  It continues to be difficult for me to be objective about her as I am reminded several times a week how much I look like her (though, in fairness, I'm older, so, really, she looks like me...) and how much she reminds everyone of me.  "Oh, my God, it's like she's stealing your whole look!"  Which a) I don't have "a look" and b) considering she's the actually famous one, that's a tough argument to make.
When Girls first started airing I got a call from my agent.
"I just had a brilliant idea!" he announced.
"You should play Lena Dunham's older sister on Girls!"
"... Okay ..."
Needless to say, that never happened.  I don't know if I was supposed to go ahead and call her up or what.

Anyway, here is a picture of Lena:

And here is a picture of me:

Picture courtesy of Daniel Lam
As you can see, we both have short hair and brown eyes so it's practically like we're identical.

Here's a sure fire way to tell us apart:  Lena writes and directs her own material and gets it produced and created an entire career for herself.  I play too many video games and can't seem to get a good grasp of who the hell I am.  Lena wrote a full length feature loosely based on her own life when she was 23.  I married a man I didn't love and moved to Los Angeles hoping to get on TV when I was 23.  If someone had held a gun to my head and told me to write a full length feature loosely based on my own life, I would be dead today.

My friend suggested that maybe she has some kind of Autism that makes her hyper-focused.  Maybe I have some kind of Autism that makes me sit around and wait for something to happen.

I hope I'm making it abundantly clear that I am well aware that I am responsible for where I am in my life.  I spent the better part of the last 20 years trying to find other people or life circumstances to "blame" for whatever "misfortune" I may have had.  And I don't feel sorry for myself.  Anymore.  The same friend who suggested that Autism might be the cause of Lena's success also insists that I'm wrong about myself.  That if I had given interviews in my early 20s I would have come across much like Lena.  Self-aware, with a fairly good grasp of who I was.  The thing is, I did give interviews in my early 20s.  I spent 6 months of my life when I was 21 on a reality series in which I did very little but talk about myself and trust me, I came off as anything but self-aware.  Self-pitying?  Sure.  Bitter?  Absolutely.  But sure of myself?  Not a chance.

Don't get me wrong, I think I had every right to be bitter.  It's hard to overstate the impact of losing one's parent at 13-years-old.  My mother's death, besides being traumatic on its own, sent my career and my life off on very different paths than where I had been before she died.  I was bitter and angry over the life I never got to have.  I was bitter that my career stalled because my family was too busy dealing with my mothers illness and death to devote the time necessary to foster a career.  I was angry that for the rest of my life I would feel defined by my mother's death.

But there's only so long you can cart that shit around with you before you have to let it go.

Lately, in preparation for this impending baby, I'm unpacking boxes that I've been lugging around and storing in closets for years.  It's tedious work.  Every time I open a new box I'm faced with more crap I have to decide what to do with.  Pictures from my wedding, or from my trip to Scotland (There I am in front of a cottage.  There's me in front of Loch Ness.  There's me with some cows.  There's the tour guide I thought was cute.) or of kids from junior high school that never really felt like friends or of the dog my ex and I shared.  Shoes from years ago that I kept meaning to take to the cobbler to get repaired.  Old costumes and props from sketch shows I did over 7 years ago.  And ugly pair of hiking sandals I've never liked.  Old diaries and notebooks and journals.  I keep the writing.  The rest I send down the garbage chute.

At night I go over what I tossed out with too much regret.  Even while knowing it's all worthless crap I don't need anymore.  There was an outfit I bought in the little boys section at Old Navy in 1996 right before I went off to college.  The shirt was moth eaten and tattered.  The pants were stained with paint and had holes that showed parts of the body no self-respecting person in their 30s would show in public.  But I thought about them sitting in the garbage bin in the basement of my building filled with guilt.  That ugly outfit represented something.  I remembered buying it.  I thought I looked so cute in it (when, in reality, I'm pretty sure I looked like a 10-year-old boy).  I was proud of the fact that it still fit.  I almost felt like I was betraying this shirt and pair of pants.  Like they were laying in a heap amidst the trash, weeping, "What did we do to deserve this?"  Truthfully, I have always bestowed inanimate objects with feelings.  A half-burnt out candle I've moved with me from apartment to apartment is like an old dog who has outlived its uselfulness and is kicked out into the rain.  I am cruel and heartless to throw it away.

But the shit has to go.  There are more important things to make room for.  There's an actual person with actual feelings and needs whose well being is a real, concrete thing and who will rely on me for its very survival.  The old photos and shoes and clothes and candles and nicknacks and stuffed animals is just stuff.  And maybe it's taking this kid to finally get me to move on.  To understand that life keeps moving forward and you can either move along with it and get your shit done or you can spin your wheels and watch everything pass you by.

The misguided blame and self-pity and the bitterness and anger was just stuff I was carrying around with me because I had given it all too much importance.  And I became so accustomed to its weight that I didn't recognize it as something separate from myself.  It all became who I was.  If you asked me who I was, I would sling that giant bag off my back and open it for you.  "This.  This is who I am.  Hurt and angry and defensive and victimized."

Last night I dreamt I was being chased.  I tried to run away but I couldn't get myself anchored to the ground.  I leapt away from the danger in slow motion as it got closer and closer.  And I told myself, "No.  This isn't working.  This has never worked.  Stop.  Feel the ground under your feet.  Now take a step.  And another.  And another.  Now, fucking run."  And my feet hit the ground solidly with each stride and I gathered speed and the danger behind me fell further and further away.  And I was free.

 In other news, I'll be taking off my clothes and singing with The Skivvies this coming Monday, March 4th at Rockwell Table and Stage.  This is the only time I would ever feel comfortable getting practically naked in front of people as ironically it has taken me being pregnant for people to finally realize I'm not actually chubby...

This was me last week.