Friday, August 27, 2010
One of my friends who I try to always visit is my old friend, Tim Lyons. Tim was one of my very good friends growing up. I used to walk to and from school with him and a few other neighborhood boys. Those are some of my fondest memories of Tim...mainly because I don't have the privilege of creating any new memories.
On March 17, 1995, Tim was walking down Middle Road in East Greenwich, where we grew up, and was struck by a drunk driver. The car hit him so hard that he was propelled into the woods and literally out of his shoes. The driver of the car claimed he thought he had hit an animal and went home to call his attorney...I don't know how many people that think they hit animals go home and seek legal counsel about it. I can remember the morning I found out about Tim vividly. He was the first friend of mine to die...the fact that he was killed made it that much more difficult to take in as a 14 year old.
The news was plastered with the story of my friend. And the months following were no easier. I spent a lot of time at Tim's house with his mother and uncle. I would also walk to the site of where Tim got hit...almost everyday. I grew up in a small town in the smallest state in the country so it didn't go unnoticed. Soon my mother received a few phone calls by people who were alarmed by my visits to him. My mother was annoyed by people's questioning of why I would do such a thing...I was mourning...the only way I knew how at such a young age. I would walk to the memorial site and his grave and sing songs to Tim. I actually had a whole set of songs that I would sing each time I visited..."Hold On" by Sarah McLachlan, "Last Goodbye" by Jeff Buckley, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul, & Mary, and "On My Own, from "Les Miserables." That year, I did the talent show at the junior high and performed "On My Own" and dedicated it to Tim...it was the first time I had performed like that in front of my classmates...and I owe the courage it took to do to Tim.
It's been 15 years since Tim's been gone. I went to his grave today to go visit with my friend. I was silent as I stood there. It wasn't that I had nothing to say or that I didn't want to talk to him, I was just trying to take it all in...all over again. All of my friends that I got to visit this week had stories of things going on in their lives...things we had missed out on with one another. I realized today that Tim will always be 15...and in many ways, that will be the version of Tim that I think of everytime I go to visit him. Though I get older and have the privilege of experiencing the joys and pains of life, my friend is forever young...something that sounds better in theory than it does in reality. I miss my friend a little more with each passing year. I realize it's another year we will not get to catch up, another year he will not get to create new memories, and despite another year, he's still 15.
We live in a time where botox and plastic surgery are fairly common place. Trying to maintain youth is an obsession within the media and in many of our personal lives. To be perfectly honest, I have my own hang ups about wrinkles and other signs of getting older. Today I realized I'm just grateful for the opportunity to live another day...and to live long enough to worry about such trivial things....we should all be so lucky. The next time you find a gray hair, just remember how many hours, days, years, laughter, tears, and memories it took for you to get there...and be thankful that you're not forever young.
Monday, August 23, 2010
My phone died about 20 minutes after we got there so I was disconnected from the world for the entire day...I think that made the day even better. It was just me, the sand between my toes, the sound of waves crashing, good music, and great company. It's one of the best days I've had all summer.
As we were making our way back to their house, I was sitting in the backseat listening to music and taking in all the sights...sights that I don't usually get the privilege of seeing because I'm usually the one driving. It suddenly dawned on me...it's really fun being their 3rd wheel. I laughed out loud as I told them my revelation...and then I had to correct myself...I realized it was way better than being a 3rd wheel, I felt more like a sidecar! Good times.
I don't want to give you the impression that I grew up without my family...that would be inaccurate. My parents did the very best they could under the circumstances...and though it took me the better part of my life to realize it, they're humans...not the superheroes I once expected them to be. I just want to convey the message that I love my parents and I'm grateful for the role they played in my life...but my life would not be what it is today without the help of the rest of my family...the family that I was not born into, but who undeniably loved me and and took me in as their own.
My father worked for the phone company and used to go to get-togethers and other parties held by his co-workers. At one of these such events, my parents became friendly with another couple. This couple had 3 sons and the wife had told my mother she would be happy to babysit me and my sisters any time...she had always wanted a little girl...and though I'm sure she didn't realize it at the time...that's just what she would get.
Sometime not too shortly after that, my mother ended up taking her up on her offer to babysit. My mother was in and out of mental hospitals for the better part of my childhood. And while my mother was getting treated for her mental illness, my father was self-medicating and in and out of rehab and AA. The breaking point was when I was a little over a year old. I was running a fever and silent. My mother was having a manic episode, but managed to call this woman to get her opinion. She came over to the house immediately and convinced my mother to call my doctor. The doctor told her to bring me to the hospital and he'd meet her there. They took me to the hospital where they proceeded to give me a spinal tap. I didn't cry...I did nothing. The doctors told my family it would be a mircale if I made it through the night. I was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. Well, congratulations, you officially know a miracle...little old me.
Surviving spinal meningitis was only the beginning...the next 12 years would prove to be some of the hardest years. Despite the trying times, this family...who I was not related to...would step up to the plate time and time again defying the concept that family is defined by blood. In that time, I gained two extra parents and three brothers...a support system that I would have been lost without.
I am grateful everyday for my family...my whole family. They have all helped to shape me to be the person that I am today. They have helped me understand the true meaning of family...unconditional love and going above and beyond...even when you don't have to...when you're family, you don't question if you have to...you just do it.
I'm heading up north for a while in hopes of getting some new inspiration. I'm hoping that putting a little distance between myself and my current reality will help to open my eyes and give me some perspective. I'm going armed with some good books, a notebook, and my iPod. Sometimes the monotony of day to day life can leave you feeling a little less than inspired. It can have you feeling like Paul McCartney in "Band on the Run"..."stuck inside these four walls/ sentenced at forever." I'm breaking out of my four walls and trying a different angle at life. Pressing reset has left me needing a new approach...an approach that includes eating fresh Maine lobstah, praying and meditating on positive thoughts, and loving myself. I already feel better...and I'm just packing.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Image by yum9me via FlickrWell, it's over.For anyone who has been keeping up with the blog, you've heard about the guy I've been dating for the last couple months...it's safe to say you'll never hear about him again. And if you've been reading my blog, you're also familar with something I call the ice cube theory...the ice cube is melted, shattered, and all over the floor...but I can proudly say the ice cube's state is solely due to him...I tried. I tried and tried...and refrained from name calling or hurtful actions...which is more than I can say for him. I guess I can come clean about the the fact that most of the reason I've been so down lately has stemmed from him. I'm not one of those girls who lets my whole world be affected by a guy, but this time I gave too much too soon...and paid the consequences.
Lesson learned...moving right along. It seems appropriate that things should come to an end with him just as I am spreading my wings in other areas of my life..a new beginning. I've been diligently submitting to casting agencies and feeling the winds of change in the air. It's time to get back to me and the goals in my life. At times, we get so preoccupied with trying to make things in a relationship work that we neglect to make our own lives work. When you realize you're giving more of yourself to someone else than you are to you, it's time to press reset.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Image by quinn.anya via FlickrWe've all been there at some point...minding our own business, walking down the street...getting out of our car...wherever it was, some guy(s) thought it would be the right move to whistle, shout out some lude remark, or make some other kind of less than classy gesture. And while, as a lady, it's always a little boost to the old self-esteem to know you've got "it," there's still a fine line.
We live in a time that has a whole new level of openess...over-sexed is a common word to describe our present culture. It seems as though the masses have followed suit with our media-driven popularity of showing too much...and saying too much. There must be something in the water in the last couple weeks...because lately everywhere I go, there is a guy just ready to offer his unsolicited opinion of me. As previously stated, a compliment from a dude can lift your spirits every once in a while...providing some kind of validation that we looking good. But certain types of compliments...and certain types of guys....can have an effect that is much less desireable...the kind that makes you want to take a shower after the interaction. Eww.
Luckily, during this recent bararge of hoots and hollers, I held a door open for a woman. She was an older woman who walked with a walker. I thought she was thanking me as I held the door, but as I realized what she was saying, I started to giggle. She was explaining that she was not rude or fresh, but that I looked great spandex. "Some people don't belong in spandex...but you, you belong in spandex, girl." I think the best compliments you can get come from other women...especially because it can be a pride swallowing experience to tell another woman that she looks good. I honestly think that women check out women MORE than men do...how ya figure? Well, I can't speak for all women, but I can pretty safely say that most women compare themselves to others...I wish my hair was as long as hers or I think I have nicer legs than her. It's just an innate reaction...so when a woman actually speaks up to tell you that you're looking good, it far outweighs almost any compliment from a guy...and it sure beats getting verbally assaulted.
Monday, August 16, 2010
There are those of us that feel like we forgot something important if we leave our house unarmed with our cell phone....something important...ya know, like underwear, but even more important. We forget how to function. Pretty scary thought to think that we no longer know how to exist without our cell phone. But something that strikes me even more isn't what happens when we're the ones who forget our phone...it's the reactions of others on the other end of the line.
Today I left my phone in my car...something that's not uncommon when I go the gym. I consider myself a pretty connected person, but even I have my moments where I need to get off the grid for a bit. From time to time, if I know I have to be available, I'll work out with my phone...begrudingly. Today happened to be one of those days that I needed to escape and just let myself give into the trance of the stairmaster...in hopes it would help me get out of this funk I've been in lately. Fail.
I got back into my car after some serious cardio and a good ab workout...and pulled my phone out to see what I missed. 4 emails and 2 phone calls...the 2 missed calls were from the same person. I called right back and got no answer. I shrugged and went on with the rest of my day...kinda. I called the person back about 20 minutes later...still no answer. I have to admit I was a little frustrated.
Never thinking the person who called me would be aggravated, I found myself getting more and more frustrated for not being able to get through. Remember the days of cassette answering machines...when you never knew if someone was going to answer...and they didn't know it was you calling because caller i.d. was still kind of Jetson status? Gone are those days. Now we live in a time where being unavailable is being rude...or makes you seem suspect. Everyone wants everything right NOW.
After a couple hours, the person called me back...questioning why I wasn't available. I quickly apologized, but was tempted to question why THEY didn't answer. But what's the point...I didn't feel like getting into an argument...aside from the fact that I had a good reason for not having my phone on...so maybe they did, too. All I know is after we hung up, I missed those days of simpler times...rotary phones, beepers, and dial-up internet. Those were the days.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Image by Dain Sandoval via FlickrIn the last week, I've spent an abnormally large amount of my time in complete solitude. I've been working hard looking for audition opportunities and other job prospects. I've also been tirelessly trying write the lyrics and create a melody for a track I'm working on...trying being the key word. I play the track on repeat...then again...and again...until I can barely distinguish the beginning from the end of the song....and still...nothin'.
I've been in a serious funk...my personal life has seen better days to say the least. I know that the beauty of time is that nothing lasts forever...the great, nor the awful...nothing. So I wake up everyday hoping to be on another upswing.
I try my best to remember to praise God everyday and be grateful for another day to keep trying. Somedays that's easier than others...I'm sure you know the feeling. Aside from my faith, I also try to maintain my sense of humor during these times. Although I'm spending more time than I'd like to by myself and hitting a lot of walls, I still try and catch every opportunity I can to follow a thought with "that's what she said"...even if it's in my own head.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Image by Josh Russell via FlickrHave you ever had someone continue to call you that you weren't interested in speaking to? Of course you have, but has that person been calling you specifically to tell you that he/ she doesn't want to speak to you anymore? It happened to me last week and it's been on my mind ever since. It's not that it bothers me that the person didn't want to talk to me...it bothered me that they blew my phone up until I answered just so they could tell me they didn't want to talk to me anymore. Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose? I'm pretty sure NOT calling me would have been a more effective means of getting the message across...but that's just me.
It also reminds me of when my friends on facebook triumphantly declare they will be doing some "spring cleaning" of their friends just before they delete a large number of people. As a rule, I don't delete friends...in life...or on facebook...unless there is a reason, which justifies such an action. After all, if you are my friend, facebook or otherwise, why would I want to hurt your feelings or make sure you knew I didn't want to be your friend anymore? If you don't want to be my friend, you can just do nothing...it'll be way more effective. Just sayin'.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Image by Night Owl City via FlickrThursday, August 5, 2010, 5:45 a.m.: WANG. WANG. WANG. WANG. My alarm clock went off, but I was already awake. I had gone to bed only hours before and I'd woken up almost every half-hour since. It was the morning of my best friend's father's funeral. I had already had 2 exhausting days driving between the Bronx and Long Island, stopping in Manhattan to pick up and entertain some friends from out of town for the last 24 hours. Exhausting, yes...but nothing compared to what my best friend and her family had to endure during the weeks leading up to her father's death.
I got out of bed and made my way to the shower, hoping the water would rejuvinate me...but it just wasn't that kind of day. I opened my front door and saw that it was raining...appropriate weather for what I guessed would be a dreary day on all levels. It seemed as though nothing could lift my spirits or really wake me up. I got dressed, packed a change of clothes and some other odds and ends, and made my way to Starbucks in hopes that a latte would help perk me up (pun intended). I left more than 3 hours early because I wasn't sure how traffic would be and I didn't want to take any chance of being late...but at least the rain had stopped.
I arrived to the church almost 2 1/2 hours early, but I wasn't the first one there. There was a pickup truck full of firemen ready to pay their final respects and honor their friend and comrade. It touched my heart to see them there so early. It was the first time during the day that I smiled...and it felt like God had tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of the goodness of people.
I eventually made my way into the church to meet with the organist and cantor. My best friend had requested that I sing the communion song during the mass, "On Eagle's Wings." It's one of my very favorite hymns and it was included at my grandmother's funeral. It always gets me choked up so I was really nervous that I wasn't going to be able to get through it. I met with Jean, the organist, and she offered great advice, consolement, and assurance that I would be fine. Her kindness made me smile for the second time that day...and it felt like God had tapped me on the shoulder again so as to remind me that as long as I sing with my heart, it would be beautiful.
I took a seat in a pew and anxiously waited for everyone to enter. I looked over and realized the cantor had arrived. I walked over to her and we chatted breifly about the song. Her name was Pat; she was a high school music teacher and said that she adapted quickly so not to worry. And for the third time, I smiled...and again, God tapped me on my shoulder...this time, reminding me to take a deep breath and mentally prepare for what was about to happen.
Mass began ceremoniously...with the firemen of Ladder Company 38 leading the way. It was beautiful. I looked across the way and caught eyes with my best friend long enough to blow each other kisses and say, "I love you." The priest gave a a moving a eulogy and shared his own interactions with this great man. Two friends spoke and shared their personal memories, which included some of the antics he was known for. Laughter errupted throughout the church. I not only smiled this time...I laughed, too. And this time it was not God tapping me on the shoulder, it was my friend's father himself. He was reminding me...and everyone else in attendance...that he wanted this day to be a celebration...and not a day of tears. And though I wished I could honor his wish completely, I was able to at least insert some laughter in between tears.
The mass ended and I stayed behind to receive communion. I thanked Pat & Jean for their help. Jean gave me a strong hug, the kind that feels like it's actually replenishing some of the strength that you've cried out of yourself. She held me tight and said that she could hear that I sang from my heart...and that it would be something that my friend and I would always have as part of our friendship. I sobbed in her embrace. And though I wasn't smiling, I could feel God tapping me on the shoulder again...reminding me it was ok to cry.
I got into my car and followed the long caravan of cars towards the veterans' cemetary, which was about 45 minutes away. Due to him being a war veteran and a member of NYFD, not to mention the number of family and friends in attendance, the police department shut off side roads and escorted us the entire way. I took the opportunity to call my mother during the drive. At that moment, I didn't need God to remind me...I remembered how fortunate I was to have both my parents still in my life.
We arrived at the veterans' cemetary and proceeded to gather in his final resting place. It was a beautiful day; the sun was shining down brightly. The soldiers fired off their gun salute in honor of this brave man…literally the bravest man I’ve ever known: a pilot, a courageous firefighter for 38 years, and a first responder during the 9/11 attacks. Another soldier played Taps and it started to set in that this was truly the end. Finally, a bag piper played the last tune and a woman from the funeral home said a closing prayer, following it with us all reciting the “Our Father” together. It was time to say goodbye. My friend and her family placed their white roses on his casket and watched as others dropped their flowers and said farewell. As the last rose was dropped, huge rain drops started to fall through the sun-drenched sky. I smiled. This time, he and God, were working together to remind us to not linger and be sad…it was time to return to their family home for the party he had requested. I grinned from ear to ear as I ran to my car, realizing just what was happening. As we all returned to our cars and began to drive off, the rain stopped and the sun gleamed as bright as before. It was perfect.
I arrived back at my friend’s house where the cars lined the streets all the way to the end. A neighbor had placed fire helmets and American flags on an island that separated the street. Signs in neighbors’ driveways welcomed his friends and family to park wherever they needed. The sun was still out, but now there was a gentle breeze that blew. I smiled again…God was reminding me they would be at the party, too. It was a beautiful day, a wonderful party with some of the most amazing people I have ever had the honor of meeting, and an eye-opening experience to realize the importance of celebrating life. Celebrating the life of someone can be the most profound and helpful way of mourning the loss of someone as extraordinary as he was. All day I had “Two Step” by Dave Matthews Band stuck in my head, whose chorus jubilantly sings, “Celebrate we will ‘cause life is short, but sweet for certain.” I smiled throughout the entire party…realizing that we were all there because we were honoring his wish to do just that…celebrate.
My friend was inundated with news reporters and phone calls as soon as she arrived home for the party. She was unbothered by any of it and she didn’t hesitate to speak to anyone. She spoke passionately about the loss of her father…the bravery he demonstrated in life, the humor he brought to everyday, and the legacy he now left behind. She is now fighting to help pass a 9/11 healthcare bill…a bill that was rejected just 2 days before her father’s death, a death attributed to the cancer he got as a result of being a first responder during that tragic day. As I watched and listened to her speak, I could see that her father had clearly not gone anywhere. In her eyes, I saw a glimmer…and I smiled. It was God reminding me that our loved ones never really go anywhere…not as long as we keep them in our hearts and our minds. My friend is a living legacy of her father and I am honored to call her a friend. And though her father may not be with us in the physical sense, he and God made themselves more than visible throughout the day…a sign that faith sometimes grows stronger when you least expect it. Today, I celebrate my life, my faith, my friendship, and the realization that God is everywhere…you just have to be paying attention.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Image by ktylerconk via FlickrCancer. It's a word that has been in my brain like...well, like a cancer. In the last few weeks, I have been plagued by cancer...both directly and indirectly. I had a constant pain in my breast that was making me nervous. I went to my doctor, told her my symptoms, and she immediately got on the phone referring me for a mammogram. I listened to her as she argued with whomever was on the other end of the phone, explaining my mother's history of breast cancer and how I must have a mammogram. She huffed and puffed, hung up the phone, and explained that I'm too young for a mammogram so I'd be going for a sonogram instead. I didn't really care what kind of test it was...as long as it meant I was getting to the bottom of whatever was wrong. Cancer was the last thing I thought it was, but I figured a sonogram would surely tell me something about what was going on.
I showed up at the breast imaging center and checked in. While filling out my paperwork, there was a woman in the waiting room who was a accompanied by a nurse. She kept bursting out with, "Oy vey" over and over again. I couldn't help but think of my mother. She reminded me of my mom during one of her many manic depressive espisodes. I looked at the woman and smiled tenderly, trying to convery the message that I understood where she was coming from. But she just looked back and screamed, "Oy vey," again. And again, I thought of my mother. My mother was 46 years old when she was first diagnosed with cancer, a diagnosis that would eventually go terribly wrong and metastasize...leading to a mastectomy...chemo...radiation...and 3 reconstructive surgeries. But, despite all of this, my mother is a cancer survivor. She is still in my life today...a gift from God that I sometimes took for granted until I met the guy I'm currently dating...and frequently blog about.
He lost his mother in her battle with cancer. He had little time to prepare for her death and she was one of his very best friends. And this past week was the 3 year anniversary of his mother's death. Since we started dating, we've spent a lot of time together. But as the anniversary drew closer, we grew further apart. Maybe that's an unfair assessment...we didn't necessarily grow apart, we just spent significantly less time together. His phone calls and texts grew further and further apart. I finally sent him a text message asking if he was still interested in me...his elusiveness had shaken my confidence. I just couldn't understand why he would want to be alone that much....or exclude me from what he was going though. In all fairness, we are two very different people in that regard. When I'm at low points, many times I need people around me to distract me from allowing myself to get so low that I can't get back up. Why didn't he want me around to help pick him back up?
The answer became abundantly more clear a few hours after I started writing this particular blog. I started writing this blog post on Saturday evening. I stopped so that I could get out of my house for a while and go distract myself from my self-absorbed thoughts of me, me, me in the context of my relationship for a while. I don't mean to skip around so much, but I need to rewind a few weeks back at this point.
I don't remember if it started with a text or a phone call...but I do know it ended up with me on the phone with my old college roommate, getting the news that her father's bladder cancer had returned...and spread. I stayed on the phone with her, listening to how everything had unfolded. Occassionally, I would interject my words of hope based on my own father's battle with bladder cancer. My father is also a cancer survivor. He is a smoker, a recovering alcoholic...but most of all, a survivor. I sent her texts everyday, checking on the progress of his battle. His prognosis sounded fairly promising, but I still made sure to take a day and spend it with her while he was in the hospital. Things sounded hopeful...he was supposed to be discharged at the end of the week so he could get home and start full-body chemo. We all watched the World Cup together, drank iced coffee, and he ate the first solid food he had been able to in days. It was a good day.
Fast forward back to this Saturday. As I mentioned, I went out and hung out with my friends so as to avoid wallowing in my own self-pitty for the evening. I drank some beers and played an entertaining game of Scrabble with a few friends. It was a low-key night, but it was just what I needed. On the way home, I spoke to the kid I was dating again...and found more frustration. I pulled up in front of my house and took a look at facebook on my blackberry. I saw a haunting status update from my old roommate and paused...It's 2 a.m. Do I call...is it too late? Do I text her...is that too impersonal? Does her update mean what I THINK it means? I decided to text a general "thinking of you" text just to test the waters. Her response broke my heart and confirmed what I thought to be true. Her father had lost his battle to cancer that night.
Within seconds of getting her response, I called her...not knowing what words I could possibly say that would be able to offer her consolement. Her voice was calm as she answered the phone and explained the events of the evening. I sat there in silence ...just trying to figure out what to say. What words are there for someone who loses a parent? Sometimes the only thing you can say is that you don't know what to say.
I got off the phone with her....and sobbed. I cried so long and so hard that I lost track of time. I cried for all the things he would miss in her life. I cried at the thought of if it had been my father. I cried for her mother. I cried for her sister. And then I cried because I realized how insensitive I had been to the guy I'm dating about grieving the loss of his mother. I made myself physically sick from crying so hard. At some point, I got myself together enough to get into my house...so I could cry some more. And cry, I did. I cried at the thought of how strong my friend was being at such a tragic time. I cried about feeling guilty that my parents had survived. I cried for everything that had gone wrong...and could possibly ever go wrong in the future. I just couldn't get a hold of myself...and then I yawned. Yawns are magical. I feel like yawns are God's way of stopping you from crying when you can't stop yourself. I yawned...and just like that, it was God's reminder that I was still alive and to get a grip. So I did...and went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up...and I cried again. I sent a text to the guy I'm dating and explained what happened. I needed to see him...and not be alone...and tell him that I think I finally understood...kind of. Afterall, how much can you really understand that until it happens to you? I don't ever want to know...but I know it's inevitable...no one gets out of this alive.
I spent the whole day with him...living life instead of crying about the things that are so far out of my control that they could make me cry forever. I called my parents and the woman I consider to be a second mother. I told them each that I love them and that I was grateful that they are still here in my life. I talked to my friend today and she asked me how I was doing. I didn't know how to answer....if I said I was good, would that make her feel worse? If I said I was bad, would that make her feel worse? Instead, I chose honesty...I told her that her father's death had made me realize how lucky I am to have my parents in my life and to not take anything for granted....and to always remember to LIVE my life instead of thinking about it so much. She seemed happy that a lesson was learned throughout all of this. She said it's what her father would have wanted. And after she said it, I realized that's what all of us should strive for...to leave a legacy that reminds others to value our lives and one another...and to live everyday as if it might be our last...because you never know.