The gift.

A recurring theme in my life these days seems to be the idea that good can come from bad, that great beauty can be born from great adversity, that even the most oppressive rain clouds possess their silver lining, if you’d only look for it.  Several days ago when I was having a particularly tough day, I returned to a poem called Roll the Dice by Charles Bukowski.  It was introduced to me several years ago by my friend Barbara and I’ve leaned on it many times over the years when I’ve needed a lift (If you’d like to read it, it’s pasted below, at the bottom of this blog).  The poem is about dedicating yourself to your passion and being so committed to it that you’re willing to suffer through any hardship in order to make it happen.  A couple lines in particular stand out:  Isolation is the gift.  All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.

Isolation is the gift.  It’s tough to be alone.  It’s more fun to be with other people, to be social.  But it’s also a distraction.  My acting teacher said something in class a few weeks ago and I wrote it down because it really hit home.  Anyone who’s trying to do something wonderful will suffer in loneliness.  He was talking about artists – actors in particular – and the art of creation.  But I think it’s true for most people. As much as we are social beings, we need time on our own.  To do our work.  To figure out who we really are without the opinions of others reflecting back upon us like mirrors.

I have a complicated relationship with my aloneness. I hate it because it makes me feel just that:  lonely.  But I also need it.  There was so much to do after my mother’s death, that I didn’t have time to grieve.  My dad was ill and he was alone.  My grandmother was ill.  Bad things kept happening and crisis management stretched on for months.  And after both my dad and grandmother passed, I threw myself into work, co-producing a play festival and a film, and just keeping so, so busy.

At the time, I think being busy and distracted was what I needed to do.  I had to keep moving in order to get through.  But now – finally – I’ve arrived at the place where in order to get better and to heal, I have to sit with myself and let the feelings land where they land.  No one else can do that for me.  No one can grow for me, or process my emotions for me, or get healthy for me, or make the changes I need to make for me.  That’s my job.  And like it or not, it’s a path I’ve got to walk alone.

It feels paradoxical to say that because throughout all the tough stuff, I’ve been surrounded by wonderful, loving people who’ve buoyed me up, who’ve supported me, and without whom I never would have survived the darkest of the dark.  I don’t want to slight them or diminish their crucial importance in my life.  I’m eternally grateful for every helping hand and kind word.  But now I’ve got to scour the depths of my soul for what’s next and the only one who can do that is yours truly.

We don’t walk into the great unknown willingly because change is uncomfortable and, at times, terrifying.  But life, through circumstance, will drive us to change.  It pushes us to be better when we won’t do it on our own.  It shakes us up when we need to be shaken; it creates obstacles that we must overcome, so that we can surprise ourselves with our resourcefulness and stand in our own strength.  ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ has become such a cliché I almost hate to type it on the page, but clichés are anchored in our vernacular for a reason:  they’re true.

I’ve survived a lot of traumatic life events over the last two years, but I’m starting to see the gift in what has happened to me.  It’s tough to admit that because it almost sounds like I’m grateful for the bad stuff, or that I somehow wanted it to happen.  I’m not, and I didn’t.  But I’m grateful for what it has taught me, for what it is teaching me.  I’m grateful for the ability to look at my life through different, wiser (and yes, sadder) eyes and appreciate how truly beautiful it is, and what a gift I have indeed been given.

Isolation is the gift.  For me, right now, it is.  I’m surrounded by amazing people who love me and whom I love back.  I’m lucky.  But – at least for the time being – I’m on a path that, on a fundamental level, I must walk alone.  To grow.  To explore.  To write and to do my work.  And to just come home.  To me.

Until next time, friends.

Roll the Dice by Charles Bukowski:

If you’re going to try, go all the way.

Otherwise, don’t even start.

This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind.

It could mean not eating for three or four days.

It could mean freezing on a park bench.

It could mean jail.  It could mean derision.  It could mean mockery — isolation.

Isolation is the gift.

All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.

And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds.

And it will be better than anything else you can imagine.

If you’re going to try, go all the way.

There is no other feeling like that.

You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire.

You will ride life straight to perfect laughter.

It’s the only good fight there is.

Bye bye, BlackBerry.

photoI have officially entered the ranks of people living in 2014:  a week ago, I bought my first iPhone.  As much as I love the conveniences that my sparkling new 5s has afforded me, it was not easy for me to part ways with my dinosaur of a smart phone.  Call me sentimental, call me stubborn, call me touch screen averse – all true.  I will admit to being slightly irrational for holding on to it for so long, but damn it, I loved that phone.

I got my BlackBerry Tour just over 4 years ago (4 years!  That phone was indestructible. I am convinced that it could have survived a nuclear holocaust).  Purchased at a Sprint store in Tacoma, Washington, it was a birthday present from my Mom and my first ever smart phone.  My plan came with a generous Boeing discount, because, in the words of the friendly (Yes, friendly!  Because everyone is friendly in the Pacific Northwest) Sprint employee, ‘everyone here knows someone who works for Boeing.’

It may be pretentious and kind of weird to personify a phone, but over the last four plus years that BlackBerry was as reliable as any of my besties.  It traveled with me to London, Paris, Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix, Amsterdam (to name a few), and all over the Pacific Northwest from Vancouver to Seattle to Olympia to Medford, Oregon with stops in between.  It was a vital tool in coordinating both creative endeavors (co-producing several plays, as well as my first film) and crisis management (planning details of my parents’ memorial services, fighting a bad case of identify theft, troubleshooting an insurance nightmare after a rental car break-in in Chicago).  Through it all, my phone was there, and with it, the ability to send lighting fast emails and text messages on my beloved keypad.

The truth is, I’m still a bit of an analog girl living in a digital world.  I love the smell of books and I’d rather hold one in my hand than read it on a Kindle.  I find sublime happiness in flipping through a glossy magazine.  And I’m convinced I do my best writing pen to paper, rather than fingers to keyboard.

Maybe it’s for these reasons that I resisted upgrading the technology of my phone.  Maybe (definitely) there’s a great deal of sentimental value attached to that pocket computer given who gave it to me and where it came from.  Maybe after all we’ve been through together, BlackBerry, it’s just hard to quit you.

But like all good things, this too had to come to an end.  For years, my phone was the little engine that could.  But when the battery started to go and I had to be plugged into a charger for any conversation lasting longer than 3 minutes, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

So bye bye, BlackBerry.  Bye bye generous Boeing discount, keypad and the beloved ‘ding’ you made whenever I received a text message.  Hello Instagram, super fast internet, convenience, and (gulp) a real cell phone bill.  You may be gone, old friend, but you’ll never, never be forgotten.

Until next time, friends.



Grief experts will tell you that with time, eventually you’ll get to a place where the memory of a lost loved one will make you smile and think of happy times, rather than dwell on the pain of the loss.  How long this takes is, understandably, unique to the situation, and to the person who has suffered the loss.

It has been a year and a half since I lost the most significant person in my life, my Mom, and I’m not there yet.  The passage of time has helped – the nightmares that used to come frequently now occur only once every so often and they’re less wrenching and raw than they used to be, and certain triggers like a photograph or a song or a movie don’t affect me as much as they used to.  But there’s still that ever-present ache that tugs at my insides whenever I think of her.  And I’m never not thinking of her.  I keep myself busy and distracted so that for a time, I can forget.  But, like a shark that has to keep swimming in order to breathe, I have to keep moving, or I will drown.

Unlike other loved ones that I’ve lost, there’s very little peace to be found around my Mom’s death.  She haunts me like a wounded ghost, crying out for my help.  Help that I wasn’t able to give her when she so desperately needed it.  No matter how many people, especially those with intimate knowledge of the situation, tell me that I shouldn’t feel guilty or hold myself responsible for her death, I can’t help but think what if?  She was closer to me than anyone else in the world.  She trusted me; she told me secrets that she never told anyone else, secrets that I, in turn, will never tell.  In many ways, from a very young age, I was often the parent, and she was the child.  She took care of me, but I took care of her too.

caramel apples

But for the last year or so before she died, and in particular, the four months between my Dad’s cancer diagnosis and her death, I didn’t understand her behavior.  It was crazy, it was irrational, and it scared me.  She would send me emails at 3 a.m., rambling on about one nonsensical thing or another, she wouldn’t shower for days, she refused to eat and her body became rail thin, and worst of all, she barely seemed to know who I was.  The most terrifying thing of all was the blank stare, as though she was looking through me, (me, her person) and I didn’t exist.  Then the phone calls came, hysterical.  ‘Mom,’ I said, ‘I think you’re having a nervous breakdown.  I’m worried.  I think you need to talk to a professional.’

I put the resources in her hands but I didn’t make the calls.  I left it up to her, and of course (I can see now), she didn’t and couldn’t do it.  She told me that she had found someone, a psychiatrist, but when I looked up the doctor’s name online and couldn’t find any record of her, Mom said that she was ‘really new,’ to her practice.  I knew she was telling me lies; that she’d made up an imaginary doctor to get me off her back, but what could I do?  What should I have done?

It’s those questions and those relentless what ifs that will drive a person crazy.  I was my Mom’s best friend and she was mine.  She leaned on me so much throughout her life, but when she needed me the most, she pushed me away, and slammed the door in my face.  And even worse, I let her do it.  Was she suffering so much that she didn’t want me to intervene, and she just wanted the pain to be over?  Or did she desperately want my help but was trying to protect me, and she just needed me to push harder and to be tougher and to not take no for an answer?  These are the questions in which my nightmares take root.

me and mom kitchen

Recently, I was in New Orleans to celebrate my sister Marion’s birthday, and we had our palms and tarot cards read by a lady named Miss Irene.  Miss Irene is 86 years old and has been reading cards since she was 16, a total of 70 years.  She looked at some lines on my palm and told me that I’d lost a lot of people that I loved and that they were now my angels watching over me.  Be skeptical if you want to be – I am – but I’m telling you, this lady was no joke.

I wonder:  when will the ghost that’s haunting me become the angel watching over me?  When will the good memories of my Mom – of which there are so, so many – replace all the pain and the guilt and the terrible, relentless what ifs?  We were so very different in so many ways and yet, we were the same.  No matter how much I’m my own person, for the rest of my life, she’s in me.  I am her and she is me.  There isn’t a moment in the last year and a half that she’s been gone where I haven’t wondered, ‘What would Mom do?’ or ‘What would Mom think about this?’  There are times when I’ve done exactly what she would have wanted, to honor her, and times when I’ve deliberately acted out and done something she would have hated, like a rebellious teenager out to assert my independence.  No matter.  She is always, always top of mind.  Being as kind, as compassionate, and as lovely as she was is my greatest aim, and avoiding her pitfalls is my greatest challenge.

For better or for worse, my Mother – the way she lived and the way she died – is the ghost that I am living with.  Pain aside, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be haunted.  At least, as a ghost, I won’t forget her.  She is always, always with me.  She is the thing that pushes me to be better.  She is the thing that threatens to destroy me.  She is the thing that I will never stop chasing, and the reason I will never stop striving.  The source of the ever-present ache is this:  no matter what I do, it’s impossible to make a ghost proud of you.  It’s impossible to make a ghost happy.  I know that.  But I can’t, and I won’t, stop trying.

Until next time, friends.

Mom and Eadie



How honest is too honest?  For me, that has been the trickiest part about blogging.  Over the last several months I’ve laid a lot of things bare.  I’ve exposed personal things about my life, my family, and the inner workings of my heart that, at times, have made me uncomfortable because they were so honest.  I’ve been worried about hurting other people, and I’ve been worried about hurting myself.  But I’ve also realized that if I’m not honest, I might as well not write.  If it doesn’t matter to me, if it’s not meaningful, then what the hell is the point?  So I find myself back at square one, telling the truth.  The complete, unabashed and sometimes, ugly, truth.

I’m not a nice person.  That’s the truth.  If you talk to anyone who knows me intimately, they’ll tell you two things:  I have a heart the size of Texas and I’m fiercely and loyally devoted to those I love, and I’m also a complete and total bitch.  It’s true.  Casual acquaintances know me as the ‘nice’ girl.  But those who know me better know that I have another side.  A side that’s unforgiving.  A side that’s not afraid to be vicious if you’re standing in the way of something that matters to me.   A side that’s primal, fiercely protective, and about claws-out survival.

I used to shy away from this part of myself.  I used to deny it.  After all, we’re taught to play nice.  We’re taught to obey the rules.  Especially us girls.  What will people think of me if I let my dark and twisted side out to roam free in the civilized world?

My Mom was nice.  She was the nicest person I ever knew.  She literally did not have a mean bone in her body.  And I adored her.  She was my best friend, and my favorite person on this earth.


But she was also the unhappiest person I ever knew.  She loved (no, worshipped) my Dad, but he was a difficult man.  A brilliant, often wonderful man, but difficult as hell man to live with.  She probably should have left him.  At times, she wanted to.  She cried to me about it when I was a little girl, making plans about where we’d go, where we’d start our new life.  But she didn’t leave.  She stayed – even though she was unhappy – because she loved him.  My Mom was like that.  Always doing the right thing, no matter what the personal cost.  Maybe it was the Catholic thing.  Maybe she was afraid of rocking the boat.  Maybe she wasn’t brave.  Maybe all of those things.

My Mom died.  And when I say died, what I mean is she imploded in a spectacular fashion.  She did it all, was everything to everyone, until she couldn’t be anymore.  She couldn’t be anything to anyone, least of all herself, and she self-medicated and retreated into a bottle for relief and it killed her.  It was shocking, it was heartbreaking, and it should have been obvious all along that this could have been the only end to her sad story.  My sweet, kind, miserably unhappy mother, too sensitive for this world and who tried to do too much for too many, in the end, had nothing left for herself.

It’s a strange thing to idolize someone, to love them desperately and completely, to be willing to do anything for them, and yet be absolutely determined not to be like them, come hell or high-water.  From a very young age, I knew I didn’t want to be my Mom.  Her choices terrified me.  They felt like a self-imposed prison that flew in the face of everything I dreamed of:  an unconventional life that was adventurous and free and fun, that embraced art and beauty, a life that took risks, that was creative, spontaneous and inspired.


In the last year and a half, I’ve lost a lot of people that I love.  People who have been been literal giants in my life and crucial to my development as a human being.  Both of my parents.  My only remaining Grandmother.  And a dear friend.  For a long time, all of this death and dying, sadness and loss, left me underwater.  It left me numb.  I didn’t know what to do with myself or where to go.  I felt defeated.  I felt angry.  I felt sad.  And for a long time, I abandoned the one thing I really should have been doing throughout all this, which is to write it all down.  Truthfully.

No more.  I don’t care who doesn’t like it.  I don’t care who doesn’t like me.  I am done, to quote Lanford Wilson, “Telling lies to protect the guilty.”  Telling the truth about my family – with all of their imperfections and frailties – doesn’t mean I don’t love them or miss them or wish that they were still here.  It just means that I want to survive their mistakes.  I want to learn from them.  So that I can be better and stronger and smarter.  And doing that means no more apologizing.  It means embracing the side of myself that’s not so nice.  The side that wants to kick ass.  The side that doesn’t give a damn what you think.  And the side that’s all about telling the truth, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable it can sometimes be.

Until next time, friends.

P.S. – Special thanks to Lemon Melon Photography for the kick-ass photos, and to the incomparable Becca Weber for the hair and makeup magic.


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