But why

This actually started as a comment to my good friend, Hannah’s, latest post (check out her blog, her photographs are beautiful and incredibly interesting), but as I kept typing, I figured I’d just post it here instead of leaving an essay in her comments. Hannah is French. She lives in Paris, although she’s currently in the States. My heart breaks for her, and I am thankful she is safe.

People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Here’s what I was starting to write to her (and it takes off from there, as you’ll see):

I can feel your pain. My heart hurts in solidarity for you, for Paris, for Beirut, for everyone. I hear what you’re saying, absolutely. I immediately experienced empathy when I heard about Paris. I immediately thought of you. I imagined my city, my home, New York, being attacked again. I took the train down to Times Square later that day for work and felt my chest tighten with anxiety. We could easily have been those victims. I sit outside on balconies eating dinner. I have gone to clubs and concerts. I didn’t hear about the attack on Beirut until later that same day, (which is an issue that should be addressed). But do we or do we not put a filter over our Facebook profile pictures – and which one? Do we not post as much about Paris, but more about Beirut? Why didn’t I hear about Kenyan University where 147 students were massacred back in April? Am I a bad person? How can I put the French flag and the Lebanon flag and the Kenyan flag all on my social media while using non-religious but thoughtful hashtags so everyone knows I am good and mean well? How do we stay politically correct – how can we accurately report war and suffering – what is the right thing to do now against ISIS – what about – if we just – what about – this is wrong – this is right – what about –

I have no fucking idea. So I’ve been relatively staying silent, because for me, at this point, right now, none of this matters. I know there are a lot of complex political issues at stake now, and yes, discussion needs to happen, but we seem to be on the brink of a global war. Everyone is shouting, everyone is in pain. The core truth is that people have died, and I am sad. For all of them.

Pain is pain. No one wins when people try to compare suffering, and it is a futile, misguided effort. When in times of immense suffering, we want our pain justified, our grief validated, and our most natural reactions when our souls are in danger is to inflate the ego, retaliate, and look for someone to blame. We need a Why for our pain. Trust me, I do this all the time. Grief is an incredibly, incredibly isolating and lonely experience, not to mention extremely frightening, to explore the depths of pain in our psyche. It’s natural to lash out and try to find someone or something to cling to, even if we drag them down with us in the process.

It’s also natural that the Western media has reacted so strongly to the Paris attacks over the Beirut attacks. Whether or not that’s right isn’t really for me to say. It just Is. The stories that we most relate to are when the victims most look like us, when what happens is close to home, that all hurts much more. It’s natural and human to have empathy sometimes and just sympathy other times. If we could viscerally feel the pain of every experience outside our own, we would go probably insane and very quickly end it. It’s too much. So we distance, we dehumanize, we point fingers, we blame, we cause more pain, in order to protect ourselves. We do so out of fear, and always have. Because the world is too great, the suffering too immense, the losses are unbearable. We are angry because life is unfair.

And we’re right. It is unfair. It’s incredibly unfair. And it fucking sucks. But it Is.

I laugh now looking at my past blog and journal posts. I always think I have all the answers. I just keep having the same epiphanies over and over again. I realize a new truth, write about it, internalize it, and try to practice more mindful living. Which lasts a few days – a week or so if I really try. Then I go right back to being a human who gets angry and hurts and lashes out and clings and gets jealous and says mean things and has selfish thoughts and rolls her eyes and cries all the time and huffs and is just so OVER IT. Because I’m human. This time last year on my birthday, I wrote a whole post about being an adult. Hah hah! Boy, that lasted long. It’s very humbling, to say the least. But it does help me take myself less seriously, which I am always in need of.

You know, now that I think of it, Life IS kind of like school. Every year, you have the same core subjects with some new ones mixed in, and every year, you advance a level – if you do the work, that is. The material gets harder, more in-depth, more complex. But hopefully, if you work hard, do your homework, and listen in class, you become better equipped to handle such challenges. Sometimes you decide to abruptly switch your majors or transfer to a new school, which can also be so overwhelming and temporarily set you back, but you eventually adjust.

Ooooh, so that was the point of the first 21 years of my life. Now I get it. School’s just a metaphor, you guys!

Right now, I’m basically in “Life Whooping Your Ass 301: You Thought You Knew But You Had No Idea!” and I think I may be in way over my head. But thank god for tutors (aka therapists), amirite?

ANYWAY, point being, I’ve recently enacted an experiment where I put into practice one crucial key to Adulting that I totes forgot for like, my entire life, you guys. Acceptance.

As I’ve stated before, I have a crazy powerful imagination, I have a penchant for fantasies, an idealistic willful heart, and quite a passionate temper. I also tend to phone it in, coast, hide, and procrastinate when I can – basically at heart, I’m lazy. I also cling. Hard. To beliefs, habits, people, and some very longstanding grudges against certain people I feel have hurt me significantly. I do this simply because I can, because it’s easier, and because I’ve been getting away with it for nearly 28 years.

When I’m in pain, when terrible shit happens, when life’s unfair, there’s this persistent little voice in the back of my head that whines, “But WHYYYYYY?!” (Did you also read this in Cartman’s voice? No? Just me?)

Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)
Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)

God, I hear that voice a lot. But I usually don’t wait to hear the answer.

If I did, I bet my inner Good Mother would stroke my hair and simply say, “Because.”

And when I ask again, “But WHHHYYYYYY!?” She would probably wrap me in her arms, think for a moment, and thoughtfully, sadly reply, “I don’t know.

So I’m working out my next thesis. I think the next step in this never ending grad school of self-discovery is Acceptance. Even when the answers aren’t clear and there seems to be no reason or logic at all. Because only through acceptance can you then move forward, heal, and let it go. Do I really want to carry my pain of the past around with me my entire life – begrudgingly, angrily, indignant that I’ve been slighted? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s really time to let that painful fire rage so that I can rise from the ashes. Truly embody the Six of Swords and leave behind past pain which has been holding me back from becoming who I need to be.

That doesn’t mean doing so is easy. Nope. This. Is. Super. Fucking. HARD. And so incredibly painful – I can’t even describe the pain. It’s a slow, very painful process and I miss everything so much and the reluctance is so strong. It’s scary to let go. (But you can’t get rid of the Babadook!)

Acceptance doesn’t discount the pain or wipe it clean or encourage apathy. Acceptance accepts the pain for what it is (that’s a weird phrase, huh), acknowledges the hurt, and eventually, hopefully, then lets the pain move through us, rather than take over us. Yes, this happened. Yes, it was unfair. I was hurt. I still hurt. It has affected me. But it happened. This is part of my story.

Because there is Life After Death. And if we’re lucky, we’re reborn a thousand times. The messages of peace and love and understanding that I’ve seen in the aftermath of these attacks are so beautiful and uplifting. It’s time to heal, as a planet, as humans, as humanity. We need to take care of each other. I see it in the strength of the Syrian refugees, the families of victims of senseless violence, the survivors of violent attacks and immense trauma. They persevere. They still have hope. They keep living. Because this is Life. And it Is.

I’ll leave you with this amazing little video. Sending you love.

Home.

“There’s no place like home.”

Ruby Red Slippers

As most of my close friends and family know, I absolutely loved the Wizard of Oz when I was a child. Actually, “loved” is a severe understatement. It was an obsession bordering on mania, as most of my loves tend to be. I remember clearly how it started. I found my mother’s soundtrack CD one day in our TV cabinet and began listening to it. From that day forth, I would play it on repeat in my small bedroom, acting out and singing along with every lyric. It spiraled from there. I received a copy of the movie and I would watch it every day. I knew every line by heart. Over the span of just a couple years, I had amassed (thanks to my very kind and supportive parents) the books, Barbies (sidenote: I should have never taken mine out of the box!), dolls, figurines, snow globes, board games, clothing, stuffed animals, mugs, posters – all of it Wizard of Oz. I was a merchandiser’s dream customer. I saw the performance live, on ice – and in 4th grade, I wrote, what I thought was a very professional letter, to my vice principal Mr. Davis asking to use the school auditorium to produce, direct, design, and star in my own production of Frank L. Baum’s classic. (Once a producer, always a producer.) That is the year I sadly learned what royalties and copyright laws are. And even though my love for this wonderful, whimsical universe is not quite as intense as it used to be (I once wrote in my diary that “Wizard of Oz is an ocean and I’m drowning in it” – once a drama queen, always a drama queen), it will always hold a special place in my heart. And I bet I can beat all of you at Wizard of Oz trivia any day.

Fast forward nearly 20 years. I was speaking with a close friend recently about which Wizard of Oz characters we would be (my preferred version of the ‘Which SATC girl are you?’ discussion) and I declared I would be Dorothy, obviously. He was surprised, he replied, “Oh, I don’t know, Dorothy always struck me as kind of dense.” I ignored that slight to my homegirl and replied, “Yes, but she’s always longing for home.”

Home.

It’s this huge, vast, complex, multi-layered concept that so many of us long for. But what it is and what that word means varies depending on who you ask.

Diana Ross sang, “When I think of home, I think of a place with love overflowing.” (I also absolutely love The Wiz, obviously, and I can’t wait for NBC’s version!) 

(Go ahead, watch Diana just f*cking SLAY this song and cry and then you can finish reading)

In fact, I don’t have to go into this much further – we’ve heard all of the theories. Any place you hang your hat is home. Home is where the heart is. Home is with the one you love. Home is wherever you are. Home. But what is home? Who is right? More so, why are we so obsessed with this idea and creating a home or finding a home?

As I’ve written before, once again I am happily resigned to say: I don’t know.

Bear with me though, I think I have some theories. I actually started writing this post months ago but never finished. Rather, I wrote down a few quotes from a podcast that I was listening to at the time which stirred something in my soul, and then never came back. Until now. Here is one of the quotes:

“It’s only by stopping movement, that you can see where to go. And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about and find a home. And home, in the end, is of course, not just the place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand.” – Pico Iyer (NPR TED Radio Hour podcast on Identities)

The other night, I went to a party of a super cool new friend of mine. It was an awesome party. There was a DJ and lights spinning and a lot of fun, good-looking people dancing it up. I was… pretty sauced. At one point towards the end of the night, my friend, the very gracious host, was talking to myself and two others about how he has completely stopped all dating, flirting, sex, romance – pursuing or acting on – all of it. That entire part of his life is just shut down. I was shocked and reacted quite emotionally. My breakdown went as follows:

  1. You can do that?!
  2. WHAT! Like completely?
  3. But why?!

He replied, “I’m happy.”

I scoffed and laughed and then got angry. No, actually, I was pissed. But it wasn’t until the next morning in the cold, harsh, sober light of day that I actually started to think about what he was saying.

Why did his life choice – the concept of someone choosing not to look – make me react so intensely? I realized quickly that I have actually never done that. I’ve never actually made that choice. Sure, I’ve taken breaks from dating to “work on me” or quit online dating (which I do about every 3 months) but I’ve never really turned it completely off.

Ever since I was a very young girl, Disney and Meg Ryan movies (and Saved By The Bell) have instilled in me this very strong urge to find The One. That life is not worth living without Love. That Love conquers all. All you need is Love. Okay, you get it.

And as I became an intelligent, feminist, independent grown woman, I still could not seem to shake that little quiet voice in the back of my head – that I never know where I might find him (or her, I’m inclusive) – the life partner I’m meant to be with. Someone that will actually watch Netflix and chill with me, spend holidays with me, enrich my already full life, and build a family with me. Someone to be my home. (Theeeere it is.)

Hey, don’t sit there and judge me – think about it. How much energy, time, money, emotion do you spend on the idea of romantic love? The Valentine’s Day and Hallmark industry alone prove that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

So the idea of just stopping – not looking, not desiring, not wanting – is a radical concept for me. In fact, my knee-jerk reaction was: How dare he!? How dare he just completely and effortlessly reject something that has somehow become a huge, massive part of my life?

And then it turned into: Wait… but what if… what if I don’t too? What if I just stop?

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that Love isn’t amazing and wonderful and something to be desired. I’m not saying that Love never lasts and give up hope now. I’m not saying to build a fortress around your heart so you can “work on yourself” for a while. (The Universe knows that trick, trust me.) I’m actually not saying anything about Love at all.

But what if you really looked at an aspect of your life, something that you felt was so intrinsic to your identity, and just knocked it the f*ck down? Kaboosh.

Source: Martin Hunter/Getty Images AsiaPac
Source: Martin Hunter/Getty Images AsiaPac

The past couple years have been very transformative for me – a lot has happened, a lot has changed. I tell my therapist (and a few of my very patient friends), that it feels like I’ve built these pillars in my life – everything from people that I love to belief systems to habits or addictions to values. And I’ve clung to these pillars for dear life. I thought they made me who I am, but in reality, that clinging only holds me back. It’s time to bring out the demolition team. (or wrecking ball?)  

But this time, it’s not because I want to “start fresh” or lose weight or self-improve or even self-destruct. No, this kind of self-destruction is different than one more tequila shot or texting your ex (or both). This is a… self-cleaning oven type of self-destruction. This is an inevitable part of adult life that I can choose to either face or run away from. But if I do face it, if I’m brave and strong and patient, it could clear out the old, the toxic, the no longer useful, and lay the groundwork for the Me Yet To Come, the Me that I actually truly am, and in turn, release the truth I’ve always wanted to live.

Easier said than done. Let me tell you. It sucks. It hurts. It’s painful. But I think it’s truly necessary.

Today I came across a new post by one of my favorite Facebook accounts, The Artidote, which, as per usual with this page, spoke so deeply to my heart and what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It inspired me to come back to this old post and revisit this idea of home.

“You don’t know anyone at the party, so you don’t want to go. You don’t like cottage cheese, so you haven’t eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don’t kid yourself: it’s also the flinch. Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy. You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like. If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way. Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference. Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago Fire—overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything that isn’t necessary.” –Julien Smith

Kaboosh. 

Okay, so if you’re still with me, let me try to tie this all in together:

Maybe there is no home. That’s a concept spoon-fed to us to trick us into being complacent, or restless, or try so hard to stitch together what isn’t there. Dorothy had the power to go home on her feet the whole time (spoiler alert!) and Barbra can hang her hat where ever she likes – that’s all good and true, but it’s also not as simple as oh, find home within yourself. That concept taken at face value can cause you to cling to ideologies or behaviors or people that aren’t yours to cling to. No Buzzfeed quiz or organized religion or partner or upbringing or generations-old tradition has ANY bearing on who you really truly are. None of that matters. You can let go of whatever you chose whenever you want.

You will still exist.

We are living, breathing, ever-evolving human beings and maybe that’s truly the beauty of it all – there are no constants, there is only impermanence. And sometimes you may find that you have to set fire to yourself. You need to go in and kick down that sand castle you so painstakingly built. You need to use the self-cleaning feature of your self-cleaning oven soul. But like an oven, you don’t do it just once. You may have to do it several times in your lifetime. And it’s very painful and it’s very hard, trust me, I know. I hate it. But think about it. Can you feel that – in your chest and gut? That anxious yet strangely calm warm excitement spreading – if you could just… be? Break free of things you once thought vital to your life – really consider the possibility. In letting go, think of what you could gain. Who knows? This is life. There are no answers. There is no home.

How exciting.

 

I don’t know.

I haven’t written in this blog in a long time. And until just a few moments ago, I couldn’t really tell you why. Being busy, not feeling “inspired,” or not having anything to share are not really accurate excuses. I think it’s because I’ve been hiding.

Photo by A. Pagliaricci
Photo by A. Pagliaricci

I didn’t know I was hiding, not at first. But like a shapeless, dark monster that creeps into your dreams, vignetting what seems to be a fairly standard happy image, I had this growing suspicion that something was not quite right with me. It’s been plaguing me for weeks, this sensation that something is about to fall apart, that I’m not truly alive and aware, that any happiness I’ve felt was false. I’ve talked about it at great lengths with my close friends, my therapist, writing about it in my journal. I could articulate it, yes, but at most it was an intellectual diagnosis. It felt like someone dubbing over my own voice in a foreign language. I knew, but I couldn’t touch it. It hadn’t hit me yet, it floated above me, mockingly. I was pretty sure of what I wanted to eat but I had yet to order it and actually ingest it.

Okay, enough metaphors. You get the idea. But for someone who always has to know the answer to everything, this uncertainty has been difficult for me to live with. So I simply didn’t. In the past 3 months since I’ve last posted, I’ve been quite busy. I held a fundraiser party, I went home for the holidays, I finally wrapped principal photography on my film, I started a writers’ group, produced and acted in a new comedy web-sketch, as well as started developing more web-sketches for PITtv. Meanwhile, I’ve continued to work full-time and go out with friends or on dates. I’ve been very busy. I’ve been barely home. I’ve been rarely alone. Because I’m hiding.

When my best friend suddenly died last June, all I wanted was to be alone. Grief was the most isolating experience of my life. I’ve lived quite an individual life so far, but the alone-ness was palpable. I couldn’t be around anyone, I couldn’t smile for anyone or make small talk with anyone. I just wanted to sit outside and listen to our favorite music and cry. Nurse my grief like it was the last drink I’ll ever have. I walked the streets of New York with a bubble around me, protecting me from interaction, from engagement, from life. I just mourned.

So when I finally came out, when the sun’s rays finally actually got to touch my skin again, when I looked up, it felt miraculous. I slowly started to feel inspired again, the need to be productive, to continue living. After a while, I wanted to see other people. I wanted to start working on my projects again. I would never be the same, but I was back. And once I got my footing, I took off running. I filled my schedule and took on new projects and set up meetings and dates and outings and laughed and talked and acted like my old extroverted self again. But I was hiding.

I was hiding because I was afraid of being alone again. If I was alone, then I would think. And if I thought, I would think about Matt. And if I thought about Matt, I feared I would slip back into that dark yet brightly-lit, stark, empty room of despair again. I still am. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to be sad. I’m afraid to let myself continue to grieve. I’m afraid I won’t come out of it again. It’s been 8 months and 17 days since Matt died and I’m not still fully healed. I’m not over it. That’s okay. I’m never going to be over this. People tell you about that deep loss. I know this. But I might not also fully heal from this.

Why do we look at wounds as things that need to heal? I kept trying to become this holier-than-thou totally enlightened wise being in the last several months. How pretentious of me to go on and on about how my best friend’s death changed me? I would wax poetic about death and the meaning of life like I suddenly had all the answers now that I’ve experience such profound, tragic loss. (My friends know exactly what I’m talking about. Thank you for not slapping me, but god somebody please slap me next time.)

That is total bullshit. Okay, not total, but I was missing the point, I see that now. That was me trying to tie everything up neatly with a bow again. That was the same Katie that pretended to give eloquent interviews about world issues to the mirror when she was 9 (okay 15… okay 21… okay fine, last night) but still – I have this need to romanticize everything in my life, to package it neatly and analyze it and understand it all, but the truth is, I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know anything at all.

Photo by danabooo
Photo by danabooo

I’m a mess. I’m a flawed, messy, emotional human being. Made of flesh and blood and bones and chemicals and weird shit like that and I’m trying to figure it out desperately like everyone else. I miss my best friend and I still grieve for him but also sometimes I don’t think about him. And yeah, I feel guilty about that too. I don’t always stick to my diet and sometimes I get drunk on weeknights and I date the wrong people and I can be flaky and I don’t call my parents nearly as much as I should. I make snap judgments and I say things sometimes just to get a rise out of people and I get secretly possessive over my food. I have hateful thoughts sometimes and I’m mad at my best friend for dying on me and I miss him so frickin’ much and I worry way too much and I really do want love and children and a family someday. I cry at the drop of a hat and I have dry skin and I don’t like to follow rules and I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m a human. I am not a saint, I am not the Buddha, I will not rise out of this like a glorious wise martyr. I am ugly sometimes, and I have ugly emotions sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. I’m allowed to be ugly. I’m allowed to be human. I’m allowed to let this wound fester a bit.

This all came to a head while I was listening to the Strangers podcast while at work.  I highly recommend everyone listen to this episode. When I first started researching about grief in the initial months after Matt’s death, I would scoff at those articles about broken hearts. “Who cares about a break-up? I f*cking lost my best friend – he f*cking died! We can’t ever see or talk to each other again because he doesn’t exist on this planet anymore!” But the fact is, a broken heart is a broken heart. Listening to these storytellers talk about their own experiences after a devastating break-up, it echoed exactly what I went through last summer. When Annie McEwen and Lea Thau said that even waking up is hard, realizing that this is the world you live in now, that’s exactly how it felt waking up every day last summer. And in Annie’s story, when the female character mentions just living with her lost love, not being consumed by it but giving it space and just knowing that she has to live with this feeling, without him, every day – it resonated with me.

Like these two women, my heart is broken. And I agree with Annie, I don’t think I’ll ever love the same way again. I don’t think losing Matt is something I’ll ever fully heal from. What Matt and I had was special, our friendship was truly one-of-a-kind. But I don’t think I’m necessarily a better person for having lived through this experience. I am a person. And it has deeply affected me. That’s really all I can say. But like Annie, I am more compassionate than I ever have been, and I’m finally going to start being compassionate with the one person I’ve been hardest on my entire life: yep, myself. Me. I’m going to do that by letting myself have flaws. By letting myself be messy. By letting myself grieve and cry and scream and laugh and dance and drink and eat carbs – and do whatever I need to do.

Death sucks. Break-ups suck. Having your heart ripped from your chest and stomped on really frickin’ blows. And I can’t tell you why. I have no idea why life is so unfair. I don’t know. I really don’t know. And that’s okay.

Be an Adult.

I’ve been formulating this post in my head over the past few days, and I feel it’s only fitting to write and post it now, on the 27th anniversary of my birth. There’s a lot in the news lately, but I’m going to resist writing about that, (there are plenty of articles out there that are written by far-more qualified people than I), and hone in on a more personal, individual topic:

Being an Adult. (Insert collective groan here)

What does that phrase even mean?

To some people, it means paying your bills on time, staying organized, buying a house, starting a family. Or it means staying in more on weekends, focusing on your career, and letting your pool of friends shrink to just those few close ones. Some think that you’re “only as old as you think you are!” or that “you can grow up, but growing old is optional!” A lot of people resist becoming an Adult, because that means childhood is over, and Old Age (and subsequently Death), are that much closer.

But when I say, I’m finally becoming an Adult – what I mean is, the choices I make on a daily basis have been changing lately. I have actively been choosing Love over Fear. I have been taking responsibility for my life, and my actions, in a way I never have before.

Remember when you were like this little girl walking in a grassy field? Yeah, me neither. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/4444/
Remember when you were like this little girl walking in a grassy field? Yeah, me neither. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/4444/

Regardless of psychology, I do believe that as we grow, we take on the weight of our life’s experiences. We hurt, and those wounds become scars. Rather than risk opening up those wounds again, we protect ourselves with barriers. Why risk another scar? Why hurt again?

You understand this metaphor. But as I ranted to my roommate the other day, I believe that we need to not protect our past wounds, but willingly, happily, and gratefully, go running head-first into the possibility of pain. We should embrace the suffering. Be the responsible Adult and accept the wounds, scars, and broken bones with kindness and Love.

Let me try to elucidate.

I was an extremely willful child, as my parents can attest. Even at 3 years old, I was ever the storyteller with a flair for the dramatic. I would talk off the ear of whoever would listen, usually recanting the full script of Beauty and the Beast from memory. I even convinced myself that my life was in fact, a TV show. When I realized that at some point, the series would end and I would not get a spin-off or direct-to-DVD movie, I was devastated. Nevertheless, I still had the same penchant for drama throughout adolescence and early adulthood. I wanted to be loved, I wanted attention. Desperate to be seen as the leading ingénue I always wanted to be, I became an insecure doormat. Yet I was still extremely volatile. My emotions were fickle, fiery, and hard to control, and I took them out on those closest to me. Every time I was incredibly sad or angry, I was subconsciously convinced that I would feel this way, forever. I wanted to be a better me, but in a materialistic sense. I ran to the pain, but with masochism, not as acceptance. I didn’t love myself. I didn’t think I deserved it.

Over the past couple years, I’ve noticed that I’ve slowly grown calmer, quieter, and more introspective. But rather than emotionally retreating, as I have so often in the past, I was actually just observing. The many (usually painful) wake-up calls I’ve experienced over the years have forced me to realize that I don’t have all of the answers, and I’m continually becoming okay with that. Experience has led me to conclude that nothing lasts forever, and I’m continually becoming okay with that as well. I continually strive to listen more than talk (still working on that, friends), and really be in every moment, that life has to offer.

Earlier this year, when my best friend suddenly passed away, it felt like all of the work I had done on myself was lost. My old enemies of self-hatred, anger, desperation, all came rushing back. I was simultaneously appalled at my regression and yet felt justified. I had just lost my best friend, I could act however the hell I wanted, right? And partly, yes, that’s true. But what astounded me, even during the darkest moments, was the awareness of my behavior. I was not blindly acting out, rather I was very much conscious. Instead of shutting down, which I could have easily done, I chose to love myself, be kind to myself, and treat myself with care instead of condemnation. I let the emotions flow through and out of me, instead of shoving them down. If my friend had died a few years ago, I’m not sure I could say I would have the same experience. But my spirit had already been in the long process of Growing and Loving when it happened, and I proved to be stronger than I thought.

After the first few months, I rose out of the heaviest of my grief and suddenly felt incredibly inspired. I had always struggled with my weight and dreamed of being thin, but never really did much about it. So I now follow the ketogenic diet, and lost 15 pounds within weeks. After temping and freelancing for over a year, I faced facts and got a new full-time job. I created a financial budget for myself, something I had resisted doing all of my adulthood out of fear. I started dating again, but without Ego. Some dates didn’t work out, and I calmly walked away from those who were unavailable emotionally or destructive instead of clinging or swearing off dating forever. I started actively implementing all of my spiritual growth in the physical sense, for the first time in my life.

This is not a humble brag. Rather I tell you this because that’s what I believe is Being an Adult. It’s looking honestly and without condemnation at your past behavior and choices. And whenever faced with a new one, choosing to not go towards what is comfortable and easy (which is usually Fear), but rather face the struggle head-on. I’m not magically perfect, I never will be. My body, my career, my love/social life, and my Self will always be areas that I have to actively work on. Like our elders have always said, sometimes the right choice is the hardest one to make. But by recognizing my own destructive behavior, I can make the continual effort to choose Love. I choose to Love myself and others. My heart is open, in a way that is reminiscent of my earliest childhood, before the shame and scars, but also in an entirely new way.

Today, I am officially older. I can say now that I am 27. But we grow older every day, not just on our birthdays. With that old age comes pain, joy, experience, knowledge, and hopefully wisdom. I may be a little more worse for wear than I was before, but I am alive. And I have grown. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

Let it go.

Today, instead of writing another long-winded entry about how grateful I am that Life is so beautiful (or about feminism), I figured I just share with you one of my favorite videos from my friend, Marushka Mujic. Log into your Facebook and check out her timeline. She posts these wonderfully poetic public videos about once a week. Each one is about 6 minutes, and all are definitely worth watching. Her messages are simple, loving, and yet so illuminating, and often come into my life right when I need them most.

Happy Friday!

Screengrab from one of her amazing and inspiring videos. Click the link below to watch on Facebook.
Screengrab from one of her amazing and inspiring videos. Click the link below to watch on Facebook.

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Taken Care

Okay, I’m going to try and keep this one short, but I just had to share something that happened to me this weekend.

On Sunday, I had booked several meetings for “Are You Afraid of the ’90s?”  pre-production, and catching up with old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. I met up with my hilarious and talented line producer, Emily Duncan, and she broke the news to me that despite all of the fundraising we’ve done, we were still over $3,000 short for our last shoot in January. I was crushed, naturally. Not only did I have to somehow find a few more thousand dollars, but even then I wouldn’t be able to afford to give my hard-working crew the measly raise they really deserved. This shoot would, again, be about scrambling and penny-pinching (#indiefilmproblems). We joked about going into prostitution (as I’m sure all poor artists have before us) and promptly went to get a glass of wine.

The cuteness is too much, right? Photo credit by Jimmy Sireno, of course.
The cuteness is too much, right? Photo credit by Jimmy Sireno, of course.

I then went to visit my good friends and producers, Chelsea and Jimmy Sireno. Chelsea has been working with me on this film from the beginning and is one of my biggest cheerleaders. And her husband’s extensive knowledge/talent on all things video and production, as well as his infallible cheerful attitude, have been my saving grace many a time. As if they couldn’t be more awesome, Chelsea just gave birth to their first child, James Phillip Jr., last week. As I held their baby son in my arms, I could feel myself just melt. He is perfection, right down to his little fingernails. What a wonderfully lucky little human. Here he is, just 1 week old, surrounded by unconditional love. He has the best parents he could ask for, a loving extended family, and really cool family friends. (Wink, wink!) In my arms was Possibilities. He has years and years ahead of him to experience love, loss, happiness, excitement, disappointment, pain, sorrow, anger, pleasure, peace – it’s magnificent.

After, I made my way home, feeling full of love. On the train platform, I took out my old journal. I re-read old entries from July, but they seemed like they were written lifetimes ago. I rode the train with my rose-colored glasses on, thinking about how far I’ve come, my place in the universe. I am still sad for the loss of my friend. I’m still anxious for our upcoming shoot. But the night was crisp and clear, and I felt so grateful.

And then, as I went to unlock my front door, I noticed my keys were missing. As I knelt down in the lobby of my apartment building, the soft, dreamy tendrils of my zen-like state quickly began to recede as panic set in. I had lost my wallet and keys. They were nowhere to be found. And of course, I had kept everything important in one place, so my license, credit cards, monthly Metrocard, insurance card, everything – was just gone.

I will skip over the hours I spent freaking out, calling my banks, and making poor, exhausted new father Jimmy check out the subway stations for me (thank you, Jimmy!) but needless to say, my grateful mood was ruined. I felt so stupid, my self-esteem plummeted, and I couldn’t stop kicking myself. More so, I felt betrayed. I had trusted in the universe and right when I felt so grateful, it goes and screws me over. What the bleep.

The next day was rainy and so was my mood. I was so grumpy and the whole work day felt as if I were in a fog. But then I got a phone call from my gym. (I thought it was to hit me up for paying my fat tax) Turns out, two kind elderly ladies had found my wallet and had been trying for hours to get a hold of me to return it! But I had already cancelled all of my cards and by then, my mood was so foul and low that even that news didn’t seem to cheer me up much.

After work, I went to a seminar at NYU Tisch about raising money for the arts. I was skeptical but as mentioned earlier, in pretty desperate need. It was informative, but most of all, inspiring. One thing that Andrew Frank, the instructor, imparted to us was to have a daily mantra:

“Money comes to me easily.”

When he said that, my immediate reaction was to do a spit take. But alas, I was not drinking anything at the time. Even now, that statement makes me want to cry-laugh loudly. It sparks an anxious little flame in my gut. But he continued, saying that we should say it 10-15 times a day, putting it out into the universe.

After the class, feeling a bit more invigorated about my film’s financial situation, I went over to the apartment of the ladies who have found my wallet. They were so sweet, the first thing they did was wrap me up in a big hug. We chatted in their home, me profusely thanking them and trying to give them money, they refusing the money and telling me to be more careful. They were the African grandmothers I had always wanted. We agreed to get drinks next time and I headed back out into the night.

source: wikipedia
Look at how much those stars and planets love you. They twinkle with love. source: wikipedia

On the way home, my spirits were flying once again. How silly I was, to think that the universe would not take care of me. I was being a spoiled child, crying over spilled milk. Here I was, in good health, with wonderful friends and family who support and love me, living in one of the greatest cities in the world, pursuing my dreams and creating art, working a full-time job with great co-workers – and I was stomping my feet over losing my wallet! I thought the universe had failed me, when maybe this all happened to show that It is actually really taking care of me more than I think. Maybe it’s not some old bearded man in the sky, maybe it’s just Energy, or collective consciousness, but sometimes things do work out in ways that, at the time, we might not always understand.

That’s not to say that tragedy never happens or that we should force ourselves to ignore feeling horrible. As my friend Terence was telling me while I was ranting, most likely the Buddhist thing to do is just acknowledge the emotions I was feeling, without judgement. This whole experience has made me recall one of the first conversations I had with one of the actresses in my film (who is also incredibly zen and centered), and she looked at me across our lattes and said,

“Do you think the universe is out to get you? Or are you the type of person who believes that you are loved and that you will be taken care of?”

I don’t want to think the universe is out to get me. It sounds like an exhausting way to live. I agree with my friends, Mr. Frank, and Björk, and I will repeat these mantras every day, believing them as best as I can:

I am given love. I am loved.

I am taken care of.  

Money comes to me easily.

So. What are your mantras?

PS: How appropriate that my coworkers have this song playing right now?

PPS: Here are some other wonderfully heart-warming stories of human kindness to lift your spirits.

He was a friend of mine.

Several wonderful, lovely, supportive friends of mine have told me that I should write a blog. I have been very hesitant about doing so, as I am very aware of just how many people have blogs and how narcissistic it seems for me to start one – especially when that blog has no set focus or theme*. And especially when I know that I will not be updating it regularly or on a set schedule. (But I will try) So against my better judgment I bit the bullet, because gosh darn it, I’m a writer and an artist^ and if just one person has a slightly cathartic experience by reading my words, then this blog has served its purpose.

*I have a whole other post I will publish soon about how America’s need to classify everything with one label really irks me.
^I hate calling myself a writer or an artist though, because it seems to reek of pretension, but it’s true. And I’ll also touch on this more in my next entry.

But onto my intended topic. I’ve been wanting to write about this publicly for months, but I’ve also been extremely hesitant to do so. I’ve had no shortage of things to say about the subject – my journals are overflowing with thoughts, rushed scrawls of passion in the margins, on the covers, on post-its, typed into emails never sent, private Google Docs. But those entries are private, a personal non-magical Pensieve, if you will. But I’ve wanted to express publicly what I’ve been going through. Why, I can’t really tell you. In the weeks after I received the news, all I wanted to do was reach out to others who have experienced similar loss. Grief is indeed, such a solitary thing, and I had never felt more alone. So perhaps this entry is for all those who have also lost and are looking for some sort of validation or companionship in the pain that they are feeling. After all, we all want to feel in life that we are not alone, right?

On June 21st, 2014, my best friend died. He was 26. It was unexpected, sudden, and devastating. What I went through this summer, looking back on it, it was overwhelming. Exhausting. Every day, every minute, was one of sadness. I thought of him constantly. Every moment was tinged with the darkest sorrow, like a terribly bleak Instagram filter. Smiling was hard. True interaction was worse. Every conversation or action had the subtext of his death for me. I was angry. I was depressed. I was hysterical.

However, in the past several weeks, I slowly, finally, started to pick up the pieces. I started to go out again. My appetite came back. My drive and productivity came back. I started to live my life more and more each day for me, and not for his memory.

The grief is still there, as is the pain. But now, I struggle with the feeling of detachment to his death.

here's a picture of a metaphoric ocean storm to break up my incredibly long wall of text and keep you interested.
here’s a picture of a metaphoric ocean storm to break up my incredibly long wall of text and keep you interested.

It’s like gravity. We know it exists – one can say, “Yes, there is gravity keeping everything in place.” This statement is true, and you can honestly say it very simply. But then to truly think of gravity as a real concept, one would have to make a concentrated effort to grasp the reality of gravity (the gravity of gravity, perhaps?), how it works, and what it all means. The enormity and power of this really magnificent force that is keeping the stars and planets and humans and animals and bugs and water all in alignment – it’s overwhelming to really conceive in our mortal thoughts.

Just like saying, “My best friend is dead,” is no longer difficult for me. I’ve said it so many times. But to really, truly, conceptualize his death, I have to force myself to really think about it. I close my eyes or look at an empty space, and build him in my mind’s eye. Him, his laugh, his voice, his opinions, his thoughts. His sense of style and clothes. His hair, his smell, his dandruff, his scars, his feet, his shoes, his gait, the way his shoulders sloped. Him – he – the person, has ceased to exist. He has died. Suddenly, unknowingly, without warning. Unfairly. Cruelly. Ripped from this earth. My best friend, the first gay man I ever fell in love with, the one who knew Child Me and Adult Me and loved them both, has died. He is no more. And I will never see him again. I will never get to hang out with him, or drive in a car with him, or sing or go dancing or drink beers with him, or pick him up from his mom’s house ever again. I’m not sure what I believe but even if our souls/energy meet after life, it will be in a different way. The way we lived, coexisted, shared the same air, talked about our dreams, our crushes, ranted about things we hate, people who annoyed us, stressed about our careers, our classes, all of that – is done. Our physical human relationship is over.

My friend, who in high school owned a little plastic rat that became our unofficial mascot, and gave it to his friends for company on their various journeys. Who always put others’ problems before his own. Who, at times, felt angry and lost and hurt and in pain like all other humans, but never showed it. Who got a 1520 on his SATs (back when they were out of 1600) and graduated third in his class in high school. Who studied at Stanford, and in Germany, England, and received two Fulbright scholarships to teach in Turkey. Who loved Oberlin and the progressiveness it fostered. Who was pursuing his doctorate in the very prestigious art history program at University of Chicago. Who never judged anyone and always put himself in other people’s shoes, yet could read someone to filth. Who laughed at everything and played devil’s advocate just for the challenge. Who knew how to make an instant, human, real connection with a stranger and yet still managed to be pretty awkward in an adorable way. Who loved to go out and party but still wanted to grow up and have children and fall in love. Who valued friends and community more than practically everything. Who ate non-discriminately, loving all food and drink, treating each meal and snack as a culinary adventure. Who wrote with a measured voice that could barely contain the excitement that laid in every sentence. Whose passion and enthusiasm was rarely ever matched. Who danced wildly and often and usually alone. Who hated taking photos in public but treasured the memories he had of his loved ones. Who loved to touch and be touched by those he loved, craving intimacy and comfort. Who was in the top of his class and yet had blue hair for most of his senior year of high school. Who loved so fiercely and felt so deeply and had tremendous empathy.

This friend, this person, this man, this extraordinary being – he has died. But even writing these thoughts now, I can feel his presence. He lives on now, like Mufasa, in all of us. It’s true, he will live on now in a different way, as a living memory with all of the many friends, colleagues, family members he’s left behind. And that is comforting, somewhat.

So what do I do now?

That’s what I want to ask. What do I do now? But I know the answer, and he does too. He would say, “Just keep living, Kate.” He would shrug and look at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes, his eyebrows cocked in concern and pain, and he would say, “I’m sorry, Kate. But I’m here. Keep living.”

I still don’t get it. I still can’t believe that he’s really gone. It doesn’t make sense to me. It really feels like a glitch in the Matrix. Something went wrong, someone screwed up. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Really thinking about him gone sometimes feels violent, I can feel the rage bubbling up inside. It feels like someone just tore a chunk of myself away, from my right half. He was a part of me, but strangely, he’s even more a part of me in death than he was in life. Now I breathe him; live him; live for him. But there’s still a loss. It’s like I’ve lost a limb – that limb was a part of me, I have so many memories of that limb – it had scars and moles and hair, and it was a part of me, but now it’s gone. Now the absence of that limb has become a new part of me. I have absorbed the loss and now it’s part of my definition, my story – to be limbless.

The A-type optimist in me wants to end this entry on a positive note, some sort of lesson I’ve learned from all of this that I can pass on to my dear (albeit few) readers. But I sadly don’t have one.

here's another stock picture of a metaphoric sunset to help break up the black/white monotony.
here’s another stock picture of a metaphoric sunset to help break up the black/white monotony.

That isn’t to say I haven’t learned any lessons from this experience, but the lessons I’ve learned are ones that most of  you probably already know. And if you haven’t, you, most unfortunately, will someday. Death is like an awful club with which nobody wants a membership, but we all will eventually. These lessons don’t even seem worth writing out, because I can barely find the words to express them. They can be only felt through experience. With any loss, there is really nothing to say. What do you say to someone who is grieving? “I’m sorry for your loss.” is pretty sufficient, and even though it sounds hallow and inadequate, trust in the knowledge that’s because it is. There is nothing to be said. It sucks. It’s tragic. But death is an inevitable part of life, just like suffering and loss.

But before you go jump off a bridge, take stock in all that you do have. I know that the intense pain I have felt and still feel is only because I love him. As cringe-worthy as this sentiment can be, it is true that now I appreciate having my friend be such an important part of my life. If I didn’t care about him as much as I do, I wouldn’t be in such pain. We hurt because we love. We could go through life, closed-off, never allowing ourselves to love or feel, and in turn, we would really never feel pain. But we would also never feel such joy, such intimacy, such love. Alfred Lord Tennyson was absolutely right. ‘Tis much, much better.

So go forth, humans! Love, and love fully. The pain will come, and it will hurt. Like a cruel ocean, the tides will rise and fall as time goes on. But like all storms, it too shall pass. And so comes Love.

Louis C.K, as always, puts it so eloquently, as does the masterful Charles Grodin.