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.

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.