Last night, around 9pm I told someone I was leaving my devices at home and going out for a few hours. I liked the way it sounded. I wanted to do that. But the truth is, I was so emotionally drained that all I could do was text a few people, wait for them to text me back, force myself to not log on to Facebook, and when it became clear that my friend wasn’t going to come over for tea after all, fall quickly asleep in my clothes and on top of a mattress pad.
Truth is I haven’t put sheets on my bed in the near-week since I’ve been back. Nothing is unpacked. I forced myself to edit a set of photos and I forced myself to get to some gatherings of people who seemed like they could relate.
This morning I did the same. It was easy to get up on time because I fell asleep so early. Getting myself there was harder. If I go to this thing, it means I admit to defeat. I admit that I have been defeated by myself. I go and I sheepishly raise my hand to share last nights failures, but I am never called on. Well – actually I was called on, but someone else hijacked my turn because they didn’t know the process yet. But I was there at 8:30am in a meditation center surrounded by other Angelenos choosing to not sleep off booze from the night before and instead choosing to get honest with themselves and how they’ve been living their realities.
This space is heavy. It’s uncomfortable and maddening. But is it more maddening than what brought me there? Maybe it’s just the withdrawal. It’s hard to identify with other people when I hate labels, and I’m always on the lookout for others projecting their issues onto mine. So how do I discern the difference between empathy and projecting? The only way to know is dive deeper to gain clarity of who I am myself. To ask questions I’m afraid of answering because I can’t help but think, for fuck’s sake haven’t I done enough? When do I get to just be happy? I’m happy when I’m alone – but there’s no risk involved there. I’m happy when I’m reassured and loved and have consistency. I haven’t had that in a while and the result is this post. So who’s the culprit anyways? The fault lies in both parties and all I can do is my part to heal from it and heal myself to not make the same unhealthy choices.
Part of me wonders if maybe I’m just searching for ANY answer and ANY concrete path because I’m sick of living in the unknown in a place in the country where I never really felt like I fit in, around people who I’ve constantly had to adjust my communication styles for. With friends who seem to be more absent lately… Maybe this post is me reaching out. It is. It is.
After the meeting I went to church. I never have Sunday mornings off anymore and there was a time when going to the Hollywood United Methodist Church (HUMC) was a place for deep reflection and healing for me. Even though I don’t really believe in God or Jesus in the way that most Christians do. What I do believe that this church preaches, is that God is love, and that that love is given to everyone on earth. Their commitment is shown in the marriage equality banner that was flagged on their exterior walls for years and how in every sermon, radical involvement in making our world a better place through action and not just talking about it, is encouraged.
I completely forgot that today was Palm Sunday. I used to love singing “Hosanna” waving palms around in church and in the two productions of Jesus Christ Superstar that I did growing up. This was not that kind of service. Reverend Cathy reminded us that while it’s natural to just want to skip to the Easter part of the story, there can’t be rebirth, with out death first. This seemed oddly fitting for today, and the Tower tarot card which has been looming in my readings for weeks now came to mind. The image of the Tower is typically lightning striking down a tall structure. The foundations are falling apart and change is coming whether or not you want it to. The card tends to look pretty scary – always at night – and no one likes getting it in a reading. The tower for me has almost always coincided with a breakup.
What I hate about this is, when will I ever get to just find peace? It’s gotten to the point that whenever I feel love, I’m waiting for the moment when it’s going to fall apart. I’ve done Vipassana, sound healing, reiki, therapy, I’ve read countless self-help books and I’ve gotten to know myself quite well and am aware of my patterns even when they’re happening now. So I wonder, when is all the work I’ve done going to be enough where things can be stable to the point that no one can knock me off of my mountain? How is it that even with everything that I’ve done, I am still so affected by this kind of loss?
After the lesson, there was a live performance of the story of how Jesus was crucified. I wasn’t expecting this. The lights were dim, the music was morbid, and every second I wanted to run out of the church. I had memories of performing in that musical at the age of 12 and 14 of being backstage while our actor playing Jesus was being crucified on the cross and dissonant tones were being sung by the adult ensemble spectators. The younger ensemble were watching the crew literally holding up the platform that was the roof above our heads that was also the ground upon which the cross was on top of. Literally, the stage was collapsing above our heads and since “the show must go on” we all stayed there, risking our young lives, as the backstage crew used all of their force to hold up the ceiling.
We ended up fine and at that age I held that mantra that the show must go on, on a pedestal. To the point where I continued in performances with sprained ankles, bronchitis, skipping school to perform daytime school performances and even once, got hit in the head with a magic lamp and to this day, I still have the scar just above my right eye lid to prove the tale. It’s interesting to me now how this mirrors my personal life. I was a slow test taker and even as bullies were throwing wads of paper and spit balls at my head and pencil, I continued to take the test. Even when things were rough at home and I tried to run away, I came back anyways and told my parents I loved them. Even when a girl at school told me she didn’t see me as a friend, I told her that I would consider her one anyways. I became a master at charging through pain, not ignoring it, but accepting it and moving ahead anyways. Part of me wonders if because of this, pain has become normalized in my every day life. I’ve been complimented on how strong I am, the playa name that was given to me was “Charge,” which I fully identify with, and that I’m a warrior. Have I rested too much on this? Truthfully I’m tired of having to charge through anything and can’t help but wonder, why do things always have to be so hard?
After the performance I felt extremely heavy and was looking forward to seeing who had text me during the service, even though I all ready knew it wasn’t who I was hoping it would be. We all left in silence, and went out to the brand new backyard that was installed. HUMC is a gorgeous church with a lot of Hollywood history. You’ve seen its gym in Back to the Future, its exterior and interior in Sister Act, and there are frequent tours of the space. The new yard in the back was possible because an old building behind it had been torn down. It was fitting for this Palm Sunday’s lesson. The yard had a small path, there were kid-sized picnic tables surrounding the grassy area, there were flower gardens lining the picnic area and everything was set up for an unexpected Easter egg hunt.
From a dimly-lit, moody sermon, suddenly we were met with eggs and East bunny footprints scattered about, over-the-top cheerful Chipmunks Easter music and kids running around with their Easter gift baskets blowing bubbles and eating muffins. I felt whip-lashed. I had just experienced an entire morning of intense self-reflection and had gone straight into a child’s play-time where seemingly happy adults watched after them and joined each other in fellowship. Even though I had been coming to this church on and off for six years, I felt like a fish out of water. I knew I should stay and attempt to talk to someone, to not give into my melancholy completely but had no idea where to start. The cheerfulness caused me to feel nauseated and I looked at these happy parents and families and a rare feeling of jadedness came over me. Why couldn’t I just be “normal” like these people? Then I remembered what a girl said at my meeting that morning about how comparing herself to others caused her a lot of pain and I stopped myself in those thoughts.
I then realized how much I missed the innocence of my childhood. As adults, we are in a room having a serious experience witnessing Christ’s death, and as children, they are sheltered away from this realness, and instead given candy, and crayons and coloring books.
“Lighten up, Amanda. Have a goddamn off-brand Oreo and get yourself some coffee. You’re safe here. Everything is fine.”
So I did just that and looked around the yard for women my age, maybe a little alternative looking, and awkwardly made eye contact with a woman a few times before finally introducing myself.
We talked for a bit, and I took her photo with the Easter bunny and volunteered to take others’ photos. She plays the harp and that to me was very cool. It was nice to talk to someone and have her introduce me to a few other church members and I was invited to a Taco Tuesday talk on spirituality and I felt grateful to be included. At the same time, I felt completely disconnected. I knew I was just looking for community and friendship from wherever I could find it. At the same time, I’ve been disappointed that the burner community I’ve been so proud to be apart of, has been completely MIA in my outreach to them. I decided to take a selfie with the Easter bunny, and sent it to my ex as a joke against my better judgement to reach out at all and went home knowing I was going to write about this without being 100% sure as to where it would go.
So this is where I’m at. It appears that there is a lot more work to be done. Frankly, I’m scared shitless and exhausted. There is also a lot of work to be done in my career. I’m production coordinating a pilot in less than a week and the to-do list is mounting taller and taller by the hour. I’m catching up on photo editing and documentary obligations. And yet… I still haven’t even unpacked or made my bed. I accomplish tasks like a robot and as soon as they’re done, wrestle with my self-doubt and confusion about my life’s current life path. Maybe I need another summer in NYC. Maybe that won’t make a difference and I need to just stay and face my fears. Maybe I just need new friends who can be present and I need to fall for partners who’s issues don’t exacerbate my issues.
I don’t have any concrete answers right now. And since I hate the unknown, maybe that’s the first lesson. Being okay with not having any answers, to anything.