About Me

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Washington, DC, United States
I don't write here nearly as much as I should, but when I do, I'll try to make it count for something.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Medicinal Cinema

Spending time with someone who isn't able to speak (or easily communicate in any way) can be difficult. Throw into the mix that it's someone you love and you're used to being able to speak to about almost anything for hours on end... then there's a whole new level of melancholy. Partial paralysis takes out the option for playing cards or checkers. There are no karaoke nights in our horizon or drinks & tamales at Ponce's. No late night strolls on the beach or Motown singalongs next to a roaring bonfire. No more surfing lessons or running around the backyard with Lee and a water hose (yes yes, I'm the meanest doggy owner/mom ever).

There's just us and an ocean of silence that cannot be remedied. I come in with homemade pudding, with books to read my father while he rests (I've gotten halfway through the Adventures of Kavalier and Clay), with news about the Red Sox continuing to be awesome, with Miles Davis playing in the background as we take naps together. All of these things, however, on some level... I think they remind him of what he can't do. He can't feed himself. He can't play music anymore. And being read to? He's supposed to be the dad, not the child... Perhaps I was reading too much into it but it's clear that he is pained and I'm trying to find ways to show that he's not weak, he's not an invalid - that we all need help and we all need to lean on someone at one time or another. So I found the one thing my father and I have always shared, have always bonded over, have always loved: film.

We have watched Goldfinger and Carmen Jones and Roman Holiday and His Girl Friday and one of my dad's personal favorites, In the Heat of the Night. Cary Grant was the first thing to make my dad smile since he's woken up - and maybe it was fleeting and maybe if I hadn't glanced at him at the exact right moment, I never would have seen it at all but it was there nonetheless.

I've said it many times and I'll say it again: film has the ability to transform us, to shake us, to move us, to make us feel things that we need to feel. Film has always been one of those things I've turned to in dark times and good. Singing in the Rain? Breakfast at Tiffany's? Pretty much ANYTHING by Julie Andrews? Even The Sound of Music, which I admit became a lot less happy go lucky for me when I got older and realized what that movie was really about. Or - and I cannot stress enough in saying how much joy this movie has brought into my life over the years - The Princess Bride, the only flick in history to make this stone cold cynic honestly believe that maybe true love isn't the most lame sounding thing in the whole world.

How can movies do that? How can they make me feel like life is okay when life itself is telling me something entirely different? How is it possible that after the horrific year - well, the last two years really - that I've had, watching Audrey Hepburn running through the rain, desperately searching for Cat, can make me cry tears of honest joy? How can I be laughing when my world is falling apart just because Dick Van Dyke is singing about chimneys? I am a strong believer in the idea of escapism, that's why. Sometimes it's all I have to keep on standing, to keep on hoping, to keep on breathing.

When I was a kid, before I moved to the east coast and settled into life here and I was growing up in San Diego, I can fully admit that I didn't have a whole lot of friends. It wasn't really until I was twelve or so that I actually started socializing with kids my own age - playing little league baseball, joining the pep squad (yes, that knowledge is a freebie, enjoy it), and eventually trips to Fashion Valley and even to L.A. for late night flicks at the Cinerama on Sunset Blvd or Tijuana for weekend getaways (which were mostly just for the delicious food and inexpensive housing options). Before that time, it was just me and my movies - and my dad. My closet friends were Audrey Hepburn and Howard Hawks and Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. They were my heroes, my trailblazers, my soul mates, my court jesters. My dad understood - it was the same for him - so I was happy to spend my weekends on the couch with him getting lost in another story, another world, another galaxy and we never needed to blather on and on about how these pictures made us feel because we just both got it. And I feel like only a special kind of person really gets it.

Cinema is magic. That's all there is to it. It made a lonely little nine year old girl feel a little less alone in the world, even for a little while. And it has alleviated current tragic life circumstances enough to make my father smile for even half a second. How can you call that anything else but pure magic?

Life is still turning. Things haven't changed. But at least I know that there will always be a place that my dad and I can go to where the sky isn't always falling and reality fades to black for at least a couple hours.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our Worth

Mary Oliver once wrote, about approaching death:

"When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world"

How do any of us really know the impact that we have made? How do any of us know how much we really matter? It's all relative any way - our definitions on what makes one matter. I guess we all matter, we all make an impact - no one comes into this world and then leaves it without touching someone, somehow, for better or for worse.

It's all the pressure we put on ourselves to accomplish this or accomplish that. Anyone who read my last blog post probably knows that I've been struggling with this - living a life that matters, living a life that's mine. I've fallen into this weird loop of living for everyone around me and not for myself. But I don't want to get into all that again. The thing is, now that I recognize that in myself, what's next?

I am currently in the middle of watching a person I love fall out of this earth, losing his body to disease, and to say that this is the most painful time in my life would be beyond an understatement. To say that I'm in a bad place right now would be the same. But - I am surrounded by family, constantly receiving words of love and encouragement from friends and colleagues alike, and I have the California sunshine embracing me in its warmth. Pretty soon I will need a lot to heal - I am  trying to prepare myself but really, you can never prepare for anything like this. However, it's good to know that when the darkest days arrive, when I'm in my worst moment, I will have people there ready to try and pull me out of it if I drift too far away.

Is that the way you measure your worth? By the love you have gained and given? If so, I guess in one way, this year has been great - because it's helped me see that I do have a lot of love in my life, even though it doesn't feel that way most days.

So what now? I'm sitting in limbo. I'm on the edge of something I can't speak out loud. I can see its face. I can hear its name. It's so close and I don't know how to make it go away - because there is no making it go away. You can't stop a storm. You can't stop the world from turning. It's what you do with the time you've got left - that's what it all comes down to. Thinking beyond this moment in time is too hard so simply being here and living is all we can do.