Monday, February 3, 2014

Tiny Things

It has been almost two weeks without anxiety, something new to me.  I thought that the grief and the trauma of last year would never subside.  I thought it would rule me forever, such was its power.  We talked about grief today in the truck:  he is being invited by family to attend fall-related festivals and the like, and he wants nothing of it.  He's not trying to be rude, it's just that so much goes on in the aftermath of a divorce or separation, that it is inordinately lonely in its execution. Your child has left, and even the absence of your spouse, can leave you with such uncertain feelings that it is hard to share your time, especially that time that is supposed to be entertaining with others and feel even remotely part of the whole. It is those times I believe, that you have to make the decision to be on your own for your own sake.  You're not being selfish, you're within your own. 
I have always said that no one can ever see inside someone else's marriage. And there comes a time when only you know what happened within the marriage. If your soon to be ex had a clue, you wouldn't be getting divorced in the first place. Divorce can be about infidelity, addictions, abuse, but in my case is in many others, it was about a lack of understanding. I know that I would have stayed if I had felt I was understood on any level, most importantly, the essentialness of the domestic to the life of our family and the fundamental principle that building a home, with furniture, sheets , clean windows, decorated walls, nesting bowls that measure out milk for oatmeal, salt for bread , handled cups just right for bowls of chili and soup and even the arrangement of plastic containers in a cabinet (although most of the time severely cattywampus)  was one's life work and not to be discounted but to be understood as an accomplishment and the height of craft. It was truly hard work to assemble a household with sparse funds through hand me downs, curbside luck, clever bargaining, trades, goodwill finds, saving and scrambling to make sure that me and my children didn't take a single piece of clothing out of a plastic drawer.  To have discounted this effort, to have sent us packing off to Richmond with less than we started with was sheer madness. It cost my ex's children, his wife and loathing that he has trouble comprehending.  I too, like John, was in no mood to face congenial events in the light of my losses.
And no one understood.
If no one understands where you are and what you have lost, and you feel the need  to just not join in, well then... I'd say come sit by me but the truth is you really need to sit by yourself.
And when you do, take whatever comforts you no matter how silly it seems. This does not include alcohol of course or recreational drugs, but tiny momentos you can carry around in your pocket that bring you comfort. Mine is a clothespin.  when I first came to Gulfport, I had a uncomfortable job as a secretary at a construction company where the boss refuse to send out any invoices that were completed. It made me nervous, and I was was in such a state battling the feelings that I had for my man and trying to deal with the persistent belief that I had lost every single bit of value in this life that truly wasn't fit to be employed.  Hell-- I didn't even have enough clothes to show up decently dressed. It was a Friday and at the end of a particularly rough week when I pulled up in front of the double wide to find a beautiful set of chrysanthemums with a postcard attached to them with a clothespin. The Man had driven 200 miles on his day off to leave me flowers on my front porch. I carried that clothespin with me everywhere until I lost it after too many beers at a friends house.  The Man replaced it carving into the tip the ellipses that had come to symbolize our relationship...   it represented the silence that could pass between us and yet we both knew what the other was thinking.  I have it still. Its been chewed by dogs, and slicked smooth by the oil of my hands. It is proven time and again to be the thing that I needed to allay my anxieties and my fears whenever necessary and believe you me-- that was a lot.
If its a folder that picture of a child's drawing, the petals from a flower you received in love , a tiny Buddha or ceramic frog that fits in your pocket, take it with you. Hold on tight to the physical evidence of love. And come sit by me but only if you feel like it.

Enormously Sad

Queen Latifa had a well-timed guest on this morning:  Liza Manelli.  If anyone in this world knows what it's like to lose someone famous and well-loved to drug addiction, it's Liza.  If anyone knows what it's like to struggle with fame and addiction, it's Liza.  She sat on that big white couch and moved quite a bit.  Was she anxious, was she just getting older?  What could she make of this tragedy of Hoffman?  It must be bitter for her every time this happens.  Leger and Hoffman.  Gone.  And not good talents, great ones.  Great ones, like Bulushi and Winehouse.  Towering, staggering talents.  Captivating and extraordinary.  I will always think of Leger blazing across the bleachers like a madman in Ten Things I Hate About You, that lovely take on The Taming of the Shrew. How I enjoyed Heath, each and every time.

Hoffman.  Hoffman even more.

The six actors who stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw them:  Daniel Day-Lewis (back in 1984 in A Room With A View), Wes Studi (as Magwa in The Last of the Mohicans), James McAvoy (in White Teeth and again in Dune), Romany Malco (in Baby Mama), Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile) and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a very small part in Twister, of all things.  (I am only including modern actors.  Toshiro Mifune in Roshomon is beyond compare.  He was the best of actors, like Scofield--my very favorite--and Day-Lewis).  I just stood there and gaped, captivated, even though he was just being loud and obnoxious in a group scene at the close of the third act of a silly movie that only needed to tidy up to an ending.  I wasn't surprised when he started getting role after role.  The way he affected my heart--I knew he'd be a big deal. I have had the privilege of talking with two of these actors (one is a personal friend), and I know how difficult fame can be (trust me, hanging out with a famous person will blow your mind--people gape, literally, mouths ajar.  Photographers wait for you at the airport, paying off chauffeurs. People you don't know hand you drugs because you played a dealer on t.v.).  Going through New Orleans today I turned on NPR.  Fresh Air was playing all past interviews with Philip Seymour Hoffman.  It was almost too sad to listen to him.  By God, he did some great work.  Just his voice for Capote (which wasn't even my favorite take on Capote--I thought Toby Jones and Infamous were far better--the script was much more accurate) just his voice was an astonishing study.

Why did we love him so?  There are and were better actors.  There's DeNiro, there's Day-Lewis, there is Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, which was a brilliant performance.

Because he seemed related to us.  Because he was, like us, utterly accessible.  You could so see yourself taking a road trip with him and him not making a big deal of you farting.  Or maybe--the first time he meets you--taking a fry from your tray without asking and even if he wasn't famous or you didn't know who he was, pushing it towards him so he could take another.

My prayers for his poor family, his three children, his co-workers who admired him and have said very kind things about him, and his more devoted fans who must be devastated. I hope his children are shielded, somehow, from the truth and for God's sake, given their privacy.  Please, please... don't buy People.  They are going to feature photos they shouldn't.  They always do.

It all holds for me my ultimate conviction that besides child sexual abuse, the greatest evil on this earth may be heroin, it is what runs in Satan's veins and he gives it freely to those who are hurting.  I cannot watch Trainspotting twice.  I can't bring myself to read the book.  I can only remember those addicts in Victoria station begging--inches from businessmen's faces--for shillings.  They were totally gone to another realm. Art, love, gestation of affection had long since vanished for them.

We are all reeling because we loved his work.  Many families, though, lost someone to heroin yesterday. I doubt the beggars I saw in 2002 are still with us.  Hopefully this public loss will do some private good in the form of a dialogue about this most insidious form of addiction. Hopefully we will take the time to care for someone who has chosen this path, even though it seems to be a waste.  Hopefully we will buy them a meal. Hopefully we will see them and ardently pray for better, less they lay on the bathroom floor, shorts and t-shirt, needle in arm, laid bare for all the masses to gape and admittedly, to grieve.