Separated by a Common Language

Tags

, , , , ,

She says something to me and her face looks kind.  She’s trying to help me – us – though we didn’t seek it.  But I don’t quite understand and without realizing it I just smile and nod and back up a bit.  A companion is with me and he has the same cognitive disconnect.  She looks between us, polite smile fading, and says (perfectly clearly) in her lilting brogue, “do you not speak English?”

For that brief moment when I cannot speak English I feel keenly my alien-ness, the solid fact that we are lost in a foreign country.  But then other companions step up and assure her that we do speak English and she explains how to get back to the Water of Leith Shore.

Up to that point everything about being in the UK that was different was delightful – money with the queen on it, cars driving on the left side of the road, the legal drinking age, bobbies, haggis, lifts, knapsacks and hundreds – if not thousands – of years of human history under our feet.  For days we let ourselves think we were walking through a funny looking glass where things worked only slightly differently from what we were used to.

Now, no one will ever accuse me of looking Scottish (although my dad would be highly amused), but as a kid in Southern California I did go to the Highland Games and other Scottish cultural festivals in the area.  For heaven’s sake, when I was in high school we put on the Lerner & Lowe musical BRIGADOON.  My dad has a certain appreciation for the Scottish character and he used to tell me stories about the “Ladies from Hades,” Scottish regiments marching boldly into battle, bagpipes wailing.  Many of my classmates, neighbors and fellow church parishioners could have been taken for being of Scottish descent.

And so it was when I happened to tour the UK and ended up in a bank lobby trying to make sense of a bus map while it rained outside.

I’m now safely home in Southern California and hunting down tidbits of life in 20th century Scotland.  Overwhelmingly this is over the Internet because the questions I have don’t work in the vertical direction that books typically do, but at cross sections, threading different facts together to understand how religious, economic and social factors would affect a particular character in a time and place.  It’s difficult and at times incredibly frustrating because history tries to leave Scotland in the 19th century and insists that modern American history is all that I need to know about the 20th century.  Any other place should simply be considered as a variant to America….

Even as my research went along for the first chunk of considering the play I didn’t realize that that assumption was in the back of my mind.  I can separate out the much older history as a fascinating story of a people from long ago – Robert the Bruce and the Declaration of Arbroath – from modern life.  If an event is well in the past it belongs to people quite unlike me.  But the life that happens now, to people who look like my friends and who speak a language that (despite occasional difficulties) I speak as well, must therefore be somewhat similar to mine.  When that assumption proves unfounded and I can only take the facts as they present themselves, without orienting them relative to facts about myself and my world, it’s then that I feel I am really learning something new.

It’s the same feeling that I get when I really listen, very, very carefully to men talk about themselves.  But it’s only when they’re being as honest and vulnerable as they rarely get.  We understand machismo, we understand self-reliance…we’ve seen it every second of every day.  It’s as intrinsic to thinking “man” as it is to think “fellow wearing a plaid skirt” when we think “Scot.”  But when I finally have the insight to what might be under the bravado the point of view is disorienting to me, and therefore fascinating.

But it requires listening, really, really listening.  It takes removing every ounce of my own ego, every expectation that I might have to in order to hear what someone else is truly saying about his or her experiences, and not merely hear how their life might vary from mine.  I do love exploring people’s lives in other times and places.  I have a continual hunger to learn how other people do what they do, why and where they end up.  But I let myself think I know that we have enough in common; when that commonality is taken from me receiving a foreign culture and point of view is no longer reflexive assumption but an active observation.

It’s not a variation from the American lifestyle that today a child in Scotland has approximately the same chance of being born to an unwed mother as to a married one.  American births are only at a quarter unwed-to-wed mothers.  Maybe in another generation that will become 50%, but who knows really.  Scottish women aren’t living a variant of American priorities, they are making their own choices in their own society in a time known as “now.”

Linda McLean‘s play Sex & God is entirely concerned with women living their lives over the course of the 20th century in Glasgow, Scotland.  The details of their life and times are intrinsic and barely worth the mention as they proceed through their experiences…and yet it’s those prosaic details that make their lives so different from what I know.  We know the proud, strong Scotsmen, we know the tartans and bagpipes, we may know the factories and mines, the economic difficulties… but we don’t necessarily know how the women lived.  How it affected how they loved and what work they did, we don’t know their internal lives, their thoughts, their spirituality, their motivations.

So it is that my mind is turned again to this far away land that has people much like you and me living their daily lives.  And so it is I feel like I’m relearning how to speak English.

Sex & God plays with Lamentations of the Pelvis for an evening of theatre called WOMAN PARTS.  Opens at Son of Semele Ensemble on Saturday 26 April, running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and some Mondays.

[essay] The Tiger Behind the Fence: Introduction

Tags

, ,

You’re out in the yard and movement past the fence catches your eye. Something is on the other side, you tell yourself. An animal, large, fur rippling in jagged orange and black patterns. You can only see it through the interstices between the slats so you can either see a leg and paw, or musclebound torso, or a section of tail. You start to think it could be a tiger. Bengal. You’d know for sure if you saw its face. And you think with a start that you do not want to see the face of an adult Bengal tiger staring back at you between the slats of a wooden backyard fence.

But even if you see the face you haven’t seen the whole tiger. You have put together the parts you’ve seen and filled in the gaps with educated guesswork and constructed a theory for a tiger. Think about that. There are parts you haven’t seen – fangs, claws, a killer instinct – but you are certain they are there. You don’t even think of them separately, they are part and parcel of the thing we call tiger. There’s no such thing as a tiger without fangs and claws, right? So if that creature really is a tiger you have to assume it comes fully equipped.

Basically, you believe in things unseen because they fill in the gaps between the things you can see. That which we perceive must necessarily be filtered through what we think we know and how we see the world. It’s how we identify animals, it’s how a mess of vocalizations becomes speech, it’s how we recognize patterns even when sections are slightly modified or missing entirely. Sure, sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes what we thought was a real tiger was just an amazing throw rug recent from the wash and left hanging outside to dry.

Continue reading

Korean Spa to Walla, and Dallas to Dallas, with a layover in the kitchen; and what I learned there.

Tags

, , , , , , ,

If I put together all the voice over that I did this year that wasn’t in a class, it would probably take three or four, maybe five days.  Maybe six, when counting email, the Web site, business cards, etc.  But the last professional thing I got done this year, before holidays and overeating killed all forward movement, was a walla session.  So I am doing stuff.

I just need to do more.

It’s been a hell of a year, huh?  I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been figuratively booted in the head at least once in the last 12 months, and plenty of us were still reeling from previous sucker punches from life.

I knew it would be trouble from the moment I decided to stop stage managing FOOTE NOTES through yet another extension. It sucked up my January and I really wanted to get going on my goals…  The problem immediately manifested as how was I doing to get anything done without any structure to my days.  To say nothing of the added chaos that comes with living with someone who is schizophrenic.

Though, the truth is I did start to get somewhere. And it started on my last day at FOOTE NOTES.  (The two one-acts were located in a small town outside of Dallas.)  After several good-bye whiskeys and hugs to the cast, I met M and we went to a spa in Koreatown.  I’d never been so I had a few minutes to get used to the idea that the “co-ed” section one wore the facility-provided uniform of t-shirt and shorts, making it look like a bus station overflowing with Korean tourists to Disneyland, and in the women-only section one wore only one’s birthday suit.

I’ll skip over the details – which I remember keenly – and get to what I’ve taken with me.  And it’s that I’m enough and there’s nothing really wrong with my body.  And if I change it’s just a change.  In the years to come I’m going to lose as much as I could possibly gain when it comes to physical looks, and the point of that is it doesn’t mean jack when I’m laying down on hot clay marbles and my mind is wandering while impossibly insane Korean TV shows are playing in the background.  From the tiny little naked girls chasing each other around to the old grannies pushing walkers and letting it all hang out, we’re all here.  It’s all good.

The last trip to Dallas was aboard DALLAS NON-STOP, stage managing with a tiny bit of voice over thrown in for shits and giggles. I’ve always loved theatre for the chance to see the world through different eyes and this was something new and different still.  It was all located in the Philippines and imagined and realized by Filipinos and Filipino-Americans… and as much as it reflexively touched on the realities of Filipino life and culture, it was situated so that it looked squarely back at America.  I found I was looking at my own country and my own (Western) culture through their eyes.  Quite a heady experience.

Layovers are such a pain in the ass.  Enough time to not know what to do with yourself, not enough time to really go find an adventure.  That’s what it felt like this summer.  True, I was hitting a patch of depression by late spring, so I was forced to get up and take care of things when my mom had surgery.  Nothing else was getting me to productivity.  But some two-three months of pretending to be mom, cooking and cleaning, etc, at the same time that mom was around being mom and no one else was helping it out…  It just put on pause any attempts to work for myself while I couldn’t do anything to get away and relax.

And at the end of all that? My sister moved in and I started sharing my bedroom with my niece.  Hey, I love these people, even my asshole schizophrenic brother, but this house is ready to pop.  I was staying up until the wee hours before simply from being nocturnal, but as I tried to rearrange my life so I could get life moving in a more productive direction, I was starting to make good on getting some decent sleep during the night.  Now I’m back to nearly fully nocturnal because it’s the only time I can hear myself think.  This is the hardest part.  Making the life I’m aiming for work while the place I live in is slightly completely crazy.

At the least I have awesome friends who are generous with their resources.  S let me crash at her house while I worked on DALLAS and on a few occasions I got some recording done there.  It maybe that I have to do all my recording there.  It’s still not a studio, but it’s far calmer than my house.

Those are just the places I landed.  Spots where my feet touched the ground and I saw clearly what I was trying to get done, whether I was close to or far from my goals.  I coasted over fitness & weight loss, sometimes going to the gym regularly, and sometimes taking a month or more off.  I skimmed some Japanese without serious demands that I improve and commit more to the long-term memory banks.  I’m trying not to get too frustrated about these.  They’re important to me but I can have only one No 1 goal.

Walla is a term for the chatter produced when a group of people in a sound booth fill in the background conversation for scenes on TV or movies.  I can’t get into detail about the ones I’ve done, but I can say it’s a fun exercise in semi-free form improv.  Anyhow, I like that someone thought of me and called me in.  Next up: getting someone to think of me and pay me to come in.

A List of Books

Tags

, , , , ,

Books that permanently altered my brain-workings:

Borderlands/La Frontera

 

I didn’t know I could have this kind of relationship with my culture and race. A mix of poetry and essays, first hand stories, dreams, hallucinations, bilingual and unrepentantly anarchic, this book left me shuddering, breathless and in hysterical ecstasy.

 

 

Alice in Wonderland

 

One of those instances where the movie (the 1950s Disney version) was so amazing I didn’t hesitate to crack open the dusty tome on my dad’s shelf. Not that dust on a book ever stopped me. I love Wonderland, I love pulling out the stops on the imaginative, I love tossing expectations on their ear and I *LOVE* celebrating unbirthdays!

 

A Wrinkle in Time

 

Like a gateway drug, Madeline L’Engle got me on the road to fantasy and scifi when I read WRINKLE in third grade. (‘Course I also read THE HOBBIT that year so…) I went on to read everything else of hers that I could get my hands on and I came to love the entire Time Quintet. But there can be only one shattering, one first time venturing into the truths beyond reality.

 

The Three Musketeers

 

I like my buckles well swashed, thank you. By far the best movie adaptation was the one that starred Gene Kelly, accept no substitutes. Seriously, there’s been about a dozen versions, and most of them are crap. (Notably not crap just goofy, the Mexican version that starred Cantinflas!) Even Kelly’s elided a lot of the more *ahem* sexier parts. But this fits my occasional need for high adventure that is totally reckless, irresponsible and amoral (or even immoral – have you guys read this thing?!). As to the book – translation matters a lot if you’re not up for 18th century French. I highly recommend this version by Jacques Le Clerq.

Sandman

 

Sometimes I feel like I hold onto The Sandman series so tightly because of all the pop-love for these graphic novels. Even if I hadn’t stumbled over them in the mid-90s I would have had to read them just to understand what everyone was talking about. The truth is, these are some fantastic stories told with a flavor that definitely works for me (a mopey central character? a gothy big sister? gods acting like children? YES please) In a way Sandman is more a realization of Things I Dig in Stories that have their seeds in other works on this list, so it doesn’t always feel like it has the personal weight. But it’s one of my favorites that is also a favorite with tons of other people. It’s nice to have one of those.

The Passion

 

It can get tough to find the hardcore *good* writing as an adult. I mean I can enjoy a great story (HARRY POTTER series) or appreciate clear-eyed reportage (LOAVES AND FISHES), but a really intense story told in a take-no-prisoners righteous prose… that’s something that has to get pushed into my hands. I really just can’t say enough good things about Winterson’s writing. The story alone is daring, but I started reading long sections of this book out loud just for the pleasure of having the words in my mouth – and this was years before I would be assigned reading aloud on a daily basis! Read this freaking book! I need more people to talk with about it.

The Catcher in the Rye

 

Like what I assume must be most Americans, I read CATCHER when it was assigned in high school. But it was one of the very few that came with a lot of hype that wasn’t a specialized girls-in-the-period-of-petticoats type of literature. I knew I was supposed to like it before I read it and so I was cautious. Maybe even cynical. But then the fucking thing got me. Somehow, I don’t really know where exactly, but it got through and it got me. What I remember is the last section was very moving. There was something of a whisper or rumor of light at the end things. Hope is too strong a sensation, maybe more like the possibility of accord.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

 

The second time I read R&G it was as an assignment my senior year of high school. I had read it the year before when an older student pointed it out and thought I’d like it. I loved the fucking hell out of it. I love it still, but with a little tempering that comes from thinking about something for a good 20 years straight. It’s actually hard at this point to recall what it was like to encounter this sort of weird metafiction-y existentialism for the first time. At this point I just call it my mind. This *points* is how my brain works now. (The Stoppard-directed movie starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth is Darned Good Stuff, taking just the right liberties, cutting out what you can only do in a theatre and bringing in what you can only do in a film. }:>)

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

 

I read about the first third of this book in one night. I had just moved and my apartment was in shambles, I read with a battery powered lamp, in a nest of blankets on the carpet. It was Christmas Eve, it was the only present I allowed myself to open and it exploded my brain all over the place. I tried to be friendly and happy the next day with the family etc, but I just wanted to get back to my book. It’s… I can’t even… There’s just nothing like it. I wish more people would read this so we could talk about it! It both is and isn’t about the end of the world, it’s about thinking and it’s about being… augh! Read it!!

El laberinto de la soledad

 

Okay, so here I’m singling out the essay “Máscaras mexicanas” from the collection titled El laberinto de la soledad, by Mexican poet and Nobel laureate Octavio Paz. I haven’t read all of LABYRINTH OF SOLITUDE, but other sections I have read have been pretty dang strong, so it’s going to happen one of these days. Anyway, I read “Máscaras” as an assignment in high school and it really gave me a strong reference for looking at my ethnicity and the part of my culture that I didn’t see in mass media. 2G kids of Mexicans really, really would get a lot out of reading this, I think.

Kabuki

 

If we could construct madness as a contained thing, to be suffered along the way to greater enlightenment, then this is what it looks and feels like. A passage through darkness, with assaults to everything we think we know coming from all dimensions. This is not a real mental disorder, that doesn’t bring wisdom only psychosis, but it’s the sort of deeply troubling crisis that profound questioning can bring. There are pitfalls every inch of the way and freedom from the darkness is not at all assured. These comments are specifically about “Metamorphosis” as I haven’t actually read the entire run of KABUKI; earlier novels were also intriguing, but none fucked me up quite like #5.

This list of books was originally posted to facebook as part of the meme of “10 books that have stayed with you.”  I’ve copied it all over here because there is actual archiving here (kind of), so I can pull up this entry whenever I like.  Obviously, there are more than 10 entries but not all are books…  The instructions for creating the list said something about not thinking much about it, but the fact is that I’ve been moved a lot by just little bits here and there, articles and essays and reflections.  But these books (mostly) have been powerful from cover to cover.

I kinda want to step over to my bookshelves and pull them down now….

Staged Truths

Tags

, ,

I have to spend a lot of time as a stage manager as little more than a glorified time keeper.  That’s during rehearsal.  My work is really before and after rehearsal – and I do what it takes to make performances go.

Luckily, my reward for sitting still for four hours at a time, six days a week, is a little bit of cash and a front row seat to watching talented actors give performances that only the director otherwise gets to see.  And I don’t have to sweat having an opinion.  I just get to sit back and watch.

I get to observe humans twisting themselves into emotional pretzels to find out what they’re trying to bring to light.  I see the successes and failures and the amazing, illuminating truths in between.

Actors do this emotional heavy lifting, over and over, on a scale unlike any other.  I find the work fascinating, as much to observe as to do myself.

Obviously, I’m someone who is capable of watching something over and over again.  I know people who insist they find that impossible.  I only find it unpleasant when the show itself is not to my taste.  But when the show is good I can watch it repeatedly until the cows come home.  Or the run finally ends, whichever comes first.

There’s a lot to stage managing that’s a bear, and I’ve dealt with actors who are a handful.  But I’m glad whenever I realize I get to watch an artist I like go to work.  Not many other jobs like this that I can think of.

Thanks, talented actors, for bringing it.

The Thing as It’s Become: CIVILIZATION

Tags

, , , ,

At Son of Semele Ensemble we’ve just put the play CIVILIZATION by Jason Grote into production.  The thing it’s pretty much entirely about is my life and yours too. (Also, I was the dramaturg.)

Through the last few entries I’ve been leading to a point of trying to explain the sensation of balancing my life on the toes of one foot.  My safe ground has fallen away until now there’s just a patch under me where I can be without feeling like I’m imposing on other people.  I feel hemmed in, compromised and stressed out.

And there’s nothing really special about me.  All around me, every where I go, people are getting squeezed in much the same way.  I don’t have to work hard to find people stressed out by bills, unable to get ahead in their careers, unable to find full time work, unable to get to a point where they can take a full, unencumbered breath and stand on two feet like a fully realized human being.

Even as a society we look around and easily people who have it worse than we do.  We’re not in a war zone, we’re not living in the midst of toxic material (actually, we created that toxic material, most of the time), our strife is nothing like slavery or institutionalized sexual exploitation or a lack of access to education or mass censorship.  We can learn whatever we want, say whatever we want, say yes or say no to sex whenever we want and in theory merit is the only thing that lands or limits employment – not race or creed or gender….

And yet.  And yet… and yet it’s so fucking hard.  how?  Why?  What the hell happened that got all this chaos going, and not in the ordered way of society that we were told we’d get back when we were in school?

We ask those questions and self-appointed authorities try to step in and explain it all.  They promise pathways out.  They claim they’ll teach us how to anticipate things that could go wrong.  Or tell us who or what is to blame.  (We really like that last one.)

But in actuality the questions are rhetorical.  It doesn’t matter how we got here, or it doesn’t matter that much.  Because asking that question betrays the longing for things to “go back to normal.”  And that is never going to happen.

What the thing is, the thing IS.  More importantly, the course of events aren’t going to slow down and wishing they would go in reverse is so ridiculous it’s almost insane.

KAREN: Do you ever feel like you’re made for something different than everyone else.

DAVID: Everyone feels that way.  That’s why life is so disappointing.

But when we’re upset – okay, when I’m upset – childish reactions are to be expected.  I pout and blame others and ask unhelpful questions like “WHYYYY??” and complain about life being unfair.

Our civilization seems to be made of supposed adults running around not at all sure how things got to be like this and holding on to the deep seated feeling that it’s not supposed to be this hard.

CIVILIZATION is a terrific look at life this very minute, on the last patch of ground we feel we can own.  We’re all losing our balance in real time.  Our civilization is falling apart and the only good thing about it is that we’re now allowed to make up whatever the heck we want about what is next.

Floundering, Drowning Life

Tags

, , ,

I was trying to stop crying.  But that just made it all worse.  God, trying to cry quietly just sucks.

Even when I’m doing things I like (theatre, voice acting), there’s still biding shadows in the back of my mind.  I can rather forget that they’re there.  I can even get so that I forget what it’s like and end up criticizing other anxiety-ridden depressives like a normal, non-messed up person.  The thing I can’t forget, ever, is that stress really brings on the bad brain.

When I’m okay it just pisses me off because it kills so much of my time and energy.  On an okay bout like this one, I lose maybe a day.  But I’ve lost months if not years barely able to get out of bed.

I’ve got *so much* that I want and need to get done that laying about, staring off into space ends up feeling like a cosmic insult I’m giving myself, after all the other abuse I’ve already laid on me.

Everything I’m good at, everything I want more of, is totally crippled – I can’t think creatively, I can’t tune into good art or other people’s feelings.  Every effort feels hobbled; productivity slows way down, assuming I can get anything done at all.  And I feel like every single thought has a giant boulder that it has to go around in order to come together in the real world.

There’s no real reason to tread all this ground – Allie Brosh already did the job spot on.  I mean, the line “No, see, I don’t necessarily want to KILL myself…I just want to become dead somehow” is perfect (and in context, hugely funny).  But maybe only folks who know what depression is like can get that, and everyone who doesn’t know it should count their damned blessings.

What’s on my mind is two things:  The difficulty of trying to build a life at the same time that stress triggers anxiety and depression.  As well as the frustration and pain that comes when a bad episode gets written off as angst, to say nothing of being accused of attention whoring while getting slapped around by self-hatred.

Whatever I do with my life, no matter where I go or what company I keep, this disorder hangs around.  If I’ve got an episode going then all of my measurements for situations between people are completely distorted.  Clear thoughts are almost impossible, and even when I think I’ve got one, I rarely actually do.

After decades of measuring myself and whatever I create, all I can say is… I dunno.  Am I good at anything?  I dunno.  Am I smart?  I dunno.  Am I talented?  I dunno. Is what I made any good?  I don’t know.  I can only go by what other people say because when I rely on my native judgment, folks and I regularly part ways.

Can there be more frustrating conditions for trying to make a go at creating art for a living?

But like I said, that’s all a part of my life.  I make art because I have to.  I’m to the theatre like the ocean is to water.  And I’ve found voice acting spurs everything I like bringing into the world.  It’s stressful making these happen as my body of work.  And of course all the rest of life – sharing living space and getting dinner on the table and finding the time to be alone and paying bills and dodging debt and just trying to keep even more things from breaking…  All of it piles on the stress until something finally breaks my last resolve to push on and all I can do is choke and gulp and wipe my face before anyone notices I’ve been crying.

I’m not sure what the hell else I’m supposed to say for myself when these are the circumstances through which I view the world.  But… I think… I think, I’m a pretty good actor.  Maybe.

————————————————————————————————–

Title was taken from one of the poems in Birthday Letters, written by Ted Hughes, better known as Mr Sylvia Plath (to whom the poem was addressed).

“Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter, your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give.”

Rough to read, but you know who really doesn’t want that “strange glitter?”  The person who’s too fucking depressed to swim to shore.

The Things as They Will Be

Tags

I’m procrastinating.  I have a lot of cleaning to do today and precious little time, but I’m writing this instead.  I’m in my room, on my bed surrounded by a sprawling mess of my stuff.  I really need to clean it all because I’m getting a new roommate.

We’re getting housemates.  My sister’s family is moving in later today.  That’ll put the population of the house at seven adults and one child, one feline and one canine.  (And an undetermined number of crickets, roaches and spiders that don’t dare show their carapaces if they know what’s good for ‘em.)

This is far from optimal, obviously.  It’s dire economic times for all of us and consolidating living spaces seems to be one of the few remaining options.  But living with other people always has its challenges.  This is looking to be extra difficult as the “other people” are family.  Roommates usually have at least some consideration for each other.  Family… well, my family… whoo boy.

We’re all pretty stubborn and we all dislike changing our habits, and of course we all have wildly different habits.  We have different schedules, different expectations, different standards for cleanliness, different appreciations for noise/quiet.  But we hold in common a not-particularly-terrific approach to problem solving and communication that tends to involve crankiness and occasional yelling.  Oh yeah, this is going to be fun.

On the roommate – that was my idea.  Otherwise the niece would have to make the TV room her bedroom.  That was awkward for me (I like doing my ‘toon viewing in the middle of the night), and seemed really unfortunate for her.

But that means I should really clean my cave, uh, our room.

The thing as it has been

Tags

,

steak n' cabernet

In the latter half of this past June my mom had surgery on her shoulder. It effectively disabled her arm and even as the muscle has healed, at this point she still can’t lift anything of consequence, can’t move the arm quickly or with the full range of motion that the other still has. Early on it meant I was waiting on her, hand and foot, as she spent her days and nights largely on the recliner in the TV room. Now she’s back teaching her second grade class and I’m primarily on the hook for making sure dinner is ready at a reasonable time.

I think I worked out that moms get a raw deal compared to dads when I was all of 12 years old. They have to be the ones that shout “no!” when kids are naughty. They enforce TV, snacking, homework and bedtime rules. Etc… At least that was the case in the house I grew up in and carried across most households of my classmates. The only exceptions I knew of were when grandmothers did all the housework and disciplinary effort.

That’s pretty much the point when I decided that if I couldn’t be a dad then I didn’t want to be a parent. My dad’s pancakes were better than my mom’s. He made lunch over the summer (my mom was an office administrator then while my dad taught junior high geography and history), and it was usually Chef Boyardee raviolis with chopped up hot dogs. To the best of my recollection, he never – ever – made dinner. When we misbehaved my dad would complain to my mom.

All in all, the job of dad seemed way less stressful. And I was, even back then, able to note that it also meant it was easier to get along with him and have fun with him. Not so much with mom. Classmates always loved their dads and called them cool. Moms were not always hated, but commonly complained about.

It’s been over 20 years since I decided I didn’t want to be a mom. And being the substitute mom has done nothing but reinforce that. I already felt sympathy for my mom, and a little bit of frustration at her submission to her role. Now I’m actively aggravated at my adult siblings – and my dad – for taking her work for granted. They don’t support, they expect, and they are frequently rude about it all.

I’m fairly impatient with the whole process. As long as I’ve lived here my evenings have been almost totally random. I never knew quite when I was going to have to drop whatever I was doing to help with dinner, usually doing small chores. So getting in my way now when I’ve finally gotten around to cooking – and doing all the necessary prep and cleaning – typically gets a snarl out of me.

It’s not that it’s a big deal to do the chores, or even making dinner, it’s that as a night owl I’m often hitting my stride in terms of productivity in the evening. And also that as an adult, surrounded by adults, I expect the others will be able to either fend for themselves or leave me a cleaner kitchen. Cooking for myself or for several people doesn’t make the biggest difference, but I do have to do it at a common dinner time, rather than when I’m actually hungry.

Of course, friends have long known that left to my own devices I often forget to eat until I’m almost crippled by hunger pangs.

Anyway. I have more of my days to myself, but evenings are not mine. That goes from roughly 6pm till midnight, give or take cleaning the kitchen, and when the family finally settles down. Even when I’m not making dinner I still am expected to eat with everyone as well as praying the rosary later on at night. This isn’t a complaint, really, but it’s also not my favorite part about living here.

I like getting work done after midnight. The house is usually settled and quiet. But it can still be tough if the work is voice recording. That primarily has to do with the fact that my room is not great for recording. When I have recording to do, I try to get into my parent’s closet, the only walk-in in the house. Of course I can’t get in there in the middle of the night.

I frequently complain about sleeping. I really am resentful about the multi-hour pause I have to put on every single day. It’s hard for me to think about it any other way. I have a lot I want to do, I don’t have a lot of time every day for it, but I have to give over a solid eight hours for sleeping?! I’m not kidding. I wish I could skip it without any of the consequences.

So… this summer has been trying to fight for the time to do the work I want to do and doing the work that needs to be done and growling about circumstances that I can’t avoid.

The thing of it is

Tags

Wow I haven’t updated since May. I haven’t been too terribly inspired, but I’ve also been working on trying to hammer something out that has fought me unbelievably hard. Whenever I do get around to publishing it I won’t be shocked if it’s weird, ponderous and no one reads it. But in the meantime I think I’ll go on for a little bit about the random things in my head that haven’t inspired a full blog post but that are taking up room all the same.

I just got back from a three day retreat with my theatre company, Son of Semele Ensemble. We went off to the mountains to spend some time together, thinking big theatrical thoughts, relaxing, playing and getting to know each other. Lake Arrowhead is certainly beautiful but surprisingly crowded, and chock full of multimillion dollar manses built and expanded by folks both rich and famous. *shrug* At least it was calm and quiet up there.

I love big cities so I have no trouble with the bustle of LA. But I live in Anaheim with my family and it’s rarely calm here. Within a couple of hours getting back here my oldest brother started picking fights while I was trying to chill out (surprising how weekends away can be quite tiring) by watching TV. OB has been back with the family since January. Every now and then he throws out that he’ll move out, but he just tries to threaten it. Literally, “I’m going to move out! How do you like that?!” To which we respond, “please do.” Literally. *long breath* But he’s still here.

OB is schizophrenic with paranoia and who knows what else. None of us are trained to deal with it, and it’s a fight just to convince him to take his meds. He’s required to check in with a counselor, but they just make sure he’s okay, they don’t try to improve his mental health. Nothing – absolutely nothing – convinces him there’s anything wrong with his mind. We’re all the ones who want him to fail, we’re the ones who are illogical, we’re the ones who are crazy and/or afraid to be free etc, etc. He’s only been sick and unable be successful in life because a witchdoctor cursed him and we obviously dislike him because we won’t lend him the money to buy a spell from a psychic that will remove the curse…. Only people who’ve lived with someone who is mentally ill can hope to understand how fucking impossible it is to have a real conversation with a schizophrenic. He’s abusive, he’s irrational, he’s delusional and he is hopelessly lost inside his own head and pain.

No matter how much we want to be sympathetic, he steamrolls our good will with attacks, absurdities, inconsideration and outright terrible manners. The difference between him and an asshole is at least a true asshole will recognize when they are treating someone awfully and accept the indictment, even as they shrug it off. If we point out that he’s being a jerk he insists we’re the ones who started it. (Literally, that’s his argument. He’s 35.)

This leads me to think about how much I want better from myself when it comes to dealing with people who try my patience. Because I do care and worry about him. But I also regularly want to plant my fist in his face. Perhaps it’s a matter of wanting too much, but I feel it’s not enough to just seek calm and peace in my own mind and heart. I should be able to work toward putting that peace out in the world. That I flat out can’t with him sucks hard. That it damages my calm so bad that I end up wishing him ill is…embarrassing. My childish wish is that he would just go away. That he would stop being my problem, or that of our parents.

But that’s the true assholism, isn’t it? Obviously I wish the schizophrenia and other problems in his psyche would go away. But who the hell would he be without them? I barely remember him from high school and he wasn’t a picnic then either.

I don’t like letting my own bullshit slide. I just don’t know how to deal with this. So I frequently don’t except to just blow up.

It’s really hard to get anything done when this is a major part of life.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 428 other followers