Every family has a funny story, oft told to the subject’s chagrin, at gatherings and inopportune moments. One of mine, God knows there are many, is the story of my cousins and me playing in my Uncle Delmar’s front yard.
My parents and two sets of aunts and uncles are gathered, as almost every Sunday of my childhood, chatting and enjoying the afternoon/early evening. Suddenly the calm peaceful atmosphere is bombed by a jarring slam against the huge picture window followed immediately by the blood curdling whales of yours truly.
In panic, all rush to the front porch to witness me standing there humped over, flailing my arms to the wind and sobbing uncontrollably. When I realized I had an audience, I immediately stopped, smiled and said, “Hey.”
“What’s the matter?” the adults demanded.
“We’re playing ‘Statues’.” I grinned. “I’m a weepin’ willow.”
For those unfamiliar with the now probably forgotten yard game, one person acts as the ‘Spinner’ grabbing the arms of the ‘Player’, whipping them around in a circle finally releasing them shouting the subject of the ‘Statue’ they must become upon release. The ‘Spinner’ has to guess what the ‘Statue’ is.
That’s about all I remember with the exception that at every reunion, holiday and in front of every girlfriend I ever had the misfortune of leaving in the same room with a family member that story is retold in every point of view version possible.
It was a childhood game. They misunderstood, so it’s my fault. It’s the anecdote that refused to die. I’m sure it will be on my tombstone…in very, very small print, under my chosen epitaph, which by the way is “If you can read this…get off my grave!”
Maybe that, though, was the point in time I decided I should become an actor. Hey, if I could convince a bunch of adults inside the house from the front yard I was crying to the point they rushed to my side to first console me, then kill me, it must be something I’m good at. In fact, I think it’s the only thing I’ve ever felt good at.
But I no longer do it; act or play ‘Statues’. I miss it, more and more…acting which is in turn an extension of childhood games. Then again, have I really given it up or am I just no longer being paid for it; just paying for it?
I keep trying to pinpoint moments in time, I think coming seriously close to becoming a pillar of salt. I struggle, daily, with finding that one moment in time that led me to where I am today. Actually that’s wrong, not to where I am but why I am.
Positive to the point of insane obsession, that if I can just find that moment of true happiness I can pull it out, hold it up and all the other will just fall away and be no more. The pain will fall to the ground and be gone. The doubt will slip away and no longer exist. The nagging knowledge that I am not good enough and will never be good at anything can just evaporate. I have convinced myself this is how it will be.
Maybe that is the real problem. I have convinced myself of things so expertly, I believe they are real. I have convinced myself that no one knows what I am feeling inside, how black and miserable every moment of every day is. I joke. I smile and am unbelievably witty and wryly sarcastic about just about everything.
Everyone believes me. Everyone knows I struggle, but because of my demeanor believes that I am handling it all so well, that I am strong, content and moving forward. I have convinced myself this is so. This is my insanity, and welcome to it.
I struggle. I fight. I laugh. I smile.
I stand somewhere in the outside watching it all, shaking my head and trying not to give in to just letting it all take over. It’s so hard not to let the temptation just wash over me. That’s what I really want, to just let it take over, soaking every fiber of my being until I shrink into a tiny, tiny puddle.
Icky, stagnant water would make sense. Then maybe someone would come clean it up or the sun would dry it up and I could just go away. My past would have more meaning than something I let go. My being would mean more than an embarrassing tall tale if misunderstanding.
No it wouldn’t. It would just mean I became a mud puddle and I’d be gone. I have to remember that. That is the truth I struggle to hold fast, but it’s slippery and slimy. I can’t get a good, firm grip on it.
I worked hard and made firm choices to go in other directions; hard, strong, steadfastly prayed upon decisions. I knew that life wouldn’t be as I had imagined. I knew dreams weren’t going to come true, but I tried, was proud of what I had done and let go. Or is that just another aspect of me I convinced myself into believing?
When I left Nashville I remember a man by the name of Steve Kelly telling me that he thought I was leaving too soon. He looked right in my eyes and told me, “You don’t try hard enough.”
Inside, I scoffed at him. What did he mean I didn’t try hard enough? I was making my living as an actor. I had done “Gemini”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Equus”, a number of original plays and musicals. I was a member of an Improv/Comedy company, a founding member as a matter of fact, and I was leaving Nashville because I was having a play I’d written produce at a college and had been hired to be there from first rehearsal through performance. How dare he say I’d not tried hard enough?
My resume was proof of how hard I tried and that it had paid off. Look at it, come on! I graduated high school on Sunday and on Wednesday made my professional debut at the Barter Theatre, the longest, continually running LORT theatre IN THE WORLD! In college, my picture was in my theatre text book, for crying out loud! What did he mean, I didn’t try hard enough?
And now, I work part time for minimum wage at a job going nowhere living in the same house, sleeping in the same bedroom, in the same town I ran screaming from without looking back determined never to return. Maybe he was right, after all I am a weeping willow.
…and the chicken dances on.