It Was A Joke

 

His dad and I  provide the curly-haired kiddo with a joke every day to tell when he walks into school. How a flat-souled lady like me birthed a beautiful, and often tearful empath, I’ll never know.  The riddles started as a way to get him smiling in the morning.  Because who wants to go to school when you just want to Lego and chill with mom?

He loves the jokes. The more awful and cheesy and punny, the better. That head-back, open-mouthed giggle is really lovely. But he’s usually laughing alone. Lately I just smile and say, ‘that’s funny’.

Yeah. That’s not how you do it.

Today, especially,  was my version of ‘how not to do it.’

Feature length. Commercial free. Unabridged and not edited for content screening of how not to do it.

Today was a call back day. Call backs are not usually such sweaty, nervous business. For me, at least. But seriously, the shirt I was wearing stood up on its own when I finally peeled it off tonight.

Why the stank drippiness? It wasn’t jitters or fear. Nothing that simple.  I just knew I was going to miss. I was positive I  would step up to the plate, get Death Star sized balls lobbed at me with every pitch and I would whiff every last one. And so it went.

Maybe I didn’t shank every last one. It felt like I nailed a few moments. I got in some of the beats that I found honestly in my preparation and I came back to them during the read, and did them justice. I did think I was able to take direction and adjust my performance in a nice way. But all the rest of the moments? Jesus in pinstripes they were just ugly. Just like the trailer had promised, I had missed.

Jokes aside, I’ve lost something. Like a crucial piece of luggage was lost along the journey my body and brain have taken over the past few years, and now it’s as if it never existed. It really does feel like a loss. It often plays like  a loss I’ve forgotten, until I turn to look for what I need, and it’s not there. Going back into my bedroom to pick up a metaphorical shirt, and not finding it. Dropping an imaginary book on a nightstand and hearing it thud on a make-believe floor, because that piece of furniture doesn’t exist anymore.

And it scares me. Sad? I’ve done that. Angry? Oh, hell yes I’ve done that. A lot. But numb? This is the hardest.

I worked that scene for tonight for no small amount of time. First, I barely had the lines, but that just being old. The heart wasn’t there like I wanted it to be. Like it needed to be. It wasn’t the writing or the direction. Those were both spot on. It was my numb.

Sense memory work? Did that. Emotional memory work? Hell yes to that, too. Even wore a pair of earring that I was wearing when I got to a true place of the heart in a workshop scene once years ago. Yeah. Scraping the bottom of the inspiration barrel.

Nothing. I could not get it up in that room tonight. And worst, I knew I wouldn’t. Christ, I even went to my kid and asked him to write something for me. A note to help me focus on the guts of loss and what it means to walk away. I tucked the paper into the waist band of my pants and fingered it between cameral rolls.

KId is brighter and happier that me.

KId is brighter and happier that me.

Still, nothing. Maybe not nothing. But definitely not what it needed and not what I knew I could do.

Is it gone? It feels like it. But how do you get empathy back? How do you get back the courage to break down a little, safe in the knowledge that you will come back together again? I really don’t know.

(Hint: don’t try a drink with maybe ex. That only makes everyone feel worse. But the laughs and surprise find at a comic book store with him later somehow did help. Power of the force, I guess. But still, don’t try that.)

(Another hint: Don’t force your smile and laugh too much, when your child loses his third tooth while he is miles and miles away from you and that breaks your heart. Because kids will see through that bad acting and will call you on that shit. Your directors will try to encourage and give you another take. Your kids? They are shouting ‘next’ and hustling your ass out the door.

I really don’t want to be numb. I really want to laugh at the joke and not twist the punchline into an imagined jab or belittling. Maybe I’m just trying too hard.

A wise someone I know uses the phrase ‘have fun’ as his signature sign off or valediction. I heard it again today as the simple, concise but astute note for my scene. Shut down your head. Give your heart the reigns. Have fun. Be in on the joy. And laugh.

I’m stabbing at my numbness with fun. I’ll break through it or fall on my ass in the process. Then I’ll laugh. Because this all just might be a joke.

It Gets Better?

 

I mean, it does get better, right? Has to. I had to spend part of the night here, for Juno’s sake, with emerging filmmakers doing their new and wonderful things.

Poor me.

Art happens.

Art happens.

 

Poor, poor me.

(This is the condescending, self-centered conversation that I have with my brain. See, my brain can be a conceited ass that can’t see beyond its own sulcus/gyrus convolutions of pretend need and importance. )

Shut up, brain. Shut the fuck up.

It’s not really that bad.

Even that is offensive.  It’s not bad at all. Not even remotely close to resembling bad.

What do I need, line ticks, check marks, a tally marker?

Fine, brain. Have it your way.

I was at the mall today (1) where I was spending money from the job that I have (2) to buy Christmas gifts (3) for the people I am lucky to have in my life (4). After parking my car, that I don’t own but can manage the payments (5), I saw another mother shopping. Perched jauntily on my high horse, I judged her for letting her kindergarden-ish kid jump about outside the car in the busy parking lot. I couldn’t figure out what this broad was doing, bent and wiggling in and out of the doors and seats. Until I saw her unload the transport wheelchair from where it had been folded in that back seat. And then, I watched her fully alone, dead lift her teenage son from the car, and cradling him in her arms, transfer his to his wheelchair. I choked on the giant slab of crow that was caught in my throat. As well I should have. (Tally of things I was stupidly lucky and unworthy to have stands at 6 and carries through to infinity.)

Planted and locked in my own disbelief at her capacity, I held the door for this trio as she steered the chair into the mall. Meanwhile, she was just doing her daily life. I was agog and she was just handling Friday afternoon. (Run the world, girls.) She laughed, and so did her younger son as they misjudged the clearance and banged off the frame. And then her youngest and I had a game of hide-and-seek/monkey in the middle/musical doors where he and I debated on who was the official door holder of the day. He was better at the job, frankly.

Come to think of it, there are a lot of jobs I have mucked up in a magnificent way lately. Magnificent. Like, as good as the dialogue in His Girl Friday, magnificent. Jobs more important than holding doors. Now, I have yelled at my kid for spilling a drink, for getting peanut butter on a sweater, for not getting his shoes laced in time. I expect far too much from him, just to make the hours pass more easily for me. The irony of my own young man having an immediately eminent first penance is not lost on this usually guilt-ridden ex-ish Catholic.

It’s bullshit and I more precisely I am bullshit. Might blame my brain, and that’s fine. But someone here is definitely magnificent bullshit.

I was mortified at myself, watching that mother. The 20 yards from the pavement to the linoleum looked harder that anything I have faced in a long, long time. And that’s just my narrow, ignorant perception and presumption. I have no idea what that family’s days are like. I won’t pander to them and pretend to know their hards or easies. She handled her business and I walked in after them, feeling like a grade A schmuck. They seemed to feel fine. As well they should. Me feeling that things in my life should get better? That’s my bullshit.

Courtesy of this great team.

Courtesy of this great team.

Tonight was a premiere night. It’s always a kick to finally get to see on screen what so many people have worked on for so very long. I was thrilled for our director and producer (Both ladies. I won’t let that slide. Run the world, girls. ) A chance to be part of the thing I love. The artists involved were pleased with what I contributed to their project (Bringing to tally of good to infinity plus one)

This one was especially poignant. This was the film that I was in with my son. This was the one where, while the audience laughed at the humor of the script and the acting, I sat with tears in my eyes, watching my baby on screen. I watched him make a theater full of people laugh with a look. And, I melted.

I have this boy that I love. He’s fine. I have what I need. Every now and then I get to do the littlest bit of what I love. (There’s no meter reading for that tally. Infinity times infinity and then square that. Then do that all again.)

But things get better, right?

Oh brain. Go to sleep and get over it, already. Stop thinking and look.

Today was my reminder that things don’t need to get better.

They are better.