Saturday, May 15, 2010

Defensive and annoyed

Have you ever put something out there? Something kind of intimate and detailed only to have it misunderstood and ridiculed?
I'm not ashamed of who I am but I am annoyed when I'm mocked and misunderstood. I had a nice conversation with someone who bothered to mock it and completely misrepresent it. Really, people? It's funny how when I am not there to defend myself or explain my words, people twist them and feel better about calling me 'crazy'.
How afraid are these people of their sickness inside?
I have spent way too much time being annoyed by it. The fact is that people are ashamed of their own behavior and they channel it into making me out to be the crazy one.
I am not going to spend my life keeping my mouth shut, not telling the truth and expressing my opinion. Deal with it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rough Cut

When I was in film school, I had to do everything myself. I took on the roles of writer, director, cinematographer, sound mixer, editor, gaffer, etc.
And I loved learning all those things. I took real film and physically cut it and glued it together- pored for hours over a video editing system trimming it to just the right section and it was such intense work but my projects were all on me. I think I got used to doing it all. And I felt still that I left school before I learned all I needed to learn, there are still things I don't know.
But when I got out to do this outside of school, I found I could hire people and assign them jobs instead of doing all of this myself but it has left me feeling sort of useless.
The control freak in me wants to be in on everything. A couple weeks ago I looked at every scrap of footage and made notes on everything I saw as best I could and then I turned it over to the very talented editor to do his job and now I feel so...useless.
I went to consult the sound mixer last week. I'm so glad I have a sound mixer- this is a part of the job I defer to others- it is amazing what these people do- the richness of what he will be able to bring to my project.
At this phase of the game, I have someone composing a score and my film is in the hands of some wonderful people. I am so close to getting this out there.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reunion thoughts

This weekend is one of my significant high school reunions and today was the first luncheon. I think about 15 classmates showed up to this event- there will be more later as the whole weekend is full.
The last one I went to was the tenth and it was quite an unpleasant experience for me. I was quite angst ridden and felt a bit ashamed of my lack of accomplishment, lack of college degree and the fact that I was an unmarried mother of three who would rather not go into the details of that- not that I was ever ashamed of my children or how they were conceived but I didn't feel like letting myself in for the inevitable judgment to follow. I don't think it was the unmarried part- more the single mother part- and not in a way I was ashamed of that- but that I had to bother to explain it to anyone.
If I wanted to, I could elicit sympathy for my situation and make you understand why I was where I was but I cared not for sympathy and had enough pride to feel as if I was not going to tolerate condescension. Back then it was- don't you dare put me in a box.
But since then, I have discovered there were at least three other girls pregnant senior year- I was the only one who actually gave birth... ah, secrets... I don't have many of those, never cared for them.
I find this reunion is different for many reasons. First, I love who I am, I love what I do and even if I wasn't married, that wouldn't matter. Even if I didn't have my college degree, I don't think that would matter either. I am seeing friends I didn't see at the last reunion and I am seeing women for the first time be who they became.
I want to talk to everyone- even if we are profoundly different. I have little anger or resentment left towards the bullies- though they might have seen through who they are and my words will be truthful with them- part of me is grateful for the shape they have given my spunky nature. If I hadn't had anyone to stand up to, I doubt I would have known how to stand up when the time came.
The adversity they put me through has grown me into a person who is stronger and bolder than I could ever have imagined. My voice doesn't shake any more.
I continue to tell the truth of who I am and to do it with love for who I am. I am blessed to have found some amazing people there- and this time I have some real friends there and a sense of humor. These things that would have mortified me, I find myself smiling through. Gosh, it is so funny that I was ever the least bit intimidated by any of it. I look forward to peeling back the onion of who is there now.
I'm joyful about this weekend. I think for a while I was living in that void between worlds- tied to the past of who I was and still trying to prove that I deserved to be there. Be where? I wonder. It's all so silly now. That little girl has grown up and I love the story of how I got there. I can't wait to see who these girls have become.
I no longer see the mean girls. I see girls who were insecure about who they were and terrified of not fitting in. Making a lot of noise so someone would hear them. I look forward to hearing these voices of these women.
My voice was silent then, I kept it inside- writing quietly, working through those fears and anxieties.
Already I see some who are profoundly the same. And I see some that are incredibly different.
I was really intimidated last time around with these eyes around me- I wasn't sure what it was. I think I had already decided they were something they weren't before I walked in the room. Maybe I was right but I don't feel like I have to protect myself any more.
I don't know what it is that has changed. It's strange not to be afraid. It's wonderful to have a voice that belongs to me. Maybe that it is that I don't care, though I am not sure that I ever did. It was always my own definition of self worth that I lived by.
I never compared myself to my classmates- it was always my own temperature I was taking. I think this decade has liberated me in a way that only time can accomplish. I feel so much that I am on the right track for what I want to do. So I embrace this new experience- this fusion of past with present- this new feeling of confidence. I look forward to the rest of the events.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Sometimes we have defining moments in our lives that feel so soft and subtle, we would just have passed them by as the thing that happened that day. We may not realize what small impact a small decision has on our lives. I've been thinking about shame and dirt and what attaches to us, even if we are innocent of any wrongdoing, the shame of being in the wrong situation can attach itself.
When I was sixteen, my parents went out of town for a few days and I let my boyfriend sleep over at my house. We were messy, turned up the heat and ate everything in the house, leaving a pile of dishes.
My parents returned with my little brother in tow and began to look around at the mess I had not quite finished cleaning up. That's when they all began to find things that were missing- small things, mostly. Things he must have carried out while I was sleeping. My face flushed with disbelief. How could he? It became obvious rather quickly that defending him was stupid. He had clearly stolen from my family. I was mortified, embarrassed, betrayed- and still I knew I would forgive him. I didn't want to forgive him, I knew he would deny all, and it would infuriate me but I would say nothing. I would let him get by with it and that twisting, terrible feeling in my gut would not dissipate.
There was something in me that was sick for him, sick to be with him, desperate for his touch to make me whole. I cannot explain why I needed him or why I wanted him but I only felt okay when I was with him. It would take me years to untangle that rope.
One of the things that was stolen was my little brother's radio. It wasn't an expensive item- in fact it had been free. One of the Wash U students had thrown it out in May when they moved out of the apartment behind our house. The radio was left in a pile by the dumpster. It was old, but it worked and it had an 8 track player in the side. They didn't even make that kind anymore- at this point in time, the industry had switched to cassettes.
My brother loved that radio. He was physically trying not to cry that it was stolen and my heart just wrenched open at his loss. I sat down in his room, tears in my eyes and promised I would do everything I could to get it back for him. That statement would turn out to be a lie. What would define me was what I would do in the situation to come.
I cannot remember how it all came together or all the detective work I had to do but after a few days, I found out who my boyfriend sold it to. There was a building in the Central West End that housed people with disabilities. We used to call it the handicapped building- I knew a guy my boyfriend bought drugs from lived there and I knew that was where the radio was. I managed to get the security code and slip up the apartment and knock on the door. The man who lived there was in a wheelchair, he was an African American Vietnam Vet- and even though he was in a wheelchair, he scared me. I was a sixteen year old girl and I doubt I weighed a hundred pounds- and I was alone in that apartment with a virtual stranger.
I appealed to that man on the most base of levels, told him the story of what happened, laid out my little brother's broken heart and my own shameful betrayal and offered to buy the radio back for twice what he had paid for it. I told the man I didn't blame him, he had no idea that it was stolen and that it meant a lot to my brother, could I please have it back?
I don't know what I expected but I know that I can be pretty persuasive when I want to be and I think I just planned on having this very emotional appeal work. At the end of this dramatic story, I thought he would just tell me to take the damn radio and get out.
Instead, he looked me up and down and said "I don't care about the money. I want something else."
"What do you want?" and I knew in the bottom of my stomach that what he wanted was not going to be nice or easy- or reasonable in any way.
"I just want you to take all your clothes off and stand naked in front of me. I won't touch you. Just stand there naked and let me look- and you can have the radio back."
I said "I'll give you triple what you paid."
Not knowing for a second how on earth I was going to come up with that money- the man shook his head and asked again that I stand naked in front of him.
I told him, "You're going to have to think of something else or take the money because I'm not going to do that."
What followed after that was him trying to persuade me for the better part of an hour and me refusing and offering him money. I have to admit, I thought about it. I tried to get myself to think about it, to imagine just doing it- but this was one of those things I wasn't going to do, nevertheless, I wanted that radio back for my brother so badly. I'd like to say I would have done anything but clearly, I wouldn't. I know my brother wouldn't have wanted me to do that- at least I think I know that.
Years later when I read "Measure for Measure" I understood the character of Isabella with a deep and abiding empathy. I wanted to say to myself- it's really not a big deal. Five minutes of nakedness and my brother gets his radio but I walked out of that apartment cursing that man with my hands empty.
I told myself it was just a fucking radio- definitely not worth my integrity but the shame of not being able to do that act for my brother was deep. I wish I had had the courage to just do what needed to be done. I felt the guilt of betrayal of my own brother- I felt the failure of myself, the unwillingess of me to let go of my own pride- I had failed him twice. This is how I felt leaving that apartment. But a larger part of me knew better in a way.
I knew that that moment would never have been just a moment- this was not about me being naked- this was about me selling out a piece of myself. I still have no idea how I held on to what I needed to hold on to. That moment would have followed me for the rest of my life- it would have made me into someone else- someone who allowed herself to be bought. Someone who allowed herself to be manipulated and who knows what that man would have done to me- I doubt it would have ended there with me standing naked and humiliated.
I know there are girls out there who have made those choices because they were in corners. I have done some horrid and humiliating things that destroyed my self worth and self esteem- far worse than that act. You do what you have to sometimes. But this was not an act of survival.
There are people that would say it's not a big deal to stand there naked. But it is a big deal. It is a big deal to sleep with someone for money and it is a big deal to stand there naked against your will.
It changes who you are.
I'm actually proud of that girl for standing up there and saying no. It crushed me to not get that radio back and to have to go and tell my brother that I had failed. If I had any sense, I would have sent my stupid boyfriend in there and told him to get it back but I lacked that kind of courage- and he was still denying he even stole anything.
I told that story to someone last night and I realized for the first time what a defining moment that was for me. I had never felt what a small victory it was for my self esteem. That moment had defined for me what I was capable of even mired in shame and guilt- that I had managed to hold on to something. I won't pretend that this has always been the case for many times I have done things I'm not proud of- and that were humiliating but I realized last night, I have been given the gift of distance and wisdom on this. Of course I did the right thing walking out of there. Of course I should have walked away from that situation.
I had far more options than I ever gave myself credit for. I think my brother is getting a radio for his birthday this year. Don't tell him.