Jan 6, 2011

A New Year

It's a new year. I was ready for 2010 to be over.

It has been a hard year creatively. I've had two projects on my heart I've wanted to finish this past year. I am almost finished with one: a book proposal. But the second, my solo show, sits on the back burner, always pushed aside as I dealt with the “tyranny of the urgent:” bills to pay, auditions to run off to, tours and shows and teaching and taxes. I got to shoot a low budget movie and was on the road for a month. IT was a terrific experience. I pray the movie goes somewhere. But I know better than to expect some event to resurrect my career. Not at this point. If anything will, it will be that solo show or another book.

It was a hard year on Larry and me, individually and as a couple. I taught two classes that brought me home late at night.  I got to sleep late, he goes to sleep early. I was on the road a lot. I was gone for a full two months last year, but this time I was in and out of town. It was almost more difficult to do the "here and gone again" thing for two months. Plus, I was teaching and trying to act like an actor.

The longer I am married, the more I realize what a rat I am: I witness my shortcomings as a human being and it is not pretty.  Larry and I get along very well. He is my absolute best friend.  But my first impulse is not love but selfishness. Marriage is grandest adventure you may ever take. But it is not a boat cruise. It is work. It works on your soul. I thank God my soul is getting a work-out. I need it.

It was a hard year for Larry. He worked harder than he ever has. He hates corporate politicking, and he got a load of it this year.  It was hard to see him that overworked, under-appreciated and driven nearly to a breakdown.  Larry's got a quiet, even-tempered strength, I lull myself into thinking he couldn't crack. But he nearly did this past December.

My mom continues to decline from her vascular dementia. She lives in a rest home in Colorado, so I don't get to see her often. Every time I do visit her, I mentally prepare myself that it could be the last time. I spoke to her on Christmas. She cried. She always cries when I talk to her on the phone. I feel touched and slightly embarrassed at her emotion. After all, it's just me calling to say hello. I always assure her I will see her soon. And when I do see her, she cries upon setting eyes on me.

Why is she so emotional? Well, she was often like that before her strokes. But now all of her adult reasoning has been zapped away, and she is just like a child: a child who feels love and loss immediately and fully. There's no adult psyche to tell her it's not necessary to cry when your daughter calls or visits. She just cries. She's just pure emotion. The strokes took away her internal editor. And all that is left is her unrestrained self. And her unrestrained self is lovely. I think she started out good, but all those years of pressing her face into God and prayer in the face of sorrow, have burned off anything less than her true self.

And now she feels love and loss and beauty and unabated wonder. You tell her something she should know and she hears it for the first time. My father was not an easy person to live with or love. At our last visit I asked her if she missed Dad.
“Not really," she shrugged.
I nodded.
Where is he?” she asked.
“He died.” Her mouth shaped a silent O and her eyes flooded with tears.
“But it's okay Mom. He's with Jesus now."
“Oh,” she exhaled and dabbed her eyes. “That's so good to know!”

I miss her. I miss the old her, too. I mourn the fact that Larry never got to meet her as she used to be, with all her faculties. But she's disappeared in such small increments, I have come to expect meeting her just as she is and enjoying her that way.  And however I can connect with her when I see her, I am grateful for it.  I know the day is coming she will leave us. But I don't like to think about it.

I miss Honey, my dear cat of 14 years whom I lost this past July. I cried solidly for a month. Some nights I got up and went into the other room just to cry in my soundproofed Voice-over booth. I have her pictures posted in strategic places in the house, and my sister-in-law made a beautiful collage of her photos that I keep in my office. I look at them momentarily.  I'll pass them when I walk out the back door or look to the left of my desk. But if I look long enough, I will see her face and remember what it was like when she rested that face on my forearm as I was typing.

I still find memories of her around the house. I moved a shelf in the pantry yesterday and swept behind it and found some of her hair.  If you have ever owned a cat you know they like to “mark” objects with their scent: doorways, corners, fridges, anything to claim as their own. Over time a gray waxy mark appears. I noticed a mark on the fridge at her height. It's been there all the time. I almost didn't wash it off. As unappealing as it sounds: a gray waxy mark on your fridge, I was reluctant to remove one last trace of her presence. But I did.  I already regret it.

We adopted a second dog. Herbie sweet and full of nervous energy and doesn't have a malevolent bone in his body. But I miss Honey. I think about getting a cat. I sometimes look at the cats on Petfinder.com. I can't help but doing a search for Honey's breed: dilute tortoise shell. But I look at every cat and compare them to her, and they're always found wanting: the face is too long or the markings aren't as beautiful. On one occasion I noticed a thumbnail of cat that looked very much like her. I clicked on the details and a larger picture and was brokenhearted. Because it wasn't her.

I make no apology for loving a cat: a creature that could never return that same love with the same intelligence that I loved her with. After all, God has managed to love me in my small-mindedness and my inability to return his love in the same measure. A God who repeatedly loves me when I am so closed and brittle and small of heart.

In 2011 I plan on completing those two projects close to my heart. I also plan on loving my husband more. I want to get another cat. Maybe. But not this year. It's still too soon.

PS: I wrote the above at 2:30 in the morning. I would say, "forgive my maudlin display," but well, I need to work on being more maudlin and less "together."


Emily Timbol said...

I hope it's not weird to say this, but I really love you Susan, and my heart goes out to you for losing Honey, and slowly having to lose your mom. I'm so glad though that you have so many people who care about you and support you, and are anxious to see you succeed even further. Including me. So keep having faith, I really believe it's going to happen.

Simone Says... said...

a beautiful post. thanks for sharing. "Unabated wonder" - this will be something I seek in 2011. i still miss my dog of 14 years i lost in 2010. i didn't want to get my car washed for months because i liked seeing his hair on the seats, and his snot (gross) on the passenger window. they are always with us, no amount of washing or cleaning can take away that bond. happy new year. looking forward to hearing more about your new projects.

Taking Heart said...

Happy blessings to you S.I.! Happy 2011!

Your entry was very telling of a very full year. Love and loss, stretching and growth.

I shut down my blog (Taking Heart) of 7 years yesterday. There is no room for me in the faith based blog world... nearly thousands have popped up over the years with talent, motivation, efforts, drive, and resources. That Nashville crowd is tough competition, lol. I know I will never be a novelist, or write the next great memoir. My blog wasn't special anymore, and I am gladly letting go of the advertiser pressure... and the pressure to keep up with the ones who dominate that market. Au revoir Taking Heart.

I'm still around, though. I still enjoy this world of people's thoughts and creativity... yum... I love blogs!

My layed back side blog is still rockin & rollin... no pressure... no worries. It is what it is... and I'm okay with that.

I hope you find the kitty you are looking for this year... not one to replace your beloved... but one to spark a new love interest... a new friend to get in your way and pee behind your refridgerator...

You can find me at http://www.thesearetheplaceswheregraceis.blogspot.com

Susan Isaacs said...

Hey my friend Anne Jackson shut down her blog for many of the same reasons. Well, it had become too much about monetization and keeping up with people, and less about writing. So she started a new website: annejacksonwrites.com and just wants to work on writing, not being a viral blogger. SO go go go! Keep writing though. My blog has never been monetized. I write infrequently (sorry! will try to WRITE more).

Claudia said...

"My first impulse is not love but selfishness". Boy do I know that feeling! A workout for the soul is pretty much spot on.

I'm so sorry that you've had such a tough year. I really hope 2011 is gentler to you. Dying to know what your next book is going to be about - I just loved, loved, loved angry conversations, so I'll be queuing to pre-order this one! That's one sale you can guarantee your prospective publisher :)

AC Deb said...

I'll be in line right behind Claudia! Hope that 2011 is a better, different year than 2010. It's been more than a year without a cat for me but your words ring so true---I look but there just can't be another cat like her. More than a year and still not ready. Thanks for your writing. Thanks for you.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I love it when you're here, and you open your heart so beautifully. I wish I could say marriage becomes easier but it doesn't or at least it hasn't been that way for me, 16 + years in. Still, I know that much of what is good about me lies in that marriage, and coincidentally, my sweet dogs that really have taught me to love differently.

It's interesting to hear your mother is more emotional in her dementia as my grandmother seems to have lost all her emotions after her stroke. The doctor said that part of her brain is damaged.

Anyway, I love seeing you here, and wish you a calm and peaceful 2011.

LisaPizza said...

OK, so now I feel a touch caught up with you. I watched your clip real and remebered many of the times I was surprised to see your face over the years including in Scrooged, Crossing Jordan, Seinfeld, etc.

Your post has left me feeling empathy for you on numerous counts. Here's a wee bit of background info: I lost my Mother February 2008 to cancer, I'm currently caring for my Mother-in-law with ALZ whose living with us temporarily while we get her estate in order and transition her to a secure board & care facility, I run a nonprofit organization, have an Etsy Store, an eBay store and a Internet consulting business which all keep me rather busy, I've been happily married for 14+ years and have known my husband for over 25. We don't have any children. I'm currently working on a second draft of my first book. We adore our dog Uma who we adopted Mother's Day weekend 2009.

My Mom & I were extremely close. I still talk to her everyday. Although I am perpetually stiving to reduce the clutter in our lives and our home, each time I come across another item which belonged to my Mom that is a reminder of who she was, I still have a difficult time makinge the decision; does it stay or does it go? I recently sold a Chinese teapot shaped like a duck that I had bought her for Christmas of 1978 after she had bought a house full of rosewood furniture imported from China. The day after the garage sale I had the worst seller's remorse.

I have discussed with my sister-in-law how in many ways for her Irene, her Mom, isn't "alive" anymore. You see, my s-i-l's relationship with her Mother is primarily a telephonic one so she doesn't get to visit with the Mother who raised her and who had evolved into a mom/girlfriend. She mainly gets to interact with the dementia riddled version of her Mother. The one who thinks she is her sister, doesn't remember her name most of the time, and rarely remembers having been married or having had children unless she's looking at old family photo's.

Every day Irene & I discuss the loss of our Mothers, and how much we both miss our Moms. Each time the subject arises her eyes well up with tears. I've found the most reasuring thing to say to her is some variant on the theme of, "they are are in Heaven enjoing a cup of tea together and smiling down upon us right now."

I am so in love with the spirit of our four-legged Uma girl that I dread the thought of loosing her one day. Both her breeds, Basenji & Sheba, average 15year lives so hopefully we will be honored with her presence for at least another decade.

Because I am blessed to have a rich and fulfilling life, I don't have much time to spend working on my book. It is the last project on my priority pole. I have optimisticly pledged that I will finish it and publish it this year.

Oh, and your blog template matches some pillows I bought online yesterday for Irene's new bedroom at the B&C. I've always enjoyed needlework, pasleys,and what I call ice cream colors like mint chip, and Neopolitan strawberry, vanilla & milk chocolate.

;- )

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