Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Matt

Feeling unmotivated is a dangerous place for Darci to be. It's different from just feeling lazy...lazy for me means, "I'm taking the day for myself. I'll watch a movie or two, maybe read a little bit. Make the conscious decision to shirk responsibility because I need a break." Lazy can be healthy on occasion.

However, unmotivated means, "I'm in a rut. I don't know what to do or where to focus next. IS there even anything to do or focus on? And if I do manage to get my ass in gear I'll probably manage to screw it up..."

And just like that, Dark Darci has broken into the building, taken Delightful Darci hostage and beaten her right back into submission.

I was wondering why I woke up feeling this way when I'd been doing so well recently and I have to attribute it to two things of which I'm aware:

1) I've had a sinus infection the last couple weeks that just won't quit (actually I think it turned into a little head cold, but don't tell Delightful Darci, because she's choosing to believe that "even now her body is restoring itself to its original state of perfect health and well-being."). Turns out I'm not a very good patient. Prolonged under-the-weatherness tends to wear on my attitude faster than anything else that presently comes to mind.

2) My neighbor Matt, he who can MacGuyver a back yard into a full fledged mini-amphitheater, is back in the hospital with pneumonia...and most likely numerous other things that he will not tell me about. "I'm fine, dear, I'll be fine."

Those who know me and participated in Angels Over Nashville will recall that a couple days after we put on that fundraiser, Matt was hospitalized for a collapsed lung. He had about one week after he came back home where he was full of energy and could not stop eating (he definitely needs to eat) but after that he started hiding away in his apartment for a few days at a time. Now, Matt hasn't been well for years. He was born with health issues and had, if I remember correctly, something like 70 surgeries on his feet by the time he was five years old. But he's the Terminator, you can't stop him, nor will he EVER say no to someone he cares about and when you say "keep it simple," that to him signifies, "pull out all the stops." The weather got unseasonably cool during this time, so I assumed he was feeling achy and taking it easy, because having had a few surgeries myself, I know how incision locations can be uncomfortable during drastic temperature changes. I never allow him more than three or four days of disappearance though, before I call him or let myself into his apartment to check on him. This time on the fourth day, I left him a message asking for his advice on how I should paint a piece of furniture I'd just bought (he's always refurbishing things), but didn't hear back. By my other neighbor Chris later that evening, I'd found out Matt was back in the hospital.

Without regaling you, dear reader, with the details of his health issues over the years (many of which I probably don't even know), I'll simply say this: it appears he will be in the hospital for some time - and I personally fear that it doesn't look good this time. And I'm not sure what to do about it because I am terrified that if - God forbid - he never comes home that I'm the one to blame. Between my birthday party in May and A.O.N. in June, I believe he planned and designed and hauled and lifted and built and painted and constructed and decorated way way way too much for his body to handle (he's freakishly strong for someone of his frail appearance, but I think he's also in a bit of denial about how much he can take, too). The doctors suspect he had that collapsed lung a good couple or three days before we even did the show - and he kept working right through it. My pleas to keep it simple went naturally ignored, as did my questions about whether he'd put anything in his body other than white wine and cigarettes all day. He's not been the same since he got back from the hospital after A.O.N. And he did that for free, for me, simply because I asked if we could do it.

I'm afraid I'm killing him.

So I'm unmotivated and in a funk and in a strange mental suspension. Not to be macabre or anything, but if he never comes home, life as we all know it at Riverton Bowl will drastically change. We, his neighbors, have had this at the back of our minds for a long time, now. This isn't Riverton Bowl without Matt. What was once a dirt mound in the middle of a strip of auto and industrial shops, Matt has single-handedly (and out of his own pocket) turned into this little Eden:

This is my front yard.

With his bare hands he made this stage for my birthday party and the Angels Over Nashville benefit:

(Kelly Z. and Perry of Kelly's Lot)

And this lovely set up for the audience and party goers:

If my pilot lights go out, he comes and lights them for me. He often shows up at my door with something he found at Big Lots that he knows I could use. He painted my coffee table for me. When I approached him about teaching voice lessons at home his response wasn't to complain about all the noise it would make but said, "Well it's about damned time you decided to make some money with those gifts of yours. At least SOMEONE in that apartment will be singing!" And now, he waits to water the lawn till my voice lessons are done for the day. He never orders a pizza without asking if I want to order, too. He bought me a welcome mat simply cuz he thought I needed one. He asks me every spring what color flowers I would like in the planter in front of my window. He feeds my cat, DangerPickleKitty, whenever I go out of town. He leaves copies of Cabaret Scene magazine wedged in my door when I'm not home. He brought me a flower one day because the day before I'd had a bad day. When one of our neighbors was out of work, Matt offered to pay him to go through his mother's LP collection and inventory everything (in which they found a 78 of the Jackson 5 signed by Tito, Jermaine and yes, Michael Jackson, worth a minimum of $3000). And every holiday season, starting on October 1st, he decorates lavishly for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Many of these are things I cannot do, or wouldn't actually think to do myself. Whomever comes after him certainly won't.

Most importantly, if not for Matt, I might very well have ended up homeless five years ago. Times were very rough for me and I was looking for an apartment with a bankruptcy on my record. No one - and I mean NO ONE - would rent to me, despite the facts that I'd been at a stable job for two years and that my mother was even willing to cosign. When I came to look at this place, both my options and time were rapidly running out. I could tell Matt, who was acting as property manager for the purpose of showing the apartment, took a shine to me immediately (as 99.9% of gay men do) and said he'd put in a good word for me. He told me later that after I left he immediately called our landlord and said, "I want HER." Landlord said, "Well I have to check her credit and such," and Matt said, "There's a bankruptcy, but I don't care, I want HER to be my neighbor and I'm not letting anyone else look at the place. If you want to show it to anyone else you'll have to come do it yourself." And just like that, it was done. Thank God, thank God, thank God for Matt. Two weeks later and I would've been on the street, but instead I was moving in next door to a chain-smoking, wine-drinking, award-winning lighting/set designer with the patience of Job, the heart of a lion, a gifted green thumb and a knowledge of musical theater I'd dare anyone to best.

Don't get me wrong. Matt's my neighbor and he still finds ways to annoy the crap out of me, cuz that's what neighbors do. Blasting original Broadway cast recordings and gay icons at decibal eleven with his front door open is one of them. But I'd be okay to hear Barbra's machine-gun vibrato or a few very loud bars of 42nd Street right about now. I just want him to come home.

I'm not sure my heart - or my conscience - could deal with the alternative.

(If you'd like to comment on this blog, you are most welcome to, but please do not privately email me about this. I don't want to have discussions going on in several different places. In fact, I don't really want to discuss it any further than this at all at the moment. Thanks for understanding.).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lessons in Letting Go

So, I have interesting things upon my heart this evening but am not quite sure where to begin or quite how to share any of it because other people are involved...and I don't wish to rock anyone's boat, including mine. However, I have learned much about myself this week about how I am beginning to deal with relationships as opposed to how I have in the past, experiencing miracles...I feel compelled to share.

Quite simply, I am learning to let go and let God.

(Okay, I realize some of you reading my blog don't believe in God in the traditional Christian sense or even at all. I hope you won't feel discouraged to read on, but will apply a moniker that is comfortable to you...Higher Power, the Universe, Goddess, etc. Uh...except Satan. I have to draw the line somewhere. Moving right along...)

Lesson #1:

Earlier in the week a new friend dropped me from her friends list on Facebook. I know right? OH THE HORROR! 


This new friend has been a bit of a dilemma to me since we met. Her first impression was NOT good. But being a person who does not make good first impressions herself (as I've been told all my life, I am apparently "intimidating" upon first meeting and it seems NO amount of either true sincerity OR syrupy sweetness I employ in my "Nice to meet you!" makes a difference), I decided to give her a second chance when she approached me to get together. So we had a couple outings, a few phone calls, all went well enough.

But my gut nagged me. And nagged me. And nagged me.

I dismissed it and told myself that I just needed to find my footing with this person. That perhaps we simply weren't a natural match, we were both strong women and needed to just allow each other to be who we were and accept each other as such. At least, I would do so with her. After all -- in trying to learn not to judge myself so harshly (I have a real abusive streak within myself), I am trying not to do so with others as well.

Alas...this woman, while very intelligent, driven and talented, seemed to be dogged by drama everywhere she went. And without getting into gory details, I dare say stirred the pot herself on several occasions. Over the course of two short months I watched her establish and sever several new friendships, both in person and via Facebook. A couple posts she made seemed suspiciously undermining to me personally, but I will give the benefit of the doubt that I'm mistaken because things aren't always as they appear (and shockingly, the world doesn't actually revolve around me...uh...whatEVER!). However, she was also very critical of others, prone to gossip and - I hate to go here - opportunistic. There is a difference between someone who is friendly and a good networker and one who is merely an opportunist. Living in L.A., it is often very hard to tell the difference. And in one particular situation her opportunism did involve me, though I never mentioned to her that I'd found her out.

And dilemma was what to do about this new person in my life. I am working hard on choosing happiness and joy on a daily basis lately (not an easy task for a New York-raised temperamental and stubborn French/Italian girl), asking God to lead the right people to me (either in friendship or business) who are also seekers of joy. By her words and actions this person had indicated that she was not interested in that. And really that's perfectly fine...but it is not an ideal environment for me. So I had been asking of God, "How did I attract this person and what am I supposed to learn - or perhaps teach - here?" And then I'd said, "It is what it is. Whatever is going on, just allow me to be a vessel of good and let the chips fall where they may."

As it turns out...that's all I had to do. Because it wasn't long after that that she dropped me from her friends list (allegedly because I had someone on my own list that she claims to have a very bad history with and didn't want to be found by). And so...she severed another new friendship. Just like that.

There was a time when this sort of action would DEVASTATE me. I would blame myself, whine about what I did wrong, obsess over why that person didn't like me enough, etc., etc. This time not so much. Not because my heart is a cold little lump of coal and I didn't care about the person, but because I let go of control of it and let the Universe handle it. And handle it it did. Knowing I'm pursuing a different kind of life for myself, one of joyfulness, love, prosperity and service, and seeking people of like mind, God removed a possible obstacle in that path almost faster than I could blink. When I said, "It's all yours," it was done. The End.

No doubt I will still see her around - and I harbor no ill will and will be more than friendly and courteous to her when I do. And I sincerely hope that she will one day find a way to break the chains of her own discontent.

Lesson #2:

I have a long time friend in another city far away who is the grandest of all fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types you will ever meet. Ever. I MEAN EVER. Often to his detriment. And often, unwittingly at the expense of people he cares about.

I'm a planner. To a degree. I've learned though, since I've stopped working those miserable 9 to 5's (or 6's, as is actually the case these days), how to go with the flow a little bit more. As a musician, voice coach and part time nanny, my weekly schedule often changes from day to day. And I've learned to be okay with that.

(This also means the income fluctuates too...which I'm not quite so okay with yet. Learning. Drop a tip in the jar? Thanks! --->)

Except when I'm traveling. Especially when I am relying on the kindness of others to put me in a bed at night and I've spent my hard-earned money on a non-changeable, non-refundable plane ticket(s). It's a lot to descend upon a person's already-established routine and personal space, especially when a significant other also shares that space - and so I don't assume anything. I PLAN.

Unfortunately my friend doesn't know how to answer his phone, a text, an email, a Facebook post or a direct message on Twitter. If MySpace mattered anymore, he no doubt would've ignored a message there, too. Seeeeeeeriously. ANSWER A DIVA!!!

Finally, at least knowing I'd prior been given an open invitation to come visit at any time I'd like, I send an email saying, "Tried to call and verify dates with you...I'm coming to stay with you on X,Y and Z. Hope it's still okay, can't wait to see you."

What happens? Butthead goes and books himself another committment OUT OF TOWN on one of the days I'm coming to visit!


I felt like someone had just shredded my soul. I was sooooooo hurt, thinking, "Oh my God...he forgot I was coming to visit...I am at the very best an afterthought to him." This is a person who is family-of-choice for me. We've been through a lot together. We've definitely had our issues and we've worked through them. This is not a person that only crosses my mind once in awhile, or is just an acquaintance or business contact. He is family. He is stuck with me.

And it felt to me that despite being told I am the same to him, it was never true. Because who the hell goes out of town when their sister-from-another-mister is coming to visit???

And so I left him a "You'd better call me NOW!" voice mail and then had a really REALLY good cry for a few minutes. Okay more than a few minutes. This was not the first time my friend's happy-go-lucky ways have ended up causing me pain, frustration or plain ole outrage. Truth be told, I have always felt like an afterthought to him and this felt merely like solid, unmistakeable proof at long last. And so, after the good cry, I prayed and considered what to do next. It seemed I had a decision to make. I would not go through this sort of thing anymore. I just wouldn't. And miraculously, I let it go. My anger dissipated. I was still hurt, because it is sometimes painful when it's a person you've decided to let go, but I had peace about it. In my mind I said, "Whatever happens will be fine. He might fix it, he might not, we might stay friends, we might not, but either way it's all good, because I cannot try to make him be something he is not...but I am also not willing to feel like this anymore."

And for the first time in my life, I did not dwell. I knew we'd talk about it eventually, but in the meantime I didn't put on my sackcloth, go sit in a pile of ashes and gnash my teeth waiting for a call. I didn't lose any sleep that night (this is saying a lot for an insomniac). I didn't writhe and moan and cry out, "Oh God, why doesn't he caaaaaaare??? Why doesn't anyone loooooooooove meeeeeeeeee???!!!" Hello...I didn't even go get me some CrackDonald's! I simply didn't put on any of those comfortable, smelly old shoes.

You people don't know. This is HUGE for me. I mean HUGE. An Oprah-worthy breakthrough!

We talked the next day. Turns out his job is sending him out of town, so he had no choice, but I can still stay at his place while I'm in town. I said that where I'd stay wasn't the point. So I was tearing up a little bit (cuz I'm just not as confrontational as people think I am) and he didn't understand why. So I told him how it looked to me and how it had made me feel - like he hadn't remembered or cared that I was coming to visit.

And then a miracle happened. For the first time in all the years I've known him, with all the arguments we've had, I have NEVER heard him say the words he said next:

"Oh my God, I'm soooo sorry..."

That made me cry more.

He went on to say that I should never think that I'm an afterthought and of course he knows he has to get better with communication and scheduling but I could show up on his doorstep tomorrow and it would always be okay and one of the reasons I'm in his life is to help him learn this very thing and blah blah blah. I didn't hear much else because I was so stunned by his reaction, which in the past is usually something closer to frigidly saying, "Well...what you think isn't true, so you shouldn't feel like that." Not exactly comforting, ya know? This is a testament to how hard he's been working on himself as an individual as well, that for the first time we've had a misunderstanding he apologized to me and even sounded appropriately horrified. It was a salve on my heart. And all I've ever needed to hear, I realized later.

When we hung up the phone, I thought back to other misunderstandings we'd had over the years and how worked up I'd get, how much drama I'd make out of it, how hard I tried to get him to change...and how he in turn would shut down, detach and act unconcerned about how I felt. I don't know if our conversation today was anywhere near the big deal to him as it was to me...but I know that if I had not chosen the night before to take responsibility for myself only and not try to manipulate the situation into what I wanted that our conversation would have ended very differently. And it wouldn't have been a good ending at all. I am so grateful for the changes that are going on within both of us and the long-needed repairs to our friendship taking place, even this many miles away. All from handing the control over. It's amazeballs.

Now if can just learn to let go of this nagging little sinus steps, I guess...