We show great loyalty to the hard times we've been through.
-The Mountain Goats, "Riches and Wonders"
It's four in the morning and I can't sleep.
When recently getting to know someone new, I recounted one of the most troubled times of my young life. I don't remember how it came up, but the story of these few months always seems to resurface as soon as I begin to let someone in emotionally. This turbulent time from a few years back shapes my current mental landscape. Anxiety creeps back in and I am facing it head on.
In the summer of 2009, I was living on a dude ranch in Colorado. This summer was most adventurous and exciting. I hiked every week. I had an amazing guide horse named Josie. We reached an agreement that if I didn't kick him and gave him granola bars, he wouldn't run away from me when I dismounted to check my riders' saddles. I met some of the most fantastic women I'd ever met and made a few lifelong friends.
One day, during that time, I ended up crying at the doorstep of Catholic church, where I met Father Tom. Father Tom was a charming, quirky old man, he invited me in saying, "Well, start at the beginning, dear, because you've just dropped out of heaven and I have not a clue who you are..." He made me tea and gave me a biscuit, which is required by British priest law. I told him everything, how delusional and afraid I was and how I wanted to go home. I wanted to give up the two years I'd trained in the program I worked so hard to get into. Although I'm sure he didn't fully understand what this hysterical American girl was saying, he gave me two pieces of advice which I never will forget:
you have one million dollars in your hand
and you are about to drop it to reach for a paper clip.
Don't let your emotions get in the way of reality.
So I stayed. And on October 28th, I woke up and I felt better. Not perfect. But better. I traveled to Germany, France, Austria, and Scotland. I became friends with Tina Le and Anna Reichert. I crafted my mantra (My mission is to be humble and good.) The magic came back into my eyes.
This is all backstory to my original question: Why am I so loyal to this time? It is a time that I feel is vital to understanding the person I've become. But what is it that I am sharing... my weakness? my fears? Just so you know, this one time I lost it!
Lately, some of these panicked, anxious fears have returned to me... which is, of course, natural as I am 23, single, trying to make it as an actor, experiencing a brother just return from a war which has been going on too long, living in a new city, dealing with minor health issues, during an election year for a country with a financial crisis. But I never want to go back to that dark place, those fearful months when nothing was wrong but I couldn't smile. Someone told me yesterday that happiness is overrated; that may be true, but contentment isn't and contentment is a gift we can give ourselves every day.
I don't think it is wrong that our difficult moments define us... just so long as the jubilant, triumphant ones do as well. And so, if you see me and I look worried, put your thumb on my third eye and tell me to relax my brow. Tomorrow will worry about tomorrow. As my character Meg in Crimes of the Heart says after thwarting her sister's suicide attempt, "We've got to learn how to get through these real bad days... I mean, it's getting to be a thing in our family."
|Lately, contentment looks a lot like this.|