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Friday, May 17, 2013

Love, potential love and Reasons To Be Happy

Last night I went to the premiere of the new Neil LaBute play Reasons To Be Happy, my Mother's Day gift to my mom. I'd seen Really Really, also at Lucille Lortel Theater, and even though that one was written by Paul Downs Colaizzo (who was also filling in as an actor when I saw it), I was expecting more lying, viciousness and backstabbing, since there was a lot of that in Really Really, which has since made me suspect everything a character does or says. Instead, Reasons To Be Happy was about finding yourself, decisiveness, love, cheating and relationships. I'm not a theater critic so I'll just say I enjoyed it and recommend it. I don't watch TV so barely know who Jenna Fischer is, but she's starring in it.

But what struck me was this one scene where a character said something akin to (this may not be an exact quote, but it's very close): "I like you, and I could love you, with a nudge from you." And then in that same conversation, the other character said he could love her too. Those seemed more heartfelt sentiments in the play than when characters actually said they loved each other; it was hard to tell if they really did, or if they loved the idea of love, or the idea of the person they were saying it to. But that tension between being sure of love, and admitting what's probably much more common but far less romantic sounding, that the potential for love exists, stood out to me, probably because I don't know if I've ever though: I could love this person. I think I'm too impulsive to be able to step back and think like that. Certainly I've done that calculation on some subconscious level and ruled people out or allowed them in pretty early on based on that, but I don't think it's something I'd ever say to someone's face. Maybe I've lived that out with my actions.

Another theme of the play was making decisive actions vs. letting life happens to you; some in the play do one and some do the other. One character puts forth the idea that it's always better to take a decisive action, to do something, even if you wind up making a mistake, than to do nothing. That is much more familiar territory for me. I've done both, on a pretty regular basis. I'm in the middle of taking a pretty major decisive action, moving from Brooklyn to Red Bank, but there was a time when we first started actually looking at apartments where I felt like it was happening to me, where I wasn't sure what the right decision was. I freaked out after the first time we drove around Red Bank. It felt like it was happening too fast, and also like if I didn't agree to move, I'd be causing a lot more upheaval for my boyfriend. But mostly I was scared. I was scared of giving up the home I've had since 2000. I was scared that I wouldn't be able to share a space with someone else, especially when I just want to be alone or have to work at night, or when something super cool is going on that I want to go to in NYC and I'm an hour and a half away. I was scared of losing my autonomy and losing the way of life I've cobbled out since getting laid off and becoming a full-time freelancer.

I'm still scared, as I head into the packing home stretch. But I'm so glad I made that decision, and that I took the time to make sure it was the right decision without dragging it out forever and ever. I knew that whether I moved this year or next year, that eventually I would have to move to declutter, and I would have to declutter to be both happy and productive and content. It's easy to think "If only I hadn't done X or Y" or recognize that other people wouldn't have gotten into a hoarding situation like I did. Those are true: if I'd lived differently for the past 13 years, if I were someone else, I probably wouldn't be up half the night wheezing. I'd probably feel comfortable inviting someone else into my home to help me. But I didn't, and I'm facing that. I'm hammering and hauling and tossing and packing and as harrowing as it is, it feels good. Every item I pack in a box, even the VHS tapes I don't have a way to watch but don't want to throw in the garbage lest they wind up on my sidewalk, I feel a sense of progress, of going in the right direction. And maybe those two themes from the play tie together: maybe the potential to love, conscious or unconscious, requires faith, which may seem passive but is actually a decisive action. It's a belief that things will get better, whether that's someone else helping to improve your life or you doing it. Moving is definitely an act of faith, a leap into the unknown without much of a safety net. I can't really say moving is making me happy in any way; it's lonely and depressing and makes me recall most every failure I've had while living there. But I know that on the other side is the most wonderful person waiting for me, and a pretty apartment and new town and new beginnings. And the promise of that makes me happy, even as I sit in the dirt and dust and tear up papers and wield my hammer and packing tape. It's saying yes to a new way of loving myself, shown via taking care of my health, my heart and my home, none of which I've done a great job of while living in Brooklyn. So here's to whatever the future holds, full of potential.

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