Sunday, December 2, 2018

Ghosts


Things haunt you differently than you think they will.

Sometimes I have this mental image of some large field or room full to single people trying to find each other. They walk around until they find someone they want to stand next to. But they’re not alone. Everyone is trailed by a line of ghosts. The ghosts are those we’ve dated, those we’ve liked, those we’ve hurt and who have hurt us. Ghosts of all the people we’ve loved before, chaperoning our new relationships.

How do the ghosts line up? Is it in chronological order, a timeline of who we are in the form of those we let close to us? Your first boyfriend always right behind you, reminding you that you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him?

Is it in reverse chronological order? With your most recent love standing behind you, casting his shadow on the way you feel about every interaction with the person you’ve found yourself standing next to?

What’s the most fascinating to me is when they line up in order of importance. With the one who haunts you to the greatest degree always right there like a devil on your shoulder.

It’s often surprising to turn and see who is standing there first. How did he cut in line in front of these others who have more right to be here? He smiles shyly and waves. Your boyfriends in positions 2 and 3 roll their eyes like, “What’s this guy doing here?”

You sometimes forget the trail of ghosts is there, of course. But often I realize who is first in line by the way I see flashes of his face in the faces of so many others. I swipe right on anyone on dating apps who has the specter of his face in theirs. That must mean something, for them to have a little bit of him in them.

It’s also strange to crane your neck and see who’s at the back of the line. They’re dim, and they’re trailing behind, like they almost forgot to line up. I squint to make out their faces. Oh! Him! I never think of him!

And—it’s so crazy—once I start to think of those cabooses, I remember that they were some of the worst. They said the things that were the most unintentionally harmful. They made the silliest choices. Why aren’t they at the front, mocking me?

In the middle of the pack, some of them have become chummy. They’re friends now. You like that, but mostly you ignore them.

It doesn’t make sense. But at least as the time drags on, I don’t have to stand there alone.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Everything's in the air, and you're frozen

I've never been one for podcasts, but that's always been something I wanted to change. Pretty sure I was made for podcasts.

Betsy suggested The RFK Tapes, and I found the one that hooked me. I love the 60s and politics and, also, as it turns out, conspiracy theories. Go give it a listen.

So then I thought, hey, why not listen to Serial?

Bingeing these two podcasts has given me a lot to think about concerning the nature of truth and lies and memory. How can two people avow with all their hearts things which are opposites? Should we assume they are both telling the truth? Or both lying? And can we actually remember anything? Can we truly know anything that happened to us?

I was listening to Episode 7 of Serial, the one where Sarah Koenig is talking to Deirdre Enright, a lawyer who runs the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law. Koenig had Enright and her team look at the case to see what they thought of it--whether they could poke holes in it, or whether they thought there was enough evidence for a conviction.

Then Koenig asks Enright how common it is for her to have these flip flopping moments, which she, and we as the audience, constantly have. You hear one bit of testimony and you think, "Oh, he's guilty." And the next you think, "He has to be innocent. There's no way."

This is how Enright answers:

"I tell people all the time, you are juggling, and everything's in the air, and you're frozen. You have to stay there until you've eliminated all questions. Because if you come down or catch one and get attached to it, you're gonna make the same mistakes that law enforcement do."

Forgive me for the metaphor, but this felt so similar to how I feel about trying to be a Christian. If you start down the road of thinking, "Yes, Christianity is right and the Church is right," you're convinced. But if you start down the road thinking, "There are too many questions. This can't be right," then you can be equally convinced.

I think the secret is that you're juggling. I think we have the wrong idea of faith. That faith is to find the one ball that we need to hold on to, so we can let all the other ones drop. 

But in Hebrews we learn that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

I think that means faith is the juggling. We hope one of the balls is the right one, and that there is some evidence for that, so the substance of that hope is continuing to juggle.

She says frozen, but she means committed. She means skin in the game. She means wholehearted. "You have to stay there until you've eliminated all questions." The thing is, I don't think we can eliminate all questions. At least not until the afterlife when we get to meet God. So we're locked into the act of juggling--frozen, committed wholeheartedly to it.

When we take shortcuts, we think we've found the right ball, when we don't do the methodical work of juggling, we make mistakes. We put the wrong things in prison. We let the wrong things go free.

Faith is an action, we learn. Sarah Koenig's podcast is an act of faith. I haven't finished it, yet, so no spoilers. But if in the end, we don't know the answers, we've still done the faithing, with all that tireless asking and juggling.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television

Sometimes TV shows last for too long. The original premise no longer applies, and you have to take mental leaps to imagine what's keeping the characters together. Actors leave to pursue other projects, leaving gaping holes in the cast. After winding through season after season, ends must be tied up quickly at the last minute.

But I think there's a virtue in those later seasons. 

In real life, characters come and go. Sometimes they guest star but never make it to the regular cast. Sometimes they're absent for a few episodes and it leaves you wondering why. But life continues. The original premise has shifted, but at its heart, your life is still the same show.

Later seasons have a freedom. They're free from the formula of what they were. Even when that formula was for something amazing, the freedom to do something new and different is exciting. Kind of like how I get nostalgia for everything that's happened to me, but I keep doing new things I've never done.

TV shows are friends. You love them like people. You love all of them. 

Like Abed said in the series finale of Community:

"TV defeats its own purpose when it's pushing an agenda, or trying to defeat other TV, or being proud or ashamed of itself for existing. It's TV; it's comfort.

"It's a friend you've known so well, and for so long you just let it be with you. And it needs to be okay for it to have a bad day or phone in a day.

"And it needs to be okay for it to get on a boat with Levar Burton and never come back. Because eventually, it all will."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Actors I Will See Movies For

Males

1. Daniel Day-Lewis


My love for DDL stems from his portrayal of John Proctor in The Crucible. Instead of reading the play, we watched the movie in 11th grade English, and I was like, "Whoa, this is really good." Luckily, Katie already liked it, so my love for The Crucible was nurtured and grew.

Loving DDL in one role is one thing, but when you realize he's the most intense method actor on the planet, you have to love him even more. Did you know he almost became a cabinetmaker instead of an actor? Imagine how good his cabinets would be.

In 2012, he played the titular role in Lincoln. I was already predisposed to love that movie, and DDL's portrayal was amazing and earned him his third Academy Award for Best Actor.

Lately, I saw DDL in his final role, Phantom Thread. I loved every line on his face, his wry smile, his caustic manner. I wanted him to win Best Actor for that role because he is, in every situation, the BEST ACTOR. 

2. Leonardo DiCaprio


When I was a kid in the 90s, Katie had a middle grades biography of Leonardo DiCaprio. I was unimpressed by his feminine face back then, and scorned older girls that fawned over him. 

My love blossomed for Leo when I saw him in Catch Me If You Can. His face and body had filled out, and he was smart and sly and broken. His wikipedia bio lists his trademarks as "often plays conflicted, tortured-by-their-own-demons characters, who need to deal with their past." Does he actually play anything else?

I love that he uses his fame to further environmental causes. I love that I used to hate that about him when I was younger and more conservative. I love that I like him more the older he gets.

3. Jason Segel


I started loving Jason Segel when I watched Freaks & Geeks. His character Nick is a babe. Between his floppy hair and his dopey crush on Lindsay, he was definitely the one my inner teenager had a crush on. (Not to mention the time he gets into disco dancing!)

Since that show is only a season, I started watching How I Met Your Mother, mostly for Jason Segel. I love him for being the everyman. For being huge and having a dad bod and bringing that adorable eager nerdiness into all his characters. And for being hi-larious. In real life, no question, Jason Segel is the one you want to be with.

Females

1. Winona Ryder


No surprise, I also love Winona because of The Crucible. It probably didn't hurt that we also watched The Age of Innocence in that same English class, which somehow ALSO starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder.

I love Winona for being versatile. I think she can do freaking anything. She can be sickly sweet or evil to the core. She did the over-the-top hysterics of Joyce in Stranger Things with so sympathetically. 

Seriously, when I turned on Stranger Things for the first time, like a year after it came out, I was like, "Why did no one tell me Winona Ryder was in this? I would have watched it a lot sooner!"

2. Saoirse Ronan


Maybe this isn't fair, because Saoirse's only been on the scene for a little while, but I love her so much. Again, my love for her stems a lot from her role in Lady Bird, which I've watched 3 times in the last month. #sorrynotsorry

Saoirse is crazy talented, though. She has the maturity to play someone who is young, but complex. I think of her as the anti-Jennifer Lawrence, who is cast in roles that are too old for her on account of her complexity and maturity. I see Saoirse as having the maturity to play young characters with a lot of dignity.

Plus, she's someone I want to hang out with in real life. I feel like she's my friend. I feel like she'd like me if she knew me.

Honorable Mention:
Domnhall Gleeson
Tom Hanks
Elizabeth Banks
Rachel McAdams

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Come Alive.

I've recently had to come to grips with the fact that I actually really do like musical theater. I feel like hating musical theater was always an, if not integral, very well-defined part of the Rachel Persona. 

But I like the idea of singing songs when you feel an emotion. I mean, like, I do that. At least, I listen to songs when I feel an emotion. Maybe if we all sang out whatever we felt, we'd all be more mentally healthy.

So anyway. Kristen got me to see The Greatest Showman. It's not the best movie in the world, but it is very enjoyable to watch.

And the music. It's so good.

Ever since, I've had the soundtrack as my running playlist. It's 40 minutes long, which is a good length for a run. "The Other Side" is a good pacer. The rhythm of "From Now On" is so infectious that I have actually skipped/danced to this down the running path, in full sight of other runners and groups of kids riding their bikes. One windy day when I was feeling a lot of emotions, I ran straight into the wind while listening to "Never Enough" and I cried.

I'm always pretty excited when "Come Alive" comes on. It's the part in the movie where P. T. Barnum has recruited all his circus freaks and he's trying to inspire them to put themselves out there for their first show.

I recently listened to a podcast about confronting stigma. A journalist named Johann Hari was on the show, who writes about drug addiction and the failure of the war on drugs. According to his research, besides the chemical aspect, we fall into addiction because we have a lack of connection in our lives. Those with strong support systems are better able to fight drug addiction.

He tells this story of going to this devastated neighborhood in Cleveland, "and it was one of those streets where a third of the houses had been demolished, a third had been abandoned, and a third still have people living in them-- huge addiction problems, as you could just see walking around."

At one of the inhabited houses he met this woman. "She was talking about what the area used to be like, how everything that made the area make sense--the work, the sense of regularity, the sense of the future--was all gone. And she's trying to describe what the area used to be like, and she meant to say, when I was young. What she actually said is, when I was alive."

That anecdote has lingered with me, and changed what that song means to me.

I wouldn't have put it that way myself, but I feel that way sometimes. I know that I used to be alive, when I wasn't so afraid and I didn't wonder about so many things. I know exactly when I died that deathless death. I can count the number of years I've lived as a zombie.

But in the song, he says that "the world becomes a fantasy and you're more than you could ever be 'cause you're dreaming with your eyes wide open."

When he says that, I stand up a little straighter. I let my legs carry me forward without having to strain to make them go. And I feel like the run I'm on is the waking dream I'm dreaming. The dream I'm making come true with every time my feet pound the earth below.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Life is a mystery.

When I first got my car, I named it "The Archbishop." And the Archbishop became a friend. I pictured him tall and skinny with a hook nose and sunken eyes, like a man who resembles his pet bird. When I got into the car after work, I would sometimes say, "Hi, buddy! How was your day?" When he had trouble getting up hills, I would sometimes say, "Come on, Arch. You can do it!"

I don't do that anymore. I don't know what happened--whether it faded slowly or disappeared all at once. What I do know is that whenever I talk to my dad on the phone and he asks, "Is the Archbishop running okay?" it takes me by surprise. I've forgotten that he's a he, and not just a car.

I had a friend and I lost him. He's still there, but I let him slip away. It made me think about this blog. How she's been constantly here for me for 7 years. Just like friends, we started out slow as we got to know each other. Then we became best friends, and I turned to her all the time. When our relationship started to wane, I redoubled my efforts with her, but that was the kiss of death. She has languished and lingered in the back of my mind since then.

I could be much better friends with my blog than I am now. I could be much better friends with my car than I am now.

I could be much better friends with real humans than I am now.

I was talking to an old roommate about how one of her friends recently severed their friendship, more or less. That has happened to me. It happened in first grade and it happened in sixth grade. But since then, my friendships do not often go up in a burst of flames. They languish and linger on the sidelines. I see them there, but turn my head slightly away.

I love Like a Prayer by Madonna. The first line is life is a mystery; everyone must stand alone. I think about this all the time. I once sang this in front of my mom, and she said, "That's not true!"

But when I think about it, it seems more true than when well-meaning people say, "You're never alone."

We're alone 100% of the time in our own heads. That's the joy of being human, actually--to not belong to some networked group sentience, but to have your own sentience, locked up inside a body where no one can get to it. Life is like going to the movies by yourself. The lights and sounds are big, and you're free to think and cry in the darkness.

But that's my biggest pain too. The mystery of always having to stand alone. To feel it crushing me. To feel like the longer I am alone, the less valuable I will become to others.

Sometimes I let this pain become the only think I can feel. But then I remember that my friends are standing on the sidelines. They haven't gotten into their cars yet and driven to get Saturday morning pancakes with their loved ones. I'm actually on the sidelines too, just a few feet away. I'm so intimidated by the fact that they came to this girl's soccer game with their spouses and sisters and I came by myself and haven't said hi yet.

I'm just so, so afraid of never having someone to go get pancakes with.

This blog though, whose seventh birthday it is today, is kind of like the friend that helps you out. Who drags you over to where your friends are standing with their loved ones and says hi. I just smile a little and stand a little outside the circle, waiting for someone to acknowledge me. She does the talking for me, and, in that way, is a wonderful friend.

So happy birthday, It's Such a Good Feeling. I wish the Archbishop wasn't celibate so you could get together one day. You're both very good friends. You all are.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Funniest Moments from My Favorite Comedies

(These shows are listed in the order in which I watched them for the first time.)

1. Parks and Recreation, 2009-2015

One-episode guest star stealing the show.



Bonus: All the things Leslie Knope is pro in her city council campaign ad.

2. Community, 2009-2015

The funniest thing about this is imagining LeVar Burton coming up with Pierce a thousand times.



Bonus: This show went on too long, but at least we got this out of it.



3. The Office, 2005-2013

Physical comedy at its finest.


4. 30 Rock, 2006-2013

Our basketball hoop was a rib cage. A RIB CAGE.



5. Arrested Development, 2003-2006

Her screams. Also the word parmesan is hilarious.



Bonus: Any time Buster calls it Army.


6. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 2013-Present

There's not a single moment that I love best. It's pretty much everything Gina says.