This morning, I woke up with a song in my head. It was "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Stephen Sondheim's musical, Company. I'm aware that this is starting off super stereotypically gay, but stay with me. My Grandma (a particularly fascinating woman named, Dary...yeah, Dary) always told me that if you woke up with a song in your head, that it meant something important to you, deep down. I've always held that advice with me and analyzed the tunes trapped in between my ears.
I also have a phone app that shows me a randomized Tarot card everyday. This is a silly thing to follow, but I find it interesting to see how my brain translates the simple message the card is to illustrate. I don't think Tarot cards tell the future but, like ink blot tests, I do think they interact with our brains, telling us about our subconscious. This morning, my card was the Queen of Wands: the feminine master of fiery determination and strength.
So, as I took my morning shower, singing like a banshee under the spray, I decided I needed to listen to my subconscious and do something with it.
My roommates and I have a movie series called Goathouse Presents where we each choose a favorite movie to show each other. It was my turn to choose (as it typically is, as I take the longest to choose my movies) so I decided to pick "Elaine Stritch At Liberty", a filmed version of her one-woman show. Elaine Stritch is definitely a strong, fiery woman and she originated the song "The Ladies Who Lunch" on Broadway, so it all seemed to be coming together.
Now, choosing a movie that both my roommates will like is not an easy task. One of them prefers movies led by macho-men with rippling biceps who stab dragons in the forehead while the other likes singing, puppets, and satire (not necessarily in that order). So, for me, choosing a movie for Goathouse Presents tends to be a difficult task. But, with my subconscious in charge, I decided to not care what they thought; I wanted to watch this movie today.
So, it began and we watched a 70-something woman scoot around the stage with a bellowing voice and no pants. I was in heaven and my roommates both laughed at appropriate times. But, as it went on, I realized why I didn't watch the movie very often: it makes me incredibly sad.
For anyone who doesn't know, Elaine Stritch is a brilliant, hilarious, Tony-Winning actress. Her story involves dates with Marlon Brando, a relationship with Rock Hudson, Broadway successes and flops, and a lifelong dependence on alcohol. After all of her struggles she still was able to get on stage and tell a beautiful, heart-wrenching story.
As Elaine belted her way through "The Party's Over" from Bells Are Ringing, I watched her relive the pain of giving up booze for a chance to live a life she for which had been absent. It made me think, "Am I absent from my life?" and "What am I missing that I won't see until I'm 70?" and "Will I be happy then with what I'm doing right now?". These are deep, existential questions that plague me frequently, but with New Years and all that "change your life" stuff being so close behind me, it seems to hit closer to home.
A week ago I was preparing to ring in the New Year with my closest friends and now I'm feeling like the emotional equivalent of an abandoned apartment with Season 6 Buffy & Spike inside (anyone who gets that reference to The Vampire Slayer, kudos). Point is, I don't wanna feel like this. I'm constantly anxious about my direction in life, or lack thereof. I try to reinvent myself as much as possible to make the most of the time I have. But, is that enough?
Elaine started singing, "The Ladies Who Lunch" and my entire body began to focus. As she sang, listing off the women who live, but not really, I spiraled deeper into my personal black hole of possibly-melodramatic angst. One section has always hit me close-to-home:
And here's to the girls who just watch—
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
Ah! I'll drink to that.
Am I one of these people, sitting with a glass and waiting for a chance to crap all over someone else's life? Are my innate anxieties coming off as annoyances for others? Does anyone else even notice the things about myself that I notice?
I never thought when I woke up this morning, I'd be prying myself off the emotional rock bottom I hit this afternoon. But, this all got me thinking, "Well, Orey, where do we go from here? It's a week after your yearly life-overhaul and you're moping around already."
So, I took a minute to stop, breathe, and think. Yes. I've taken seven small steps into this year and I'm already feeling the weight of it all on my chest. Yes. The anxious behaviors I had last year were able to find me at my new address in 2017. Yes. I just had an existential crisis from a video of an old woman screeching out showtunes.
But, this is still my life. It doesn't belong to my friends or my music or my anxiety. Too often, I find myself a side character in the show of my life. I want a life worth writing about. I want a life worth singing about. I want a life that feels like New Years everyday.
So, as I pick the little bits of myself out of the carpet and reassemble myself after another panicked identity crisis, I begin cycling a new thought through my head, on repeat: Hold on to that feeling of entering 2017 with your friends. Hold one to the emotion of raising a glass of champagne. Hold on to that feeling of hope that you can change for the better.
I know that a breakdown during the first week of January might translate to others, "This dude's resolutions aren't going to stick". But, I'm still focused on my changes. I want to make myself better, whatever that means. Yes, I'm going to break down sometimes. But, if Elaine Stritch taught me anything with her brilliant life, it is that we can't let one flop, one heartbreak, one brush with death stop us from living.
So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep living. I'm going to bring that hope, and champagne-soaked happiness I felt with me into as many days as I can.
Sure, the party's over, but not for me.