Auditions were pouring in and my employment circumstances were although not ideal, it was temporary income that was motivation enough to report to site five days a week. Bright promises and steadiness was exactly what I was experiencing when I entered the world of 2020. This was supposed to be the From Learning to Thrive at 35 to Getting my Fix at 36 blog post.
Then came the whirlwind.
My recruiter called the same moment my mom called. The recruiter, telling me my contract was finally over. I'm leaping for joy. My Mom, beeping in to tell me Pawpaw (grandfather) is in the hospital and it doesn't look good.
What followed was a sudden change of plans in extending my Texas trip from one week to one month. I hadn't spent that much time in Texas since I was 19. Usually, my Texas trips are mounting balls of stress staged around a manic me trying to cram in as many parties and people to see over a span of 10 days (at the most). And now I will be attending a family wedding followed by a family funeral.
After a 10 hour flight delay and a detour that randomly placed me in Austin, the whirlwind was in full swing. By the time my dad had to do the two hour drive to pick me up from the most uncomfortable hotel I've ever stayed in, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. At this point, it was going to be less than 24 hours that I would watch him walk my sister down the aisle.
Despite my exhaustion, I could feel the love, the embrace, resonating through the room given off by what one could only expect from a big traditional Italian-American family.For a moment, I put aside the stress I was feeling from mounting exhaustion. The wine was pouring and I started enjoying. Yes, these next few weeks will more likely bring more stress and exhaustion from trying to see and do so much but for now, I'm putting that thought to rest.
Before I knew it, two weeks had already flown by...and somewhere between basking in laughter at an old high school stomping ground, sipping margaritas friends and the late night journal entry readings from my self-doubt filled 20s, something started to grab a hold of unprocessed emotions I didn't realize I had suppressed over the years. They stemmed from moments of juggling crazy work schedules, in NYC, to survive the never-ending price hikes while trying to make dreams come to life and, on top of that, trying to be a good, dutiful, relative dealing with distress around illness in the family. I, unknowingly, held so much in...so much in... and it was never acknowledged until now...in my childhood bedroom where I found a beacon of peace I've needed oh so badly...
I felt myself starting to slow down, breathe and enjoy the sights and memories of Texas. Sure, I left when I was 18 and it's been the exact amount of time I've been away, but sitting there knowing I had slower, calmer, moments my roots began to strengthen and I felt a warm sensation in my core. I guess this is what my first NYC acting professor meant when he got up in front of the class, the first day, and said, "Get grounded, centered, focused and relaxed...It will never fail you."
18 years later, I finally got it.
It was the best I'd felt in years and Pawpaw's memorial celebration was the perfect ending to my trip. My family was gathered in memory of a man who let me fly his plane when I was six. He took care of the lift off and landing (of course), but I was the one that sent the plane into a nose dive, challenging him to get us back in midair in the nick of time. I could still hear his thunderous laughter when blurted out "Almost crashed!"
Pawpaw only had an 8th grade education before becoming a truck driver which led him to establish a successful trucking company of his own by his early 30s...A man who came from nothing, built a business and managed to build airplanes out of junk after getting his pilot's license.
Family and friends took turns in front of the stage telling wonderful stories about Pawpaw. But what was unique to me is that in the room of family and friends, never have I ever witnessed a sea of crying men. In American culture where it's normally expected for a man to show "he has balls" by adopting the practice "Never let them see you cry, never let them see you sweat", it was so refreshing to see these men, of all ages, not give a fuck. They chose to honor Pawpaw's memory in the rawest, realest, form and that to me is far more brave than choosing to confine oneself to cultural expectations. And to see that Papaw's legacy did so much for so many, it was only natural for me to join those men.
After Pawpaw's ashes were scattered through the sky, it was time to head back to AZ. Armed with deeper clarity and feeling more grounded than ever, I was prepared to hit the ground running and cease the bright future that awaited me.
But my arrival stops me dead in my tracks, paralyzing me.
COVD-19 has arrived too.
My sister's wedding, the margarita nights with friends, and Pawpaw's memorial service were the final moments I'd surround myself with smiles and hugs from everyone...and feel safe about it.
...To be continued