Comedy is one of the few crafts where you have no choice but to fail — often miserably, cringe-inducingly — in front of an audience while you practice. For most sports, there are training camps to make you strong and exercises completed in solitude that enhance your skill. God only knows we don’t show our first drafts to our friends. And even acting can be experimented with in the safety of a class or private coaching session. But comedy? The only real way to sharpen your tool is in front of actual people on a random week night in some random club under a spotlight with nothing but scribbles on a notepad you fervently edited while you waited your turn. The first time, the second time, the third time, and so on... Is this thing on?Read More
I was feeling sad today. I thought maybe all the feelings of gratitude from Thanksgiving left me with a hangover, the way filling yourself with alcohol leaves you dehydrated, and disappointed with the reality you wake up to. But maybe it wasn’t that. One year ago today, I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee. Just as I was about to leave the house, he texted: “I’m sorry to cancel last minute but I’m feeling terrible.” He died that night from a heart attack. He was 39. And I miss him.
Most people close to me, or who follow my posts, know that 2016 brought a series of lessons in loss. It felt like a coming of age film in fast forward. 2017 seems to be continuing the trilogy. What might be an even more painful truth than having a loved one die, is experiencing that life goes on without them. I am still having trouble making sense of the world without the people who made it make sense, if that makes sense. It feels as if it goes against hope, against love, against time itself. When a person is an intimate part of your experience of life, no matter how much or little time you actually spent with them, their absence is not an end to your journey together. Their absence is a blank canvas for you to paint all your longings, regrets, secrets, and wishes. And like any work of art worth a damn, it’s fucking painful to create.
It’s easy to walk through life thinking you will have another chance. In rare cases, we may have that opportunity. In even rarer cases, we may actually take it. But when people around you die, it puts all of those excuses on trial. All the, “Yeah, we should get together sometimes,” and the, “I’m sorry, things have just been so crazys.” I am as guilty as anyone. My phone is a graveyard of good intentions. Text messages lingering awkwardly by the snack table. Looking back, there are so many situations I would do-over in a heartbeat. But it begs the question, for whom?
If the person is no longer here, but I knew I had been kind, or gone out of my way to spend time, what difference would it make? Surely no difference to them, wherever they are, if anywhere at all. So then, is it really about them, or is it about me? Maybe regret is just a way to make sense of the crater our loved ones left behind, and how gravity isn’t the same without them. It’s an alluring idea, that we may have found relief in a parallel universe where we’d called back, or said I love you one last time. But more likely it’s that the pain is all too much. My heart crumbles in the vacuum of their absence, and my regrets eventually dissolve with the realization that it’s supposed to hurt, and the hurt is how much I love them.
This circuitous route to self-acceptance is one I travel often, and I don’t always reach the finish line. Forgiveness can be a wild beast. I have spent days replaying an exchange with my dad, as if through some loophole of modern physics I could change history with my mind. That by rejecting myself, I can somehow even the score.
I may not be able to change history, but I can change how history changes me. Does it make me kinder and more accepting? Or does it make me closed and more judgmental? It’s a fight. Perhaps one of the few worth putting it all on the line for. One of the few where surrendering isn’t defeat.
One thing I can say about my journey so far is that I am definitely more affected. I don’t know if that’s the right word for it. I mean I am more easily moved. The same way someone who has never skied can’t appreciate a bluebird day, someone who hasn’t experienced loss can’t truly understand the space it occupies in your heart. I cry more. I hurt more. I laugh more, at least the real, deep, belly ones. I am more comfortable in the pain, and I roll up my sleeves instead of running away. I’ve lost the innocence that accompanies endless summers and bottomless sodas. I know now that everything comes to an end, and too much of anything is probably bad for you. With one exception: the ability to love and have compassion for this curious journey called being human.
The initial shock of Richard Hatch’s passing is beginning to fade, but the weight of who he was and what he left behind is only becoming heavier with time. Richard was unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He expressed with such transparency and optimism that it was easy to wonder, “Is this guy for real?” Then, you would stare into those intense, earnest eyes, and realize, “Wow, he’s for real.”
He shared what he cared about with abounding enthusiasm, without reservation; he shared the people he cared about with love, reverence and humility; and he shared the things you cared about because all he ever wanted was to see people pursuing and living their dreams. I continue to feel humbled the more I learn about his life and accomplishments. To meet him, you would never know the impressive successes he achieved throughout his life and career because he approached life as a consummate student — always curious, asking questions, eager to learn from everyone he met. In turn, he hoped to provide value, hope and inspiration to those he met, and that’s what he did.
Like the myriad people who have shared their Richard stories, I have many and I will forever cherish the special friendship we shared. In addition, several years ago, I had an idea to create a magazine that would combine ideas and interviews relating to sci-fi and its influences on modern life. The magazine never came to fruition, but I did succeed at obtaining a beautiful, heartfelt interview with Richard. These particular words have never seen eyes beyond my own, and I would very much like to share them now — to honor and to celebrate our wise and wonderful friend. He speaks about his introduction to acting, early childhood challenges, his love of Battlestar Galactica, and the hopes and dreams that motivated the Richard we all know and love. It was written in February of 2011, yet his answers are timeless. I hope you enjoy.
1. I’d like to know what Battlestar Galactica means to you. I understand it’s a big question, but you’ve been an advocate from the very beginning, so what is special about BSG and why is it so important to you?
As to Battlestar, I’ve always loved powerful and inspiring stories that touch our deepest self and mirror and illuminate the human condition. The underlying BG story accomplishes all that and more and is much more than entertainment. Art has always been more than just entertainment, but in this industry of ours it became almost sacrilegious to talk about movies or TV series as something meaningful or having value in the world. This truly epic life and death story that is very archetypical in nature (Moses and the Israelites) takes us all on a journey of the heart where our deepest fears, insecurities, judgments and belief systems are all challenged and transformed by the dire life and death circumstances of the show. I also love the fact that every character in the story is morally conflicted and has to face and deal with their dark side, come to terms with their very human flaws and imperfections. And, these kinds of circumstances bring out the very best and worst in all of us. In addition, we, as actors, had to face our own personal issues and judgments about life, politics, etc, as the characters we became very emotionally bonded to, went through their paces and had to live with the decisions they each made along the way. What better venue for not only challenging and evolving the artist in all of us, but more importantly the human being. Why do I love this story? How could I not love this story? I’m political, philosophical, spiritual and deeply interested in the physiology of life and human nature and this life-changing story involved all of these elements that make up the lives we live.Read More
I am not so arrogant as to think the universe has singled me out to teach me a lesson, but there are times when the plot twists are so perplexing that it would be arrogant not to search for one. In the last two months, four people close to me have left the world as I know it. Until now, I had been mostly fortunate to have avoided the harsh realities of mortality, but as the saying goes, when it rains, it dumps an ocean on your unsuspecting ass. I feel as if my very foundation has been swept away, flooded with new possibilities of finiteness, loss, compassion, regret. Stories in the news of someone dying are no longer abstract. The connection with someone who has also lost a parent is palpable, a calling card of uninvited, unrelenting wisdom. Petty concerns are infuriating, confusing, and altogether the perfect distraction when the pain and uncertainty is just too much. My reality is both more empty and more full. A paradox of better understanding the nature of the universe and coming to terms with the fact that it makes no sense.
I think most of us are born with, or adopt or are taught, the delusion of permanence. Our parents will always be there — we have to believe this because if not, we will die. Even if that’s not entirely true, it’s how we feel. They are the source of life, of security, of happiness, and coming to terms with their human-ness is hard enough, not to mention their mortality. I always knew intellectually that losing a parent was a rite of passage of sorts, something impossible to truly understand until it happens. The loss of a friend, particularly someone who showed no signs of sickness or even weakness, someone who loved life and loved his friends, is another puzzle that can only be solved once the pieces are in front of you, if at all. Even the passing of someone who fought in wars decades before you were born is a shock, because somehow once someone has lived to the ripe old age of 96, they appear eternal. I suppose it feels as if we will all live forever, until we don’t. Death is something impossible to grok until you face it, and by then it’s too late. And those of us who are left to witness the impermanence of our loved ones, our heroes, and even our enemies, can only honor that loss by questioning the very purpose of this absurd and beautiful opportunity called existence.
Even the youngest of Tibetan monks learn to meditate intensely on death and impermanence. Although they believe in an afterlife, the uncertainty of what form that will take gives added weight to the importance of the human experience and living a meaningful life. While it's impossible to know what comes next, I find it practical to hedge my bets. In other words, if there is an afterlife, I hope I will have done enough good in the world to have earned a good rebirth; and if there isn’t, well then I hope I did enough good in the world to have left the place a little better than how I found it. All I know is that my soul, or whatever “stuff” I’m made of, has the opportunity to experience life now — in all its confusing, complex, painful, and messy magnificence. I was sharing with a friend recently that I was feeling guilty that my dad might have waited for me before he finally passed, that I had participated in prolonging his pain. He fought so hard for every breath, just as he had fought so hard for everything in his life, and never, never complained. My friend replied, “life is pain.” And it’s true. Why would I want to take that away? We shouldn’t shun the pain. It’s how we know we’re alive. We simply have to learn to be with the pain, to not be afraid of it, and to embrace both the emotional pain of loss and the physical pain of pushing against our boundaries. Pain is training to live, comfort is… well… the opposite.
There came a tipping point for me, in the midst of a cycle of sorrow I thought I might never climb out of, when I realized the source of much of my suffering was the unwillingness to accept uncertainty. My whole life I’ve been trying to control, to predict, to keep myself safe — from harm, from making mistakes, from losing people I love — but it’s a rigged game. There is no possibility of controlling these things and there are no winners when you try. Getting what you want only reinforces the delusion that it’s possible to control and that our attachments are worth using all our energy to keep. Targets are good, don’t get me wrong, but in the end, it’s not hitting the targets that matter, it’s the number of arrows you've shot. If you spend too much time waiting, lining up your shot, worrying that you might miss, you will most certainly miss the most important thing of all — you. I’ve realized now that instead of hitting a bullseye, I’d much rather have the target, and everything surrounding it, covered in arrows, broken, backwards, buried. Who knows? I might hit a target I didn’t even see! Didn’t Schopenhauer call that genius? Whether it’s the wind that carries it astray, my own poor aim, or someone else’s arrow, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we shoot. What matters is that we try. There is so little we can really control, perhaps nothing beyond our own experience, and even that would be debated by Pavlov.
So maybe it’s not so much a lesson I’m looking for as it is a new way of moving through the world. Paying attention to the details but not getting lost in them. Caring about what people feel, not what they think. Doing things today that can be done tomorrow. Striving for the things that matter to me, not what’s written in my programming. Having the self-awareness to question even my strongest beliefs as well as the humility to change them. Facing adversity with vulnerability and compassion, for I am not alone in my fear, but if I run away, I will be. Death, I guess you could say, has planted the seeds to understanding the nature of aliveness. All I can do is water them with my tears and hope that from the darkest shade will grow the most beautiful garden, which one day too will die, making it all the more precious and alive.
Sometimes life gives you gifts, and sometimes these gifts come wrapped in nice packaging and a neatly tied bow. Other times these gifts come in less than recognizable wrapping. Sometimes you have to go digging for them, and other times they hit you over the head, nearly taking you down, and it’s not until your vision is restored that you recognize it is even a gift at all.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to receive all these forms of gifts. And perhaps the most meaningful was the one that was hardest to accept.Read More
“Life is enriched by difficulty; love is made more acute when it requires exertion.” ― Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
When I think of heroism, it is not a single act, nor is it necessarily an act bathed in praise and recognition. When I think of bravery and character, there are no flapping capes or glistening swords, nor are there epic fights or power struggles. There are simply circumstances of intense adversity, and often deep emotional pain, wherein a person acts out of love instead of fear, overcomes the toughest moments, and comes out stronger on the other side. There are people in the world who do this in major ways, people like the Dalai Lama or even some close personal friends who have been attacked by dishonorable media campaigns, but not all heroic acts have a spotlight. They happen every day, all around us, often unnoticed, but once in a while, a spotlight is just what's necessary to raise us all up a little bit.
I recently met Amber Greenwalt at a convention in Houston, Texas. Actually, I met her at the airport where she recognized me immediately and greeted me with the warmth and enthusiasm of a not-so-distant relative. Her sweetness and positivity were palpable over the weekend too, whether it was visits at my table or the smiling face in the crowd at a panel, I always noticed and enjoyed her joyful presence. At some point over the weekend I learned that on top of being a smart and sweet Basttlestar enthusiast, she was also a mother of three who was facing some incredibly difficult struggles, including a 5-year old with Mitochondrial disease, a rare and (so far) incurable disease with a whole list of heartbreaking side effects. You can read more about her daughter's condition and her progress on the Saving Savannah Facebook page.
Speaking of heroes, Leah Cairns (Racetrack from BSG) is another woman I know with an iron will and infinite resilience when it comes to whatever life might throw at her. So it was no surprise when she emailed me about a joint initiative to help her five-year-old niece, Seattle (who has a similarly debilitating disease) and Savannah get the resources they need to express their true superhero selves. It turns out Seattle and Savannah, though they’ve never met, have a lot in common, and naturally, so do the families who love and support them. Both their stories are truly heartbreaking and inspirational. You can learn about Seattle and her journey on her Facebook page here. I know because after agreeing with ease to help promote their fundraising efforts through social media, I began to feel uneasy that I didn’t know exactly what I was promoting.
It’s painful to watch people struggle, and it’s even more painful to imagine what it would be like if you were in their shoes. It’s easy to think, ‘oh yes, that’s sad,’ and go back to our lives. So I tried to do the not so easy thing, I watched video after video, read articles, and thought about what it might be like to have a child with a life-threatening illness. I laughed, I cried, I thought about how grateful I am for my life, and how grateful I am for theirs, and how grateful I am for our paths intersecting so I could deepen my compassion and sense of what’s important in life. I don’t even claim to have a fraction of an understanding of what it must be like for these little girls and their families, but I do feel like my life is enriched in the attempt. I feel inspired by the will, the strength, the vulnerability and the love I see in Amber, Leah and Lindsay, and I feel hopeful for their efforts to not only improve the quality of their daughters' lives, but of all the lives they touch in the process.
I would encourage you, if you can, to hear their story. If you feel so inclined and are in a position to do so, there are many ways you can help Seattle and Savannah get the funds they need to live the carefree lives any five-year-old should. I don’t typically promote charities, but this is a cause with very real and beautiful results that can only blossom with your help, ones you’ll see in each one of these girls’ smiles. Thank you for your time. And thank you Amber, Leah and Lindsay for your bravery. You are all heroes in my books.
Here's what you can do:
- donate directly to the girls on their gofundme page
- share the above link on your twitter or facebook
- tweet @theellenshow to inspire the Ellen Show to bring Savannah and Seattle together to meet for the first time! what a beautiful christmas gift it would be!
- check out this huffington post article for more info and links
- read about their stories, be inspired + life joyfully!
C'mon, all the cool kids are doing it! Even President Roslyn.
Ps. Stay tuned for a separate campaign so that I, too, can meet these miniature superheroes on The Ellen Show.
I’ve grown accustomed to oddities and surprises at sci-fi conventions, but there was something about walking toward my signing table and seeing a full-scale wrestling ring that caught me off guard. Atop the carpet of the hotel’s chandeliered grand ballroom, as if it had landed from outer space, sat a square, roped off stage—a scene usually contained inside the televisions and imaginations of teenaged boys. Its emptiness only made the context seem stranger, yet the costumed men at the tables surrounding it made the spectacle more digestible. Did I say men? There were women too. Tattooed, pierced, and mohawked, some sported shiny, bulging muscles; others were small and unassuming, surely revered for their acrobatic skills. I couldn’t help but flash to scenes from The Wrestler. And not just scenes, but all the emotions that went with it—a nauseating cocktail of excitement, sadness, curiosity and nostalgia. I spent the first half of the day in observation mode. During my breaks from signing autographs and making small talk with fans, I studied the wrestlers and their wares, their handwritten signs and championship belts, their intense and controlled energy, and their undeniable boredom. As I do with most things, I romanticized the situation to make it more palatable, but once my arrogance became too bitter, I resolved to introduce myself and see them as people just like me.
I stroked SnakeMaster Jeff’s albino boa constrictor. Oh, stop it. He told me about his nineteen pets and I imagined him alone in his house, feeling misunderstood except for the animals who loved him unconditionally. Then I learned he’s been happily married for years. Once again my arrogance hovered over me like a storm cloud. Thankfully, the ice was quickly smashed, as all the wrestlers were super fun and friendly, and some were even BSG fans. They invited me to the show later—not that an invitation was necessary, but it was more a matter of, “So, are you coming to the show tonight?” To which I replied with slight hesitation, “Yeah, sure!”
As the hours wore on and I relished in the quiet of my hotel room, the thought of going back downstairs into a massive crowd to watch grown men (and women) beat each other in the name of entertainment was not exactly the most appealing direction I saw my night heading. But I thought about my new pals, and I imagined greeting them the next morning with a contorted smile after missing the show, and that didn’t feel good either. I also thought about the fact that I was in Miami with the opportunity to witness something I’d never seen before, and whatever discomfort I was experiencing was even more reason to go and face it. So I made the trek, through hallways of wizards and Boba Fett wannabes, and I continued to feel more uncomfortable. The hall where I had earlier spent my day casually signing autographs was now filled with excited wrestling fans. Faces in the crowd pointing and whispering, I imagined things like, “Is that Cally from Battlestar Galactica standing over there? Why is she all by herself? She looks lost.” Oh yes, even I am not immune to making shit up to feel more in control of the situation, but I tried to move around and look like I was engaged in the evening’s entertainment. Though I have to admit, what I saw was met with emotional resistance. My attention was continuously drawn to the crowds, studying their faces, trying to understand what they feel and why they’re drawn to such displays of violence.
I didn’t get it. I was trying to, but I just couldn’t grasp grown men pacing around a ring, exchanging powerful blows, and demanding the audience’s complicity through cheering over another’s demise. Still, I’m stubborn enough that not being able to figure out the appeal only motivated me to keep watching. If I had left then, I would have felt as if I’d given up. By that point I’d moseyed on over to a table where a few men were seated. I leaned on the table and did my best to look casual and interested in the match, but not too affected. Lucky for me, I started chatting with the guy next to me, who happened to be friends with the referee. He started telling me what was really going on, the messages passed covertly to signal the next move, the politics of winning, and even some background information on the major players. Suddenly it was like I was watching it through a new lens: a lens that exposed the humanity where before there was none, a lens that allowed the skill and care of each move to come into focus, and a lens that crumbled my judgments and inspired me to just get over myself and see it for what it was: a game of strategy and skill, a performance requiring precision and self-awareness, and a metaphor for our power and celebrity obsessed culture.
The next day I was over-flowing with questions for the wrestlers. How did they get interested in wrestling? What did it mean to them? How did they train? Who were their heroes? What else did they do? How has it affected their personal lives? Did they date other wrestlers? I was especially interested in hearing from the female wrestlers, because the tendency for gratuitous violence seems less natural for women. One woman was kind enough to share quite a bit with me—the joys, the struggles, the successes, the romances, the politics—and I genuinely felt myself becoming some iteration of a fan. But because when I get interested in something, I don’t just like to read about it in a book, I half-jokingly asked if I could be part of the show that night. Which was pretty much all it took—once they realized I was serious—and the next thing I knew I was practicing roundhouse kicks backstage before my big debut!
Well, okay, it didn’t all happen quite so fast. There were several hours where I was stressing out, wanting to come up with a plan, a routine, a character, something! I felt so out of my element and I really didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of thousands of screaming fans. I really wanted to do a good job and justice for them allowing me to participate. But every time I tried to make a suggestion or ask what we were going to do, they were like, don’t worry about it, we’ll figure it out. Even though I intellectually understood that this is what they do every weekend and it’s really no big deal and I’m sure it’ll be fine, I was still freaking out inside—but in a fun, excited way. As we approached the start of the event, I finally got together with the other two girls to figure out what we were going to do. The energy backstage reminded me of putting on plays in high school, everyone with their costumes, props, rehearsing and hanging out. Which, again, brought a whole other level of humanity and feeling of community to my understanding of wrestling.
I don’t want to give away too much, but let’s just say we did what we did to prepare, and then I was left to wait for my big moment. It must seem funny that an actor would be so nervous about something like this, but I really had no idea what it was going to be like, or what I was going to do, or how I was going to feel, once I got in the ring. The level of uncertainty felt exponentially linked to the screaming crowds too, not to mention the men doing backflips into the ring in front of me—very different than the confines of a soundstage or a theater. In any case, I patiently waited for my cue as a ran through the routine in my head. I was to present a gigantic trophy to the winner, Chun Lee, at which point mohawked punk rock girl (the loser) would grab it from Chun Lee’s hands. What happened next exists as a series of stills in my mind, where we clotheslined punk rocker, I climbed the ropes, kicked her in the face (she really ran into my foot!), then I pounced on her for a final count. It was surreal. I was so stunned by the kick, I almost forgot to go pin her down. And once it was all over, I had no clue what to do. The crowd was cheering and suddenly (clearly inspired by my sheer bad-ass-ed-ness) they started yelling “Frak! Frak! Frak!” So I did what I thought any self-respecting wrestler would do and I climbed the ropes and pumped my fist in the air yelling, “Frak! Frak! Frak!” That’s when I had a real out of body moment, watching it all happen happen, almost as if in slow motion, seeing the absurdity, hearing my own disembodied voice, and yet being fully committed to the role and the experience.
I left that evening feeling fuller. Not because I had found my calling as a professional wrestler, or because I got people to cheer in my favor, but because I broke a barrier for myself. I challenged myself in an area I felt resistance, and not only developed an understanding of it, but embraced it. I felt closer to every wrestler and every wrestling fan in that room, and beyond. I felt my curiosity for other things kindled in the realization that avoidance only fuels the discomfort. If we really want to free ourselves from our fears and limited perspectives, if we really want to live in a world where people honor one another, instead of judging and criticizing, then we need to go where we don’t want to go. I can’t say if I’ll ever wrestle again, or if I even think it’s a particularly value-building form of entertainment, but I will say that I feel less afraid of it, less judgmental of the people who do it and adore it, and I feel more human as a result.
As you may have heard, I was at New York Comic-con this past weekend, but cosplaying and causing trouble wasn’t the only thing I got up to that day. I was also playing my new role as host of the Syfy web-series BlastrTV. My childhood dream of becoming an Mtv VJ mixed with my love of sci-fi fandom have collided into a super colossal awesome bomb, and the first episode is now live. It was so difficult to pack all the cool stuff into a 5 minute episode, but we tried. And of course there is a hefty dose of dorkiness injected on my behalf. Going forward our episodes will cover different facets and themes of the sci-fi and fantasy universe. I hope you tune in, and feel free to leave your comments, suggestions, likes, dislikes and all that fun stuff that will help us make the show better and better!
It’s been nearly five years since I last laid eyes on it, and yesterday, I had the unique opportunity to wear my BSG costume. Not a replica, not a spare, THE costume I wore on the show. It still carried the correct insignia and was covered in fake dirt, but it had the slight scent of something that had been sitting in a box for months. When I was approached with the idea of dressing up at New York Comic-con, I was thrilled and thought it would be a great gag. What I wasn’t prepared for was the landslide of thoughts and emotions that accompanied the simple act of putting on an outfit. At first it was surreal, seeing my name—Cally’s name—written on the tags of my tank tops, just like my neatly labeled gym clothes in elementary school. When I emerged from the ladies room in full garb, like a little girl playing dress up in her mother’s clothes, I couldn’t help but feel a little exposed and out of place. Ironically, a sci-fi convention is the last place to not fit in playing a character from a show, but I knew I didn’t have the same intent as the cosplayers around me. So what was my intent? Initially, it was simple: have fun, interact with people at the convention, and play with whether people would recognize me or not. Within a few minutes of walking around, that objective was met with ease. I even got asked to do an interview about cosplay, which I gracefully declined.
For the show I’m hosting now (more on that later), we filmed a few shots of me getting into character. I saluted and stood stiffly at attention. The memories bubbled up like a hot spring, and along with those memories came a certain pride and recognition of what it meant to be wearing that uniform. It suddenly felt like so much more than just playing dress up. I was representing my character, who she is and was, and I was representing a whole show, a whole piece of history that has impacted people’s lives far and wide. Suddenly there was a certain sacredness and responsibility to wearing my “greens,” dog tags and all. Not one person (that I know of) recognized me as Cally. I was first addressed as Starbuck, which I quickly corrected. I was later complimented on my cosplay and high-fived by fellow BSG’ers.
I mean, I am the first one to admit my highlights and pixie cut provide quite a contrast to the worn fatigues, but I can’t say I wasn’t a little surprised. I haven’t changed THAT much! But the reactions of people when I told them I was actually Cally were priceless. I wish I could communicate the expression on people’s faces. In those moments, the walls that normally separate people seemed to crumble, and all that was left was an appreciation for a story that helped us all connect more deeply to what it means to be human. I might be biased, but I experience a solidarity amongst Battlestar fans, that perhaps extends to sci-fi in general, and is palpable in their desire to express their fandom. Whether it’s in words, in dress, in art, or collections, the Battlestar family is tried and true. Just ask Edward James Olmos, Richard Hatch, or anyone else from the show.
As human beings (even dressed as cylons or storm troopers), all we have are our experiences, and the meaning we ascribe to what matters to us. Wearing a dirty costume may not seem like much, but it presented me an opportunity to reflect on the importance of holding things sacred in my life. My experiences on Battlestar, and all the ones that have come as a result, are truly precious to me. They represent many things: a time of growth, challenge, success, failure, family, expression and introspection. And while I may not always realize it in the moment, my honoring of those things through material and immaterial representations, can be as important as the experiences themselves. I feel like I'm beginning to have an understanding of the appeal of cosplay, of dressing up like a character and learning to appreciate their world, even if it’s only in spirit. Because in the end, our spirit is what carries us through.
When I was younger, I used to think I had the best mom ever. She seemed to offer more than the other moms I'd seen on the market. She always caved to my requests for McDonald's and bought me Guess jeans when it really counted. Despite our relatively tiny living space, my friends always wanted to gather at our place, where we could watch TV, play games and heat up bagel bites at will. As I grew older, I realized I didn't have the best mom because she bought me stuff or let me do things. I realize now it's more about what she didn't do. She didn't try to control me or tell me how to be. She let me discover who I was, for better or for worse, she let me make my own mistakes and express myself in whatever way I saw fit... that day or week. I can only imagine how hard it is to let your child learn her own lessons, to find her own way, and be... different—especially when accompanied by healthy doses of adolescent arrogance. In honor of my mom's birthday (today), I made a short list of all the ways my mom was, and continues to be, an awesome mom, and for which I'm incredibly grateful. Happy birthday and thanks mom!!!
- she let me dye my hair whatever color I wanted, even if it meant getting green food coloring all over the bathroom sink and was immortalized in my 7th grade school photo
- she drove me to hockey practice at 6am before we both had full days of school ahead of us, and never complained, even though i did
- she let my brother and i listen to any music we wanted, even if it included lots of swearing, and muffled her guilt-ridden laughter when we screamed Prince's "you sexy mother fucker!!" out the car window
- she ordered me a whole thin crust cheese pizza every time i recovered from a migraine, which unfortunately happened a lot, and it became our little tradition, which i treasured
- she kept her nails just long enough so she could scratch my back before i went to sleep, but not so long that she looked like a diner waitress
- she'd tell the waiters at restaurants that i was vegetarian before i could even open my mouth, and then she'd apologize when i'd scold her for speaking for me
- she didn't rub it in my face when i went from plugging my ears and singing "la la la la" whenever she played Willie Nelson, to being a superfan
- she dropped off my bass guitar at my school every day i had band so i didn't have to carry it
- she didn't stop correcting my homework even though it nearly always ended in me crying and screaming, "but i want it that way!"
- she never embarrassed me (on purpose) and always respected my privacy
- she encouraged me to laugh—during moments of surprise, happiness, failure, fun, whenever... except in doctors' waiting rooms, that was a no no
- she trusted me to take the bus downtown by myself because she knew that having that freedom meant the world to me
- instead of punishing me for losing or breaking things, she let me feel the effects, like playing a Game Gear with sticky 7up-soaked buttons
- she took my friends and me to concerts because their parents wouldn't let them go otherwise, and she sat at the back while we moshed and crowd-surfed, and she always had a good time
- she worked full time and never said a word about it, even when we complained that we wanted to see her more
- when i was twelve, i asked her to rent me the movie Kids and when she brought it home she said the guy at the video store warned it wasn't age-appropriate, so to let her know if i had any questions
- she took me bra shopping even though i clearly didn't need one
- she let my brother and i hash it out, which i think eventually lead to us being best friends
There are so many things, and if I think about all the things I appreciate about her now, the list just keeps going, but I'm nearly positive I never thanked her when I was a kid, probably for anything.
This is my small way letting you know I noticed, and I still think you're the best—mother and friend!
(ps. I know she'll read this because she's also my biggest
stalker fan :))
I’ve been home for as many days as I was away, yet my trip to Houston for Galacticon III was like an eternity contained in a nanosecond. Seeing the cast of BSG again felt like sprinting into my dad’s outstretched arms after he came home from a business trip. Everything was different, yet nothing had changed. Friends have been asking me, “How was your trip?” Amazing, awesome, so much fun. But words really don’t really do it justice. It’s sort of like trying to explain to your parents why Nine Inch Nails getting back together is a big deal. Or, perhaps more universal, what it feels like to run into a familiar face in a foreign country—exciting, comforting and strangely surreal. I’m still smiling as moments flash like a 90’s music video in my mind. In a word, it was epic. Rather than gushing any further, here are the highlights in point form and no particular order:
- Sharing a stage with such an incredibly talented collection of people during the opening ceremonies
- Eddie introducing himself to strangers who recognize him as Carlos Santana
- Mary requesting Texas BBQ for dinner; everyone doing what Mary wants (d’uh!)
- Dancing into my panel with Luciana and Rekha to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” blasting through an amplifier carried by the Super Mario Bros.
- Dreaming up my super hero alter ego with Bob Layton
- Photo-bombing a huge group of BSG fans
- Sharing a car ride with director Ilana Rein and insta-hitting it off, then hitting up Whole Foods for healthy snacks
- Having a staring contest with the parrot from Pirates of the Caribbean
- Selling all my “Oh My Gods! They Killed Cally!!!” t-shirts except 2 and seeing people so excited to wear them
- Making “crabs” jokes for way longer than it was funny after Eddie ordered an inordinate amount of crabs for our table
- Learning about my castmates through the awesome questions asked at panels—from barbie collecting to alchemy and so much more
- Discussing womens’ roles in the military with a man who has actually fought on the front lines with women
- Hanging out with Noah Hathaway only to come home and realize he was Atreyu from the Never Ending Story (no big deal!!!)
- Dirk Benedict announcing I’m the daughter he never had
- Trying to order dinner at a Texas BBQ diner: “What’s holding up the line?” “Nicki’s trying to order.”
- Zipping around in a golf cart through the humid sidewalks of Houston
- Eddie telling the story of what it was like to film Portlandia
- Presenting the award to the kids costume contest winner: a miniature Athena carrying a baby Hera… then texting the picture to Grace (who loved it btw)
- Wading through a law school graduation ceremony going on at the conventions center... or was it a Harry Potter convention?
- Finally getting to hang out with Bear and confirming he’s my brother from another mother
- Having the most awesome assistant I’ve ever had ever—Shakira I would hire you in a heartbeat! But I wouldn’t want to take you away from your Faulkner ;)
- Hazing the Caprica cast… KIDDING!!!
- Attempting to take Kate to a vegan restaurant and ending up in a shady part of town, her refusing to get out of the car
- Making Vine videos on the hotel shuttle with Luciana
- Remembering how funny Trucco is and that he should have his own comedy show
- Getting an email from Rekha about her 6:30 am ride to the airport on Monday morning on a party bus... with a stripper pole... with pictures!
- Feeling all the love from the fans. Honestly, truly, you have no idea what it means for us to share this with you. Thank you!
If you have any highlights to share, I’d love to hear them!
Sometimes searching for an answer is all you have to stop, in order to find one. Sometimes letting go is the only way to have what you really want. Sometimes cliches are true, sometimes they’re cheesy, often they’re both. But words aren’t nearly as powerful as the moments that breed them. The silence between breaths that catches the glint off a soda can on the side of the highway. The light that multiplies as the world sets behind a water glass. I’m not sure if anything really ever changes, but I’m sure nothing ever stays the same. I often find myself comparing the present to the past, or rather an idea in my head I call the past, a fabrication of my current state in colors and shapes. My future self shakes her head, fighting for predictability, crying for vulnerability. Symbiotically, there’s solace in the word, comfort in being heard, freedom in every step toward a brighter unknown.
one of my favorite things about music is how it can transport you to a time + place in no seconds flat. as i've been reflecting on the last year, i've naturally been digging into some of my old playlists. here are some of the songs that kept me company in 2012... my dear friend caspar made me a wonderful playlist for my birthday last year. he truly makes an art of it, meticulous + thoughtful. and because i couldn't figure out the settings on my new smartphone, i ended up strolling the grey streets of vancouver with this song on repeat. it was absolutely perfect. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/6dPIK9Qe7K4?fs=1" vars="ytid=6dPIK9Qe7K4&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep1539" /]
though this album is a few years old, i discovered 'the xx' last year and fell in love. their minimal and melodious sounds mixed with some sweet synth riffs are perfect for reading, or writing too. just the right amount of ambience and familiarity to drift off, but enough emotion to engage if you're in the mood. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/UfTfHTUUee4?fs=1" vars="ytid=UfTfHTUUee4&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep1120" /]
i can't remember where i first heard this song, but it was way before you could hear it on the radio every five minutes. luckily, it holds its grace and i still can't help but smile + crank up the volume when it's on. i'm really looking forward from these guys. #icelandrocks
[embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/ghb6eDopW8I?fs=1" vars="ytid=ghb6eDopW8I&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep8436" /]
it was an unlikely match when i first met this goth band from virginia. they were headlining a sci-fi convention i was a guest at and my first introduction was an acoustic version of 'earth angel' (during which they clearly courted richard hatch, not me). but once i got to know them, i decided to give them a chance and was completely blown away by their compelling harmonies, dark and emotional lyrics, and just all-round awesome sound. i literally cried when i first heard this song, and i still get chills when andy hits some of those low notes. beautiful stuff. (he also has a solo project called 'the rain within' + another great act as 'brighter fires.')
[embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/sGc7dIjMAb8?fs=1" vars="ytid=sGc7dIjMAb8&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep3118" /]
and now for something completely different. i decided to take hip hop classes last year (something i've done on and off over the years), but this time we actually had a performance at the end of it. oh i'm sorry, a "recital." it was so great, especially since we were followed by clumsy little girls in sequined tutus. probably better that they were backstage for this one anyway ;) but this song remains close to my heart for [embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/4JipHEz53sU?fs=1" vars="ytid=4JipHEz53sU&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep8977" /]
getting back on track, here's a little throwback to the nineties. i had the good fortune to attend a screening of a documentary about the drummer from Hole (among other cool bands as well), and after the screening and the q & a, all the members sans Courtney Love got up and played a few songs. it was epic. one of the songs was sebadoh's 'brand new love' and i quickly became re-obsessed with it. i literally made a playlist with as many covers as i could find. here's the original, but the deadsy version is also pretty deadly. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/WUA9fF8RYDI?fs=1" vars="ytid=WUA9fF8RYDI&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep5531" /]
this song is fairly recent, but it totally blew me away when i heard it. i love the way it builds and the sheer drama of it. it's also great for running because it has a steady tempo and crescendos in a beautiful, ethereal way that makes you feel like you're in the middle of your own movie. [embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/Ek0SgwWmF9w?fs=1" vars="ytid=Ek0SgwWmF9w&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep7185" /]
another newer track that continues to haunt me. i just love her voice, something about it sounds other worldly. [embedplusvideo height="281" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/UznHTBZIa8E?fs=1" vars="ytid=UznHTBZIa8E&width=450&height=281&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep1308" /]
there are so many more, but i don't want to ramble. to close out, here's a beautiful number by first aid kit that's apropos for the occasion. it also happens to have accompanied me on several late, contemplative nights. [embedplusvideo height="365" width="450" standard="http://www.youtube.com/v/PiZ1sMkspJQ?fs=1" vars="ytid=PiZ1sMkspJQ&width=450&height=365&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=" id="ep3641" /]
thanks for listening and hope you enjoyed the assortment of tunes. feel free to share yours + may 2013 be filled with a bestselling soundtrack of your own!
Today I flew home from being home. I know, it’s confusing sometimes. Home is where the heart is. Make yourself at home. Home, Sweet, Home. Home is whenever I’m with you. Such a simple, benign, yet loaded word. When I was young, it was common sense that home was the house where I lived—it was the place where my mom tucked me in at night, where I spent sick days watching tv on the couch, where my friends would come over to play, and where there was an infinite supply of toilet paper and Alpha-Bits cereal. Now, it’s not so simple. On nights when I explain where I’m going after a movie, it may mean the place I sleep and keep my stuff, but when I’m asked if I’m going home for Christmas, or “Where’s home?” it’s not so black or white. Today I walked through the Chicago airport, my flight delayed and running on empty, and felt this strange feeling, the kind that occurs when you mix black and white together, turning it into an unidentifiable shade of grey. I felt sad to be leaving home, but at the same time excited to be going home. My awareness sparked another color to enter the mix, a bright and joyful color. I realized that whether I’m in one city or another, one house or another, with family or not, the only consistent thing is me. If it’s familiarity that matters, then certainly the Chicago airport should feel more like home than some of the places I’ve lived, but I really don’t think “home” is a place in the traditional sense. It’s a state of being. It’s a feeling of comfort, of presence, and a complete acceptance of where you are in that moment in time—literally and figuratively.
In the end, it’s much less work to focus on building your internal home than trying to control everything outside, travel long distances, or buy lots of material things, just to get that feeling. Certainly places can inspire nostalgia or make living more comfortable, but if we practice being present and excited about where we are, then why can’t the whole world feel like home? Instead of setting a resolution that’s based on getting a result this year, I’m going to start building the biggest home in the world—so big it encompasses the entire planet (and maybe beyond!), yet is entirely invisible. A home where every person on Earth is welcome, and no room is off limits. A home where the only keys I need are an open mind and an open heart, and an open-door policy for new experiences. That way I’ll never have to worry about whether I’m leaving home or coming home, but simply being.
It was the last shot of the day. We’d been shooting for hours already and were finally turning around to get coverage of my two lines. The words had all but crumbled in my mind, the result of repetition had drained all weight and meaning. It was like running with a backpack to catch a train, arriving, breathless, only to find the contents had escaped, leaving behind an empty, gaping (laughing?) mouth. All the preparation I’d done was inaccessible to me now, I could only trust my instincts, and the momentum of the moving train. I mustered what energy I had, trying not to squint into the newly positioned lights. There were thoughts, when did I eat last? Did I turn my phone off? And action! Cut. I didn’t make any mistakes or mumble my words, but it was far from brilliant. That fist clenching expression that says, “I nailed it!” was a distant echo from some other movie set. The director came over, and after a brief moment of intense contemplation, he said plainly, “We need more Nicki. That’s why you’re here.” I nodded before he had time to finish. Yes, of course, story of my life. “Just be yourself!” “Oh, that’s so you!” “You’d be so perfect for that role.” But what does that even mean? Can someone please spill the beans because it appears to be obvious to everyone but me? Then I chuckled. In actuality, I am the only one who really knows. I’m the only one alone with my thoughts; with my feelings, my fears, my desires, and my memories—true or untrue. All others see are the sparks—the friction between my soul and my smile, dampened only by the shackles of my yearning to be accepted and understood. But within that desire for identity, within the search for self, is the key to better understanding and experiencing this “me” everyone keeps talking about. So while I really had no idea what the director’s vision was, nor the quality of Nicki-ness he was hoping for, I brushed aside the fear and the judgement and did what I do best: absolutely nothing. I just watched myself experience the moment, with no expectation and no fucking idea what was going to happen. Oh, and… I nailed it.
I was surrounded. Freckle-faced, fidgety and uncomfortable in their frilly dresses, they stared with the focus of a predator before attack. I smiled cautiously and sighed in appropriate measure. And for a few seconds, I stared right back, after a not-so-subtle nod from my mother, and said “thank you.” And giggled. When I was a kid, I really didn’t like getting presents. Not because of some innate monk-like tendencies leading me to renounce the world and its material offerings. No, I loved getting shit! Who doesn’t love getting shit? To my still-forming kid brain it meant I was loved and special and deserving of all the wonderful goodies the modern world has to offer. I was just like any other first world brat in that way. But I also happened to be very picky and, let’s say, “specific” about what I liked. My mom might call that an understatement, but she’s not writing this. To the untrained eye (any grown-up), the line between what was cool and acceptable and what was a severe threat to my miniature self-image was a fine one—one oft misunderstood or just flat-out disregarded by others. But that’s not the problem per se. In fact, think it’s very good to know what you like.
The problem was being taught that in order to be “good,” one had to be polite, appreciative, grateful, nice. Okay, still not that big of a deal. I was a really sweet kid despite my temper tantrums when the peas touched the creamed corn. The problem was *drum roll please* that I was also taught to be honest. What? Who? How? Ah! I would say 80% of the gifts I got from other kids (ie. their parents) and relatives (sorry) were total bullshit. Which isn’t to say I wasn’t grateful. I really did appreciate the gesture and I really, really wanted to like them. But what can I say? I wasn’t into Barbies or books about babysitters. And yes, I liked socks, but they had to be the slouchy kind, and bonus points for neon. Parents don’t realize how important these distinctions are. They can mean the difference between being able to trade fruit roll-ups at lunch and having the sticky wrapper of one stuck to the side of your frizzy bangs.
Life is just less fun being not cool, so why make it harder on yourself? But I digress. I knew what I liked. I knew what I thought was “cool.” And when someone gave me a gift that didn’t fit the bill, I had a major existential crisis. Wow, you must be thinking, way to be dramatic about something that’s not that big of a deal. Just smile, say thanks, and give it to your cousin on her next birthday. And yes, that would make sense, but I just wasn’t that kind of kid. I took things very seriously. I took them to heart. I felt both hurt by people’s inability to see that I had my own unique wants and desires, and paralyzed by my inability to be honest with people and say, “Well, while I don’t like your gift, it’s okay, because I still love you as a person and very much the time and effort you put into buying it.” (By the way, my eight-year-old self speaks like an after-school-special pep talk, always.)
So now that we’ve established I was an intense kid who spent too much time worrying and not enough time getting play-dough under her fingernails, I want to switch gears a little bit. I was contemplating the act of giving the other day as I unwrapped a gift that ignited a similar slightly minor ethical dilemma. Without going into details, it was simply a product I wouldn’t buy for ethical reasons. But as I thought more about the nature of giving, I realized that receiving a gift is SO not about me at all. Giving is about the “giving” (duh). I had had it all backwards. As kids (and grown-ups) often do, I thought it was all about me, and like some sort of circus monkey, I was meant to perform the appropriate “gift-getting” ritual so as to please my humble subjects. But the reality is they already got their show. They got it through the whole process of thinking about the gift, buying or making the gift, imagining how great it is and how the person will love it. At the end of the day, if the person happens to love it, it’s just icing on the cake. The actual handing over of the gift is the final putt two inches from the hole; the joy is playing the game.
I was really nervous to go see her in the hospital. Even though we’d shared so much, spent whole summers at each others' houses, riding our low-rider bikes around town, co-ordinating our outfits, and playing Super Mario Bros on bean bag chairs that spilled their styrofoam guts everywhere. We had gradually grown apart in high school. I resented her unsubtle attempts at fitting in with the “popular” girls. I wasn’t willing to be, what I perceived as, humiliated the way she was. Even if I did want them to like me, I would never have admitted it. She changed the way she dressed, started listening to different music, drinking a lot, and even obeyed their juvenile orders when they said she had to walk 10 feet behind them. I wasn’t sure who I hated more: them for doing it, or her for letting them. Either way, even though she started to hang around with them more and abandoned her social status as a “skater” (a label I’m still not sure I’ve outgrown), I maintained the feeling that she was my friend more than anyone else’s. Maybe because she was my friend first, or maybe because I felt like they didn’t understand her the way I did, or maybe because I just wanted it to be that way. Yet when I visited her in the hospital, I felt like I was visiting a stranger. Words abandoned the part of me that speaks them.
She sat propped up in her bed. A television mumbled from high up in a corner. I remember it being bright, she could see out into the world, but not truly be in it. I can only assume she spent months in that bed, as that’s how long she was gone from school, nearly a year. I remember the fact that her toilet had a bucket in it to catch whatever went in it because she wasn’t trusted to use it responsibly. They measured and regulated everything that went inside and everything that went out. I never asked her what that was like. I never asked her why she did it, or what she was afraid of. I probably just talked about things that were going on at school and asked her about the other girls on her floor. Talking about other people is always easier than talking about oneself, especially when the truth is uncomfortable. But the thing I regret the most is not telling her how much I missed her.
I began to miss her even before went into the hospital. I missed her when she started acting differently, losing weight and dramatically giving away all her food at school. She wasn’t the girl who had tried to drink milk through her eyeball or left fart bombs on my pillow. She wasn’t the friend who would skateboard with me for hours before going inside to eat white bread cucumber sandwiches. She wasn’t the person who did a wicked imitation of her Scottish dad: “Go shite up a trrree ya wee harry!” She was different. She wasn’t just losing weight, she was losing herself, and I was losing a friend.
I didn’t know it then, but I wasn’t a very good friend to her. I didn’t tell her how I felt, I just pretended I didn’t care. Pretending not to care is so much easier than feeling the pain, the loss, the heartbreak, but it limits your ability to love. Thinking back, I realize it was my own petty fears that got in the way of being there for her. For the same reason she stopped eating, I stopped expressing how I felt. What would people think? Will I be rejected? Will they think I’m weird? Get mad? That age comes with a bag of insecurities, and I let mine weigh me down.
It’s incredible to think about how much time we spend creating fears about these things, rather than sharing ourselves with the people we care about most. Or most importantly, just experiencing ourselves, in all our beautiful quirks and imperfections. I may never know what that year was like for my fifteen-year-old friend in the hospital, nor the years that followed when she went to new school and started a whole new life for herself, but I do know that I want to be the type of person who thinks about it. And cares.
Receiving a message from a friend saying, “This article made me think of you!” can be a slightly unnerving experience--at least until you find out what it’s about. Sure, they say it’s the thought that counts, but articles include everything from how to diagnose that pesky rash to in depth analyses of psychopaths. I would hope anyone sending an article with such pretense would be mindful of the implications woven within, but you just never know. Have you ever been having a conversation about liars and blurted suddenly, “Oh by the way, how is so-and-so?” Ooops! Let’s hope they didn’t catch the linear trajectory of that one! Anyway, I digress. Just a little dose of Nicki neuroses (nickoses?) before I share this article my friend sent this morning (that reminded her of me). Quite honestly, it’s nothing new, and I’ve even read articles who articulate it more eloquently, but there’s a certain frankness, like it’s coming from a successful relative who sits you down and says, “Look kid, all you gotta do is this. Stop making it so hard for yourself.” And I appreciate that. Hope you do too!
I particularly like this quote, “As Douglas Pagels wrote, ‘Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life. The secret of success is in turning that diary into the best story you possibly can.’”
When I lived in LA, I went out with a guy who played college baseball and took me to the batting cages on one of our first dates. Since I grew up playing sports, one of them being softball, I was pretty confident in my ability to hit the round thing with the stick thing, but I quickly realized I was in for more than wasting a couple quarters. First we picked up our baseball bats. Yes, baseball. Then proceeded directly to the cage that read 90mph displayed like the address of that one spooky house on halloween: Enter at own risk. He was adamant that with the right instruction (his), I could easily hop into stance beside the plate and knock ‘em out of the park. Not one to step down from a challenge, I went along with the little experiment with a combination of curiosity, excitement and a healthy dose of ‘you’ve got to be kidding me.’
We started by just watching the ball. He taught me how to split my focus, watching the ball travel in three parts, slowing it with my mind like a jedi. I stood directly behind the strike zone as stalky testosterone-charged athletes swung at (and often missed) their speeding target. My boyfriend talked to me like a dad coaching his adolescent son, but it was early in the relationship, so I could still find those things endearing. Ever the eager student, I listened and focused. I watched the ball. Once I mastered following it in 3 still frames, it came down to two. Then he taught me how to swing and hold the bat and I was ready to enter the cage. Slightly trepidatious, I was also excited. I waited on deck as he went to bat first (to show me how it was done) and he did pretty well. For every one he missed, he muttered some excuse and what he needed to adjust.
So I walked in with my converse, yanked up my skinny jeans, and tapped the edge of the plate like I’d seen in the movies. He put the token in for me so I could be ready and the machine began to hum and rumble. The little light appeared and I reminded myself to breathe. The first pitch whizzed by and I barely even swung. It was low anyway, or at least that’s what he said. I practiced my swing and quickly got back into position. Lean back, elbow up, he said. I obeyed despite how awkward it felt. Another pitch came flying out and before I could even register what I was doing, I heard the crack of the bat making contact. Fuck! It felt so good! I quickly learned that if you hit it in just the right place, you don’t even have to swing too fast. I also learned that if you hit it slightly off, you can zing your hands nearly right off your wrists. The impulse to hold the bat tightly makes it even worse, so I followed his counter-intuitive advice and loosened my grip, lifted my elbow and kept my eye on the ball.
The batting cages became a regular thing for us. The people who worked there gave us knowing nods when we arrived and we bought a booklet for tokens that saved us money over time. We even kept batting gloves in the (hehe) glove compartment. I have to admit, beyond the self-satisfaction of being good at something, I sure got a kick out of waltzing in there in my jeans and sneakers, ignoring warnings from baseball burnouts and dudes with their own bats. It got to a point where I could hit every single pitch and sometimes I wouldn’t leave until I got a perfect round.
This morning I went to the local batting cages near my house. It was a beautiful day, I was on my way to the gym, but there’s just something about the energy and focus required to hit the round thing with the stick thing that is very grounding and invigorating. It’s almost like yoga in that it gets you out of your head, forces you to breathe and helps your body release pent up tension. I only did a couple rounds and I didn’t hit every ball, but I hit enough that I had a big-ass grin on my face for most of it. That sound. The perfect connection. There’s nothing quite like it. And all the the times you swing at the air, nearly spin yourself right around, or only catch a stitch of the ball, make that hit that flies past the imaginary short stop’s head that much sweeter.
I was feeling inexplicably joyful as I walked to my seat down my first flight’s narrow aisle, trying to make eye contact with as many people as possible. Call it a habit, a good deed, an impulse, when I’m in a good mood, I like to share it. But before I reached my seat, something caught my attention. There was a person a few rows ahead pulling at her cuffs, fixing her bracelet, shrugging her sweater into place and brushing her hair back just like my friend Esther. Her yellow hair was so similar, and yet I had said goodbye to her the night before with full knowledge that she was leaving on an early flight the next morning and I wouldn’t see her again until the middle of next week. Yet the resemblance was uncanny. I waited. Hoped. And when she looked up and I saw it was her, a rush of excitement charged through my body. An EEG machine probably would have registered Christmas I was so excited! I felt like I had the funniest joke to tell and lacked the patience or self-control to spit it out in any articulate manner. I yelled her name and awaited her shock and excitement. It was there, but nowhere near mine. But then, I actually said, out loud, in front of a plane full of bored and indifferent passengers, “This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me!” As the words formed and eventually made their way through my vocal chords and out my mouth, even before I uttered the first sound, I was well aware that this was not, in fact, the best thing that had ever happened to me. Not really even close. But I decided to go with it because, quite honestly, who’s counting? In that moment, in a crowded airplane aisle full of strangers and reluctant travellers anticipating an uneventful and lonely journey, seeing the smiling face of one of my favorite people was the best!
I can’t help but think that in the end, all moments can be this awesome. Why judge and compare, or create hierarchies of awesomeness? All we have and all we know is what is happening right now, so why not let this very moment be the greatest thing that’s ever happened? Seriously, reading this, right now, is the greatest! Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Just enjoy it, no one else cares. So go high-five yourself and have an awesome day!Editor's note: my friend slept the entire way and we barely talked on the other end, but I'm still smiling about it.