I have started and abandoned this post at least a dozen times. Maybe this will be the time that it sticks.
I was a little too warm in my jacket and sweater, but I knew that by the time I walked back to my hotel, I’d be happy to have them both, so I pushed up my sleeves a little bit and soldiered on, up the street toward dinner.
I was missing my family and my pets, more than I’ve missed them in a long, long time. I was feeling lonely, and homesick, and I hoped that getting out of my hotel, taking a little walk, and eating dinner around other people would help. So I asked the concierge for a recommendation, and he sent me to this pub up the road.
About halfway to my destination, I stopped at a street corner and waited for a signal to change. I noticed that there was a plaque just off the sidewalk, commemorating some significant Civil War troop movements in 1864. I don’t recall specifically what it said, but I guess three large armies converged on this spot, marched together up what became the street I was walking on, and … I guess it was continued on the next plaque, which I didn’t find. My first thought was, “Oh, right, this city has been here for a long time, and a lot of history happened here.” In Los Angeles, much of our civic history isn’t even a century old, and what little history we have could be commemorated with plaques that say, “there was something beautiful here, but we tore it down in the 70s to build a strip mall.” My second thought was, “I kind of wish we weren’t still fighting the Civil War, even though as a nation we pretend that we aren’t.”
The light changed and I crossed the street. I walked past a parking lot that was filled with production vehicles, and I was surprised that they were working on a Sunday. I passed lots of people who were walking their dogs, and that made me miss mine even more. I was so lost in thought that I nearly jay walked in front of a cop, but some part of my brain screamed THERE IS A COP THERE STUPID GET BACK ON THE CURB just as I was about to take my second step, so I called on the Infernal ACTING! TALENT! of Calculon to make it look like I hadn’t seen the red light, turned around, and got back on the curb, apparently looking sheepish enough to mollify the cop. Or maybe she didn’t care at all. Either way, I gave myself an invisible gold star.
I got to the pub, and walked inside. It was early and empty, but for two groups of people who were watching sports on TV. One group was watching the MLS championship game, and the other was watching football. They were cheering enthusiastically for their respective games, and their energy filled up the place like it was packed with people.
I ordered a local craft beer and some dinner, and tried to enjoy being in the world with other people, instead of alone in my hotel with people on the Internet.
I couldn’t do it. I just felt too sad. I felt lonely, even though I was in a room with exuberant people, who were having a lot of fun watching their sportsball squads do sports. I pulled my phone out of my pocket, and scrolled through pictures of my pets, pictures of me with my wife, and pictures of home. I’ve only been gone for a little over a week, but it’s the longest I’ve been away in a few years, and I can feel the distance between me and the people I love more viscerally than I have in years.
That’s when Fairy Tale Of New York began to play. Jesus.
I finished my beer, ordered another, and deliberately thought about the good things I’ve experienced while I’ve been in Atlanta:
I have done work on Powers that I’m incredibly proud of, that I think will add something to the show, and may even help me get other acting work in the future. I found layers and desires and secrets and justified motivations in this character that made him come alive in my skin. I’ve worked with three different directors on this show, and every one of them has told me that my work has been incredible. One of the actors on the show told me that he was grateful and relieved that I was playing this character, because I could handle its complexities in a way that was truthful and believable. One of the other actors told me that she was so taken in by my performance, she got completely lost in it, and it motivated reactions from her character that she didn’t know her character could have. When I wrapped on Thursday night, after a nine hour day that was devoted to a single, intense, emotionally exhausting five page scene that’s the climax of everything this character is about, the crew burst into spontaneous applause for me.
On Saturday, I went to the Georgia Aquarium with Olesya Rulin, who is one of my co-stars and a new friend. We got to watch them feed whale sharks, and otters, and penguins, and it was magical. On Saturday night, I got to go to dinner with everyone in the cast who is in town, and then had drinks with a couple of the guys who are staying in the same hotel with me. I’ve made new friends, and that’s not something that comes easily to me.
Oh, and in my Couch to 5K training, I did a personal best run of 4 ten-minute miles without stopping for more than 30 seconds a couple of times.
So there is a lot to be happy about, a lot to feel good about, and a lot of joy to be found in the last eight days … but that doesn’t fill the empty space next to me in my bed, or when I go for a walk, or when I see someone with their dogs.
Then, because I wasn’t feeling sad enough, I read a story at Gawker about how Elmo is the worst (he totally is. Team Grover FOR LIFE). That story reminded me that when Mister Hooper died on Sesame Street, Big Bird had drawn a picture of him, and Big Bird was going to give that picture to Mister Hooper when he came back from the hospital, but Susan told him, “Big Bird, he’s not coming back,” and then Big Bird is sad, and hangs the picture he drew in his nest. And that picture was there for years.
I wiped a few tears off my face, and then I realized something: Yeah, I felt sad, but I just felt sad, like people feel sad. I felt a totally normal and healthy human emotion. I felt sad because I missed my family, I felt lonely, and I wanted to be home. I felt sad because I missed the things that people miss, but I also knew that I only had two more sleeps until I got to be back in my home with the people I love. I felt sad, but I didn’t feel the kind of cant-get-out-of-bed sad that I sometimes feel because of Depression. This was regular, boring, totally normal sadness that everyone feels all the time, and I wasn’t feeling it because I have mental illness, but because I just missed the people I love.
And then I felt really, really happy to feel sad. In fact, borrowing a phrase from my friend Jenny Lawson, I felt #FuriouslyHappy, because I was in charge of my own sadness, instead of being held down in it by my Depression. It was okay to miss the people I love, and it was okay to feel lonely, and it was okay to remember how ten year-old me felt when he experienced the loss of Mister Hooper with Big Bird, the same way he would soon experience the loss of his grandmother with his mom. All of that was healthy and totally fine, and knowing that made me feel happy while I felt sad.
So I finished my food, thanked my server, walked back to my hotel, watched my beloved LA Kings play a heck of a good hockey game, and went to sleep in a bed that felt a little less empty than it has.
Now, about twenty hours later, I’m listening to a Robert Johnson blues station on Pandora, and finishing a blog I’ve tried a dozen times to finish. In a few minutes, I’m going to put on my Runner 5 shirt and go down to the gym to do some training, because Doctor Meyers and Sam and Runner 4 are as much with me here as they are when I’m at home, and that makes me feel a little less lonely, and a little less homesick.
Hey, look at that. I started and abandoned this post a about a dozen times, and this is the one that stuck.