Small Hours

I’m watching a play. There are two 20-something aged girls in pyjamas, curled up in over-sized armchairs facing the audience. Over the next 45 minutes I listen to their conversations. The ones that happen in the small hours of the morning, when best friends talk about everything and nothing simultaneously. I know these hours and friends well. Immediately memories start playing out in my mind. One friend inebriatedly crying about the effects of global warming on ocean animals after we built a fort and had too much whisky. Squeezing the hand of another on a rooftop right before we graduated college, afraid of letting go and growing up. Having the worst flu of my life and deciding the obvious antidote was to cuddle up on the couch together and spend the entire day watching the Godfather series for the first time.

The stage lights end and begin scenes intermittently. I soon recognize that I’m witnessing a shuffling of memories—various conversations during those hours that become the breeding grounds for future nostalgia. The girls, still enveloped in their armchairs, begin to turn from the audience towards each other and their discussion reveals that this is actually a play-within-a-play. The earlier conversations are perhaps entirely false. One girl tries to remember while the other gets upset for parts being erroneously represented. One is really here, the other is not. This relationship now grievously exists in one-sided memory.

“The worst part is that I’m not even me anymore. I’m just how you remember me.”

Light-hearted, funny, sentimental conversations fade into something that is universally experienced yet rarely portrayed: the loss of self that happens when old friendships dissolve.

The small-hours-kind-of-friends are like mirrors. We love the part of ourselves they reflect back to us. When one of those friendship ends it’s as if there’s a part of yourself you can’t see anymore. Whether the ending happens suddenly or more commonly, slowly and gently over time, any attempt at revisiting is prone to error and inaccuracy. I think one of the most jarring parts of growing up that no one tells you about is how often you will experience this:

Looking back on something you thought you knew and discovering the reality you believed was something else entirely.

We talk about making vows with partners, but don’t we also make them with our friends? Not ones said out loud wearing pretty outfits in front of a smiling crowd. Silent ones in pyjamas that happen between “what’s up”s and “remember when”s. Vows that are spelled out in leftover pizza crusts and danced out on dorm room floors. Those vows made during the small hours propel us through so many big days. We assume best friends are forever kinds of things. We assume these friendships will fill us in the ways they always did. That this friend will know how to love us the way we need through all of life’s ups and downs. We assume that we’re honest with ourselves and with one another. We assume that we’ll always put forth effort in equal measure. But vows made between friends are just as subject to change as vows made between partners. It feels to me that most of us are taught to regard these changes with an air of nonchalance and progressive acceptance. This seems increasingly evident to me as I journey through a phase of life that is incredibly transitional for everyone my age.

It’s natural. Life happens. They’ll understand. People change. Things get busy. I’m sure we could just pick up where we left off. 

I get that. I’ve parted ways from friends both abruptly with mutual acknowledgement and in a slow, silent fade out. I’ve cried after hearing about a friend’s engagement because of the changes that I knew would inevitably follow. I’ve quietly seethed over a friend’s job placement knowing it would take them far away from me. I’ve stayed up all night anxious about how things “felt weird” when we hung out last. I’ve experienced the sink in your chest the instant you realize they don’t care as much as you do anymore.

This play made me realize that everything I just described is a reaction of fear. These “normal” transitions in a friendship doesn’t just mean the change or loss of this person who has a specific and important part to play in your story. It’s kind of like a change and loss of self. If you love who you are around someone, if you’re attached to what they bring out in you or how they know and understand you, and then that connection shifts in a big or small way…it’s startling. Hard. Uncomfortable. It’s shitty, okay? It’s just shitty. And I wish friends acknowledged the silent vows more often. I wish friends talked about the transitions when they happen.

I don’t have a tidy conclusion or a specific point to make. Mostly I just saw a play and it brought my feelings to life in one of those beautifully messy ‘ME TOO’ ways that art tends to do.

Here’s to the magic of the small hours.

I wouldn’t take any of them back, no matter the outcome. Maybe that’s the point.

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Shout out to my C venues team mate Anna Jeary for her brilliant writing and Fourth Wall Theatre for showcasing Small Hours at the Edinbrugh Festival Fringe. 
Love,
Taylor

Good Grief

People aren’t very good with grief.
Grief comes in shapes and sizes. It comes whenever life changes, whether they’re tiny or huge changes. Change is often a form of loss, and loss needs to be grieved to some extent. For example, moving to a new place involves change. Even if it’s a move you want to make, it still means losing daily interaction with people and places that have been your constant and comfort for however long and that is going to involve some level of grievance as you learn to move on from the old and enter into the new. Then of course there’s the biggies: death, divorce, disease, break ups, etc. Those ones really leave their mark. They are the toughest to walk through. I once saw a print that said, “I don’t know which is worse: the shock of what happened, or the ache for what never will.” That pretty much describes it perfectly, doesn’t it?
What is certain about grief is that you will experience it and you will experience it many times over the course of your life. People don’t like to talk about grief because it’s hard and awkward. I get that. But the implications of this is that what we really, really don’t talk about is how grief can become a good thing if we allow it to. Since grief will inevitably be a process we have to somewhat continually endure, what would it look like if we tried to become good at grieving? To learn how to navigate it rather than letting it drive us into a ditch (literally or figuratively, I suppose)? To embrace it for all its worth rather than fear it for what its not? To let it shape and redirect us rather than ruin and hold us back? I’m not saying that we will ever feel prepared when we suddenly have to grieve something. The shock will always be there. It will likely feel as if someone threw you into the washer on spin cycle. Loss rips you open. It allows you to see what you’re made of and what you value most. It’s a game changer in more ways than one, but we still have power over how we give and receive within the context of that emotion.
This a little collection of things I either learned in my own grieving or wish someone had told me:
  • Stop craving this idea of closure and just focus on making progress towards healing. Closure implies getting over grief and loss. It implies needing to reach a certain point by a certain time. This isn’t realistic or healthy because the pain never goes away completely…it just lessens over time, and that’s ok. You don’t get over it, you just get used to it.
  • There is no timeline for grieving.
  • Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. In fact, just expect that it will.
  • Sudden waves of emotion are normal. Don’t fight it. Allow them to run their course. If you start crying while you’re ordering a coffee, just go with it. Who knows, maybe the barista will take pity on you and offer it on the house. Suppressing or delaying the process will only make things worse in the long run.
  • I think God brings the right people into your life at the right time to walk you through stages  of grief. Lean on them. Let them listen 5, 10, 1,000 times. It’s okay to admit that you need to just be taken care of for a little bit.
  • Grief brings out the best in people; you’ll find out who your real supporters are. Grief also brings out the worst in people; be prepared and don’t take anything too personally. Everyone is going through their own shit.
  • Be kind to yourself. Sometimes you will need to play the victim card. Eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while you watch Netflix all day alone in your bed. That’s okay as long as you don’t stay the wallowing victim forever. Being kind to yourself also means making the choice to do something beneficial for your health. Get up, get out, and do something even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Say it. Say everything. Just get it out. Word vomit. Don’t bother filtering. Grief can make you say some insanely stupid things, but that’s what you may need at the time. If you regret it later, just cut yourself some slack.
  • You will never get your old self or your old life back. Rather than focusing on what you could have said or done differently, turn your attention towards building the new and accept that you did the best you could with the time you had.
  • While it’s not a good idea to rush the grieving process, don’t procrastinate it either. Numbing any pain or attempting to avoid it by using other people’s bodies or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings…that is a dangerous game, my friend.
  • Learning to be lonely, to get comfortable with that feeling, and to eventually work out that you actually aren’t ever alone is one of the most valuable journeys grief brings you through. Don’t miss out on it. You will be a better person because of it.
  • What you allow is what will continue.
  • Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.
  • It’s all messy. So messy. There are no right answers. There is no one-size-fits-all model for what it should look like. Don’t judge or compare yourself to how other people appear to be doing.
  • One of the hardest things to believe is that it will get better. Find people who have been through a similar loss. They will be able to tell you that it does and sometimes this can bring a glimmer of hope to cling to.

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If you’re grieving in a big or little way, whether its been a week or five years, my heart goes out to you and I am here for you if you need it. It gets better. Lets get better.

Love,

Taylor

7 Things Sunday

7 things I’m trying to do:

One. Save $$$ for graduate school. If all goes as planned (which almost never happens in my life…so, we’ll see) I’ll be starting a MA in Arts, Festival, and Cultural Management in Scotland THIS September. I’m enrolled, I’ve applied for scholarships, I was accepted for student housing…now I just need to apply for a visa in June and hope they’ll take me. But there are all kinds of deposits involved and a lot to pay for in general. Plus, it would be nice to travel elsewhere if I have the time or resources. Wish me luck as I depart on a summer of bare necessities. Don’t ask me to eat out, plan a vacation or go shopping, people. If you have any personal tips or tricks on living the frugal life, please do share!

Two. Read more. I’m a go, go, go person. I like to pack my schedule with people to see and things to do. But lately I’ve been a book fiend. I couldn’t put down ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggers, which is a thrilling/disturbing novel about a woman who works for the biggest, most influential internet company in the world. As her role there becomes more public and the company grows and implements new ideas, it raises big questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge. I also recently read two books by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, which is a collection of short stories that explores the “ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States”. And ‘Americanah’ which is a novel about a Nigerian couple who leave each other and their country to live separate lives in the West, but then they return to a very different Nigeria 15 years later and rediscover their homeland and each other. I loved and would highly recommend all of them. 

Three. Laugh every day. What is the most hilarious thing you’ve read, heard, or watched lately? I’d love to know because life is rough right now, friends. I need laughs. They say it’s the best medicine.

Four. Tell myself the truth. I lie to myself a lot. I think things that aren’t true, so then I feel things that aren’t true. And the media lies to us all the time, too. So that doesn’t help. I have found that when I’m on a slippery emotional slope or over analyzing something, I just start repeating truths to myself over and over again. Sometimes in my head, but it’s most helpful to say it out loud when I’m alone. I try to do it before I go to bed, when my mind is most susceptible to tired nonsense and unable to shut off.

Five. Meditate. I don’t know how people do it. I think shutting my mind off is unattainable. But I’ve been meditating on these words a lot:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not foresake them.” Isaiah 42:16

Six. Feel all the feels. Grieving is awkward. No one wants to do it. There’s no time for it. Everything in life is in motion, even if your insides are stuck in quick sand. When someone dies there’s time set aside for closure. There are days off work. Probably not enough, but there’s at least something. People come to you to. They say things like, “Take whatever time you need.” They bring you meals because they know you’ll be too sad to cook or feed yourself. No one says that when your marriage dies, but it’s just as life-altering. I’ve choked back tears in meetings, at the gym, talking with friends, ordering food (the most awkward one), etc. Break-downs are not becoming. No one wants to see that, right? But I’m trying not to suppress the feelings anymore. I’m not going to be embarrassed of them or feel pressured to always keep it together. I know that if I don’t grieve, I won’t be able to let go and if I can’t let go, I won’t experience healing. I’m going to stop telling everyone I’m doing well when I’m really not. I’m free to feel everything in its entirety: the emptiness, the fear, the hurt, because I know that I will survive and that the feelings will eventually pass. I know every day I can turn a little more over to Him. I know healing is a choice and it requires release.

Seven. Set more goals. My job now requires me to sit down with kids and figure out what their goals are and then follow up with them. If I’m going to make other people do it, I should probably do it myself. So, that’s sort of what this list is.