The day after I turned 24, I was big on making To-Do lists. For some reason, I felt like I was being more productive than just sitting around all day, and it focused me. For example, I planned to go to Urban Male Retreat to get my haircut, my face shaved, and my body massaged. I followed through and did everything I set out to do. I’d even made sure I set aside some money to go to The Corinthian later on that evening. Each day after that, I would make a list of things that needed to get done each day and I had a pretty good system going…until school started again. And now, I sit here unfocused, unkempt (still waiting on my loan check so I can pay my rent and get another great haircut at Urban Male Retreat), and unimpressed with myself.
Since school has begun, I find myself doing the one thing that I hate: not following through. With the amount of free time on my hands, and trust me, it’s a LOT of free time lately, I should have been able to produce a couple blogs, learn the 2-3 monologues that I set out to learn, as well as come up with a witty, yet totally Tommy-fied concept for my cabaret which I will be performing next month. Instead, I’ve started things and upon returning to finish them, I realize that I can’t be bothered. Why am I so motivated to be ultimately unproductive?
Life After Death
I think back to the day after I received the news. I woke up and found something black to wear. I figured I would mourn as early as possible, just in case I wasn’t able to return home for the funeral. My heart was heavy and I didn’t feel too hungry. But for someone whose soul felt so utterly aimless, I was on a mission. I needed to inform all of my teachers about what had just occurred. It would seem abrupt, considering I’d been in America two weeks prior to visit my grandmother before she died, but I didn’t care. Life was happening to me and I could only deal with it as best as I knew how: to find a way to get home without drawing too much attention to myself. Yes, for me, my grandmother’s passing was a huge issue, but I didn’t want to inform my classmates who would feel compelled to pummel me with embraces or awkward words of condolences. (I swear if I heard anyone say, “I’m sorry” I would’ve ripped out someone’s voice box. Why be sorry if you didn’t cause the death?)
I sought out the head of the Musical Theatre department and told him what had happened. I also told him not to tell anyone else except those who mattered (other professors). I was also quick to ask how I was to make up for the things I would learn. (For some reason, I had made a terrific to-do list that week. Funny how when bad things occur, the reactionary impulses guide you to be insanely rational…) My mind had never been so clear, and I had never been so adamant about getting through the week without unnecessarily cursing someone out. Thankfully, after inarticulately explaining myself to the head of the department, he seemed to understand where I was coming from.
Next, I needed to call my mother to see if and when I could possible come back to the states. There was no way I was going to miss the funeral!
“I’d kill myself before I’d let that happen,” I said to my mother, matter-of-factly. I wanted to her to know I wasn’t playing games.
“Don’t talk stupidly, Tom!”
“It just wouldn’t make sense to me if I missed her funeral. She is the only other woman besides you who believed in me as much as you!” Tears were coming up and my words were coming out garbled.
“Tom, it’s okay. Let it out.” I hated when she got all Oprah on me. But I couldn’t make a coherent sentence at the time without gasping in between sobs.
“I’m not sad-gasp-I’m just-gasp-so mad that she died-gasp-on the floor-gasp-alone” My hands were like windshield wipers. Suddenly a rush of anger swept over me as I realized the injustice. It’s just so messed up. She didn’t deserve to go out like that!” (I was unexpectedly articulate).
“Well…no…Tom. She’s at peace now. You should’ve seen her face. She was fine. She knew she was leaving and she made peace with God and said, ‘Alright y’all. I’m outta here. I just wish she would’ve told me she was leaving. She caught me off guard too, Tom.”
Off guard. That’s how life catches us the most. Yes, it makes for some very interesting moments to deal with, but sometime, I swear God is just trying to test and see how much grace one can muster up during the tough times. I cloaked myself with grace, when I really wanted to say a big huge “FUCK YOU” to the world. Here I am in Scotland, I thought, with no one to talk to except my roommate, and no family. (That’s what I get for not being the most open person sociably in my class) But my mask of grace would pay off and eventually become my face, if I wore it long enough. But there were still things to do before the week ended…like book a flight home.
Luckily, my mom was able to book a flight for me to come home on Friday. It would feel like a year getting from Tuesday to Friday, but I could do it (might have been easier if I had the assistance of a mind-altering substance or two). So I smiled through the pain, danced what I could, learned what I could, sang a very depressing song for my singing teacher (who also understood my low-key mourning) and prayed each night that I could just make it to Friday. I also prayed for protection. Not for me, but for others, because at this point, I would not tolerate inconsiderate babblings. (P.S. when someone really important to you dies, you suddenly realize that complaining about every little thing makes one seem very unappreciative of the life he/she already has)
I spent the next couple days listening to people spew aimless talk about how badly their bodies were hurting from dancing (puh-leeze, try living with less limbs that you’re supposed to, or having cancer or something legitimate. When you dance, you fucking hurt!), or not getting sufficient rest the night before among other irrelevant items. I now think about the things I have control over and the things I don’t. A deteriorating body, I can’t fix. A good night’s sleep? I’ll use Nyquil or Tylenol PM.
But that week, I used the salt of my tears to get me to sleep. The more I wept, the more exhausted I was. Eventually, a couple friends noticed the change and I had to tell them what happened. I had to tell my scene partner I would be gone for a week. I had to tell my classmate and new good friend that I would be leaving soon, but “thanks for not being overly dramatic” (He’d noticed a facebook status of mine). Lastly, I told my friend, the beautiful pianist, that I was leaving and she generously helped me prepare the song that I would eventually sing at my grandmother’s funeral that coming Saturday.
I’d done everything I’d set out to do that week, talked to the appropriate people, avoided the ones who didn’t matter, cried and questioned God (the thing you’re not supposed to do). Yes, I’d done everything except go home. Then Friday came….