To See and be Seen
Remember that show The Americans?
It was so good. Keri Russell was smoking hot, and emotionally distant and just heartbreaking in her dedication to the cause in spite of the life she created. The male lead, Matthew Rhys, brilliant. The sacrifices he made out of love for this emotionally distant woman he had spent his life building.
It was 2018 when I became obsessed with it. I was doing Every Brilliant Thing down at ASF. I was just starting out being a vegan. I was running five miles a day. I would run, rehearse, perform, eat amazing vegan food, and then slip off into this seedy underworld of the 1980s. I rooted against the CIA, our own law enforcement agencies. It felt very apropos at the time.
After about a month I became slightly obsessed. But the final season felt like it petered out to me. The daughter was going to become a Russian asset as well and that to me felt weird. The husband became more of a Travel Agent than a spy. But it was a month of incredibly deep and thoughtful entertainment that I was highly thankful for.
There was on arc of the show that especially got to me. It was a Russian woman in the office they were suspicious of. With good cause, she was having an affair with Michael Rhys and he was trying to get information. She had flipped to the American side and he was trying to do the highly difficult maneuver of getting her to flip back. Yeah—you read that right. What the hell is happening??
The problem was that she had apparently messed up some paperwork, and this brand of bureaucratically obsessed Russians were not going to let her off the hook for something as damaging as that.
“If you’re sloppy with the paperwork,” said the head KGB-Bitch-in Charge, “what else are you sloppy with?”
I think about what he said all the time now. Not because I’m some Russian party member from the 1980s. Holy man, how scared and useless would I be?? Just me as a pencil pusher. I would suck so bad at it because I’m such a day dreamer. As the paper work came in, my brain would go further out. It happens to me now! With every new crop of medical bills I just sit at my computer, pretending that I’m listening to the tide. In they come, out they go. But the thing is, the KGB dude was right. If you want to anything in this world, or at least if you want to own something in this world, whatever that might mean, if you want it to be an option, you’ve got to be careful with the paperwork. Especially as I get closer to becoming a full time professional freelance artist. “If you’re sloppy with the paperwork, what else are you sloppy with?”
The thing is, I’m pretty good at paper work. My credit score is great, and I’ve managed to pay off and keep straight countless medical accounts. Because your credit score is so fragile. You can spend so much time building it up and one divorce or one shitty summer of drinking too much which we all do, and this thing breaks. This thing that none of us really understands, this thing that helps us get forward in life, or at least get things we need and want in life, it shatters before we ever got a chance to use it.
There is one other challenging thing about buying this house. Almost every single person on the team went to my high school. From the real estate agent to the real estate attorney to even the person I think I’m buying to house from. They all went to Wade Hampton. Which is a thing now that I am back living in the town of my high school.
It’s just making me feel seen. And not just because they’re all up in my financial life, but because of the other thing too,
It’s easy to think I’m writing all these words into a vacuum. That no one is listening. That no one cares or knows that I have cancer. Or what is really going on. This is not the case at all. My dad was hitting golf balls the other day and a friend of mine from high school drove by and yelled “Fore” on my dad’s back swing. After seeing who it was, they laughed and talked and caught up for about half an hour. I have never once told this guy what I have. We lost touch years ago, yet there he was, letting my dad know that they’ve been praying for me every day get better.
The thing about these blogs is that they create a version of myself that is acceptable for others. That version, however, is crushed quickly by the harsh light of day. Like Sunday when I having breakfast with my dear friend Amy. Who—side bar—is about to come out with an incredible project. She’s selling a ton of her previous work, with some of the proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and some of the proceeds going to yours truly. To help with this bills that I keep staying in front of. Seriously, it’s going to be an exciting event the second half of this year. So keep your eyes and ears open for more information.
But still! This dear friend of mine, who I dated in high school, who I know, who I care about, she had to see me walk up the Coffee Underground stairs and pick a bench not where we we wanted because I couldn’t make it there. And the thing is, it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t care, but I do. I guess that’s that thing. I have to let go of caring. Because the second I decided to live life in the open, people were going to know. And that carries a price. The price of reducing my pride and my ego. Because when I see people worry about me, I worry about them. About how I make them feel.
It’s ok though. An abnormal response is normal in an abnormal situation. I’m 42. I should be able to walk to where we wanted to go without having to stop half way through. That’s not normal, and it’s ok if we don’t act normally to it.
The truth is, I have no other choice but to live this life out in the open. This thing happens to too many people to pretend like we’re all in this alone.
And the rewards are plentiful. For example, late last week I got to connect with another Wade Hamptoner- a girl a couple of years younger than me who knew my sister.
It was weird how I got to her, so let me explain. Jaimie dropped her phone down a sewer grate. Like we can still see it, sixty feet down the drain, taunting us. I don’t believe in guns but if ever a thing needed a bullet, it was this phone looking back at us.
We had to go get a phone. We went to the Sprint Now T Mobile Store near my parent’s house in Cherrydale. The store was literally empty.
Ok. Store number 2, Haywood Road, did not have what we needed in stock.
One did, off of Woodruff Road.
Everyone in Greenville knows about Woodruff Road. It sucks. It’s scary. Everything about it is horrible, except for the PF Changs. And it’s all because of the traffic. The builders of the city decided to put every single thing you want on one five mile street. The Wild Wing. The Movie Theatre. Did I mention the PF Changs and The Trader Joes. The Fucking Whole Foods. It’s all on Woodruff Road, ergo, I make it a place I try to avoid.
“Can I go tomorrow,” I asked the sales rep.
“Go now,” he said.
And for some reason, I listened to him. Not sure why. Who the hell is he to tell me where to go and what to do. Asshole. I’ll go next Thursday. Try and stop me.
But I went, and was met at the door by the person who he called to help me.
We chatted for a while and she asked me where I was from and where I went to high school. Fucking high school. I told her, and she said she thought she knew my sister. Which she did. Anneclaire, who has an amazing life, traveling and personal training. She asked about some pictures she had seen with her and Jennifer Lopez and I told her that for a while she had been a part of J-Lo’s Vegas Team. I was so proud of Anneclaire for what she had accomplished, and enjoyed watching this women be impressed by my sister’s giant life as well.
That’s when this woman started to open up to me. She started asking me what I did. I told her I was a performer and a writer and I just wrote a book. It’s can be a weird thing telling people I don't know what Hope in the Time of Chemo is about, but again, I wrote it. I’m out with it. It’s my responsibility to take it all the way.
This woman stared at me. She said as soon as she saw my name she knew she needed to talk to me. She had just started seeing this woman, and after about a month into they new relationship, her girlfriend was diagnosed with Stage Four Colon Cancer.
What? Are you kidding?
I got to to look her in the eyes and tell her that’s exactly what I have. The look on her face was amazing. I can’t tell what it was. Relief, maybe? Helpfulness. The brief realization that she wasn’t alone. That here I was, still living live. Still buying a phone. In that moment she was seen by me, because I allowed myself to be seen by here. She needed it, and I needed it too.
The thing is, what I have is scary, and life doesn’t stop when things get scary. At least this is what I think I’m learning. What things are rough, that’s the time to take the bigger bite. To take the bigger leap. And this isn’t me being an asshole pollyanna, I swear. It’s not be pretending that fear doesn’t exist because it does. I have tons of fear on a daily basis. But I can’t, I won’t, I will not let it stop me from living my life, from following my dreams, from buying a house. If people see me, the only thing they ought to see is a ballsy son of a bitch who didn’t give up when things got hard. Who instead stood up and refused to take what I have lying down.
So wish me luck these next few weeks, as I become immersed in paperwork. Because I truly believe a new and exciting phase of my life is just on the other side of these dotted i’s and crossed t’s. I believe that healing is in that home. I feel it. I believe it.
Hope you all join me and see what I find.