On Death, Alcestis, and Hiatuses

Hey Nerds! Very long time, no see. Some of the delays have been the good kind: opening Alcestis, workshopping my dear friend Olivia’s new play Those Whom the Gods Love, and enjoying my last few days in New York. Some of the delays were bad: preparing to leave the city and dealing with a family member’s health crisis, as well as some tragedies in my own friends’ lives.

Ideally I wanted this post to be an Alcestis post-mortem, but I think I’m going to wait for our pictures to come through and for a time when I don’t feel like I’m living in the play. (And Death is not nearly as kind and funny as our wonderful Holly Kay Roberts. Or as anthropomorphized.)

Holly is more awesome than this. Really.

So I thought I’d give you a brief glimpse into some things I’ve realized as a result of working on this play while confronting Death in my family and friends’ lives. So this is a change of pace from my usual pop culture reference, feminist-y self. Apologies.

The first and most obvious thing I’ve begun to accept is that we do stupid things when people die, or are dying. We lose control. We rage. We freeze. We feel nothing. This is not because the deceased was nothing to us, but because it hurts too much to feel. Or maybe, we really do feel nothing for them. What is worse?

It has all happened before. There is nothing new in this. But that fact doesn’t help the pain. In fact, it makes it worse because we begin to beat ourselves up for thinking we were special. That we’d escape or that our suffering is somehow profound or meaningful. And yet it is meaningful because it is universal. Because we are joined in our ignorance, our failure to deal with mortality in some hypothetical, unattainable “healthy” way.

No one knows what to say, how to act. “My condolences.” “When I lost my…” The words begin to bleed together into a big sad late Monet painting, all reds and greens, the subject indiscernible until the words, the hugs, the cards mean nothing.

This was a footbridge once…

That doesn’t mean that we should stop giving them. But once you’ve lost someone, you know that those gestures are Spongebob band-aids at the doctor’s. It’s kind of you to give them out but it doesn’t make the shot hurt less. It’s being there that matters, if at all.  Continue reading