Robbing Peter To Pay Paul

Energy is a very funny thing. I'm not necessarily talking physical energy, like how much one could walk or bike or weight-lift, but more about emotional energy-how much of one's emotional psychic self one can give without there being a total rebound effect.

This post will meander.

My particular kind of extroversion/introversion combo means I can gain energy from being with people, from being in groups and getting in that feedback loop of sucking up the roar of the crowd and funneling it into myself and back out, is that sometimes that goes too far in the wrong direction and I wind up feeling sucked dry the next day.

I've only recently realized that this happens, which seems foolish given my age, but I think that as I've grown older and had more demands on my time in general (meaning far less time to truly recharge) I've done a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Last night was a good example of that.

I had a show last night, and one that I was looking forward to even though I was doing more producing than performing, and producing is a bit of a stressful thing at times, it makes me feel all serious because I want things to go well, and that energy is hard to merge with hosting "Welcome To Fantasy Island" and the funny girl energy, but it can be done.

And because my life is my life, prior to the show I had to go to my mother's nursing home for their annual Holiday Party and that just sent me into a tailspin of sorts, emotionally speaking.

See. Ok, it's a nursing home. Filled with people who are not going to be leaving alive. Most of the patients have dementia. Are curled up on themselves. The place, as I've noted in past posts, smells like antiseptic and urine and fear. And there is a holiday party and its this weird experience because the dining hall is filled with fake trees and loads of patients and their families and sugar free punch and sugar free cookies and sugar free sundaes, and a man pretending to be Santa, and a patient pretending to be Rudolph (wearing a light up nose and wheels around and we all sing songs I love dearly and deeply), and its just damn weird.

If I were disconnected from family there, if I were a volunteer and there on my own terms I might could enjoy the bedlam of it all, but I'm already triggered a bit by the fact it's my mother who can't speak or walk or think, but who can still touch Evan's face and beam at him, who is wearing diapers and looks blank and bloated and nearly unrecognizable as herself and this is what Christmas has felt like for the last few years. Worry and bedlam and tension.

And then there's me thinking back to these times when Christmas meant something entirely different, meant my father, in a tux or suit or some such conducting some of his work (generally a beautifully arranged piece of holiday music), my mother wearing a red dress and both of us wearing corsages because my father always bought them for us, and listening to Joy To The World and me believing in Jesus and having that pure sweet kind of belief that 8 year olds have and which I wish I still had and I do in this way, this kernel of spiritual belief only its been so spoiled by...well, life and I suppose that's what real spirituality is and then I think I'd prefer the 8 year old kind.

I'll have these feelings and memories of being back in this past that was so different (and of course I wonder what my own children will associate with Christmas) and then I'll look around at the room full of nearly dead people in wheelchairs or bed-chairs and the staff moving around looking underpaid and the families smiling and singing and I just wonder why people aren't screaming and tearing down the matrixish falsity of the feeling (and it just lets you know how many filters are in place cause I"m not screaming, I'm just singing Silent Night) and my heart feels like a little bird thrashing wildly in a bag and I just feel the most fucked up inside and I can't find God.

God is in this room. God is dead. If you see the Santa in the road, kill it. Bourbon.

(Also? Funny, but at one point I was singing loudly along with Rudolph (LIKE A LIGHTBULB!) and I swear to fucking god my mother made a shhh noise at me. She never ever liked how exuberant I was. I looked at her and thought, You can't shush me now. Mean, yes. But true.)

Then I go do a show. And try to shove (at points rather unsuccessfully I'm sure my family would agree) the bad weird terrible daughter feelings down, and pull the charming hostess feelings up with my Mr Roarke smiles, everyone, smiles and getting shit done and improvising and then improvising and trying to work on a number of different levels at once and I do it and I have a good time even, which is weird, but it all works and the energy flows out and the audience is so happy and I just suck up all the smiles and giddy glee I see in the room and the night is a success.

And then I have the most unusual dreams.

1) I'm in my childhood home, worried there is a burgler. This is not unusual but in this version, a new twist! Owen is with me and I'm having him help me look for problems. All of a sudden? My mom is there looking fit and fine and I say, How on earth did you teleport into my dream? She hugs me. Then there are two of her and I'm in between them.

2) I'm running, like in training for a marathon, and it's very hard. I have an assistant somehow and she says, give me your bag. I realize I'm carrying a bag and I give it to her and all of a sudden running is so easy. Wow, I think. It's so much easier without all that weight.


I'm thinky and tired today, but obviously still verbose. Though this post might seem to be kind of Debbie Downer, I'm not in a bad mood at all, and in fact weirdly satisfied with my thinkyness. There is a bit of a droppy feeling after any show, due in part I think, to that energy suck/exchange and I wonder what debt I'll be paying through the day. I'm going to go run, I know that.

I do wish I could wrangle that little bird a bit, calm her down and let her enjoy her mother, the music and even god, but I suppose that's a lot to ask for this Christmas.


  1. A lot of my work in the past (and present) took me to events like this, events with these same bizarre aspects that just conflict with each other like f'ing crazy. God, it's strange. I used to work at a day program for folks with HIV in NYC. Most of the clients there had very interesting histories, and around Christmas, this really odd group of people, cult-like in fact, came dressed up as Santas, brought weird gifts of low quality and high impact, and those of us who worked there all the time, who knew these clients and their lives and problems, just stood aside and watched the bizarreness unfold. I really had a hard time with it.

    This year I attended a very bizarre performance by staff at a facility here, with really low-functioning "consumers," "individuals," "clients," or whatever we want to call them, dancing to Christmas music on stage, being pushed around in their wheelchairs to seasonal music, etc. At times, this is moving, but at other times it makes me want to scream. If these folks -- bless their hearts -- could speak and communicate their wishes, would they really want to be doing this? How much of this is about the residents, and how much of it is about the staff? It all makes me a little crazy.

    I didn't know your mom didn't/doesn't appreciate your exuberance, but it always impressed me back in the day. It's a sign of life!

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for writing it. BTW, despite my moniker, this is Doug K...


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