October marks the one year anniversary of Bertha’s List.
What started out as a simple bullet-point rundown meant to keep my loved ones in the loop about my life in New York eventually became an inner contemplation on what I'd lost, gained, and learned at the end of each month. Somewhere along the way the format shifted into a lyrical narrative in which even the most mundane of tasks, like a subway commute, was sentimentalized. It all felt too Chicken Soup for the Soul. But suddenly the readers were responding and the email replies poured in. Although they were all worded differently the gist was the same: how much they enjoyed reading these monthly newsletters, how inspiring they were. They related to the heartbreaks just as much as victories. That’s when I realized that the true purpose of the List wasn’t about networking or the “business of acting” or gloating about every professional success. What people were really interested in was the human experience. My human experience. And all the nuances and insecurities that go along with it. The willingness to emotionally undress myself was, of course, primarily egotistical but all exhibitionist tendencies aside, I think people were fascinated because they saw themselves in the stories. One person’s journey is everybody’s journey. So in a way I spoke of a universal truth, of their human experience.
The admiration, however, for both the stories and the writing, felt undeserving. While it was immensely flattering being compared to some of my favorite authors I couldn’t delude myself. I was an actress, not a writer. Or was I? Only after four whole years of a University acting career did I think of myself as an actress and not until the very last production did I assert myself as one. Could writing be the same? Was it something that I could try on for size? Kind of like trying on a pixie haircut before gaining that assumed confidence only a girl who has rocked it all her life has? Or maybe writing, however artless or rudimentary, is only good if it’s honest; even if it’s bad. Spurred on by my friends I’m now considering submitting my stuff to a newspaper. Who knows, I might even get a column à la Carrie Bradshaw. After all, if an actor is one who acts what is a writer but one who writes? The idea is as thrilling as it is terrifying. Hmm, I think I’ll give it 3 more years.
October also marked a less anticipated anniversary: my 27th birthday. As one who has always made way too big a deal about them I was surprised to find that this year not only was I not awaiting it, I had altogether forgotten it. I hated to admit, even to myself, that the idea of spending it alone, with no special guy to surprise me with dinner for 100 of my closest friends, made it feel less like a birthday and more like another year passing by. Making a fuss over birthdays is cute when you’re 7 years old but at 27 you’re more than OK with chugging your complimentary drink and considering the whole thing over with. It wasn’t the getting older part that had me bummed (I have a feeling my 30’s are the best yet to come!) but I think it came down to the idea that for 26 years my Mom had been the one to make birthdays special. For over two decades she never failed to celebrate a single one. And now I had to make my own plans without a single clue as to what I wanted to do. Single, being the operative word. It was so anticlimactic.
As the day rolled around, I decided I’d be much happier on my couch with a chick flick and a pint of my two boyfriends, Ben and Jerry. But lucky for me I have friends that refuse to let me be a sad cliché so a couple of Molly’s Cupcakes and a scary midnight movie later I moved past my quarter-ish life crisis and did what any single, fabulous girl does on her special day, I made my own damn special plans. I Yelped a delicious Cuban restaurant where the waiters made way around an impromptu dance floor for our salsa-dancing crew, and the rest of the patrons who followed our example. I sweated enough azúcar to make Celia proud. After I had my squeal-in-delight-fireworks cake and ate it too, we sashayed downtown to Beauty Bar. A place where the music was retro and the boys were avant-garde. On our way there we stopped at a palm reader’s shop just for fun and after hackling down the price the psychic began the reading. After the usual “You have a long life” and “you’ve been hurt in your past relationship” jargon I was ready to write her off as another fluke. Seriously, that’s what you got? Hurt in my past relationship? Who hasn’t? I was ready to ask for my palm back when she said I was a very spiritual person (OK, she really had me pegged wrong) but then she said - “You’re looking for your soul mate and though you haven’t found him yet, you will. Give it time. You heal slowly.” And I’m thinking well of course she has to tell you he’s out there, she’s a "psychic" what is she going to say: You’ll never find him, game over? But even if I could dismiss all the silly soul mate talk I couldn’t pretend her words didn’t ring true. We finally walked to Beauty Bar and I danced with a random stranger whom, out of spite, I was ready to kiss into a one-night stand. But I couldn’t do it. Or rather I wouldn’t do it. Those stupid $30 bucks were right- I do heal slowly.
So with no prospect soul mate in sight I took my other better halves to the next best thing- Artichoke Pizza. A place where the pizza was greasy and the boys were gay. Was tonight a mockery of my non-existent dating life? I don’t think anyone has ever laughed harder than we did standing under a traffic light. Earlier that week I’d received an email denying my acceptance to the Actor’s Studio and although it was something I’d been wanting for months I still couldn’t have wished for a better birthday. I had other wonderful things to celebrate that night, like a friend’s new apartment or another's recent job promotion. I realized how much of my personal happiness largely depends on the happiness of those I love. My happiness is not always mine own.
The following week I bought myself a birthday present, a beautiful set of prayer beads for my Buddhist practice. Spiritual much? $30 more bucks say the first $30 were once again right on the money. Later I got to thinking that if indeed the psychic was right and I was still healing then there’s no better medicine than a Friday night at the ballet, Saturday afternoons at the library, and a Sunday hurricane party/sleepover spent painting every crevice of a new apartment, making dinner, making plans, running in the rain for free mimosas, carving jack o’ lanterns, arguing, making up, sharing blankets and hot cocoa and laughing till your sides hurt. Time may heal everything but good friends are the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. And for the “slow healers” and dreamers alike, thank you for inspiring me and allowing me to do the same for you.