My Latest TED Talk Could, (But Won’t) Teach Trump a Thing or Two

Well, it’s only taken me about two months to post my new(ish) TED talk. I gave it last spring but it was re-edited and re-introduced this fall. It’s called The Road to Empathy and it addresses ableism and racism through mini-scenes performed by four actors, (including myself). It’s a mash-up of my play My Son, and Driving Miss Daisy. I used excerpts from the latter with Alfred Uhry’s permission.

I’d been too distracted by the upcoming mid-terms to post, but now I’m motivated considering the latest xenophobic, racist rants from our distinguished Commander in Chief. He could take a lesson from the talk, but as we all know empathy and compassion aren’t his strong suits. Thank you for watching, and please don’t forget to vote.

 

Being Meghan Markle

Sometimes when my son has a seizure-related accident or when I’m extraordinarily worried about another person, place, or thing I have to “take to the bed.” It doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is. After an unfortunate event my ears start ringing and I suddenly feel exhausted or nauseated from anxiety.

Lately, I’ve been playing a trick on myself when attempting sleep. I will literally put myself in someone else’s shoes. No, not like an empath, but more like a person practicing an imagination game. Occasionally, I’ll even embody my high school self and roam the halls at school. I morph into a silly girl who hasn’t yet experienced the varied menu life offers unsuspecting adults.

The other night after my son suffered a face plant from a swinging incident at the park, I couldn’t function. I was so stressed about how he might wake up in the morning, (agitated, concussive, etc.) that I was a hyperactive, hand-wringing mess one minute, and then a defeated, absent-minded monad the next.

It would be easier if my son could talk and tell us how he was feeling, but he can’t. And when my husband came home later that evening and continued the same neurological checks on him that I’d performed, I pretended he would be okay. He was unwilling or unable to move from the couch in his therapy room, but he correctly identified how many fingers we held up to his face. He was groggy, but intact.

At an unspeakably early 9:00 pm I had to crawl in bed and try to control all the ringing and wringing. My mind was “squirming like a toad,” (The Doors) but it finally settled on someone. Meghan Markle, who had just gotten married.

It must’ve been around 2:30 am her time. She’s sleeping now, I thought–or trying to sleep, cuddled next to her new spouse. And eventually, magically, I became Princess Meghan, or Duchess Markle, or whatever. I awaken from my slumber to the faint smell of lavender, disoriented and confused. Who am I? Where am I? Look at all these fluffy pillows, and fluffy bedspreads, and fluffy everything. Oh my God—gasp–I’m a royal. What have I done? What have I sacrificed to marry this prince of a man next to me? I know I’ve already sacrificed my taste, opting for a designer wedding outfit that made me look like a cross between Queen Victoria and Mother Teresa, but what else have I sacrificed?

“I can’t write my lifestyle blog anymore! And, and I have to give up acting!” I actually laugh at that, at her– I mean, me. Girl, you’re thirty six, your acting days are numbered anyway. And besides, an actor never gives up acting. You’ll be using it now more than ever, trust me. (As a former thespian I know this.) Hmmm, what else have I cut out of my life?  At this point Harry awakens and senses my discomfort and benign thrashing. He throws a big freckled arm over me and I cling to it for reassurance.

In the lavender-scented darkness I almost feel sorry for me. I mean, the Duchess. She’s embarking on an adventure that is foreign and bizarre. Intimidating and scary. Unexpected. I feel badly that she might have to give up her privacy, her individualism. Nah, she’s a princess. I finally roll over and fall asleep.

 

 

The South Pole, Does She or Doesn’t She?

My husband wants to go to the South Pole. With me. And no, not just because Anthony Bourdain went there and ate God knows what. He’s been bugging me about a trip like this for years. The first thing I thought of when he mentioned it to me was Love and Death, one of DH Lawrence’s principal themes in Women in Love. The snow was “deathlike” and it represented mortality. I must say the image of numbing white expanse spooks me. Funny, because I have no reservations, (literally or otherwise) about making a trip to the deepest nether regions of the ocean to experience the Titanic. What a bittersweet wonder. In fact, the mere thought of bobbing around the rusticles in an aquatic ladybug gives me the good kind of shivers. Not the kind you get by panting through primordial slush.
That kind kept me off of Mount Kilimanjaro two years ago when I had the opportunity to take another Trip of a Lifetime with my husband and daughter. Yes, I turned it down. Not that either of them thought I was up to it, so to speak. The anxiety I felt over the number of shots I would need to get before the trip, the number of hours I would spend in the air, and the eternity it would take me to train for it, was overwhelming. But what unsealed the deal for me was leaving my special needs son behind. The adventure seemed risky and rather self-indulgent to me at the time. At the time.
I’ve been thinking about the number of years I have left on the earth, though. Experiences. When you get older it’s natural for your values to change. Love for family remains steadfast, but accumulation loses its glow. The desire to “buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like” wanes, if it existed at all. I have a museum-quality collection of artifacts, oddities, and antique toys, etc., that I’ve been amassing since I was twelve. I’m done now. No need for anything else. No, really. I mean, what with am I supposed to do with my 18th century enema pump and my Victorian shock boxes at this point except dust them? I just want to share my collectibles with others. And one day, if anyone has the patience to show me how to post photos, (yes, I’m ashamed of myself) I will post them on this blog, and create a virtual museum, and hopefully stimulate conversation with like-minded people. But for now, at my age, it’s time to obsess over my thriving bucket list. Experiences over stuff.
Yet, I didn’t go to Africa, and I’m about to not go to the South Pole. I have below zero interest in that frigid, God-forsaken place. It never has and never will earn a spot on my bucket list. But is it right to dismiss another Trip of a Lifetime simply because it’s not a “Hell Yeah?” One tiny part of me would like to know why the people who research there find it irresistible. (Okay, I guess that counts as above zero interest.) I’m just a little curious about why scientists, nerds, adventurers, and other audacious individuals choose that lifestyle. Why do they prefer to expend their time and intellect inside of a titanic igloo? The whole thing reminds me of TED on ice.
I’ll always regret that I never made it to Egypt to explore the pyramids. But I’m grateful I got to explore a few tunnels in Jerusalem and some Roman/Greco playgrounds. I might not make it to the South Pole but I did live in Terre Haute, IN for six years. I did get to experience bitter cold in spectacular Midwestern fashion. There’s some equivalency, you know. Terre Haute. The South Pole. Both are at the ends of the earth.
I just need to overcome that gnawing anxiety about leaving my son. Maybe I could bring him along. And his dog. Why blow another opportunity? Why miss another Trip of a Lifetime? If I could score a swing for my child all would be well. Does she, or doesn’t she? I don’t know. I’m not getting any younger though, that’s for damn sure. Sometimes I just wish my husband’s big ideas could be less taxing and more relaxing. This one gives me goosebumps.

Where Have All the Yard Signs Gone?

Battle lines were drawn immediately in my suburban neighborhood during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. My neighbors proudly displayed their political yard signs and defied anyone to disagree with their alliances. Truly annoying people added cheap cardboard rants to inform and bully non-believers into drinking their Kool-Aid.

You knew who your enemies were, (for at least six months, anyway) and you appreciated your allies as you zig-zagged down the street making loyalty checks and sizing up the state of the campaign.

When my young daughter expressed interest in damaging, capturing, or knocking down one of my neighbor’s signs I turned a blind eye. (Bad Mommy. And no, she didn’t vandalize.) My daughter’s in college now and Berned out of the election. Her candidate didn’t make it into the general. He was robbed, so she’s done.

Today you don’t see any signs in my sub-division. Not one. I’m sure this will change as we slide into the final stretch of this tedious but enthralling train wreck. It’s a shame, (shame being the operative word) that my neighbors, and the electorate in general, aren’t proud enough to display their allegiances. The ones who do are either judged and juried immediately, or forced to run and take cover in their homes after making a trip to the grocery store.

I wonder if my neighborly situation will improve in the next few weeks and the American spirit will prevail. I wonder if my neighbors will proudly plant their yard signs based on conviction and faith in their candidate—not just on mutual hatred for the other one. I haven’t put my sign out yet. And that’s not a good sign.