Scar Tissue

Sometimes loss seems to seep it’s way into our lives more heavily than others. The reaper is always there, of course, his shadowy figure looming on the fringe of our awareness, but occasionally his presence becomes palpable.

When I started this post Sunday night, reports were just coming out of Paris about yet another series of gun and bomb attacks, and as I finished it the next morning we knew 136 people lost their lives to senseless violence, including the 8 attackers.

We are actors. I think it’s safe to say we possess a strong understanding of a wide spectrum of emotions as they relate to our own human experience, including frustration, anger, even hatred.

I don’t understand the mindset of someone who takes a human life. That goes doubly so for someone who does so in the name of “religion”.

On the macrocosmic level, around the world today people are asking the question “What about Beirut? What about Palestine? What about the displaced victims of the Syrian revolution, or the one million people who have lost their lives since the start of the U.S. occupation in Iraq?

On the microcosmic level, I have a dear friend whose mother is dealing with the final phases of terminal cancer. A director I worked with over the summer lost her father last week. My own family is processing the upcoming second anniversary of my Aunt’s suicide. And most recently Fred, Cay’s loyal companion, our long time unofficial studio mascot, the undisputed King of the Upper West Side, finally left us earlier this week.

How do we survive an injury? How do we ensure we heal stronger than before? If there is a definite answer to that question, I don’t know it. Part of the recipe seems to be time. Part seems to be determination to overcome that injury. Part seems to be surrounding ourselves by the people who love us, the passions that fuel us. Art seems to play a part, as is eluded to in Cay’s own blog. And part seems to just be a function of nature’s own healing process, the processes that knit skin back to skin, bone to bone.

In one of the many New York Times’ articles about the bombing, a young French man told the story of how he, along with a group of his friends, has committed himself to meeting once a week for a beer at the café across the street from where one of the attacks took place. It was reminiscent for me of another Time’s piece, this one about a day in the life of Tim Gunn, who after the September 11th attacks began drinking Manhattan cocktails in the Twin Towers’ memory, a tradition that he keeps to this day.

My personal vow in the wake of my aunt’s death was to spend the anniversary each year reading through my journals. Last year, on that day, I woke up early and hauled my moleskins to my neighborhood coffee shop. What I found in their pages was evidence that, given enough time, healing does happen. My entries in the months after were almost exclusively about her. I watched as the Tim of the year before first struggled with sadness, and then terrible anger, and then more sadness, and so on and so forth, until eventually the entries about Margo began to get fewer and further between…until they diminished to almost nothing. Many times in those pages I had written that I had found peace, only to turn around the next day and rail at the unfairness of such a senseless death. The reality was the peace came after I stopped writing about it.

This is what Cay said last week after Sean and Migina’s second read through of their new scene from “Gruesome Playground Injuries”.

“Scar tissue is the strongest tissue the body can make – if you survive the injury then the scar left behind is much more resilient than the tissue which it replaces.”

I don’t know why the lessons from class sometimes seem to mirror the happenings of the world outside our little studio door. Perhaps it is an example of our human tendency to apply narrative to our own circumstances in order to understand them better, or maybe it’s something greater than that…and maybe it’s not terribly important to know either way. Maybe it’s enough that it exists.

These are the things that I do know: The gaping hole at Ground Zero that I first saw through the eyes of a visiting fourteen-year-old once contained only earth movers and rubble, and now at twenty-seven, less than five miles from where I write this, it is the site of a memorial that receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. I know that during the two years I lived in Japan, my favorite spot to sit and write was on the steps of a river bank in Peace Park, a stones throw away from the gutted Atomic Bomb dome that stands as a memorial to the destruction reaped on Hiroshima in August of 1945. How unlikely it would have seemed then that two generations later I would be put in charge of a class of kindergartners in a country that my grandfather went to war with. I know that, sometime this week, a group of friends will meet in a café in Paris and clink glasses in homage to living a life without fear. Being human, I’m sure some of them will be afraid, but I know they will do it anyway. I know that tonight, somewhere on the Upper West Side, Tim Gunn changed into a monogrammed bathrobe and mixed two ounces of whisky, a half ounce of sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of bitters into a cocktail that is as much of an acquired taste as its city namesake. I know that in a few short weeks I will be setting an early alarm and hauling my load of moleskins to the coffee shop. I know that I will find more evidence of my own healing in those pages.

Finally, I know that I will miss Fred’s presence in class and our snow day walks together. We often joked that Fred’s suffering was great. What an awful life for a dog, to be lovingly doted on by class after class of gushing, over emotional actors week after week? How did he survive the abuse? The reality is Fred was suffering by the illness that racked his body, yet when Cay would ask “do you want to go see your friends?” the mighty King would still manage to make his way to the studio. He would still lie silently at our feet during each scene, the most attentive audience anyone could ever ask for. This post is for you, big guy. Thank you for your presence; you brought us so much joy and light. You will be missed.

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