It’s the first week of the new structure and I’m already breaking my own rules. Instead of a short fictional story, I want to tell you a short true story.
This time of year is always weird for me. The last two weeks of March are birthday-palozza, with my dad’s, my mom’s, my daughter’s, and my own falling within eight days of each other. I try to ignore my birthday and focus on my daughter’s, but I always end up feeling guilty and/or alone. I guess as much as I try to ignore it, I still want someone to pay attention to it, and me, which only makes me feel guilty. In four years I haven’t found the right balance. I hope I can find it soon.
Wednesday would have been Heath Ledger’s 33rd birthday. I know this will reveal more about me than I probably should, but… I still mourn him. I spent most of the day crying – first because of him, then because everything was so damn sad. I know it’s silly to miss a man I never met, but I do.
To me, Heath was a rarity among actors: he was someone I loved to watch act. I know, I know the worst thing you can do to an actor is catch them acting, but there was something about his performance, his style, that I could watch for hours. I loved seeing how he could turn a phrase, change the meaning of a line with his eyes, or pour emotion on a scene without saying a word.
There aren’t too many actors I “study” like this. He was the first I remember watching, getting lost in his performance more than the story. I don’t know if actors would take that as a compliment, but that’s how I mean it. It’s watching for what he does with a character. It’s knowing that other actors could play the part, but only he can make it great. I feel the same way about Patrick Stewart. All those terrible storylines, all the terrible dialogue, yet he made ST:TNG one of the best shows on television. It wasn’t the part; it was what he did with it.
I suppose I developed this one-sided emotional connection with Ledger because of the emotion he put into his performance, the raw honesty he put on the screen. I don’t care if it’s silly or stupid; I miss him every day, and I didn’t even know him.
Eighteen years ago Thursday, Kurt Cobain died. I admit, when he died I was only vaguely aware of who he was, who Nirvana was. I couldn’t have listened to a song and told you it was his. I didn’t “discover” Nirvana until about a year later. High school was hell for me, and the only way I coped was knowing that somewhere, someone had felt the pain I felt, that in some very weird way I wasn’t alone. The album Nevermind became my soundtrack. It was the only way I got through my day, wrapping myself in an over-sized flannel shirt and blasting “In Bloom” and “Come as You Are” through my headphones. I’m not sure how, but somehow I survived. I’m grateful for that time, though, and the special place Cobain and Nirvana still hold in my heart. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
You can’t know, when you’re eighteen and hormonal and emotionally f&^#ed, what will have a lasting impact on your life. I couldn’t have known that Ledger and Cobain would share a place in the same emotional space as The Crow and Star Wars. I honestly don’t know if I’m sad because I mourn these men, or if I mourn that damaged kid I used to be.
In the midst of this, a Twitter friend randomly posted a link to an article titled “13 Simple Steps To Get You Through A Rough Day” and I immediately clicked over. I wasn’t having a rough day; I was having a rough several weeks. Of course, the article made me cry. It made me laugh, too, but it was the final straw that broke me. I let the tears flow for a few minutes, sent a tweet saying something to the effect of ‘You know you’re having a really tough day with that article makes you cry.” And then something wonderful happened.
Another Twitter friend, a woman I’ve talked to only handful of times, sent me kind thoughts and words of encouragement. We talked (over Twitter, no less) for maybe five minutes, but I felt better. She took time out of her day to help me feel better. I will never forget her kindness and will never be able to thank her enough without sounding super creepy.
It amazes me how people we don’t know, will never see face to face, can have such an impact on our lives. Not just celebrities, but people we make tenuous online connections with can be as close to us as our face to face friends and family. There’s a broader theme of global communications and new technology, but I’d rather focus on the ability of strangers to reach out and care for one another. I will probably never meet this woman, but if I ever get the chance she’s getting the biggest bear-hug, right after I buy her a beer.