I can't comfort people.
I just can't. I'd like to, it just doesn't work.
Maybe it's a maternal thing, I'm not motherly so even when I want to help, I'm at a lost.
I think it's 'cause if I'm panicking, someone telling me that it's going to be okay doesn't really do anything. It just is. And I just am. And give me some time, and I'll be fine, but a sweet phrase isn't going to speed things up.
There was an incident a couple of months ago. I was on stage, and I watched as something bad happened to my family in the audience. I didn't know what was happening, or who it was happening to, just that it involved my family and that it was big and bad.
And all I could do was watch.
It was a terrible feeling. Everyone was singing and clapping and swaying along to the very last song that ended the show, all cheerful and joyous. Except me. I was watching this big, bad thing.
After a while--it felt like a long time, but it was probably something like thirty seconds--I realized I'd stopped smiling.
In a panto, on stage, that is the worst thing you can possibly do.
So I grinned. And swayed. And sang.
I could clearly see my brother, standing in the aisle, with his back turned to me. No one in the little area where my family had been sitting was paying any attention to us on stage. People were standing up, they were looking in all directions, and they were my family.
I kept looking up and down the seats trying to find them sitting somewhere else, two rows down maybe, completely oblivious to what was happening just behind them, but they weren't there.
And all I could do was watch.
The song ended and instead of skipping down the aisles into the audience and into the lobby, we were directed by the stage crew to skip off into the wings.
I was pretty much dead at that point. When you're on stage, there's a lot of adrenaline, you're pumped and excited and exuberant and usually there's a crash afterwards. I didn't crash. I had more important things to worry about, more adrenaline, more of everything.
And I ran backstage, ran out the wings, through the green room, through the lobby, up the stairs (passing dozens of audience members who were just leaving and looking at me very surprised since I was still completely in costume), and into the theatre.
Then I crashed.
I didn't want to hear that it was fine, that she'd be fine. I wanted to know that her pulse was stable and that her breathing was regular, which I was eventually told. And I wanted to cry because all I'd been able to do was watch, so that's what I did, in the arms of a complete stranger.
After the ambulance came, I had to go change before we went to the hospital.
Since I played a princess, I had the princess dress and the tiara and the pearls and the tights and the shoes and the stage make-up and the eyelashes. I had everything and it all had to come off now.
So again, I ran. Out of the house (theatre), through the wings (past several crew members who looked all worried and concerned at me), down to the green room and into the dressing room.
The stupid top of the stupid dress was always annoying to get off and I just didn't have the patience, I was not in the mood to shimmy and tug at it until it came off. But I did, and I did it badly and messily and one of the other women had to help me, and then she hugged me.
She's a mom. It's her thing.
And I knew that being hugged was a good thing but I did not want it. I was worried that my parents might leave with the ambulance and make my brother take me home. I didn't have time to waste hugging.
So I wretched off the skirt, jammed on my jeans, grabbed my jacket and bag and ran. The woman who hugged me had been gathering up my stuff as I was throwing it and told me to just go, she'd take care of it. That helped me. I really did appreciate that. My dress specifically needed to be hung carefully and there was no way I could do it.
Once again, I was running. Out of the dressing room, through the green room, through the wings, into the house.
We left, following the ambulance.
Okay, here's the image I want to describe. When I walked into the ER room...I was messed up. They must be used to seeing some pretty crazy things, and I was no exception.
My hair was in an elaborate braided twisty thing, reeking of hair spray, in the style of the 1800s. I was wearing full stage make-up (think clown make-up), except my eyes were all red and I had only one fake wing--sorry, eyelash left. My neck was covered in pearls and sweat. I was wearing a sweatshirt over top of a tank top--the same one I wore under my dress during the show--and jeans. And under the jeans, I was wearing a pair of thick, white tights with character shoes.
Finally, my parents sent my brother and I home because we knew she was alright and there was no need for all of us to stay. I think it was because my mom kept looking at my face. She kept commenting that I looked like death (I'm paraphrasing). I guess I did.
When I was home, I coloured. I hate colouring. I hate it with a fiery passion and think it is ridiculous for teachers to mark your overall work on the prettiness of your drawings and oh my god why am I so bad at it?
I had to create a kid's book for my creative writing class and all that was left was the colouring, so I very calmly sat at my kitchen table and coloured.
That helped. Thinking helped, moving helped, hell, showering helped (that helped a lot actually, stage make-up is really thick).
Hearing pretty things didn't help. I didn't want to hear them. I wanted facts, I wanted to know precisely what had happened and why and what it meant now. Hearing that it was going to be okay--when they had no idea if it was going to be okay--did not help.
So I think that's why I can't comfort people.
I want to comfort people that need it. I really do. But if it was me, that's not what I'd want. Hugging is always useful (except in my one case but that was a special circumstance), but not talking. I don't want to hear it. So I don't know what to say. I don't know if it would help to say that it's going to be okay--when I don't know that for sure--or if I should keep quiet.
I don't know.
So when my friend needs help, I don't know what to do, what to say.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I can't comfort people.