Godzilla attacked, and I was the only one who could stop her. She was terrorizing San Francisco because some Berkeley scientist found and stole a Godzilla egg while studying the mating habits of whales. The egg was found on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific somewhere between Hawaii and Japan. The scientist believed he could raise the baby Godzilla and turn it into a weapon for a private security firm that provided handsome grants to his research. It was all very 1950s classic science fiction complete with ominous music played by a string section and a theramin.
I had stealthily snuck into the scientist's lab and confiscated the egg from under a heat lamp that looked more like a prop than an actual heat lamp. The egg was rubbery and moved when touched. It was almost like the skin of an earth worm. I tucked it in my backpack, fled UC Berkeley, and rode BART back to San Francisco.
As we sped across the bottom of the Bay, the train swayed with each step Godzilla took. Unnerved, I held the backpack close to my chest and counted. I count every time I am nervous or scared; it helps drown out the voices of doubt and fear.
When I reached fifty-six for the third time, I woke. The covers were thrown to the middle of the bed and John, my husband, was snoring softly to my right. Godzilla faded and with it so too faded the hope I would save San Francisco. All I was left with was a feeling of terror and failure. Even in my dreams I couldn't achieve the impossible. It left me in a bitter mood.
The day was Tuesday, and I could tell it was going to be a gloriously depressing day filled with lots of wallowing and moping. The dream, while fantastical, echoed feelings of sadness, anxiety, and despair from the day before. I just needed to get through Tuesday. Hopefully, in my next dream, I would save San Francisco, and Godzilla and I would become pals.
I jumped out of bed, rushed to the bathroom, and brushed my teeth. I needed to get out of the apartment quickly. I knew staying would only compound the wallowing. Maybe writing and a strong cup of coffee would jolt me into a better mood. (Spoiler: it didn't.) I just needed movement.
My funk followed me into the afternoon. I couldn't escape it, and I tried to lose it by shuffling my feet, slamming doors, and angrily washing dishes. Nothing was working. It was as if I was trapped in the Transbay Tunnel ready to save San Francisco from Godzilla, but I was unable to actually do anything about it. I was under water.
Then, through the act of scheduling meetings too far in advance, I had a coffee date with Evan Johnson at Borderlands at 6pm. I knew it was coming all day, and it was partly why I wanted so desperately to get out of my funk: I didn't want it bleeding into my meeting/coffee date. Nothing says bitter queen quite like a pouty face and terse words. At 35, I am too young to be a bitter queen. And bitterness always breeds bitterness. What I really needed was hope. Hope that the impossible was possible.
At about 5:00pm, I was loudly pacing through my apartment. My cell in hand I composed a "let's postpone" text to Evan. Something stayed my thumb from hitting send, and instead I packed my bag. By 5:15pm, I left my home and walked the ten blocks (or so) to Borderlands.
I arrived early. I needed that time to refocus, to ground myself, to somehow shake all of the anger, frustration, anxiety, and despair from my body. I purchased a tea and took a seat. Alone in Borderlands, which doesn't play any music, has no wireless, and is library quiet, I meditated. Or more accurately, I sat in silence.
After all of my huffing and moping and general malaise, I paused. In that moment, I felt my shoulders loosen, my breath deepen, and calmness take root. My entire being changed as the result of stillness and anticipation of meeting a friend. Obligation made room for transformation.
Evan arrived moments later, and I greeted him with a warm smile and a hug. He grabbed a pot of tea and we sat together for about two hours talking San Francisco club history, intergenerational dialogue, theater and ensembles, and general artistic visions. Throughout our conversation, I felt my shoulders loosen even more, my breath slowed, and that calmness grow. Sure, I still ceaselessly twirled my pen, but that is just fidgety habit.
There was a moment in our conversation that Evan's eyes widened with excitement. He told the story of Diet Klubstitute, an infamous club promoter in the late 1980s and 1990s, living with HIV/AIDS who confronted his own mortality through humorous and often outrageous drag performances. Evan also spoke of nostalgia and Peter Pan. (He is working on an amazing one-person show that hits stages in 2012!) He shared a story about coming to San Francisco for the first time as a child and seeing Cathy Rigby play Peter Pan at the Orpheum Theater. It was the early 1990s; and as he sat in the theater, the queer community was dealing with the aftermath of HIV/AIDS. There he was in a theater as a young child confronted with the improbability of aging, and San Francisco was morning the decimation of a generation.
Hope was also there. For Evan, there was the hope of imagination capture by a live performance. For San Francisco, hope was spreading through the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and clubs like Klubstitute, which Diet promoted and hosted. It was a hope born of grief, loss, and anger. It was the hope of living even in moments of utter darkness.
As I listened to Evan, I, too, found hope, and I realized that hope does not exist in relation to sadness. Rather hope is always around me. I just need to stop chasing it. Then, hope will be found in the silence, in the despair, in a good old fashioned conversation with a friend.
That night, I didn't dream of Godzilla. In fact, I don't remember dreaming at all. And when I woke on Wednesday morning, I laid in bed a little longer relishing the silence.
This is Part Two of a two-part blog post on interdependence.
Interdependence is the theme of our next 14 Black Poppies Workshop, Finding Community; Finding I, which is on Saturday, November 12 from 10am to 12:30pm at the Happiness Institute in San Francisco. For more information, please click here.