Monthly Archives: March 2017

# 10 – Grief & Depression

Grieving Mami was more difficult than I anticipated. I had six years to prepare but I was not ready. Each day greeted me with a new reminder that my mother was dead.  How many times would I dial her number before I remembered she was gone? How many times would I crave her bacalao, albondigas and carne mechada before realizing that their flavor, aroma and comfort died with her.

I planned to visit my God-mother in the Dominican Republic the summer after Mami died. Consuelo was Mami’s best friend, Papi’s sister and the one responsible for their union.  The day I bought my plane ticket Papi called to tell me she was dead. Cancer got her too. The rest of my life will now be filled with the regret of unanswered questions and one sided conversations with Mami’s ghost.

My grief morphed into depression. The more I tried to stop it, the deeper down the maelstrom I went.  Driving on the freeway felt like an unseen hand was squeezing my throat while another one pinched my nose. I started driving on the exit lane to not add claustrophobia to my anxiety cocktail. I self-medicated with food and Netflix binges. I lost my desire to read, to hike, to see friends. I gained fifteen pounds.

My life became robotic; get up, drive to work, eat, work, eat, drive home, eat, Netflix, eat, sleep five hour, repeat.

My worse fear was that the darkness could lead me to commit suicide or get addicted to drugs even though I’ve never had thoughts of suicide or an addictive personality.  A medicine cabinet full of Vicodin that I rarely used and did not know how to properly dispose of should have assured me that I would not go there.  I excel at worrying about everything including things with very little chance of happening.  I asked my husband and sister to keep an eye on me just in case.

A few years earlier my therapist diagnosed me with anticipatory anxiety because I always think of the worst case scenario, I need to be prepared for it, have a plan, just in case. I thought I was ready to let Mami go while she was dying but I was not prepared for my her death or the aftermath.

I am an optimist, always finding light or a shimmer of hope to guide me through difficult times. After spending half of my adult life witnessing the strongest person I knew battle cancer, suicide and drug abuse were not options for me.  I knew my mother and aunt were dead but self-awareness did not make the darkness go away.  Is this what the road the Cuckoo’s Nest was like? Was I, to quote Ozzy, “on the rails of a crazy train?”

I learned to function with depression. I have a hard time asking for help, in hindsight, I should have gone back to therapy to deal with the initial grief and loss.

My friend Rachel, whose mother has been dead for over a decade, once told me that you never get over the loss of the person that loves you the most in the world. She made me realize my sorrow was normal. When  “the person that loves you the most in the world” dies, you are left with an emptiness that can never be filled.

I gave birth to my daughter almost three years later. My due date was on her  birthday.  I know my baby is a gift from Mami.  She came out of my womb with a piercing cry that rippled through me like a high voltage current. The intensity of the moment made me miss my mother more than I ever had.

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# 9 – Fibroids & MRI

It didn’t occur to me to freak out the day before when my legs were in stirrups in Dr. V’s Park Avenue office.   He and Matt were discussing a New York Times article while my vagina was in front of his face.  This was probably the closest I’d come to a threesome, I thought as Dr. V jammed the wand in and out trying to get a better look at the fibroids outside my uterus. He looked concerned. “It doesn’t have the round shape of normal fibroids.” He said.

“Oh my God, is it cancer?”  I asked, as I squirmed almost pushing the wand out.

“No, no, it’s benign it just looks different, you need to have an MRI tomorrow so I can have the results before the surgery. They may need to come out.”

We flew all the way from Los Angeles to have a laparoscopy to see if I had endometriosis, I wasn’t expecting fibroids or an MRI.

I didn’t freak out about the MRI then, I’ve had plenty of them due to my low back issues and even a brain scan when I fainted a few years before and hit my head on the marble floor due to the stress of being in a shitty marriage with my first husband and my mother’s then recent cancer diagnosis.

I was a veteran of MRIs so I thought nothing of having one the day before the surgery until of course, I got there and saw that it was a closed MRI. What kind of uncivilized hospital was this?  I started to panic when I saw the thin white tube I was going into. Maybe it would be OK, it was a pelvic scan, as long as my neck was out of the machine I’d be OK but this machine may as well have been from the middle ages or the 1980s. The technician kept sliding me in and when my chest was in the machine I started to freak out.

“OK when does it stop, it’s a pelvic exam, you don’t need to push me in all the way.”

“Yes I do” he said.

“Why’? I asked.

“Ma’am it’s just the way it is, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to”. “Yes she does” Matt said with a force I’ve never heard in his speech before. “Lucy, you have to do this , Dr. Vidali needs to know what these fibroids are doing, you have to do this, for us.” Matt has never begged me for anything the way he did at that moment.

“Ok, Ok” I took a deep breath.

“Go ahead” I said to the technician.

When he wheeled me all the way in, my eyes and my forehead were the only things out of the machine.

“I can’t do this” I said.

He pulled me out five times and then he lost his temper.

“Ma’am, I have three MRIs scheduled in the next two hours”

“Can you give me a xanax or something?” I asked.

“No, you should have thought of that yesterday and asked your doctor for a prescription.”

“Can my husband stay with me?” I could hear the man’s impatience giving me the side eye.

“Fine” he sighed, his annoyance stunk up the room.

“Just so you know, once we start, if you make me stop, you will be billed for the whole thing. Do you understand?”

I nodded like a scolded school girl. I was going to go through with this MRI, for me, for Matt and for the stupid baby we want to have.

“Keep your arms on your side or over your chest, and don’t move” I barely fit in the machine and all I could think of was my mother’s funeral, her white casket, her white dress, her laying still with her arms over her chest.

In I went as Matt stood over me, I felt his breath and told him he was too close. I focused on his Sinatra blue eyes as his tender hands caressed my hair. Tears of terror, tears of mourning and tears of gratitude flowed freely as I tried to calm my breath. The noise cancelling ear plugs were not working. Matt’s sweet voice whispered words of encouragement as the loud beeps, clanks and bangs drowned him out. I read his lips “I Love You” “You’re doing great” “THANK YOU” it was a mantra he repeated over and over as my tears cascaded down my temple. I was glad he was there because without his support I was ready to give up and forget about wanting a baby and buy a beach house in Ventura or a cabin in Big Bear.

# 8 – Letter to Filmmaking Workshops for Women

Dear Filmmaking Workshop for Women Selection Committee:

            I was thinking about applying to your workshop a 2nd time because I am starving to make a new film but the reality is you won’t accept it. Therefore, I will save myself the $100 application fee and the anxiety of filling out another basic application. I will not be applying for your fellowship this year.

When I first applied, I made the mistake of being honest in my application. I said that Allison Anders was one of my favorite directors and that her film Gas Food Lodging is what inspired me to be a filmmaker. At your open house, someone said they loved David Lynch and the collective response from the selection committee was that David Lynch would not get accepted into your film school today. I’m sure Allison Anders would not get accepted either but I submitted my application hoping my passion and my project would be of interest to you.

I was ecstatic when my friend Laura was one of the runners up. We met for dinner after her interview to celebrate her victory. I was sure she wowed you with her knowledge of Cassavetes and French New Wave not to mention the strength of her fantastic script.

She plopped in front of me like a deflated balloon at our favorite BBQ joint.

“It’s all bullshit” she said with a disappointment I’ve never seen or heard in our ten year friendship.

“What do you mean?”

She said that everything was going well, thought she had it in the bag until one of you asked what director’s success she wanted to emulate.  “Who did she want to be?” In true Laura fashion, she said she wanted to be herself and then you made her name the filmmakers she admired; “Goddard, Truffaut”  but the three of you shook your heads, looked at her with pity and asked her to try again.

“Think commercial success, don’t you want to be successful?” one of you asked.

“Yes I want to be successful, like Sydney Lumet, I mean he directed Serpico and Dr. Strangelove – success for me would be to direct without being pigeonholed, work in different genres.”

That’s as far as she got because one of you cut her off. “You can’t work in different genres, you need to pick one?” She knew she wasn’t getting in so she spoke her mind.

“I don’t want to pick one, I’m currently working on a comedy but my last film was very experimental. It’s hard to pick one thing when you’re starting out.” That’s the last thing she said when one of you politely ended the interview.

Your desire to turn female directors into the next Judd Apatow, are well intentioned, I guess. But you need to try harder because the films that get made during the fellowship are not winning any awards or getting into good festivals. Speaking of festivals, maybe you should take a cue from the programming department at your Film Festival. They curate a nice mix of diverse, commercial and experimental films from all over the world.

I will apply again when your selection committee has more diversity. Why are there two men and one woman judging the application process for a workshop tailored to women filmmakers? Perhaps you can expand your selection committee to include two or three programmers from your festival and at least one filmmaker, preferable a filmmaker of color.

Regards,

Lucy

PS – Laura directed a feature film she co-wrote, here is a link to Rich Kids.

https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/rich-kids#updates

PPS – I am going to make another short film this year

PPPS – Laura and I have kids now but we will continue to make films