I opened my eyes, and there he was standing over me, just inches from my face. He was stroking my head, my hair; God, he was handsome. I wished he were someone who loved me instead of someone whose next words were, “You’re bleeding into your brain.”
It was late September 2001. I was in the ER at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. I asked Dr Handsome, “Will I lose my ability to speak?” He said it’s possible. I needed to call my mom and my sister. They needed to hear this from me while I could still tell them myself.
I called my sister, Kelly. She was as she always is: the most magnificent person I know. Then I called my mom, a more difficult conversation for me, since I didn’t know if she liked me very much. Here I was, dying and insecure all at the same time. She was gardening outside in her yard on top of a mountain in Pennsylvania. She fell apart.
Despite the distance between us, she and my dad arrived in under 24 hours. She ran into the hospital still in her shorts, covered in gardening mud. Years of miscommunication between us fell away in a look. As I lay there knowing that I could die at any second, she stroked my face with her dusty hand and I suddenly felt that my mother loved me.
I called my best friend of more than 20 years, Mimi, and said, “I might die and you are the only one I can tell the truth to because somebody needs to take care of everyone and it’s not going to be me.”
I said, “There is a very good-looking doctor here, and sadly I might not be able to flirt with him.”
There was a stunning lack of urgency and movement. The doctor – yeah, that one – told me an ambulance was coming to transport me to another hospital which was renowned for neurological issues.
It was then that I suddenly felt as if the film of my life were moving through a camera backward. I started to experience a feeling of falling … and then this tremendous, luminous, uplifting white-out pulling me right out of my body . . .
The light was so mystical. I wanted to immerse myself. Their faces were not just familiar. Some of them had not been gone for long. I had cared for some of them until the end of this life. They were my closest friends.
They were so warm, so happy, so welcoming. Without their saying a word, I understood everything they were telling me about why we are safe, why we should not be afraid: because we are surrounded by love.
Suddenly I felt like I had been kicked in the middle of my chest by a mule … I was awake and back in the emergency room. I had made a choice. I took the kind of gasp you take when you are underwater far too long. I sat up. All I could see was Dr Handsome, observing me.
The last few years, throughout the late nineties, I had been chasing a love I didn’t have. I chased literally – leaving Hollywood and moving to Northern California – always trying to be something more, something that would be the thing that would bring me closer to understanding how to be better at life. I was watching my own life, and suddenly it ran out right in front of me …
… one fine, pretty afternoon, all of my questions were more than answered. Without haze or pretence: The facts were just that: I was not loved, not wanted.
In my fine and decent desire to be something more than I had been before, I had let the core me go.
Because I was a woman who had made it, very few people personally valued me for what I had done, what I had made of myself. Was I not really worth as much as a man with the same accomplishments?
I had grown up with parents who loved each other more than they were interested in their kids. Parents who we would find necking on the sofa when we came in from playing. I grew up with parents who still danced in the yard after 50 years of marriage ... I was swimming in quicksand.
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