There is a 3-minute-long snippet of a documentary I’ve been thinking about in recent days for a few different reasons- one being that it depicts heartache and loss, and the other being that it depicts putting on a “game face” during the aforementioned heartache and loss to do your job and be a beacon of positivity and joy to those around you and who may look up to you.
The clip is from Katy Perry’s 2012 tour documentary, “Part of Me” and the snippet I’m referring to is when the singer, backstage and readying herself to perform for what is presumably a huge audience- finds out that her husband at the time, Russell Brand, had asked for or was filing for a divorce. Within the three minutes we see Katy Perry go through a series of emotions in rapid fire- disbelief, anger, and finally overwhelming and all-consuming grief. Moments before she’s set to take the stage, gathering with her dancers for a pre-performance huddle- she doubles over with loud, deep sobs and has to step away to compose herself.
And then, with seconds on the clock before she is going to appear for the first time- the crowd’s cheering and thunderous, anticipatory applause drowning out any other noise- we see her swallowing back tears, looking like she’s ready to either vomit or pass out- before she plasters on a huge smile and is raised upwards through the stage. It’s the personification of “the show must go on” and really moved me when I first saw it- and again now as I reflect on it and go through my own heartbreak.
When I moved to the Pioneer Valley last May, it was under the purest of intentions. I wanted to create good, meaningful work in a new community with artists who inspired me and alongside someone very near and dear to me whom I’ve known for most of my life, have loved with all of my heart and whom had initially coaxed me into moving to Greenfield in the first place. While he wasn’t the sole reason I had come out here- he was a major factor. His being here with me gave me a sense of foundation and stability in what was otherwise a risky, unprecedented relocation away from everything and everyone I’d ever known.
Not too long after my arrival, things unraveled through no fault of my own. The theater company I had started to work for, as well as other companies associated with it by cast/crew/board members- became compromised by salacious gossip, malicious rumors and fabricated accusations. I worked through it the best that I could: keeping my head down, doing the job I was paid to do and supporting the person who had been affected by it the most- my friend- but the damage was done and within months after I’d signed my lease- my picture-perfect image of what life could be like here in the Valley began to fall apart.
It wasn’t all bad as things progressed. He and I shared adventures, laughs, long conversations and poignant memories throughout the remainder of the Summer, the Fall and the recent holidays. There were moments of true happiness- but I knew that they were asterisked by an impending change I couldn’t stop. My friend, understandably hurt by what had transpired in the community he’d worked so hard to build and bridge for years- had opted to leave the Valley to follow his career path to the West Coast and get away from the pain and the negativity that seemed to hang over him like an angry and dark little storm cloud.
He left yesterday. I am utterly and completely devastated.
Not only do I miss him terribly already- despite knowing we’ll stay in touch in some capacity and will undoubtedly see each other again at some point- there is an overwhelming sense of feeling isolated and alone in a community I came into at the wrong time.
I have cried, often and heavily. I’m crying as I write this right now- having to take occasional breaks to sob it out of me until I can return to the keyboard. I feel such profound sadness that I’m amazed I can get anything done at all.
I, too, have felt rapid fire emotions in the past 24 hours. Dread. Disbelief. Anger at those who wronged my friend, drove him out of the community and in turn cheated me out of something beautiful and meaningful in my life- and grief. The grief outweighs the other emotions by far.
And then I think of the Katy Perry clip. I think of her forcing a smile and getting on stage- and no one in the audience suspecting that just minutes earlier- her management team had toyed with the idea of cancelling the show all together given how inconsolable she was. It’s a level of professionalism that has left me awe-struck.
I have work to do- both at my full-time job and with Indie617. People are counting on me to have it together, to be personable and approachable- and I can’t allow my current despair to get in the way of that. I have to push through it- get things done- and then feel free to fall apart once my work is done. And I have a feeling the falling apart thing will happen a lot.
And while I love my little corner of the Pioneer Valley- I am attempting to rebuild my trust in the community after witnessing firsthand what it is capable of doing to a perfectly good and decent person. What I’ve seen has shocked me, disgusted me, infuriated me- and disappointed me. I hope to one day tell my friend’s story at length and in more detail to truly put things into context for those who may have questions and clear up any confusion- but legal proceedings are pending and I cannot divulge into the details fully until the process is completed and justice is served.
I’m writing this now, not only because it’s cathartic for me- but because I want people to understand what I’m going through. If I seem out of it, not like myself, aloof or disinterested- please don’t take it personally. I have a lot on my mind and am doing my best to work through it one minute, hour and day at a time.
I’ll be fine eventually- but it’s the getting to the “eventually” part that is the hardest.