Stand In - April 24, 2006

I'm sitting in a quiet room writing this. It's all I can do.

If I could post the photo I would really like to post for this, it would be this one or this one.

But I've posted those already. And frankly, I don't really think I have the will to do the kind of work I would need to do--that I did--to create those photos anyway. So this will have to do.

All I want to do tonight is write. Because in fact, I'm pretty gutted right now. And over what amounts to as close to nothing as one can get. At least apparently.

For the past week or so, Jess and I have been watching the final season of Six Feet Under. This is a show which, as it happens, I got completely hooked on right around the time Jess and I met. I've never had HBO, so I had watched it on some tapes that my good friends had made. I loved the first two seasons of that show. Eventually, Jess and I re-watched them together a couple of years ago, renting them from Netflix. We then soon found our way to the third and fourth seasons.

We do that from time to time. Neither of us really watches TV at all. But occasionally, we'll pick some series that's available on DVD and if we like it, we'll go on a little week-long binge. We've been doing that with Six Feet Under as each new season has become available.

Seasons three and four definitely languished, it has to be said.

And I'll say that even the first two-thirds of season five was driving me batty. It was incredibly difficult to watch those people being so dysfunctional for no apparent reason. But this weekend we got to the last three or four episodes and everything changed.

Out of nowhere what had been an unbearable, free-floating miasma became transformed into what I can only describe as the most exquisite, heart rending sadness. But as sad as it had become, it was vastly more satisfying than the malaise that preceded it. I was really enjoying it, several times stifling tears watching certain exchanges between the characters.

I also need to mention that the acting and the writing are just fantastic.

We got through the last episode on disc four and realized that we were--in fact--not ready to wait for the final episode (on disc five which we did not have) to arrive in the mail. We actually went out and rented it.

I had certainly heard that buzz about the final episode of the show, but not having the ability to watch the season when it was on TV, had carefully avoided anything or anyone that might mention specifics. And I'll mention as little as possible here as well.

On the way to getting the final tape, Jess and I, in our little obsession, discussed briefly the possibility of having to write a final episode from the point where we were then. What a daunting task. How could anyone do such a thing in a way that would not be a let down?

Alan Ball really knows what he's doing.

After two previous episodes of choking it back, I realized in the last few scenes, and particularly the final scene of that final episode that it was just a losing battle. If I was completely alone I would have been bawling. As it was, there were tears running down my face. It took me over two hours after that show to feel close to having recovered. I thought about calling one of my out-of-state friends and idly mentioned it to Jess, and she thought I should. But I told her I needed to get my shit together before I was going to talk to anybody.

Today I was raw and felt spent all through work. I can't even listen to music, except the song from the final scene to that final show. If it weren't for the fact that this just isn't the kind of thing I ever want to do, I'd probably just listen to it over and over. Instead, as I say, I'm writing here in silence.

Jess wanted to watch that episode a second time, but I told her I'm just not up for it. As in: it's too much and it's more than I want to handle right now.

On the one hand, this seems kind of pathetic. But on the other hand (the good hand), those last few episodes really tapped deep into something.

I could tell myself that it's silly to feel this way, or be embarrassed to talk about it. After all what I'm responding to is, from a craft perspective, "mere" button pushing. But while I could tell myself that and be embarrassed, the fact is, I won't and I'm not.

I knew someone years ago who refused to "allow" herself to respond emotionally to what happened on 9/11 because of a notion that all the tragic stories being told were really no more tragic (and perhaps less tragic) than other stories we never hear about because those other stories happen in third world countries to people who don't look like us. And of course, she's right about that. She had this idea that it's an appropriate response to shut down those emotions because somehow it's not fair to all those other people. Or that's more or less what she said. It seemed wrong at the time. And not least because I believed then and continue to believe now that the shut down--that inability to allow herself to feel empathy for others--had happened long before 9/11 and the explanation was really just a rationalization.

Emotion is a powerful motive force and it's true that it's important to be careful what kind of rein we give it. But I know that I never want to be so "in control" of my emotions that I lose the ability to be affected by the things which are worthy. Even if those things are just being conjured up by a writer and realized by a bunch of actors. As soon as I lose touch with those things, I think I've lost touch with myself.

Over the past few months, maybe even for longer, I've been losing (perhaps have lost) touch with a lot. I think it's important that not continue to happen. So to find myself essentially ripped to shreds by something as inconsequential as a TV show does not bother me. Because I know that while on the surface, I'm responding to a bunch of lines read by actors, what I'm really responding to is stuff that actually got pulled from deep inside me--stuff which may be messy and hard to handle.

And how nice is it to realize that what affected me so strongly did the same to at least a few others that I know of, including my wife? How nice to feel thus connected.