Tuesday, May 04, 2010

It's a Wrap

February 2, 2010
Dear Diary:

I’m used to doing my own hair and makeup. I do it every morning – well, I did. I haven’t looked at my face since the accident and I really don’t want to but today I confront the option of going on camera naked or with makeup; I’ll choose makeup. The lighting in my room is anything but flattering. I have no option but to sit with my back to the only window. I’m reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s song, "She could easily pass for forty-three, in the dusk with the light behind her.” I peer into a magnifying mirror about 4” wide. (Never look into a magnifying mirror after the age of 25.) I get through my well-honed routine strictly by feel. I know a few tricks, like applying color a bit more heavily than usual because the lights and camera will fade out everything. I look at my tired eyes and wonder if I’m going to fool anyone.

That’s done and here comes the hair bit. Everything rests on whether I can pull this together. I don’t have the kind of hair that looks great no matter what you do with it. It needs work – the right dryer, the right product, the right brush, the right spray. Perhaps I’ll wear a hat. Yet somehow even though I used nothing but soap, no conditioner, no leave-in moose, it’s a good hair day. Thanks Venus.

My friends arrive and help me to dress and then I’m pushed up to the room with flesh-toned walls. The crew has found a plastic Ficus for the background and we put one of the beautiful flower arrangements that have been sent to me on a table next to my chair. The camera frames the scene and it doesn’t look bad. What it doesn’t show is my leg propped up on a coffee table and my hospital slippers but that’s the magic of show biz. There are seven people crowded into a very small room which feels comfortingly familiar – sort of like my low-budget PBS shows.

We rehearse. The dreaded final paragraph, the paragraph that I’ve refused to change in spite of the fact that I can’t get through it without voluminous tears, looms up in my mind. Somehow this time I make it even though my throat feels as though it has a vice around it. What is it about these words that turn on the faucet in me? I think it’s because so many of the people who will be watching the video have known me for years. They really know me. We’ve shared happy, sad, challenging and victorious times. They’ve represented our brand with integrity and caring and I’m so appreciative that when I try to say thank you, it all spills over. Add the ingredients of missing them and feeling lonely and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Still, I’d rather be at our sales meeting electronically than not there at all so here I go. “Action!” I concentrate hard. I want to get it right so I can hear the magic words, “It’s a wrap!” Here comes the touchy bit and I sail through it without embarrassing myself. As we look at the play-back it’s clear that I didn’t exactly sail through it. The clenching of teeth and stiff upper lip don’t look massively attractive. We go for another take. I’m concentrating so hard when I come to the closing that I don’t even know what I’m saying. At the end, I smile. I’m done. Not so fast. My friend acting as the producer says, “Let’s just pick up this middle section. Stop when I say cut.” That’s easy. The middle section I can handle. I set off again and wait for the word cut, but it doesn’t come. So I keep going. I know this is a trick but it’s working and so I keep going until I’m right through the final paragraph. No clenched teeth, no stiff upper lip just me and my pals. This time, when someone says, “It’s a wrap,” I know it is.

When I’m rolled back into the room and everyone leaves, I experience what I used to experience when I’d finished a six week shoot – let down. The illusion had worked and fooled me into thinking I was back to life. Instead, I’m back in the hospital bed with a leg that feels as if it should belong to someone else. This isn’t the leg that ran me around a tennis court. This isn’t the leg that helped me dance the night away. This isn’t even the leg that took my dog on walkies. I feel so badly about what I’ve done to it that I start to go down that familiar path of torturing myself about what I could have done to have avoided it, and then – the phone’s ringing. It’s a friend from California. “I’m getting on a plane tomorrow and coming to look after you.” “You can’t do that! You’re three thousand miles away.” “I’ll be there tomorrow evening and see you Thursday.” “They’re kicking me out of here on Thursday. The insurance company won’t pay for any more physical therapy.” “Great. I’ll look after you at home. I’ll be there till Bob comes back.”

I can’t believe she’s doing it. She’s giving up ten days of her life to take care of me. I know she’s the perfect person because she’s a born nurturer and went through a similar accident herself. Still, I feel guilty about this enormous gesture. But, I’ll accept the sacrifice with a full heart.

Today, in the physical therapy room, I’m the only one in full makeup and I feel kind of conspicuous. But not so conspicuous that it stops me from answering makeup questions that come my way. By the time I leave PT, I’ve given a workshop on how to cover under-eye circles. I’m so buoyed that I go on a walk-about and tackle an incline that looked unconquerable to me a few days ago. But, today my trusty walker and I make it down and back. I feel like bragging but don’t because the other patients in PT are busy with their own challenges and I see so much hopelessness in their eyes.