This is what I did New Year's Eve instead of going out.

I think it was worth it. It started off kind of serious.

I did not go to a New Year’s party tonight. (Quick question: New Year’s Eve—capitalized or not?) I stayed home and made a little movie, laboriously drawing the frames for a music video timed to Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto.” Though I received a few invitations to New Year’s celebrations, the fog in Los Angeles is thick tonight and I’m driving all day Saturday anyway. Parties aren’t really my thing, anyway.

The last party I attended was the joint birthday party held mostly for my cousin and partly for me in the middle of October. I drove four hours down to Provo to make my appearance on a weekend I should have spent studying for a test. After arriving, I hot-glued my mask (it was a masquerade party, after all, and the hostess was kind enough to provide maroon sequins and gold pipe cleaners to glue onto my black, plastic, half-face mask,) and mingled around. For most of the night, though, the mask sat on top of my head instead of covering my eyes—I thought it made my nose look big. I looked sharp in my new pinstripe suit and blue shirt that brought out my eyes. I think I even wore a tie.

Throughout the night I tried to start a few conversations. My cousin’s roommate’s friend, a slightly less-than-average height brunette with a cute smile, and I tried to flirt a few times. As I stood by the wall in the entryway, eyeing a lounge chair in the living room that a couple was currently salsa-dancing a little too close to for my comfort, she spoke to me: “You look like you’re having fun.”

“Yeah, this is fantastic. I’m actually waiting for that chair, but their kicks and dancing are a little dangerous to take it right now,” I replied.

“Oh, you don’t want to sit down! Don’t you want to dance?” she asked.

Heck no, I thought. Instead of that, I said, “I’m not really the dancing type. What’s your name, though?” She said her name was Kellen or something like that and she was from mid-southern California. I told her I was from LA and asked her how she liked going to school in Provo. Before answering, a Miley Cyrus song came on and most of the girls in the room ran to the dance floor to show us their choreography they’d made for that number. I laughed. “Wow, they’ve practiced,” I remarked.

“Yeah, it looks like it.” We smiled and watched for a minute, not really saying anything. "So what are you studying?” I finally asked. Another few chit-chatty comments bounced back and forth, and I went to get a drink.

Later in the night I finally took the lounge chair I wanted. I sat for no more than 20 seconds when Kellen came to me and pulled me up to dance.

“I’m not really a dancer,” I protested.

“It’ll be fun,” she promised.

I tried to wiggle back and forth and dance but didn’t feel like taking my hands out of my suit coat pockets and so I didn’t really do much but sway kind-of to the beat. “Oh, come on!” Kellen said as she took my hands from behind and started waving them in the air for me.

She did not just do that, I thought. But she did. I took it for about fifteen seconds, thinking about how my cat feels when we make him stand upright and dance, and then gently turned around and tried to start another conversation. “So are you a big dancer like a dance major, or…?”

“No, I’m studying (I forgot what she’s studying. We’ll say history.) What are you going in to?”

“I’m an English major, so I want to teach high school or be unemployed.” She laughed at that. Then she tried to start dancing again. The music blared through my head. The snacks had run out. And I was in the middle of the dance floor. I wish I could get her out of this party and have a real conversation, I thought.

That never happened. I ended up going for another drink and then snuck out under the pretense of an urgent phone call or laundry or something. I did say goodbye to her before I left, though.

The point is, I don’t like parties where you can’t get to know someone. Why, when I’m driven by intimacy and real human interaction in my relationships, would I herd myself into an over-populated room where real conversation is impossible?


Chan said...

Because no one has commented on this and I'm always trying to save people, I would like to make a comment. I watched the slide show without the music. Probably not what you intended. My favorite orignal hand-drawn frame was the one with the Mexican girl (I think it was a Mexican girl, but maybe I'm just being accidentally racist) saying something like, "This not tattoo, I really crying."

I don't really like parties either. I think I experience mild social anxiety and I don't have the part of the brain that's in charge of feeling comfortable meeting new people and making small talk over an extended period of time.

iBo said...

Coming from the other end as a dancer, I find it kind of awkward being at a party where I have to meet people I don't know. A friend of mine pointed out once that me an another breakdancer friend go to dances and parties to dance with other guys, not girls. We always find the other breakdancers and just have fool around breaking on the dance floor.

My ideal parties are the ones where you already know everyone. Close friends that you know you're going to have fun with and you don't have to waste time on the "So where you from, whats your major?" type of junk.

Sky said...

Matt, I found this whole thing intensely interesting (enough to search for a YouTube Vid to answer it). I don't think any night that you spend time "creating" is wasted--New Year's Eve, Christmas, whatever. Creating anything, just the act itself, makes it a great night. ... And I'm NOT trying to save you here, Matt(Chan, don't you get tired?); I sincerely believe this.

Chan said...

Do you get tired of telling people to respect their pain?

Sky said...

Ahhhh. Yes, Chan. ALWAYS. I get very very tired of it. It's MY way of "saving," and it's exhausting. But I know a thing you also know, but don't like to admit.

I'm afraid pain will eat them alive. I have seen this thing happen.
If we are cowards about it or make fun of pain, it still hides in the corner--waiting--while we ignore it or worse--run from it. Our only defense is to respect it, acknowledge it (at least to ourselves), and learn to live with it; then, it becomes almost an ally and a noble part of us.
Otherwise, it pounces out of the dark, at unsuspecting moments, and rips our throats out.
You don't believe me, Chan? I saw it happen even over Christmas--same pattern--to the husband of my one friend at BUYI--Judy. You just took a class from her. She and Keith went to bed, laughing over a movie on Sat. She woke up and found him downstairs. He'd shot himself through the head. No warning. No note. No goodbye.
Pain does not go away on its own, and it can be blinding and unrelenting. We either face it and learn from it; then pray for the Atonement to lift it, or it destroys us.
I have seen this over and over, my friend. It is very dangerous--if we are stupid about it.
Yet, it's nothing to be afraid of--if we respect it and its purpose. I will bear witness of this over and over as long as I see fools imagining that pain will go away by itself.
I mean, really, why is it here?
Or has it melted away from the slopes of BYUI while I wasn't looking? Heck. Maybe, we got lucky, and it moved back to Germany after Keith's funeral.
Geez, Chan. Even though there are many happy times in this life, we are still fighting on a bloody battleground. If Keith could have faced and acknowledged his pain, instead of trying to blow it out of his head, I would not have had to watch my friend's son trying to pull Judy away from the coffin, so the crane--just sitting a ways down the lane--could lower this solitary coffin into frozen ground and push dirt over it.
Yes, Chan, I get tired.

Chan said...

Yes, I heard. Sis. Holt actually sent an e-mail out to all the TAs, which I thought was sort of weird. But I guess it's more respectful to have out with it than just let gossip fly around.

You know I agree with you. Pain is not bad, it just is. When we fear it, we are like little kids who are deathly afraid of dipping more than our feet in the pool.

Some pain we aren't yet equipped to deal with. That's the pain that scares me. I guess I know that pain, or maybe "things we fear" would be more accurate, won't kill us, that ultimately we are on the winning side. But there are plenty of things that nearly drown us every time we get in the pool, things that seem like they're kill us, things that don't go away, apparently impenetrable things, things that don't dissolve when we turn and face them. They just stand there and shove us down when we try to walk through them. We can get by grace, and I know that. But I also know that when we turn in to them, some stand an inch from our faces, scratching and screaming, and if we aren't ready we might just turn away again, more scared than before.

And I think we have to be careful what we face. Some feelings, like self-hatred, I think can be illusions just as much as Disney masks are. It's hard for me to always know in myself what is real and what is not, and it's even harder to tell in other people. So I avoid offering advice on facing pain because I don't know if I would be helping a person turn into something real, or something entangling.

I don't what to say about Keith. I have never experienced anything like that. I can't comprehend.

Sky said...

Hmmmm...I will agree with you on this one. in fact, my biggest fear--one that binds me up in ropes--is feeling like I won't be able to handle whatever comes in the future. Sometimes, I even feel frozen--I don't want to go back, but I don't want to go ahead either.
But there isn't any other way.
The sad thing about Kieth is that there is no death. He believed in a lie. Nothing ever dies. In fact, there is no easy escape--from living--anywhere. Darn.
And, you're right about how we're not equipped to handle certain pain (until later?). Sitting through Keith's funeral and watching "Rexburg" deal with one of its leading citizen's "ignoble" act was horrifying in itself. The fear was tangible. The judging outweighed the compassion in spades. I didn't know which was worse--the fear or the rampant denial. I, myself, was reacting with pure anger because of my own personal experiences. So, how can we know what to say or how to help others? Many spoke from the pulpit, but only one spoke clearly and with truth. When I complimented him later, he said he felt overwhelmed, so he prayed, and what he said came from the Spirit. I think he pointed to the key.
Maybe all we should do is stand back and just applaud any one's personal courage. In Matt's post, I also liked--This is not a tattoo. This is crying (though I hated his language).

I think Karen e-mailed TAs because she's going to ask some to take over Judy's classes until she thinks Judy can come back. But, by doing so, is she creating a barrier between Judy and her students that didn't need to be there? Maybe. Who knows?

I'm listening to a BYU channel as I clean Em's room, and this cook is cracking me up. Her water boiled over on her new stove, and she got so confused between her pasta, the cameras, and the fire on her stove. Sometimes, I just love people. Oh no, the water is boiling over again... This poor lady.

Chan said...

The people at the funeral, that's gross to think about. I think part of the problem is that, one, we caught up feeling like we should relate or feel what they feel when we can't; and, two, we want to make sense of things, we want things to assimilate nicely. But they don't assimilate nicely because our vision is so limited, so we end up making judgment calls that we shouldn't.

Sis. Holt isn't having students cover until Judy gets back (other teachers will), but she does want a TA to cover each class during the semester so that if she can't make it, the classes will always be covered. I offered to take one, I don't know if Sis. Holt will let me.

I suppose it could put a wall between her and her students, but I figure they'll learn about it whether or not Sis. Holt says anything, and maybe it's better to just be out with it, instead of keeping mum and having everyone hear rumors. I dunno.

iBo said...

This past year I've wondered about what to say when someone shares their pain or something tragic with you. What do you say? I'm sorry? If there's anything I can do let me know? Those words seem so hollow.

Take Sis. Steiner's situation for example. What do you say to that? Sister Morgan you knew her better than I do, and even Chan had a class from her, so your words would be different from mine. But I don't have any words that really seem to convey the sympathy I feel for her.

As a stranger what can I say? In a sense the question is "if a person is being honest with their pain or is feeling pain, how can we help them?"

Just listen? Do little things? I guess it changes from situation to situation. I feel helpless just watching.

Sky said...

Ivor, I love this question. I have absolutely no answer, but continue to ask. I don't think anyone knows for sure because what if the person is in the anger stage (and, believe me that's going to hit her) or the denial stage, and we say something that doesn't fit? My worst was "You can't see it now, but time will heal this." Or when someone would say "Thank heaven for the gospel," when I was so mad at God I wanted to spit.
My mind wanders over what helped me; it was never words or advice.

My worst fear was that I didn't want my own pain to embarrass others, or make them uncomfortable, or bring them down, which caused me to take longer to heal. So, the people who "stayed" helped the most--simply by that small act--those who were still there, not saying anything, but letting me know their empathy for me surpassed their embarrassment over maybe saying the wrong thing. I turned around, and they were still standing by my side. This small gesture really helped me get through some tough things. Dan said on another post that when we have pain, people don't like it or look at us like we have a disease or something (paraphrased). When I saw people who STAYED in spite of that, it gave me courage . . . I mostly would rather work things through by myself--which takes a lot longer--but sometimes I've needed to talk and talk--it's like poison spewing out of my mouth. Chan, Julie, EmPo, Jami and many others have seen that, but they were back the next day, sitting in my office again, going to lunch, talking a walk with me, etc.
There's nothing we can say, but maybe just letting her know we're not leaving her alone in that dark place is enough. I don't know though.
What has helped you the most when you've been hurting? What has helped others?
And when is everyone coming back? It's lovely here. Heck, the temp. got up to minus 3 today (not counting windchill).

Chan said...

I'm back on the sixth.

I usually say something once, knowing very well that whatever I so will be pretty stupid and ineffectual, but also that it is token of larger sympathy (but not empathy. I think it's disrespectful for me to assume I know what someone else is going through). And then I stick around and don't talk much because that's all I have to offer.

Sky said...

Like I just said, you've got it down. For me anyway, the way you handle it is perfect.
The best thing you could "say" is, "Hey, I'm running to the bookstore. Is there anything you need?"
What helps you out, Chan the Man?

(I gotta get off this computer and get to church.)