Friday, July 15, 2016

NICE / PTSD Feels a Little like Being Bipolar

Come to visit me and one of the first things you see, if you’re visually astute, might be an archival photograph of the Promenade des Anglais winding its way along the Nice waterfront. It has a place of prominence at my entrance.
I first visited Nice in 1968 and was smitten. I returned for academic year 1974/75 and the preceding and ensuing summers and I’ve returned many times. I explored my adopted second city and l’arrière pays thoroughly on my mobylette and on foot when I lived there.
I came out in Nice because I met the first person I had ever trusted there. She was Marie-Claude, my colleague at the faculté des lettres and the warmth of our friendship brought me out of the closet. I am so proud of my choice of confident.
That year was the best year of my life. Nice is paradise. I had a garden apartment five blocks from one of the more famous beaches of the world and I discovered the unforgettable and unparalleled Mediterranean diet.
The carnage of yesterday was like a punch to the gut. Marie-Claude wrote to tell me no one we know was hurt. Right on the heels of Orlando, these symptoms of malaise say that the human race is very sick.
I walked the seawall on Thursday. It’s the third time since D(isaster) Day, April 9th. In three months I’ve walked the wall as often as I used to walk it a week. Slogress is what I call it.
I’m really happy I go out and I love the smells in the air and the sun on my skin when I’m out, but coming home feels like crossing a moat when I traverse the lobby and raising the drawbridge as I take the elevator up to my floor to unmitigated bliss.
I’m a homebody, a homeboy, I’m cloistered and I’m super fine with it.
And I’m writing differently than ever before because that’s what I do: I love trying things I’m not trained to do. I love experiential learning. That’s why making my paper costumes was one of the best things I have ever done—when you succeed at something you’ve never done before or trained for, you feel matchless pride and joy.
I’m writing a play that is entirely fictional and I love it. It feels like building a crossword puzzle: There’s a lot of planning and trying and rejecting and tweaking and cutting and pasting in order to get to an order that’s concealed and alluded to in coded language — clues in a crossword and imagery and actions in dialogue. And finding that order—through what is seen and heard on stage—is a process that must be captivating to the reader/audience.
This, for me, is true creation. When I write autobiographically or technically, it feels like reporting. It may be well written and engaging, but it feels interpretive whereas fictional writing fiction is invented. It’s exhilarating to create imaginary people and nothing beats writing dialogue. I am addicted.
There’s no action and no antagonist in this nameless piece. This is my Seinfeld moment; I am writing something about nothing, aiming to capture your attention as is done in the European movies I love, with character and smooth natural dialogue.
My plan is, first, to see if I can write something entirely fictional that I am proud of. Then, if I do, I’ll ask a couple of actor friends I respect to read it and if they see merit in it, I may produce it.
And here I thought I was done with long-form writing.
When I was diagnosed with AIDS, I thought my life was over. When the cocktail erased my death sentence I was reborn with an appreciation for life that hasn’t left me. C-PTSD, similarly, is a blessing.
PTSD feels a little like being bipolar (if you’ll excuse my saying so with no experience of bipolarity). On the one hand, I have seizures and fits of extreme stuttering, anxiety and I experience a complete loss of voice at times. Those are the lows. But the highs are incredible: Those whom I trust, for example, trigger a deep exquisite love that I have never before felt and the beauty of flowers regularly moves me to tears.
But best of all, when I can speak and now that I am writing again, I'm far better at both forms of communicating.

My mother, Françoise Berd, co-starred in a movie called
Un Jour Special with Sophia and Marcello Mastroianni. 

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