I’m never going to win a Golden Globe. I’m probably never winning a Tony, an Emmy or an Oscar either, not unless the Hollywood Foreign Press Association or the Academy decide to introduce categories like Ugliest Crying During a Musical or Comedy or Outstanding Achievements in Movie Snacks, which I’m pretty sure I locked up the afternoon I emptied an entire Costco cheese tray into my purse.
Despite blowing some of my college tuition on that theater minor, my best performances to date are a local commercial for the Fertile Turtle maternity shop I did when I was 4, and that time I successfully convinced a police officer that I was only speeding because I was listening to a Los Angeles Rams game and just got caught up in the excitement. (No one has ever been excited by a Los Angeles Rams game, not even the Los Angeles Rams).
So what I’m saying is that I’m never going to be Meryl Streep. The honest-to-god living legend has won Golden Globes, Oscars and an Emmy, and has been nominated for every possible piece of hardware imaginable, other than maybe the Stanley Cup (and even then, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she has actually spent the past decade playing the role of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang). On Sunday night, Streep was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, because of both her performances onscreen and her impeccable grace and poise off-screen.
In her brilliant acceptance speech, Streep mentioned a half-dozen of her fellow actors, noting the different paths they’d taken so they could end up sitting in front of the same expensive place settings in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. She also criticized the lump of expired pimiento cheese we have to call our president-elect, slamming him for mocking a disabled reporter during a campaign stop. (Trump, who spent Sunday night twirling a phone cord around one stumpy finger, while cooing “No Vladimir, you hang up first,” promptly insulted Streep on Twitter Monday morning.) Anyway, perhaps the most poignant part of Streep’s speech — for a couple of reasons — was her final sentence: “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, ‘Take your broken heart, make it into art,’” she recalled.
Maybe that’s the secret. Maybe that’s what separates the Meryl Streeps and the Carrie Fishers — and the other top-shelf actors, songwriters, novelists and artists — from the rest of us. I’ve admittedly never been good at using heartbreak as a motivator for much of anything, other than a willingness to wear the same pair of sweatpants until they became a 50-cotton, 50-poly part of my own epidermis. And, trust me, I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of it. (If you add up all of my relationships, I’ve only been on the giving side of one breakup — with a listless, moody writer whose hobbies included tucking in his T-shirts, commenting on the poor quality of my kitchen utensils and being tired.)
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Meryl Streep has actually spent the past decade playing the role of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
Maybe — another maybe — the ones who can perform some kind of beautiful alchemy on the shards of their own broken hearts also have the strength to immerse themselves in that pain. I do not. When I think about the night my first real relationship ended, it’s a complete blur. For someone who regularly walks out of movies quoting chunks of scripted conversation, or who can remember the words to Huey Lewis’s entire back catalog, it’s strange that one of the most devastating discussions of my life didn’t really cling to my memory at all. Maybe it was a survival mechanism. Or maybe it’s because it was less a dialogue and more a collection of pieces from the Massive A-hole Magnetic Poetry kit (“This isn’t working,” “We’ve grown apart,” “Please don’t set the porch on fire”).
He said the breakup was because we’d been having problems, but the real problem, I later learned, was another woman, a twice-divorced goblin whose default facial expression made her look like she had a mouthful of bad shellfish. Afterwards — while I was still in that Same-Sweatpant Stage — I immediately immersed myself in books with soft pastel cover art and started doing a series of daily affirmations that involved staring in the mirror and saying positive things to my own reflection until I was politely asked to leave the Chick-fil-A bathroom.
We had been together for seven years, and some of those self-help experts said that it could take me half of that time to get over it and move on. It seemed longer for me, but that could’ve been because I spent zero time trying to fashion that heartbreak into something beautiful, or trying to create something other than a new version of myself. Everyone knows Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ signature stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Subscribing His New Girlfriend to A Year of Modern Witch magazine), but maybe Art should be added to that heart-tugging taxonomy.
If I’m emotionally KOed again — and I probably will be — I’m using Meryl and Carrie’s words as a reminder to turn it into something beautiful. Hell, maybe I’ll get that Golden Globe after all.