a heart shaped memoir

Splitting the Difference: The TV Series

Discussing my memoir as a TV series with Eva Longoria last spring seemed like a thing that happens to other people…to other writers.

Even when the option from Universal TV came through, I quietly shared the news with immediate family because yeah, options don’t always turn into shows.

Only when ABC signed on for the pilot and attached the writer Kat Coiro did I begin to whisper the news with cautious optimism.

But today, the studio officially announced the deal and included the cover of my book with headshots of Eva and Kat. As of today, a thing I’ve hoped and prayed for—a dark comedy about me, Laurie, Alberto, and Hilda—is actually happening. 

This weekend was spent with Tre.

I’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat for her book to come out. (and then to find the time to actually read it - success!) I wouldn’t have wanted to spend my weekend any other way, than immersed in her story.  I found her blog a few years ago and was immediately taken by her, her experiences and how she so seamlessly pulls in each and every one of her readers uniquely. 

She’s the type of woman that carries an unbelievable amount of strength, love and perspective. The kind of person that you would want to sit down over a glass bottle of wine with and to dance the streets of the city with; A quick witted gal, that could really teach you a thing or two.  

Congratulations Tre!  Cheers to you and your story. Your book turned out amazingly, and you should be so, so proud.  And of course, thank you for sharing it with us!!

If you haven’t already (where have you been?) Meet, Tre.  

Dumb Sh*% People Say

Inspired by the chapter of the same title of Tre Miller Rodriguez book “Splitting the Difference: A heart-shaped memoir” (tumblr: whiteelephantintheroom)

Although I am grateful to have very understanding friends who have been great support and I have been lucky enough to not yet be told to “get over it” which I’ve been horrified to hear isn’t that uncommon to be told when your grieving, I have had a few comments that have taken me aback that I thought I’d share.

  • 3 days after the accident: Merry Christmas!
  • 9 days after the accident: Happy New Year! Wishing you and your family a happy new year for 2014!!
  • 11 days after: Try to relax. Chat soon, and don’t forget we have the rest of that TV series to finish.
  • Around a month after: My mother in law recently lost her husband and has been having ups and downs too. After 61 years of marriage I think she just intensely misses her husband.
  • A month after: Keep being awesome
  • A month after: I just broke my ankle so I’m cooped up inside feeling the fomo [fear of missing out] of everyone enjoying Australia day
  • 2 months: I hope you’re finding some normalcy again
  • 2 months: [from HR personal of my work] If you are unable to return to work by XX date we will have no choice but to terminate your employment [yes actually used those words]. You would be eligible for rehire and you would be provided the same consideration as all other applicants.
  • 3 months: Hope all is well and life is starting to resemble something normal for you.
  • 3 months: I’m sorry to hear that it has been so tough for you
  • 3 months: I miss my gossip buddy so if you’re even in the mood to hear me talk about my own personal dramas let me know
  • 3 months: Have you ever thought of it from this angle.. From what I hear he was a truly good person. Maybe so good that God whisked him away to a higher place.
  • 3.5 months: You’re doing remarkably well for only just over 3 months in (see recent post about said comment)

Although not nearly as shocking as some of the things Tre experienced (it’s still early I may get some doozies later on), I still just find that people don’t really think sometimes. I completely get that most people have no idea what to say and I’ve let these types of comments wash over me a little bit more, I know they don’t know how it affects me and are usually trying to be supportive. And thankfully I’ve had way more positive experiences than negative during this difficult time. But really, just pause for a second before you open your mouth or write a message of support. Please!

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Seeing your essay mentioned on the same Australian cover as Drew Barrymore is surreal. Landing a bylined, 3-page story in this publication is the stuff writers’ dreams are made of. But reading Laurie’s 500 eloquent words (click red sidebar above) about her adoptive childhood + our reunion = immeasurable prouds of the motherly kind. 

"I'm Alberto"

Two months ago, I said yes to a date on May 2: drinks, ballet, dinner.

Over coffee this morning, I remembered that May 2 is the night I met Alberto.

On this same night in 2005, I met the love—and the spanking—of my life.

It’s been five years since Alberto died, and apparently May 2 is now a day for editing a Forbes article, taking meetings and dressing for a date with another man.

I’m capable even of conversation with that man, of ordering post-ballet tapas, of cutting the queue for us at my local club.

But when the club’s bathroom attendant gives me the nice-to-see-you-again-nod, I realize I’ve never asked his name.

I’m Alberto.

Alberto?

Sí, Alberto.

Of course it is.

My bathroom trip is short. So is the farewell-kiss-on-the-cheek I give my date.

I keep it together for the six-block-walk home, but the elevator up to the apartment brings me to my knees.

And to tears.

I am alone in the elevator tonight, but on my knees with watering eyes is nine kinds of 2005.

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Getting interviewed by celeb journalist Jane Mulkerrins for Grazia’s UK Mother’s Day issue was absurdly flattering.

Being the subject of a photo shoot—rather than a behind-the-scenes PR girl—was a giddy, memory-making experience with Laurie. 

But seeing the article in print with the faces of Alberto and Phil on one page and those of me and my bio daughter on the other takes the difference-splitting to a wholly visual level.

If someone had told my parents 20 years ago that the high school from which their daughter was suspended several times and graduated two months pregnant would induct her into its Hall of Fame, they’d have no good reason to believe it. But tonight, the girl who was anything but a high-school honor student was honored as an author and journalist. The teenage version of me was pretty sure GPAs and SATs would not define my future…the adult version of me is now certain of it.

The Sound (not Fury) of a Deathiversary

In early winter, the contract for my audio book was drawn up. While many authors have a strong urge to narrate their own book, the first 60 pages would be impossible for me to artfully record. There’s a reason I don’t read those pages aloud at author events: they come with mild PTSD’s accompanying flashbacks, hyperventilation and tears. 

I had a strong conviction that those pages would be better read by a professional voice artist who doesn’t remember what it was like to perform CPR on my dead husband or shut his casket or deliver his eulogy. So I negotiated the right to choose the narrator. And pre-coach her. And request do-overs (called “pick-ups” in voiceland) for any mispronounced words.

This past week, I received the rough cut of my audio book. I imagine that it’s surreal for anyone to hear their nonfiction book narrated by someone else: it distances you from the story and allows you to experience it anew. It also propels you back in time, resurrecting the visual memories associated with every thought and line of dialog.  

Reliving this story in early March—the same time of year that the book began and concluded—felt not unlike a cruel joke. Took me 48 hours to get through those first 60 pages—exactly why I didn’t narrate—and I had to skip food in order to finish my notes on the remaining 232 pages. Took every scrap of my Lent willpower to not open a bottle of wine at 11am in the middle of Chapter Four. (Anyone else notice just how much effing wine I drank in 2009? Finally understand why so many readers mention opening a bottle while reading this book.)

Reliving the year 2009 a few days before Alberto’s deathiversary has translated into refreshed memories and a deluge of dreams. But it’s also served as a nicer, kinder reminder that the girl who poured out this book is not the same girl I am now. Through its telling, through its publishing, through the opportunities it’s since provided, I’ve had the luxury of grieving in a community that…lets me do just that. The byproduct is a girl who’s worked through much of the shit with which this book struggles.

There are new, often unexpected struggles—parting with his storage units of memories, turning the same age at which he died, becoming a mom to a daughter he never met—but tonight, 30 minutes into the deathiversary, it’s an odd sort of relief to recognize that you’re less and less the panicky person who wrote this story. A bit more the brave one who flickered through at rare moments. 

Or perhaps this is just a public pep talk for a girl who’s doing something tomorrow—er, today—that she’s never done before: spread Alberto’s ashes in NYC.  Because strange that I’ve sprinkled him in countries he never traveled to and places he visited once, yet not the city in which we fell in love and lived.

But also, a thing that’s remedied as of tomorrow.

youtube

I’ve been super curious what a 10-minute dramatic interpretation of my 300-page memoir could look and sound like. Now I know. It’s a rush of laughter, tears, anger, hope, domesticity, foreign travel and HEART. So much effing heart.Not only does Taylor (daisyannconfused) nail the cadence of my voice, she adapts many of my favorite moments in the book—the ones I often perform at readings—into a cohesive one-act play.Through this video, I relived the emotions of my engagement, our marriage and my last morning with Alberto. Thank you, Taylor, for bringing "Splitting the Difference" to life and and interpreting it so beautifully. I am awed and I am honored.

What Year One Sounds Like

Some people read only printed books. Others are e-bookers. Whole separate category exists for those who listen to their books.

Fucking thrilled that my story just launched to that last, listening group.

While there’s neither a heart shape nor topless silhouette of me on this cover, the young actress who narrates the book is my vocal twin. Um, if I was trained to nail South African/Australian/Brazilian accents and could vary my pitch for male vs. female voices.

(For these reasons, I can nearly live with brunette Rapunzel on the cover.)

And if you happen to be an MP3-type of reader, here’s a sample.

Started reading ‘Splitting the Difference’ yesterday and while I’m by no means a 'sap,’ I started weeping on page two. Alberto’s 'Sit with me?’ line just about destroyed me. That simple description evoked a more visceral emotional response than anything I’ve read in quite some time. I could say a lot more as I relate to your story very deeply, but for now, I just want to thank you for sharing such raw, achingly beautiful work.
—  — Tim, New York City
I just read “Splitting the Difference” and cried practically the whole way through. I can only imagine what you’ve been through and yet here you are: author of a beautifully written book and a TV show in the works. Through your story, I am grieving my own losses and just want to say that you have made an impact on my life. I shan’t be forgetting you or Alberto any time soon.
— 

—Taylor, Arizona (daisyannconfused)

I placed my son in an open adoption when I was 20. Seven years ago, my brother was killed in a car accident. But, thankfully, my husband of two years is alive and kicking! I have been devouring grief and adoption memoirs separately but now your book combines the two…looking forward to reading it.
—  —Julie, America
Just found your blog and memoir, and wanted to thank you for all that you write about. I have been incessantly searching the word ‘grief’ on Tumblr to find some words of wisdom since someone I loved died in February.
Although I’ve dealt with sudden deaths of close family and friends, I had never coped before with terminal illness in someone with whom I am in love. His death has affected me more than any before him, which seems to bring along extra feelings of guilt.
Your writing is already helping me, and I’m so glad to see it’s helping countless others. Also, you’ve inspired me to start using Tumblr again.
—  — Linda, Australia (silentvictory)
Through your memoir, ‘Splitting the Difference,’ you offer readers exactly what you asked of your friends and family: 'Stop telling me what I SHOULD be doing and start showing me what I COULD be doing.’ (Go out with friends, travel, find new hobbies, write, allow ourselves a routine for memorializing, etc.). Thank you for having the strength to share your story and help heal others’ pain.
—  — Brittany, Los Angeles