Sometimes in life there comes a point when we all need perspective. And it usually comes at that moment when we’re so wrapped up in our own shit that it shocks us to our core that someone, somewhere, has it just as bad as we do.

That moment came for me when I witnessed the tears of a “clown.”

Comedian Anthony Griffin stood, stoic, in front of a crowd and the first words out of his mouth were, “Charles Dickens’ classic tale, ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ starts off with the phrase, ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.’”

He then begins to share with the crowd how his worlds collided. Just as his career was blossoming with appearances on the legendary ‘Tonight Show’ with Johnny Carson, his 2-year-old daughter’s life was withering away, poisoned by cancer. He takes his audience on this emotionally heightened tightrope of laughter, hope, despair, pain, shame, relief, anger and ultimately, love — for his daughter and for his craft.

His story ends with his career flourishing, and his 2-year-old daughter buried in a dress that he selected.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

I sat there, tears streaming from eyes, holding my 2-week-old baby boy and looking at my late father’s suits hanging in my closet – because I can’t let them go – and I reflect on my last year and a half. The death of my father, my best friend, my rock, my everything, who died alone in his bed in Mississippi while I was across the country in Los Angeles, excited because my first article had just been published in the Huffington Post. I would be down to my last penny and he never told me to give up on my dream, even when I know he was worried out of his mind. In the wake of his death, the family fractured in some places that will never heal, but demand for my work increased. So I wrote, and wrote. I wrote about President Barack Obama and Planned Parenthood. I wrote about religion and the LGBT community. I took the blows of critics left and right, because life Griffin, my work now had an edge, a fearlessness. It lacked a safety net and no one knew that the one person whose opinion I cherished above all others was no longer here, so I just didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought.

Then there is working, night after night, giving editors what they ask for, when they ask for it, but not receiving payment. Phone calls and emails go ignored until they need you again. There was one night that we had no electricity, living off pancakes, and I had to borrow gas money to make it to NPR’s studio for my first national radio appearance the next morning to talk about Eric Holder and Erykah Badu and Creflo Dollar. Life is what it is and we just keep pressing – because we’re supposed to.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

Like Griffin, my dream and my family are all I have. That’s all many of us have. So we ignore the deconstructive criticism and the roadblocks. We stumble, but we get right back up, because we have to. Because people are depending on you; hell, you’re depending on you and if you quit, the entire stack of cards comes tumbling down.

In the end, though, Griffin said he’d give it all back to be able to share a bag of french fries with his baby girl again.  I feel the same. I’d trade every byline and radio appearance just to hear my father say, “I love you baby girl” one last time.

And what this “clown” reminded me of during the dawn hours as pain and perspective collided, is that hurt is not selective.  Just like I’m mourning, the stranger on the sidewalk is mourning. My grief is no more relevant than yours and life does not do anyone any favors. We take joy where we can find it; we share beauty when we can. We move on, yet we savor each moment because life is more fragile than the finest glass.

I still get beyond angry when people don’t pay me on time, but I am grateful to finally be successful doing what I love for a living. My heart remains broken as the anniversary of my father’s death approaches; yet it sings as I look at my husband and our three sons — his grandsons.

Why?

Because it is the best of times and the worst of times. And in the end, time is all we have.

What are you doing with yours today?

21 Comments

  1. Mademoiselle

    This message is one that doesn’t get nearly enough airtime. Loved this article.

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