A Unicorn?!

Hello my friends. It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything here on the blog. If you are here and reading this you, more than likely, know all that has come before in my blog posts. But to recap: 

“Previously, on the DANIELEY DIGEST…”

In brief, my late wife, Marin Mazzie, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer in May 2015. The next three and a half years were full of ups and downs, health-wise, but with a steady climb of a positive, spiritual well-being and enlightenment. Our journey was full of love and caring and everything a person could want to experience while going through such a horrible time.

It was a long, hard slog of emotions which culminated in Marin passing in September of 2018. It was the worst time of my life and, I imagine, will remain the worst time of my life forever. I’ve said it before; the only thing worse would be losing my own life but, even then, it would just all be over, there wouldn’t remain the subsequent two years of grieving and mourning and wondering what the future brings – will there be light?

I’m not writing to rehash the feelings of losing Marin, I have done that, somewhat piecemeal at the same time rather fully, on social media. That, though, is why I’m writing now.

I have been transparent, baldly open and honest as I’ve been loping along, trying to find my way in the world. I’ve tried my best to keep my thoughts positive and loving. I share my experience to “release the steam” a bit but also in the hopes that if someone is grieving or going through anything close to what I am, that it might help to know that you are not alone.

Sometimes my honesty and forthcoming nature can read as if I’m perpetually sad or stuck in a rut of feeling sorry for myself. It ain’t no picnic, to be sure, but over-all I am in good mental and emotional shape (shout out to my incredible therapist and good friends who I can talk to at any time).

After I finished my time on Broadway in Pretty Woman, I took the second half of 2019 off from any major projects to give myself time to reflect and maybe have a little more clarity to what life might be like without Marin. 

I travelled to India during a majority of July 2019, learning meditation from an incredible yogi in the Himalayas and explored many of the major Buddhist and Hindu places of spiritual interest in Dharamsala, Bodhgaya, Varanasi and Delhi. I returned from that trip and faced a horrible case of viral meningitis. I didn’t necessarily get it in India, as we all very well know now, you can get a virus anywhere; on the plane, at Heathrow or even when I got back to the states. My doctor told me he couldn’t prescribe anything, because it was a virus and needed to run its course, and said he normally would just send me home and to keep an eye on how I felt but since there was no one to watch out for me he was sending me to the hospital.

Not exactly the thing you want to hear. You have no one to look out for you. I have plenty of friends who could’ve and would’ve been there for me but I wasn’t in a mental or emotional place to allow that kind of help again after everyone had been so good and caring for us and then me after Marin’s passing. And as sensitive, open-minded and aware a guy that I am, I’m still a guy and maybe a little stubborn, sometimes, at allowing people to help.

I recovered slowly, after a couple of weeks, without much to-do.

Then, starting on Marin’s birthday, October 9th 2019, I took a cross-country road trip, NY-CA-NY, towing my motorcycle along, visiting friends and family. I hiked the Grand Canyon, Big Sur and Yosemite. I rode my bike through all of my hometown, St. Louis; Santa Fe and the Turquoise Trail; through the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert; cruised along PCH1 and rode on the Old Coast Road in Big Sur and finally the Yosemite Valley. I had a lot of time to reflect and be in an almost perpetual state of reflection and meditation for all five weeks of that trip.

I felt like I had taken the “appropriate time” and managed the “appropriate steps” of getting to some sort of “good place to start”. What I didn’t realize fully is that there is no “appropriate” anything; good time, good place, which is a prescription for exactly what to do. There truly is no template for grief and mourning.

You have to find your own way through, and that’s the only way to get through anything – to go through it. I looked for every metaphorical, and even some literal, open doors to walk through. I even had some moments that harken back to that saying “when you come to a fork in the road – take it”. I had my antennae up and was boldly going where I had never gone before. That is a newly acquired trait that I am very grateful to have. I don’t put anything off anymore; I do it.

But still, I was really looking forward to starting the new year off with work and getting back to a normal work life, at the very least. 

2020 started with starring in a new Ahrens & Flaherty musical, which we were trying out at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida. It is adapted from the James Agee novel A Death in the Family, and directed by the great Frank Galati. Its subject matter, living with and understanding tremendous personal loss and grief seemed, if an extremely sensitive topic, an extremely healing proposition.

I don’t have to tell you what happened next… everyone knows because everyone is going through it, simultaneously. My fervent hope is that we can continue our work on the show in 2021, at some point, and see it to fruition. It is beautiful! 

What followed wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for nor would I have thought would be a wise idea; complete isolation at our home in the country, the home that we wanted to retire in and live out our golden years together.

If you have been following my personal Odyssey through “the socials” you know that in January 2019 I sold our apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan, where we lived for 20 years, and moved into another building near Lincoln Center. I adore the new place! I felt that it would give me a new energy and a new perspective moving forward. The spirit and love of Marin travels with me wherever I go and is not in things or places but in my heart and in the energy that courses through my body and spirit. Although the new apartment had its own, new, fresh-start energy the house, on the other hand, was the physical container of all of the things from our life together and a good smattering of things from Marin as a young lady and even little girl.

I was heading to that place for the unforeseeable future under the gloomy cloud of a global pandemic.

I hit the ground drinking!

Cause that’s what everyone was doing, right? Zooming with friends and previous casts of shows and even a group from high school which I thought I’d never do, with a drink in hand commiserating and comparing our individual, but united, plights.

At the first sign of Spring, I started on every unfinished, or un-started for that matter, project we had ever discussed doing. Having the house painted, deck stained, driveway paved, cleared fields of detritus and small trees, started composting. I hit the inside of the house as well organizing every closet and attic space to be efficient and clutter free. I created a voice-over studio for voice-over work, which I’m still waiting to get some real use out of. I moved the piano and other musical instruments to a place where I’m inspired to play. I even have a dedicated writing desk, separate from the dining room table.

I could be the poster boy for Type-A, fastidious behavior during a pandemic and it was entirely driven to allow myself a place to possibly restart life for myself – whatever that was to mean.

Now, December of (the year that should remain nameless), cold weather is starting in and many of my outside activities, like riding the motorcycle, have come to a pause until better weather in the Springtime. I recently took a look at a NYTimes interactive that gives you an idea of where you are, in line, to receive the upcoming COVID-19 vaccines. Luckily, I am of an age and health profile, and unfortunately an occupation, that puts me way at the back of the line for receiving it. I’m fine with that, in a “please take care of the people who really need it, right now” kind of way.

But what to do between now and maybe April, May or June?…

If you have been following my story you know that my best buddy, Oscar, passed away six months after Marin in March of ‘19. He stuck it out with me for as long as he could but I guess he really needed to be with his mama. It has taken a long time to get to this point but I’m now ready to bring another dog into my life.

So, I’m sneaking in one more outdoor project before winter hits and that is to fence in a large field on the property for a pup (or two) to have a great play area. It should start within a week or two and I’m thrilled!

Oscar didn’t have the luxury of that space without being on leash, I don’t know why, it just never crossed my mind; money, I guess. But as the title of the play wisely insists You Can’t Take It With You! – so dog-run it is!

I’m looking to adopt a dog which is proving to be quite a feat. One of the obstacles has been that a lot of shelters insist that you have a fenced in yard. Well, scratch that off the list! It also seems, given my few minor allergies as well as my desire to get a smaller dog, for apartment life, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack with hundreds of other people, simultaneously, looking for that same darn needle.

“It’s all in the timing”, as they say. And the other showbiz saying is “it’s who you know” so I think I might call upon my friends who are well connected in the shelter/rescue world to maybe give me a helping hand. (Fair warning, y’all!)

A little furry friend, or two, to take care of and hold me accountable to getting outside a few times a day, come rain or come shine; running around, keeping me company and giving and receiving unconditional love. It has taken a long time to get to this point and I don’t think I would’ve gotten here, by this time, if it wasn’t for the complete shut-down of life as I knew it. A forced isolation from all the things, quite literally, all the things! Thishas been the mother of all quiet reflection time.

I am fine being alone, within reason of course. I am happy with my own company and can find a myriad of things to occupy my time and mind. But I also really appreciate the need of having physical company.

That brings me to the title of this blog – The Unicorn. They say “don’t bury the lead” but there is also a good call for leading the reader, some would say by the nose, to the end of this post to deliver the real point.

There’s a CBS show called The Unicorn which is also streaming on Netflix, I’m not reviewing it here, but the concept of what the unicorn means in the show was something entirely new to me. That is, the main character is a widower and after a year of living a really hard period of sadness and mourning, it’s in his and his two daughters’ best interest for him to try to move forward. He signs up for a dating app and tries his hand at going out. His friends, two couples who were close friends to him and his late wife, say that he would be, what is considered, a unicorn, an elusive creature in the world of dating; a man who is not afraid to commit to a relationship and a dedicated father. (Well, that’s the gist.)

I’m not saying I fit the bill as a unicorn but this little show has given me a wee window into a similar and maybe parallel world in which I’m living.

On October 19th of this year Marin and I would’ve been celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary. I’ve had three of her birthdays and three of our anniversaries without her. This year I had a strong feeling that Marin was encouraging me to take steps toward a new life. She constantly communicates with me in a variety of ways and it is always pretty clear what she is saying to me and this time was no different.

Until that moment it had pained me greatly, even angered me, when anyone would dare suggest that I move on, or think of dating or anything that didn’t resemble my current state of mourning and inability to even contemplate moving forward. This time, because it came from her, and she was clear and calm, full of love and even hopeful for me, that I felt ready to start my journey in that direction.

If you haven’t been following along via blog or social media posts you may say, who the hell cares or why are you going into such great detail about your very personal life?

When Marin was diagnosed, we decided to be upfront, transparent and open about our journey not because of any high purpose, necessarily, but eventually you all would see Marin at a concert or gala fundraiser looking thinner than usual, with short hair or even bald. She wasn’t going to hide at home till it all blew over and if she was going to continue her public life there was no hiding the situation.

Also, plopping it all down in language we chose, it was easier to be clear about it all without trying to repeat it over and over again to different media outlets. (That shouldn’t sound pretentious, it’s just a fact.)

I’ve had many people be very supportive and encouraging about my writing over the years. I haven’t been able to write about anything because all roads lead back to Marin and cancer and this journey I’ve been on. I really like to write and want to continue to do so without it being a painful experience by rehashing or reliving the pain of 5 ½ years of cancer and subsequent grieving.

I feel that if I put the vibrations of where I am now, and what I’m feeling and experiencing out into the universe, I have a chance of finding other topics to write about, even if they are tangential to cancer and grief and moving forward.

Also, if I’m going to start dating again, I’d like to have it out there that I’m ready, although extremely nervous. My gut still wrenches at times with even the concept of moving forward. It’s an understandable and natural feeling. But this is the progression of my life journey. Half of my life, so far, was spent with the love of my life and soulmate. Now, at 49, I hope to have many years left and can’t conceive of continuing, as I have, with such a heavy heart. I feel so very supported and loved in this decision by Marin and by a few very close friends whom I’ve confided in, the real-life version of those friends in The Unicorn.

I read on a dating app someone’s “A shower thought I recently had…” (yeah, that’s a prompt for an answer on the app, and yes, it’s a not so veiled way to get you to envision that person in the shower… but I digress) was “I never imagined I’d be online dating, mid-life, during a pandemic”. I have to say I never would’ve guessed it for myself either, but here I am.

I truly wish, now that I’m at this point of my journey, that we were all back in the rehearsal studios and theatres working, where I’m accustomed to doing all my dating (last seen circa 1996)! We’ll get there.

I’m not sharing my life with you just to hurl my emotions into the ether of the internet. I hope, even despite my complicated and conflicting feelings of the state of our country, our planet’s health and the global pandemic, that you might find a little hope, a little possibility of light in your life that I am on the verge of myself.

One comment

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  1. Ed Panusko · December 7

    Good to hear you are progressing slowly. Very sorry about Oscar pup, I know how you and Marin loved him and have enjoyed seeing his photos through the years. You remain in my thoughts and wish you the best. Take care and be safe.