Kage Baker adored Pixar.
It’s not at all too strong a word. Animation in general was one of her most emotional passions, and Pixar was like a new Messiah vaulting across the heavens of animated films. She had rejoiced when the New Age of Disney started (with The Little Mermaid) and then watched in horror as Eisner methodically dismantled the animation department – when he actually closed it, Kage joined the group working to oust him, determined to get him tossed out on his nasty corporate ass. (Which worked, BTW.)
Kage felt Pixar could be the saviour of animation, especially of Disney animation. And as it turned out, she was absolutely correct about that.
She never saw a Pixar film she didn’t like. The last one she saw was Up; not in the theatres, because she was too ill, but at home. When it was released on DVD in November 2009, she was post-operative and feeling pretty good; so I felt safe taking a weekend to go up and get our part of the Dickens Fair started in rehearsals. She stayed home with the new movie. When I came home, she told me how good it was, and advised me to watch it as soon as I could.
“It has really good things to say about dealing with loss,” she said. I remember I was helping her down the hall to her room (she’d stayed up until 1 AM waiting for me to get home that Sunday night) and she gave me a sharp stare over her shoulder as she said that. That meant it was An Important Moment, and I was supposed to heed her.
But I didn’t, of course, because it was definitely not something I wanted to hear. Believe it or not, Dear Readers, I didn’t figure out until 3 days ago what that statement meant: Kage knew she was dying, long before I figured it out.
I did, of course, eventually see Up. Once. It was beautiful and funny, and I never intend to see it again. I don’t need to; I remember every scene as clearly as sunlight in an empty room. I could feel things breaking open and bleeding inside me, and I cried and cried. It was not cathartic, it was just wet and painful. I think it might have been a comfort, if Kage herself had not told me it would be – if she had not known I would need comfort – and if she then had not died. But she did. And so the film is intolerable.
Tuesday, I went out with my family to see Inside Out. No spoilers, I promise – but I must tell you, if anyone is waiting to see Pixar trip and fall on their face, this is not the film that will do it. It’s GOOD. Pixar has done it again. It too is beautiful and funny, and contains the best explanation for cats I have ever seen.
But as it rolled and the heroine faced the inevitable disassociation between her memories and her life (okay, slight spoiler there, but don’t worry) – the pain in my heart grew worse and worse. I’m not talking about a heart attack. It’s just grief; no one dies of grief, but it hurts, and it never goes away. You just learn coping techniques. Sometimes they work for long periods of time, and you can rebuild things that have broken. But sometimes they don’t work, for months and months, and you move in a constant fog of pain that never stops; and you get so tired …
By the time midnight rose amid the stars of June 30th, I had achieved a realization: I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t go forward with Kage’s work, I’d never sell my own, I had wasted the last 5 years and all the goodwill of my family and friends. I felt like an enormous rock had fallen out of the sky and flattened me under it. However, as despair often does, it felt sort of comforting to lay down all the burdens and just consent to be flat, so at least I got to sleep.
And when I woke up … the Italian publisher was confirming the failed sale, and the Virginia Kidd Agency was delighted to take me on as a client, and there were 147 affectionate emails on my computer, and it was still my birthday. The best birthday in years, Dear Readers, I do assure you: the best birthday in at least 5 years.
So why am I going on at gloomy length about this? Things are better, and right now I do feel as if things may work out after all. But I think that I need to admit the pain and difficulty a little more often – at least to myself – so there are fewer moments when I am overwhelmed by despair and loss. I don’t want to trouble anyone else, and I’m not fishing for comfort or compliments – everyone I know is free and honest with both, and I don’t lack for them. But I need to stop running around with my eyes shut, pretending I can see. I need to stop running into the walls, and falling down in surprise.
The road thus far runs between that moment in our hall, with Kage giving me a sharp, meaning look that I didn’t understand; and a clear moment of thoroughly erroneous self-realization in a darkened theatre 2 days ago. It runs between Up and Inside Out. It runs, for half a decade and 24 hours, between me giving up in abject failure and suddenly finding some success in my grasp.
It runs between Kage thinking she was giving me a hint, and me not knowing what she was talking about for 5 freaking years. Holy shit, Dear Readers, what else is out there for me to discover next?
I have no idea. But I don’t mind at all.