• StevenF

Kristin Chenoweth Is Just What I Needed

So yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Isaias and I had a commitment ceremony thirteen years ago on December 31, 2008, and then five years later, to the day, we were legally married and saw Broadway and television star Kristin Chenoweth perform that night. Last night we got to see her again at the same theater where we saw her eight years ago. Isaias and I had not attended a live performance since the pandemic hit the US. In fact, the last live performance I remember attending together was also on December 31, 2019 (ironically the same date the World Health Organization was informed about the coronavirus that had first developed in Wuhan, China on December 12 of that year. Doesn't that seem like ages ago?).

Isaias and I were staying with a friend in San Francisco, and the three of us went to see another Broadway performer, Sutton Foster, in concert. What I remember most about that concert was how full of light and optimism Foster was. It was a memorable concert and left us feeling good. Boy, we had no idea that in a couple of months our world (and yours) would be turned upside down.

We love Kristin Chenoweth for the same reason we loved Foster. In Chenoweth's words last night, the concert was all about "love, hope, and light." I remember she used the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel," and I thought about this long, dark tunnel that has been our existence for nearly two years now. Several of the songs Chenoweth sang evoked a longing or memories for the way things once were. She sang Marvin Hamlisch's "The Way We We Were" and a song Karen Carpenter made famous, "Yesterday Once More," and both songs took on a different meaning to me as I recalled life pre-pandemic. "Bring Him Home" brought about feelings of loss we have experienced.

I thought about the losses endured these past two years. I'm sure you have suffered losses too. Let me tell you some of the things Isaias and I lost:

  • About three months after the pandemic caused Las Vegas to basically shut down, we lost Isaias' mom to COVID-19. This was pretty early in the pandemic, and at that time there were no vaccines, and doctors were still figuring out how, often unsuccessfully, to best treat the virus. Isaias' mom, Nena, spent 27 days in the hospital. We could not visit her, and she died without any of her family by her side. Her funeral was forced to be a rather sparsely-attended affair, much of it conducted online.

  • Several of Isaias' immediate family members also contracted the virus. One of his brothers spent three months in the hospital and has irreversible lung damage and still is suffering the effects of the virus he survived. Another brother was also seriously affected. Several family members could not attend Nena's funeral due to the illness. We have become quite conscious of just how much Nena was the glue that held the family together because the dynamic of the family is not what it was two years ago, and that has felt like a loss.

  • Both Isaias and I work in the entertainment industry. I had quit my job at the MGM Grand to get back into acting full time, from which I had taken a hiatus. But COVID hit my industry very hard, causing shows to close and live performances to be curtailed for some time. And so both of us were unemployed for quite some time. Especially with the new Omicron variant causing more closures, who knows when I will get back on stage again? And of course, the loss of income affected us financially as well. Fortunately we had some savings. I know many have suffered enormously because of job losses during the pandemic.

  • As I've watched political divisions, hypocrisy, fights about mask wearing and vaccinations, and just the way I've seen people treat each other, I have lost a bit of my faith in humanity, although I am working to get it back.

  • A dear friend of ours passed away suddenly and unexpectedly about five months after Isaias' mom passed away. This was quite a blow since we were still grieving (and still are). There were also some unexpected losses I won't talk about here because of the death of our friend.

  • As I said in my previous post, in October of this year we lost our cat Jasper. He was a sickly stray we had adopted and tried to nurse back to health. He was a special cat and came to us around the anniversary of Nena's death. At the time, he gave us a reason to march forward and taught us a lot about love. He was an enormously special cat, and losing him was terribly sad to us. And then just a month and a half later, our oldest cat, Trooper, who has been with us nearly the entirety of our relationship, passed away as well.

  • The grief associated with the losses I describe above have affected both of us hard, but Isaias especially, I feel. It's been difficult to see him sad so much, and just when it feels like he's bouncing back, another blow occurs.

So it's been a challenging two years, and I'm sure it's been hard for many of you out there. Loss of income, mental health issues, loss of family members or issues caused to health problems, loss of direction, loss of jobs, stress, etc. are issues so many of us are dealing with. During the pandemic, I've had friends who have lost loved ones; friends who have taken their own lives; friends who have had to make major career changes; friends who are living paycheck to paycheck; friends whose living situation has changed; friends who have gone through relationship changes; etc. It's been a tough time.

We're all sick of wearing these masks. We're tired of not being able to do some of the things we did regularly before the pandemic. We're weary of some of the behavior of others, which at times feels selfish. We're sick of the political climate. Some of us are just struggling day to day to get by.

So a concert full of music, light, love, and hope felt like just the medicine I needed tonight. Whenever I have seen Kristin Chenoweth perform or interviewed, she comes off as a genuinely kind, caring person. It doesn't feel like an act. It feels like she is authentically trying to spread goodness where she goes.

Like we did with that Sutton Foster concert two years ago, Isaias and I brought a friend with us to this concert. You may ask, why would you want to bring a friend along for your anniversary date? Well, without revealing too much in respect to his privacy, our friend has had some challenges of late, and we knew he would love the concert. That's just how we roll. And he did. And seeing his eyes light up and seeing his spirit lifted is very joyous to us, and shouldn't that be what life is about--lifting others and making them feel good?

That's what Kristin Chenoweth did for us last night: She made us feel good. She made us feel hopeful. She shared her light. And that's what I need during what has sometimes felt like a dark time. At one point she was singing a song about miracles, and there was a special effect of stars being projected behind her, and they kept multiplying, and then people started pulling out there phones and turning on the light, which created a theater full of people "sharing their light," and Chenoweth seemed genuinely moved and touched by this rather impromptu moment. But it made me think about how sharing our light is what we ought to be doing with each other. No one can fully know what another being is going through, and how we treat each other, for good or bad, can have a great effect on another person's soul. Why put down when you can lift up? Why say mean and ugly things when you can say beautiful, kind things? Why demean when you can empower? Why cover people with darkness when you can shower them with light?

I'm not saying there aren't times when criticism or justice are not merited; but so often, it feels like human beings can be needlessly cruel to one another. Another song Chenoweth sang, dedicated to health workers and first responders, was "Angels Among Us," and I thought of how we can each be an angel to someone if we choose to be and, likewise, someone else can be an angel to us. We just have to look for the opportunities and be sensitive to other people's needs. Perhaps in a future post I will write about how Isaias, one of the best angels I know, has helped me to strive to be a better person.

Which brings me to another song Chenoweth sang, Henry Mancini's "The Sweetheart Tree," which reminded me just how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to have found Isaias and to be with him. And that seemed to be another theme of the show: when we learn to recognize the things we are grateful for, it helps us realize how incredibly lucky and blessed we actually are. I anticipate that some time in the future I will post about how to be grateful even in the seemingly worst of circumstances and how doing so can greatly change one's perspective and attitude.

The last song Chenoweth sang was about how when times are dark, she sees reasons to hope. I know so many out there are going through some really dark and tough times. I hope as this blog continues, I will be able to share reasons to hope. I'm grateful for the light that was shared with Isaias, our friend, and me last night, and I'm glad that light has hopefully enabled me to share some with you.

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