December 02, 2017

But there is a place where people like me live and love while fretting constantly about their own mortality and the fate of the universe.

© Penguin Books

Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame
By Mara Wilson

One thing I intensely dislike about myself is my terrible memory, but I distinctly remember the feeling of realizing I had a favorite book. It was after I'd read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was seven years old. I felt this incredible sensation tied to "oh! I like this book so much more than I like the others!" and the idea of having a favorite was something new and exciting to me.
Once I discovered Roald Dahl and got a sense of his recurring themes, I fell in love with the rest of his stories.
I didn't watch many movies when I was young, but the ones I did see, I watched over and over again. Matilda was one of those films. So ingrained in my brain are the scenes of Mara Wilson's Matilda: a kind, bookish, witty, caring, magical girl whose powers I wished I'd possessed. 

Mara Wilson is a good storyteller—about her experiences filming Matilda and being a child actor, but also about more relatable things like adolescence and young adulthood: feeling like the weird girl, trying to fit in, discovering who you are. She is also refreshingly honest about her experiences battling OCD and anxiety. I read this on a flight home and alternated between crying and laughing the way through. (The best.)

“But there is a place where people like me live and love while fretting constantly about their own mortality and the fate of the universe. I know who I am now: I am a New Yorker.”

“Live your fear." Why didn't we teach kids that? Why wasn't that in a graduation speech? Commencement speakers should start telling the truth: "You're going to fuck up, but most of the time, that's all right.”

“If you’re worried you have a psychosis, you probably don’t, but even if you do, there’s help for it. Fighting with anxiety makes it worse; instead, accept the anxiety, and it will become less scary. Take a moment to breathe and take stock of your surroundings. Remember what’s real. Say, “This sucks, but it will pass.” We aren’t responsible for our thoughts, we are only responsible for what we do with them. Mental health care can and should be taken as seriously as physical health care. A diagnosis is not a bad thing.”

"On a March day in 1995, our mother told me my grandfather was coming over with his camera, and we were going to take some pictures out in the backyard.
"Pictures of me?" I said.
"You, me, and Anna."
"Do I have to?" This was during post-Miracle publicity blitz, right after the Golden Globes and the Oscars, where I'd performed in the opening number alongside Tim Curry. I was tired of having my photo taken, and in the past few months, I'd become used to getting my way.
"Mara, I really think you should." She had a strange look on her face.
"Mom, I don't want to."
"I want you to." I didn't understand why she was pressuring me. She hated having her picture taken.
"But I really don't want to!"
"Mara, will you please just do it so that even if I have cancer, and all my hair falls out, you'll still have a picture of me looking normal?" She started crying.
My breath had gone. "Mom, what...what are you talking about?"
"I might...I have breast cancer."
I don't know what I'd said to her after that, only that I agreed to pose for the photos.
I've never forgotten what our mother's voice sounded like, or what she thought and felt, but sometimes I can't remember exactly what she looked like. So many of my memories are of her looking the way she did when she was sick. The picture of us my grandfather took that day, the last time she looked healthy, was in my bedroom for years. Me, my sister, and our mother, all wearing red, all with shoulder-length hair, smiling in the sunshine."
(pp. 103-104)

“Before I went to bed that night, Danny and I talked about my mother. Matilda was easily the movie I'd made that she was most excited about, but she had died while we were doing postproduction. I'd always felt sad that she wasn't able to see the completed film.
I was floored when he told me he'd brought my mother the film while she was in the hospital. It hadn't been fully edited, but she had been able to see what we had. I feel such a sense of peace knowing that, and I'll always be grateful to Danny for it. You, and your story, were a part of her life till the very end.”
(Letter to Matilda, p. 95)

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