Yesterday I was irritated. It was an irritating day. I woke up later than I had intended so immediately my schedule was off whack. I was feeling a cold coming on. I had to drive way out into Kansas City to pick up a Christmas present because it was cheaper than having it shipped to me. The hard drive on the loaner computer I am using had failed so I needed to get it replaced. At the Apple store they informed me that they didn’t have any drives in stock and it would take up to a week to get the part in and get the computer repaired. I sigh, put my head in my hands and ask (politely through my irritation) if they could call the other store (which is 23 miles away from where I currently am) to see if they had the part I needed. They did and they will hold it for me. I go to the nearby Trader Joe’s first to do some shopping for the week and to purchase a bunch of ingredients for the plethora of Christmas cookies I intend to bake this week for a party we are throwing on Friday. My mind is racing “when will I have time to make all of these cookies and do all of the other important things I need to do” while I zip through the aisles. My grocery run is way more expensive than I intended it to be. I am so irritated.

I drive the 23 miles to the other Apple store. They tell me it might take three days to fix, even though they have the part. I give a look of irritation and they tell me they think they can expedite it, which they do, very thankful for this. After my time at the Apple store I have to go to a Williams Sonoma to buy a special grater for some of the cookies I am making, when will I have time to make them?!?, and I eat two pieces of butter pecan quick bread they are sampling because I haven’t eaten in hours and I am so hungry. So crabby. So irritated.

I feel guilty for eating the quick bread because I am doing an exercise program and trying to be more mindful of what I stuff in my face.

I finally return home, and the house is messier than I would like. Dishes need to be done. Laundry needs to be folded. The glass dining room table top needs to be wiped down. I haven’t written anything today. I am so behind schedule. Can these cookies bake themselves…irritation ensues.

Now it is six o’clock and its time to get ready for a holiday party my friend Jerry Jay is throwing. I’m still pretty irritated. I decide to check Facebook (lord knows why because it also irritates me) and I notice a friend post this “I am overcome with sadness to hear about the WAY TO EARLY passing of my sweet, hilarious, adorable, talented, generous friend Elana…”

What? My heart drops into my stomach.

I remember when I first saw Elana. It was the spring of 2007 and we were both auditioning for a summer musical. She bounced out of her audition so perky, so smiley, so gosh darn adorable. She was tiny…like me. She was brunette…like me. I instantly knew she was going to get the part and I wasn’t (and she did).  So of course my first feeling about her was total jealousy. Who is this girl? She’s going to roll into town and take roles that I could have…grumble grumble grumble.

A few months later we met again at another audition, we were riding the elevator together and just started chatting. About what I don’t remember, but it was genuinely friendly, that I do remember.  After that audition I sent her a message on Facebook basically saying “we are going to be seeing a lot of each other, let’s be friends” She responded “YAY! Oh Gooood!! I’m so glad you found me! Yes, I have the feeling we’ll be seeing one another around 🙂

And that’s how I became friends with Elana.

We were never close friends. We never had lunch together. Or wine together (although on many occasions we said that we should). I never went out to her house and she never came to mine. But I really liked her. Any time we were at the same audition we would give the other a big hug and catch up. When I found out she was engaged I would chat with her about the wedding planning. When she found out I was moving to New York she offered to introduce me to some of her friends who lived there. One night, after a stupidly hard dance audition, when it was pouring ran she gave me (and a few other actors) a ride home in her old Volvo.  I just really liked her.

On June 9th, 2011 she sent me a message wondering if I was available to participate in a reading with a theatre in town. They had asked her first, but she needed to go “tour a birthing center” and wasn’t available, but she thought of me. I wasn’t available either but of course I needed to decipher the phrase “tour the birthing center.” She was expecting her first child. I was so happy for her. We of course wrote back and forth, all excited and giggly and girly about it. She said to me “Blair. I can’t wait until you get to do this too. It’s nuts seeing that little baby on the screen for the first time… and thinking… can I make fingers? REALLY?

My last in person interaction with Elana was six weeks after she gave birth to her sweet daughter, Maya. It was (no surprise) at an audition and she looked fantastic. I commented on how fabulous she looked and she looked at me, with her big brown eyes and said “Oh Blair just appreciate it while you have it, because your body changes and you think ‘man I was so young and spry.” She showed me a picture of little Maya sitting on her Dad’s lap glaring wide-eyed at the television. Elana’s plan was to keep her away from the TV until she was five because she wanted her to “read books and be creative” but after many hours of crying in her Daddy’s arms the only way to sedate her was the soft light of a TV screen…she just laughed about it. She laughed a lot.

And yesterday, in the midst of my day of irritation, she passed away.

It’s one of those moments when life snaps you into perspective. Here I am standing in front of a mirror, sort of hating my hair and then I find out that this wonderful young woman was taken from the earth. All too soon. All to suddenly.

Did she know when she woke up today that this would be her final day? Did she know when she kissed her husband and daughter that would be her last time? Did her own Mother know that something was off? Did she have a feeling? Why today? Why now? Why must someone so young, with so much left to give be taken today?

I went to the Holiday party, and I had a nice time, although my heart was heavy. I was speaking to an older man who just celebrated his birthday just last week. I wished him a happy one to which he replied “Eh it’s another year.” I took a moment and then explained to him what had transpired today. He sighed and said “You’re right, I shouldn’t be flippant about it.” I said “No I get it, but your birthday is a blessing.”

When events like this happen, it’s easy to start saying things like “Life is gift, live every day as if it were your last,” “Give your loved ones an extra tight squeeze, you don’t know if you will see them tomorrow” And I am not trying to be a jerk, because of course these sentiments are sweet, and more importantly they are true . Just like Elana didn’t know, we don’t know when our, or anyone’s last day will be. But life can be irritating. Failed hard drives are irritating. Getting a cold is irritating. Husbands can certainly be irritating. There are going to be days when we rush out the door and don’t give everyone a tight squeeze. There will be a days when all of life’s little annoyances conspire against you and all you want to do is eat a whole loaf of butter pecan quick bread and throw an tantrum. Despite our best efforts, it’s going to happen.

What I take from this, from knowing Elana, is that we have a choice when it comes to how we choose to let people affect us. My first feeling about Elana was to be jealous of her because she got something that I wanted. We easily could have never spoken to one another, but both of us, in our own way, decided not to let that happen. We put the political BS aside and cheered for one another. We celebrated one another.  Life’s irritation will get the best of us, but that doesn’t have to get in the way of how we honor other people.  Jealousy is fleeting. Letting someone touch you is eternal.

Also, when you find yourself repeatedly saying to some one “Let’s get together! We need to catch up!! Let’s get some wine!!!” find a way to do it.

Last night as I was falling asleep, so saddened by the news of the day, I remembered that her Facebook profile said “I am Elana. Elana is tree” and how sweet I always thought that was. Today I am going to notice all of the trees around me. Their strength, their beauty, the ability to change over time. For Elana. We will all miss you so much.

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