Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Doing comedy without doing comedy

If you were not aware, one of my many, very impressive credentials is "CSg". That is, Comedy School graduate. Oh, yes! For a wittle bit, I was devoting hours of my life (for a year, to be precise) to writing skits and stand-up, doing improv, and acting.

Don't ask me how that started! Well, it's pretty simple, actually. I loved comedy, I hated college... obla di, obla da -- I was auditioning for comedy school in a hotel room in Manhattan. Oh, what? Are you judging me now? Thinking about my bad life choices, the waste of time, how I threw money out the window? Well, guess what? You're right.

Turns out, I am absolutely a riot without any training at all! I had the teacher and the whole class rolling on the floor on day one.

Improvisation? Not my thing. Skit-writing? Not so much. But stand-up and acting are kinda my jam. I was on and off the stage for a bit and, admittedly, my social anxiety eased up a whole bunch. Turns out, if you're willing to go on stage an admit that you are a gerontophile who writes suicide notes for fun, you can do or say anything in any inappropriate setting. Unless, of course, that audience includes people in power, peers, or my family. Minor caveat.

After that year of debauchery and shenanigans, I continued in the stand-up circuit for a bit. An open-mic or bringer show here and there. Eventually, it pretty much stopped. To be honest, the reason it stopped was because of other comedians. You know, it's sad how many things I've had to stop because people can't act like decent human beings. In this case, there were issues with misogyny and vindictiveness and to be frank, excess use of substances in order to make life tolerable. All things with which I wanted no part. Maybe things are different now. 7 years later, in a world of #MeToo, consequences for one's actions, and vaping... but let's be honest, just because the commercial world "doesn't tolerate poor behaviour", it doesn't mean the mindset has changed. Is anyone convinced that the moment the media acknowledged that treating women like garbage and overdosing on Xanax isn't cool, the people who were committing these crimes all had simultaneous epiphanies and decided to get help and reform? mmmkkayy.....

This isn't why I quit comedy, though.

I didn't quit comedy, actually. My stage has simply changed. Honestly, scripted comedy was becoming boring. The moment something becomes uninteresting or stops being fun, there's little reason to stick around. If a writer can convince me that his/her material is at least somewhat unscripted, that person has my attention. Most of my jokes are off-the-cuff, sometimes really bad, sometimes embarrassing, and always meant with the best intentions. They often come to me when I am working with mental health clients. I also try to help those people to express themselves with humour. We allow it and work with it.

The most entertaining jokes aren't planned. They're sloppy and raw, and sometimes they reveal more than you intended. Now, that's comedy. The written stuff can be just as good and appear just as situational, but sitting down and stressing myself to write something that could just as easily have been accomplished in the moment and just as comical no longer seems worthwhile. Is it because I'm getting old and lazy? Probably not, I was born old and lazy. More likely because, as I worked with said mental health clients, I realized how their jokes came with ease. The room would fill with unfiltered commentary and would burst with laughter. Real, genuine, unexpected laughter that felt so, so good. The kind of jokes that kept you laughing even hours after you thought you were done laughing. The jokes that you think about weeks later and feel like a fool when you can't contain your smirk. I've never had that experience with written jokes because those are part of a formula, a package deal. If you don't remember the wording and timing and the moment,  it doesn't really work.

Stand-up comedy is still one of the best art forms, in my opinion. Unquestionably, it's a necessary art that the mental health world should keep an eye on and utilize in the field. However, do I want to be on stage, fighting for laughter and cowering from hecklers, quiet rooms, and cringe-worthy moments from myself and other desperate comedians? Ya know, when the comedian is so attention hungry that he/she is willing to say harmful or ugly things for a laugh? Gross. I'm over it. Maybe I'm even better than it? Comedy just needs a reset button or a new place in the world. It needs to go to its bedroom and think about what its done and what it can do.
Let's make comedy great again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Turning the Boat Around

Label mood swings as you will and diagnose people willy-nilly, but all I know is that I am in a very different place, mentally and I am a very different person than I was 3 or 4 months ago. It was a long haul and getting through each day felt nearly impossible, but sticking it out was worth it. Of course, if I had died, I wouldn't have had to put up with it and I wouldn't have known, felt, seen, or dealt with any of it, but... for whatever reason, I pushed through it and it paid off! Fully aware that I can only speak for the past couple days and today, I do not know what tomorrow or the next day brings. This is what they mean by taking it one day at a time. Living in fear of those feelings (or lack thereof) returning is not a good use of time. It doesn't change anything, fix anything, or prevent anything, unless action is taken. Even then, there's no predicting when a state of mania will be subdued with angst and melancholy, but until that happens, it's all groovy. Not to mention, if you are capable of thinking that far ahead, then you am optimistic enough to think you will even get to that point! In which case, that's not too bad. If you don't think you'll make it that far, then, what are you even worried about?

Suicidal ideation is like any addiction, in that one is never cured. There is treatment and temporary relief sometimes, there is recovery and staying on the "will to live" wagon. However, those thoughts will always return throughout life.

If only there were some cure-all, some AA meeting for this addiction. Sure, there's therapy and even group therapy, but that treats in a very specific manner, it's treatment for a very specific depressive diagnosis. Imagine you entered the basement of a church or a hospital and found a picnic table covered in a white cloth. There's a pot of coffee and hot water, donuts and cookies, people standing around waiting for the event to begin. As it does, everyone sits down and prepares to be as open and raw as they've ever been. One by one, each member stands up, as they feel so inclined, and they share, "Hello. I am addicted to self-harm and suicidal attempts."
"I am addicted to indirect self-destructive behaviour." "I am afraid to be alone right now."
There are so many variations of semantics and syntax, but this room would be filled with people who either know their risks or have yet to make sense of them. They would have sponsors and alongside any psychiatric and psychological support from people with MDs and PhDs, they'd have alternative option from peers, therapists and counselors, friends, people who were and are on the same path... whoever was able to show up and speak up, they could and would have a place to go.

We need to begin a movement that deals with self-harm and suicide as a main attraction, not a symptom, side effect, or after thought. Because there are very few people who have never thought about giving themselves the ol' heave-ho. Whether you're diagnosed with something physical or mental or you're fit as a ferret or medicated up the wazoo, you're not safe. No one is safe from the consequences of existential awareness and presence and what pain it brings. How far it goes is where the influences, traumas, and precautions come into play. Children can contemplate suicide without even knowing that death is an end to a force, not knowing that you don't get 4 lives or that a magical kiss won't awaken you. Suicidal ideation and self-destructive habits can arise anytime at all without being provoked and without warning. Because of this, it isn't always possible to label who is at risk! We can't have every person who may harm themselves on a regimen or in a program, it's simply impossible. What we do need is a place that people can drop in impromptu and unplanned, just wander in and find relief from the obsessive thoughts, the painful thoughts, and mind control that plagues the good, bad, and ugly.

Plus, these resources have to be focused on those who cannot afford regular treatment. Not everyone can go to a private analyst and psychiatrist and get insurance and pay for prescriptions. Even those who can may not be able to attend and follow through because of physical or mental restrictions. There are so many variables that come into play and may keep someone from seeking help and being helped. If society focused on these people and found ways to help them, who knows what good could come of it. Less mass shootings? Less suicide? Fewer children and adolescents and grown adults who must suffer on a daily basis? The sky isn't the limit, there are no limits to what changes and reform can be made once the individuals are integrated and focused on and given a chance. People who are in recovery can finally be given a platform and a voice which could lead to the confidence to step up, maybe on a local level or a political stance. Whatever it may be, it's a path to aim toward and anything in that direction is progress. As of now, all we have is the bare minimum and that won't cut it. It's time for people in need to have their place, their time, and the people behind each of them to get where they need to be. The mentally ill, the hurt and "damaged" are a large majority of the population, it's time to treat them as such.

Friday, June 1, 2018

So, your kid's not a genius!

So, your kid's not a genius:

What to do if your offspring isn't the sharpest tool at the Juggalo Fest

I'll start by saying that I have never taken any sort of IQ or aptitude test. Heck, I could probably count the number of times I've taken an eye exam in my life on one hand. However, I have met many people who tell me that their pediatrician told them they were geniuses when they were just 2 days old. Then, they grow up and claim their kid's a genius right outta the belly bag (scientific terminology). A few people agree and, bada bing flada floom, next thing you know, kid's on the shoulders of a man in a funny hat, wearing Alice Cooper makeup, and does not look amused at all.

It's hard to challenge someone who claims their little cherub monster is special and does magical things. It's like those images that move if you turn your head, step back, and squint. Okay, so, they're a genius. You and your kid are geniuses. Actually, no! Right... you were a genius, until you realized that your 4-year-old is smarter than you. Thus, he/she is the genius and you renounce your ingeniousness. Something like that.

I've know many of these people. The question is, do they all have anything in common? Any traits or habits that may be the secret to great success? Yes. Oh, yes. They all seemed really stupid.

Obviously, when it came to their *specialty*, their jargon and BS-ery was on-point, but ask a history buff to grab a box of tea on the way home or hand a mathematician a wrench and you may not get very far. These are an entirely different skill set, though, why would I expect someone to excel at skills that require talents in a whole different portion of the brain? I don't. But, completely lacking basic life or social skills or common sense just doesn't feel all that genius to me.

One day, you'll be out for sushi with your one-trick pony and as the chopsticks are placed on the table, you'll look at each other and realize that this is not the life you had in mind. Sure, at the stable he could prance and gallop like a Pegasus floating on a cloud, and that's wonderful. However, at WuShun WuShuf Sushi Palace, those talents are meaningless.

At the end of the day, a parent wants to see their child be "the best" and succeed. They don't want to see their spawn struggle or fail, for a multitude of reasons. You could just tell them to suck it up and get over it or that there are worse things than a kid who isn't SPECIAL, but that only goes so far. Having a dumb, mediocre, average kid is not what you imagined after 9 months of morning sickness, oopsie poopsies (another medical term) and various other challenges of childbirth. You expected a thing just as perfect as you.

Guess what? That kid is absolutely perfect. No matter how much stress, exhaustion, frustration they put you through, despite all the trials and tribulations you must face for the sake of the creature you created, that beast demon is perfect for what and who they are. The world may never recognize it or celebrate it, but the world is hella dumb. Most people who are celebrated on a mass scale are horrible, awful, manipulative creatures who only focus on their own peace and comfort. As satisfying as it is to be told that you or your child are akin to Einstein or Mozart or Ms. Frizzle, this is seldom a true compliment.

Example time! Today I heard a college tour guide ask a group of teens, "Anyone planning on being Columbus in college and studying abroad?"
She said this with a large smile and great enthusiasm. When no one raised their hand, her smile turned upside-down and she looked disappointed in the group. My thought was, "That's like asking a group of Boy Scouts, "Hey, anyone planning on being Robert Mugabe in college and studying leadership?"
Sure, the man knew how to walk into a party and own it, but when the party's over, you gotsta go!

Einstein... had strict rules for his wife, Maric. The rules included: ‘she had to stop talking when Einstein asked her to’, ‘she had to serve him three meals a day’, and ‘she could not expect any physical intimacy from him’.
Einstein... the guy who married his cousin after separating from Maric, and still continued to have extramarital affairs.
Mozart... who loudly and publicly sang to the woman who rejected him the words, "Leck mir das Mensch im Arsch, das mich nicht will" (The one who doesn't want me can lick my ass)."
Mozart... a man known for his love of scatalogical humor. In case you don't know what that is, it's jokes about "defecation, urination, and flatulence, and to a lesser extent vomiting and other body functions." 
Aside from putting children in precarious situations and frizzy hair, Ms. Frizzle was perfect, but there are always exceptions.

The point is, any disappointment in your child will lead to a deep, secret, sometimes extremely unconscious resentment, a feeling your child will pick up on, no matter what you use to cover it up. This could lead to a downward spiral, a strained relationship, or self-esteem problems that seemingly arose from "nowhere". These expectations and high standards that do not exist or mean anything will control the life he/she leads. Meanwhile, it's all just a power game, a lie people are told and tell in order to feel like they have things in order, when, really, it's all just chaos. No matter how many facts, stats, books, or deep thoughts someone can list off, underneath it all, there is fear, insecurity, and great potential for failure.

Embrace those mistakes, that room for improvement! Be the parent who swoops in and recognizes the challenges, and is on the child's team, rooting for them, helping them, lifting them up, and guiding them. From the moment that kid is born until you're on a straw rocking chair with a catheter, that kid is yours and it is your job to stick with them through hell or high water, to offer solutions or consolation or a bowl of ice cream after a rough time. There's no walking away from that responsibility, no matter where or who your child turns into as they mature. Your one job is to be with them for the journey, even when you just don't want to do it.

The problem is not that your child is not perfect, the problem is that most parents fail to recognize the perfection. They can't be bothered to celebrate it and help polish the scuffs when things get hazy. Parenthood is a messy job without any rhyme or reason. This is why a willingness to learn from others, listen to and respect your children, and be better at parenting as whole, is the only way to move forward and make the best of it. Whether adopted, implanted, accidental, or scheduled, there is no better or worse, there is only an opportunity to positively impact humanity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Children are not for amusement

As long as there is money and fame to be made from the internet, there will be child stars. Those children will grow up dysfunctional, particularly the ones on movie sets. These kids will experience a life differently than other kids. A life of recognition, attention, and "love". All of which sound like positive things, until fame eludes them or leads them down a dark path.

There is no false stigma or stereotype to celebrities. The fact is, when you're a known and beloved face, people want to be the ones to provide you with your drugs, sex, and alcohol, just to get in with your posse. This means excessive drugs, sex, and alcohol. Not necessarily an enemy when done in moderation, but since when has fame and moderation gone together? Say that fame doesn't stick; the child who was once fawned over and seen as perfect is not so perfect anymore. Maybe even a disappointment? No matter how much someone claims to love their child, there is bound to be disappointment or letdown if fame and money don't last forever. Even a child who becomes otherwise successful or average, this won't be quite the same. The kid will notice how much less attention they are getting.

Next problem, keeping up appearances. For the family to appear perfect, for the individual to appear perfect. This person is always ON and representing what is good and right and best. Their time and interests being swayed by sponsored products and having to always look put-together, thin, without acne or inappropriate hairs or messy hair or saying or doing anything that can be misunderstood or overly understood. Lack of privacy, late nights, early mornings, the online comments, the sexism, discrimination, the judgment of every life choice. Nothing is sacred.

While there is an ever-growing awareness and attention on these young people, there is never enough that can be done. There is an inherent trauma to fame.

Heck, let's say we're in a perfect world. Maybe 10 years down the line, maybe cruelty and harassment and expectations of famous people has changed. Maybe the kid's self-esteem can tolerate falling down the ladder of fame or they eventually duck out of the business. What kind of parent feels so empty and meaningless that they need their child to be someone worthy of note? Think about it. You had a kid, your body produced another human being and what do you do with this superpower? You throw that kid on a screen and use him/her as a tool for likes and comments and gushing. Which is one thing when it comes to family and friends, but it's another thing when everyone and their mother decides everyone needs to know their kid is beautiful and funny and "gifted". Apparently, every child that was born after 2000 is gifted. What a miracle.

Not only do I really not care and want to hear about it, but it makes that parent or those parents look really sad, stupid, and desperate (to me!) Maybe other people who eat up social media like a can of soup love getting involved with every adult and child's life and hearing about the adventures and misadventures of the ScoopPoopopalous family (they're Greek), but I think a child, a baby, a kid needs to have a life with their close family and a relationship before everyone starts freaking out about capturing everything on camera for an audience.

Maybe it's become even more obvious after I gave social media a try for a year. Between Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and Insta Twitface, I realized that it was exposing my life and me to people who have no right to see into my life. My privacy was cut off and I was being presented to the world like a desperate salesman begging to be chosen and loved. The only approval I seek is that of my loved ones, people I choose to be in my life and to whom I must show my best, my worst, my love, and hurt. Much like my other private parts, these are parts that I do not need or want to show to just anyone I meet. I respect myself and care about myself, so my private parts of all kinds remain hidden away and protected. It is nothing less than cruelty and mistreatment to put a child on display or to use them as a parent's product. If the internet pays you for your child's face, body, or opinions or even just seeks the approval of others, you've already done something unfair to your child, whether the kid "understands and likes it" or not, that kid is now in internet history and cannot escape it. Think about that before you post his/her face on social media or on a stage. Remember the long and short-term implications and what it says about you. Is that the parent you want to be and is that who you want your kid to be?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

How to Open Up

Privacy is a rare commodity these days... they tell me. As far as I can tell, if you just stop telling everyone about yourself, your privacy remains private. I know this to be true because I did it for a long time.

For many years, I didn't tell anyone much about myself. Small talk was never something that seemed enjoyable and random fact-sharing was of no interest. Thus, I was labeled "mysterious" or "an enigma". The truth is and was, I found saying "I" or "Me" to be uncomfortable. You know what was even more uncomfortable than that, though? Being called out for being private.

This is why in the past few years I've been trying to catch up with the rest of society and my peers. Not that it's easy to collect years and years of pop culture references and it's certainly not wise to change oneself entirely. The plan was never to turn into an entirely different and self-obsessed person, nor do I wish to do so. However, getting into social media and talking about myself and my past isn't really the worst thing in the world. There are still details about myself that I avoid sharing and sometimes fun facts go unmentioned, but these are baby steps.

The thing is, not everything has to be about oneself, but not everything has to be completely alone, either. There's an in-between space where a person can share and not overshare, socialize but not go wild, and interact with the world without being a total sell-out version of the person they actually are.

Aside from social media, with which some people become obsessed or their privacy is completely taken away, there are other methods of being involved in the world. A lot of feelings and experiences are shared through music, for example. Art, photography, acts of kindness or cruelty, and everything else a person does expresses something about the individual; some more obvious than others. Not everyone can read body language and subtle hints, though. It all depends how much you are ready to share.

If you just want to jump into the pool and make a splash, try something like blogging or vlogging! Of course, these are just more ways of editing and controlling what you're sharing and how others will see you, but it's a start. Eventually, you may feel comfortable unedited and unfiltered. I'm not sure I'll ever be ready for this, but it sounds like a great goal!

Just try to remember, being a quiet or private person occurs for a reason. Not necessarily "survival", per se, but it serves a purpose. Your upbringing and past experiences have given you an armour for various reasons, so there's no shame in making use of your protection. You're not a bad person for it, but because you're not a bad person, people should have the chance to get to know you! Despite lack of confidence or self-doubt, fear of rejection or criticism... it can be very liberating to feel vulnerable and at-risk. After all, all things must come to an end, including that shame. In 80 years, what will it matter? As for today, you're not likely to leave such a great impression on others that they cling to your embarrassing moment. It's probably just you. Silly you!

Obsessive anxiety and fear of judgment will leave you lacking. Imagine you can do no wrong. What would happen if you stepped up to bat and acted like that outspoken extrovert you envy? Would people be shocked or horrified or proud of you? Would they notice at all? Maybe you fear being ignored and forgotten despite trying to speak up.... In all fairness, there is a lot about which you can worry. There's also a lot of good that can come from it. New relationships, new opportunities, a smile or laugh, a great experience... the things that happen when you take chances and switch things up.

Often, we feel discomfort in colouring outside the lines. Being someone other than we are expected to be. As if someone drew a map of who you are and if you place a toe outside your designated quarters, you can't predict what will happen next. Will they focus on you for too long? Not long enough? Will something tragic occur? ...maybe something wonderful? Sure sounds like a lot more fun and adventure than just remaining the same.

Blushing, panic, sweating, racing heart, trouble breathing or swallowing, stuttering... the list goes on. All these physical manifestations of the racing thoughts of terror in your mind. Then, what- death? Unlikely. Maybe you'd rather be dead than face those consequences or whatever could come next. It's that unknown abyss of what happens after life or total embarrassment.

The witnesses will have two options: they can become/remain your friend or they can walk away. In the end, however, you were authentic. You released a true self; a secret; a locked away version of yourself who is going to get more and more resentful the more you ignore it. Act on it.
In any way you can, any chance you get. Share, tell, give in, try things. What that entails can be as big or small as you wish, but at least it's movement. Standing still has never accomplished anything.

UPDATE: It's funny how the mind works. After writing this piece, I felt an odd sense of unrest. I felt dirty and shameful, maybe even overly-vulnerable. It occurred to me just how much one exposes themselves through actions and words online. I tried to ignore it and recognize that it was my anxiety eating away at me. However, last night (aka this morning) around 3 AM, I had an obsessive thought in my mind. I felt a compulsion to delete all social media. Not Facebook, as I store my photos there, but Twitter, YouTube, Instagram.... Even though I used them for educational/career-focused goals, I felt exploited, by my own hand and the addictive media qualities. Unable to fight the urges, I went to my laptop and everything was deleted. Goodbye. No regrets so far. I don't miss the 2,000+ random people who served me no purpose. Their voyeuristic tendencies overwhelmed, angered, and bored me. What I saw of their minds and lives was not much better and I had no desire to know what they thought and felt... not if they weren't willing to share it with me in private. It was all meaningless data and I have no use for it. Or maybe, I just felt my privacy was being taken away and it was clearer upon writing about it. Fare thee well, social media!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Current Status

I am sitting here.
Waiting to live.
Or maybe,
waiting to die.

One has to happen,
or the other.

My mood is stable
My thinking is straight
I am optimistic
and dreaming.

But they tell me life is short
That it could end any moment
To live like today is my last.

Yet, here I sit.

How bizarre.

Friday, February 23, 2018

I was supposed to be....

I was supposed to be a travel writer,
But instead I tried to kill myself.
Shot down by fear, anxiety,
and the voices outside my head.
The plan was to go and never look back
Forget defeat and the 9-5.
All it took was one rebuttal
and I hid back in my shell

My dream was to travel for money
or to travel until money came;
To work and focus and see it all
and not give up when things got tough.
This proved to fail, just like me
I saw the flaws in my itinerary.
Just as I fell to the ground and shook,
but I have not given up.

The plan still remains just the same,
I know what I must do now.
All it will take is some deep breaths
and honesty to those whom I love.
They’ll doubt me, fear it, and condemn me,
Make me think I can’t make it on my own.
The good thing about dreaming big is,
there is no such thing as failure, only learning.

Safety and certainty aren’t what I seek
Stability and sanity were never meant for me.
Instead, I just need a world in which,
I can be whatever I believe I am.
Just when I spread my arms and fly,
I’ll see all of which I am capable.
So much more in the world awaits me,
and so I must take off.