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A Heart Broken in Two Places

 

I‘ve promised you Paris updates and those will come tomorrow. But today, this is the story that needs telling.

This is a post about an artist’s heart, as yesterday, my heart broke in two places.

Maybe it was two days ago. I don’t know. I’m 7 hours ahead of “home” time here in Paris yet regardless of time span, I can tell you that this morning my heart continues to break along the same two lines.

The first fault line split open when I read the news in the wee hours – while America was sleeping and Europe was sitting down to happy hour (which runs until 8pm here – American bars, take note). Alan Rickman had died.

Most people know him as Professor Snape from the Harry Potter film legacy. Others, the affable yet wayward husband opposite Emma Thompson in Love, Actually. Me? I’d always know him as Jamie from Truly, Madly, Deeply. Back sometime around 2003/2004, my then-boyfriend and admitted cinemaphile said there was a movie I “had to see.” Knowing this was an argument I wouldn’t win, I gave in and settled in on a Saturday afternoon to watch some British flick.

From that moment on, Alan Rickman had my heart. I’d never quite seen anyone on the screen do so little yet say so much, be inarguably human and manly and tender yet still be the sexiest being to grace the room. In everything I saw him in and every role he endeavored to portray, I never saw Rickman because he gave himself over so completely to the emotion of the story that needed telling and demanded that I buckle in my shit and go for the ride of my life.

(Bottle Shock – another favorite: “Because you think I’m an arsehole. And I’m not, really. I’m just British and, well… you’re not.”)

Cancer is the arsehole and heaven, in whatever iteration you’ve chosen to invest, is the lucky one. In a week, it’s gotten floor seats to the greatest arena event of all time with Rickman giving himself over to Bowie’s music and René Angelil producing the entire affair.

For the better part of the day in Paris yesterday, I wandered the streets – sometimes alone while my inarguably better half got some work done – and had “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” going in a madcap manner through my brain and occasionally, vocal cords. My artist’s heart had more questions than answers.

  • Am I taking what’s been given to me artistically or am I daring to ask what else is there?
  • Am I waiting for permission to create, to be, to shine?
  • What am I afraid of and where am I holding back in my creative work?

I suppose if you’re not an artist, you can edit the above questions and ask the same of your own life. All I know this morning is that as I write this about a man I’ve never met, I’m on the verge of tears because it’s rare to find a human that doesn’t just inspire you. Fuck, anything – from a filthy penny on a dirty sidewalk to a TED talk can be inspirational.

I’m not looking for inspiration. I’m looking for the unspoken challenge. Inspiration has to go somewhere; make you do something. Alan Rickman challenged me to ask better, harder questions about my own work and to not just leave those questions sitting there like a forgotten bread crust on an inspiration sandwich. He dared me to answer them – honestly. Sans bullshit. Because no one pays to see a liar or someone pretending.

So if it weren’t enough that there’s a baller gig happening in heaven that I don’t have tickets for, the Oscar nominations came out yesterday.

White, white white white white. Did I say white? White.

It’s as if The Academy poured Clorox on the whole of 2015 and forgot that people who aren’t white actually performed on the screen.

As I perused Facebook in the wake of the news, I saw everything ranging from friends – true friends – hating on white actors who received nominations to thought-provoking discussions a zillion comments long on a few friends’ timelines to their friends saying it was time for performers of color to jump ship and have their own awards. Segregation.

And it all hurts my heart.

Because as an artist, I see art as experience. Perspective. Talent doesn’t have a color or age or gender. But I ask how can Sylvester Stallone get a nomination in Creed when the actors that support his story – actors of color – are passed over?

And frankly, can I ask how the actual fuck anything from 50 Shades of Gray got nominated for anything?

What world is it that we live in where in 2000-fucking-16 that we still have to ask these questions – the question of whether talent has a color or gender or age? The Atlantic reported about 2 years ago on the shocking (Shocking? Okay, perhaps not too surprising but sobering nonetheless) composition of Academy voters – you know, the ones who determine who gets nominated for what? Oscar Voters are roughly 94% white, 76% male, and an average of 63 years old.

Well, no fucking wonder, right?

I also saw the completely asinine, white-privilege-laced argument on someone’s thread that “perhaps affirmative action can help actors of color get a nomination when their talent isn’t enough.”

My reply directly to this person was: What the actual fuck? 

Yeah, the person commenting was white.

So today, I don’t know what it means to be white. I know as an artist, it feels pretty shitty because my friends are so goddamned talented it hurts. Their experiences and voices and actions and ways of getting from text to performance astonish and challenge me to rise to the occasion every fucking time an occasion stares me in the face.

It also feels shitty because what if someday, someone said that because I was white, I didn’t deserve to get an award nomination I’d received and someone else was left out or overlooked and attributed that to the color of someone’s skin or gender?

I don’t have an answer. I just don’t.

As an artist, my work gets better because of the people who surround me but how can we – in this world where we look to people like Rickman and the power of an Oscar nod to tell us what’s good – keep walking along as if nothing is wrong? There’s no way that a person’s gender or skin color can dictate their ability to play a leading role as each day, we all play the leading role in someone’s life and it’s the role of a lifetime. Yet, Hollywood sees things differently. The classical and modern stage canon also sees things differently.

There’s a lot wrong with the arts right now and it’s nothing that will be changed in a month’s or year’s time.

My heart broke a second time yesterday because I saw the hearts of my friends breaking. Empathy’s a bitch like that. I’m feeling helpless and not wanting to because I cannot tolerate being part of a problem when there’s an opportunity to be part of a solution. Because I think about ever season general audition notice that comes out here in Chicago and how I feel when I read the breakdowns. For those not in the arts, those are the notices theatres post about the plays to be included in their upcoming seasons and the roles available.

Can you say sausagefest? Can you say hey – thanks for choosing a season with 25 roles for men and 4 roles for women?

Can you say how the hell did you come to that decision and more importantly, who played a part in the making of that decision?

The desire to break off – for any demographic – and do your own thing comes from a continued beat down by the bigger culture, telling you that you don’t matter. It comes from not being seen by the culture you’ve committed to support and work tirelessly to lift up. It comes from thinking that your experiences and the story only you can tell don’t matter.

Which is why people leave.  More importantly, it’s why the people we need most leave.

And don’t get me wrong – amazing things have been started by people who “leave” something else.

But this is one area where we’d all do better if we stuck together and asked, “What now?” and dared to ask, “What’s five years from now?” instead of, “You know – fuck all of you. We’ll do our own thing.”

As an artist, I create for humans – other humans living a life so human that it hurts.

And maybe that’s why, today, my heart remains broken in two places.

The first place – because the world’s left with a body of work created by a man like Rickman who gave himself over to the work.

And the second place – because of the people who give themselves over to the work tirelessly and continuously, only to be passed over time and again.

Because I can do something, about both my own work and how I support the work of others. So can you, no matter what industry you call home. And as I hit publish, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

PS: If you want a powerful and plain-spoken call from a fellow actor/artist in Chicago, check out this post that’s breaking bandwidth from Harmony France. You’ll be glad you did.

Hard Truth 221: Normal is a Place in Illinois, Not a Goal

 

This post originated on my Facebook page (Are you hanging out with us there? It’s a mighty fine group of folks.) — and it deserved to be its own Hard Truth. So I elaborated where necessary and cut shit out that didn’t belong.

*****

On a New Years Eve, I thought I’d share a bit of me…with you.

Over the past eight years of building this brand, I’ve  become the “fuck” girl. If it says fuck, people send it to me. Little did I know that my appreciation for this highly versatile word would bring me…well…the desire to no longer be the “fuck” girl.

I’ve been sent a link to a “sweary coloring book” more times than I can count.

People apparently think I need to read everything that Mark Manson writes. He’s a savvy follow, eloquent as hell, and one of the few blogs I actually subscribe to. Rest assured, I do read what he writes. I just don’t need to be sent a link every time he publishes. I’ve read it, I promise (winky face).

The “enunciate and swear like a fucking lady” t-shirt and mug are at ad nauseam levels in my inbox and Facebook wall.

This poster? Well, I own it. It used to be on my wall. Used to be. It’s a bit too fucky for me these days.

I completely adore the word “fuck,” make no bones about it — but it’s not the only word I know.

And it’s not how I feel about everything.

I used to be someone who said fuck a lot of things. Fuck people who don’t like me, who don’t like what I do, who don’t like what I think, and especially fuck doing things you don’t necessarily like doing.

Y’know. Fuck all those things. Fuck all those people.

But much of that distribution of fucks came from anger. Mostly at myself. I wasn’t living the life that I wanted to be living.

I was doing shit I was GOOD at instead of shit I LOVED and WANTED to be doing. I was doing mostly shit I hated and little I loved.

And I saw people who were doing amazing shit and I thought that shit wasn’t for me.

It made me really angry. It’s the kind of anger you get when you look around your life and think that good only happens to people not named YOU. That no matter how you bust your ass, you’re still going to be standing behind the door when awesome is doled-out. That every day is a fight against an unknown enemy, leaving you the world heavyweight champion of shadowboxing, yet you still feel like you’re suffering a knockout in every round.

Angry. And the bitch about anger is that we usually don’t know it when we’re that kind of angry. So you stay angry and maybe you get to a place like the one I’m in today where you’re able to look back and go, “Jesus on toast — I was super fucking angry.”

So all that anger made me say fuck all those things and fuck all those people.

I understand why I’ve become the “fuck” girl.

Because I was threatened. I was threatened by the simple fact that these people doing all sorts of amazing had a confidence I did not and might never have.

Getting Un-Angry

I stayed angry from roughly 2010 until early 2012 — from when Jason died until I realized I wanted to keep living. When I actively made the choice to stick around on Planet Earth, I realized that I had to lighten my load. I couldn’t keep walking around with everything I’d been carrying.

So, that envy — that jealousy and fear and intimidation I felt towards all of those people doing amazing shit — dissipated. Envy will eat you from the inside out if you keep feeding it. I got a fucking therapist and started dealing with shit.

My crazy, my pain, every thought and feeling I felt I didn’t have permission to feel. Well, every thought and feeling from back then. God knows, I still have a shitload of thoughts and feelings but at least now, I have clearly labeled tupperware bins to put them in.

I was angry at my life. The life I was living was my fault. And it was also my choice.

So, if I had a choice, why not make another one? The next choice. A different choice from the one I’d been making over and over and fucking over and over again…

Instead of telling myself that there was a life I couldn’t have, I turned that statement inside out:

What if there’s a life I could be living instead of the one I wake up to every day?

And I dared to try.

And through my income being cut in a third, moving away from a place I thought I’d always call home, turning down work I don’t want to be doing anymore, and then taking some work I found I enjoyed — I’ve found a path to doing work I love.

Creating. Writing, performing, directing, producing — y’know, doing work that embraces my crazy instead of hating the fact that my life wasn’t normal. Y’know — normal like everyone else’s.

And it’s taught me a lot about all those things and people I used to think can go fuck themselves.

On Doing Shit I Don’t Like, but Need to be Doing (formerly “fuck that shit”)

We all take work we need to be doing when in the pursuit of what it is we want to be doing. It pays for shit like the mortgage and rent and Christmas presents for our families and a squeaky toy for your pup and a little stupid something that puts a smile on your love’s face at the moment they least expect it. Work we need to be doing buys the spontaneous soft serve from McDonald’s on a 90-something degree day when you swore you’d never give them a dime and it also puts money in the bank so you can leave a job you hate when you find one you love that pays a bit more but doesn’t start for 3 more weeks.

Stupid advisors will tell you to stop doing shit in your business cold turkey that pays your light bill. Smart advisors will help you realize what you want to be doing in your business and help you build the business of the future (not the business for tomorrow).

I do what I need to do if and only if it ultimately serves me doing what I love.

On the People Who Hate Me (formerly “fuck those people”)

Since the day I landed on this planet, people have hated me. Most for pretty stupid reasons — but I’ve hated people, too. For equally stupid reasons. It takes a lot of energy to hate and a mind is a rare thing to be changed if it’s not ready.

So it’s nice to know — and accept — I’m not going to change that. People are going to hate me. It’s cool. I just don’t have enough energy to deal with those people AND the people who love me and whom I love.

It’s really one or the other and I’ve made my choice.

On No Longer Being the “Fuck” Girl

I started this post by saying I wish I hadn’t become the “fuck” girl. Every message and product with this amazing four-lettered gift to the English language isn’t “my thing.”

Both are still true. But I do have fucks to give — I just spend them more wisely as fucks are a precious currency.

All my fucks these days are for Fuck Yeah.

Fuck Yeah is about LOVE.

If I’m spending my energy on fuck that or fuck yous (except fuck you, yoga and fuck you, sink), then I have less to give my Fuck Yeahs.

This life I’m living — including all of the bullshit and amazing and weird and ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! and cat vomit and love and loss and day-to-day just getting by — is amazing. And not too many years ago (four, to be exact), I almost hit the ultimate Fuck It button. The one you don’t come back from. Eject on life, goodbye cruel world, a note to friends and family and a sad shelter pet story for two dogs and two cats.

I’m so very glad I did not.

Because Fuck Yeah.

Because if I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you I found Fuck Yeah and I’d have left you with nothing but fuck that and fuck you.

But I love this and you and life and all of the bullshit so fucking much it makes my heart burst.

So in 2016, be on the lookout. There’s a whole lot of Fuck Yeah coming your way from ME. And no, that doesn’t mean less swearing (seriously?), less funny (because life is fucking hilarious), or fewer opinions you might not agree with. I have a lot of opinions (just like you).

It means HONESTY — because it’s the ultimate Fuck Yeah in a world where too many people think that fuck this and fuck you gets you what you want.

They get you something, that’s for sure, and I got it. Oh boy, did I get it.

And it sure as hell wasn’t what I wanted.

Finding Your Fuck Yeah for the New Year

So maybe as you look to the year ahead, you’ll find YOUR Fuck Yeah. And yes, as Clark Kent would say, the “new year” is merely a demarcation point on an antiquated calendar…another day sandwiched between two other days truly no different than any other single day.

But if you’re going to pick a day to say farewell to fuck you and fuck that, I think the turning of the New Year is a fine day for such. Resolutions fail because our thoughts and behavior don’t align for the long haul.

Maybe this year you’ll find the resolve to transform a thought to transform your life. Or a life, even if it’s not yours.

Fuck Yeah, family.

Fuck Yeah, my business.

Fuck Yeah, my love.

Fuck Yeah, that book.

Fuck Yeah, standing up for myself.

Fuck Yeah, falling in love with your YOU.

Fuck Yeah, a puppy.

Fuck yeah, my first house.

Fuck Yeah, I love her/him.

Fuck Yeah, another day. Another BEAUTIFUL DAY I can go through as this gloriously fucked up human being I am, surrounded by other gloriously fucked up human beings like you.

And I can’t do any of that if I’m worried about being normal.

Leaving Normal Behind

At 43, I can look back and say that I’ve spent a great deal of my life in pursuit of a life that I thought was normal. Family, kids, the right job, a published book, an online course that people download that will fundamentally change lives for a scant $497 because everyone has one so I should, too.

Normal is a place in Illinois, not a goal. Not even the people who live in Normal are normal. They just pay taxes there.

I can stop trying to be perfect. I can stop wishing for normal. Because I’ll never be either.

So Fuck Yeah, Fucked Up Me. You’re a sexy beast. And you’re going to do amazing things with all that energy you used to spend on trying to be perfect and normal.

Oh, and fuck “normal.” If I’m going to say fuck that to anything, it’s being normal. My pursuit of it has done nothing but fuck me.

Happy day sandwiched between two other days on the calendar, my loves. Flip the calendar. Your life is waiting — and the only thing it’s waiting on…

is you.

See you in 2016. Happily.

or

f normal

Hard Truth 220: Merry Christmas — Shitter’s Full

The way he was carrying the bag was driving me nuts.

One handle was up, one handle was down, the bag was completely lopsided and the potted orchid for Clark Kent’s mom inside looked like the Titanic in its last hours — listing helplessly in one direction (and of course, not enough lifeboats for my OCD).

I just blurted out, “Oh my god. How can you carry the bag that way?”

It’s fine.

“No, it’s not fine. It’s going to spill. Just grab the other handle!”

It’s fine.

“It’s not fine. Jesus. Just grab the other handle. I can’t look at that all the way to the train.” And I speed up to walk in front of him.

So, do you know what this guy does? No. He doesn’t grab the other handle.

Nope.

He starts running in circles around me. Running in front of me, behind me, waving the bag when he gets in front of me. Making me look at it.

Bastard. It was hilarious.

And then, he discovered the other handle. Like, oh — I didn’t see this — and he rights the Titanic orchid. My OCD is still without a lifeboat.

We board the commuter train and head north. It’s pretty much a glorified schoolbus, complete with vinyl seats. For an hour, it’s decently comfortable. Longer than that and shit would be going down.

Speaking of shit.

I always have to use the bathroom on the train. Always, without fail. I cannot “go before I leave.” Even if I go before I leave, we will be 38 minutes into a one hour trip and I will have to pee. Thankfully, there’s a bathroom in each train car.

Clark Kent was reading his Kindle and I, peering over the upper railing down to the main deck to the bathroom door.

Which had been closed for quite some time.

 

Jesus. What’s going on in there? I made a comment to a similar effect to Clark Kent. He mentioned something about holding it if he were me and went back to his Kindle.

About 5 minutes after I start Door Watch 2015, a man emerges and I announce in my most ladylike voice that I’m going to the restroom. By this point, my bladder is busting with the 8 oz (12) of prosecco I’d inhaled as liquid courage for Christmas With the Kents and I do my best not to jump the railing and just Mary Lou Retton myself onto the floor below in front of the bathroom door. I could have. It really wasn’t that far.

And then I remembered I’m 43 and never took gymnastics at Karolyi’s like some of the girls in my junior high school (like Chelle Stack, who went to the Olympics in 1988 while we were still in middle school).

While I was contemplating my vaulting abilities, another man had slipped into the bathroom. God. Dammit.

So I took the stairs post haste in order to further delay the inevitable peeing of my pants.

Sneaky Bathroom Man exited. I went through the door, flipped the latch, and…

Holy shit.

Quite literally — holy fucking shit.

The toilet was FULL.

Merry Christmas (2)

I mean, like completely full of poop. Terrible, brown poop, nearly straight up to the top, leaving maybe an inch or two of hover space below the seat.

Which explains why the first guy was in there for so long.

But this does not explain how Sneaky Bathroom Man even stayed in the bathroom, used the bathroom, and exited with a look of satisfaction on his face as if the Republicans had finally realized that Donald Trump is veritable bit of Hitler reincarnate.

I’m totally projecting.

But here I am, locked in Shitsville on a train moving at roughly 80 MPH heading north in Illinois and sweet baby Jesus, my bladder is about to burst.

I’m faced with a decision.

SINK. I’ll use the sink! I know how to do that!

Except there’s no sink. How the fuck is there no sink?! Spying the pump of hand sanitizer on the wall, I know.

Fuck you, sink.

I could go to another train car. But by now, I feel as if I reek of the fecal jungle that is this bathroom and that I’d be trailing that through not just this car, but past conductors and people in other cars and be forever known as THE GIRL WHO SMELLED LIKE SHIT and then I start to worry that I can’t get the shit smell off of me and what if I get to his sister’s house and she goes in for a hug and gets a whiff of me and hesitates for a minute before leaning in for what has now become the Obligatory Hug, the same type of hug you give Creepy Uncle Gene — you know, the uncle who’s always made inappropriate remarks about your boobs coming in nicely but hasn’t laid a hand on you? Then, she gestures to Clark Kent’s mom with a DON’T HUG HER gesture and suddenly, I’m the pariah of Christmas dinner WHEN IT ALL SEEMED TO BE GOING SO WELL BEFORE I SHOWED UP SMELLING LIKE SHIT.

Again, fuck you, sink.

So at this point, I’m confident that I smell like shit and forever will, still have to pee, and I’m trapped in the fecal jungle.

So I decide to pee.

I get everything positioned and my pants carefully gathered and my butt is hovering roughly 32 inches off the seat. I just stand there, squatting, waiting for the pee to come…

And right when the pee comes, the train slows down.

Which sends me in this slow lean forward — AWAY from The Shit Show and towards the door.

In order to save myself, I release the Pants Gathering and reach both arms out to the side, watching the hem of my pants fall in slow motion with an inner, “Noooooooo…..” leaking out from my soul. I avoid (somehow) falling to the floor on my face as the train picks up speed again, thrusting me backwards towards The Shit Show. And in a moment, I release my pee, shuffle forward with my pants around my ankles as far away as I can get from The Shit Show, and I’m on the verge of hyperventilating.

But I did it. I hoisted up my britches, examined the hems for offending bodily waste, and leaned forward to press the flush button.

Hilarious. Like that was actually going to work.

BLURP.

Blurp blur blurp — that’s what it did each time I pressed the flush button.

My work here is done.

I slather hand sanitizer over more than just a few body parts, open the door, and climb back up the stairs to take my seat across from Clark Kent.

He doesn’t even look up from his Kindle as I come back up.

I sit down, wide eyed, waiting for him to notice the inevitable stench wafting over towards him from my general direction.

Nothing.

After a moment or two, I make a remark about how I should have held it.

I told you so.

Grrrrrr…

And then I remember this clip from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

(click here if you’re reading this via email)

I just burst out laughing.

Clark Kent stares.

I pull out my phone, Google-up that YouTube clip, and ask him if he’s seen the movie.

Maybe.

MAYBE?! My god, who am I dating?

Well, by god, you’re going to see this clip now.

I’ve seen it.

Well, you’re going to watch it again. Right now.

Clark Kent begrudgingly takes the phone and hits play.

And then he nearly bursts out laughing.

Which makes me laugh even more.

And it turns out that I don’t smell like shit. And we go on to have a very Merry Christmas. The only thing I wanted this year spent the better part of the day smiling at me and holding my hand.

And from now on, I will hold it on the goddamned train.

or

 

Hard Truth 219: Because a Part of Me Will Always Believe I’m a Piece of Shit

It’s always funny to me when I look at the MailChimp report for people who have unsubscribed from my blog.

The most common? No response.

The next most common? Some iteration of the following:

RedheadWriting used to have this edge and a real fuck-you to it. You’ve gotten soft since you moved to Chicago and the whole lovey-dovey thing doesn’t do anything for me.

Your wit used to be acerbic and I miss that. Now it’s all help-this and help-that. I don’t need a self-help book.

You kinda became boring when you fell in love.

Those are actual responses.

Which leads me to today’s hard truth: and that’s there’s a part of me that will always believe I’m a piece of shit.

A complete and totally unlovable piece of shit.

That no matter what I do, it’s wrong.

That by sharing my heart, I’m an asshole somehow.

That by realizing that there was a better way to be living than the way I was living, somehow I turn out to be the cunt in this whole karmic equation.

That by using the word “cunt,” I hate women. (I’ve been told this. I’ve also been told that kissing would get me pregnant and Mark Zuckerberg would send me some shared of Facebook for sharing a status update.)

By simply daring to have an opinion and putting it out there and someone didn’t like it and decided to stop by to tell me I should just kill myself already (happened, more than once), I’m a total waste of cosmic space.

I recently wrote about why I bother to continue writing when I occasionally get metric fucktons of shit for the stuff that comes out of my keyboard.. Mostly, it’s because I can’t not write.

But the woman powering this blog of eight years has a bit of a self-esteem problem.

A bit. Not as much as I used to. But today, let me take you on a journey that shares a bit more about me than anyone who’s followed this blog for three or eight years has probably ever known — because it’s all the reason why there’s a part of me that will always believe I’m a piece of shit.

I grew up on comedy. Red Skelton, Bob Hope, and when I was old enough (or rather, when we got cable), Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor (holy hell, only when my parents weren’t home), and Eddie Murphy.

I grew up surrounded by people laughing at people who made us laugh…at other people.

And let’s be honest — some people are laugh-atable. Yes, that’s a word.

And the thing I’ve always wanted most was to make people laugh because there’s nothing I liked more about growing up than the sheer delight of laughing at these amazing stand up comedy specials.

You’ll be hard pressed to convince me, though, that great comedy comes from a place other than great pain.

So to find comedy, you start looking in the darkest places — the places where the things people don’t talk about live.

Like your heart and soul.

Because on top of much humor coming from the depths of darkness, we’re taught from an early age how to not take a compliment.

That self-deprecation is a desirable trait.

And today, there’s still amazing humor that comes from watching a master comedian, screenwriter, or playwright take us on a journey where Everyman or Everywoman struggles against their greatest enemy: their own selves.

So now, we’ve got a passport filled with stamps from The Dark Places of the Heart and Soul coupled with a Master’s Degree in Self-Deprecation.

This is how I lived for 30-some-odd years. Finding the humor in the shit no one wanted to talk about, about others and occasionally, about myself.

We laugh at the mentally ill person on the subway. We ignore the homeless person asking for money. We cackle and share the images from People of Walmart (no link provided for a reason).

Because we’re better. And it’s easier to laugh than it is to admit that if we didn’t find a way to laugh, we’d drop a live toaster into a full bathtub and scrub-a-dub-zap. We have to convince ourselves we’re better and that we made it out of somewhere these other people didn’t make it out of.

All these years, I’ve played around with different ways to laugh and what I laugh at.

And 43 years later, I’ve found what makes me laugh the most: the person I used to be and the person I struggle to become.

And that’s why a part of me will always think I’m a piece of shit.

When you spend a life in pursuit of laughter, you find some dark-ass shit along the way. And some of that dark-ass shit belongs to you.

Because Fuck You, Yoga. It’s funny because it happened and there’s a part of me that thinks no one but a piece of shit could lose two yoga mats in four hours. It’s funny because I think of everything that had to go wrong in order for it to be possible to even tell that story.

It’s funny because it’s human and it’s my dark-ass shit and if I couldn’t laugh about it, I would cry and everyone loves a crier.

Losing Your Sht

We’ve all got some dark-ass shit floating around in our lives.

The problem with the dark-ass shit, though is that most days, I think I’m the only one who has it. That I’m the only one who’s fucked up. That I’m the only one who’s lost something, missed something, almost had something, been hurt by someone, and otherwise ended up on the ass-end of the universe’s pogo stick.

And when we start to feel alone in our dark-ass shit, we start to think that we’re a piece of shit. Unworthy of good. Unworthy of kindness. Unworthy of love. Unworthy of happiness.

And so, we keep laughing (if we can).

And at 43 years, I’ll tell you how I get through the darkness of those piece of shit days:

I look at who I was five years ago and ask myself who I like better — me today or me then.

The answer is always, without fail, me today.

Because me today has been through some dark-ass shit and has lived to tell the tale.

Me today has succeeded more than she’s fucked up (evidenced by my ability to write this blog post my damn self instead of sending you a message from the great beyond, post-toaster-and-tub incident).

Me today fell enough in love with herself that she found a man who fell in love with her brand of weird. We live in weird together because he’s a weird-ass dude with some dark-ass shit of his own. Every now and then, we bump into one another’s dark-ass shit and we deal with it. Together.

And what I like to think is that the people who have stuck around this joint all this time have journeyed through their own dark-ass shit. We’re kind of a collective filled with assorted and sundry types of dark-ass shit.

And this place, it’s a safe place for you — and me — to lose our shit. And I know I write using a lot of “ands” and it gives me a great level of anxiety sometimes which is totally fucking weird because who sits there at their dining room table at 8:14am and worries about how many fucking “ands” they’re using and where?

Me. That’s who.

So — yes. There is always a part of me that will think I’m a bit of a piece of shit.

But I’m not as big a piece of shit as I used to be — back when I wrote at the expense of others, powered by anger and needing to shove others down in order to raise myself up.

And for anyone who misses that version of my piece of shit self — that’s what the unsubscribe button is for.

This place — it’s a nice place to lose our shit, together. And your dark-ass shit is always safe with me.

or for the SFW crowd

Hard Truth 218: The Best Hug I Got in 2015

Every day when I’m walking home from the train, I pass my neighborhood market.

She’s there.

She stands outside the doors, selling StreetWise magazine. It’s a Chicago-based venture where those who are homeless can buy this magazine for $1 and sell it for 2, keeping the profits or using the profits to go back and buy the next week’s edition for sale. In all honesty, it’s an absolutely terrible bit of journalism, but what it does is support someone who is paving the road from homeless and jobless to entrepreneurial and hopefully, homed.

She always has the sweetest smile on her face. “Would you like to help the homeless today?” I can’t imagine how many times she says this each day.

And I’ve never bought a magazine from her.

Today’s hard truth is about asking, “What else?” because there’s always a next — and better — question.

I’m ashamed this morning to say that I don’t know her name.

But every time I see her, I go ask her, “Do you need anything from inside today?”

And her eyes light up.

There’s always a pause before she says, “Really!?”

Yes, really.

And some days it’s rice. Others, it’s cooking oil. Sometimes she asks for cut up chicken, “Wings or legs, whatever’s cheaper.”

So I buy whatever she asks for. And a few things she doesn’t.

Yesterday, it was brisk and windy so I waved and smiled at her as I ducked into the store. I filled my hand basket with the few things I needed and grabbed a package of chicken legs and some rice as well. I had the cashier bag it separately. Then I walked out and handed her the bag.

Her eyes got wide. “What’s this?!”

I said, it’s for you.

She looked in the bag and this massive grin came over her entire face. “Oh, my — you know my favorites!”

And she hugged me.

the best hugs

And it’s the best hug I’ve gotten in all of 2015.

The best hugs is the world are powered by selfless ZEAL –a willingness to squeeze the shit out of someone because it’s the only way you know to share the gratitude bubbling over in your heart. And that’s what I got. It was a great fucking hug.

I told her that whenever she sees me, I’ll be happy to get her anything she needs. She just has to ask. And even if she’s busy and can’t ask, I’ll still get her something.

And today, I’m going to go back by there and bring her an extra down coat of mine. Because yes, I have one I hardly wear in my first-world, highly privileged life.

Because there’s always the next question to ask. And today, I’m going to ask her her name.

It’s the little things, you know. The one more thing we can do. For our clients, our customers, a stranger. Our lover, a kid, or parent.

The one thing that takes so little effort. And all it takes to deliver that one little thing…

is a question.

Because people, I think, just want to be seen as people. And that they matter.

Because they do matter. Just like you matter.

And it’s a shitty world we live in that we’re reminded of these things once a year at a time called the holidays.

So, what will you ask today — that one NEXT question?

“What’s your name?” for the woman who stands outside your market.

“How big was it?” for the nephew who doesn’t stop talking the minute he walks in the door and hasn’t shut up for 2 hours when he’s telling you about the dinosaur that was living in his backyard last week.

“What’s that like?” when Uncle Bob is telling you about the intricacies of ice fishing when you can’t imagine a greater hell.

“How are you doing — and don’t lie to me” for a person who recently lost his spouse of 46 years and tells everyone he’s FINE.

“How are you spending the holidays?” to the server who’s been nothing but chipper to you and your family on a totally slammed night filled with tables full of tourists who don’t tip?

Because maybe in return, karma will come around and someone will ask you that one question that makes you feel SEEN today.

OR

 

Hard Truth: Because I Won’t Let the Evil Algorithms Keep Joy Down

On Friday the 18th, my friends Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer launched their 3rd annual UnSecret Santa mission. They invite people to post their Amazon Wishlists openly on the Unmarketing Facebook page and there, people from around the world can go to a list, make a purchase, and fulfill the Christmas wish of a complete stranger. For those with more money than time, they also share how you can send Scott and Alison an Amazon gift card directly and they’ll go shopping for you.

Not only did I send Scott and Alison a digital gift card, I tried to share their amazing mission to my Facebook page.

Twice.

And you know what happened? Facebook said, “Hey, this is stupid. We’re not going to show this to your audience.”

As of this morning, both posts have been seen (COMBINED) by only 800 people out of 30,000+ on the page.

And that’s bullshit.

 

I refuse to let the evil Facebook algorithms keep the holiday joy down this year — especially given that I just wrote this about how we have to create our own joy, especially when it comes to social media.

So today’s hard truth is that you can’t let some bullshit keep you down when you’re on a mission to be a part of the good shit in this world.

That’s why I’m dedicating an entire post to the Unsecret Santa Mission.

There are 2 ways to get involved: You can BE an Unsecret Santa or you can ASK for help from an Unsecret Santa.

Because let’s face it — the holidays can be a tough time when the world’s decided to kick you in the ass at the wrong time of year. While there’s never a good time, the holidays can be hard, especially for people with kids, when you’re doing your damnedest to keep on keeping on.

unsecret santaIf you want to ASK for help from an Unsecret Santa

Just head on over to the Unsecret Santa thread and post you Amazon Wishlist. BE SURE YOUR LIST IS SET TO SHIP — THIS IS IMPORTANT. Note that your shipping address will remain confidential and your Unsecret Santa won’t see it — they’ll just select “ship” and magic will appear on your doorstep. Here’s how to set up a list of your very own. Otherwise, people can’t send you anything! BOOOOO. I think it’s amazing that people are being vulnerable enough to share why they’re asking for help. What I’d also like for you to do is post your list in either the blog comment or on my Facebook page so our community can choose to help one of their fellow community members.If you want to BE an Unsecret Santa

Just head over to the Unsecret Santa thread and start scrolling through the wish lists on the thread. I’ve chosen to work from the bottom up on the thread so those lists get attention. But do what you do an how you do it.

If you don’t have time to shop and just want to help the cause, you can send Scott and Alison an Amazon gift card or Paypal donation to use for the cause via email to: scottprivate AT un-marketing dot com.

And if you don’t have the means to help but you still want to help

Why not share Scott and Alison’s post with a friend you know of in need this holiday season? You just might be the person who didn’t spend a dime and helped someone else have a more cheer-filled holiday.

And that’s it. We can choose to be a part of the good in the world. So go forth and santa the shit out of something for a stranger. Ask for help if this is your year to need a helping hand.

And never forget — there’s good shit in this world. We CHOOSE to be a part of it.