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Baby, You’re Never Gonna to be Ready

Wherever you’re at right now, you’re not ready.

You’re not ready for the reality of your situation. You’re not ready for the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that’s inevitable if you decide to take a swing at this thing. You’re not ready for another pile of cat vomit directly underneath your right foot. You’re not ready to lose. And you’re sure as hell not ready to win.

You’re not ready to fall on your face or spend hours thinking about how it could have all gone differently. You’re also not ready to get what you want because you’re afraid of those snarky messages from the people you call friends who think you don’t deserve it. You’re not ready to tell your mom. Or him. Or her.

You’re. Not. Ready.

Congratulations. Welcome to the rest of humanity because no one else is fucking ready, either.

That’s because being ready is bullshit.

You can be prepared. Do your homework, learn your lines, study-up, know your shit and be completely fed up with the status quo.

But you’re never ready for the feeling that comes as you step up to take the swing.

So what if, instead of focusing on being ready, you focused on being alive?

Because the feelings you have right now — the stress and the fear and the worry and the <fill this blank in with dumb feeling shit that doesn’t make you feel good> — are making you dead inside.

You’re so worried about being ready that you’re forgetting to live.

I’ve spent the past two weeks of my life getting ready for a 5-minute audition I had yesterday. I had voice lessons, walked around my neighborhood singing like a crazy person while walking my dogs, sang in my car with a guitar track on repeat, and…well, let’s just say that I was more than stressed. Why? Because I’d never sung in front of people before. Ever. Except for this one line I had in this musical number in a show not a lot of people went to a few years ago and I basically just yelled it on-key so volume made up for the talent gap, y’know?

And I was going to be walking into a room with three people in it:

  • A guy who created a hit TV series you’ve all heard of who was writing this new musical
  • A guy who wrote the songs for the show who was sitting at the Grammys a week ago, as a nominee
  • The casting director, who got my name on referral from a friend (a friend who stands to look like an asshole if I’m a total shit show)

No pressure at all, right?

I had a great session with my voice coach on Sunday morning and I felt good about my music. Then, I had two and a half days to remind myself what a piece of shit I was and who the hell was I to walk into that room with those people in it and let anything powered by air come out of my mouth?

I was anything but ready. But then, I did something that sounds completely silly. I listened to a meditation from a smart lady named Amy Jo Berman (she ran casting at HBO for over a decade) while I was on the treadmill yesterday morning and she said something to the effect of:

“What if today, you decided to have an adventure? What if this was fun? And what if the people you met today are playmates, and you could play like you did when you were a kid?”

And a lightbulb went off in my head.

Holy shit. I’d completely forgotten, in this entire process, to have fun.

So for the rest of the day yesterday, I had an adventure. I came home and ditched what I had totally fussed over to wear to the audition. I put on my wavy Texas hair (which I love), my Corral cowboy boots, skipped the bra and said, “Yeah — this is me.” I got in the car, drove to the audition, sat in the waiting area, the casting director came out and said, “Hi Erika!” because she recognized me from Facebook, and when she called me into that room I wasn’t ready.

I wasn’t ready at all.

But I was going to have fun, do ME, and have a goddamned adventure. 

And I did.

I did a monologue I love, cranked out an a cappella version of Bobby McGee that made Grammy guy whip out his guitar and play along with me, and sang his song. They said thank you and I left.

Because you know what I got to do yesterday? I got to sing a song by a dude who was at the Grammys as a nominee — with him playing the guitar for me.

I got to sing in front of people and no one died. Most importantly, me.

I got to do something I’d never done before, for people I’d never met before.

And I wasn’t ready to do any of that.

And I’m sure as hell not ready to do it all again. But I would in an instant.

Because I don’t know what I sounded like in that room, but all of ’em bopped along, heads bobbing, as I sang Bobby and I could go over all of it and give you a list of 34 ways I could have been more ready.

But seriously. To hell with being ready. I want the adventure. The fun. I want to play and remember what it was like when I gave less of a fuck about what people thought about what I do and who I am. I want less focus on ready in my life and more on heart and soul, and the ability I have to put all of me into something.

And knowing ME isn’t pretty and it’s pretty much a mess. But it’s a damn fine mess when I get my hair all did and put the boots I love so much on my size 8 feet and can walk into a joint in my own skin.

You’re not ready. You never will be. And neither will I.

But you can damn well be prepared, let all the bullshit go, and have some fun. Figure out what it was like when you felt happy all those decades ago. The moments you believed you were a lady astronaut on the moon and the kid next door was driving (yeah, driving) the lunar module. When you were a ballerina scientist who developed a new kind of ballet shoes, even though they were just scotch tape and some cardboard and it took a week to get the adhesive off your feet. When you were a country music star and you could see the audience of 20,000 through the floodlights on the stage just enough to remember that they were there for you.

Baby, you’ll never be ready. But there are things in life worth a whole lot more than being ready.

And what would your life look like if you put your energy there instead of where you’ve been putting it?

OR

So, while some of you already saw this over on Facebook, here’s a little Janis Joplin for you. I thought she was my spirit animal until I remember she dies of a heroin overdose. Which prompted me to get a new spirit animal. But she helps me be a more OUT LOUD version of me. Thanks for that, Janis. I wasn’t ready to record this. But I did. And it was fun.

(Oh, and stalk me on Instagram at @erikadnapo if you’re not already.)

(If you’re reading this via email and the Instagram video didn’t come through, click right here.)

 

A little Janis for an unseasonably sunny fuckin’ day in Chicago.

A post shared by Erika Napoletano (@erikadnapo) on

Day 1: Something About Pills and Booze

Today is December 1, 2016 and I have been sober for 30 days.

I didn’t plan to quit drinking. Don’t get me wrong – I needed to. And hell, if I hadn’t quit November 1, I’d likely have been drunk for the next four years.

And baby, I ain’t young enough to spend the next four years drunk.

So, where the hell have I been?

Well, I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ve been awesome. Awesome or drinking. Basically, I’ve spent the better part of this year either in a show (which is awesome), in rehearsal for a show (also awesome), at auditions (awesome X3), or drinking.

So, here’s a picture of where I’ve been.

awesome or drinking

And when I looked at that picture (in my mind), I realized that if I took away drinking…

I had a lot more space for awesome.

awesome-1

And to be honest, it feels weird to feel like this. Like I do. Like, right now — up at 5:44am and productive AF.

I don’t know if you know what this is like, but I’m going to put it out there and see if it sounds familiar.

Here we go…

So, when you’re 17, you go on the pill from a clinic and let’s just say you didn’t get to the clinic because you woke up one day and said, “Hey! Is that a clinic? Maybe they have lollipops and hugs inside!”

As you get older, you want to hide more. See people less. Your sofa is your most meaningful relationship and you’re eyeing Snuggie and Slanket ads like WTF THAT IS BRILLIANT BECAUSE IT’S A TRAVELING BLANKET FORT. And 28 years down the line, you read a report that links those little pills you’ve been on for FUCKING DECADES to depression and you’re like, hey – my ovaries have pretty much already gone to Tahiti anyways and we’re just on these things for our “complexion” (because acne is real in your 40s, y’all, because the universe is pretty much an asshole). So you stare at the bottles of pills you’ve been taking and the times you start breathing fast and those couple of times you considered (and tried) kicking off this mortal coil for the Land Elsewhere Because It Has To Be Better Than Here and the days you haven’t wanted to get out of bed for the past 20 years and you think, fuck it. 

What have I got to lose?

So you stop taking the little pills you’re supposed to take to prevent babies and regulate your (relatively nonexistent) menstrual cycle and help your “complexion.” You email your doc and you FULL STOP.

I mean, you just stop.

Like when I quit smoking. I quit.

And yeah, birth control pills aren’t really addictive unless you’re talking about being addicted to not wanting a small human planting itself in your abdomen for 9 months rent-free when you’re a sexually active woman because being sexually active isn’t a crime and it’s my fucking uterus and not up for vote, yo.

***Side note: Women have been taking the pill for years but men won’t take it because they don’t like the side effects. INTERESTING.

So, I quit the pill. And I ended up quitting other pills, too.

And about a month later, I realized…

I hadn’t had a single panic attack.

I was sleeping without sleeping pills for the first time since October of 2010.

I was HAPPY when I woke up in the morning.

I was losing weight (Fuck yeah ladies – right?! All these goddamned pills.)

And the best part of it all – I wanted to make things.

With words. With pictures. With people.

Stories. TV pilots. Short videos. Relationships. New friends.

The Sex with Clark Kent.

I finally felt creative again. And not anxious. And excited and happy and curious and…

Well, I felt.

And there was a day a few days ago where I sat alone when Clark Kent wasn’t home – on the sofa with a Small Dog on my right side – and wept.

Because I couldn’t remember the last time I wasn’t anxious. That I slept without pills. And that I’d felt creative.

It was like…

It was a lot like ending a long-term relationship. I mean, you’ve been in that shit for years and you know where your socks go and where he’s going to leave his shoes and what’s going to be eaten first (the fucking Cheez-Its that you bought for yourself) when you put the groceries away. You know what shows you watch together and when he’s going to laugh. You know how his kiss used to feel when he kissed you goodnight but hey, that shit the bed about three years ago and it’s merely ether in the grey cloud that is the remains of your relationship. You both talk about things you want to do (but never will). You muse about going places together and seeing things (but you won’t). And there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t wonder if things come in a brighter shade of grey than this monochromatic palette that your life has become and you somehow think is all you deserve.

And then one day, it happens.

Some random guy in a North Face puffy jacket smiles at you at just the right time. Your girlfriend gets engaged to the guy she met on Tinder, like 7 weeks and 3 days ago. You pay off a credit card and your job asks you if you want to move to London for a year and all of a sudden, always becomes never and you hit the Fuck It Button because, hey.

What do you have to lose? 

And you wake up a bit disoriented because there’s a hole in your life now. Where HE used to be (or she…or they). Or in my case, IT.

IT: Grey

IT: Anxiety

IT: What I felt like every goddamned day and had accepted as status quo

When my life became a swirl of monochrome – greys and more greys – I just wanted to feel something.

Anything.

And if I’m being honest, feeling buzzed or drunk was tangible as fuck. And it was something.

It’s for real real…

Buzzed and drunk are bonafide, legit feelings and they might not feel good, but they sure feel different.

And when your life is filled with greys, different is pretty fucking exciting.

Which is why I quit drinking.

Because suddenly, there was this hole I had from where the anxiety and depression and GREY used to be and I used drinking to brighten up the grey. Well, with the grey gone, I don’t need the drinking.

And I don’t miss it.

Okay. I haven’t completely lost my damn mind because THAT statement above about missing it is a total lie. I miss the smell of olive brine in a perfect dirty martini and I miss the crunch of an olive and the taste as my tongue hits the blue cheese inside. Also, vodka was perhaps one of my longest adult relationships besides coffee. And I miss raising a glass to toast with friends or even sitting down to chill with a drink at the end of one of my days where I’m doubting I have anything good to give this world.

I miss the ritual. And celebration. But I don’t miss it enough to ever take another drink again.

Because what I’ve missed all these years is the brighter version of me.

The me that wants to write things I’ve never tried to write (like TV pilots – I’m writing two).

The me that laughs and laughs.

The me that has so little time for the pettiness of others and has actually come to the conclusion that opinions aren’t like assholes. They’re like a yeast infection because you can either let them stick with you for awhile and wait out the impact while the 3- or 7-day treatment does its thing or you can opt for the 1-day treatment and say, y’know – it’s twice as expensive but I AM DONE WITH YOU.

***Men, this analogy is lost on you. I’m open to ideas.

And the me that’s able to embrace all three of those things above without a drink in her hand because she’s trying to feel something enough to have something to say.

So, day 30 sober. Sexy.

But it’s more like day 60 for feeling like…THIS.

Instead of anxious – I feel free and excited.

Instead of depressed – I feel inspired and curious.

Instead of out of booze – I feel full-up on creative and ready to fuck something up with my fierce ambition and unapologetic self.

And I guess it’s all because I said fuck it to those little birth control pills. Maybe. Is it? I don’t know.

Sooooo, are we done talking about the pills?

This year, on December 10th, I turn 44. Which really sucks because for most of this year, I honestly thought I was 42 and thought I had a whole YEAR left to get shit done before I turned 43.

Which was totally wrong and I’m an idiot.

And I’m looking forward to 44 like I’ve looked forward to no other year.

And it’s all because I’m living in color now.

And hey – maybe it was kicking the birth control pills. Maybe it was ditching the anxiety meds. Maybe it’s quitting the booze.

Maybe it’s all of it. Maybe I just really needed to quit drinking.

And not every day is flowers and unicorns. Far from it. But the bad days are less dark and the good days are brighter. Arguments are fewer and I’m a lot less cunty. I’m much more social and working on being a better friend.

But there is color out there, even when you think your world is grey.

Today, make your own drawing like mine above (you know, the artful representation of AWESOME and DRINKING).

AWESOME goes on the left. What’s on the right?

Whatever it is, find a way to take a bit away from that grey space and give it to awesome.

Maybe it’s as simple as setting up a coffee date with a friend that’s long overdue.

A call. To that person.

Finally cleaning out your fucking closet because you haven’t worn it in 2 years and it doesn’t love you back because it’s a SWEATER.

Just do one thing.

One.

Uno.

And whatever it is you decide to do, you’ve done it.

Which means tomorrow, you can do the same.

In fact, make a list. Set it by your bed and before you go to bed each night, write down ONE THING you’ll do the next day to chip away at the grey.

Because if we can do anything, it’s one thing. One. Because by the end of the year, that’s 365 things that move you towards awesome.

And that’s a pretty damn good year.

 

OR

Oh, and the next 29 posts are going to be a lot less personal and a lot more about shit we all deal with. This year had to start with THIS post.

See you tomorrow.

**Special and SUPER IMPORTANT note: If you are on meds for ANY mental condition, DO NOT read this blog post and say, “Hey! I should kick my meds! I wanna live in color, too!” If you’re curious about your meds, talk to your doctor (I did). Hell, get a second opinion (I did). Talk to SIX doctors (Me: three). But my love – YOU are important and needed on this place called earth and there are medical professionals who want the same and can help because chemical imbalances and hormones ARE DICKS. Mental health is legit and not magic even though it is elusive and inexact – don’t let anyone EVER tell you otherwise. But if you want to stop drinking, I think it’s safe to say you can do that. You might even find you like it. And you’ll have space in your fridge AND heart for more awesome.

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.

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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 215: Not Everything Happens for a F****** Reason

When you’ve just collapsed in the waiting room of the ICU wing of a hospital following getting punched in the gut by two words:

He’s gone

There is no reason. There’s no reason for anything. There’s no reason you’re sobbing uncontrollably. There’s no reason you can’t breathe. There’s no reason you have no idea what just happened because 8 minutes ago he was alive and now he’s dead. There’s no reason a 29-year-old man went into the hospital and isn’t coming out.

There’s simply no reason for any of it. Not a single fucking reason.

Today’s hard truth is about reasons — and how sometimes, there just isn’t one.

not everything happens for a reason

I don’t subscribe to religion. I can’t attribute what happens in this life to someone or something’s “bigger plan” — which, of course, I’m not privy to. And for those who can do those things — have that faith — I have a certain level of admiration because I’ve never known it.

But I do know — that in spite of trying, digging, researching, questioning, and rationalizing six ways to Sunday — there sometimes just isn’t a reason that bad/dumb/hurtful/crazy shit happens to people.

To me.

To you.

It’s been five years since Jason left my life — our lives — and I still don’t have a response for all the people who said, “Oh, honey — everything happens for a reason.”

Tell me — which reason would that be? Because I just don’t know.

And lemme tell ya, as a human, it’s rough business not knowing.

Because when we know, we can blame.

DEATH: Her cancer had a 1% survival rate — and that’s why it happened.

YOUR HOUSE BURNED DOWN: You left the turkey in the oven while you fell asleep on the couch — that’s why it happened.

YOU LOST THE CONTRACT: The client decided to go with a less expensive vendor — that’s why it happened.

In all those situations, we can blame ourselves. Some thing. Someone.

But sometimes, inexplicable shit happens and we humans are left to deal with not only the business of not knowing, but the business of dealing with the fallout.

My life’s been a 43-year journey that, with each passing year, I realize that I know a bit more and a bit less at the same time.

And I still don’t have the answers for half the shit that’s happened in my life. It’s not about accepting responsibility for the gone-wrong stuff, either. I’m a master in blaming myself. But I’ve had to become more comfortable with not knowing.

It’s also helped me keep from saying dumb shit — like, “Everything happens for a reason” — to someone who’s just had one of life’s inexplicable moments explode right before their eyes.

I know it’s easy to say. I’ve said it. I just don’t say it anymore.

So maybe the next time you feel compelled to drop an, “Everything happens for a reason” on someone who’s just had the shit kicked out of them, here are a few alternatives that make everyone look (and feel) like less of an asshole:

I’m sorry this happened. How can I help?

I know that nothing I can say right now will make this better, but I’m here. And I care.

Jesus. That sucks. I’m sorry. Want to grab a drink?

Because not everything happens for a fucking reason. And in a world filled with cancer that makes parents outlive their children, of mass shootings that turn regular school days into days that will never be forgotten, of bombs that steal limbs, and tragedies incomprehensible…

It’s pretty arrogant to offer up that there’s some ethereal, elusive reason that’s supposed to offer some modicum of comfort when we don’t — and won’t — ever have that answer.

It’s okay to not know. I remind myself of this daily. And I won’t say I’m particularly fond of it, either.

But it’s okay to tell someone that we don’t know and probably never will and have that statement be filled and fueled by an incomparable level of love.

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