The Power of Silence

When I perform, my favorite sound in the world is laughter or giggles or some sort of visceral response (ideally not a “boo”). I like to hear it. I like when everybody hears it. I like when people hear themselves.

I like that the organized noises I make with my mouth make other humans make noises with their body. It’s fun.

I don’t usually think of performing comedy like that. It’s a weird way to phrase it, sure. But I was thinking about it in the context of silence. Of pause. Of quiet. I was thinking about how I’m obsessed with responses. I want a giggle, even if holding off a little bit might get me a bigger laugh. Over the years, I’ve had to learn to pace myself more. To slow down. To enjoy the pauses. To…

…wait for it.

Sometimes when I see excellent performances, I’m reminded of how powerful pauses are. But over the weekend, I saw a show that was done by people who never actually spoke. I saw The Blue Man Group in Las Vegas. Without ever once saying anything, they made me laugh heartily for the full show (they did have a little monitor that spoke and a voiceover every once in a while to forward the bits).

It was magic.

Throughout the course of the performance, I often had to remind myself that they had said nothing. They communicated so much with their expressions and with the games they were playing and their physicality, that I was never at a loss for what was happening. And they relished in the silences. Maybe partly because they only exist in a curious silence themselves, the quiet doesn’t bother them. Or maybe cause they so trust in the show and in themselves that they know a little quiet is just a set up for a huge laugh. Whatever it was, it was pure delight.

There’s a ton of audience interaction in the show. The fact that they never once say anything makes the interaction even more satisfying. You know what they want without them actually asking it. And seeing people play along made my little imagination squeal with joy.

I even got to go onstage and interact with them for a while.

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One of the Blue Men kept eyes on me as they wandered the crowd. I was cracking up at it and said, in my head, “Yeah sure I’m down to play if you all want.” I guess he heard it because before I knew it, I was having a bizarro Twinkie dinner with the three Blue Men onstage.

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I know I was the only one talking. Usually I was just cracking up or saying “okay, okay, okay, sure.” But at no point did I feel like I was the only one communicating. Without saying anything, they got me to (attempt to) light a candle. They got me to open Twinkie wrappers for them and then subsequently clean them up. They got me to bop my head along to some music. They got me to eat Twinkie bites with them and even feed them Twinkie bites. And they even fed me some weird banana stuff that I tried not to eat at first then was like, “Yeah, sure I’m down to play if you want” (which happened to be the very thought that likely got me onstage in the first place).

They took a picture at the perfect moment, of course.

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After the bit was one, they helped lead me offstage and two of them squeezed by hand twice as a signal that I felt like was a “thank you” or “good job.” Whatever it was, I just played along and continued to enjoy the rest of the show.

When the show was over, we were meandering in the lobby and one of the Blue Men ran up dramatically. He smiled and I said “Hello! I’m married but that was the best date of my life!” He smiled again (maybe it was just with his eyes? I don’t think they actually smile now that I’m thinking about it. Anyway, we took a picture and then he turned to me, covered his mouth and quietly said “That was amazing.”

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That’s all he said. That’s all he had to say. Because he had spent so much time silent, the power of those simple words were enough. I felt like my goal of being present and playful was achieved if this Blue Man was willing to break his vow of silence to let me know the energy was appreciated.

I thanked him profusely for the opportunity and the incredible work they do. He just nodded and continued pictures with the crowd that had formed around him. I then showed off my blue paint to my husband and threatened to leave him for the Blue Men.

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My point is, I’m a talker. Sure, I’m expressive and use my expressive face to get my points across and make people laugh. But talking is my security blanket. It’s the way I trust myself most to communicate. And getting laughs in response to what I’m saying makes me feel safe. Drama is terrifying to me because you don’t get laughs, you get silence. Things where you have to wait for a payoff are terrifying because you don’t get immediate responses, you have to wait in the delicious silence for the gratification.

I guess right now my life is in a bit of a silence. I’m doing things, but it’s not making enough noise to get the responses I’m comfortable with. I don’t feel validated in the ways that I get to feel when I’m onstage and throwing out jokes or listening to people laugh at something I’ve created. I have to just trust in the process. As an audience member, I enjoyed the silences. I wasn’t thinking “when’s the next laugh?” I was simply thinking, “This is wonderful I hope they keep it up.”

Maybe I should start thinking of myself as both the performer and the audience member in my own life. Rather than desperately needing the immediate validation, recognize that there are times when it’s necessary to relish in the quiet. Sometimes a little quiet for a good set up means a bigger response in the future. So just sit back and enjoy it.

And, of course, keep working.

 

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Trust Issues

I’ve been having trust issues with myself lately. Usually, you have them with other people. But I’ve been generally good with other people and newly untrusting of myself. Like many personal issues, it didn’t happen overnight. It happened in small little steps. And now that I’m aware of it, I’m trying to make it right. But, as is what happens when trust is shattered, it takes time to rebuild.

Maybe this sounds familiar to you. Maybe you, too, have set lofty goals or made certain diet or exercise promises to yourself. You do whatever prep work it takes to make sure that you can achieve that goal. And then when the time comes to actually do it, something happens. You flake on yourself.

Or maybe you have every intention of showing up to a place where you said you’d be. You make plans, you pick the outfit, you assure other people you’ll be there. But when the time comes, again you stop yourself. You find an excuse to stay home or do something else – something more “productive.”

You set aside time that will definitely be used for that big project you keep wanting to work on. But when the time comes up, you waste it checking one last notification which leads to one quick search which leads to one more question which leads to you blowing all the time you had.

It happens quickly and with small – not big – decisions. 

In some ways, I am trustworthy. I certainly try to be honest and authentic as much as I can. But I’ve found that I’ve lately been more trustworthy with other people than with myself. I keep making and breaking promises with myself. I’m like the guilty parent who says they’ll do bigger and better next time, but can’t even seem to show up once despite all the promises.

Part of the problem is that I’m making too many promises. And that comes from having too many focuses that are all over the place. I keep promising all sorts of elements of myself that I’ll be totally dedicated to them. And I’m not.

I also am very ambitious and have lofty goals. So I know those goals require big dreams and huge chunks of energy and attention. Rather than focusing on exactly what I can do to better myself and only promising myself to do that one thing (or maybe those couple things), I promise myself I’m going to do all the things almost every day.

And when I inevitably can’t live up to the lofty promises I made for myself, I feel like I haven’t done anything. I completely overlook the thingsI have done. And I make myself a promise that I’ll do better. But if you’ve ever been promised something by someone who didn’t follow through before, there’s a visceral reaction when that person makes a future promise. You don’t believe them. You’ve built up trust issues.

I don’t like this feeling. I don’t like promising myself I’ll do certain things and not following through on all of them, so I completely overlook and fail to recognize the accomplishments I do make. I know it’s not a healthy headspace. But I’ve made and broken so many little promises with myself, it’s hard to reset.

Hard…but not impossible. Every time I say I’m going to get up early and I do, I rebuild trust with myself. Every time I make plans to go to yoga and I follow through, I’m building trust with myself. Every week when I promise myself (and you) that there will be a blog here for your perusal, I’m building trust with myself.

The key is to stop overextending and promising myself things I don’t actually have the capability to do. That way, I can recognize and enjoy the accomplishments I do achieve. And I have more energy and focus to achieve more. I like challenges, but I hate broken promises. So I’ve got to find that balance.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about, too.

Taking Up Space

At the end of a good yoga session  – wait have I ever mentioned before on this blog that I like yoga? I can’t remember…

Anyway, I like yoga. Just a reminder.

At the end of a good yoga session, the final pose is always savasana. It means “corpse pose” or “resting pose” and is basically supposed to symbolize being reborn after a good yoga session. Recently, in a rare class where we had a lot of space, my teacher encouraged us to spread out and take up as much space as possible.

I realized that I tend to go out of my way not to take up too much space. I tend to always be thinking that I’m in the way. Or at least I grew up with that mindset. I was supposed to make sure other people weren’t inconvenienced by me somehow. Make sure to always look out for them and their needs first. Make sure that I’m always looking out for them even if it means I can’t get comfortable myself.

There’s a lot of good in looking out for other people. I’m not criticizing that in itself. Part of the reason our breed of human beings survived is because we’re very good at looking out for each other.

But left unchecked, it created an unhealthy attitude about my own self worth. I’ve literally apologized to people who weren’t paying attention and ran into me at a grocery store with their cart even though they weren’t paying attention and I was the one hurt. In my instinct, I did something wrong just by being there. That is taking this idea to the extreme. It seeps into many aspects of my life and psyche. And it is not healthy.

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This small reminder in yoga class to “take up space” brought that to light even more.

Once I became aware of the mindset and how it was affecting me, I was able to start keeping it in check. I’m not saying I go around to everyone now elbowing my way through life. But I have begun embracing and recognizing that I have every much a right to be in a space and take up space as anyone else. We have to all look out for each other – but it’s not my job to make sure other people are doing that. It’s my job to do my best and to enjoy taking up space.

The universe is huge and we are tiny little specs here for just a moment of its lifetime, so we might as well breathe into (and grow into) as much of it as possible while we’ve got the chance.

Since I’ve embraced taking up space, I also realize that it means I can draw attention to myself. Not because I need attention per say, but because it’s okay to do my own thing and just be me, even if other people aren’t doing the same thing. I don’t need to just occupy as little space as possible in well worn paths. I can do my own thing and take up plenty of space while doing so.

Luckily for me, living in Los Angeles means that there’s a lot of opportunity to practice owning my own space. Even my favorite yoga studio is insanely crowded any given day. Every class is a great chance to both embrace the idea that I can be thoughtful for others (who might need me to move my mat so they can squeeze in) and also okay with taking up my own space without feeling like I need to squeeze in a corner so everyone else can have plenty of room.

It’s a balance and a challenge. It’s a balance challenge. Like a handstand. OMG we brought it back to yoga!

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(Well done, Briana. Thank you, Briana. You’re ok, Briana. Are you ok, Briana? Unclear, Briana. Let’s move on, Briana. Sounds good, Briana. Never talk about this to anyone, Briana? Agreed, Briana.)

The Myth of the Life-Changing Moment

We have the pervasive story in our culture that is not only inaccurate, it’s destructive. We have this idea that in one given moment, everything can change. I get why we say it. And I get that there’s some truth behind it. But I’d like to at least challenge it because I think it’s unhealthy.

There’s a story about how the cast of Friends went out for drinks just before they began filming the show. The producers of the show told the whole crew that their lives would soon change. They were right. For many people, that’d be considered the life-changing moment.

In A Star is Born, Lady Gaga’s character (who cares WTF her name is in the movie itself, it’s Lady Gaga’s character) has a life-changing moment when she goes out on stage with Bradley Cooper’s character (again, I’m not going to take the time to look it up…okay I just remembered it was Jackson Maine but whatever, I’m sticking with Bradley Cooper’s character). He encourages her to sing her heart out. She does. She becomes a viral sensation and soon a superstar. All thanks to that life-changing moment.

But I believe that’s thinking of time as far too linear. There are a million small moments, opportunities, and choices that are made before that “life-changing moment” that made it possible in the first place. 

To take apart my own examples (which is why I used them in the first place), the cast of Friends didn’t have one night that everything changed. You could back up to the moment they auditioned for the show was a life-changing moment. Before that, the moment they got whatever representation that got them in the door of the audition was a life-changing moment. The day the decided to do the showcase or class or performance that got them noticed by that representation was a life-changing moment. The day they committed to becoming an actor was a life-changing moment. That time they had an intense rejection and considered quitting but didn’t is a life-changing moment. It could go on and on…

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Same with the character in A Star is Born. The day she sang was as much of a life-changing moment as the day she wrote the lyrics that Bradley Cooper’s character became enraptured by. The day she first started singing at the bar he met her at. The day she first started waitressing at the bar she’d eventually sing at. The day she met the friend who ushered Bradley Cooper into the bar and got him a drink so he’d watch her. The day she learned she liked to sing. These are all life-changing moments.

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The reason I find the myth of the life-changing moment so destructive is because I think it makes us spend our whole lives anxiously anticipating some big magic moment that really never comes because life is full of little magic moments happening constantly.

Sure, there are bigger opportunities that can exacerbate changes more dramatically – no denying that. But for the most part, those opportunities only come along because of a series of tiny decisions you make beforehand. And you’re only able to see and capture them because of the same series of tiny decisions you made up to that point.

We can never know where the magic will lead. So don’t miss out on the joy and excitement of the small miracles in hopes seeing a major one. The major one might feel even more joyous if you’ve recognized the small ones along the way.

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 105: Doing What’s Good For Us

Hello again friends,

In this episode, we explore why it is we never want to do what we know will make us feel good. Why do we choose something else even when we know it’s a choice that won’t bring us the most happiness? What’s up with these small, seemingly innocent decisions that lead us down a path that doesn’t help at all.

We talk Mi’s Westside Comedy Theater (and Mission IMPROVable).

We talk Netflix & Chilling.

I give a quick shout out to the hubs.

We discuss Resistance (my fave), Steven Pressfield, and slaying the dragon.

Of course I mention yoga.

And we talk about the small lies we tell ourselves and how getting down looks different on everyone.

Oh, and my sweet little Clydie makes some auditory cameos.

Subscribing and liking helps the show, but listening keeps it going 🙂

Enjoy!

Not My Pig, Not My Farm

Not My Pig, Not My Farm

I’m a pretty big fan of the show Letterkenny. If you haven’t checked it out on Hulu yet, I suggest watching the pilot episode.

Fair warning: If the pilot episode doesn’t hook you, don’t move on. They’re all really variations on a theme so if it’s not your style in that first episode, none of the following ones will be.

Also fair warning: I enjoy the show immensely but there are times when it is very Canadian to me and I honestly don’t even understand what they’re saying because they have strong accents and are purposely using intense Canadian slang.

All that aside, I think the show is delightful and uses a lot of really fun phrases and vocabulary. One of my favorite phrases of the whole show on both a comedic and a life-lessons level is – yep, you guessed it from the title – “Not my pig, not my farm.”

When Letterkenny’s protagonist confronted about certain issues in their small town throughout the series that he’s told he needs to take care of in some way, he often says “Not my pig, not my farm” which is a much more playful and colorful way of saying “Not my problem.”

As a person who is learning (and re-learning) how to set up healthy boundaries on a lot of levels, the idea of not taking on an issue that people come to you for help with is something I want (need?) to learn. Seeing that you can say no to someone, even if they’re asking for help, is so helpful. And, hey, you can even say it in a fun way by saying “Not my pig, not my farm,” because then they’ll be like “I didn’t say anything about pigs, are you even listening?” and then you repeat yourself and they’re like “Are you ok?” and then you repeat yourself again and soon they think you have a problem and retract asking you for help because you’re obviously going through something so you’ve both not had to help out and you probably won’t get asked in the future. A win/win!

Another reason I really like the idea behind “Not my pig, not my farm” aside from basic boundaries is because I love the idea of not having an opinion about everything, especially in a world that is begging me to have opinions about every damn thing.

Go to the grocery? Rate it! Sitting in a waiting room? Share thoughts about the experience! Something random happen to someone famous? Respond with your thoughts so people think you’re clever!

Don’t get me wrong – I think sharing and having opinions is great. But boy oh boy we are inundated with opinions right now. And we’re expected to have them all the time about everything. And I honestly don’t know how much it serves us.

The most obvious place I’ve forced myself to quit opinion-ing on a regular basis is in my car. I found that I started criticizing people who have nothing to do with my own driving or who have no affect on my ride at all. And for what? So I could feel better about myself? These people can’t hear me. My opinion makes no difference in what they’re deciding to do. And as long as they don’t endanger me, what does it matter? Why even waste the energy having an opinion?

I’d rather spend the precious time I have on this earth doing literally anything else than uselessly judging people with whom I’m sure I have more in common with than difference from, even if I don’t yet know it.

I remember the first time I realized I didn’t need to have an opinion. Someone did something in a car far away from me. I started making judgments about the person and forming conclusions about their basic driving skills and, of course, their intellect. Then a little quiet voice can into my head and whispered, “Why? What’ the point of this?”. And I didn’t have an answer. It wasn’t serving anything. This person wasn’t bothering me. And rather than somehow, somewhere, somewhy (I want it to be a word so I’m keeping it) deciding I knew everything about this human, I figured I’d just leave it be. Things happen. This human made decisions. That’s all there is to it. Doesn’t need to be something I get all worried about.

Small decisions like that help me to create healthier boundaries, too. When and if people do come to me with ideas or with their problems in search of either help or opinions, I can decide if it’s something that genuinely needs my attention. And because I’ve been practicing discerning what things do or do not warrant my attention, I can hopefully do so even more effectively. But if I’ve been spending all my time judging and forming opinions about everything, I’ll think that I need to continue to care about every little thing that’s happening and continue to spread my energy and focus too thin.

I’d rather focus on my own pigs in my own farm.

And, hey, I get it. Other people’s pigs and other farms an affect mine. I’m not advocating that we all turn into little islands and pretend that we don’t live in a social construct of an ever growing community that can and should be respected and recognized. But that doesn’t mean every single person needs to get involved with – physically or even energetically – in every other person’s actions.

Plus, the times that you do actively get involved, you’ll have more energy to do so. And the times that you do have opinions, they’ll be listened to with a little more weight since you’re not constantly forming and forcing opinions upon people all the time.

That’s my opinion about opinions. I’d ask you for yours, but honestly I’ll respect you just as much if you choose not to have one (for obvious reasons).

Keep pig farming, folks. But also, consider going vegetarian.

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Death Sucks

But is a bittersweet, necessary, little dipshit.

Can you imagine what would happen if we never died? Actually, yeah, it’s probably pretty easy. Just watch any modern Wolverine movie. He’s a super happy beam of light, isn’t he?

Psych! Just a little joke us living folks like to make. Turns out, he’s pretty forlorn. No matter what he does or is done to him, he can’t seem to die. And that’s a heavy burden to carry.

Then again, so is the burden of knowing that by loving others, you run the risk of somehow losing them in the future. And then you’ll have to endure the sadness and the pain from that.

death cartoonSee what a little dipshit Death really is? It’s a lose/lose.

Briana, you’re normally super upbeat and cheery and like to talk about rainbows and puppies. What’s going on?

I’m still plenty upbeat and cheery. I’ve just lately been reminded through losing loved ones of my own (all of our own) pending mortality. For a planner and achiever like myself, the anxiety of wanting to get everything done that needs to be done before leaving this earth combined with my desire to live in the moment while also making investments and planning for a better future is enough to make me go screaming face first onto my balcony.*

*Note, I live in a garden apartment. I mean I literally want to walk out screaming then stand there safely, with my usually quiet neighbors wondering what all the fuss is about then remembering we don’t know anything about each other and have a policy to leave each other, for the most part, alone so everything would go back to normal shortly thereafter.

So what’s my point in writing this? I don’t know. I don’t think there is a point except to say that death sucks. I attended two funerals of loved ones recently, both of whom had been struggling trapped in their own bodies for a long time. Death was a weirdly welcome visitor for these two folks. I know they’re no longer struggling. I know in many ways that we lost them years ago. But that doesn’t mean that as I stood there looking at what remains of their temporary earthly soul-housing, hi-fiving the crying people next to me while saying, “WHEW! What a relief, amiright?!” Au contraire, bittybear. It was freakin’ sad.

There’s a finality to saying goodbye. There’s finality to the funeral service- no matter how it’s done- that brings about the recognition that you’ll no longer have normal access to this person, no matter what they meant to you. There’s a finality to thinking that you, too, will pass and that everyone you’re here with at this moment will do the same. It’s overwhelming, to say the least. You start wondering if you’re living your life right. You start wishing you had spent more time with whoever passed. You start looking at the loved ones closest to you and holding on more tightly while recognizing it’s unreasonable to spend every waking moment together reminding them that you love them. That’s not what life is about and that’s not always the most accurate way of showing your love. Love is an action verb. It means more than simply saying it. It means showing those you love that you love them by living up to your own potential, beaming your light as brightly as you can, and being able to share that with others. It means bringing light to people- however you can, near or far. Sometimes you can bring light through your words and acknowledgement. Sometimes you bring it through staying true to who you are in a difficult situation. Sometimes is any number of possibilities in between those two things.

Because when you’re gone, your legacy continues through the amount of light you’ve imparted on others. They think about not only who you were and how you affected them, but who they’ve lost before and how they can learn to shine more brightly in remembrance of those who’ve passed and in reverence of the strange luck that has allowed them to continue to be alive.

When you’re younger, you have no sense of it really. Nor should you. Please, parents, do not start telling your kids at young ages that they’re going to die someday. That feels like it’d only end up being traumatic. But as you get older, every doctor’s appointment and strange test result, no matter how common it may be in others, can come as a shocking reminder of how frail health can be and how flippantly we seem to dance in and out of this existence. Combine that with the realization that you have and will continue to lose those you love, and there’s really no simpler way to say it than… Death sucks.

Then again, nothing worthwhile every came easily. Ships won’t get damaged if they stay in the port, but that’s not what ships are for. A smooth sea never made for a skillful sailor. Diamonds are as a result of years of intense pressure. And Wolverine’s life is depressing.

So as much as death sucks, it also weirdly gives us all inspiration to shine more brightly and live more fully. That little dipshit.

Just Asking

Sometimes I’m able to pull off cool stuff (with the help of friends, of course). Over the years, I’ve been consistently surprised at the number of people who are shocked by whatever shenanigans I’m able to put together. mother may i

But I live by a very simple policy that often allows me cool opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. That policy is this: Just Ask.

Years ago, even though I had already implemented this policy in many different projects, I was working on something important to me. And I was nervous about inviting important people to see my important project. I felt like maybe they were out of my league and maybe I’d be overstepping boundaries by inviting them. I’m not big on “frontting” as the kiddos say, which sometimes means I don’t invite people to things they’d be more than happy to come to.

But a very close friend at the time put a very clear insight on why it’s important to “just ask.” He said, “The worst that could happen is that you ask and they say ‘No.’ But if you don’t ask, they’re already saying ‘No.’ And there’s a chance, when you do ask, that they might actually say ‘Yes.’ So you really can’t lose.”

Articulating this so specifically helped me solidify how important that policy really is in my life. Though I had an intuitive feeling for that idea, I can remind myself of that simple idea whenever I feel myself hesitating. By not asking, the answer is already “No.” So I might as well take a chance that I’ll hear a “Yes” and ask.

That’s probably why I hear more Yes-es than the average bear. I do a whole lot more asking.

Femoir: The Podcast – Travel: Show Notes

worldIn this Femoir: The Podcast episode, we talk all about TRAVEL, friends!

For a while, I sound like a cooky professor, I talk about my Oklahoma family, National Student Council, my major program in college, a subsequent travel fellowship I got, the Rally to Restore Sanity, Frank in “It’s Always Sunny…”, Beyonce, the Camino de Santiago, my LA Podcast, my friend’s awesome travel blog, and promise to give a few travel resources.

Take a listen directly here or on iTunes!

Femoir: The Podcast – Comfort Zone: Show Notes

comfort zoneThe latest episode of Femoir: The Podcast is now available! Check it out directly or subscribe on iTunes.

This episode we’re talking all about that pesky COMFORT ZONE.

I reference my FEAR podcast, gym culture, learning to golf, have fun with twisty twist word world, the CREATIVITY podcast, and online dating.

Let me know what you think, friends! And thanks for listening!