For Brittany

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I used to be a pretty petty, jealous person. Hopefully by being self aware enough to see how much of this type of person I was in the past, I can truthfully say that I’ve grown. I’m usually able to see when these old patterns and thoughts creep back up and keep them at bay. But that skill has taken years of work and practice. It used to be second nature for me to judge and dislike people, especially those who were really similar to me.

I don’t know why. Then again, we never really know why we make the choices we do, do we? Especially when they end up making us unbalanced, unsatisfied, and unhappy. Those are always the most confusing of the choices. I heard once in a movie it’s because humans are self destructive by nature. But that movie was fiction so I refuse to believe it (even though there might have been enough truth in the statement to make me at least remember it years later).

I got thinking about how silly this pettiness is recently when I heard a girl I knew (who I used to be jealous of) took her own life.

I’ve always known life is short and precious. And I’ve usually at least attempted to keep a positive perspective and to recognize that we are all on our own paths. But when I met Brittany, I was in a much more insecure internal place and it was in an insecure external environment. I genuinely liked her. And I admired her work. I thought she was funny and talented and really nice. But I was jealous because she was younger than me and I saw her as a threat. I thought there can only be one adorable, young, funny, talented midwesterner in the room. How dare she take that throne from me. How dare she be better at some of the creative exercises we were doing. How dare she smile so much and be so friendly with everyone.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BiGNXbOgCc1/
brittanybelland/Instagram

How gross this all feels to admit it later.

I got to know her throughout the course of our class and became aware that she was actually as nice as she seemed. That let some of my jealousy dissipate. Of course, it didn’t help that the class was set up as a cut-throat pass or fail style course that made you feel like everyone in the class was your competition (even though that’s not how either comedy or life actually works).

Anyway, we were Facebook friends for a while and pleasant acquaintances. As I distanced myself from the theater that had made me so competitive and worked a bit on my own perspective, I became more supportive and excited for her when I saw she was working. I’d see her in commercials or stuff would pop up on social media. I realized that I had a lot more in common with her than I ever had to criticize, and began quietly cheering on her successes.

Several years later, a group she was in hosted a comedy night and invited me to perform. It was actually a friend of hers in the group who asked me to come, but I was pleasantly surprised when Brittany was at the show. They called it a “House Party” and spent the first hour of the show pretending their parents were out of town and they needed to drink like high schoolers. I walked in on Brittany chugging beer in flip cup and laughing while cheering the rest of her team on. She gave me a hug and was as happy to see me as I was to see her.

After the show, which was a lot of fun, she gave me a ton of compliments on how my style has grown and changed and strengthened since we last saw each other.

She was a genuinely nice human being. And this past fall, she took her own life, losing an ongoing and open battle she had to depression.

Just a couple months before, she had staged a one-woman show that gave all its proceeds to suicide prevention charities.

The news hit me hard not because we were close, but because I realized that a bright light had been extinguished from the world at a time when we need all the light we can get. And I kicked myself for ever having wasted any time or energy being “jealous” of this incredible human. Every moment I spent quietly stewing could have been spent being grateful to be around someone so inspiring.

But above all the personal stuff, the news hit me hard as a reminder that you simply don’t know what’s happening in someone’s personal life. Though Brittany was open about her struggles with depression, even championing causes to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She was smiling and seemingly happy. Yet she fought hard against her mental illness, eventually losing the battle.

For those of us who are lucky enough to have brains that don’t rebel on such a massive level on a daily basis, we can’t fathom what it must feel like to feel so low that you just want it to be over. And yet, as humans, we all need to have empathy and recognize each one of us is on our own journey, fighting our own battles, and here on this earth for a blink of an eye.

So there’s no need to waste any of that time looking at your fellow soul-travelers with envy. See them for the bright shining lights they are and know that every little bit of light can help illuminate someone else so they can see more clearly. And they, in turn, can help illuminate your path when you’re fighting your own darkness.

Brittany will be missed intensely by those who knew her well. And as for people like me who only got to know her in passing, she will continue to be a beautiful inspiration and a reminder to be kind to everyone because, seriously, you just never know.

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A Bear in the Sensory Depravation Chamber

As I stared up – or was it sideways? – while floating for an undisclosed amount of time in what I can only imagine my mother’s womb probably felt like, I felt the presence of a terrifying grizzly bear I hadn’t interacted with in years. And I was absolutely trapped and unable to have any sense of what direction in might come from to attack me. For a few moments – or was it hours? – I was convinced he would finish the job he attempted to so many years before in the Smoky Mountains.

Let me give some context here.

A couple years ago, my husband and I decided to try a sensory depravation chamber. As with most experimental holistic decisions, we did so with a Groupon. You know, to make sure we were getting top-of-the-line service with the people we would soon be trusting to keep us alive in a scenario where we would have absolutely no way of calling out for help…but on a discount.

As we prepared to go in our separate chambers, I was anxious. I had heard and read about sensory depravation before. And I’ve been meditating off and on long enough to know how to breathe through some intense monkey mind complaining. But the idea of floating in an underground chamber in a small bit of water with absolutely no way to see or hear anything happening in the world around me made me, understandably, anxious.

I considered not going in. I live in LA, after all, and “The Big One” (aka a catastrophic earthquake that everyone in LA is constantly hoping will wait until after their lifetimes to hit) could happen at any time. What if there’s a terrible earthquake while I’m in the chamber and I get locked in and I’m stuck there and I suffocate and that’s how I die?

Or what if I have a heart attack or an anxiety attack and I can’t call out for help and my body rebels and I lay there and they don’t know it until they find my body two hours later?

Or what if [insert any real or imagined catastrophe] happens and I [insert any real or imagined physical ailment of any degree] and that’s how I die?

My mind was already resisting, which is why I knew I needed to press on.

I did it. I got in the chamber. I closed the doors. And I floated in my own thoughts, eventually resigning myself to the fact that anything in the external world might happen at any time – including some major catastrophe. And, as fun as it was to worry about, I am generally powerless to do anything about it anyway so I might as well live life on my own terms and choose to face my challenges whenever I can. My first little zen moment of serenity.

Of course, I didn’t count on that damn bear showing up and haunting most of my experience.

More on him in a second.

If you haven’t experienced a sensory depravation chamber, it’s a fascinating challenge for your brain. I don’t want to say it’s good or bad because those are arbitrary judgments that mean nothing anyway. And I don’t want to outright recommend it because everybody is different and what works for one brain may genuinely be awful for another.

But, assuming you’re a pretty normal human living in this loud and distraction-filled world, it’s a fascinating way of shutting it all out and getting deeply in touch with the abyss of your creative mind.

The tank is essentially set up so you float in a shallow pool of body temperature salt water (so you float easily) without the ability to see or hear any element of the outside world. And you do that for some pre-disclosed amount of time. Basically, you want to feel like a floating brain completely unaware of your external surroundings. They come in and knock on the door when you’re done and then you sort of float around to find the handle and reenter the previous world, a little more in touch (hopefully) with some truth about your own self or your own mind. Or, you just got a refreshing two hour nap in a weird underground tank. There’s no right or wrong to the experience, just that you experience it.

It took me a minute to adjust to the fact that I had basically lost my body and was more or less just a disembodied brain. It felt sort of like en episode of Black Mirror where my conscious was present but I couldn’t figure out where my body went.

And then, you guessed it, that damn bear showed up.

Okay, pause again, I want to take you even further back in time so this makes a little more sense.

When I was in fifth grade, I went on a school field trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The two most memorable parts of that field trip, for me, were the scat scarves we all got that told us how to identify all sorts of woodland creature poops and the mile-long solo walk we went on to get in touch with our own minds.

All of us in my small class would all take part in this half mile-long solo walk. It was an easy enough, clear path we were told not to stray from at all. A teacher went first and chaperones were periodically placed in the line up. They’d have someone go, you’d wait a few minutes, and then the next person went so that you couldn’t see who was ahead or behind you. It was a very awesome way to experience nature quietly with none of the usual distractions.

I remember I went after John Loser. Fun fact, his younger sister would go on to marry my older brother. That has nothing to do with the solo walk, it’s just funny how life works out like that sometimes. Anyway, he plays a tiny little role in this so I figured I’d mention it and throw in that fun aside because why not. You’re still reading aren’t you? Okay, great.

So I started my solo walk and I did my best to stay calm. I was nervous. I’m an extrovert and like being around people. I’ve always been someone who enjoys having people around. Though my active imagination and general love for the outdoors combined with my brother’s introversion and preference for video games meant I often played outside by myself for hours, I generally liked to experience life with other people around. A solo walk was way outside my comfort zone.

Combine that with the fact that, as a girl, I have been reminded from a young age that if I go anywhere by myself, I will probably be hurt, robbed, or swept up into some horrible underground life, I wasn’t exactly comfortable chilling by myself.

But even in fifth grade, I understood that I was probably safe enough in the constructs they had provided for this solo walk. After all, plenty of middle schoolers before me had done it and none of them had been hurt or sold into human trafficking, so I’d probably be okay.

I tried to walk slowly but my normal pace is pretty fast. So I made a point to breathe and go way slower than felt normal just to enjoy the beautiful fall surroundings. I remember thinking how cool it was that it was so quiet and that the leaves were so bright. I remember thinking the crunch of the leaves below my feet into the muddy ground combined with the gorgeous views off the side of the mountain made me feel pretty lucky to have the experience.

All that lasted probably just a few minutes before the damn grizzly bear made his first appearance.

Let me be clear, I never actually saw the bear. But I knew he was there. All of a sudden, in my anxiety, I realized that I was alone and anything could happen and that I didn’t trust myself to know what to do if something out-of-the-ordinary happened and what if I’m going to slow or too fast and they leave me behind and I’m stuck out here lost forever and it turns to winter and I’m still out here and I freeze to death? All of those terrified, insecure thoughts rushed through me. And, though I am grateful for my imagination, I didn’t yet understand that sometimes an active imagination can work against you when combined with primal fear.

So as those thoughts began ringing through my head, replacing the gratitude and enjoyment I had been previously feeling in nature. And they manifested themselves in the form of an unseen grizzly bear I was absolutely convinced was stalking me. I knew for sure that I wasn’t safe, I shouldn’t be alone, how dare I enjoy nature on my own when there are so many dangers out to get me, and I’d better speed up so I can make sure I’m not on this journey anymore by myself or at least so someone can hear me if that grizzly decides to pounce.

I picked up my pace. My heart rate and brain terrors picked up with it. No matter what I did, that damn invisible grizzly continued to watch me from the forest above, waiting for his chance to come attack me.

Eventually, I saw John and became comforted by the fact that another human was nearby.

The immediately realized that I was no longer experiencing this immaculate nature alone and now I had to share what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience with someone else when I could have had it alone.

I may have been young, but I always held some regret about how quickly I let my anxiety take over my brain that day and how I squandered what could have been a transformative experience. And all because of being convinced of my own pending doom in the form of a stupid grizzly bear I never even saw.

Okay, now fast forward again.

Maybe the bear showing up makes a little more sense to you now. I didn’t see it again. But I felt it. I felt my anxiety start to bubble up. I became convinced – absolutely convinced – that if I didn’t get out of the chamber right then, it would attack me. It had waited all these years for the perfect moment when I was completely alone and vulnerable again. And it would finish the job it started back in the day.

But I was older now. I knew that the stupid bear only had the power I gave him. I knew that I technically could get out of the chamber at any time. I could end the experience quickly and just wait around for my husband to finish his time while I continued to be distracted by my phone or any other external distraction my brain knew and loved.

Instead, I stared that bear back in its invisible face – or maybe it’s butt? Again, I had no sense of direction in there – and I told it to back off. I told it that this time, I was going to finish this experience. I wasn’t going to rush it. And I wasn’t going to let its fear keep me from being present and breathing calmly. Eventually, it went away.

I have no idea what the end ratio was of monkey mind wild thoughts to eventual calm brain after my chamber experience. It could be that my brain was insane for an hour and 50 minutes, and crazy calm for the last 10. Or maybe it was insane for 10 and crazy calm for the rest of it. I do know that after I stared down the bear, it started a quick chain reaction that eventually led to me being so in a calm zone, I was shocked to hear the eventual knocks to let me know my time had passed. I know that when the knocks eventually came, they brought me back from somewhere between awake and sleeping that helped me better understand the nature of myself and of reality as I know it.

I loved my depravation chamber experience despite the safety failings that allowed a bear to join me for a short – or was it long? – time. I also know that the bear will be back again. He shows up whenever I’m out of my comfort zone and getting in deep touch with myself. He remind me that danger could be around every corner. But now that I beat him in the chamber using only my mind (seriously, I couldn’t find my body, I had temporarily misplaced it), I know that I can handle him whenever and wherever he shows up next. Maybe it’ll be next week, maybe it’ll be next decade. But I beat him once, I can beat him again.

Hey, but if you see a grizzly bear for real, please don’t try the stare down technique. It only works for metaphorical bears.

Fires and Resilience

Welcome, 2019. I’m happy to see you. I always love welcoming the new year. Just like I love celebrating birthdays. As my grandpa always said, it sure beats the alternative.

I’m not going to place any judgments on 2018. It was what it was. There were all sorts of beautiful and horrifying things happening simultaneously because that’s life and it’s full of dramatic dichotomies that we have to constantly navigate.

As a resident of Southern California, 2018 sure did get me thinking a lot about fires. Mostly because there were so many incredibly destructive fires that ravaged the region leaving ashes, confusion, and sadness in their wake.

Lives and homes were lost. There’s no getting those back. And there’s no part of me that wants to at all mitigate the genuine loss so many people affected by them felt. And we, as a global community, also felt through some of our precious natural resources being forever changed.

As the last fire of the year, the Woolsey Fire, overtook some favorite ares of my beloved Malibu – an area I have always adored visiting for its relaxed vibe and natural beauty. I found myself feeling what I can only imagine lots of humans felt…powerless and overwhelmed by sadness. Even though I understand fire is sometimes natural, I felt like we’ve done so much to hurt and destroy our gorgeous planet at this point that it always feels like we might be watching a natural disaster unfold that may be the turning point to keep us from having the balanced nature we need to survive as a species.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. But there’s some science to back up my notions.

But I’ve never been a dweller. I hate dwelling. You can stew for a minute if you need. You can let off steam occasionally. I don’t have issues with being in touch with your honest emotions. But I do have issues dwelling.

Rather than dwell, I started to think about what it could mean. What could I do to help and what does it mean to watch parts of the world I love burn down?

What I could do was start genuinely giving back to this planet in small and large ways. When I can, volunteer to help clean it up. Choose more green alternatives whenever possible with every purchase I make. Not only change elements of my lifestyle but change the companies that I support to make sure they have more environmentally conscious approaches to their output.

Say what you will about veganism and vegetarianism, but if the entire human population chose to do it for a single decade, we would give our earth a much needed reprieve from global warming. Then, maybe, when we reintroduce eating meat, we could do so in a more sustainable way. Nobody is asking for you to give up your lifestyle in any way – from what you eat to what you drive to what you choose to purchase or do.

It’s simply a matter of becoming aware that our planet has limited resources and maybe small decisions you make within the confines of those resources could help out your fellow humans so that we can continue to use those resources for longer without losing or ruining the ability to have them forever.

So there’s that. There’s small choices and lifestyle changes that could be made.

But even in embracing those and slowly weaving them into every day life, it doesn’t change the fact that, for at least a while longer, the earth will be mad at us and enacting a number of natural disasters as a result of our own manipulation of its resources. Maybe I shouldn’t say mad. That means that somehow we’ve angered it and it’s personifying something that, though I love referring to it as Mother Earth, it doesn’t need to have an human emotion attached. It’s simply reacting to years of human actions that have, at least so far, gone relatively unchecked. And, of course, none of this changes the fact that fires burned down people’s homes, livelihoods, and took lives.

That’s where it’s time to get a bit more philosophical about what it means. It’s easy – and easier to keep your heart stone and your emotions on an island away from everyone else – to say it means nothing. Nothing means anything and we’re all just feathers in the wind attempting to survive until our time floating around is done. But, at least for me, down that way lies madness. So I refuse to accept it.

Instead, I like to think of how to make it a positive thing. No, what happened isn’t inherently positive. And no, I don’t wish fire upon anyone so they can find the “meaning” behind it. But for fellow feathers still floating in the wind, I choose to see a beautiful symbolism behind the fires. There’s a chance to completely rebuild from the ground up. The old ways have been razed and it’s time we choose to rebuild them with a new perspective in mind.

I heard about these large trees who sprout seeds that often die because the roots of the trees they come from are too large and the forests they’d be sprouting in are too shaded from the massive trees. But if there’s a fire, those seeds not only survive, but need the fire to be planted into the ground. So the tree basically ensures its own survival from a fire.

Some brush needs fire in order for it to clear the old and grow new seedlings. Fire is natural and, at times, necessary. Knowing that, the question then become: What can we do to embrace it, learn from it, and grow into a culture that doesn’t become completely at its whim, but knows how to work with it for sustainable growth?

We get the chance not only to rebuild and to rethink, but to show resilience. Not to get all Batman on you, but we fall so that we may learn how to get back up. We’re creatures that are meant to be in movement. And movement means risk of failure and risk of falling. We’re not just risking failure when we choose to be in movement, we’re almost guaranteed it. But every time we get back up, we teach ourselves that we can. We remind ourselves that we can be strong and we can make new choices and we can learn, grow, and improve.

So, as Smokey the Bear would say, only you can prevent forest fires. Love nature and respect it. Let’s learn from our cumulative mistakes and agree to see the world for what it is – a community that is inherently interconnected with each other. Within that recognition and understanding, we may choose to help each other out by making small but meaningful decisions that will give the earth a chance to rebuild and give future generations a fighting chance of experiencing the beauty and balance that the world naturally wants to give us.

Oh, and more on bears next week…

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.

A Year Ago

back in timeA year ago, I got some news that surprised me. Someone tried to tell me I wasn’t good enough for something. Well, the truth was, they did tell me that they didn’t think I was good enough for something. He basically told me I didn’t make the cut.

After I got over the initial shock since I found the assessment completely unfounded, I thought about the deliverer and I thought about the actual outcome of this news and its impact on the rest of my life. I realized that the deliverer wasn’t someone I admired who’s opinion I needed to listen to and the outcome I thought I wanted was absolutely unnecessary to the goals I had in my own life. Another outcome would have allowed me to check off a box that didn’t need checking in order to prove I live up to arbitrary standards of a system that’s becoming more archaic daily.

But rejection is never fun no matter what perspective you can later spin it into. It can bother you. And, despite the fact that I am now more relieved and well-aware that world is not one I want to be a part of, this one still bothered me for a while.

I mean, you want to get in an invite to the party even if you have no intention of attending.

So I was going to write a whole article in response going into detail about all the things I’ve done in the year since this day. But when this day neared, I lost my edge to write a vengeance-filled post bragging about all my accomplishments. First of all, it’s not really my style. And secondly, I just didn’t care enough. The truth is, this mattered so little to me by the time the day came and went, that I just let it go and forgot about it. I was too busy actually doing the things that I love to take time out of my day to focus on telling people that I’m doing the things that I love.

And when I realized I missed my chance for my year-later response, I couldn’t find a shred of me that really cared. It all felt so long ago and my life has been progressively getting better, more fulfilling, and happier since that day.

When the issue comes up, of course I’m candid and honest about how I felt about the whole situation. But the underlying truth of the matter is that I care about it a lot less now that I thought I would. Which, for the most part, is liberating. But a little part of me still wishes I were angry so that I could let their rejection continue to fuel me.

But I’m not angry. While initial frustrations and rejections can make for good tinder for a fire, they ultimately cannot sustain the flames. They can provide a little help making it burn brighter, but they flare up and burn out quickly. It’s the thick logs and constant care that keep a fire burning. For me, those thick logs are my own passion for creativity and storytelling, and the constant care is the diligence and consistency with which I approach turning my passion into a daily, viable reality.

To put it bluntly, I realized that the best way to show ’em up is to show ’em you don’t even need ’em. Cuz you don’t.

Show Me The Goodies

Listen, I’m open, people. I love new ideas and get extremely excited about the possibility of working on all sorts of new and enticing projects with passionate people.

But I’m at a point in my career (and life) where I don’t have time for empty promises. I don’t dislike people who make them, because I know most empty promises are not made by people who realize they’re empty. And many times, they may not be.

show me the moneyBut a whole lot of times, they are.

My point is simply this: Let’s be reasonable with each other people. If you’re going to ask me to take a meeting with you, and you pick the date, place, time and venue and are pitching your idea to me, I need to see some goodies that I get out of it before I’m enticed. That’s not because I’m selfish or an asshole. That’s because I’m busy and it’s human nature.

I’ll probably love your idea. I love most ideas because I’m just generally a fan of ideas.

But if you don’t have anything in place- no structures, no commitments, no tangible way of making the idea into a reality or not even a blueprint for how to get started- why should I care?

Again, not because I don’t care about you… but because I’m busy and have lots of ideas of my own. Because we’re human. And we need to know how something will serve us and make us as individuals better or more fulfilled. Otherwise, I’ll feel like you’re wasting my time. And I don’t have the luxury of time to waste.

So if you want someone to be as excited as you are by your project, actually show them something what they’ll get out of it. Show them what you’ve done, what you’ve already got in place to make this idea a reality, or show them your enthusiasm for having them on board and why it’ll be so good for everyone involved.

And for god sakes, pay for their coffee/meal/drink. If they’re giving you time to listen to your idea, have the courtesy to show them that small respect for their time.

Otherwise, they’ll walk away and be like, “Cool. That was an idea someone else had about a project they’re obviously really excited about and I don’t know why I should be too and not sure why I left work and drove 45 minutes to pay for my own lunch and listen to someone else’s idea and don’t know why I should be involved at all.”

Believe me. I know from experience.

Military Pals

I’m very close to a lot of military people. I talk about one in particular, and I have a father who served in the Air Force and a Grandfather who was active duty in the Navy during WWII, plus a lot of my closest friends in college were in the Army ROTC program. I was so close to these guys, in fact, that I wrote them a special segment in my college magnum opus, Xavier: The Musical:

When people first read the script, they were like, “There’s no way you’re gonna get these guys to do that. They’ll be insulted.”

In reality, my Army friends were like “How come we don’t get to sing along too?”

I think about my military friends a lot. Their discipline and commitment are inspirations to my own work. I think about them even more on Memorial Day. There are a lot of people I never knew who have given the ultimate gift of their lives to a bigger philosophy so that others may continue to pursue their own happiness. There are even a few I do know. And I am grateful to have known them and let their sacrifice remind me that life is short and beautiful and we should all be so lucky to know what gives us a feeling of purpose in this life and have the opportunity to pursue it.

So thank you, military friends young and old. Thank you for your service. And thank you for your sacrifice. And thank you for inspiring me to keep doing variation on fart jokes, since you guys seem to really love ’em.

Tonight, I beat you, Resistance.

…you minx, you.GoTS4trailerDanyDragon

Even though I pride myself on my productivity, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be hard to convince yourself to make time to write. I talk a lot about “Resistance.” It’s a very real energy that fights very hard against you being creative. Even though it’s a great tool to recognize what you’re scared of (and often, therefore, what you should attack head-on), what I often fail to talk about is just how difficult a struggle it can put up.

I am usually good about making time to be creative. I am not often good about taking advantage of it. There are various external and internal factors that come into play before I sit down feeling inspired.

But some days I do it. Even if it’s not perfect and it’s not as good as I hoped and it’s not as much as I hoped… I get it done.

And I always take time to remind myself how good it feels when I slay the dragon. So that I can be reminded of that feeling the next time Resistance tries to convince me to be distracted. I remind myself how good it feels at the end of the tunnel, and I push through.

So don’t forget that sometimes, when you’re fighting the good fight, you get tired. And that’s ok. You can retreat and recoup for a minute. But don’t you ever ever ever ever ever let that minx get the better of you for good.

Ice Ice Vengeance

Alright stop. Collaborate and listen.

Or read.

Whatever you get the point.

Long before I was an aspiring young hip hop artist and freestyle rapper, I was but a mere high school student in speech class attending a private Jesuit school in Indianapolis. I used to do speeches I thought were hilarious. I showed how to properly paint nails by asking the notoriously mean assistant dean to let me paint his nails pink. I wrote silly skits with friends and pretended my mic was going in and out of speeches during really important parts. I did shit I thought was hilarious.Rap singer Vanilla Ice in 1991. (AP Photo)

One of the attempts I made at hilarity was when I tried to have all of the lyrics of “Ice Ice Baby” memorized to deliver as an extemporaneous dramatic monologue reading to the class. This is before my years of improv and my years onstage. I was nervous. I wanted to be funny. I was 16 and really invested in this being hilarious. I listened to the song on repeat for hours. I looked up the lyrics and went out of my way to memorize it. I remember putting specific verses on repeat while driving on spring break in order to get it down.

And the day of my speech, I brought up a cheat sheet in case I forgot.

And I failed.

Miserably.

I memorized parts of the song, sure, but I was so nervous I didn’t trust myself and looked down so much I screwed up a lot and lost my place. It was uncomfortable and far from funny for everybody. I remember looking at a note a person who shall remain unnamed wrote to someone else. It said simply “What do Briana and unfunny have in common? Everything.”

To be fair, that was the meanest things got in my school. And I bet if I had confronted him about it, he would have apologized. I went to a really nice school and had, for the most part, really nice classmates. Yeah we were all teenage assholes, but we weren’t terrifying bullies.

But still, because I was so invested in making that performance where I failed and I was so convinced deep down in me that me rapping that was hilarious, I didn’t give up. Shortly after the speech I put my memorization in to hyperdrive and had that song down within the week. I didn’t get the chance to redo my speech, but I began making it my go-to karaoke song. And I began to let my inner entertainer loose and go crazy with the performance because I knew it so well. My senior year, I showed off my skills in the Black Student Union talent show, enlisted a friend to do the background vocals and performed the hell out of the song in front of a huge audience wearing a colorful dress with shoulder pads that I found at a local thrift store. I got a screaming standing ovation.

By the time I got to college, I would bring tiny podunk karaoke bars in Cincinnati  to a halt after performing the song. I go nuts whenever it’s played. I did it once at a beer festival in St. Louis and was immediately bought three drinks. I did it in a bar in Toronto and was given a shot and hugs by a gaggle of strangers. I did it a couple months ago in Santa Monica at a wine bar and had a man beg me to leave my boyfriend to be with him afterwards. (Spoiler alert: Didn’t work.)

What I’m saying is… I annihilate this song now.

And I’ll be honest, every time I do it, I still think of that epic fail in speech class when I was 16 years old and that passive aggressive note I saw on that guy’s desk afterwards. And every time, there is an angsty teenager inside me going “Take that, [insert guy’s name here]. Ya dick.”

Sometimes it’s ok to fail. In fact, often it’s ok to fail. Let the failure be a teacher and your frustration fuel you to new levels.

And once you stop giving so much of a shit, you too can become a local karaoke comedy rock star.

Yo man let’s get outta here. Word to your mother.