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.

Advertisements

As I Quietly Keep Working

Every day on social media, I see friends of mine talking about big auditions and meetings they have.

I often have these too, but I choose to quietly keep working.

I see pictures of people who have small parts in productions I played a major role in broadcasting to the world how much they’re doing and getting hundreds of “likes” for it.

I think about doing the same, but instead choose to quietly keep working.

I see peers of mine snagging major film and TV roles. The world knows their names and I struggle to pay my bills. I could feel jealous or I could be over-zealous about my close connections to these superstars.

Instead I smile and am glad for their success because it means there’s still paid work  and new opportunities to be had in comedy. So I know I should quietly keep working.

I could advertise my social media and spend precious time and money gaining “likes” and “followers” so I look like I have a huge following.

But I’d rather spend my time creating and my money on producing content I love. So instead I choose to quietly keep working.

People talk to me about their intense training regimen or post pictures of how hard they work on their diets and exercise.

But I don’t mention my own commitment to fitness. I don’t post gym selfies. Instead I smile, give them encouragement, then quietly keep working.

Many friends of mine have active social lives brimming with fulfilling hobbies. They get the opportunity to travel and have adventures and pursue lives outside of their careers.

While I sometimes do too, I recognize that it’s not usually my life at this moment. I want a successful career. So I quietly keep working.

I see people at Happy Hours and being social. I see their smiling faces and know that my own window for being “young and free” is ticking.

But I don’t mind. I prefer to focus on what I want most. I prefer to work on me, which often means sacrificing some elements of the present to create the future I want. So I quietly keep working.

I could share more details about my own life and my own successes. I could share every meeting I have and every agreement I sign. I could hint at every development deal I have and every time someone bites on one of my many projects.

But I know I’d only be doing it to seek outside validation. So I’ll wait until I’m ready and have something really exciting and important to share. And I’ll wait until I know I’m sharing it for the right reasons. I’ll be sharing out of excitement and enthusiasm, not insecurity or validation. And until then, I quietly keep working.

Things are happening. I’m making deals and I’m gaining traction. But I know that I’m doing these things for me, not to show off to the rest of the world how great I’m doing. I’m doing them because I need to. I’m hardwired to create, perform, imagine and entertain. I know some of the deals are going to fall through and I know some of them are going to help me catapult my career.

But most importantly, I know that no matter what continues to happen, I’m going to continue to do what I do best: quietly keep working.

Maybe I should be more of a showman. Maybe I should be more of a bragger. Maybe I should over-exaggerate my involvement in certain projects and with certain people to seem more impressive.

But that’s not my nature. And the type of people who are impressed by that aren’t the type of people I want to impress. Instead, I have faith in my own talent, my work ethic, my bonds and interactions with others, and my body of work will speak volumes more than any caption I could put on a social media post. Sometimes this works in my favor and occasionally it works against me. But in the long run, I know it will pay off. Even if my journey is windier than many of my peers, I’m a firm believer that when I am able to rise to the top, I’ll have no problem staying there. Because I quietly keep working, and let that speak for itself.

I’m writing this post not to brag about how much I work. But just because I feel the need to express the approach I take to my own work.

It’s so I can feel liberated to go back to continuing to quietly keep working.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m tired of talking about myself. I’ve got an imagination to serve who I can only hear when I’m quiet and is only satsified when I’m working.

So I’m off. To quietly keep working.

Earth Day Shmirth Day

I’ve got a thing against today. I’m not a fan. Every year, this day has a weird energy for me. And it has for a long time.

sad-earth-climate-changeGrowing up Unitarian Universalist, this was like the only “Holy Day” we celebrated. UU’s (as they’re called) are big fans of the earth so they make a big deal of earth day.

As I grew up, I started noticing some strange things always went down on this day. I went through a strange period of my life- years- where this day had particularly strange significance that I’m not going to go into here and now but rest assured if I told you the story you’d be like, “Huh. Weird.”

One year I was convinced I got over the strange day and ventured out into LA. That day, I had my newly upgraded phone stolen and very nearly got into 3 accidents to and from an event.

Last year, I thought for sure I broke the curse. I stayed in, had a very relaxed day, and didn’t make any rash decisions. Only to realize I bought tickets for a festival that I had to cancel 3 weeks later because of a different engagement and, despite having bought travel insurance for the tickets, ended up losing $150 of my investment.

I don’t like April 22.

But I’m feeling different about it this year. I feel like last year for many reasons was the end of an era. So far, 2015 has been a whole different experience for me socially, career-wise, and romantically. Some sort of shift took place. I don’t yet know what it is (because are we really ever able to see these things as they’re happening when we only have pieces of the puzzle but no real picture yet of how they fit in?), but I know it’s happened.

So I’m still taking it easy today. And after years of this day having a strange energy around it for me, I’m not looking to tempt the fates. But I do feel like I’m slowly emerging from a whirlwind tunnel that’s been taking place and always come to a head this day. I’m calmer than I’ve ever been about it. And actually genuinely excited and intrigued to see how it will all play out.

I’ll keep you updated.

 

Changing Times

dali clockThese times, friends, they are a’changin’.

You may have already noticed, I’m not always able to post as frequently to this blog and my beloved Ms. In the Biz.

Some of that is because I’m a lazy chick and I’ve realized that there are times I’d rather watch another killer episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia while I chill out after work and not think about anything but being entertained. It’s not the laziest, but as a super-productive person, I would prefer to think I could use every precious moment of my free time to create and continue to work on the projects that I’m the most passionate about, rather than sit and enjoy some Netflix while watching people do exactly what I want to do.

 

But some of it is because I’m a lucky chick and have had some awesome projects pick up steam.  These projects are cutting into my precious time and are forcing me to find places to make cutbacks. I’ve had to refocus some of my (still precious) free time to work on these projects. It’s a good thing that I’m very excited about, but that has forced me to refocus and reschedule some of the time I normally keep free for freeform writing.

So I decided I didn’t need to write a blog every day of the week, so I aim to put somewhere between 1-3 blogs up now every week, depending on what I’ve got available to give. I truly enjoy sharing some of my adventures and thoughts with everyone. And I’d love to pretend like I’m continuing to write these blogs based on completely altruistic motivations. But the truth is, these little blurbs are as much for me as they are for you. I think of things I want to share with the world, and this forum gives me the ability to express myself freely without any judgment or consequence. I mean, obviously there are consequences for what I’m saying here, but it’s not like someone is forcing me to do it. I get to just do it for the love of writing, creating, and sharing.

I’m taking time to pause and tell you this so that you know, if in the upcoming months my blog posts are less frequent, it’s not you. It’s me. And my schedule. And it’s only because I’m (hopefully) spending my time working on other creative projects that I’ll be able to share with the world shortly. But they just take a little more time to get going than these blogs. So you’ll have to be patient with me. And I’ll be patient with me, too as I slowly start to go crazy and kick myself for not being uber-productive.

Because productivity doesn’t always mean creating immediate content. Sometimes, you gotta pull back, take a breather, regroup, and slowly but surely create something bigger and better.

 

It’s coming!

OCL_Chalk_Collegiate_Pictures_v2_16x9_DateThe official premiere of The Other Client List is coming so soon! There’s still so much to do for it and so much to get prepared! And for some reason, the rest of my work and creative responsibilities haven’t stopped! So there’s lots to do! And somehow still the same amount of time there normally is in a day to do it! Is this making me go crazy? I don’t know! You tell me! I can’t seem to write sentences that talk about anything of substance! I have lots of blogs waiting to be written but aren’t getting written because I keep adding to never-ending to do lists! I am also only writing in short sentences that end in exclamation points! Here is the link to the Facebook event for our premiere! https://www.facebook.com/events/649995511777370/ ! Goodbye now!

Femoir: The Podcast – Partners! Show Notes

GoT-6I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately… so forgive the very specific partnership picture. I talk about being a lone wolf, but if you watch the show there’s a wolf in this picture so I’m counting it (nerdy laughter!).

Anyway! The latest episode of Femoir: The Podcast is live in iTunes. And it’s talking about PARTNERSHIPS!

I talk about how I’m going to vary my intro like the Simpsons, then I dive into being “particular about my company,” and talk about a famous song from Chicago about partnership. I discuss my solo show and my stand up comedy, make a reference to a delightful Chris Tucker moment, talk about how I write about partnership often, discuss Stage 32, The Other Client List (my web series), talk about Closure, and how not all partnerships can work out.

And I also discuss my upcoming Western.

So much discussed! Take a listen and subscribe for free if it please ya!

And now back to Game of Thrones for me…

Why I’m Monogamous

Monogamy-SWANSI grew up in a family with a mom and a dad in the traditional-valued Midwest who are still married after over 35 years together. Every relationship I knew and saw growing up I took for granted that they were monogamous. Of course I didn’t know the in’s and out’s of other people’s business- because it wasn’t my business so I certainly didn’t need to know- but it was the underlying assumption. It was the culture I grew up in. I heard stories of my grandpa doting on my grandmother. I saw my father doing the same to my mother. Every healthy relationship I saw in and out of my family was on based on monogamy.

For those of you salivating right now thinking, “My god! She’s gonna delve into details of her personal life! She never does that! I can’t wait!” Sorry. No go. No details. Generalizations and philosophy only. I don’t like other people knowing my personal business. Because it ain’t yours.

Though I do like talking the juicy details of yours. Feel free to dish because I genuinely love that shit.

But here’s what I will say:

A couple years ago, I got thrown into a loop. I was introduced to the notion that monogamy might be an unfair cultural expectation that we force upon our relationships and thereby nearly doom them to fail because in many ways it’s unnatural. I read the book, “Sex At Dawn,” which is an extremely interesting and fair assessment of how we’ve become what we’ve become in terms of our cultural expectations of our traditional relationships. It makes a strong case for reevaluating how we view the nature of our relationships and how they can better serve our own innate human sexuality.

And over the past couple years, I got to really evaluate and asses what that means to me. Like the good student I am, I was willing to question completely my own belief systems and challenge them. I had a number of first-hand experiences where I got to learn and question and be open to different lifestyles that what I was accustomed to. I willingly tried on different values to see if something fit me better or enhanced my lifestyle in unexpected ways. I challenged myself, grew, and learned a whole lot about what I truly want in life.

I learned, at my core, that I’m still monogamous by nature. Or maybe it was by nurture. Either way, that’s the path for me.

I challenged it. I pretended I wasn’t. I tried to be the chick that strings along a lot of dudes. I tried to be the person who didn’t care about certain things and cared a lot about others. But no matter how many ways I stretched it, my mind always snapped back to the basic ideas I grew up with. I wasn’t my best self. I was weirdly insecure and indecisive. I sacrificed too much of my basic wants and needs and ended up losing myself. And learned from the process.

But the biggest reason why? I’m too busy for anything but monogamy.

That’s basically it. I’ve got too many other passions and projects on my plate. If I have a partner help me, support me, and delight me as I sail through these adventures, that’s all I want. I don’t need anything else. I appreciate the people who explore other lifestyles because it’s obviously important to them. And I appreciate that my choices aren’t for everyone. If I’m happy and satisfied, I’m too busy nurturing and caring for and investing in my partner to worry about what’s out there that I might be missing. I actually like working through things. I like being challenged and growing. I don’t believe in our constantly upgrading culture that seems to think our happier self is outside of the world we have access to right now. As long as I got a guy who wants the same things in life, and we’re bringing out the best in each other, that’s all I need. And I’ll save the rest of my energy for the millions of other elements of this life that I’m passionate and curious about.

Let me be clear- if you’re not happy in a relationship and it’s not salvageable, certainly move on. I don’t believe that we all have to mate for life and resign ourselves to whatever fate we chose in a partner when lives and people and wants and needs can change in dramatic and unforeseeable ways. You have to be true to yourself and your own happiness. So you have to be willing and open to whatever that means for you.

It’s just for me, I have a tendency to go all in with anything I’m investing in. Whether it’s a project or a person, I get focused on making the most of any opportunity. And if I spread that focus out too thin, I don’t feel like I’m giving it my best. And it’s not everything it could be. And then I regret it. And wonder what it could have been if I had just been more willing to focus on it.

So that’s what I do. I focus. I get tunnel-visioned. I invest. I care. And I’m willing to take whatever emotional blows come with actually caring about the outcome of something. I’m willing to go this distance and fight to the end of the line. If it ends, so be it. But at least I can know I gave it my all.

Plus, romantic relationships are just one element of life. There are so many wonderful things to experience and learn and create. Ain’t nobody got time for dat.

And by nobody, I mean me.

And by dat, I mean dating multiple people.

But different strokes for different folks. My own values and choices are certainly not meant to threaten or judge anyone’s lifestyle. You do you, honeybear. What you do in the privacy of your own home between consenting adults is none of my business.

Unless you want to make it my business and tell me about it. In which case, like I said before, I’ll totally be into because I’m a sucker for listening to other people’s love lives.

Though sharing the details of my own isn’t my thing. Nor is sharing in general.

So if you’re the lucky suitor who wins my affections- you my boo, my bae, my mans, my babymomma- good luck and may God have mercy on your soul.

Femoir: The Podcast – COMPARISON – Show Notes

It’s another Femoir: The Podcast, friends and here are the show notes for all the things that are chatted about during this episode.

It’s a lot this time, so strap in… here we gocompare!

I mention 123 and me. I meant 23andme. Silly mistake!

I also talk about The Chicago Comedy scene, Wikipedia, and my previous podcast called “GUT.”

Then I mention what my favorite Zen Good/Bad story, Mindy Kaling, a great article by “Thought Catalog” called This is how we date now, my soul buddy Renee.

Then I invent Nude Feeds… naughty! And I make W sounds like “Cool Whip.

Subscribe for free on iTunes. Episodes out every other Tuesday!

Mirror Love

baby mirrorI play a little trick on myself.

It’s not an easy trick. And it’s not a mean trick. But it’s still a trick.

When I catch myself finding flaws and critiquing myself in the mirror, I stop and start giving myself compliments. Repeatedly. Out loud. Until I feel better. Then I walk away feeling a lot better about myself than if I had kept finding all the flaws.

I started doing this not long ago when I found myself engaging in some bad habits as a result of my own perfectionism and nit-picky-ness attacking my appearance. I’ve always been lucky in that I can keep a pretty balanced head about things. When I do go deep into that rabbit hole, I’ve got some fantastic support systems who get me out quickly.

But it’s still not easy to make this choice. It’s not easy to be proactive about my positivity. It’s not easy to stop critiquing and start talking to myself like a best friend. And to forgive myself for my flaws.

That sh*t ain’t easy.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth looking like a doofus to the imaginary friends who are watching me talk to myself alone in my apartment. It’s worth feeling really cheesy as I repeat affirmations to myself in a mirror like a comedy sketch making fun of self-help gurus. It’s worth it sharing that I do this with you even though now you all know that I am as weird as you imagine I am.

Because down the other path lies madness. The other path doesn’t serve me. The other path doesn’t make me happy. But I can’t just ignore the impulse. I have to replace it with something positive. I can’t just tell myself “Don’t look at yourself in the mirror because you’re always hyper-critical.” I have to tell myself, “If you’re gonna look in the mirror, we’re gonna be loving about it. And that’s that.”

And… I’ll be honest with you all… it really does make a difference. I feel a whole lot happier and healthier after every one of my mirror lovin’ sessions. Which is nice since they could have gone the other way and made me feel a whole lot crummier.

Try it. Let me know how it goes. If you want a jumping off point of the how-to’s of this process, please refer to the following classic video:

Crop Top

crop topI never thought I could pull off a crop top. I mean, look at this guy. I don’t look like him!

Growing up, I was always most self-conscious about my stomach. It’s where I hold most of my weight. It’s the last thing to start toning out when I am getting in shape. I’m not shaped like a tiny slender stomached chick. I’m more athletic (when at my best) so only making major cuts and really going out of my way to work it make a difference.

I’ve gone on about this before.

But as I’ve gotten slowly more confident with my body and pushed the limits of my own shape… I’ve ventured out in my dress too. I’ve actually worn crop tops on occasion.

I feel so naughty for even admitting it! AH!

I’m from Indiana. We don’t wear crop tops there. I certainly never wore them or even considered such a dramatic clothing choice. But I’ve slowly let the land of the people who are more bold and confident with their body and clothing seep into my own thinking. I’m not saying my shirts are that short… but sometimes a little tummy can peek out. And I don’t get self-conscious. And I’m proud of that. Not because I look like a photoshopped fitness model. But because I look good. And I work on it.

But more importantly, I work constantly on being ok with me. So if that means wearing modest crop tops without embarrassment because they make me sort of feel like a rockstar, so be it. Bring on the scissors. I’ve got a tiny sliver of stomach to let peep out.