Brains Behaving Better

brain badNot long ago there was an article circulating the comedy community called “Brains Behaving Badly.” I, like many of my peers, read it. Unlike many of my peers I didn’t take it to heart. In fact, I passionately disagree.

I do not believe you have to be deeply damaged to be truly great. I believe you have to be you, whatever that means to you.

Now let me start by making something very, very clear. I do not believe depression is a weakness. I believe it is a malfunction. Something just isn’t firing correctly and many people truly do need medication to fix it. If you suffer from depression, as many of my near and dearest friends do, please seek professional help (http://www.sccc-la.org/). I do not believe you can will yourself out of a legitimate disfunction.

I have been lucky enough to not have to deal with those issues (yet) in my life. I recognize this is pure luck of the draw. In no way do I want to seem like I’m belittling those who really do fight those demons. I am simply trying to voice the creative journey through a different perspective.

So here’s my response. Because I feel like I need to say something. I realize my piece isn’t going to be featured in Rolling Stone and probably won’t reach the same number of people his did. But maybe it’ll reach a few. And that’s what matters to me.

Mr. Gould, I’m so sorry for your loss of a friend and peer in Robin Williams. He truly was a spectacular performer and I can only imagine how tough it would be to lose such a seemingly good man and good friend. And I am so sorry for the loss of other friends of yours to suicide. And for your own struggles with depression. As so many performers have begun openly discussing their own struggles with depression, I in no way disagree with you that depression amongst people who have an uncanny ability to bring so much happiness to others is very real.

But I wholeheartedly refuse to believe that my creative brain will cause me to “self-destruct.”

I said it before, but let me reiterate. I love my creative brain. I love my creativity. I’m grateful every day for it. I do not yet know your level of success, but I can vouch having an overactive imagination. And I know the times it can start to work against me. It takes little more than a look for me to create an entire backstory of a stranger I walk past and a life for us together. I have several imaginary personalities on Twitter who sometimes fight each other. I have gotten so enraptured in writing that I’ve almost burned my kitchen down on more than one occasion because I forget that I’m actually living in the real world. I can vividly picture what will happen when I’m driving near a cliff and how it will feel if my car veers off suddenly or any number of creatures that could be waiting for me outside in the dark as I walk alone at night.

I understand imagination. Both the good and the bad.

But I love my imagination. And I am grateful for it. And I have spent years of my life cultivating it so it stays strong while simultaneously cultivating a strong foundation outside of my own mind so I can reel it in when I know it’s going down a dangerous path. I know how it feels when I let it run free so I’m careful- no, meticulous and disciplined about being proactive about my own positivity.

Yes, it sometimes wins out and I can go in a tailspin. But I’ve created an environment of support around me who can help me quickly get out before I go too deep. And I do everything in my power to stay self-aware of my emotions so I can communicate them openly and do my best to stay balanced.

Comedy gives me the voice to vent and understand my frustrations and pain. It keeps me away from the abyss rather than plunging me into it.

My creativity and imagination are the tools I use to give myself a voice in this world. Even if my conscious mind is in denial about a feeling or an attitude or the status of my life, it will come out clearly in my work. I can’t hide from it. And when sometime goes awry, I know that I will use those same tools to try and understand it and maybe make light of it. Even if it doesn’t work, comedy is how I view the world. It’s how I cope. It’s how I bond. It’s how I communicate. It’s how I comfort. It’s everything to me and does everything for me.

I refuse to believe that I am only as good as my level of anxiety. Of course my imagination can create a number of anxieties when I let it run free. But because I know it can, I do my absolute best to keep in check. I talk to friends and family to make me feel loved and safe. I protect my active imagination and train it to work when I want it to and how I want it to. Then I’m grateful for it and protect it. I protect it from me and from itself. And I do that by constantly, diligently being careful about my friends, my environment, my feelings, my thoughts, my time, and a thousand other smaller factors that are choices I make beyond what I pursue career-wise.

It’s important to talk about depression. And I’m glad we are. But let’s not make unfair generalizations about the nature of any particular brain. I want to be very careful not to feed the already fragile minds of so many up-and-coming creatives who may allow their minds to get the better of them in an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy of needing anxiety and depression in order to be accepted as a true comedian.

The imagination is a beautiful thing. To squash it preemptively out of fear it will turn on you is a disservice to yourself and the world around you. And to believe if it doesn’t turn on you that you’re somehow not as good as those who have had it turn is just false.

I think it’s not only a slippery slope, but one that doesn’t even guarantee greatness. There are plenty of other slopes on this mountain. Just look around.

Depression affects everybody no matter how they interpret the world. It’s very real and very serious. It’s even more dramatic when it affects those who are able to bring so much lightness to others while carrying such a heavy weight themselves. I recognize that I lucked out and was dealt a brain and body chemistry that are more balanced than others. Yet it is my imagination helps me to continue to keep that balance and to, whenever I can, bring more light through lightheartedness to those who feel they need it. It works with me, not against me.

I vehemently refuse to believe depression is inherent or inevitable in the mind of the best creatives. Depression, like alcoholism, is a debilitating disease that should be treated with care. But, like alcoholism, it would be unfair to say that just because many great entertainers were alcoholics, you have to be an alcoholic if you want to be a truly great entertainer. It an inaccurate and unfair conclusion that could cause more damage than good.

There are a number of extremely famous comedians who have made millions laugh who have gone on to lead particularly balanced and healthy lives. Lucille Ball, Ellen Degeneres, Carol Burnett, and Mel Brooks are a few that come to mind immediately. Of course they’ve had their ups and downs, but they’ve used their creativity, their comedy, and their gift to be resilient in the face of difficulties and to continue to bring light and laughter to millions internationally.

When I was a kid, I saw Aladdin in theaters because I was part of that lucky generation when Disney was creating their classics for exactly my age group. I remember laughing so hard at the Genie that I was nearly crying in my seat. I saw the move two more times in theaters. And bought the VHS the week it came out. And I had every line the Genie said in that movie memorized in no time. I was mesmerized by the energy, the charisma, and the creativity it took for a human to make that character come so alive to me. And it is no exaggeration for me to say that that Genie is one of the major factors in why I want to dedicate my life to bringing that same laughter and light to others.

So I disagree with you, but thank you and your generation- alive and passed- for the world you’ve carved out in comedy for me and my generation. In many ways, it’s your creations that have allowed me to become my best self. And when I’m my best self, I’m balanced, happy, and loving. And I want to bring as much of that to others that I can.

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Western Love

eastwood_good_uglyI’m currently obsessed with Westerns

Truth be told, I’m almost always obsessed with something, so this is actually a healthier obsession than some of the ones in my past…

Long story short: I did a project for a festival and met a guy who loves Westerns. He suggested we do a comedy western. I was like, “Sure!” He met my main man, they got along splendidly, and now we’re going to go shoot a short comedy Western I wrote in a couple weeks.

Because life is pretty cool like that.

I’m so excited. So I’ve been watching a series of classic westerns to prepare. And I’m getting into them. Like… real into them. As in, sit at home on weekend nights, watch cowboy movies, and walk around (my studio apartment in Los Angeles) pretending to glare down my (invisible) opponent and grasp my (also invisible) gun.

So if you need me, I’ll be in the Wild Wild West of my imagination for the next couple weeks. Please be patient with me, partner. When I return, I’ll be your Huckleberry.

Prince Charming

prince charmingIncredible news, everyone.

For those of you who have ever followed this blog in any capacity, you know that I make up relationships in my head with men I see regularly at the gym. (Click here and here and here for some samples.)

For those of you who have never read this blog before, I’ll clarify. Yes, I’m a friggin weirdo.

Anyway, I have big news. I saw the most perfect human being you could ever see. And he was at the gym. And he was beautiful.

He wore all black. He looked like a male model. And this is LA, so he probably is a male model. If I were a creepy old man with a “modeling” business and business card, I totally would have approached him to model for me.

Who am I kidding. If I had my business cards on me, I would have approached him to model for me anyway.

Of course I didn’t talk to him. That’s not how these things go. Instead, I stared silently from a distance.

I actually lucked out. He chose a spot in the gym that was near where one of the stretching mats is. I stretched for much, much longer than I normally do because I could steal looks at him.

He was beautiful. I know if I see him again it’ll totally be meant to be and true love and we’ll ride off to a magical castle together and live happily ever after forever and ever.

 

 

Land of Pure Imagination

willywonkathechocolatefactoryLast weekend I went to the San Diego Comic Convention. It’s the largest comic convention in the world. It’s overwhelming and ridiculously crowded and so much fun.
I had a delightful time. Not only because it was delightful to see so many of my imaginary friends from comics and books and TV and movies come to life in front of me, but mostly because it was one huge celebration of human imagination.

And I’m an big fan of the imagination.

I have a highly active imagination. I love to play make believe and dress up and create bizarro characters who exist in their own worlds (which I also create). I’m obsessed with the imagination. I became obsessed with improv during and after college because I couldn’t believe people would come watch you play in a world you’re creating on the spot where anything is possible. I nearly had a melt down the first time I did the Universal Studios tram tour because they take you into different worlds of movies and show you how people use their imagination to bring to life imaginary stories that then stimulate other people’s imagination. I’m creating a career based on living my life in the make-believe. I love people who play along and who embrace their imagination. And Comic Con was full of those people. And I loved them for it.

Also there was a lot of free beer. So that was pretty cool too.

New Gym Boyfriend!?!??!

I need everyone to stay calm. This could be a passing fancy. But I’ve may have a new gym boyfriend.

It’s nothing official yet. It’s just… last week I went a little later than I normally do.  Though there were many people around, my gym boyfriend was nowhere to be seen. Probably already at his job saving lives. Because I imagine he’s in one of those life-saving professions.

So of course I just got in my zone and did my workout. I’m focusing on some new stuff, so I actually had to concentrate more than usual.

Then it happened.

I was doing squats on a squat rack and doing ab work on an incline bench in between my sets. And a guy came up and started using another squat rack near me. And my incline bench was kinda in his way. So I moved it so it would be more out of his way.

And a miracle.

He looked at me, smiled, and said “Thank you.”

So I smiled and looked down. The continued my workout.

The next day, he was in the weight room again. He was doing an exercise near me. We totally made eye contact. He had a glimmer of recognition in that fleeting moment of eye contact that made me realize he recognized me just like I recognized him.

Then! The next Saturday, I was at the gym again and this group of big dudes all hang together and gossip like school girls. And who hangs out with them? The same guy! And get this- he saw me again! We totally made legitimate eye contact.

Now… I don’t want to rush things. I know that relationships like this have to move slowly. And I know I’ve already made an intense emotional commitment to another man I’ve never spoken to at the gym.

But this guy actually makes eye contact with me. My other boyfriend never did that. He said something to me once. My other boyfriend never did that. He works out near me. I always had to creepily workout near my last boyfriend.

I’m not going to be hasty and just end things with my old gym boyfriend because some new guy spoke almost a full sentence to me. I’m not crazy.

Besides, the old gym has finally reopened and I’ll probably be headed back there in the mornings. So there’s a good chance I won’t see this new guy anyway. Plus he works out later in the day during a time I typically can’t get to. We have a lot of things working against us right now. I just don’t know if we’ll make it.

But maybe…just maybe… I’ll see my regular gym boyfriend at my regular gym at my regular time. Then on the weekends, I’ll run into my fling. That’s what I’ll call him. My gym fling.

A girl can only dream.

It’s healthy to date lots of people at once. It’s even more healthy to actually talk to them and have them know who you are. But one step at a time, people. One step at a time.