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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Choosing Calm

I’ve been called feisty more than once in my life. My temper used to be a strange point of pride. I’d think, “Oh, man, you’d better not cross me or you’ll see the wrath of a version of myself that I can’t even handle.”

Even though I didn’t always love that my emotions would take over (and quickly), I was scared to do too much to curb it because my crazy was also a large part of my identity. I liked that I was considered somewhat unpredictable and that I wore my emotions on my sleeve and felt those emotions really strongly (and often quickly).

But as I’ve grown up, I realized that those same emotions are utterly exhausting. And, like any bad habit, they slowly fester into something uncontrollable. They’re not a big deal when you’re younger and you have more energy to fight them back and recover from the temper tantrum. But as you get older, they really do wear on you. It becomes harder and harder to fight them off. And, because you’ve let them run rampant for years, they’ve grown in their strength.

In case I’ve lost you here, the “they” I’m talking about is negative emotions. Okay, we’re back on track. Good.

Anyway, it took a leap of faith for me to accept that maybe I could more consistently be calmer. I worried what that would mean for the empathetic feelings I wanted to feel and the ability to feel emotions strongly. It turns out, when I’m able to more regularly listen to my emotions from a calmer and happier state of mind, I continue to feel things just as strongly. I actually feel them even more strongly because I feel them with more clarity.

When a negative emotion starts to take over, I’ve done the work to see it coming and notice it start to take over my mind (and tense up my body). That doesn’t mean I’m always able to control it and keep it at bay. But I can at least see that it’s happening and a part of me remains aware of the situation. Plus, as a bonus, that part of me that is aware of the situation is able to start assessing what’s really going on, while the rest of me continues to temper tantrum away. By the time my calm(er) self has returned, it’s able to have a short conversation with the emotion and identify where it’s coming from.

For example, the other day I was worried about something that y dog may have ingested. It was unclear whether or not he actually ate this thing. And, if he did, the repercussions were likely not dire, just sort of uncomfortable and unknown. The moment I caught the (possible) act, I got really upset and frustrated immediately. In the past, I may have let those emotions take over and inform the rest of the day. Instead, I talked it out for a moment. I was able to stay calm(er) and start evaluating all the opportunities here. My husband (god love him) tried to tell me everything was fine and that I didn’t need to worry. That only made me angrier and I couldn’t figure out why. Again, in the past, I easily could and would have lashed out.

Instead, this time, he took the dogs on a walk (a smart move for him) and I evaluated what was going on. Once I figured out that my pup was in no major danger even if he did the thing I wasn’t sure he’d do, I asked myself what was going on. I realized it was a flare up of an old feeling of unworthiness that was festering again. I didn’t feel like I deserved the happiness that my dogs brought me. I didn’t “deserve nice things” basically. It took me a long time to find that hidden little brain thought years ago. But once I did, I’ve made sure she knows she’s unwelcome. I have to remind her of that when she pops up at various times (like in this incident). And the frustration that was directed towards my husband was because I felt like my feelings were being mitigated, which is a trigger for me. When he came back, I was calmer, clearer, and able to talk it out. All without having too much of a fit.

In a less complicated example, it took me a while to get a necklace on this morning. I kept starting to get frustrated and  starting to feel my temper flare up. Instead, I was able to keep the tantrum at bay by simply remembering, “Whatever. It’s just a necklace. Either it goes on or it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. Getting angry won’t help anything and it will only make me more tense and make this harder.” So I stayed chill and, several tries later, I eventually got it.

Calm doesn’t always come naturally to me. But the more I choose it, the more it knows its welcome. And the more I feel it, the more I want it around. It’s a pleasant cycle.

Maybe that can help you consider the same.

The Magic in Failure

I went to a magic show last night at The Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

It was…yes, magical.

We got to see lots of shows and I even got to go onstage and help out the main magician for a trick. He was more of a Vegas style big trick magician and less, like, quick slight-of-hand-centric. This meant, in part, that there was some time to kill between his set ups of new tricks. So he had another act come and do some impressive juggling and ball throwing.

After his first opening bit, the magician said that it had been 19 years since he had performed at The Magic Castle (basically the Olympics for magicians). And he brought back the same friend he had with him 19 years before to help him out and entertain between his tricks. This was the juggling dude.

Juggle dude came out hot and fast. He was good, moved around, and did a bunch of impressive feats. But then at one point, he dropped one of the items he was juggling. Impressively, he was able to keep juggling the other two and quickly pick back up the third and resume as if nothing had happened. He changed the items and amounts he was juggling several times throughout the act.

He was extremely impressive, but not flawless.

In fact, at one point he was trying to blow a ping pong ball on his face and catch it with the bridge of his nose and eyebrows. He did it a few times and even sort of paused and mouthed “come on” before he finally nailed it. Because everything magic-oriented is so showy, it’s hard to know if his failures were part of the show. But what I realized was, I didn’t even care. Nor did anyone else there, really.

The man sat before a paying audience with a lot of pressure to be perfect. And nobody seemed to care when he screwed up a little. Part of me did wonder if he had been actively practicing in the past 19 years. But that was mostly because I expected perfection because I think we all do just out of habit.

What happened when I didn’t get it, though, was that I didn’t care. I didn’t feel slighted. In fact, I enjoyed sort of seeing him fail and try again. I enjoyed seeing him keep his spirits up and keep doing it until he got it. There was so much he already nailed that it didn’t matter to me that there were a few moments of imperfection. It made him human and almost more impressive that he was willing to fail in front of everyone onstage and keep going.

And, perhaps most interestingly, he was still interesting and entertaining even with the flubs.

That was the main takeaway for me from the event. I pressure myself regularly to be perfect, especially when onstage. I think that if I’m not absolutely polished, people will discover me for being some sort of fraud. The funny part is, I’ve screwed up before plenty of times on stage and in front of audiences. And I’m sure I will continue to. But seeing someone else do it reminded me how little I, as an audience member, actually care. I like seeing hints of behind-the-scenes as long as I still trust this person can get us all through it and remain entertaining.

If he had flubbed big time, it might have felt awkward. That’s when the audience starts to wonder if they can trust you to continue to entertain them. But they were just small things that happened occasionally. They were fixed instantly but not without self-awareness and a hint of happy humility.

The flaws were beautiful.

And, dare I say it… magical.

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 104: The Marathon

Hello again faithful friends!

Another Friday, another episode of Femoir the Podcast. This time we’re running with the theme of a marathon, inspired by the LA Marathon (ALL PUNS INTENDED).

I discuss auditions for a comedy show I’m part of, talk about general marathon training (mostly metaphorically), and when we face rejection we have to try, try again.

It’s a short and sweet episode, as these show notes reflect.

Subscribing and rating the show helps, but listening keeps me inspired to keep a’going so thank you!

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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Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 103: Give Yourself A Break

There are times when you can’t do everything you want to. And there are lots of times you can find reasons to beat yourself up for not doing (or being) “enough.”

But as long as you do the best you can with what you have in the moment, you are doing enough. And just by being, you’re being enough.

That’s the basics of what are explored in this episode of Femoir the Podcast. That, and…

I talk about Brian Koppelman’s Podcast: The Moment.

I mention my beloved David Goggins.

I talk again about Resistance.

I mention a specific interview on the moment with my (other beloved) Steven Pressfield.

I discuss doing what you need to do to recharge.

And why you can learn from everything, even your so-called mistakes.

All that and more on iTunes.

Subscribing and rating help the show big-time but you do you, babyboo.

How A Robot Taught Me To Be Human

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on an airplane having just watched Wall-E for the first time. I love to work on airplanes, but I love even more to take the time to relax. I rarely relax and, when there is entertainment, I like to get caught up on all the things I’ve been meaning to see for a while.

In this case, I was very behind on Wall-E. But for some reason, it was calling to me this morning.

Let me start by answering the question I know you’re going to ask: Yes, of course I cried. I cry a lot during movies. Not just during sad parts. I sob my face off the most when people show love or work together. In this case, I was quietly wiping away tears while the derelict robots helped Wall-E and EVE (EVA?) escape the police robots. Why? Because they were all working together for something bigger than themselves and damn it, that’s beautiful.

And yes, it’s embarrassing because I’m almost always sitting next to strangers on planes and so I’ve cried in front of a lot of strangers. As Wall-E would say, “Wall-Eva.” (Say like whateva in order for the joke to land. I’m not saying it will, but I do appreciate you trying.)

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✨WALL-E✨ (25×26 mm) . "WALL-E" is one of the great silent movies. Andrew Stanton (writer/director) and his team have created a classic screen character from a metal trash compactor who rides to the rescue of a planet buried in the debris. 🌎 When hope arrives in the form of a seedling, the film blossoms into one of the great screen romances as two robots remind audiences of the beating heart in all of us that yearns for humanity – and love – in the darkest of landscapes. 🌱 . This original painting + limited edition prints will be availble on "Robots Among Us" art show at @29th_street_gallery (April 20, 2019 – May 4, 2019). I will create 9 robot miniature paintings for this show. Do you have any requests? Who is your favorite robot? 😊🤖 . . . #RobotsAmongUs #Chicago #artshow #show #robot #robots #robotart #art #watercolor #watercolour #miniature #painting #tiny #tinypainting #tinyart #miniatureart #mini #miniaturepainting #closeup #walle #disney #pixar

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The crazy message that I love love loved from Wall-E was the fact that this robot was reminding humans how to be human. And the fact that part of the reason Wall-E seemed to outlast so many of his robot counterparts on Earth was because he had a mission beyond simply his directive. He had his own personality. He had a genuine curiosity for the world. And he actively studied the world around him in order to attempt to live it even more fully. He found joy in things and showed empathy for the only other living creature he could find (a creepy little cockroach they made seem like his dog and it was both cute and unnerving).

Recently, a creative peer talked about how he believed strongly in quality over quantity of life. He came to that philosophy thanks to past experiences with people who were living with debilitating diseases and his understanding of how they coped with and learned from them.

Between his comments and watching Wall-E, I’m starting to better understand how to be human. Which is strange because I do feel like I’ve been only a human for the past, well, all of my life. But in many was I’ve just been reactive and going through the motions. I think that there are times when you can be more proactive, more curious, and more genuinely committed to whatever it is you’re focusing on at the moment.

Lesson here: Be more human and less robot, even if you are actually a robot.

I hope we all learned something today. You’re welcome.

Powering off.

Femoir the Podcast – Season 3, Episode 102: Sh*t Happens

Back again, friends.

In this episode, we talk about Mercury Retrograding. (Yeah, it happens, sorry).

I mention finding perspective.

I give a quick shout out to my hubs.

I talk traveling.

I hint about an upcoming blog post you should check out (hey, get caught up here!).

And I generally discuss chilling out.

Mostly, I’m trying to make everyone a teacher and trying to make my acting teacher proud.

Or, maybe, just make my best self proud. Who knows.

Subscribing and rating helps out, friends. But you know what helps more than anything? You being you. So keep doing that.

xo

Spring is for Starting Over

For 114 days in a row, I meditated. At least a little every day. I use this app called Insight Timer (yes, I know there are a lot of options, but I like this one so I’ve stuck to it). I spend a little time every day reflecting. I vary between music, guided meditations, and straight up silence.

My previous record before this one was around 60. I over doubled it.

Then, on chaotic day, I forgot.

Okay, you’re reading this so I might as well be honest with you. I forgot about a week before that. But I remember that I forgot before my timer had realized I missed a day. I inserted a one minute meditation, justifying that I had actually been to yoga that day and we laid down in savasana, so I wasn’t explicitly untrue, even if it wasn’t true true. I didn’t want to lose my streak.

Then, just recently, it happened again. I remembered throughout the day I needed to take pause to keep my streak up, but I just forgot. I didn’t take it when I thought about it and the day got away from me too quickly.

I remembered very early the next morning. Technically, I could have meditated and probably been within the range to keep my streak up. But I remembered how I was already feeling like a bit of a cheat because I skipped one day and just added it in later. And I didn’t want to keep that feeling of inauthenticity up. And for what? This was a challenge I was only having with myself.

The truth was (and is) that I was scared to start over. 114 days in a row is a lot of days. Every day I was setting a new record for myself. I was proud of myself. And, if I admitted that I failed, I’d have to bite the bullet and admit that I needed to start over.

And, man, starting over is way harder than simply keeping momentum. You have to be humble and resilient. And you have to believe in yourself even when you’re redoing some of the things you’ve already done before. It’s simpler when it comes to a little meditation app. But it’s not as simple when it comes to major changes in your life. But the principle is the same.

So I made the choice to not sneak in that meditation so I could keep my streak alive. I opted to simply let the streak go, admit it had gotten away from me, and start over.

It happens to be the very beginnings of the spring season, too. At least in Los Angeles, we’re starting to feel it become slightly warmer and less rainy (it’s been so rainy around here) than it has for a while. There’s a new little hope in the air. So I’m going to use that momentum and remind myself it’s okay to start over.

In fact, it’s as important to learn the skill of starting over as it is the skill of keeping the momentum going. So really, this is an opportunity I gave to myself. I get to go all Christian Bale’s “Batman” on this particular goal and say to myself “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to get back up.”

We Open Bananas Wrong

…and other thoughts on changing your perspective.

Who, on average, eats more bananas – human beings or monkeys? If cartoons have taught me anything, it’s that monkeys are way more in love with bananas. Sure, we humans eat them for potassium and because they’re a cheap, readily available snack when you’re in a hurry. But monkeys eat a lot of bananas. And they do so more regularly than we do.

So since they’re much more the connoisseur of the c-shaped fruit – more so even than the Chiquita banana lady herself – it’s fair to say we might be able to learn a thing or two from them.

Most humans growing up in western society have learned to eat bananas by pulling down from their longer stem. Even if you end up mushing part of the banana because the stem is stubborn and won’t pull down correctly, it doesn’t matter because that’s the way you open a banana.

And yet, monkeys do it differently. They gently pinch the black end of the banana open, which allows you to peel it clean and easy. 

Every morning, I have a banana in my morning shake. I usually do the “normal” pull away. Even knowing the monkey way is so much easier and often more effective. But while I was confronting a particularly stubborn banana, it occurred to me that if I just tried the monkey way, I could open this fruit the way it wanted to be opened. I could stop trying to force it my way just because that’s what I expected and was used to doing.

That’s when the lightbulb went off.

How often do we go through the motions just because it’s the thing we’ve always done? Even more so, how choose to do something – even if we know there’s a better way – simply because it’s what we’re used to doing? How much of the time are we on autopilot even if we know and see that there are ways to be more in control?

How many things in our life do we do that we could improve with small tweaks? How many “life hacks” exist that we could implement that would genuinely improve our life? Or even just help us to feel the easy of going with the flow rather than fighting the current? If the way we’ve been taught to open bananas isn’t the easiest way to do it, yet we still teach others that’s the way to do it, what other basic foundations of our life are we taught are normal that may make our world slightly more difficult than necessary?

We understand reality only through the very small sliver with which we see it. That sliver is based slightly on our own impressions and largely on the impressions of the world others have had that have been passed down directly to us. Sometimes we think that’s the way it is simply because that’s what someone said it was. If we just open our eyes and learn from the world around us based on our own experience (combined with the intuitive knowledge many of our animal friends instinctively have), maybe there’s so much more we can learn about the true nature of reality.

Whether or not you agree, I at least hope you found most of this banana revelation a-PEEL-ling.

I’m sorry and you’re welcome.