Try Harder (Or, a Happy New Year?)

Today is the release date of my book, The Fields. I have been trying to promote it more than I’ve tried to promote anything else, really, which still means I haven’t tried to promote it enough, because I’m terrible at telling the world to look at me.

But nonetheless, I am proud of myself.

Not for publishing a book, and not even for writing a book, but I am proud of myself for finishing what I started out to do. I have so much unfinished business in my art portfolio.

The real challenge in finishing projects has been to refine my work, because I get a draft or a cut done and I don’t want to mess with it. “It’s perfect just the way it is,” I say. And the thing is, I know it’s not perfect, but I’m afraid that if I touch it again, I’ll ruin it. And why not just be proud of what I have so far?

Because what I have so far is incomplete. Because what I have so far is not at its full potential, and, years from now, will just make me wonder what would have happened if I had just edited my work. Made it more accessible to a wider audience. Tried harder. If I tried harder and ruined it, at least I could say I tried.

But that is a scary leap, far scarier than that initial birth of an idea, the “honeymoon phase” of every art project: the beginning. I love beginnings. Beginnings usually have an ending already in sight for me. It’s like how I write every story: a beginning pops into my head, and either the ending is already there, sitting in front of me, or I can usually quickly concoct an ending — and then I stare at the page blankly, not sure of what happens in the middle. And what is the middle, really, but the most important part?

I don’t even think I have to say that this is entirely too applicable to life.

This is how I run my relationships. My career goals. My mental health. I think about how it’s not really perfect, but if I touch it, I’ll ruin it. It’s so much better as complacent as it is now, or as a dream.

My mental health needs a bridge between the beginning and the end. My relationships deserve better than to not be at their full potential. My career should be something that I can say I tried.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. I have a lot of unfinished business this year, and not just in my art portfolio. I had a mental hurricane for which I’m still working on shutting the storm doors. And while I can’t say I’m entirely proud of the middle of this year, I can happily say I’m embracing its end… And I already have a beginning in mind for the next year. The middle will come to me, I’m sure of it. I just have to try harder.

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Giveaway: a print copy of The Fields

With the release of The Fields so close (December 30th!), I figured I’d do a giveaway. After all, it is the holidays, and everyone likes a good gift.

So if you’ve been hoping to win a free copy of my book, then here’s your chance!

Enter in the giveaway!

Entries close the morning of December 30th.

Happy Anniversary (We’ll Make It Happy)

Remember, remember.

It’s weird, but it’s much easier to remember the negative anniversaries over the positive ones — which is an irony in itself, since the go-to phrase is “happy anniversary”. Not everyone is so lucky. Some people are routinely surrounded by unhappy anniversaries.

It’s not an active choice. Even if there are good anniversaries in your life, it’s the bad ones that take hold. For some anniversaries, every year I find myself with overwhelming anxiety in the weeks preceding, and every year, like an idiot, I wonder why. And then the day comes, and it all starts to make perfect sense… Sure, I could stop being overdramatic about these anniversaries and choose to let them fall from my memory (I know I’m being dramatic because my anxiety tells me that’s what people think of me!).

But you know, there are some moments that you need to accept that this is something you have been impacted by, and whether you like it or not, it has affected your decisions.

My reaction is still valid. That’s what my therapist said.

She also told me that if I’m going to hold a negative anniversary in my mind so firmly, then I’ve got to start coupling it with positive decisions, with affirmations of how far I’ve come, or reminders of other things that I can focus on in my life that deserve credit. I don’t want to cave in on myself every time a specific date pops up. So what can I do to give myself structure?

Yesterday was one of those dates, and I decided that enough was enough. Well… I guess there have been lots of moments when I’ve thought enough is enough, but this time I’m ready to be proactive about it.

So this anniversary, I choose to find something to be happy about. And while my brain likes to look around and say, “I can’t see anything to be happy about,” my heart knows now to plant things so that it can tell my brain to shut up. If you have something negative inside of you that nags, that weighs you down, then you need to start carrying balloons with you. Pick-me-ups. Sometimes those balloons are things you already have, but sometimes you’ve got to create them, to counteract.

Like game nights, and spending time with friends. Whatever you find enjoyable, and can make happen, make it happen. I’m learning to value those who reach out to me, and let go of anxieties I can’t control, so a lot of my balloons end up being social activities, but there are plenty of other things that can work. It’s a long, ridiculous process, but it’s necessary. Because what else are you supposed to say, if you can’t say “happy anniversary”?

Cats Worry, and Other Stories We Tell Ourselves

Early this morning, I had the thought that my cat doesn’t trust me, and it made me feel better.

I was crying, and normally when I cry, my cat ignores it. He doesn’t understand what crying means, that it means I’m upset, so he just continues on, acting like a cat. Usually being pretty damn annoying, as one tends to be at 3am. Well, he was in this particular instance. While I cried, he tried to climb the window, and finally I sobbed out at him to stop, and amazingly, he obliged and came up on the bed to cuddle.

He lay on my stomach, held my hand between his paws, and stared at me. Stared at me as I cried, thinking about whether people would be put out if I was gone, and whether it would affect anyone past being sad for a little bit. Like, I was really trying to be logical about it. Work would need to get a few things sorted, but once they did that, they’d be fine, and the only people I figured whose hearts would really break really wouldn’t have too much of a difference in their physical day-to-day, because they’re family and live far away, that sort of thing. The crying was more a separate thing that was happening alongside all the logic that was going on. And my cat, through all of this, stared at me as the tears subsided, as I lost the strength to keep crying, and I kept looking down at him and seeing his little kitten eyes, staring at me, and I thought to myself, a sign that your cat trusts you is if he closes his eyes around you. But he was ever vigilant, watching me, not daring to shut his eyes.

And I thought to myself, if I didn’t have any logic, and anthropomorphized this creature, I would believe that he is worried about me. That somehow he has figured out that I need to be watched, and that is why his eyes are open right now. But he’s a cat. I do have logic, and I know that’s not true.

But maybe that’s my problem. Maybe the key to survival is to stop being so logical. Maybe I need that anthropomorphism to keep me alive, to believe that someone is worried about me, that this little guy wants me around.

I guess in terms of physical survival, logic is important, but in terms of emotional survival, I think we’re better off without it. I think the more we try to be honest with ourselves about our place in the world, the more we’ll come to realize that no one is really needed, or important on more than a superficial level, and I think I’d rather cling to some semblance of worth reflected in the people around me. Even if it doesn’t make sense, I’d rather believe that that worth is there. Applying logic has only brought me to low places, so I would like to be illogical, and be content with a world that I create. Maybe that is how people find happiness.

I have always sworn by story as a way of navigating through life. Religions have done it for centuries; and as individuals, we do it all the time. Whether it’s to make sense of a situation, or to displace logic, story is what’s gotten us through it all, time and time again. We ascribe purpose to our lives through the stories we tell. And I’m very grateful that I’m a good storyteller.

Ending on a High Note: Carrie the Musical is a Wrap

It’s been nearly two months since I joined the team of Carrie: The Musical for tech, and then shows.

There have been a lot of bittersweet moments in those last nearly two months regarding this production. I was severed from my social life (lack of weekend availability will do that) but I also got to hang out with some pretty cool people backstage. I felt exhausted at 10:30 at night but I probably got more exercise from resetting tables and chairs and windows than I have in two years. The list goes on.

Someone asked me before closing night if I was going to get emotional. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about it. “Maybe?” I responded, and laughed, because that’s silly, right? Why would I get emotional? It’s not like I get emotional while watching TV commercials, or while seeing patrons come out of a sad movie all teary-eyed, or while watching a bee identify its dead friend on the sidewalk. No, I never get emotional. I am an emotion-free human being.

Guys, I get so emotional.

So I can’t believe I didn’t expect to get emotional about Carrie. I mean, for crying out loud, the last stage production I worked on had people walking out during the show (it was still amazing, screw those people), and I still got emotional after that.

So, closing night. It was a near perfect night, in terms of my ASM responsibilities.

There’s the big moment at the end of the show, which anyone who knows the story of Carrie will know, and after Carrie leaves the stage, I follow her through backstage from Stage Left to Stage Right, collecting bloody items from her so she can go back onstage in the next scene.

And as we’re walking around the set, I notice her shoulders are shaking, and yes, the lead of our production is sobbing. Covered in blood, just having murdered a bunch of teenagers at a prom, and she’s crying. Not because of the emotional impact of the scene — she had done this fourteen times before, no problem — but I imagine because it was, in fact, the last time she would be doing it. Ever.

There were a lot of moments throughout that last performance where I took that fact in… This is the last time I’ll rip this shower curtain off the stage. This is the last time I’ll put this chair out on stage. This is the last time I’ll have to move this evil sewing machine that breaks with every move. This is the last time I’ll slam this window; now this window. This is the last time I’ll sit under a table and play Magical Powers. This is the last time I’ll headbang with the Kids backstage before we change scenes, the last time I’ll dance with a woman holding a knife behind Stage Left. This is the last time I’ll hold the doors shut as the Kids try to break through it with panicked ambition. This is the last time I’ll clean blood off of six or seven different prom outfits.

It was emotional.

I am so happy that I took this job, even if I did lose a lot of my social life. And I am so sad that it’s over.

For those of you who saw this show, you will know how technically intense it was compared to anything that at least Open Stage has done before. And you’ll know that everyone put their hearts into it. Both cast and crew became a living organism, with laughter and heartfelt moments and inside jokes and secret dance rehearsals before scenes started, and with the passion of an assembly of artists making art.

I’ll miss all the death and destruction. I’ll miss all the mistakes I made backstage. I’ll miss the comradery we had, and I’ll hope to continue some of those relationships as best I can.

Thanks, guys. It’s been a Carrie great time.