Hello Stranger

Fancy bumping into you here. I’d love to share a cigarette with you or buy you a drink but I don’t do either one of those things anymore. Instead, please enjoy this Barbara Lewis track and we’ll get all caught up.

Not enough songs have shoo-bop-shoo-bop-my baby in them, do they? Anyway, the internet breadcrumbs have recently led me back to blogging. I live my life one day at a time so I can’t promise I’ll be blogging everyday for the next 15 years but currently it feels like a good thing to do. I’ve been wrestling with a new play which went from this seemingly fun, frothy piece into a deeply personal,”shit got real” kind of work. So like a good addict, I’ve been avoiding it. It’s too hard. It’s too personal. It’s too raw. It’s too me. Thing is, I can’t run from it anymore and it’s demanding that I finish it.  These sorts of projects usually sit on my chest in the middle of the night and say, “Look. Finish me or I will make your life hell!” So much for being a master avoider. Curses, foiled again.anigif_original-26198-1430253629-9

So bleeding on the page and finishing my script is something I’m doing this week. If you hear crying and howling and general bitching, it’s just me, your tortured playwright friend who really isn’t that tortured but insists on making his life more dramatic than it really is. I know. Exhausting.

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I’ve recently crossed over into a new realm of my life and recovery and it’s kind of freaking me out, in a good way. When I got sober in 2009, I’d hear these people talk about how they experienced a neutrality around other people and how  difficult life situations would come up but not cause complete havoc.  My usual response was something to the effect of, “Good for them but they’re totally lying.” As usual, they, that ubiquitous all-knowing “they” were right. At 6 years and 6 months sober, I get it. I’ve had some stuff come up over the last few months that would normally spin me the fuck out and yet it hasn’t. Instead, I’m accepting stuff, feeling my emotions and moving the fuck on. Ah-ha! THIS is what they’ve been yammering about in meetings for years. IT DOES EXIST!

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Oh but the journey is not over. Just yesterday when I was a total dick to one of my co-workers, I was reminded that I still have a long, long way to go. In order to continue to experience the magical Pegasus sobriety that I have currently, I’ll have to do the work. Which includes making amends to people who drive me crazy. Sigh. At least, today I have people, people like you, who know what I’m going through and know how to do this thing called life sober. I appreciate you and I promise I won’t be a stranger.

The Blessing of Bruises

When I was 13 years old, I took my younger brother’s skateboard for a ride. Not really having any skills, balance or business being on such a thing, I rode anyway. Slow and wobbly to start, I soon found my footing and picked up speed. As I curved around a park on a paved path, I remember thinking, “Hey! This isn’t so hard. Maybe I should do this more often. Maybe this should be my thing. I should skateboard.” I’m sure what followed next in my mind was visions of the cool skateboarding friends I’d make and, more importantly, the new awesome wardrobe that would come with such a hobby in 1985. Visions of Vans and Jams danced in my head or clearly something did as I hit a tree-lined section of the path lost control of the board and landed on the pavement squarely on my tailbone. The tailbone bruise is a special kind of hell that nothing can extinguish. I even used this bump on my backside as an excuse to get out of a myriad of unsavory tasks for years to come- “I’d love to take that geometry test but my tailbone has rendered me useless.” Anyway, I tell this story not to inspire you to fall on your tailbone and get back up again. No. I’m taking this bumpy trip down memory lane to remind myself that every time I start to believe I’ve got it down and don’t need help, I fall on my ass.

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I’ve recently started a new gig which routinely places me in a line of fire of not knowing everything, asking questions and making a ton of fuck ups. Luckily, I’m not diffusing bombs or doing heart surgery. But still, it’s embarrassing. After years of working alone in my pajamas, I’m now expected to show up, play by somebody else’s rules and operate in a totally foreign environment. Yesterday, I just couldn’t get anything right. Even simple stuff and the more frustrated I got, the worse things became. And before I knew it, the afternoon and my work in it was a comedic hot mess.

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This shit show of a shift came as a surprise as earlier in the day, I thought, “Hey! This isn’t so hard. They’ll probably want me to be in charge here.” And just like that, I was back on my tailbone. Ouch.com.

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My first instinct is to beat myself for not being perfect which is ridiculous. I’ve only done said gig 4 times and sporadically. And I’m a human being. I screw up.  It’s kind of what we do. Worse case scenario is these little errors really tick them off and they ask me not to come back. That would suck for sure but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. This is a highly unlikely outcome for my screw ups but if it happens so be it. Falling on my ass hurts the tailbone but for extreme narcissists like me it really bruises our gigantic egos. And thank god for that. I need a steady stream of messages in humility that say, “Slow down. It is okay if you don’t know everything.” Bruises don’t get better if I dwell on them, however. The best I can do is let myself fall, learn from my bruises and then finally pick myself up and do it all over again.

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Viva La Revolution!

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“All books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of tottering authority or the misery and sufferings of the people. They should begin with a psychological chapter — one that shows how a harassed, terrified man suddenly breaks his terror, stops being afraid. This unusual process — sometimes accomplished in an instant, like a shock — demands to be illustrated. Man gets rid of fear and feels free. Without that, there would be no revolution.” – Ryszard Kapuscinski

Every year on this day, I want to pull the covers over my head. I want to acknowledge the date and its significance by not acknowledging it. I want to hide. I know that’s not the patriotic response or something that inspires a “Never Forget” truck mudflap or Toby Keith country song. But that’s me.  I find life to be ugly and hard and then I hide. Whether its September 11th or a random Thursday in March, fear of the world being real, sad or hard kept me under the covers (and in the bottle) for the better part of nearly two decades. While my drinking and drugging ended in 2009, fear still manages to slip in and cripple me. The above quote, however, got me thinking, what if the changes I seek in the world and in myself begin with finally telling fear to fuck off?

Seriously, fear. Suck it. I don’t think the lives lost are honored by me feeling afraid or by living in fear that it’ll happen again. Or by drowning my sorrows. The more I stare fear in the face, the closer my revolution gets to becoming a reality.  My revolution starts by writing this blog. Not that I have any delusions that my pictures of ponies and quips about reality shows will save lives but facing my truth and telling my story helps kick fear right in the crotch. My revolution continues by spreading the message to gays, lesbian and transgendered folk that they don’t have to live in bars and hate themselves. It’s not Westboro Baptist Church or the Mormons or the GOP that’s killing us, its self-hate and an incredibly high rate of fatality due to drugs and alcohol. Also, my own private revolution is committed to not living in shame about being in recovery, being HIV positive or being gay. Yeah it’s not a worldwide peace treaty but it is what I can do from my dining room table to maybe help somebody else going through the same thing.

Finally, my revolution needs to be fueled by love. Theres nothing more fear hates than love.  On a day where so many feel loss and heartache, actions motivated by love instead of fear are more powerful than any bumper sticker, flag or network TV report. Luckily, the incredibly human and flawed world I live in gives me ample opportunities to practice this. Again, the practice of love starts with this guy behind the keyboard. I’ve lived in fear about silly, stupid stuff lately and yesterday I had it. I was sick of making the conscious choice to feel afraid or doomed or that the planet was out to get me. It was as if I did as Kapuscinski said and got rid of my fear and felt free. I know this in an ongoing battle, this war against fear. And I know there will be times when fear wins. Nevertheless, it feels like a war I should keep fighting.

buckle up

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“Ladies and gentlemen, please make sure your ass is in the chair and you buckle up.  Put out your damn cigarettes and turn off your cellphone. Because you have no idea what kind of ride you’re in for,” so says the woman’s voice coming from the crackly open loudspeaker in my mind. Or maybe she’s from a dream. I’ve had a lot of weird dreams lately. Including one where a close friend was getting married to a person so tall you couldn’t see their face and they were having their ceremony in my grandmother’s backyard which was actually the first Mexican restaurant I worked at in LA. Anyway, wherever the voice came from, she is definitely telling the truth.

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Twists, turns and loops. I’ve felt them all over the last few weeks. The things I had mapped out or knew the answers to have morphed into something bigger or more amazing or have painlessly fallen to the wayside. Most remarkably, I’m open to it. All of it. These thrill rides usually go down like this: first I get afraid, then I get crazy, then I let go and put my hands in the air and enjoy the ride. And that is certainly going on but it also feels like my perspective is different. Like I wound up in a strange, unrecognizable place and I was just okay with it.

alice-talking-flowersWhile we can, thankfully, rule out psychotropic drugs or falling down a rabbit hole, I’m not really sure what this change can be attributed to. Not to beat the metaphor to death but I feel at peace and protected even when I’m about to fly out of my seat as the ride turns upside down. My desire to fight everything is dissipating too. I am grateful for this because by nature I am one fightin’ bitch. The struggle to be on top or to be right doesn’t excite me right now. This is not to say the sun is shining out of my behind and I’m dancing around without a care. But today I’ve leaned into them and surrendered to something bigger.

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This is all swirling in my mind currently because on Tuesday, with bills to pay, deadlines to meet and obligations I didnt know how I was going to fufill, I walked down the street smiling. I felt ridiculously happy. This wasn’t Oz or Wonderland. It was just my normally complicated life with potholes and fuck-ups aplenty. But it felt like magic and something I was blessed to experience. Terrific.  I’m rolling with that, buckling up and appreciating the ride for exactly what it is.

death-defying balancing acts

At about 13 months sober, a teacher in a yoga class in Venice told me, “You have great balance.” With my butt high in the air and sweat pouring down my face, I think I murmured a muffled “thanks.” This was an odd thing to hear and something I certainly didn’t believe. To me, “balance” was always was one those hard to define and impossible to achieve words like “honesty” and “moderation”.

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When you live with a twisted all-you-can snort/swig/suck attitude, balance seems counter-intuitive. I never had “extra wine” or a “fully stocked bar” or “drugs from the night before.”The fact that anybody would, boggled my mind. Leftover drugs and alcohol? It’s not Thanksgiving. Aside from my own system, I couldn’t begin to imagine where one would store such a thing.   Wonder if Tupperware makes a container for half-used baggies of cocaine? At my core, I am a person who likes to eat a whole box of cookies, watch an entire season of a cable show on Netflix and play 14 hours of words with friends in one sitting. Which is to say, I’m an addict, through and through. These days in sobriety, I try to achieve what that instructor, in the teal tanktop who also led us in a sacred Iroquois chant (again, Venice), called “balance.”

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Last week, I worked my face off, went to five meetings, helped some other people who have what I have, cleaned my house and made it to doctor’s appointments. Oh and produced a live show. Cat wrangled 8 actors, picked up last-minute props, talked confused patrons off a ledge and all the other things that go into theater. But here’s the thing- I wasn’t stressed out. Go figure that when you delete liquor and drugs from your playlist, life is suddenly less chaotic. Everything got done and I was really happy. Of course by Saturday morning I was bitch slapped with the realization that I had a lot more stuff to do including marketing myself for new gigs, applying for part-time stuff, organizing a new series of writing workshops and handling my various and assorted diseases and responsibilities. I had a momentary feeling of panic like I was going to slip off the balance beam, crashing head first into an unbalanced hell my new agey teacher would not approve of.

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Not knowing the proper ancient indigenous ritual most effective for calming a bitch down, I relied on my own rituals. I prayed I meditated. I read. I drank a little more coffee. I had breakfast. And then I took care of that list I was sure was going derail my existence. Bigger than that, it felt amazing to look at things that scared me and not run away from them. I when I realized none of it was a big of a deal, I took a deep breath and just skipped happily across that highwire.

Friends, you tell me, how do you keep your life in balance? What is this balance thing anyway? Educate me in the comments section, please!

do they make a brita filter for your brain?

Weathering the non-stop, roaring rapids of information can really wear me out.There are only so many tweets about Kate Middleton’s baby, only so many Facebook posts about some politician I’ve never heard of and only so many unimportant emails I can handle before my brain feels like it’s about to collapse. I’ve come to believe that perhaps its better that I don’t know all the details of a divorce currently being shared by someone from middle school whom I barely remember? Maybe its okay if I never see pictures from your spleen removal surgery? I just think I liked people better when I knew less about them. Says the guy who routinely talks about his drug use and once sent a tweet about his anal pap. But what I do is art, so it’s different.

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Recently, I’ve discovered in lieu of forcing the entire internet to change (I mean, I asked. But I haven’t heard back), I had to change myself. Wait. That sounds like I’m wearing adult diapers. You know what I mean. My endless bitching about the Internet and adding crap to a conversation online or otherwise is something I can change. Maybe it wasn’t the planet’s never-ending onslaught of negative communication that was the problem but my own. Duh. My problems, much like a Scooby-Doo episode, always end up the same way. The person behind the mask causing all of the haunted shenanigans isn’t a ghost or a demon but me. And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.

Anyway, over the last week I’ve been trying to practice filtering my conversations, emails and thoughts before I vomit them out. I’ve been trying to write about resentments and get my thoughts clear before going to others and wreaking havoc. I’ve been trying to pause before I indulge in the critical buffet and trying to say, “No, thank you” when they pass around the tray of invites to the shit-talkers VIP lounge. This a communication revolution to be sure. But I use the words “trying” and “practice” because this is some difficult stuff. immediately, the narcissist in me says, “I don’t NEED to filter myself! I speak the truth!” This is usually said with a lot of finger waving, by the way.

20obquWhat I’m discovering especially when it comes to my writing and my relationships I don’t have to share everything in order to be myself.  This doesn’t mean I have to repress my sparkle, however. In fact, filtering out the inner-crazy or negativity has let my actual personality come out. And there are Non-Ninja things I can do to make communication more positive like turn off my instant chat or listening instead of talking. Or not answering emails from lunatics.Or not commenting on every thread that annoys me. Or simply thinking of others and reconsidering my wording before I hit send.

It sounds ridiculous but it feels like a genuine start. Staying true to my personality while running it through the filter takes some considerable faith and skill.These are not easy habits to shatter. But I’m going to keep practicing it. Otherwise, I’ll be back to haunting old amusement parks and tweeting about the toenail that’s about to fall off.

people (insert head shake and deep sigh)

The songstress in the photo below once crooned, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” While the inherent codependency of that lyric could be undoubtedly discussed until my computer exploded, I guess the 1960’s wisdom of ‘needing people’ to express not isolating from others is sweet. Yet seeing what a pain in the ass they are, people who tell other people to go screw themselves might be luckiest people in the world.

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Now relax, I’m not going to launch into a post about how people suck and how wronged I’ve been by the entire planet beginning with my abusive 1st grade teacher(affectionately known as Sister Snake Face) leading all the way up to the cashier at Starbucks from last week who ignored me (affectionately known as “douche waffle”). Sadly, recovery has forever tainted my bitch sessions about others. I’ve been programmed to look at my part first and to have compassion for crazy people and to pray for people I want to kill. Really takes the fun out of the whole ritual. As a drug, people really suck. Next to slamming Robotussin, no other substance provides such an unreliable high and such a flaming hot headache. As former grand marshal of the codependents parade, which never happened on the account of all of our time being spent worrying about each other, people addiction is something I know a little about. Listen, like I said, if drugs or a bottle were available I’d gladly take them first. But people were more like cigarettes. Not a fast high but a habit that would make me sicker and crazier the longer I did it. Just how I like my habits to behave. A year and half away from romantic relationships and some gnarly soul-searching helped me kick my people drug. However, that detox was a slower and more slippery one. I never had normal relationships. Like ever. So sliding into crazyland behavior like trying to control when people call me, not eating in hopes that we’ll go out to dinner together and generally trying to manipulate people into spending time with me was incredibly easy. It took my several failed friendships in sobriety and months of dating hell to realize, I had a long way to go in building a health relationships with these ‘people’ Babs was singing about.

I bring this up today because people as they are known to do, have been a disappointment lately. And by lately I mean since that whole Garden of Eden fuckup. Seriously, my relationships get complicated and that’s a blessing. Really. My relationships these days are real and authentically human with actual people. Which is terrific for somebody who use to refer to friends who he knew from nightclubs as “We Hate Her” and “Snaggle Toe”. The flipside of these real relationships is that always  sometimes people let you down. Again, they’re an incredibly dicey drug. I’d be better off with a pack of Kools and a box of wine if I wanted to check out. Thankfully, I don’t want to check out today. I also know that humans being human is a two-way street. I let people down too. I screw up constantly. And , yes, 12-steppers, I’m usually to blame, at least partially, for whatever issue I have with people is. Sigh.

I heard Barbra say in an interview she always thought the lyric should be that “people who don’t need people are the luckiest people in the world” as it expressed the heartbreak her character in Funny Girl went through. I get it. But it seems like that song turned out okay. I know that if I just let things happens, just forgive people for being people and just be grateful for having the people in my life that I do have, I’ll be okay too.

listen up

 

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Here’s what happens when you work alone most of the time: you lose your damn mind. I mean you kind of keep losing it and keep finding it. Naturally, you keep coming up with ways to re-find it, over and over again. But yeah you go crazy. And when you’re in the business of creating clever like I am while spending a lot of time alone, it’s easy to believe that you are the king of the universe and pretty darn special. As I sit and procrastinate writing, I usually have all kinds of brilliant things to say to imaginary people in my head or amazing ideas that could change the world if only everyone listened to me. Like I said, you go crazy. When I first started working freelance from home a friend of mine from the program said, “Make sure you get out during the day. After all, you’re spending a lot of time with the person who tried to kill you.”  That was a bitch slap I try not to forget so I’ve gotten better about leaving my house during the middle of the middle to run errands or go to meetings.

Even though, I’m incredibly hilarious and a wealth of knowledge, I find the most powerful thing I can do while I’m out in the world and away from my desk is listen. After writing, programming and listening to continuous broadcasts of The Sean Show, now presented in stereo on radio station KRAZY, all day long my brain needs to hear other stuff. After a particularly long stint listening to my own garbage, I found myself incredibly grumpy and mercifully on my way to a meeting on Friday afternoon. While there, people were discussing meditation. As they talked about the power of the tool and how it can transform their days, it dawned on me that my spiritual life had really taken a crap over the last few days. I got busy. I was stressed. I haven’t felt well. And blah, blah, blah. The meeting continued as I was instantly awakened to the fact that maybe things seem stressful and maybe I feel terrible in part because I’m not meditating. Major lightbulb! One I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t listening.

Some people describe prayer as talking to God and meditation as listening to God so it isn’t a surprise that this topic came up and resonated deeply with me. Later that day, I had a chance to actually listen to a friend whose life has been incredibly difficult. No one-liners. No advice. Just listening. Again, its powerful stuff to practice for the kid who was labeled “Talks to Much In Class” at an early age. It certainly goes against my nature as a loudmouth, joke telling smartass. But listening is something I need to do more of.

So in the spirit of that, I’ll be doing 30 Days of meditation when this 30 days of blogging ends. I have a practice but like my personal writing its spotty. This 30 Day Blog experiment has been a blast and now I can’t wait to implement in meditation. Who’s with me?

the dig

One of the things I’ve grown to like the most about being a writer is research. My version of research is probably a little different considering the subject matter of my plays doesn’t require me meticulously recreating a 14th-Century courtyard or delving deep into the patterns of the human brain. No, when you write shows about Craigslist personal ads and karaoke bars, the research process is decidedly a little more lighthearted. Whatever I’m researching, however, the process of digging is one that excites me and since recovery its one I’m no longer afraid of.

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My past used to be like the attic of an old recluse. You had to be careful when you were digging around in there because you didn’t know what horrifying thing you might find. I had tucked away memories, thoughts, beliefs that I just knew were all too scary to deal with. I thought if these things were tucked away, they’d never hurt. And just to make sure, I dumped tequila and cocaine on them so they wouldn’t pop back up. Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t pan out the way I wanted. When I got sober, I had to unpack that attic.I had to look at all of the things I was hiding and drinking over. While uncomfortable and certainly not as fun as watching hours of karaoke videos on YouTube, it wasn’t terrible. It actually felt good. Not only did these ‘awful secrets’ from my past not kill me but a lot of them that I was convinced would kill me weren’t really that bad. I was miserable enough that I had to just trust that digging around would be okay. And it was. More than that, it saved my life.Digging-22

Several personal inventories, meetings, therapy sessions and years later, it doesn’t freak me out. My new show, Welcome to Ladyland, is in the research process right now. Since the show is maybe more autobiographical than my others, the digging here is more personal too. The show deals with relationships and as part of that I’m looking at my own behaviors and personality traits that maybe aren’t so great. Uncomfortable? Yeah. Ugly in parts? Uh huh. But I’m hoping by addressing these character flaws honestly, the work will also be really funny, human and uplifting too. The amazing thing about digging and being open to learning more about myself is that by welcoming it, nothing I find can ever hurt me, regardless of how deep its been buried.

Is it too late to become a penguin?

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I only ask because after watching a documentary on the Patagonia, I think penguins could teach me a thing or two about compassion, loyalty and direction. Seeing these waddling little characters travel thousands of miles every year without getting lost and then finding their mates nest with no specific markings is beyond impressive especially when you consider they all look identical. But somehow the couples find one another, year after year. And unless we kill them all (people suck.) they’ll keep it doing it and we might not ever know how or why. Maybe Google should hire penguins to help with mapping. Anywhoo, their affection and loyalty is as impressive as their built-in GPS. These penguins stay mated for their whole lives and wait for one another while the female goes and searches for food. If you asked most singles what they want in a relationship, I could bet it would sound a lot like the penguin life I just described. At the end of the day, we want somebody to be there when we get home, to do their part to help the machine run and to help us protect our chicks so they don’t get eaten by sea lions. Okay maybe not that last one.  For more proof that penguins rule, may I present Cookie?

I think with all the news, it’s easy to believe that as I mentioned earlier (jokingly) that people are the worst. I mean they don’t really try that hard to refute that theory. Ain’t that right, Paula Deen, Paul Ryan and all of Washington? A friend in the program once wisely told me, “No matter how great they are, people are gonna let you down.”  Yet there’s something freeing too in knowing that people, myself included, are going to screw up and do so royally. Maybe in a covert way I can even take the lessons of the penguin to help me be a better person. It sounds crazy but trust me I lived in LA for 15 years and I ‘ve certainly heard of wackier spiritual solutions. Hey, that’s not a bad idea.  Finding Your Inner Penguin: Waddle Your Way to Your Ideal Relationship coming to a Marriott conference room near you!

I’m actually happy being a person, despite all of our flaws. Besides, if I was a penguin, I would have  had to spend my childhood eating regurgitated fish. Yuck. Like I don’t have enough issues already.