My Strange Addiction

14 Aug

melodramatic cat

Perhaps the only useful aspect of my tendency to self-mythologize is that I am very attuned to my own personal development or lack thereof. It is vital to my sanity to feel as if I am going somewhere, if not literally, then figuratively. I’ve been “standing still” in Ohio for about a year-and-a-half now, but I’ve been on an inner journey of self-improvement all the same. The outward results have been ehhh, pretty negligible. But the point is, at least I’m thinking about shit.

Sue me; I’m trying. 

One challenge I have yet to overcome is addiction. In all of its forms. I’ve never struggled with hard drugs, but everything else — booze, cigarettes, love, Twitter, booze, booze, cigarettes — is familiar territory for me. 

People talk about having an “addictive personality,” and frankly, I don’t understand how there is such a thing as a NON-addictive personality. I mean, where are these people who have two glasses of wine or just one bite of cheesecake and then think to themselves, “That was great! You know what would be better? Stopping!”

I mean, more power to ya’ll, but if you’re not a Mormon, I sincerely believe you to be an alien masquerading in a suit of human flesh. Not that I don’t respect stability. On the contrary, I envy it very much. But straight-laced people kinda creep me out, truth be told. I’m unable to relate to vice-less people, because frankly, I assume they’ve never had to claw their way through any really deep shit. It’s like those unfortunate people who have been gorgeous their whole lives and never really had to develop other dimensions. Personally, I’m drawn to people who have their fair share of cracks and weaknesses and scars. It’s good to get a little beaten up by life. Puts you in touch with your fellow man.  Perfect people are just so…blegh. I like people who’s battered soul looks like Seal’s face. 

Plus, perfect people tend to have the sense of humor of a wet soda cracker.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: the above statements do not apply to recovering addicts. You folks are the most funny, interesting, AND wise. High five.)

But I digress. I am not a perfect person and I have a lot of vices. In my inner quest to better myself, moderation has forever eluded me. I don’t even have a point of reference. For Christ’s sake, I’m bipolar. I’ve been a frantic teeter-totter of emotions since birth, and any respite I’ve had from these extremes of temperament lasted a week or two, tops. It’s just not in me to be even-keeled about anything. For me, good is great and bad is worse and the only blessing and the only curse (cool, that part rhymed!) is that nothing ever lasts. 

And a soul bound to extremes is a soul prone to addictions. 

And being me, I have spent countless hours ruminating on this problem, trying to get at the root of my addictive nature, admonishing myself for my repeated failures of moderation. Thinking, ‘what is it about booze/cigarettes/french fries/love that I like so much? Why can’t I just do without them?’

And then I realized that it’s not the vices themselves that I’m addicted to at all, it’s the feelings they give me. And not just the good feelings, either. ALL the feelings. I’m an absolute glutton for them. Positively insatiable. I could care less what the feeling even is. Elation, despair, hilarity, infatuation, self-loathing, restlessness, generosity, anger, pride — makes no difference to me, as long as whatever it is is passionate.

Anything but boring old peace. Peace is no fun. I have no use for it. It doesn’t create anything; it just is. Peace is antithetical to my entire sense of who I am. This may sound insane, but I get terrified when I start to feel it. It just feels like a dark whirlpool of nothingness to me, threatening to pull me down into it forever. It doesn’t feel “peaceful” at all; it feels like a part of me is going blind somehow, like everything is all the same pretty color. And I can’t fucking stand it because there’s nothing else for me to paint with. 

I am literally afraid of peace. Either that, or I’ve never actually felt it. Either way, it scares me. 

And moderation leads to peace, so I avoid moderation. When you’re addicted to feeling, the whole world is a gateway drug. A glass of wine, a funny man, a song on the radio, a lost dog, a piece of ice cream cake. You just want more of more, no matter what it is.

It perhaps goes without saying that this is a common thread among all addictions — a desire to feel something. People compulsively clip coupons to feel in control. People drink alcohol to feel brave. People shoot heroin to feel nothing.

But I’m talking about an addiction to feelings in general. Maybe that’s all bipolar disorder really is, who knows. A feelings addiction is more benign than most in that it doesn’t require an especially potent or dangerous means to a high, but bad in that pretty much everything can be turned into a drug, and is. Substances, people, relationships, creative projects, even experiences in general are sought out solely for their capacity to produce strong emotions, not because they are good for us. Feelings addiction short-circuits our discriminatory faculties. We attribute value to limiting things and people just because they make us feel something; anything. 

We have chosen to become slaves to our own feelings. 

And sometimes we need to put all the feelings away for a second and just tend to the mindless, emotionless tedium of life. 

I am forever resenting those around me for remarking upon my messiness and disorganization. ‘So my room is a complete mess; so what?’ I think to myself haughtily. ‘So there are 4,000 empty mineral water bottles in the passenger seat of my car. Who gives a shit? This is not the stuff of life. This is in no way important. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck about the cleanliness of my car, so why am I going to worry about it today? Why do people worry about these things at all? We’re all rolling along on an inevitable crash course with death fighting tooth and nail for self-actualization and global contribution, for Christ’s sake. Who has time to iron?! I don’t feel a goddamn thing when I iron! Fuck ironing!’

And I suppose I make fair points, there, but this is my addiction talking. It doesn’t want to iron. It doesn’t want to clean its car. It doesn’t want to admit that there is any value whatsoever in these tasks. 

BUT…

When I actually do them, when I’m forced to actually stop for a moment and attend to the banal details of my everyday life, a funny thing happens: I feel peaceful without panicking. Mind you, I can’t maintain that feeling. Once my shirts are clean or my parking ticket is paid, I become aware of the terrifying peacefulness and run right back to my comfort zone of extremes and melodramatic existentialism. But for a moment, anyway, my mind goes quiet without me realizing it, and some part of me knows this is very good for me. That I need this periodically or I’ll accidentally “kill myself trying to live,” as Chuck Klosterman would say.

We can’t feel everything all the time. Sometimes we just need to keep busy.

I’m talking to you, fellow artist types. It’s fine for us to make our homes up in the clouds, but sometimes coming back down to earth and making friends with the mundane is exactly what we need. Maybe it’s not what our art needs, but it’s what we need, and much as we prefer to think otherwise, we are not our art. It comes through us, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t define us. Our body has its own needs. Our mind has its own needs. And sometimes that means taking a break from our latex & denim decoupage mural of the British parliament and cutting our goddamn toenails for once.

When I figure out how to do this, I’ll let you all know.       

My Strange Addiction

14 Aug

melodramatic cat

 

Perhaps the only useful aspect of my tendency to self-mythologize is that I am very attuned to my own personal development or lack thereof. It is vital to my sanity to feel as if I am going somewhere, if not literally, then figuratively. I’ve been “standing still” in Ohio for about a year-and-a-half now, but I’ve been on an inner journey of self-improvement all the same. The outward results have been ehhh, pretty negligible. But the point is, at least I’m thinking about shit.

Sue me; I’m trying. 

One challenge I have yet to overcome is addiction. In all of its forms. I’ve never struggled with hard drugs, but everything else — booze, cigarettes, love, Twitter, booze, booze, cigarettes — is familiar territory for me. 

People talk about having an “addictive personality,” and frankly, I don’t understand how there is such a thing as a NON-addictive personality. I mean, where are these people who have two glasses of wine or just one bite of cheesecake and then think to themselves, “That was great! You know what would be better? Stopping!”

I mean, more power to ya’ll, but if you’re not a Mormon, I sincerely believe you to be an alien masquerading in a suit of human flesh. Not that I don’t respect stability. On the contrary, I envy it very much. But straight-laced people kinda creep me out, truth be told. I’m unable to relate to vice-less people, because frankly, I assume they’ve never had to claw their way through any really deep shit. It’s like those unfortunate people who have been gorgeous their whole lives and never really had to develop other dimensions. Personally, I’m drawn to people who have their fair share of cracks and weaknesses and scars. It’s good to get a little beaten up by life. Puts you in touch with your fellow man.  Perfect people are just so…blegh. I like people who’s battered soul looks like Seal’s face. 

Plus, perfect people tend to have the sense of humor of a wet soda cracker.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: the above statements do not apply to recovering addicts. You folks are the most funny, interesting, AND wise. High five.)

But I digress. I am not a perfect person and I have a lot of vices. In my inner quest to better myself, moderation has forever eluded me. I don’t even have a point of reference. For Christ’s sake, I’m bipolar. I’ve been a frantic teeter-totter of emotions since birth, and any respite I’ve had from these extremes of temperament lasted a week or two, tops. It’s just not in me to be even-keeled about anything. For me, good is great and bad is worse and the only blessing and the only curse (cool, that part rhymed!) is that nothing ever lasts. 

And a soul bound to extremes is a soul prone to addictions. 

And being me, I have spent countless hours ruminating on this problem, trying to get at the root of my addictive nature, admonishing myself for my repeated failures of moderation. Thinking, ‘what is it about booze/cigarettes/french fries/love that I like so much? Why can’t I just do without them?’

And then I realized that it’s not the vices themselves that I’m addicted to at all, it’s the feelings they give me. And not just the good feelings, either. ALL the feelings. I’m an absolute glutton for them. Positively insatiable. I could care less what the feeling even is. Elation, despair, hilarity, infatuation, self-loathing, restlessness, generosity, anger, pride — makes no difference to me, as long as whatever it is is passionate.

Anything but boring old peace. Peace is no fun. I have no use for it. It doesn’t create anything; it just is. Peace is antithetical to my entire sense of who I am. This may sound insane, but I get terrified when I start to feel it. It just feels like a dark whirlpool of nothingness to me, threatening to pull me down into it forever. It doesn’t feel “peaceful” at all; it feels like a part of me is going blind somehow, like everything is all the same pretty color. And I can’t fucking stand it because there’s nothing else for me to paint with. 

I am literally afraid of peace. Either that, or I’ve never actually felt it. Either way, it scares me. 

And moderation leads to peace, so I avoid moderation. When you’re addicted to feeling, the whole world is a gateway drug. A glass of wine, a funny man, a song on the radio, a lost dog, a piece of ice cream cake. You just want more of more, no matter what it is.

It perhaps goes without saying that this is a common thread among all addictions — a desire to feel something. People compulsively clip coupons to feel in control. People drink alcohol to feel brave. People shoot heroin to feel nothing.

But I’m talking about an addiction to feelings in general. Maybe that’s all bipolar disorder really is, who knows. A feelings addiction is more benign than most in that it doesn’t require an especially potent or dangerous means to a high, but bad in that pretty much everything can be turned into a drug, and is. Substances, people, relationships, creative projects, even experiences in general are sought out solely for their capacity to produce strong emotions, not because they are good for us. Feelings addiction short-circuits our discriminatory faculties. We attribute value to limiting things and people just because they make us feel something; anything. 

We have chosen to become slaves to our own feelings. 

I am forever resenting those around me for remarking upon my messiness and disorganization. ‘So my room is a complete mess; so what?’ I think to myself haughtily. ‘So there are 4,000 empty mineral water bottles in the passenger seat of my car. Who gives a shit? This is not the stuff of life. This is is no way important. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck about the cleanliness of my car, so why am I going to worry about it today? Why do people worry about these things at all? We’re all rolling along on an inevitable crash course with death fighting tooth and nail for self-actualization and global contribution, for Christ’s sake. Who has time to iron?! I don’t feel a goddamn thing when I iron! Fuck ironing!’

And I suppose I make fair points, there, but this is my addiction talking. It doesn’t want to iron. It doesn’t want to clean its car. It doesn’t want to admit that there is any value whatsoever in these tasks. 

BUT…

When I actually do them, when I’m forced to actually stop for a moment and attend to the banal details of my everyday life, a funny thing happens: I feel peaceful without panicking. Mind you, I can’t maintain that feeling. Once my shirts are clean or my parking ticket is paid, I become aware of the terrifying peacefulness and run right back to my comfort zone of extremes and melodramatic existentialism. But for a moment, anyway, my mind goes quiet without me realizing it, and some part of me knows this is very good for me. That I need this periodically or I’ll accidentally “kill myself trying to live,” as Chuck Klosterman would say.

We can’t feel everything all the time. Sometimes we just need to keep busy.

I’m talking to you, fellow artist types. It’s fine for us to make our homes up in the clouds, but sometimes coming back down to earth and making friends with the mundane is exactly what we need. Maybe it’s not what our art needs, but it’s what we need, and much as we prefer to think otherwise, we are not our art. It comes through us, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t define us. Our body has its own needs. Our mind has its own needs. And sometimes that means taking a break from our latex & denim decoupage mural of the British parliament and cutting our goddamn toenails for once.

When I figure out how to do this, I’ll let you all know.       

    

 

 

 

 

 

My Strange Addiction

14 Aug

melodramatic cat

 

Perhaps the only useful aspect of my tendency to self-mythologize is that I am very attuned to my own personal development or lack thereof. It is vital to my sanity to feel as if I am going somewhere, if not literally, then figuratively. I’ve been “standing still” in Ohio for about a year-and-a-half now, but I’ve been on an inner journey of self-improvement all the same. The outward results have been ehhh, pretty negligible. But the point is, at least I’m thinking about shit.

Sue me; I’m trying. 

One challenge I have yet to overcome is addiction. In all of its forms. I’ve never struggled with hard drugs, but everything else — booze, cigarettes, love, Twitter, booze, booze, cigarettes — is familiar territory for me. 

People talk about having an “addictive personality,” and frankly, I don’t understand how there is such a thing as a NON-addictive personality. I mean, where are these people who have two glasses of wine or just one bite of cheesecake and then think to themselves, “That was great! You know what would be better? Stopping!”

I mean, more power to ya’ll, but if you’re not a Mormon, I sincerely believe you to be an alien masquerading in a suit of human flesh. Not that I don’t respect stability. On the contrary, I envy it very much. But straight-laced people kinda creep me out, truth be told. I’m unable to relate to vice-less people, because frankly, I assume they’ve never had to claw their way through any really deep shit. It’s like those unfortunate people who have been gorgeous their whole lives and never really had to develop other dimensions. Personally, I’m drawn to people who have their fair share of cracks and weaknesses and scars. It’s good to get a little beaten up by life. Puts you in touch with your fellow man.  Perfect people are just so…blegh. I like people who’s battered soul looks like Seal’s face. 

Plus, perfect people tend to have the sense of humor of a wet soda cracker.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: the above statements do not apply to recovering addicts. You folks are the most funny, interesting, AND wise. High five.)

But I digress. I am not a perfect person and I have a lot of vices. In my inner quest to better myself, moderation has forever eluded me. I don’t even have a point of reference. For Christ’s sake, I’m bipolar. I’ve been a frantic teeter-totter of emotions since birth, and any respite I’ve had from these extremes of temperament lasted a week or two, tops. It’s just not in me to be even-keeled about anything. For me, good is great and bad is worse and the only blessing and the only curse (cool, that part rhymed!) is that nothing ever lasts. 

And a soul bound to extremes is a soul prone to addictions. 

And being me, I have spent countless hours ruminating on this problem, trying to get at the root of my addictive nature, admonishing myself for my repeated failures of moderation. Thinking, ‘what is it about booze/cigarettes/french fries/love that I like so much? Why can’t I just do without them?’

And then I realized that it’s not the vices themselves that I’m addicted to at all, it’s the feelings they give me. And not just the good feelings, either. ALL the feelings. I’m an absolute glutton for them. Positively insatiable. I could care less what the feeling even is. Elation, despair, hilarity, infatuation, self-loathing, restlessness, generosity, anger, pride — makes no difference to me, as long as whatever it is is passionate.

Anything but boring old peace. Peace is no fun. I have no use for it. It doesn’t create anything; it just is. Peace is antithetical to my entire sense of who I am. This may sound insane, but I get terrified when I start to feel it. It just feels like a dark whirlpool of nothingness to me, threatening to pull me down into it forever. It doesn’t feel “peaceful” at all; it feels like a part of me is going blind somehow, like everything is all the same pretty color. And I can’t fucking stand it because there’s nothing else for me to paint with. 

I am literally afraid of peace. Either that, or I’ve never actually felt it. Either way, it scares me. 

And moderation leads to peace, so I avoid moderation. When you’re addicted to feeling, the whole world is a gateway drug. A glass of wine, a funny man, a song on the radio, a lost dog, a piece of ice cream cake. You just want more of more, no matter what it is.

It perhaps goes without saying that this is a common thread among all addictions — a desire to feel something. People compulsively clip coupons to feel in control. People drink alcohol to feel brave. People shoot heroin to feel nothing.

But I’m talking about an addiction to feelings in general. Maybe that’s all bipolar disorder really is, who knows. A feelings addiction is more benign than most in that it doesn’t require an especially potent or dangerous means to a high, but bad in that pretty much everything can be turned into a drug, and is. Substances, people, relationships, creative projects, even experiences in general are sought out solely for their capacity to produce strong emotions, not because they are good for us. Feelings addiction short-circuits our discriminatory faculties. We attribute value to limiting things and people just because they make us feel something; anything. 

We have chosen to become slaves to our own feelings. 

I am forever resenting those around me for remarking upon my messiness and disorganization. ‘So my room is a complete mess; so what?’ I think to myself haughtily. ‘So there are 4,000 empty mineral water bottles in the passenger seat of my car. Who gives a shit? This is not the stuff of life. This is is no way important. If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck about the cleanliness of my car, so why am I going to worry about it today? Why do people worry about these things at all? We’re all rolling along on an inevitable crash course with death fighting tooth and nail for self-actualization and global contribution, for Christ’s sake. Who has time to iron?! I don’t feel a goddamn thing when I iron! Fuck ironing!’

And I suppose I make fair points, there, but this is my addiction talking. It doesn’t want to iron. It doesn’t want to clean its car. It doesn’t want to admit that there is any value whatsoever in these tasks. 

BUT…

When I actually do them, when I’m forced to actually stop for a moment and attend to the banal details of my everyday life, a funny thing happens: I feel peaceful without panicking. Mind you, I can’t maintain that feeling. Once my shirts are clean or my parking ticket is paid, I become aware of the terrifying peacefulness and run right back to my comfort zone of extremes and melodramatic existentialism. But for a moment, anyway, my mind goes quiet without me realizing it, and some part of me knows this is very good for me. That I need this periodically or I’ll accidentally “kill myself trying to live,” as Chuck Klosterman would say.

We can’t feel everything all the time. Sometimes we just need to keep busy.

I’m talking to you, fellow artist types. It’s fine for us to make our homes up in the clouds, but sometimes coming back down to earth and making friends with the mundane is exactly what we need. Maybe it’s not what our art needs, but it’s what we need, and much as we prefer to think otherwise, we are not our art. It comes through us, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t define us. Our body has its own needs. Our mind has its own needs. And sometimes that means taking a break from our latex & denim decoupage mural of the British parliament and cutting our goddamn toenails for once.

When I figure out how to do this, I’ll let you know.       

    

 

 

 

 

 

Crying and Getting Fat.

26 May

This blog may be evolving into more of an MS blog than anything else, or maybe that’s just what I need to use it for right now, I don’t know. I’ve always let this be just kind of an unbranded space for me to say whatever about anything. Honestly, it’s more for me than a specific anticipated audience in my mind, and I am always just grateful and surprised when someone else is interested. But lately I find myself waking up in the mornings needing to do this first or else stew in my own misery. Sadness, or any kind of negative emotion, needs to be moved somehow. Through crying or yelling or punching something or, in my case, writing. The point is, you can’t let it just sit on you or you’ll get suffocated. 

I woke up this morning in pain again, the vision in my left eye shot to hell, my legs working about as well as a newborn giraffe’s, and well, I just sobbed. I cried and cried and just let myself go. I hobbled down the stairs for coffee and cried in front of my family. I cried in front of the mirror, like you do when you’re a kid, because it’s so fascinating to watch how red and distorted your face gets. There’s something soothing about watching it in the mirror, right? Like, ‘this desperate, hysterical troll couldn’t possibly be ME, right? So that means I must be fine!’

Anyway, I cried and cried and gave about zero fucks about it.

Mornings are rough, because I think in the back of my mind, I still keep thinking that this is all like a really nasty flu that will go away. But as morning stacks up upon morning, an unwelcome thought looms large: maybe this is just morning now. Maybe this is how morning will feel for the rest of my life. Maybe I will never have another morning where I wake up feeling like a goddamn hummingbird and eat a nice, light fruit and yogurt parfait before hitting the gym like a blue ribbon trophy wife.

Maybe my body turned seventy overnight. Maybe I’m going to feel seventy for forty more years.

How does, how can, this happen so fast? It just seems impossible, and I think that’s why it’s not quite sinking in all the way. A year ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was hitting the gym four times a week, I could do five miles on the elliptical without batting an eyelash. Sure, I drank and smoked like an idiot, but I’m a comedian. That’s just a given. 

The fact is, I was 20 pounds smaller a year ago and I finally felt like “yes, this is a body I genuinely like.” And other people liked it, too. When you’re a woman, it’s just assumed that you desire feedback about every aspect of yourself from the rest of the world, so it’s impossible not to know you look good. This is why hot girls always know they are hot, period. They just pretend like they don’t because men (at least the white ones) prefer to date a woman who is unaware of her high market value. It’s way less scary.

But I digress.

Anyway, the point is, a year ago, my hotness stock peaked. Now, I am unable to exercise like I used to, taking daily steroids that blow me up to the size of the Stay Puft marshmallow man, and eating my feelings at night when I’m alone and sad. I’ve gained twenty fucking pounds. My Twitter avatar is of me in a bikini a year ago, and every time I look at it I feel guilty, like I’m lying to the world, and I totally am. I look at myself naked in the mirror and can’t believe anyone would want to look at me, much less touch me, much less have sex with me (NOTE: I am sure if I were looking at another naked woman who looked exactly like me, I would say she looks great, but alas, that is not the way we view ourselves). I know I’m not supposed to say any of this. I’m supposed to say I love my body no matter what and say I love my “curves” and something about “real women” and yada yada yada and my health is more important than any superficial body image concerns and blah blah blah, but let’s get real here, folks: I got kinda fat. And that’s hard. And it’s frustrating. And I feel like there is less I can do about it now that I’m sick.

I feel like at LEAST until you’re forty, you should have the option of being skinny if you really try. Like, sure, you can let yourself go at Christmas and put on 10 pounds, but if you get your shit together and get to the gym, you can take it off in a month or so. I feel like at 29, you should at least get to entertain the fantasy that you’re not yet at your physical peak, that you still have time to get your idea of a perfect body if you buckle down and do the work. 

But holy shit, maybe this is it. Maybe this is my new body. And how shallow am I that weight gain is even on my radar as a concern when my legs are not working right. I don’t know, I blame America. Or Obama. 

And why should it matter anyway? I’m a comedian, not a model or actress. But it seems like these days, you can’t make it as a female comic unless you’re also worthy of a Maxim spread. They want you to “have it all.” Fuck that, by the way.

But whether you’re a comedian or you have MS or you’re just a regular American woman going through the aging process, I think we all eventually come to this transition: ‘the world isn’t telling me I’m pretty anymore, so how do I feel good about myself now?’

And here’s the proposed silver lining here: maybe we are only allowed to truly come into ourselves once we extricate ourselves from all this pressure to be gorgeous. Maybe, as we are slowly forced to let go of the bottomless need for outside validation that girls are trained to develop — the need to be constantly reassured that we are desirable, that we are not invisible, that we are worthy of things and people — maybe only then are we truly free. Like any addiction, the need to be told we are beautiful sucks up a lot of time and resources. I mean, Jesus, think about all the things we could do and create with the time we spend researching diets and getting our nails done and shopping for the perfect cocktail dress and painting our faces just right. I won’t lie, I am the very worst of offenders in this regard. There is nothing wrong with investing and taking pride in your appearance, but man, I could have been writing a book or saving the whales or some shit. 

Since I started to get sick, I have been distracting myself from it by writing jokes and blogging and filming Barbie Lifetime movies. It makes me forget about my symptoms and my fear and escape into my own imagination for a while. I have probably produced more creative material in one week than I have in the last six months. My work, however silly and stupid, has been an invaluable sanctuary to me during this time. But perhaps more importantly, it has also allowed me to transfer my basis of self-worth to a deeper and more stable place. It feels one hundred times better to receive praise for something I created than for some contrived selfie I posted on Twitter. Why? Because getting attention is easy. Getting respect takes work.

And here’s the kicker, and I swear it’s true: I have gotten much, much more attention from men since I stopped focusing on my attractiveness and started focusing on my work. Even before I was diagnosed with M.S., this was a transition I was consciously trying to make in the months prior. I do not think it is a coincidence that in that same period of time, I found the man of my dreams.

Really, when I look back at years of old Facebook pictures, the times when I was skinniest and prettiest were the times when I was miserable and couldn’t get a date to save my life. I was trying too hard. I was putting out this energy of “love me please god love me love me love me,” and people can unconsciously sense that, and it repels them. I do know this about love and attraction: pull and you will get pushed. Push and you will get pulled. When you don’t have to do either, and you can just be, that’s rare and that’s love. When I started focusing on what I wanted to do instead of who I wanted to love me, the right person came into my life. And he makes me feel more desirable than a thousand “likes” on Facebook ever could.

So as much as it is hard to accept that I have gained weight and swollen up on steroids and sometimes I walk funny and run into shit; as painful as it is to think that maybe I was already as pretty as I’ll ever be…maybe it’s time to grow up. Maybe it’s time to let go of all that and become the boss bitch I was meant to be. And frankly, I’m ready for that, and it’s a relief. 

I’m not saying I’m going to just let myself go and wear wolf t-shirts and stop wearing fake eyelashes. I’m not saying I have magically risen above all basic human ego drives and will now resign myself to an admirable life of sacrifice and high contemplation. I’m not saying I am hideous and giving up on myself. I am just saying that I am embracing what may be a new phase in how I define my own worthiness, and I think maybe the world will follow suit. 

 

 

 

 

 

One Day At A Time

24 May

For those of you who read my last post, I was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was feeling super Oprah and gung ho and inspirational about it all. “I got this!” “I’m a badass superhero!” “I’m the (before-we-knew-he-was-a-sociopathic-asshole) Lance Armstrong of M.S.!” Whewee look at me! Give me a pretty trophy!

And, uh, I’m realizing now that that MAY have been the “denial” stage.

I am finding out very quickly that this bizarre disease is kind of like having a bipolar girlfriend, which is ironic, because, ya know, that is already me. In a bitter (but kind of hilarious) turn of poetic justice, I am getting a taste of my own medicine. One day she’s cooperative and kind, the next she is Courtney Love on her period. What I mean is, one day I’m doing fine and having almost no symptoms at all, and the next I’m barely mobile. This probably has to do with the fact that I am only on steroids every other day, so maybe if that gets adjusted it won’t be like this.

But frankly, it’s scary and I’m scared.

Neurological symptoms are different than other kinds of symptoms I have experienced, because you don’t know what the hell to expect. When you break your arm, your arm is gonna hurt for a while, and you know that. When you get the flu, you’re gonna get a fever and a cough and maybe puke, and you know that. With M.S., it’s a damn free-for-all and you end up adding strange new symptoms to the list every day with the fear that the list will only get longer. Okay, so my vision is terrible and my neck is stiff and I have a headache; no big deal, I’m used to that. Okay, so my toes and calves are tingling, that’s one I’ve had before; no prob. Okay, so I walked into a door frame because my balance is all outta whack; embarrassing, but par for the course.

But wait a second what the hell is this shooting pain in my face?! I get this in my leg, not in my face. LAY OFF THE FACE, M.S., IT’S THE MONEY MAKER. OW! Man. This is no joke; this HURTS! The pain is like, shooting down into my jaw. Huh. Maybe it’s not related to the M.S. and I need a root canal or something. Better Google it.

“Face…pain…M…S…”….Oh. “Trigeminal Neuralgia: Common M.S. Symptoms.” Gotcha. Damn it.

It seems like it’s like that every day. Sitting waiting for a prescription at Walgreen’s watching my leg jerk around involuntarily. Trying to apply my slutty fake eyelashes with a hopelessly trembling hand. (Brief aside — no matter how sick I get, I will always make the application of slutty fake eyelashes a top life priority, even if I haven’t showered and I am wearing a muumuu).

So some days are terrifying introductions to new deficits and pains, and some days are totally great aside from a little fatigue. I am already a crazy person, and these fluctuations make me feel crazier. But from what I have read, this is just how it goes for a lot of people. It’s just a mystifying, unpredictable disease, period. That is why it’s so important to just take things one day at a time and not torture yourself by worrying about the future. But after spending days in the hospital unable to walk on my own, it’s almost impossible not to think about the hard stuff.

‘Will I end up in a wheelchair? When? Will I have cognitive problems? Speech problems? Will I lose my creativity, my writing ability, the quick wit that I have based my whole personality around? Will the people I love be heartbroken as they watch this happen? Will I get fat because I can’t exercise enough? Will anyone want me then? Who will take care of me if I eventually can’t take care of myself? Will they resent it? Will I go blind? Will I die earlier than I might have? And if all of this or some of this happens, will I have done my life’s work before I can’t anymore?’

And then I’m wallowing in self-pity and playing out all kinds of ridiculous Nicholas Sparks novels in my head where I’m swimming in the ocean for the last time (preferably with some kind of adorable dolphin friend), hobbling triumphantly down the aisle at my beautiful wedding as my parents tear up, accepting an Emmy award with the rest of my writing staff, decked out in a fire engine red Calvin Klein gown in a bedazzled wheelchair, gracing the cover of “O” magazine with Montel Williams, and we’re back to back with our arms crossed looking like a couple of M.S. badasses. I go on Ellen and dance with her to “We’ve Got The Funk” in my wheelchair. She gives me an Audi convertible and an Edible Arrangment. We kiss.

Then I get worse, and one day my hands are too shaky to type. I throw my laptop across the room in tears of frustration as my adoring husband rushes over to console me. “BUT IF I CAN’T WRITE ANYMORE WHO AM I?!” I scream, pushing him away out of anger, and I tell him to go, just go, get out of here, that he deserves a better life with a normal woman. Then I compose myself as he hushes me, rocking me back and forth as a softly weep.

I eventually go blind, yet as I slowly lose the ability to see the outer material world, I develop a psychic inner sight and become a modern-day blind prophet, much like Teresias of ancient Greece. An old, wise crone living in a cave in Tibet with the Dalai Lama, serving at his side as an enchanted oracle, maybe going on CNBC to pick some stocks every now and then, just for shits and giggles, just to show I am still a down-to-earth woman of the people. I’ll wear my silken paisley head scarf, of course, but maybe a nice navy skirt suit underneath. I want to be the kind of blind prophet people can really relate to, ya know?

Image

Like this lady, only with more Botox and a slick pair of Ray Bans or something. Maybe a teacup Yorkie on my lap, too.

Anyway, these are the ludicrous places you go in your head when you have a very, very active imagination. These are the new life plans taking shape in my beautiful, warped, disturbed brain.

Today, though, I just made some eggs and am about to do some laundry. Might treat myself to a nice stroll around the park and a spray tan later. Maybe write some new jokes and catch up on Game of Thrones.

All of that seems just a tad more manageable than planning for every unfortunate contingency that could befall me.

One day at a time, Erica.

One day at a time.

Well I guess I probably have multiple sclerosis.

17 May

As many of you know, I recently had a week-long stay at the hospital after the vision in my left eye started to diminish and I had difficulty walking. After a litany of testing and some alternative diagnoses along the way (is it just viral meningitis? Devic’s disease? Some kind of psychological somatic disorder?), some lab results came back a couple days ago that strongly suggest multiple sclerosis. There’s still a small chance I don’t have it, and the average time it takes for a definite diagnosis of MS is 13 months, because you have to have at least two episodes of symptoms. But the results from my spinal tap are all consistent with the diagnosis and so we are proceeding with treatment. It’s a hard pill to swallow, for sure, but it’s a relief to know what I’m dealing with. These days, there are all sorts of good treatment options available, and it’s much better to be diagnosed young, as you can do a lot to slow the progression of the disease. Only 30% of people actually end up in a wheelchair, and life expectancy is no different than a normal person’s. I think I have good reason to be optimistic about my prognosis. 

Still, this marks an unexpected and bizarre turn in my life. One day I was out with friends at a Reds game, and two days later my legs wouldn’t work and I couldn’t pee on my own. Up until about six weeks ago, I had been in probably the best shape of my life after starting a regular exercise plan. My energy increased significantly, and I don’t think I even got so much as a cold over the winter. But I started to get so exhausted that I woke up every day feeling like I ran a marathon the day prior, and on the few days when I could force myself to go to the gym, I couldn’t do nearly as much as I used to do. At first I thought it might just be a depressive spell, or a thyroid problem, but when the vision in my left eye suddenly went all blurry, I knew something was wrong. 

So here I am at 29 with a chronic neurological degenerative disorder. My own body is attacking my brain and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I mean…shit. I like my brain, even though it has always been a little “off.” I don’t want it to get all scarred up. I hate thinking about that. 

And I hate thinking about the possibility of becoming a burden to those I love. I am not one who is quick to ask for help in general, or even talk about my problems with other people. It scares me to think that eventually I might have to ask for help every time I can’t bend over to simply pick something up off the floor or lift a heavy box. I prefer to do everything myself, because I don’t owe anyone anything and life is simpler that way. I prefer to live alone, but if I get to the point where I physically can’t do certain things, I might have no choice but to live with someone else. The unwelcome reality is that I AM going to need help sometimes, and I need to make peace with that fact and be able to ask for assistance without feeling guilt or anger. I just can’t stand the thought of someone else secretly wishing they didn’t have to take care of me. 

My boyfriend and I have only been together for five months. He didn’t sign up for this. Would he decide he didn’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of being with someone who might end up disabled? Wouldn’t he want a regular girl who could walk right and wasn’t such a downer? Frankly, didn’t he deserve that? And if he did leave me, what were the chances I would ever find someone I liked that was willing to accept the fact that I was damaged goods?

Amazingly, my boyfriend did not for one second entertain the idea of leaving me. In fact, he was an angel through the whole thing. He came to the hospital and stayed overnight with me. He joked around at a time when I desperately needed a laugh. He cried with me when I desperately needed someone to cry with. He held my hand through the whole hellish thing. I will never forget that, and if anything, it brought us much closer. 

I was also reminded of just how many wonderful people are in my life. I had all kinds of visitors and flowers and other goodies sent to me in the hospital, more well wishes than I could count, and my mom and dad by my side trying to get to the bottom of this. I should have felt unlucky, but with that much love and support surrounding me, I felt very much the opposite. So again, thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone; from the friends who called and visited to the sweet strangers on Twitter sending me get well soon messages. You have no idea how much that meant to me and you are the best.

I have more than my share of flaws and hang-ups, but underneath all that I know myself to be a very strong spirit. I can deal with the physical symptoms and limitations, but the part that truly bothers me is the idea that my future plans and aspirations may be thwarted by this disease. I was going to move back out to LA soon. I was going to give another shot at stand up and comedy writing, and this time, I felt more than ready to take it on. But what now? If I can’t predict when these symptoms might subside and I can’t know yet whether any permanent damage will be done, I can’t plan my life. Will I need the constant assistance of my parents? Will I have to stay in Ohio? And for how long? It’s maddening to have part of my autonomy compromised by this illness. I like to run my own show and do things my own way. But among the list of things I am trying to make peace with, taking things one day at a time is at the top. 

One thing I have decided for sure is that having MS will not stop me from doing all the things I have set out to do. I mean, thank God my passion is telling and writing jokes instead of like, fuckin rock climbing or something. Richard Pryor had MS and he did just fine for himself. Once this “attack” of symptoms subsides and once I am on long-term treatment and confident I can direct my own care, I will get back to LA and pound the pavement and make things happen for myself. There are many areas of my life in which I completely lack confidence, but I do believe I have what it takes to write comedy for television and that I have the kind of networking and business sense required to land myself a professional position in that field. I write every day, I write a ton, and my well of ideas never seems to run dry. This is what I was meant to do and I will absolutely not settle for less. I get one life. I might have to change and alter my lifestyle significantly because of this disease, but I will not alter my high expectations for myself and my career. The world may eventually convince me I can’t do this, but I sure as hell won’t be the one to say so. I saw a quote from Michelangelo the other day that really affected me: 

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo

This isn’t going to stop me. Even though I have been doing it from Ohio, I have worked hard to create opportunities for myself over the past year. I have enough irons in the fire now that something is bound to come out of one of them. I have a gut feeling that I’m getting very close to being where I want to be, and when opportunity knocks, I’m going to answer the damn door, even if I have to limp to get there. I will make adjustments, but not compromises. I will slow down when I need to, but never stop. I will be better to my body and it will be better to me. 

It’s a diagnosis, not a death sentence. Plus, if I ever do end up in a wheelchair, you better believe it will be studded with rhinestones, tinsel, rosettes, and perhaps even its own lava lamp. But I don’t anticipate that happening. 

Love you all! Until next time, be well, stay well, and kick ass. In conclusion, here is the legendary Richard Pryor doing a hilarious bit about M.S.

Why I’m Done Thinking About Feminism Or My Fucking Body Anymore. :)

22 Mar

Ever since my show-stopping exit from the womb (I am told it involved confetti and an original musical number), I have been a devoted feminist. My vaginal vitriol began at a young age, probably because I never really liked being a child OR a girl – both positions that, in my view, seemed to entail an inherent lack of authority and entitlement. Some of my earliest memories are of thinking to myself, ‘Goddamn it, why doesn’t anyone listen to me? I know my shit over here.’

And then I grew up (well, physically, at least) and became a comedian. Mostly because I am in love with the process of writing and performing jokes, but also because people have to listen to me when I perform. Much of my subject matter is based on feminist values, but I pride myself on getting my point across through the back door; satirizing myself and letting the audience draw their own conclusions rather than preaching from the pulpit. Comedy is a sneaky teacher. A laugh is really just an involuntary response to the truth, and if you can make people laugh by presenting a truth in a new way, you can affect peoples’ value systems without them really knowing it.

Good comedians make people laugh, but the best comedians are culture-shapers. I have always aspired to become the latter, and so I think a lot about my underlying message, the precedent I am setting, and the image I am projecting. As a woman practicing what has traditionally been viewed as a man’s art, this set of value considerations gets complicated very quickly.The fact is, in a culture that encourages women to constantly seek validation for their physical attractiveness, it IS hard for a woman (me) to shift her mindset and get to a place where she doesn’t need that anymore. It’s a tricky dance you do with yourself in your head.

If I write a cheap joke about my tits that I know will get a laugh, but I’m not proud of it, do I tell it anyway? “Does this shirt make my boobs look fat?” Will the women in the audience hate me for it, or will they relate? Will the men be distracted by it? Am I stooping to a lower level as a comic? Am I setting myself up to be exploited? Or am I just telling a funny joke and relating the realities of my experience as a tits-haver?

And good lord, will someone please just tell me what the hell I should wear up there?

Should I talk about my body? I think about it a lot, and so do other women, so it definitely seems relatable. If I say I think I’m fat, will heavier women hate me? If I say I think I’m thin, will all the women hate me? Will I accidentally make other women feel shitty about themselves in an effort to relate to them? Will they hate me because they think their boyfriends want to fuck me? Do I kinda WANT their boyfriends to want to fuck me? Why?  If they want to fuck me, they won’t laugh. People don’t watch porn for the giggles.

Wait a second, how DO I feel about my body, exactly? I like it, I think, but maybe not. I kinda like being all cushy and curvy and stuff, but I do look big on camera. I like myself in a dress, but not a bathing suit. Probably most people would say I am a little chubby, but not FAT fat, ya know? I mean, I work out and everything. But I guess I’m still about twenty pounds heavier than I should be. Maybe I should lose some weight. All the popular female comics these days are pretty small, at least the white ones. They’re the ones getting deals. Nikki Glaser, Iliza Schlesinger, Amy Schumer. Hell, even Lisa Lampanelli is skinny now. And they’re all really talented, too, so it seems like you have to be both these days. Nobody my size is famous. Maybe I should take a hint.

But if I were a good feminist, I wouldn’t even think about this stuff. I would just own my body. I would be proud of it and say so. I would inspire other women to embrace themselves unconditionally.

But…is that funny? Is it honest? Is that my job as a comedian?

Is all of this worrying sucking the fun out of what I love to do?

Yeah. It is. So I’m not gonna do it anymore.

What a fucking waste of time. I just want to write jokes and make people laugh. Truth be told, I don’t want to talk about my body or my vagina or feminism at all anymore. At least not directly. I just want to get up on stage and kill it and let my performance speak for itself. I don’t want to be thought of as “the best female comic in town,” I want the audience to forget my gender as much as possible and just laugh. I don’t want to be booked on shows as the “token chick,” I want to be booked on shows because I get the most laughs per minute, which I often do. It’s not because I’m a woman, it’s because I work hard on my jokes, and yes, I want credit for that.

Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate someone telling me I’m funny. It’s just annoying when it’s followed by “especially for a girl.” The implication is that the audience member or fellow comic was comparing me to all other women in the world, rather than other comics they’ve seen. I’m a comic. Compare me to other comics.

And I don’t want to talk about my fucking body. I don’t want anyone else to, either; whether it’s complimentary or not. I do not want attention for my body when I am telling jokes. I just realized this when I did a set in my underwear for a touring show, and I hated it. It was a mistake on my part. It’s a great concept for a show, and my set went well, but I’m up there in a corset thinking “Jesus, didn’t I choose this art because it’s the only one where women aren’t supposed to be sexualized? What am I doing?”

And I don’t want to talk about my sex life. I don’t want attention for that. I don’t want to act like I’m some self-proclaimed badass slut and tell a bunch of hackey, low-brow jokes about blowing a bunch of dudes. I don’t want to get booked on Stern. I don’t want a spread in MAXIM. I want a set on Conan.  

But above all, I just don’t want to talk about any of this shit anymore. When I talk about it, I think about it. And when I think about it, I’m not thinking about jokes. I’m thinking about feminist guilt or whether eating a fucking cookie will ruin my career. It’s wasted time.

And maybe, just maybe, the world isn’t as biased as I’m imagining it is. Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe I’m not giving people enough credit. Maybe part of me enjoys playing the martyr, when my experiences don’t really justify it.

Whatever the case, maybe it makes sense to assume all that, because I can’t control other peoples’ thoughts anyway. All I can control is the quality of my work. So I’m going to just let all of this go. I’m going to do what I think is funny and let go of the pressure and the resentment and the futile attempts to be a size 4. I’m not only sick of worrying and wringing my hands over it, I’m just bored by it anymore.

I am releasing myself from the prison of giving a fuck about this.

I’m going to let my jokes inform peoples’ opinions, instead of the other way around. That’s all I can do, but it’s a lot. THAT’s the way to become a culture-shaper.

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