Monday, November 14, 2016

The Difficult Conversation

We've stopped knowing how to have uncomfortable conversations with each other in every area of our lives - work, family, politics.

In fact, I've really never learned how to do this. In my family of origin, during my life until I was 12 years old, we swept things under the rug. And then when there were disagreements in my house, they were loud, sometimes violent and very scary. My parent's swung from "Everything is Fine," to "I want to Fucking Kill You," over and over again.

When everyone got sober, things got better, but my training was done. I avoided conflict at all costs.

This was the main reason I wrote my memoir. I felt my whole life had been shaped by choosing to get along instead of learning to share my feelings when they weren't what either of my parents wanted to hear - and I wanted to show the price I paid for that so that others would learn to have the difficult conversations with their loved ones.

Over the last 40 years, I have slowly learned to have difficult conversations more often, but I still avoid them for the most part. It took me 5 years to leave my first husband because I was in fear of the difficult conversation with him. I've let friendships just disappear because the difficult conversation was just too difficult. I avoided doing my art for fear of criticism, feedback and another's take on my craft.

Over the last 8 years, I have learned to be more brave, and more vulnerable. I have begun to share my perspectives more, but have lived in fear that I'd be stomped on by people who hold strong positions from the left, the right, the spiritual communities and the secular communities. I have done my craft in public, and learned to hear feedback that challenged me, but made my work better. I have been listening to every political perspective (maybe not close enough always) to try and learn from those that I know have something to teach me.

Part of why I am afraid to sit with the discomfort of the tension and unknown that comes with having these conversations, is that I haven't learned to tolerate it on a basic physiological level. I think we are hard-wired to avoid this discomfort for survival reasons. It's from a primitive part of our brain. It served us as animals. But I now see that maybe it is no longer serving us as homo sapiens.

I wonder if this is why people feel more comfortable saying things on social media? There is a buffer. We're not in the room with each other. And of course, this has then led to an unleashing of views that do not know how to maintain relationship. We've gone from feeling silenced to then only being around those who agree with us (no fear of discomfort), and then sliming each other from our silo-ed bunkers.

We have lost the art of sharing our fears, hopes, pain, anger and vulnerability. Or in my case, I have perfected it by doing it from a stage or a page, but not one-on-one where it feels just too scary. When we are sitting face-to-face and willing to create safe space for the other, we both get to risk having to look deeply and see our own biases, blind spots and hardline thinking.

I am looking in the mirror deeply to see my part in all of this mess. That is what I do. Sometimes to a fault, but I feel it is the only place to start.

Maybe this is part of what my new book is about - How we slowly heal ourselves from our allegiance to old family systems so that we can learn to speak our truths, and to hear truth about ourselves from the others around us who have something to teach us in the end.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Saying Yes. Saying No.

I just finished recording this week's podcast episode, and I talked a bit about the power of saying yes and/or saying no in my own life.

I won't rehash all that I said over there, you can listen to it here, if you want.  But I did want to just let the topic bubble up in your consciousness today.  Especially the idea of how when one says "yes" to something, one is saying "no" to something else, and of course the reverse is true too.

For most of the last 8 years, I've painted a big "YES" on my forehead and stepped into opportunities that scared me, stretched me and thrilled me.  Without that "yes" I would have never produced The Green Room with Paul Provenza, written and performed by solo show and had a book published.   Without that yes, I would have not been able to immerse myself in the community of comedians and been embraced by people who I feel are some of the smartest, kindest people on earth.  Without that yes, I would not have an amazing online community people where we get to entertain, enlighten and engage each other.

And now, I'm in a new phase where saying "no" and bringing some discernment to my choices is where I need to be now.  My biggest "no" right now has to do with my interaction with the public around my father.  I've been off of social media for 10 weeks now, and not having to see my dad's name or face, or read his words, or hear about him has been revelatory.  I know that when I return to interacting again on social media, I will not be engaging with people the same way when it comes to my father.  I need that part of my life to be different for my mental health and my work in the world.  I love him.  I love your love of him.  Just keep me out of it.

For so many decades of my life I said "yes" and "no" in a very unconscious way.  It was more like I would let the whims of my desires, addictions and fears do the choosing for me.   My teens and twenties were fraught with this behavior.  I got a little more conscious in my thirties, but it really wasn't until my forties that I learned about the power of healthy boundaries and the real power of choice.

Taking choice back into my hands was a frightening prospect.  I seems I feared the consequences of a conscious choice more than the consequences of the unconscious ones.  I can see how this is the definition of living out life as the victim.  "Hey, it's not my fault.  I didn't DO anything."  Ha!  Little did I see that making unconscious choices was still making a choice.

There are few things we have control over in our lives, very few - where we put our attention is one important way, and the other is choice.  Now, I don't want to get into the whole Free Will conversation, mostly because I can't wrap my head around it most of the time.  And, no, I get that we don't get to control the outcome after making choices, but when we do make a choice we are saying bold things to our own hearts and souls and to the world at large.

So take a leap.  Say "yes" to all that can stretch you, if your life is in need of an expansion out of your comfort zone.  Or say "no" to all that burdens you, to all that is keeping you stuck and small.  But here's the cool thing:  You can always change your mind.

Donald Trump does it all the time.  ;-)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Where are the zombies?

He's still blowing hard as I type this.

The billionaire is your voice.  The narcissist is here for you.

We missed it by by 32 years - 1984.  Doublespeak.

He ends with I love you.

What a world.

Monday, July 18, 2016


I used to think that if I were off of social media I'd be missing something.  Now I know the truth:  While I was on social media, I was missing everything.  

What a time to be off of social media. Orlando, Philando Castle, Alton Sterling, Dallas, Nice, Turkey and now the GOP convention.  

Every week I don't think things can get any weirder, more divisive, violent and uncertain, and then it does.  But I have to tell you, not being in the echo chamber of opinion has given me a deep sense of calm and sanity.  Voices from all sides are no longer occupying the sacred space between my ears.
I can choose to watch what is going on in the world, or not.  And if I do, I feel no obligation to have an opinion within 15 nanoseconds of the event.  I can let hours, days and weeks go by so I can chew on things, taste and savor what is real and not about it all, and digest the events and integrate them into my worldview, not the world's world view.

It's really lovely out here on the porch.
I hope you come by, have a lemonade and sit a spell.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Dreaming of Future Days....

Nothing to say.

Nothing to do.

Nothing to Tweet.

Nothing but ewes.

The green, green, green of Scotland.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Social Media Summer Sabbatical

In four days I will be removing my Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone (my stomach just lurched typing that).  Yes, for the next three months I am walking away from the bite-sized dopamine rush of every retweet, like, mention and share that reminds me that I am god's gift to humanity.  
Am I fucking insane?  I don't know.  I can't tell anymore what is making me insane.  Is it the political rage?  Is it the endless echo chamber of everyone's thoughts about, well, everything?  Or maybe it's looking at my dad's name and likeness a dozen times a day?  Yeah, I think it's that last one - love you dad, but enough is enough.
For the last eight years I bought into it all.  I loved the instant love, camaraderie, shared revolutions, funny cat videos and especially the opportunity to learn to express my myself unfiltered and in front of strangers.  I found an enormous safety net of compassion and community after my father's death that kept my head above the waters of debilitating grief that I will be forever grateful for.  I even won the internet one night when I won a Hashtag War on @Midnight.  Without Twitter, I don't think I would have had a real opportunity to hone my comedic skills and really learn to craft a concise joke.  But most importantly, I became real-life friends with incredible people all over the world when after meeting on social media, we met in person.  
Social media has been bery, bery good to me.  
But for the last three or four years, I have noticed the cracks around all the joy and love.  More than a few times a year, I've had to take time away from it - a week here, ten days there - to unwire what I knew was rewiring my brain and personality.  Being in my 50s, I was not born with a phone in my hand.  I was born into a world where the family carved out time to gather around the TV together to watch their favorite shows, where my youthful afternoons were spent wandering with friends in search of trouble and fun, and where, unless you asked, I'd never knew what you had for lunch that day.  
I am sorry to inform you that I will not be notified that you just liked the picture of the sunset I posted last year, nor that you've invited me to your house concert in Naples, Florida this Sunday.  Sadly, I will not see the great time you had at your sisters wedding this July, nor be able to send you a (((hug))) when your cat dies (no, I don't know that your cat is dying. It could be your dog, or mother or car).  And I will miss out on wishing you "Happy Day of Your Birth," (my signature move on FB), the fact that you hung out with that A-List celebrity that I will envy you for, and that you've gotten the job of your dreams which I will be truly happy for you.  But in order for any of those things to happen, you will have to call, text, email, snail mail or drive to my house for me to find out.  I look forward to hearing from you.
Or do I?  
I believe that we've heard just about all we need to from each other for the next thousand fucking years.  Really.  This false intimacy has to go.  But more on that later.  
I may be gone from social media, but I will not be gone from my blogging and podcasting.  If you want to keep up with MY life this summer, join me there.  Where?
And if you've got real ovaries, join me on my sabbatical.  Come on, you know you want it. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

It Has Arrived

My book. It is in my hands. I walk around the backyard staring at it, taking it in. It is real. A thing I have dreamed about but could never truly imagine. It is real. I spend about ten minutes by myself walking around the coral tree, stopping by the sage, feeling the cover, opening to random pages and reading. It is mine. I made this thing.

I am not a parent. I've never birthed a child. This is the closest thing to a child I've had. And it's no coincidence that it took nine months to write after fifteen years of musing, writing, outlining, living, grieving, loving, growing up and growing down. I have done something big and sweet and finally all mine. I am touched deeply by the many loves, lives and hands that it has taken to get me here. I miss my parents, but I know that if they were still here, this book would not be in my hands.  

I am flooded with love and bittersweet longing.