How do I deal with feelings and uncomfortable situations you ask? Well, I bury my head in the sand. I've always thought of myself as someone who was strong and could handle my feelings, but lately I do everything I can to avoid them. I've taken the Ostrich Approach to life.
Okay, so apparently ostriches don't really bury their heads in the sand, but the myth is popular enough for me to use as the starting point for this post. A post that is about my skills as an avoider.
As an actor and improviser, it's my job to be willing and able to access my feelings and use them to create characters and tell stories. I've always found that to be fairly easy and enjoyable. The imagination is a really powerful thing. Plugging myself into the given circumstances of a story that isn't mine leads to me conjuring a number of different emotions and choices. It's exciting.
Lately, when it comes to my own story, I'm empty. Numb. I feel like there's a bubble of something residing in my chest. I want it to burst, but it just won't. I guess that is a feeling, so maybe I'm not numb. Feelings are weird. But even if it is a feeling, it's one I feel like I can't express or handle. So, whether I've deliberately chosen to avoid what I feel or if I'm just not able to, I find myself submerged in the sand isolated from it all.
I'll give you an example. One that's difficult to admit to. Improv. I love it and I need it. I want to make it my career which is why I started CATCh. I used to perform at least once a week in NYC, with regular practices. I used to go see shows at least twice a week. It was my life. Now, despite the fact that I'm co-owner of an improv theater and training center, despite the fact that I have many friends who perform, despite the fact that I've been invited to perform...I avoid it.
First let me say, this has very little to do with improv or improvisers here in town. This is really all about me. About my fear of failure and my inability to deal with my emotions at the moment. I'm truly thrilled to hear of all the improv being done around town and look forward to adding to and helping the community. CATCh is something I'm super proud of and am committed to staying the course.
But if you haven't seen me around much, it's because I can't handle it right now. I can't handle seeing it. I can't handle not doing it. It's too much. By going to a show, I know I'm going to feel a cocktail of jealousy, sadness, nostalgia, anger, as well as disappointment in my/CATCh's journey. These are not the feelings one should be feeling when seeing improv. I'm aware of this. Believe me when I say, I wish I could show up to have your back and laugh and feel joy. But, I haven't figured out how to get my head out of the sand yet. (I'm working on it)
My therapist explained this process to me in terms that may seem overdramatic, but I feel it's actually appropriate. I'm grieving. I'm grieving the loss of improv/performance from my life. (whether it's self-inflicted or not is irrelevant right now). The problem is, I'm stuck in the avoidance phase of grief. And if one stays buried in avoidance for long enough, it becomes super hard to dig yourself out.
So instead of expressing my feelings or better yet, facing them...I binge eat, I watch YouTube videos endlessly (YouTube may or may not equal PornHub), I scroll through Instagram or Facebook and find myself feeling further and further away from my goals, I avoid being around improv in any way because it just makes me sad that I'm not doing it.
Let's be honest, my head isn't the only thing in the sand. I may just have a few toes sticking out at this point.
Back to this whole grieving point. My life is good. I'm fairly healthy (minus the whole binge eating thing), I've got a great family, girlfriend, group of friends, and support system. I know that I risk coming off as insensitive when I say I'm grieving about not doing improv when people are losing jobs, loved ones, their rights, etc. every single day. And hopefully they're writing blogs that you can go read, but this is about me so screw them.
Improv isn't about getting up on stage with friends and telling dick jokes. It's how I express myself. It's how I've formed most of my friendships. It's where I feel most confident. It's where many of my best memories reside. It's how I tell stories. It's how I want to live my life. Moment to moment. Discovering the world with people I trust. Saying Yes. Being Bold. Having each other's backs. Laughing.
How could I not be grieving when I've mostly deprived myself from all of that? I haven't been able to express myself. This blog is a step to that for sure. I've started painting actually. (No, I can't draw you like one of my French girls). It's good to find other ways of being creative. Teaching improv is definitely helpful and something I deeply love. But that's mainly about helping others express themselves. So, there's a big piece of me that feels like it's missing. A void if you will. (see what I did there?)
The point of this post is not to attract pity (although, I'll take it). It's to own up to my failed approach to my feelings. I've got to stop hiding from them, because it's only made it worse and harder to overcome. I've become lost in the same repetitive cycle:
Start to feel something. Avoid it by binge eating. Feel shame from binge eating. Avoid that shame by binge eating again. Repeat.
I hope this post and my blog in general helps me go back to step one: Start to feel something, but actually allow myself to feel it and deal with it.
I think this improv example is definitely very prominent in my life, but it certainly isn't the only way this approach has manifested. But I'll keep this post to just one topic. And perhaps if you're in the improv community and you're reading this, you can take this as an explanation and apology for why I may not have been around as much I'd like to be. And what better way to explain myself and apologize than by avoiding you in person? :)