3 Lessons I Just Learned From Pain

Yesterday I felt a ping in my back. It didn’t hurt so much, but there was some pressure in a spot that was not normal. It morphed into a pain that has hurt quite a bit. Sleeping was awful. And I woke up hurting like the Dickens.

I have no idea what caused it, by the way. It just started when I was on stage for a class show doing nothing close to strenuous.

After some medicine, a heat pack and an ice pick it still hurts, but it’s not super horrendous. Though I would MUCH prefer to not experience it in any way, shape or form.

Now, I could feel very defeated by all this and just play video games all day. And I did for a while. I will likely play more later too, because it does help me relax. But instead of letting a whole day go by without moving, I put on some jammie pants (never called them that before this moment), hat & sunglasses and took myself for a walk.

Walking doesn’t seem to exacerbate the problem. But the sunlight was very much needed.

Also, I’ve been working on a creative project all day that I’m trying to finish by Thursday. Nothing wrong with extending the deadline. It’s self imposed. And I know I would give me an extension if I really needed it. But I can sit and type. And part of what I need to do involves that very thing. So, I’ve been at work for an hour so far. When I finish this post, I’ll go back to it.

My point for saying all this? I’m proud of myself for learning a lesson amidst the pain making me feel empowered rather than just succumbing to the pain and feeling defeated.

The main lesson: Pain is temporary

I’m currently broke. And it stresses me out. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the stress was a contributor to this back pain. The stress is a lot. I used to make more than enough money to live my meager existence. Currently, I don’t really.

And when I was thinking about this pain I realized that it’s highly likely to be temporary. Whatever’s wrong will almost assuredly heal at some point. Often times I can get tunnel vision. I’m like a baby in that I don’t realize that pain goes away. But after realizing that, I noted that my financial situation is a form of pain too.

And that means, I can look at it like something that will heal. And while that realization doesn’t completely void my stress it does help.

That’s huge!

What else did I learn? That when I have a problem that is clearly causing me to focus on it and not open myself up to the universe for potential solutions that I have to force myself to calm down and do something. I made myself go for a walk to get some sun on me. I knew it would bring me some Zen if I just got the blood flowing and let the sun’s heat on my skin.

While I was out there, I thought I’d take a selfie and tell Facebook what was going on. I just thought it was funny given what I looked like (see pic above).

Here’s the caption:

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 3.38.34 PM.png

Just now noticing the typo. Anyway, guess what happened next?

A good friend of mine who has medical knowledge is going to come over and help me stretch and stuff.

So, I might get rid of or significantly reduce this pain today because I made a choice to do something. I took myself for a walk. And that led to a series of events that may result in me getting healed.

Summary of this lesson: Don’t forget to do something for yourself when you’re in pain

And there’s even a third lesson.

See, it hurts when I breathe because this pain is exacerbated by expanding my ribs/chest. So, every breath hurt. But then I remembered that when I meditate I actively try to breathe thru my stomach.

It took a minute to figure out how, but I am now mainly breathing with my gut. It still stretches my ribs some, but not as much. However, I don’t breathe that way in consciously.

Summary of this lesson: Don’t forget to be mindful of your breathing when you’re in pain

That’s it for me. I appreciate all the well wishes on social media.

Thanks, y’all!

‘Fame’ or ‘The Hardest Blog Post I’ve Ever Written’

I don’t remember a specific moment in my life when I first clearly thought, ‘I want to be famous.’ But I have held that sentiment since early adolescence if not childhood.

And to be clear, I am talking about the type of fame that happens to people for their positive artistic accomplishments as opposed to being famous for any other reason (ie. assassination).

A few people have challenged me on this before by saying something akin to, ‘How do you know you want to be famous when you’ve never tried it.’ And that’s fair enough. For years I had to accept that fact that I couldn’t guarantee 100% that I would like it. Then in 2010, I got hired to perform on cruise ships with the Second City.

If you’ve never taken a cruise, it feels like it’s own closed universe for seven days. And that universe has its own famous people. The cruise director, the Captain, and the entertainers, etc. For one week, a number of people in that  cruise ship universe have a shared knowledge of those few who for all intents and purposes, become ship famous.

So, to an extent, I do know what it’s like to be famous. And I absolutely love it. I loved it when random passengers would stop me in the halls and say they liked the show and ask me to take a photo with them. I liked the awkward people in the elevator whispering at a level they assumed I couldn’t hear when they said, ‘Is that him? He’s one of the comedians. I think that’s him. Should we say something?’ I even loved those weirdos who clearly didn’t know how to socialize well who would sometimes talk my ear off for twenty minutes about themselves or their cats or whatever.

And I enjoyed all of it.

As a writer/performer I assumed that if I worked hard enough and stayed at it long enough, I would get cast on a TV show or something like that and I would then actually become famous.

Then I would reap the benefits of fame such as getting invited to be on podcasts hosted by other famous people who I adore, being asked to sit in people’s improv shows, and finding my face on fan made memes on social media.

I know there’s a lot more to it than that, but the point is, I want all of this. I’ve always wanted all this. And I don’t have it. Nor do I see any likely way for me to get this anytime soon.

As a 35 year old, I can do the math. I realize that every birthday means one less potential year of my life to accomplish this goal. I’ll be 36 in a few months. I know to many people, that’s young. I’m not trying to say ‘I’m old’ in a whiny way. But the fact is that I’ve been an adult for nearly 18 years and if I’m lucky I’ll live hopefully another 50.

The odds of me achieving fame beyond cruise ships decrease as time passes by.

So, what do I do with this?

Well, up til now, I’ve carried this desire in the form of depression and anxiety. I’m depressed that I’m not famous. I’m anxious, because I want to be, but don’t know how to do it.

And it hurts…a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is pretty good overall. My girlfriend is amazing, my mom is fantastic, my friends are great, my dog is awesome, my students are awesome, and my audiences are usually awesome.

The circumstances of my life are overall good. I’m broke, but other than that, I’m doing pretty well. But my depression and anxiety flare up way too often and way too intensely to allow me to accurately say I’m living life to the fullest.

There’s a quote from the movie Cool Runnings spoken by John Candy’s character that goes, ‘A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”

Switch ‘gold medal’ for ‘fame’ and/or ‘accomplishments’ and it applies perfectly to me. I’m finally realizing the lesson I need to learn from this beautiful quote.

As difficult as it is to admit, I’m guilty of thinking just like the character of Derice in the movie Cool Runnings. He wanted the gold medal more than anything. And he hated himself for not having it. He believed he wasn’t enough without it. And that’s how I respond to my desire for fame.

You see I measure (aka grade) myself by fame. Since I don’t have it, that’s an automatic mark off the grade I give myself. And the rest of my grade is measured by my earnest attempts at accomplishing things in hopes to get famous. In other words, I can’t have an A+ at life, because I’m not famous. Best I can hope for is an A. But I only get an A if I can honestly say, “I’m doing everything I can to get there.” And I’m a harsh teacher.

If I don’t book an audition because I made a mistake that theoretically I could have avoided if I’d only put more prep time into it, I beat myself up something bad. Much like the Counter Terrorism Unit in 24 I do not accept any mistakes.

I thought it was the best way to treat myself. But it’s not. I effectively have become my own Delores Umbridge (re: Harry Potter) in that I punish myself for not getting the grade that I demand of myself based on the criteria I came up with for myself.

Let’s break that down real quick. I’m in charge of the fact that I’m grading myself at all. I’m also the one who wrote out the rules. And I’m the one who doles out the punishment.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t self flagellate or anything. I don’t consciously punish myself. I don’t even consciously have a grading system. Everything I’ve been saying about this is stuff that I am just realizing tonight. Maybe it’s a ‘break thru.’ I hope so, because I need something.

Why is this the hardest blog post I’ve ever written? Because I’m embarrassed. I feel like I sound douchey. The words I’m writing – in my mind – sound like an adult male whining about not being famous when we live in a world with about a zillion more important problems to deal with.

Also, I hate admitting all this, because it seems like such an easy fix. If I wrote a blog post about how I was angry that my shirt was dirty, anyone would be well within their rights to respond by simply saying, ‘Then just wash it.’ And I fear that people will read this and think, ‘Just stop beating yourself up.’

It’s a sentiment I hear a lot. And very well meaning people think they’re being helpful by saying it. They’re not. ‘Don’t beat yourself up’ for me is the equivalent of ‘Just grow hair on your head.’ I would LOVE to not beat myself up. And sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll go days or even weeks without feeling that self imposed harsh judgment. But it always comes back. And it sucks.

I’ve read so many books and articles, listened to so many podcasts and watched so many videos on how to be a better person. How to love myself and minimize fear. But I’m still stuck. And I think a huge component to all this is my desire for fame.

So, what am I going to do? I don’t know the exact procedure, but the goal will be to get to the point where I do not actually want fame in any active way.

I’ll never not want it. But I can at least (hopefully) eliminate it as a goal I’m actively working on.

For example, I’d love to see the pyramids in Egypt. But I don’t get upset by the fact that I haven’t. And if I never see them, I’ll still have the opportunity to live a fulfilled life. I’d love to see them, but doing so does not make or break me.

I need fame to become like the pyramids. Hope to get there one day. Will be excited and grateful if I do, but I am good enough to live a happy and awesome life without it.

Wish me luck as I attempt to reset my brain after 20-30 years and recalibrate my priorities. For me it’s almost like mourning the loss of a friend or losing my hair. It’s going to be a big change. But I need this change, because I deserve to live a happy awesome life that is not overshadowed by a self imposed dark cloud.

Thanks, y’all.


My Rocky-Style Montage

Remember in the 1980s when practically every comedy or action movie had at least one montage? My favorite is an obvious classic: Rocky.


When Rocky needed to become the best version of his boxing self he committed to training and we got to see that training in the form of a montage. Smash cuts from him running the streets of Philadelphia to punching slabs of meet in a cold room. He dedicated himself to the work he needed to do to become the best boxer he could. Because he knew that was the only way he had a chance to keep up with Apollo Creed.


You’d think all those montages would be an eye opener to a kid who for whatever reason believed that it was more about natural talent than hard work. Would have been nice if I’d emulated those montages everytime I wanted to be better at something.


But, like many people I would often ‘commit’ to things and then rarely do anything about it.


Now, I’m 35 and life is moving quickly by. And I don’t wanna do a montage now, because for starters, it’s hard. It takes a lot of time. And I’d much rather play video games.


There are probably other reasons, but those are more than enough. And those reasons kept me from being a hard worker for years. In December I told myself it was time. So, I set out a very ambitious goal to write a completed rough draft of an original pilot script once per month.


It’s April 5 and I’m happy to report that I have three pilots done and I’m already done with the outline and two pages into my fourth.


In order to satisfy my goal I merely need a completed first draft every month. But I can’t just do the bare minimum. I feel like I’m in school again in that regard. My January pilot is in revision 7 and my February pilot is in revision 5.


So, what I’m saying is that I’m in the middle of my own Rocky-style montage right now. And I can tell you it is not as fun as movie montages. Movie montages have one high energy song that plays from start to finish. There are quick cuts, so we don’t actually see Rocky do 100 one handed pushups. We just see a few and are led to believe it’s 100 in total.


Also, in real life you can’t just devote every waking moment to training. At least I can’t. I need to make money. I need to spend time with my girlfriend, my dog, my friends. I need to read, watch and listen to media. I need to go hiking, pay bills, run errands, perform in shows, hustle to find private clients when I am short on cash, etc.


So, my montage is taking a long time. It would make for a relatively boring movie montage even with a great song and killer camera movements. It’s just me at my computer typing. The most variance I do is go from typing the script itself to typing out notes in a separate document or typing in search engine terms to research something.


My point is that while I absolutely am satisfied with how I’m spending my time, I have to deal with the fact that my movie montage is almost nothing like a movie montage. It’s hard work in real time with no specific soundtrack and no script that definitively knows what the future holds. I knew from watching Rocky that it was going to pay off. That’s how most Hollywood stories work. I could predict it. I cannot predict that my hard work will yield anything. I hope it does. That’s why I’m doing it.


But right now I am working hard and sacrificing a lot of video game time to create scripts that may or may not ever get sold or even read by someone in the industry.


And to be perfectly honest, I’m not okay with that. I am betting big on myself. And I think I am afraid that I won’t pay off. And that I’ll be really disappointed in myself. And then I’m fraid I’ll go back to hating myself – which was a big problem for me for many years.


Anyway, I gotta stop writing his, because I need to go work on my fourth pilot.


If you have never had your own Rocky montage, I encourage it. If nothing else, you’ll be super proud of yourself for setting goals and sticking with them. And for those of you who have already gone through a montage or two, I commend you and hope you came out happier on the other side.


Thanks, y’all!