Improv and Gratitude.


It best describes the way I feel after I leave an improv theater. It doesn't seem to matter if I'm in the show or I'm watching the show; I can't sleep for at least two hours after I leave such a hallowed space. It leaves a firework show in my brain long after it's finished. 

Tonight I had the insane opportunity to work a shift at a theater in Hollywood that I never dreamed I would get to work at. Three winters ago I attended a show at this theater just a few days before Thanksgiving. I had just started taking improv classes in the Bay Area and desperately wanted to see a show while I was visiting my best friend in LA. Most shows that week were sold out so I had to buy tickets to a standup showcase. Still, it was thrilling to spend an hour in an old damp theater where so many amazing performances had taken place. 

I never (EVER) thought I would be able to take classes in LA. But lo and behold; one thing led to another and I managed to get through all the core class requirements at the school of my choice. 

Gratitude is something I've admittedly struggled with in my life 90% of the time. I was always taught to be grateful for the things I'd been given... but it's hard to actually practice genuine gratitude when you've truly always had what you need. I've spent many years of my life struggling to be grateful while knowing that I should be. Most recently I had an amazing teaching job that caused me to constantly beat myself up because I didn't think I was being grateful enough for it.

Choosing to make less money by interning at a theater and working on creative projects has caused my sense of gratitude to multiply tenfold. Yet this year has been one of the most challenging of my entire life because the unknown is painful. Being artistically rejected (auditions, being cut, getting notes after a show) is worse than a punch in the gut. Not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from hurts; especially when it could have been avoided by, say, staying at your job. Yet this Thanksgiving, I still manage to feel full of thanks for life and the path I've chosen. 

I'm grateful that I have the chance to grow as an improviser. I'm grateful for a husband who is supportive and cheers for me as I put myself out there (I'm pretty sure he also winces a lot). I'm so, so grateful that I get to scan tickets and take out trash and watch shows that make my brain light up like a million sparklers. 

I'm feeling electric. 

The Curse of Being Task-Oriented: A Half-Hearted Apology.

I am a task-oriented person. I'm finally able to admit it and shout it from the cyber rooftops (my blog). 

I have lived for the past seven years at a summer camp that is incredibly people and relationship oriented. I love to live there as much as I struggle living there, because of the previously-mentioned task-orientation. 

I'm the kind of person that never goes anywhere without a book or notepad and pen because I can't stand the thought of being stuck anywhere without something to do. 

One of my husband's biggest gripes with me as a human is I try to bring my backpack everywhere. To him, it symbolizes that I don't trust that the party or activity we're going to will be engaging enough for me if I just try to foster relationships... thus I bring a bag as a backup. He's not wrong. 

My best days are the ones where I get at least three things done on my to-do list in addition to getting enough sleep, eating well, and working out (or getting my 10,000 steps). I am elated at the end of days like these. 

I'm writing this to half-apologize for the way I am. In a way this apology is like the "half-empty, half-full" premise. Some of you will see my half offering and go, "thanks for explaining, Erin. I feel better about our relationship" and the rest of you will go, "why don't you take a long walk off a short pier, Erin?"

To each their own. 

I love setting goals for myself and then sticking to and accomplishing them. It is absolutely what makes me tick. I have a mental list of things I need/want to do, and many of them will take years. Write a novel. Write a memoir. Produce a Youtube series. Write a screenplay. Get cast in some things and be an actor. Teach an online class. Read War and Peace and The Silmarillion without falling asleep. 

I have a hard time going to parties and just sitting with people because I can't quantify that very easily. It doesn't mean I don't want it in my life, I just don't know what to do with it and being idle stresses me out if I do it too much. 

To my friends that have sensed this attitude from me and given up on me a bit or written me off as a friend because I haven't given you enough emotional energy, I apologize. I do. I guess that's the sincere half of my half-apology. 

To those of you who don't get my crazed approach to tasks and goals but still choose to try to spend time with me and draw me out (or better yet, help me accomplish tasks!) THANK YOU.

Performing is a "task" that manages to give me some rest and forces me to be present, especially improv. If you've partaken in this activity with me know that I am so grateful that there's something in my life that helps me to spend time with others AND do something I deem "productive." 

To those of you who never thought of yourself as a "task" person until now, may my words give you a degree of peace with the person that you are and help you to embrace that while seeking to engage with the people around you. 


Juice Fast City, Population ME.

So, I'm on a juice fast. 

I never, ever thought I would be on a juice fast AGAIN. The last time I tried it was when I was planning a wedding and stressed out of my mind. I made it one day. The fast abruptly ended when I started bawling in front of a group of people because I couldn't find a pair of scissors. 

Fast forward to now.  

I have been battling an autoimmune disorder for the past fifteen years. My problems all involve connective tissues; skin, eyes, gums, etc. Oh, and occasionally my joints. I'm TIRED of it. While my health is relatively stable right now because of the medication I (thankfully) can afford, there are always reminders that I'm not well. Recently, my heel started to flare up... AGAIN. I don't know how to explain this other than it feels like my right heel bone starts to swell (not the muscle, the bone). I eat about 90% paleo and have done a successful round of Whole30, but I haven't been able to kick my feelings of fatigue long-term. Basically, any time I eat a meal that's average-sized or larger (a.k.a. what normal humans eat) I need a nap. It sucks. Also, any time I'm able to sit for more than 5 minutes, I pass out. Even with a full night of rest. It's incredibly frustrating. 

I watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" about two weeks ago, and that lit the fire under my butt to give fasting one more try. To see several people try fasting and alleviate their symptoms was incredibly compelling. Check out this film for free on Netflix if you haven't. Everyone should see it!

I brunched with my friends last Sunday and started the fast last Monday the 10th. It's Wednesday the 19th, and I feel amazing! I've had a few bouts of fatigue, but only the first few days. Drinking fresh juice (the greener the better) has been awesome. Aside from the fact that I've lost ten pounds (that's always cool), I've had consistent energy, my skin has cleared up, and my body feels great. I'm planning to go a total of fifteen days and then transition in to a few days of vegan eating. From there I will probably transition back to paleo with a heavy emphasis on eating/juicing my veggies. 

Jury's still out on my autoimmune problems. I need to go get some bloodwork done and consult with my rheumatologist to see if any changes are really taking place in my body. But this experience has taught me a few things:

  1. Occasional fasting is okay. And it is manageable. 
  2. GREENS ARE IMPORTANT. They are chalk-full of goodness! I love eggs, bacon, steak, and potatoes, but I need to be more moderate about my consumption of them. 
  3. I don't need as much food as I think I do. And I often eat because I'm bored. 
  4. I truly believe that I'm on to something here with juicing and even though I wish I had discovered it a decade ago, I'm thankful that I'm in a space right now where I'm willing and able to do it. If juicing alleviates some of my symptoms, AWESOME. 
  5. This isn't easy. Most good things aren't.
  6. I have no interest in posting before/after pictures. Maybe if you're lucky I will.  

The Discipline of Nice-ness.

Human life is challenging, yes? It always has been, right? Let's operate for the rest of this post on that assumption. 

People used to spend a lot of time worrying about how they were going to hunt/gather things for their next meal ("What if I can't kill a squirrel or harvest roots in the next few hours? Will l have enough energy to spear something if I need to? Is this sore on my leg going to heal or will I have to hack off my leg with a sharp rock?").

Now a lot of us worry about how we're going to spend time with other humans and what food we're going to pick up at the grocery store ("Should I bring 7-layer dip and tortilla chips or hummus and pita chips? Will there be time for me to get my steps in so I can justify eating the snack I bring? Also, do I have time to go stand in that pharmacy line to pick up my Doxycycline for my zip-lining trip to South America?"). 

We have it a lot easier than people used to. But we also face a completely different set of challenges. Technology makes some things really easy and other things exponentially more challenging. I know that even a few years ago I didn't get cold feet before someone's party and change my "maybe" RSVP to "not going" five minutes before the event. I also know that before my smartphone I didn't really feel the feeling of FOMO because I didn't know or care what other people were doing if they weren't with me. Now I get pretty bummed out and sad because no one nominated me for an Emmy and my girlfriends didn't think to invite me to the baby show that I didn't want to go to anyway. 

I think that even in this bizarre time we live in where we're all oversaturated with viral videos and comments and likes we can preserve some of our nice-ness. We can live good lives that aren't filled with anxiety and isolation.

When I was a kid I remember my first or second grade teacher reading my class a book called "What if Everybody Did That?" It was mostly about considering the repercussions of doing unwise things. The only example from the book I remember said something to the effect of "what if everybody leaned to the left on the school bus?" It implied that the bus would tip over and everyone would be in a terrible spot. There may have even been a picture of a bus tipping over. Elementary school is pretty hazy for me these days. 

My point? Our lives are arguably simpler than the lives of people in the past because of our technology. But our ability to live quality lives is still being challenged by our technological advances. Life is still hard in its own way. 

Choose to see your barista or cashier as a human. It's a discipline, a muscle that has become weak for me. Choose to see Clinton and Trump and your mother and the lady who bumped into you in Target and Kid Rock and Colbert and Kim and Kanye and your neighbor and the guy who's shouting at you for dinging his car as HUMAN. We are all people with families and opinions and emotions. We all matter. 

Be nice. Hear people. Hope that they hear you, but remember that you can only be responsible for your own decisions.

OH-- one more thing. Last thing. Nice-ness doesn't mean doormat-ness. It doesn't mean you can't have an opinion. It means you know you have one and you assume that any given person you interact with has a different set of experiences and opinions. I truly believe that having different opinions and beliefs and acknowledging them is what makes us American and also gives us the capability to exist together. Agreement isn't what we should be seeking. Nice-ness? Let's shoot for that.