You Can't Always Turn Me "On"
Alright, that may be a clickbait title. I'm not going to be talking about sex here. Sorry. Ask me "anyway, how is your sex life" in the Tommy Wiseau voice next time you see me and maybe I'll divulge some details. But I probably won't. Unless you nail the accent. But I still probably won't (how long are you going to drag this out, Chris?)
Okay, okay. Today's blog post is about being "on".
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a 32-page pilot in one day. One. Fucking. Day. I hadn't written anything into my screenwriting program in almost a year, then I projectile typed a seamlessly structured, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, honest, vulnerable pilot about my personal struggles with getting diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I revisited my suicidal day and explored "what ifs". It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. When I typed "FADE TO BLACK", I cried, as I always do when I finish a screenplay.
It occurred to me that it was the first time in forever that I felt "on" while writing a script. What does that mean? Well, being "on" is hard to describe, hence all of the avoidance you're reading in the very moment (holy fuck Chris, get to the god damn point.) Every week I've been writing this here blog. It's been remarkable for my mental health. It's given me a place to be funny, vulnerable, and, most importantly, exercise my writing muscle. As I mentioned before, I was going through the longest writing dry spell before I started this thing.
Now that people have reached out to me, saying that something I've written here has helped them, made them laugh, cry, what have you, I've begun to have a sense of obligation to keep it going. Yes, I love writing and I love having this outlet. It is for me. But knowing I have a readership of people who enjoy and are feeling seen by it is what keeps me going.
Therein lies the mandatory, weekly tour of being "on". At least once a week, I need to put myself into a headspace where I can get all of this on the page. When I wrote the screenplay in one day, I was "on." I didn't have to think about it, it just happened - a spark, if you will. I could have very well done something else that day. I could have went to the movies. But, in a fortunate twist of fate, I was inspired to write something while sitting at my computer. The second I wrote "FADE IN", I was "on." And was I ever.
When I sit down to write these blog posts, I'm not always "on". I have to journal, pace, drink a shitload of coffee, procrastinate, masturbate, go for a walk, get pissed at myself, have panic attacks in CVS, whatever. Sometimes it pours out of me, but a lot of the time, it's a struggle.
I think a lot of it has to do with being by myself. Also, it's not time sensitive. Yes, I want to be consistent - my Mondays are dedicated to sleeping in and spending the afternoon writing in my chair by the window. But no one is making me do it. And so, it's sometimes difficult to turn myself "on".
I teach two acting classes a week. I love coaching actors. I fucking love it. I get to be a director, and seeing progress in the actors I work with is one of my greatest joys in life. From 12-3:30pm on Tuesdays and Fridays, I have no choice but to be "on". There's absolutely no way around it - people are paying me for a service, and part of that service is to have my absolute, undivided attention on them for ever minute of every session. No matter what is going on with me, my mental health, my personal life, my sports teams, I have to leave it all at the door. I have to be "on" for them.
When I book an acting gig, I have to show up to set and be "on". When the camera starts rolling and it's my line, there are hundreds of people and thousands of dollars hanging in the balance. I have to be "on". That is non-negotiable. If I'm not "on" in that situation, I am fucked.
When I bartend… actually, fuck that. I'm rarely ever "on". And now that I can wear a mask at work, I can mouth "fuck your mother" to anyone who stiffs me and it looks like I'm smiling. So, let's chuck that one out the window. However, when I manage a bar, and I have to tell people what to do for nine or ten straight hours, I have to be "on". I need to speak in a firm but respectful demeanor. I have to manage egos. That requires being "on."
When I host dinner parties and make a beautiful sauce for my friends, I have to be "on", both socially and in concentrating on not burning down my fucking kitchen. Also, timing the pasta and the chicken cutlets and the air fryer garlic bread to be done at the same time? Fuggetaboutit.
So, where am I going with all of this? Well, I'll tell ya (you could have just told them, Chris.)
After spending hours and hours essentially performing for people, a crash will inevitably ensue. When I teach, work, and act my ass off, I can barely speak afterwards. That "on" energy completely drains me. It's why I play video games. It's why I watch sports and television. Hell, paying attention to the plot of a movie requires some form "on" energy.
Funneling my "on" energy into all of those pockets I just mentioned means it's going to fall short in other areas. For me, it's socially and at home. Sometimes I can be "moody". It's a tricky balance, being a gregarious, buying a round of beers at the bar kid of dude. Because when I'm not feeling "on", people can sometimes take it the wrong way. It's hard for me to communicate that, because I like being nice and fun. So I push myself to turn "on". At home, I have a healthy enough relationship with my partner to communicate when I absolutely cannot be spoken to for a period of time. It sounds a little fucked up, but believe me, it's healthy.
I don't remember where heard this metaphor, so I cannot cite or take credit for it, but imagine a person only having a certain amount of "energy coins" in a jar per day, or week. Teaching a class drains a bunch of those coins. Being in a social situation drains coins. Writing a weekly blog post drains coins. Working a fuckfest wedding and dealing with girls passing out on the table and puking on the dance floor drains a shitload of coins.
I sometimes run out of energy coins. And I sometimes have no coins left to spare when I need them. Sometimes the fun guy needs a break from being fun, and sometimes that lets people down.
Sad clowns exist for a reason.
(Okay, wow, that's a bleak ending. Say something cute and send em off happy, for fuck's sake.)
Sorry, I just used my last coins.
If you are struggling with your mental health, there is no shame in getting help:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 160 crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 1-800-273-8255. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.