I have nothing new to report.
2019 has been an odd year so far. I can't, for the life of me, seem to get motivated to create much of anything. Every option seems pointless. Every possible avenue I could go down at this point in my (non) career, I feel like I know where it leads. I've been to all those dead ends before. And I'm tired of the brick walls.
After getting unceremoniously swatted down last year after attempting to write a pair of intensely personal projects, I've been pretty much in creative shambles.
What's worse, I can't even summon the energy to create some sort of bullshit realization about myself to sell to people, which is what I usually do in leaner, more embarrassingly empty times. You know, if I'm not doing The Work at least I can say I'm doing Work On Myself so everyone feels better about my failure to succeed.
The truth is, I haven't pushed any projects forward this year and I haven't learned a goddamn thing about myself. I've just been in blob mode, floating through, trying to avoid forming a shape of any kind because that kind of commitment generates more anxiety than I can handle, because putting myself out there naturally invites criticism and anymore I'm scared of what even the most gentle criticism does to me.
One thing I promised myself I'd do this year is take a class. And I did! Or, at least I tried. I signed up for an introductory acting class and after flying 12 hours from London to get home last Friday, went to bed and woke up and drove down to Hollywood to finally--almost two years after moving to LA--Get It Started.
But! Oh no! I couldn't find parking. Anywhere. I circled and circled and circled and finally had to park half a mile away. By the time I walked into the the acting studio, I was 20 minutes late and wasn't allowed to enter the class. So I would have to try again in a couple months, they said.
I drove home, completely shattered and unsurprised. Of course I couldn't find parking. Of course they wouldn't let me in. What evidence have I ever had in the last 15 years that anyone actually wants me to be in this industry? I was rebuffed and ignored and overlooked by every single gatekeeper in Chicago, what every made me think it would be different in Los Angeles, a place that 's infinitely more complex, competitive and filled with assholes?
I know, it's just a class. Just a fluke. But when it takes you two years to build up the courage to do something and then you try it and literally CAN'T FIND A SPACE TO PARK YOURSELF and get told YOU CAN'T COME IN, you know, it's hard not to let that be submitted as evidence in the case of John Loos vs. Should He Even Try.
It comes after many years of being told thank u next, after getting rejected from 12 festivals in a row for the web series you still feel is the most "you," after never getting a callback for the auditions that are the key to getting into the Cool Chicago Improviser Club, after never getting asked to be in the improv team that's LITERALLY ALL ALUMNI OF YOUR COLLEGE IMPROV TEAM even though at the time you lived in a three-flat with THREE OF THEM and one time even were asked to watch one of their dogs while THE TEAM OF ALL ALUMNI FROM YOUR COLLEGE TEAM rehearsed upstairs. It's being the 15th and last man off of the bench in high school basketball, who never plays and when he does people react like a three-legged dog is on the court. It's being in 5th grade and never getting picked for any of the sports teams, or summer tournament teams, or having any evidence, really, that you're actually good at anything.
When you live inside this giant ski-slope forehead of mine, it's another chapter in a narrative that has been written your entire life. That you're not right, you're the wrong thing, you don't fit, you're too big, you're too butch, too femme, too gay, too untalented, too ambitious, not good enough. Just play football and like it, John. That's what you're made for.
That's why, when I wrote that pair of personal projects last year, the rejection felt like an iron maiden closing in on me. The writings were the most "me" I had ever been, and to be rejected felt like people were saying "you are wrong. You are incorrect. That you try at all is the greatest joke in history."
I get that this thought process is entirely stupid, and is a byproduct of my pernicious depression. I should be able to handle criticism without it totally wigging me out. But I can't. I don't have that skill or that level of emotional intelligence. I understand the absurdity of it all. Believe, that's yet another thing I spend long hours beating myself up over. But understanding it doesn't make it go away. If anything, it just amplifies the narrative of being a giant mistake that I can't seem to shake.
I want to want this. I do. But I just want someone to want me to be in it, too.
On my 5th birthday, I found myself on the floor of our living room, staring up at the popcorn ceiling, completely blown away by the realization that no matter how long I lived, I would never be four again.
"Goodbye four," I said aloud, into the ether.
Four was it. It was the best of youth, the ideal age. And it was over. That was it.
As I got older, I started to develop a very unhealthy relationship with time. I was always aware of exactly how much youth I had left, how much longer I had until I was too old for my toys, how much longer until puberty ripped me away from childhood.
When I was in 5th grade, my friend Joe and I were playing pretend in his room, jumping around the beds like superheros. We had done this many times before. But this time, we quickly got bored. We were getting too old to play pretend. This, in fact, would be our last Pretend.
I was devastated.
I thought back to my life in 4th grade, 3rd grade, kindergarten.
That was it, I thought. The best of youth. And it's gone.
Through middle school and high school, I stood idly by as my classmates matured and got hickies and handjobs on the band bus and eventually started having sex. As a closeted gay kid in a conservative town, I had no interest in the physical. In fact, as a defense mechanism, I decided I was better than everyone else for not giving in to my dirty carnal urges.
In reality, I was pouting. Over losing a childhood I wasn't ready to let go, that I felt I had squandered and not properly enjoyed.
College represented a turn. Out of my hometown, with the knowledge that I would probably come out at some point, for the first time in my life my excitement of what was to come outweighed my devastation over what was no more.
I came out. I had sex. All the colors I hadn't seen before came trickling through my eyes. Suddenly, I only wanted to get older, more grown-up. I never wanted to look back.
A few weeks after I graduated college, I moved to Rancho Cucamonga for an online relationship and became a house-husband in the suburbs. Now, instead of being far behind my friends' growth curve, I was far ahead.
This is it, I thought. This right now.
I got a grown-up job. And I commuted. And commuted. And realized maybe this wasn't it.
I enrolled in improv classes and found a space to play again, to be four again. I became obsessed.
All the famous people on the wall were calling me to join them. Tina Fey. Seth Meyers. Andy Dick. Andy Richter. Rachel Dratch. I was headed to the magical golden place they were; I just had a later flight.
I studiously IMDBed every famous person who had ever done improv at the iO or Second City or Groundlings and started doing math. So-and-so got onto Saturday Night Live when they were 28. 32. 23. 34. If they weren't on SNL, I noted when their big breaks were.
I did more math. It would be a year before I finished this program. I would need a few years to become a Thing in the improv community.
Eventually, I decided I would be easy on myself and give myself till I was 30 to make it on Saturday Night Live. That was more than enough time.
30 was it. 30 would be it.
My improv classes and my relationship came to an end after a year and change. I failed thrice to get on a Harold team. I was single and gay for the first time in my life. So, I decided to move to Chicago to be in the Mecca of improv and sketch. I quickly realized this would require taking another year of classes, which would eat into my cushion of making it on Saturday Night Live before 30. That didn't matter, though.
Chicago was it. Chicago was where it was at.
I did another round of improv classes and a year of writing classes. Again I did not make a Harold team. I began performing with independent teams and bars and even shittier bars. I got cast in GayCo Productions, the premiere gay sketch group of the city run by my future husband Andy. I got cast in Skinprov, the almost-naked improv show at The Annoyance. I found new outlets to perform at, friends to collaborate with, new ways to create my comedy.
At the same time, I learned the most common route people took to make it to SNL.
1) Understudy a Second City touring company
2) Get on a touring company
3) Get a resident stage
4) Get invited to an SNL showcase
5) Get invited to New York to audition for Lorne Michaels.
That would be it. That would be the way.
I began to expect things. A cardinal sin. Time passed. I did more shows. I made more comedy. For some reason, I still couldn't even get close to Step #1. I got frustrated. Angry. Petulant. Impatient. Shitty bar improv began to feel beneath me. I should be advancing faster than this, goddamnit.
Step 1 will be it. Just focus on Step 1.
More time passed. I got cast to perform on a cruise ship.
This would be it. The stepping stone to Step 1. The Step 0.5.
I performed on a ship for four months. And then another ship for another four months. And then nothing. Nothing even close to Step 1 happened for me.
I had to find an alternate route to SNL. Maybe try the iO again? Or through the Annoyance?
30 was barreling down the road toward me. Time was running out. But still, 30 would be it.
30 was it.
30 came and went. Nothing. 30 wasn't it. I was no closer to my completely vague idea of superstardom than I had been at 25.
I continued to perform, frustrated and angry. Shows became chores. I became bitchy during rehearsals. I began to hate the fact I was still doing the same things, that I hadn't advanced. I was an entitled asshole who thought he was an insulted prince.
Yet, I still created, because I didn't know how not to. I created plays, musicals, sketch shows, web series, and I started to create them from places of spite, bitterness or profound sadness. Because in my first 5 years in Chicago, none of the gatekeepers seemed to care about me or notice me.
Chicago wasn't it.
Comedy wasn't fun anymore. Comedy was a chore, an annoying means to an end I should've attained long ago, but I hadn't because I was stupid and untalented and lazy and not the right kind of gay. I was in 5th grade again, still playing pretend, getting bored and realizing I was too old for this shit.
Time went on. I developed a new tactic: extreme abundance. I began creating comedy in CostCo sizes, constantly, with no breaks. I wanted to show everyone how much of a machine I was, and make those who had not noticed me feel stupid for overlooking such a clearly profound genius.
I even created my own solo play about never getting invited to an SNL showcase, right during SNL showcase season. No producers came, of course. No one noticed. It ended with me screaming at the top of my lungs for Lorne Michaels to notice me and then getting killed by a police sniper. It was a good show, actually. But I was not in a good place.
This isn't it, I thought. This isn't how it was supposed to be.
Two years later, I finally moved back to LA with my husband. LA is a big, insanely busy, completely empty and lonely metropolis. I adore it. I wanted to break free of confines of Chicago, let go of my anger and pain, reclaim my narrative and find a new, viable path to wherever it was I was supposed to be.
This will be it, I told myself, over and over.
We arrived in LA and I promptly fell deep into the sofa. Partially because I fucking needed it. I was exhausted from 11 years of the Chicago grind. Still, a new type of depression pulled me into the cushions and held me there. I stopped performing for the most part. I wrote some things. And rested. And got more depressed. And mad at myself for not being what I thought I should be. I said mean things to myself when no one was around. Horrible things. I was worthless. I was nothing. I was a failure.
Then I started shitting blood.
This is it, hypochondriac John thought. This is butt cancer. This is the end.
I got medicated and I got a colonoscopy. Everything was fine. Except my comedy career. I had nothing going. No gas. No direction. No path.
Then we bought a house. A weird, old house that I desperately love. And we moved in. And it's amazing and surreal and great. And two days later I turned 36. And the night before, as my husband travelled, I sat alone in our new, weird, lovely old house and was dumbfounded by the wonderful progress we had made that I hadn't noticed because I was busy being a sad asshole perpetually focused on the next thing. And I began to think of what had to be left behind to get us to this benchmark. And I started to cry, the first time in I don't know how long.
Once again, I was completely blown away by the realization a beautiful, transformative phase of my life was over. Forever.
The rehearsals in freezing classrooms. The boozy nights at the old Annoyance in Uptown that seemed to last forever. Staying out at the Green Mill until 4am. Having post-show beers in a post-show glow in the windows of Old Town Ale House on a sticky August night. Doing improv warm-ups by the dumpster behind The Playground and having to move whenever a bus drove through. Taking a shitty temp job so I could afford new show shoes. Getting my lanyard at that big annual SketchFest meeting. Riding on the high of a standing O for a week. Getting depressed when no one came to the show I spent a month preparing. Shopping for blazers at Village Discount Outlet. Working on a tight 5. Getting nervous around a Big Deal improviser. Getting asked to sit in on a show starring that Big Deal. Constantly making new friends, creating together, trying together, flying together, crashing together, burning together, yearning together, flicking it all off together. Being an annoyed duchess on stage over and over and over. Putting on drag makeup poorly. Buying wigs and jewelry at Beatnix, 70s blouses at Ragstock, martinis at Mini-bar, catching the train to catch another train to get to another show. Being there and being part of it and breathing that electric air when the night is alive with comedy and adventure.
That was it, I thought. Goddamnit that was it.
Recently I was on a gig with a few colleagues and our the shuttle that picked us up from the airport was delayed. It was about 1:30pm, and the place we were headed closed for lunch at 2pm. It's lunches were notoriously AH-MAY-ZEENG and we were all starved AF, and with each passing second our stress ballooned as the window to make it to the epic smorgasbord shrank.
One friend was 100% sure we would make it in time, we just had to put positive thoughts into the universe. The second was pretty sure we were fucked, certain to roll up at 2:01pm. The third friend swung back and forth between wild confidence and despondency.
The optimist asked me what I felt would happen. Would we make it?
I answered in the most John Loos-ian way possible: "I think everyone will make it except me."
This is generally how I feel most things will go. It will work out for others, but never me.
The shuttle finally took off and we reached the lunch spot with barely a minute to spare. This place was part of a gorgeous corporate complex, so as we stepped off the shuttle, a person greeted us with badges that gave us access to the dining area. Everyone grabbed their badge and walked briskly to their lunch feast, elated that it had worked out.
"I'm so sorry, I don't have a badge for a Mr. John Loos. You'll have to go to the front desk and check with them."
It turns out I was FUCKING RIGHT, BISH. Everyone made it in time EXCEPT. ME.
The story ends happily, don't worry. My friends told the staff I was on my way, and was able to slide in before the dining room door closed.
But! How fucking powerful were my manifesting skills? I'm a witch! #JohnLoozaBalk!
I mean, okay, I probably don't have that kind of sway over the universe, but even if it the badge thing was just coincidence, lately I've become more aware of what I say out loud, especially what I say out loud to myself.
Late last year and early into this year, I developed a particularly bad habit of saying not nice things to myself when I was alone. I won't repeat them, but the sentiments I was expressing basically boiled down to "I deserve bad things because I am a bad person." Healthy, right?
Then, oh wouldn't you know! I started shitting blood.
(cue "Brand New Day" from The Wiz)
So of course I took my Shining Elevator ass to the doctor and ended up getting a colonoscopy and endoscopy. All they found was some tissue irritation, no polyps or growths or evidence of anything else. And I got some super sexy suppositories and some other meds and I also stopped saying those bad things out loud (because no one, not even me, deserves to drink a gallon of colyte. Okay, well, Brett Kavanaugh does. Fuck that guy. He can drink two gallons.)
Three months later, I don't shit blood anymore and everything's back to normal and my butthole looks GREAT AND SEXY so if you're a hot guy reading this, I promise you everything back there is SUPER FANTASTIC, 10/10 WOULD RECOMMEND.
Again, I don't know if there was any correlation between what I was vocalizing and what happened to my body, but I'm not taking any chances and actively working on being kinder to myself. Which, honestly, is so very hard because I have so much intrinsic shame around certain things and also I'm from the Midwest, where being nice to oneself is considered decadent. But, I'm working on it.
I'm especially trying to be kinder with myself in my comedy. I've long had the same mentality in my comedy career that I had on that shuttle.
Everyone is going to make it but me.
And so far, surprise surprise, that's mostly been true! Turns out if you say you can't do something enough times, people will start to believe you! If you're convinced you're invisible, people will struggle to see you! If you say you will fail, you probably will fail!
So I'm trying my best to vocalize positive things. It sounds hokey AF but whatever. I'm trying to say the things I want out loud, and not be ashamed of them. I want to win an Oscar for playing a sad old woman who makes Christmas dolls in her basement! There! I admit it!
I've even created a dumb little diddy I sing to myself about how I'm going to get a TV deal one day. (Notice I can't even type a sentence about it without diminishing it by calling it dumb, this is 35 years of brutal self-loathing I'm trying to unlearn WHICH IS HARD AND I'M TRYING).
It's hard, being nice to myself. And it's hard to get myself to a place where I truly believe good things are on the horizon, especially in this FUCKING NIGHTMARE HELL WORLD WE LIVE IN and it's CONSTANT BOMBARDMENT OF HELL NEWS.
But, I'm trying.
Say it with me now:
We're all going to make it.
We're all going to be okay.
I have a place here.
I'm going to get a TV deal.
I will meet June Squibb.
We're all going to make it.
We're all going to make it.
We're all going to make it.
It happened so fast. In the span of a few short weeks, the husboo discovered a mass in his scrotum, they did tests, it grew and grew and grew, he got it removed through a semi-intense surgery that went through the abdomen, he got a voluptuous prosthetic in its place, and then finally, after they were able to study the tumor, we got the diagnosis: Stage 1 Cancer.
The cancer diagnosis came paired with the announcement that he was cancer-free (they got it all!) which was really a mindfuck.
But it was cancer.
But he's FINE!
But there may be a round of chemo in the future!
But maybe not!
There's going to be an Aretha tribute at the VMAs!
But it's going to be Madonna in culturally appropriative clothing.
He'll be back to normal in a few weeks!
But might need to get lymph nodes removed.
But he's 100% okay!
But Madonna will only talk about herself during tribtue.
But there's no more cancer!
But it was still cancer.
People have been asking me how I'm doing in light of Andy's procedure and diagnosis and the answer is I have no idea how the fuck I'm doing. Numb, maybe? I'm nagging him every day to stop working and relax and heal (which never works, because he never stops).
I'm watching him heal up and get more back to normal every day, which is great, but I can't make it go faster. I can't make his new ball not feel weird and alien. I can't assure him it absolutely will never come back, even though it almost certainly will never come back. I can't absorb the sense of loss and grief that fills him in quieter moments. I can't go back and make the cancer mine, which I want to do, because he is the most pathologically healthy person I know and deserves none of this and I'm giant lazy video-gaming Diet Dr. Pepper-chugging garbage who would be a much more logical host for some ol' fashioned nutsack cancer.
I can't really do anything, which is infuriating. And since I can't do anything, I've mostly not felt anything. Which might explain the giant stress-based cold sore that invaded my face a few days ago and my random urges to scream into the void/pillows/shower heads.
I want to give him back what he lost, fill the emotional divot he's had to endure, but I can't. It really fucking sucks.
I don't know how I feel. I don't know how TO feel whatever it is gurgling beneath the surface. It's simultaneously a time when any emotion is acceptable but every emotion seems pointless, because he's fine. He's okay. It's over.
Andy is the greatest, kindest, most selfless, most health-obsessed, insanely hardworking and creatively stunning person I know and it just doesn't compute in my tiny brain that someone who creates so much light in the world would have to deal with this stupid darkness. It should be me. Or, like, someone heinous and unfuckable like Stephen Miller or Paul Manafort.
I mean, jesus, give Manafort all the nut cancer and then he can buy $30,000 ostrich eggs for nuts.
Anyway, I suppose there isn't anything else to say except GET YOUR BALLS CHECKED, GENTLEMEN!
[Extremely RuPaul voice] FONDLE THEM......FOR YOUR LIFE!!
I spent my 35th birthday last November waiting in line at the DMV and then getting a tire fixed. The two errands took most of the day. I was bummed, but now I realize it was setting the tone for the year to come.
2018 is a rebuilding year. And I'm glad, because gurl was in need of some renovations. Shit was leaking, pipes were bursting, mold was everywhere, floorboards were breaking, all from years of self-neglect.
Since leaving Chicago, my depression and anxiety has flared. Until recently, every moment was a combination of being convinced I'm the worst human on the planet and every bad thing that happens to anyone is completely my fault, and feeling like I'm watching life happen from the back of a very long tunnel because being present in the moment is just too horrific of prospect, so I'm constantly in a state of retreat.
By the way, I've suffered from varying levels of depression and anxiety for the better part of a decade (COMPLETELY UNRELATED: June will be the 10-year anniversary of my dad's suicide). Mostly, I've pushed through this fear and heaviness and sadness and hid it deep down like a good Midwestern Dutch/German male. I'm fine! Everything's fine! I think corn is a vegetable! I love Chevys!
But the cracks in the foundation were beginning to show. And I was tired. So tired. Anyone who knows me knows I can lift very heavy weights but this was too much, even for a Judith Light Sasquatch. Socializing was becoming a quiet nightmare, my fatigue was overwhelming, and doing anything creative felt like an enormous waste of time. The only thing I wanted to do was melt into my couch and become upholstery.
Moving to LA didn't cure me of my ailments, it ripped off the clever band-aids I had applied and has forced me to really look at the wounds and see how serious they really were. LA will do that to you, especially after living in Chicago, as you can no longer stuff your life so full of improv and sketch shows that you don't have time to notice how unhappy you are. I'm so fucking glad I'm in LA, as exposing as it feels.
I had to change something. And I'm a few sold pilots away from getting a much-needed forehead-reduction surgery, so I chose therapy.
About a month ago I went back to therapy for the first time in about 4 years. And soon I will start group therapy (or group play, as I am referring to it). And I'm now in the very exclusive Wellbutrin club (my new drag name is Auntie Dee Press-On) and had a reset of my anxiety meds. It's only been a week and a half or so since my meds changed, but already I feel steadier. I don't know if meds are a long-term solution, but for the moment I'm writing more. I'm listening more. I'm panicking less. I no longer want to be upholstery.
I need to do some healing if I want any chance of succeeding in LA. And there's no shame in admitting it.
Mental wellness is such a strange thing. Anytime someone else takes steps to improve their mental health, I'm like Yes! Do it! You go, girl! You are great! Self care! Get it, binch! But admitting to my own mental wellness needs is like solving a Rubik's cube of excuses and only sends me into further shame spirals.
I write this not because I've "figured something out" or that I'm all better and everything is dove farts and rainbow queefs. It's just to say I was falling and I'm not falling anymore. And that depression and anxiety are not abnormal, not wrong, not a sign of weakness, etc.
Actually, I guess I have learned something: to forgive myself for taking a break. And that rebuilding is just as important as building. And I'll never hold success in my hands if I don't let go of past failures and slights. You know, all that boilerplate self-help stuff.
I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and gosh darnit, one day I think I'll like me.