Hello &

Hello &

Wentworth Earl Miller III

Wentworth Earl Miller III



Sunday, July 15, 2018

On Boundaries 2.0


Q: then there's the conundrum when someone's Truth spoken out loud crosses the boundaries of someone else. And how important is the realisticness (is that a word?) of boundaries? Can I expect someone to respect my boundaries if they are unreasonable?

A: Thank you for creating this opportunity for a quick follow-up.

What's "unreasonable?" Your boundaries? Or the person who's not respecting them? I don't know the specifics of your situation (obviously), so I'm going to leave that alone.

As far as what's meant to happen at the intersection of Speaking My Truth and other people’s boundaries... THAT I've given some thought. Particularly re: language/labels.

Here's my thinking:

I don't like the word "mutt." For example. (I'm not getting into why. Let's just say I don't like it.) I don't use that word in reference to myself or anyone else. Mixed race or not.

However, if you're mixed race and you like the word "mutt," if that's how you choose to refer to yourself, if you find it nourishing/positive/empowering, that is 100% your business.

It's not my place to say, "Don't use that word when referring to yourself." (That might be my opinion, but I'll keep it to myself.) I don't know what's true for you. I don't know your history. I don't know what you saw/heard/experienced that made you want to claim the word "mutt."

And if I don't know what IS true for you, it's not my place to tell you what SHOULD be.

However, it IS my place to say, "Don't use that word when referring to me."

The moment you Speak Your Truth about me - to me - the moment you attempt to Speak Into Me (which I have the right to refuse), if you want to show me/my boundaries respect, you'll do so with thought/care/consideration (TCC). If you do not wish to do that work, I'll know that respect is not part of our dynamic. (Helpful to know.)

As a general rule, the moment I Speak My Truth and it's not about me, when I am attempting to Speak Into Others, I need to do so with as much TCC as possible. And consider whether it's appropriate/necessary to speak at all. I try not to go around assuming other people exist to be spoken into by me, regardless of that amazing insight I have (or think I have) about who they are and why they do That Thing They Do.

Some of this, I think, for me, is about continuing to work with - and stick to - "I" statements. "What I need right now is space," I might say, instead of "Why are you so f-cking clingy?" This way I'm Speaking My Truth, getting my needs met, and leaving the other person out of it. This is respectful. If they ask me my opinion - "Why do you think I'm so f-cking clingy?" - then I get to rip them a new one. (Kidding.)

Historically, my favorite comments on this page (some of them) are made by people who've Prayed On It, carefully consulted their Religious/Spiritual Text Of Choice, and are happy to inform me they can be cool with my queerness. That I may - fingers crossed - not be going to hell after all. (Kidding. Those people can FO.)

Historically, my favorite comments on this page (some of them) are made by people with a few things in common. They understand, consciously or unconsciously, that when I post - whatever I post - it is not an invitation to Speak Into Me about me. These people recognize that they don't know me. Or what's true for me. They get that we all have different truths. And those truths do not need to line up neatly. Lastly, these people tend to post comments about themselves. "I can relate to what you're saying because..." or "I can't relate to what you're saying because..." or "This reminds me of the time I..." (Again - "I" statements.)

Those are, historically, (some of) my favorite comments.

If I am Speaking My Truth about me, it's more likely I'll know what I'm talking about. (I'm also less likely to offend.) If I am Speaking My Truth about you - to you - that's a whole new ballgame. 
Especially if you believe, as I do, that many of our issues with/about other people reflect - in some way/shape/form - our issues with/about ourselves.

That goes for both the negative and the positive. What I dislike about you, I dislike about me. What I love about you, I love (or would like to love) about me... When we find these qualities in other people (negative and positive), there's a reason they snag - and keep - our attention. That's where our work is (IMO). Or might be. Which means the people who are cool with my queerness are probably working on being cool with their own. (Welcome back.)

Which means it's even more critical that when I Speak Into You - about you - I do so with TCC. That I show respect for both you and your boundaries. Because I am also, potentially (inevitably?), Speaking Into and about myself.

The above is not "the truth." It's my truth. My current truth. From which I give myself room and permission to evolve away at any time.

A very special Thank You
 dear Went.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On Boundaries!


Once upon a time I had a car I took into the shop for repairs. A few hours later, the mechanic emerged from wherever mechanics mechanic and said it was ready. Oh - and he took care of the mouse nest too. "Mouse nest?" I said. "Yeah," he said. Then, gesturing, "It was big."

There was a mouse nest. In my engine.

I'd been driving around, oblivious, with mice. In my car. For who knows how long. Tiny stowaways. Along for the ride. Up in my business. Where they had no business being.

Once upon a time I, too, had no respect for boundaries.

Seriously. I don't think I even associated the word "boundary" with me or anything to do with me until my mid-30s. There are reasons for this:

1. Growing up, we didn't talk about "boundaries" or "crossing boundaries." It wasn't a thing.

2. Growing up, my boundaries were crossed on a regular basis. (That was a thing.)

3. Growing up, I crossed other people's boundaries on a regular basis. (Also a thing.) When you understand early Not All Spaces Are Safe, you become vigilant. Hypersensitive. You stay alert to the moods of others. Read the room, sniff the wind. And adjust sails accordingly.

What do I mean when I say I crossed boundaries? I mean I became Enmeshed. With you. I was in the business of making how You Felt and what was True For You how I Felt and what was True For Me. You laughed, I laughed. You were Angry About That Thing, I was too. You were feeling blue, I put on my tap dance shoes. Whether I felt like dancing was something I could think about... later. (Or never.) Pleasing you, mirroring you and anticipating you (if I could), molding myself around you - emotionally, energetically - was the priority.

Call it a survival mechanism.

I'll back up a step. What do I mean "energetically?" I mean a person's energy. Your friend appears to be Fine but you know, intuitively, they're Not Fine. You put a hand on their arm, ask what's wrong. They say "Nothing" then burst into tears. You were reading them. Picking up on their energy. (Some might say you were picking up on micro-expressions. I say, "Quiet now. We're talking about energy.")
I'll back up a step. What do I mean by "boundary?" It depends. There's so many. Your body? The physical space you occupy? Is a boundary. If someone touches you without permission and/or in a way you don't like? They're crossing it. The space immediately around your body? AKA your "personal space?" Also a boundary. Your co-worker who talks too close? Like, "I can smell what you had for lunch" close? She's crossing it. She needs to step back. Literally. When you get behind the wheel and your personal space expands to fit the size and shape of your car, so if someone cuts you off it feels F-cking Personal? Feels like they're crossing a boundary. Your nosy neighbor asking nosy questions? Attempting to cross another kind of boundary. He, too, needs to step back. Figuratively. That relative in a funky mood who makes you feel funky too? Another boundary crossed. Their funk was contagious. And you caught it. Like a cold. And so on. I'm sure there are other kinds of boundaries. This is not meant to be a definitive list.

Anyway. A school of thought I'm currently exploring offers a physical exercise that helps define/visualize boundaries.* First, stand up. Imagine a bubble around you. As far out to either side of you, in front of you, behind you, and above/below you as you can reach with arms extended. That's it. That's you. Those are your boundaries. Where you begin/end.

Emotionally, energetically, no one belongs in there but you. You do not belong anywhere else.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time anywhere else. Anywhere but within my own boundaries. Why? Like I said, boundaries were being crossed. It didn't feel safe in my space. So I'd leave. Mentally check out. Emotionally absent myself. Come back when sh-t had settled. Then clean up the mess. It was like going to the movies and returning home to find your house has been burglarized. Also, like I said, I was busy checking in with you. Crossing your boundaries. And his. And hers. And theirs. To see how you/he/she/they were feeling. To make sure I was safe.

To this day, I have to work at respecting boundaries. If I don't, here's what that can look like: We go out to dinner. You tell me about That Horrible Thing That Happened. I'm listening. Empathizing. Charting your feelings. Suddenly it is as if I am (emotionally, energetically) on the other side of the table. With you. I'm not paying attention to how I'm feeling. Only to how you're feeling. How you're feeling IS how I'm feeling (or so it feels). I can't be There For You because I am With You. Which means I am not With Me. I may not return to me for hours.

This is unhealthy. For both of us.

Now that I am Enmeshed With You, if you take a hard right and go to an extreme place, it's possible I will be dragged along with you. This is not necessary. Or helpful. I cannot be of service to you if I am Enmeshed With You. What you need (IMO), while telling me about That Horrible Thing That Happened, is for me to hold a warm, listening, somewhat neutral space. I am better able to figure out what supporting you looks like if I remain (emotionally, energetically) on my side of the table. So if you take a hard right I'll be holding space for your anger, not competing with my own. Drying your tears, not sobbing to the point where you're now consoling me.

Someone I know does this constantly, and I've almost given up sharing tender subjects. The second I get into it they are Enmeshed With Me. I'm like, "It was April..." and their eyes get big. "A Wednesday? I think?" Their lip starts to quiver. I'm like, "OMG. Forget it." I love this person, but I wouldn't turn to them in a crisis. I don't trust them to hold a helpful space.

It's not easy. This boundary business. (For me.) But I've picked up a few tips/tricks. I practice doing things, intentionally, other people do unintentionally when boundaries are crossed. Or in danger of being crossed. Real, tangible things that help me deal with the intangible. (Some might say imaginary. I say, "Hush while I smudge this space.")

Have you ever sat opposite someone who is Not Comfortable with what's being discussed and leans back? Crosses their arms? Their legs? Turns away from you? We call this body language "defensive." This is accurate (IMO). That person is getting defensive about their boundaries.

I do those things too. On purpose. When I feel I'm in danger of crossing your boundaries or allowing you to cross mine. I'll push back from the table, put some distance between us. Fold my arms. Literally hold myself in (and you out). I might put a hand over my throat, the other over my heart, whichever needs containing and/or protecting. I'll cross my legs - ankle over knee - maximizing/outlining my space, my boundaries. If there is someone sitting beside me, I'll make sure maximizing my space doesn't mean minimizing theirs (see: "manspreading").

"I get lost... in your eyes." That's not just a lyric. I'll break eye contact. Notice my fork. Adjust my shirt cuff. Look you in the eyes only when and for however long it feels comfortable. Then look away again. I will ask myself (silently), "Am I still here? With me?" If the answer is "No," I imagine a vacuum at my center, drawing everything (me) inward. This visualization can be accompanied by a surprisingly real sensation of something (me) returning. If the answer is "Yes," I resume, and maintain, appropriate eye contact. I do not owe anyone long meaningful stares, no matter what they're saying. Stares are unnatural. It's what beginning actors do. Or people about to f-ck. Or fight. IRL we break eye contact. Frequently. Sometimes we're bored and not great at listening. Sometimes we need to take little breaks to check in with ourselves, see if we're still "present" and inhabiting our own bodies.

When I remember to, I will pause before speaking. If you're upset and talking in a rush, the temptation/invitation is to talk in a similar rush. To match your tone/tempo. This is how two actors might work together to set a scene on fire. Generally speaking, setting things on fire is not something I want to do IRL. It's how lawyers and journalists get people to say That Thing They Didn't Mean To Say. By dictating tone/tempo. (If you've watched someone being grilled on the stand in TV/movies, you've seen this.) If you're upset, the last thing I want to do is let you dictate tone/tempo then say something I Didn't Mean To Say. I want to choose my words carefully. To remain calm. Measured and steady. So I can support you in your distress.

Much of this practice is, admittedly, gestural. Body language. Do gestures work? It's anyone's guess. If I pat myself on the back, does that "work?" How about if I flip you off?

There are other benefits to intentionally disconnecting/separating, coming up for air and checking in with myself, making sure my (emotional, energetic) boundaries are intact.

"You shouldn't care what people think." People love leaving that comment on my page. (They don't mean themselves, of course. Only other people.) I don't think I'm built that way. Turns out I'm not a robot. Or a sociopath. I care what people think. I probably always will. And (it's a "both/and"), now that I'm older, I recognize it's about doing what I think is best regardless.

Back to caring what people think. If I am Speaking My Truth, saying something difficult, and gauging your reaction while saying it, I may - involuntarily - alter what I'm saying. I may lose momentum/nerve. My Truth may change (the tone, even the gist of it) as it leaves my mouth. (See: Sniffing the wind then adjusting sails accordingly.) This is a negative. (Sometimes.)

I spent a year working with a string of house contractors who had no trouble Speaking Their Truth. They looked me in the eye while delivering bad news/unhelpful opinions, heard me sigh, saw me frown, and it did not seem to affect, in the slightest, what they said or how they said it. They were not, apparently, Enmeshed With Me. They were only With Them. Paying attention to how they were feeling. If our positions had been reversed, and I'd been the one watching them react negatively, there's a chance I would have Back-Pedaled. Soft-Pedaled. Lead With A Positive. Saved It For Later. 

I might have tempered, even silenced my truth.

I was talking with a co-star about Speaking Your Truth and he said, "It's easy. You open your mouth and the truth falls out." I remember thinking (not for the first time), "Brother, we are built differently. 
You and I."

Like my contractors, that co-star is a straight male. I do not experience him to be Enmeshed With Me. Is that why? Because he's straight? And male? Is it easier for straight men to Speak Their Truth? To pay attention, exclusively, to how They're Feeling? Have straight men known fewer unsafe spaces? 
Had to work less hard to read the room, sniff the wind? Adjust sails? I'm not sure that's where I want to hang my hat. I've known a great many straight men who had a great deal of trouble Speaking Their Truth. With serious consequences.

I want to speak my truth (or have the option) regardless of how it's received. That's a work-in-progress. For now, when saying something difficult, I find it can be helpful to break eye contact. To remain, as much as possible, With Me until I've said my piece. I can resume eye contact after. If the other person is having a Reaction, I'll deal with it then.

Some people, in this world, could stand to pay more attention to how they're coming off, to how they're received/perceived by others. My work looks like the opposite. I could stand to pay less. Not easy when your training/conditioning (first as a child, then as an actor) is to Always Be Reading Your Audience. (Or when your audience is used to being read.)

Another drawback to only paying attention to how you're feeling: I'm not paying attention to how I'm feeling. That's a problem. Feelings happen whether we're paying attention or not. It's in my interest to be mindful, especially with mental health issues. I spend a significant chunk of time, most days, regulating emotions. Some large. It's like surfing (which I've never done), riding the (endless) waves as they come in. While sitting in traffic. Buying napkins. Grabbing lunch with a friend... How nice! To have lunch with a friend. To focus, exclusively, on how They're Feeling and what's True For Them. To take a break from what's True For Me. La la la. I say goodbye to my friend. Go home, have dinner. Watch baseball. Go to bed. Open my eyes at 2 AM. "What did that f-cker say? Was that supposed to be funny?"

This would happen. Less so recently, as I work to feel feelings in Real Time, while I'm having them. It's a kind of "self-centeredness" I consider a positive. If I am consistently checking in with me, monitoring what's up/going down, it makes for fewer sleepless nights. These days, at lunch with that friend who teases, I might say, "Hold up - that wasn't funny." I might say it 30 minutes after the joke was made but still. With work I can continue to close the gap. So as soon as the teasing occurs, I'm aware I'm reacting negatively, recognize there's something that needs to be addressed, and address it.
BTW, what I'm describing here, this dissociation or suppression or whatever? Where we put uncomfortable/emotionally charged things in a box to look at (much) later? (Or never?) I believe this sort of behavior exists on a spectrum with what we call Being Professional. When we're in the workplace, with its specific expectations re: what is/is not appropriate behavior, many of us will bottle it. Cap it. Rack it/pack it/stack it. I've known more than one operator, smooth and unruffled, who waits until they're home to Take It Out. (On someone. Possibly.) This is a cultural issue (IMO). Not an issue specific to those of us with MHIs.

Back to the mice. In my engine.

What would they say? My mice? If I asked them why they think it's totes appropes to cross my boundaries? To be up in my grill, my business, where they have no business being? My guess is they'd have a perfectly reasonable/logical (to them) justification. In my experience, both mice and people (I include myself in this) excel at rationalizing invasive behavior. IRL and elsewhere.

Thanks to technology, each of us is capable of crossing new boundaries faster, and more easily, than ever before. Social media, in particular, seems designed to invite invasiveness. And excuse it. 

"Follow me!" It's like they left the door half-open. And if I decide to kick it open all the way... *shrugs* They were kind of asking for it. (Right?) Easy to come up with perfectly reasonable/logical (to me) justifications for clicking that link/downloading that file/stalking that page. For burrowing up in someone's engine and making a nest for myself.

Fortunately for them/me, in moments of weakness/temptation, there is an emotion that will come to my aid. A queasy, squirmy, "Oooo I shouldn't be doing this/I'm glad my  ____ isn't alive to see me" feeling that alerts me to the fact I am Up To Some Sh-t. It's called Shame.

If anger arises when people are not respecting our boundaries, Shame lets us know if/when we're not respecting theirs.** Shame (in its healthiest form) is our ally. A friend. It says that thing we're doing? "No. Don't. Stop."

I like thinking of Shame as my alarm system. Critical in healthy, respectful relationships. If I am without Shame, if my alarm system is broken (or I've grown accustomed to ignoring it), if I refuse to do the work of honoring your boundaries or even recognizing you have them, that means you have to. You have to do the work of keeping me and my free-range sh-t in check.

Speaking from experience, free-range people are f-cking exhausting. IRL and elsewhere.

Here's what's True For Me: Boundaries are a serious business. Life and death. Potentially. Especially if you've got MHIs. Emotionally, energetically, I am There For You. But I am not With You. Or Her. (Or him. Or them.) The moment how You Feel and what is True For You eclipses how I Feel and what is True For Me, I am in trouble. No longer With Me. That's no bueno. Left unattended, like a kid whose sitter sneaks out for a smoke, I will get Up To Some Sh-t. And I deserve better. I deserve me. 

To be With Me. Again, that's a "self-centeredness" I endorse. It is (IMO) an essential practice on the road back to positive mental health.

It also counts as self-care. Like we say, "You cannot pour from an empty cup." Minding my boundaries, minding what's True For Me, helps keep me more present and authentic. More in alignment with myself. It helps me keep an eye on my cup so I can make sure it stays full (but not too full). So if you need a refill, I've got it. And when I give it, it's by choice.

The above is not "the truth." It's my truth. My current truth. From which I give myself room and permission to evolve away at any time.

Many thanks dearest Wentworth
for your brilliant  writing on a very
important topic.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Inspiration Equations


I'm staring at my own image, about to scratch out my signature.

"Can you write something inspiring? Please?"

I look up into their eyes, see how honestly, how purely the question's been asked. They'd like me to write something inspiring. Please. (Not the first time I've heard this.) I look back down at my headshot, at my glossy, airbrushed face. And have three distinct thoughts. All at once. I pause. Think.

Write. "Be your own best friend."

First thought: "I mean it." BYOBF. That's all I've got. (What else is there? If you don't have that piece in place, if you aren't your own best friend, what do you have? Not much. IMO.)

Second thought: "I don't even know you." You. The person asking me to write something inspiring. How can I be expected to generate, in the space of 10 seconds (all we've got), something you - you personally - would find personally inspiring? Impossible.

Third thought: "No. Noooo. No no no no no no no." This is not what I intended. This is not how this is supposed to go.

I do not want to be in the business of Inspiring People. And it is a business. (Or can be.) Plenty of folks out there making bank Writing Books. Posting Videos. Influencing.

Things that can get me out of bed in the morning: Hope, anger, anticipation, garage sales, birds chirping (shut up, birds), thoughts of coffee and bacon, a piece of writing that has my attention... 

"Inspiring people?" Not on the list.

"Can you write something inspiring? Please?"

What do people mean when they say that? What would I mean when (if) I said that? "Make me feel like doing something." That's what I'd mean. Or, stripping that down, "Make me feel something." 

Make me feel feelings. (The "right" kind of feelings.) Please.

No. I do not want that responsibility. And it is a responsibility. (Or can be.)

"I inspire people. It's why I get out of bed in the morning."

If someone said that to me IRL, I'd look for the exit. Click "unfollow." I don't know - strikes me funny. Maybe it's the vanity piece ("I am He Who Inspires"). Maybe it's the agenda piece ("Gonna get my fingerprints on you"). Maybe it's the snake-eating-its-tail piece ("Inspiring you inspires me to inspire you who inspires me..."). It's just... no. No.

(And if there IS a part of me that's been or is currently vibrating on that frequency... Okay. I see you. I see you, ego piece. I'm not looking to shame/scold/silence you. But I will continue to uncurl your fingers from my steering wheel.)

I get (or think I get) why someone would ask me to write something inspiring. It's because I'd already written something they found inspiring. Previously.

That touches me. I do not take that lightly.

And (it's a "both/and") that's not why I wrote it. Whatever they found inspiring. I wrote it for me. Because I needed to write it. Because it made me feel feelings. Writing it. Then shared it because I needed to share it. Because I felt like it was worth sharing. Like I am worth sharing. That there is value in being self-expressed. And if one other person found value too... great.

But that's not why I wrote it.

So to be asked now, in the space of 10 seconds (all we've got), to write "something inspiring," you might as well ask me to speak Mandarin. ("Ni hao" and "xiè xie." That's all I've got.)

I've written in this space many (many) times that if you dig what's on offer here, if you find something useful to you... awesome. If you don't, that works too. Leave it at your feet.

That's an ability of mine that I recognize and value - to pick and choose. Generally speaking, I am able to receive information, select which bits work for me, seize those bits, and chuck the rest. Then walk. That is what I would want anyone visiting this page to do with what they find here. (I trust many have done/do exactly that.)

If I AM in the business of Inspiring People, I've only got one client. Me. My work is to inspire myself. To be my own source of inspiration-generation. To not have to outsource, constantly, to someone or something else, the responsibility of making me feel feelings.

Nothing wrong with putting on a piece of music that inspires me to write. Pausing to watch a sunset that inspires in me bittersweet feelings of longing and loss and (healthy) sadness. But what happens when/if I suddenly find myself without my music? Does that mean no writing? If a sunset isn't available to me, can there be no bittersweet feelings?

I don't love this thought. I don't love the thought of being reliant - dependent - in this way.

Here's the good news: The "inspiration" piece? That's in me. Not the sunset. (Obviously.) The sunset? Is a sunset. It's a trigger. A touchstone. It is not, in and of itself, bittersweet. It does not, in and of itself, generate feelings. Of any kind. I did that. I brought that to the equation. All of it. The sunset was doing its thing, minding its business, until I assigned it meaning. A specific value. Which resulted in me feeling the feelings I found inspiring.

More good news: If I did it once I can do it again. That's amazing news actually. Recognizing that I am a meaning-making machine. That I carry this machinery with me. That wherever I go, there I am - assigning meaning. Value. Generating inspiration. Generating feelings.

That's like a superpower.

Anytime I choose, I can take a walk around the block and pick a tree - any tree - and decide it reminds me of a Saturday in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, when I was a kid... Sun shining, me on my bike, looking for trouble, wind in my hair and six quarters in my pocket (enough for a slice and soda), the whole day before me... That's a good memory. It inspires me. It makes me feel feelings while stopped on the sidewalk, looking at this chosen-at-random, dime-a-dozen tree. From now on that tree and me? We got a "thing" goin' on. When I see that tree it will trigger a memory. Of Brooklyn. And I will be moved. But before I took a walk around the block, that tree was just a tree. Nothing particularly inspiring about it. (Not to me anyway.)

That's not "like" a superpower. That IS a superpower.

Here's the cool part: I've had it all along. This superpower. When I was a little one (younger than in the memory of me riding my bike), I found a beautiful (IMO) green doorknob which I decided was a Giant Emerald and also a Magic Talisman and a Charm Against Evil. I invested this (likely worthless) piece of cut glass with a detailed history/personality. That doorknob meant something to me. Looking at it made me feel feelings. When I was little, I could amuse myself for hours at a time with not a whole lot (clearly). I was a lean/mean, meaning-making machine, in the business of generating inspiration whenever/wherever using whatever was available. Making Something out of Nothing. All day long. And into the night.

If I still had that green doorknob (I do not, alas), it might be sitting beside my laptop right now, along with the other odds and ends I've gathered around me, over time, to look at and reflect me back to me. A lot of us have that little corner of the world we think of as our "nest." Some small pocket (forum) lined with carefully-curated items we've decided are meaningful to us. Photos and mementos, tokens and tchotchkes, ashtrays and art... whatever. In this (dedicated) space, among objects that inspire/open us up to love, gratitude, desire, pride, worship etc., we feel feelings. Allow ourselves to feel feelings. We may feel more "grounded" in this space, more like "ourselves." Surrounded by things we love. Reflecting us back to us.

Then we leave that nest and head out into the world, where feeling feelings can be tricky. Get complicated. Even be dangerous. So we armor up and button down. Feel less. Because we're in public. In front of others. At home, sure - we'll cry watching commercials. The tears come easily and it feels good. To feel feelings. At work, we'll cry only when/if something goes horribly wrong. Then feel ashamed after. Worry what our boss and co-workers will think.

Luckily for me, when I cry at work it's called "doing my job."

As an actor, I get to run toward feelings. All the feelings. Feelings other people spend their lives running from. But my ability - my willingness - to do so did not happen overnight. It took years of practice and training to "crack myself open." To get to a point where I could access my feelings, summon them at will to use in my work. To be as I am in my nest, at home (more or less), but in public. In front of others.

As an actor, I'm not just in the business of generating inspiration so I can feel feelings, or approximate feeling feelings. That IS my business. And there are any number of techniques available to me. Which ones I employ and when depends on the role, my mood, the time of day. For some scenes I may look inward, think about a parallel in my real life. "This moment where my character's trying to get something he can't have, it reminds me of the time I... What did that taste like? Sound like?" Etc. I'll root around in my 46 years, come up with a memory that informs the moment, providing emotional depth and specificity. "Realness."

Other times I'll choose to look outward. One of my acting coaches used to say, "Everything you need - every emotion - is available to you at all times. You just have to be open to it." They meant that once we learn how to remove the armor we wear when we're not safe in our nests, on cue, we can access whatever emotion the work requires. If I am "open" enough and "available" enough, I can be driving to an audition in which the scene will demand a complete breakdown, pause at a stoplight, see a homeless man pushing his cart... and get everything I need. I can allow that man to break my heart and put it right into the scene I'm about to play.

There is something inescapably cannibalistic about what I've just described. I am using that man (or my perception of that man, who may not be homeless) to fill my tank, get where I need to go as an actor. And (it's a "both/and") that's the gig. Life inspiring art inspiring life. Etc. I use what's available. Reflect back what I see around me. The stories I tell are lies and what sells the lies is truth. "Michael Scofield" and his circumstances are fictional. My job is to invest him/it with weight/meaning so he/it feels non-fictional. I'll pull that truth from myself or from a homeless man I saw on my way to work. 

Whatever gets the job done.

Another habit I picked up in my training as an actor: The ability to make a nest anywhere. We're a nomadic people. Actors. We go where the work is. It falls to me to create spaces, repeatedly, that touch/move/inspire me. That make me feel safe. Grounded. Like my trailer at work, for example, which might be mine for a few hours only and still smell of its previous occupant. I'll break out the incense, sage it down, erasing foreign odors while inspiring in me feelings of control. Of calm. Saging reminds me of home (where I burn it every morning). Of my time doing men's work. Etc. And so this trailer (that is not mine) becomes "mine."

Then I walk to set. Today I'm playing an unemployed salesman, down-on-his-luck, and the scene takes place in my/his home office. This, too, is a nest (mine and my character's) that needs making. I've never been on this set, spent zero time in this "office" with cardboard walls and no ceiling. Oh - and we're shooting the scene in 20 minutes. (That's the gig.) I go over to my character's desk chair, the one the set designer (whom I've never met) picked out for me. I hate it. It's all wrong for my character. But it's too much trouble to change it (and too late) so I decide my character hates it too. I decide he bought it used at a garage sale on a sweaty Saturday morning for 10 bucks (down from 15!) a week after he was fired. It's got a hard seat that makes him squirm when taking calls (assuming there are calls to take) and his knees bang under the desk drawer when he sits and stands, so he sits and stands carefully.

None of this is in the script. The scene's 2 pages and I've got 10 lines, all of them about paperclips. But now I'm inspired. I have something to play, something to do. Now the space feels more like my own/my character's. Good. Because my 20 minutes are up. "Action!"

My job requires that I be (or work to be) a lean/mean, meaning-making machine. That I move through the/my world creating/finding inspiration where none exists. Or seemed to exist. So I can feel feelings. So there's something to put on camera. So people can watch at home. So they can feel feelings. And the snake eats its tail. That's the gig.

This is a muscle - a skill set - that can be developed (IMO). Or in my case, re-developed, thanks to years in acting class then acting professionally. It's a skill set we were born with (IMO), had in abundance as children, then lost (some of us) as we aged. "Matured."

My inspiration-generation practice is not, of course, limited to trees and trailers. There is something I do - have done - for years. A wheel I set in motion which (now) spins regardless of where I am and what I'm up to. When I look at the clock and see a certain combination of numbers guaranteed to occur 24 times a day, I say 36 words out loud. Those 36 words mean something to me. Like clockwork, they make me feel feelings. And, on days I happen (or "happen") to see that combination multiple times, the feelings I feel are (or feel) multiplied.

None of this is real. What I've decided that combination means? Imaginary. It's something I made up. And (it's a "both/and") the feelings it inspires, in me, are real. With the weight of repetition, this private ritual (if I'm not alone I will say the words silently) has gathered energy and momentum. Regardless of where I am and what I'm up to, that combination on the clock will stop me in my tracks. Press the "pause" button. And bring me back to me.

My inspiration-generation practice is not, of course, fool-proof. There have been stretches when I wouldn't. Couldn't. When my superpower deserted me. When I didn't have the will or energy to inspire myself. Assign meaning. Unless it was negative. (THAT I had the will and energy for.) Depressed, despairing, if someone had put a doorknob in front of me and said, "It's an Emerald!" I would have looked at them like they were out of their f-cking mind...

Unless it was one of my little ones. One of the children I'm lucky enough to have in my life. Yes. If one of them had held up a piece of cut-glass for my inspection, turned it carefully so it caught the light, said, "Look... It's magic," then yes, I'd like to think I would have/could have mustered up some of the old make-believe. Pretended, for a moment, what they held in their hands was not Nothing but Something.

I'm not saying it would have snapped me out of my depression. No. That would be foolish. Wishful thinking. But to borrow a concept from Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning ("If you're going to steal, steal from the best!" my acting coach also used to say), if you said to me, "Wentworth, pick - you or your little one. Who gets to be depressed? Who gets to carry that burden?" I would not have hesitated. The thought of having to make that choice - totally imaginary, not based in any kind of reality - inspires me. Would have inspired me. The thought of having to choose who would or could bear that crippling burden - me or one of my little ones - knowing which choice I would make, instantly and immediately, even before the question was all the way out of your mouth, over and over again... "I will do this, I will bear this, I will continue to do this and bear this so they don't have to..." Yes. That makes me feel feelings. That would have inspired me. To push through another day. To take another step.

Like I said... make-believe. It's an imaginary scenario to which I assigned meaning. But I use what's available. Whenever/wherever. Making Something out of Nothing. All day long and into the night. That's the gig.

The above is not "the truth." It's my truth. My current truth. From which I give myself room and permission to evolve away at any time.

 Thank you Went for sharing
your brilliant thoughts, precious feelings and amazing words!
Love ... love ... love.


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Role(s) Of A Lifetime!

"I could never be an actor."

I hear that on a fairly regular basis.

What I think, when I hear it, is, "You're acting right now. Like you could never be an actor."

We are all of us acting. All the time. IMO.

Like We Know What We're Doing. Like We Don't Want Dessert. Like We Thought That Was Funny. Like We Give A Sh-t. Like We're More Confident Than We Really Are. Like We Don't Kiss On The First Date. Like Everything Is Fine At School. Like Everything Is Okay At Home.

"I could never be an actor."

What I said, when I heard that (the last time), to a man, a father, was, "The next time you're reading your little girl a bedtime story, and you're Doing All The Voices, Really Getting Into It, Really Going To Town, making such a racket your wife walks in all mock-serious, leans in the doorway with her arms crossed, like, 'What is going ON in here?' (maybe she actually says, 'What is going ON in here?') take a mental picture of yourself. That's you. Acting."

For his daughter. Initially. His wife, too, when she walks in. For his loved ones this man will put on a show. Deliver a Performance with a capital "P." And their reaction(s), or lack thereof, will impact his choices. His volume. His tone/timing. He'll modulate himself, contort himself, bend over backwards (perhaps literally) to squeeze out an extra giggle. Coax another "Oooo" and "Ahhh." In this moment, in his daughter's bedroom, for an audience of two, this man, who is not a professional actor, could give the professionals a run for their money.

Is it possible to overstate the impact of our audience? Their influence? On us? The... audited?

"Observation changes the thing being observed," as the saying goes. (There's a scientific principle/theory that applies here too, but that stuff's a little outside my wheelhouse.)

Recently I got to witness, firsthand, my impact as an audience member. My influence. My power. I went to a David Sedaris reading (I'm a fan), sat in a packed theater for an hour plus while he read/performed new material for a future book or books. And laughed 'til I cried. When it was over, someone I knew who'd sat in the balcony, who had a birds-eye view of Mr. Sedaris and the top of his podium (I had a different view), said he took notes the entire time. Revised his material as the night progressed. Based on our reactions. Tweaked and edited. Marked which jokes Worked and which Worked Better. When I heard this I thought, "Wow. We - the audience - just influenced what will and won't be in David Sedaris's next book." I thought, "We are IN the book. You might say." A heady feeling. (As I said, I'm a fan.)

The connection between performer and audience is intimate. It's a relationship. It puts the performer and audience IN relationship. As I well know, having spent the last decade being greeted, daily, by strangers who embrace me like long-lost family. Like I said. Intimate. And I can tell you, "Observation changes the thing being observed." Measurably. At the market, in the frozen food aisle, with someone standing a little close, staring, like they're home watching me on TV, I can feel my body temperature start to rise. At a restaurant, spotted by another diner across the room, who's begun holding their phone in a way that looks like they might be taking my picture, I will sit up straighter. Wipe the corners of my mouth. Check whether I'm spilling soup down the front of my shirt. I alter. Am altered. I am different than I was before.

"Observation changes the thing being observed." Difficult - if not impossible - to say how deep those changes go. How long the effects can last.

In college, I was intimidated when other students would say, "I've always known I wanted to be a (fill in the blank)." Now I find that suspect. TBH. Now I think, when I hear that, "You sure?" I can't help imagining them as newborns in the crib, staring up, eyes wide, trusting, completely at the mercy while one or more huge faces stare down, commenting, observing, messaging, projecting onto them a range of qualities that may or may not apply. "She's so alert... He's always smiling..." Then, later, "She's so good at tumbling... He's so good with blocks..." Then, later, "This one's going to be an athlete... This one's going to be an artist..."

What are the chances, when they finally learned to speak, to string a sentence together, to answer a question like, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" what are the chances those kids said anything resembling the truth? Their truth? What are the chances, instead, they said what they knew would elicit/solicit a specific response from their target audience? ("I wanna be a doctor! Like mommy!") How many of us who have "always known" what we wanted to be/do when we grew up are simply playing a part? Have been? For years? Acting out a role or roles someone else assigned? In Hollywood that's called "casting." (This isn't limited to career choices, of course. As every "black sheep" and "problem child" can attest.)

I watched a documentary once. I don't remember the name. In one of the interviews (this I do remember), a professor or some such was discussing FDR. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 32nd President of the United States. FDR had a physical disability that eventually left him (according to Wikipedia) "permanently paralyzed from the waist down." Yet during his presidency what you will see, if you look at photos from the time (most of them), is FDR sitting, standing, or leaning on a friend or family member. He appeared, at least in public (this was the crucial part), to have no disability. To be the able-bodied Leader Of The Free World. In reality he had to be pushed. Wheeled. Carried.

Google "FDR being carried" and you won't find a ton of (visual) evidence. According to the interviewee, it was a conspiracy. Basically. A national conspiracy to never show the President looking anything other than Presidential. Photographers would literally lower their cameras while he was helped in/out of his car. If someone tried to take a picture, the camera would be knocked from their hands.

Hard to imagine a paparazzi, these days, showing that level of discretion. But the point is FDR's disability was known. To everyone. And hidden. By everyone. Intentionally. This was described as a kind of "theater." A performance. An agreement between FDR and audience to tell/sell, and be told/sold, a narrative all involved understood to be fiction. AKA a "lie."

Watching this interview I thought, "Ah. That's familiar." Because I had my own version. At the time. (I was then in my mid-30s.) It's what I began to think of, and continue to think of, as "straight theater." Here's how straight theater works (for me): I, a gay man in Hollywood, pretend to be Straight. My target audience (agents, casting directors, directors, producers, studio heads, journalists, critics, co-stars, viewers at home) 1. buy it 2. don't buy it 3. pretend to buy it or 4. don't give a sh-t.
Either way, my "straightness" was a fictional tale frequently told/sold. A performance (one I began crafting in elementary school) in which I - based on my audience's reaction(s), or lack thereof - modulated, contorted, and bent over backwards. Made tweaks and edits, constantly, marking what Worked and what Worked Better. To get what I wanted (a career, privileges) and avoid what I didn't (no career, punishment).

And it changed me. My mannerisms. My walk/talk. Everything about me. It also put me in a vulnerable position. Extremely. Vulnerable to my audience, who I needed to buy what I was selling. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn't. Sometimes I lost a job. Sometimes they pretended to buy it when others were around, then made jokes and sly comments that only I could hear. Watched as I silently squirmed, aware there was nothing I could or would do or say in response. Because I needed them to Play Along. To Stick To The Script.

"Observation changes the thing being observed." That's not a passive process. That's active.

It made me afraid. The power my audience had. Over me. Power I'd given them. When you are not Speaking Your Truth, and are dependent on your audience not Speaking Your Truth, you and your audience are conspiring. You are in a relationship. You are getting intimate with people you may not want to. That made me angry. At them. Also myself. Ashamed too. Who had put me in such a vulnerable, such a compromised position? If not me? This went on for years. This performance. Of "straightness." And was, needless to say, f-cking exhausting.

"All better now?"

I was asked that, by a journalist, at the top of a sit-down interview. I'd come out as gay (professionally), shared about my depression (publicly), and this was their first question. Head titled. Smiling. The tone exactly as you're hearing it in your head.

I could have punched them in the face.

I didn't. Obviously. (That would have suggested the answer was "No.")

Post my depression, I find my range of movement, the freedom with which I move through the world, to be vastly improved. In other ways I feel as limited and restricted as I did during the years when I was depressed. Some of that has to do with the lens through which I observe myself. Some of it is the lens through which I am (potentially) observed by others.

"How are you?" people ask. People I love. And care about. People who love and care about me. I look into their eyes, see there is only one answer they want to hear. "Fine," I say. "I'm fine." They nod, relieved. Hard part's over. Now they can steer the conversation in another direction. For the rest of our interaction, I will be playing the role of "Fine." Performing Wellness. Okayness. My target audience will 1. buy it 2. not buy it or 3. pretend to buy it.

Either way, they are grateful for the fiction.

Post my depression, what I now experience, in my day-to-day, with a lot of people (not all, but a lot), people familiar with my mental health history, who with or without intention helped to create the wall of silence behind which Things Happened, for years, people who did jack sh-t to support me as I struggled, sorry - people who did not know HOW to support me (the more generous perspective), is that "Fine" is their favorite role. "Michael Scofield?" No. "Captain Cold?" Pass. What they want is Fine. Fine All The Time. Back-to-back episodes of Fine, please. On Demand. Good news - that's my casting. I've been rehearsing for years.

Fine is Fine. His sh-t? Together! Fine doesn't do mess, muss, or fuss. Fine doesn't experience normal upsets, like you do. No. No setbacks at work, no flakey friends, no bad dreams. No road rage, no anger. No sadness, no guilt. No shame, no fear. Because if Fine DID admit to having normal upsets, like you do, on a daily basis, because Fine is alive on this planet with breath in his body, people might start Jumping To Conclusions. Worry that It's Happening Again. No no. No need to worry. Fine is Better Now. Yes. All Better. Wiser too. And discreet. Ever so discreet. Fine wouldn't dream of insisting we continue to talk about What Happened, of making anyone uncomfortable, of highlighting the fact that some people (still) have no idea What Support Looks Like. More tea? Why thank you.
This is, obviously, deeply unhealthy. Dangerous even. It's one of the reasons I wound up in trouble in the first place. Pressed and polished in public, suicidal in private. Performing Wellness while performing Straightness while performing whatever role Hollywood saw fit to assign. A one-man show and a three-ring circus. Running non-stop. For years. Needless to say - f-cking exhausting. In the end, I reached a point where I couldn't do it anymore.

Post my depression, the challenge I've discovered - one of the challenges - is continuing to Speak My Truth regardless of how it's received. All of it. Working to integrate my past and present - my past INTO my present - instead of burying it. Erasing it. Conspiring with my audience(s) to pretend like it never happened. Which some people (people I love and care about) might prefer. That we keep the cameras lowered, until I can pull it/myself together.

No. I have upsets. Like everyone else. I get to share those things. Like everyone else. I get to give voice to my anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and fear (and joy). Like everyone else. AND I get to talk about my struggles. My depression. The suicidal ideation. The dark years. I get to honor where I've been. Where I was. AND I get to have bad days. Now. Today. I get to be Not Fine. I get to stop acting. Performing. For a minute. Maybe two.

That's hard work. Confrontational (potentially). Triggering (potentially). Not only for me. Me taking a look at my sh-t invites/challenges people around me to look at theirs. They may not want to. Or can't afford to. Because they're performing as well. My audience. Perhaps several roles at once. (This is the compassion piece. And I find it helpful to look for the compassion piece.) It can throw people, scare people, if I don't Stick To The Script.

"How are you?" they ask. "Actually? I'm spending a lot of time regulating my anger," I say. Their eyes widen. "How are YOU?" I say. And they say... Well, they may not know what to say. We're in unchartered territory now. They could end up saying... Who knows? All kinds of things. Things they never dreamed of saying. Like the truth. That they, too, are not "Fine."

Is anyone?

We are all of us acting. All the time. IMO. And it can be alarming/disarming when someone drops their mask, turns to their audience, says, "Hey - this 'Fine' thing... We all know it's a performance, right? Make-believe. It's a role we play." Alarming/disarming because they're not just revealing themselves. Speaking Their Truth. They're revealing us too. Speaking Ours. While we sit frozen in our seats. Watching. The mask still over our faces. Starting to sweat.

The above is not "the truth." It's my truth. My current truth. From which I give myself room and permission to evolve away at any time.

Thank you dear Went!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

On Anger!

There is an Old Saying, first written in Sanskrit, on stone, when the world was younger than it is now, that goes like this: "Scratch a sad man, find an angry one. Scratch an angry man, find a sad one."

It means men need scratching. Preferably back-scratching.

I tease. There is no Old Saying. I made that up. But the concept is true. Or held to be true. It's one I encountered doing my men's work. That Sad Men are secretly angry and Angry Men are secretly sad.
For (some) men, anger and sadness are two of the most difficult (if not impossible) emotions to express. A man uncomfortable with anger will go toward sadness, hiding it beneath tears. A man uncomfortable with sadness will go toward anger, hiding it behind fists. One emotion is the core, the other is the cover.

For a good chunk of my life, I've been a Sad Man.

Correction: A Depressed Man. I used to use those words interchangeably. I don't anymore. These days, I'm becoming Friends With Sadness. These days I look at the world around me, at the leaves on the trees as they turn from green to gold then fall, and sigh, thinking, "The world is full of meaning... Some of it's sad. And that's beautiful. Natural. Necessary."

Depression was thinking, "There is no meaning. Why get out of bed?"

I've spent a good chunk of my life in bed. (That came out weird.) I thought of myself as "sad."

"Depressed." I did not think of myself as angry.

"I'm going to kill you."

That's an angry statement. If someone said that to me I'd know that a) they were angry and b) I'm in trouble.

"I'm going to kill myself."

Still an angry statement? Or no? (Either way, I'm in trouble.)

Back in the day, when I thought or said, "I'm going to kill myself," the subtext was, "I'm sad. I can't go on." The subtext was not, "I'm angry. At me. I'm going to destroy myself." At least I didn't think so. At the time.

Now I think otherwise.

I believe it was Freud who hypothesized that depression is anger turned inward, toward the self. I don't know if that's true for everyone, but I believe, these days, it was/is true for me.

"Scratch a sad man, find an angry one."

I've spent a good chunk of my life F-cking Pissed. At myself. Doing my best to destroy me. In various ways. Most of that's finished (the suicide stuff). Some of it continues (the sugar stuff). But I remain F-cking Pissed.

The difference is, these days, my anger isn't turned inward. At myself. It's directed outward. Which I think is healthy. Healthier. Anger can get me out of bed in the morning. Depression kept me fetal.
But being an Angry Man has its challenges. People (some people) seem to have a problem with it. 

Especially people accustomed to me being a Sad Man. Who might even prefer it.

"Why are you angry?" they ask. "How are you not?" I answer. The world is maddening.

Contradictory. Frequently lethal. Outrages occur daily. It seems to me anger is a natural response to this. But, like sadness, anger is considered Not Okay (in my experience). It's a "bad" emotion. 

"Primitive." Unwelcome in polite company. Anger connotes Violence and Abuse. Hurt People Hurting People. And so on.

I can see why this is so.

But is anger the problem? Or is it the ways in which anger is expressed? Evidence of which we see... everywhere.

When anger bubbles up inside me, it feels uncomfortable but not unnatural. Actually it feels as natural - and unstoppable - as a blush. The question is what to do with it when it's here.

Another concept I encountered in my men's work was Healthy Anger. Anger expressed in healthy ways. Healthy Anger is righteous (not self-righteous). Like a sword it cuts hot. And clean. Directed outward, channeled appropriately, articulated thoughtfully, Healthy Anger is (or can be) one of the most powerful emotional tools available to us.

But what IS anger? Why does it show up in the first place? A school of thought I'm currently exploring suggests anger is the emotion that arises when our boundaries need defending.* It's our friend. An ally. When someone is Up To Some Sh-t and treating us disrespectfully, anger gives us the courage/strength/fire to stand up for ourselves. To say, "No. Stop. Don't."

Interesting to consider our Not Okayness with anger, our cultural (?) fear of anger, in this context. The world (or forces in it) gets Up To Some Sh-t, treats us disrespectfully, at the same time we're told Anger Serves No Purpose. To Calm Down and Take The High Road. Turn The Other Cheek. Forgive and Forget. This works to the world's advantage, doesn't it. That some of us Keep Calm when boundaries are crossed. That we turn our anger inward.

Interesting, also, to look at the stories we're drawn to repeatedly. Especially in movies and TV. The fictional characters we find appealing, worth rooting for. Many are F-cking Pissed. Not Keeping Calm. Not Taking The High Road. At All. I should know. I've played a few. "Michael Scofield" minus anger (Healthy or otherwise) is a man mourning his recently executed brother. That's a little less interesting. A little less watchable. I'm guessing more than one of you, reading this, was initially drawn to this page because you have a taste for characters who neither Forgive nor Forget (see: "living vicariously").

Like most people, I've experienced having my boundaries crossed both intentionally and unintentionally. Like a smaller (?) group of people, I've experienced having my boundaries crossed intentionally and the intention was to harm.

When my boundaries are crossed (intentionally or not), I experience (at least) two upsets. The first is what happened. It's upsetting. What happened. The second upset comes later, when I beat myself up for "allowing" what happened. "Why did I let them say/do that? Why didn't I stand up for myself? Maybe I'm not worth standing up for..." That kind of self-talk (circular, punishing) is, obviously, anger turned inward. And has fed my depression.

Let's do math. Say my boundaries were crossed once a week, every week, since I've been alive on this planet. (Seems low TBH.) That's about 2400 times my boundaries were crossed. 2400 times anger (my friend, my ally) rose up to help me defend myself. 2400 times I squashed and silenced anger because... Oh, a million reasons. Let's just say I Was Raised To Be Polite. AKA conditioned, like many people, to Swallow Some Sh-t. (Or else.)

That's a lot of suppressed anger. Locked down, turned inward. ("I'm going to kill myself.") Stuffed in a box and tucked away. Out of sight.

But boxes leak. Sh-t will out.

In college my nickname was "Stinky." People (some people) think that's cute. It's not. I earned that nickname. I was depressed then. Suicidal. And the things coming out of my mouth weren't cute. They were unkind. Occasionally cruel. Almost always at someone's expense. Usually disguised as "humor." By which I mean sarcasm.

Sarcasm, IMO, is anger coming out sideways. It's a covert way of expressing your truth. (Or "truth.") It's dirty. The opposite of anger that cuts clean. When you're afraid to say what you think - and LBH, the world can be a dangerous place for (some) people to say what they think - you find other ways of getting the message across.

Here's how sarcasm works (for me): I make a joke, at your expense, and it stings because under the surface, I'm telling you what I really think of you. (It's not flattering.) You wince. Gotcha. I say, "Come on!" Cover with "I was kidding!" You're like, "That's not funny." I say, "What's wrong? Can't take a joke?" Gotcha. Again. (I win.) Sarcasm is hostile. Amusing (to me) but it's not going to help create spaces anyone would call "safe."

I'm not much for sarcasm these days, in myself or those closest to me. If I employ it (and I do), it's typically at my expense. If I catch myself making snarky comments about others, I think, "I'm angry. It's coming out sideways. I need to re-direct it. Or I'll hurt someone."

On the subject... Deservedly or not, gay men have a reputation for being sarcastic. We're "famous" for our biting wit. When I was dating online, I read profile after profile in which gay men advertised a sarcastic sense of humor. As if it was a positive. A quality that might appeal. In (what I'm sure is) unrelated news, the suicide rate among gay men remains high.

Anger. Leaking out. And/or turned inward. ("I'm going to kill myself.")

If Healthy Anger is, in fact, one of the most powerful emotional tools available to us, I did not, until my 40s, spend time practicing with it. Which made it dangerous. When it was in my hand. Very. Back in the day, my anger, when unleashed (or escaped), was wild. Unruly. More Atom Bomb than Smart Missile. Obliterating/wounding my target plus everyone and everything in a 10-mile radius. Myself included.

With practice I am honing my skills. Sometimes that can look (intentionally) "primitive."

I've shared, on this page, about working long hours on a stressful set, asking production to set up a boxing dummy in a corner of the soundstage. I bought an aluminum bat for a few dollars and, when the mood struck (heh), Beat The Living Sh-t out of my dummy. It made for an enormously powerful, enormously necessary release. People tittered but I knew I was onto something. More time in the corner meant a clearer head, better communication with co-workers, less sh-tty comments (from me). 

And a better night's rest. True story.

That was back when I was just getting acquainted with my anger. Working, when it arose, to find appropriate channels of expression. At the time, it felt wise(r) to direct my anger away from the person/thing making me angry. Toward a safe, intentional target (like the dummy).

These days, as I continue to practice, I find I'm more able to direct my anger directly toward the person/thing. In the moment. As it's happening. And still keep it "civilized" (relatively).

The last time I F-cking Lost It, I chose to F-cking Lose It. Someone crossed a boundary and I got angry. Allowed myself to get angry. I said things like, "I am angry." Dropped the f-bomb. Spoke forcefully, passionately, while working to protect the target of my anger. I didn't make it personal. I never said "You." Only "I/my."

"I don't feel like I'm being heard."

"I don't think this is working out."

"My wishes are not being respected."

When it was over, I admit, I was proud of myself. I didn't Swallow Some Sh-t. Choke it down to cough up later at 2 in the morning. I expressed myself in a way that felt hot, clean and yes, righteous. And I broke the relationship. That person is no longer in my life. You know what? It was time. I was holding an overly generous, overly patient space. And they took advantage. "Thank you for your gifts (some of them dark). Goodbye."

"I'm going to kill myself." No. Absolutely not.

"I'm going to kill you." That's not necessary either.

But, while the world remains maddening/contradictory/lethal, I'll continue to practice with my anger. Holding space for it. Directing it. I need the tools in my emotional toolbelt. All of them. Everything available to me. So when boundaries are crossed, I'm not merely polite.

Some people, I'm sure, would continue to advocate Keeping Calm. Turning The Other Cheek. No Matter What. I respect that. That's a choice.

I'd be curious to observe those people when their children are threatened. When the world turns its predatory gaze on their little ones. So little they can't even define a "boundary" let alone defend it. When the world clicks its teeth and licks its lips and moves in for the kill, yes, I'd be curious to see how much Keeping Calm and Turning The Other Cheek there is.

If you're one of those people who sees value in having anger at your disposal, but only so you can protect your nearest and dearest, I ask you the same question I (continue to) ask myself: "Are you not among your nearest and dearest? Aren't you, too, worth fighting for? Your boundaries worth defending? Fiercely?"

Like I said, it's a choice. We all get to choose.

I'll be over here. Practicing.

The above is not "the truth." It's my truth. My current truth. From which I give myself room and permission to evolve away at any time.

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