Tag Archives: Anxiety

Summer Camp

I do one 'kids show' a year, and I wish I could do many more, as long as they were as gratifying, as heartwarming, as the Charlotte MDA Summer Camp. Every summer for the past 11 years, I've been invited to entertain the campers and the counselors one evening, and every time I leave, I'm struck by how lucky I am to have been there.

The children and youth that attend have various forms of muscular dystrophy, but their enthusiasm is unmatched in any audience I've had the privilege to work for. Yes, it's your typical summer camp. There are multiple activities and campfires and sing alongs and home sickness and stomach bugs and everything that makes camp a silver memory that many of us treasure for our lifetime. It's so much more than that, though. As you might imagine, working with the individual challenges of each camper is a daunting endeavor, yet it's done with humor, energy, and style. So much grace …

And there's love. Man, the love in that place is so thick you could spread it on toast. The staff and the counselors bring their best for the campers and everyone looks out for everyone else. Maybe I'm gushing a little, but I'm sincere.

The past three years I arrived wrapped up in my own troubles, and they vanish within the first few minutes. I leave invigorated, happy, and hopeful. And moved. Lifted so high, emotionally.

I'm not …. writing about this to brag, or promote my image. I want to impress on you the value of giving of your ability. Taking your talent, your time, your vitality and using it to enrich the lives of those who need it and see so little in their world. It could be anything, any cause, listen to your heart. Believe this: it's been worth any 'sacrifice' I've had to make in order to be there.

The love you need is where you plant it.

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Joy in the Moment

There are days I wake up and feel like Sisyphus.

Do you know who I mean?

Sisyphus was an ancient mythological figure punished for all eternity to roll a boulder up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Albert Camus called him an absurd hero; he struggled perpetually and without any hope of success.

That describes me on some days. Broken promises, lack of perceived ‘progress’, low bank accounts and good old self doubt are my boulder. I struggle daily to push it forward and upward, only to watch it roll back at day’s end. In the reality of my profession, the boulder is mine. I am aided and supported by an amazing set of friends and family, but the responsibility is on my shoulders. Sometimes this burden is crushing.

When times like this occur, I stop and breathe. I count my blessings and I look at my situation from a different attitude. Picture Sisyphus smiling.

The idea is so simple: here is Sisyphus, the wretch, interminably pushing his boulder up the hill, watching it roll down and repeating.  In my mind he was always completely defeated, hopeless.  And then, as I read Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, everything about the picture changed.  Imagining Sisyphus smiling, embracing his situation as his reality, not wanting a different past or a different future, but accepting the present, the scene totally rearranged itself.  He was no longer hopeless, but happy in his acceptance of the situation.

He must, in order to accept the absurdity of the situation, adjust his attitude and fulfill what has been put before him.

On the road to your dreams, there are certain absurd truths you must acknowledge. You must work as hard and as tirelessly as you can. There is no guarantee of success, but the burden and the struggle contain a successful measure of their own. To simply be doing what you love, and to master it, may be enough. Our ultimate fate is all the same, so why be miserable? Live your passion in the task at hand, and find satisfaction in your minor successes and your crushing failures.

Like Sisyphus, some see no other option than the mountain and the rock. Burdened with obligations, lack of control, hopelessness, low expectations and no alternatives, they continue to toil in dead-end jobs and uninspiring environments.

You, however, can see opportunity in obligation, freedom in failure and hope in hopelessness. You are unique, as are your burdens. Keep shouldering on, and be thankful for the journey.

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breathe

it is okay for me to be upset when You leave
it is okay for me to want You to stay
it is okay for me to have a hard time
it is okay for me to be affected by my mental illness
it is okay for me to make mistakes
it is not okay for me to throw a fit
it is not okay for me to get angry at You
it is not okay for me to let myself dwell on my emotions
it is not okay for me to pick a fight because of a temporary feeling
it is not okay to for me to hold onto hurt feelings
i can get through these emotions
i can be patient with myself
i can apologize when i make mistakes
i can explain my actions without placing blame or making excuses
i can let go

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Validation

I believe that my work is important, vital even, to some people.

My fellow entertainers and I bring relief to the machine. Levity to buoy the spirit and return it to flying … or soaring. We inspire, we enlighten, we save lives at our very best. We change them, too.

One of the most difficult things for me to handle is praise. I don’t know how to accept it graciously. I feel gratitude and thankfulness for those that take time to tell me their thoughts on the show and how it moved them, I just don’t know how to respond properly.

A friend recently wrote the following on Facebook about meeting me and getting to know me offstage. (We recently worked together in a play about Jack the Ripper called ‘Whitechapel’)

“I knew of you long before i actually met you… but Whitechapel sealed the deal.
Upon first seeing you, I thought: “He really sold his soul to the devil for magic.” And that’s amazing. And pure. And true. And omg that was amazing.
What do i like most about you? You aren’t afraid to bare your absolute soul to the world. You are an artist in the truest form. There was a day, i think it was the second to last or maybe the last day of Whitechapel, i parked next to you over off of 36th by Rat’s Nest, i got out of my car to wave hi to you in your van. You were listening to music, I’m not sure what song, but you were crying. Sobbing. I knew things were difficult at the time…with life and things, but to see you expose the emotions so fully, so unabashed, so freely brought me peace. Knowing that it’s ok to bare our troubles in such a way, to music even. I will never forget the day you made me love being human.”

I will never forget the day you made me love being human.
On the one hand, how do I express how grateful and happy I am that I was able to give her such a gift? On the other … words and letters like this let me know that I’m on the right road, doing the right thing, and using my gifts well.

Don’t be afraid to live fully. And love who you are.

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The Naked Truth 5/5/16

Atlanta, Georgia.

I had an audience of about 40 people. A little above intoxicated, for the most part. Friends, loved ones, strangers.

The ‘Liar!’ portion of the show went beautifully .. new additions of ‘Rugby’ (a multiple card selection) and ring-linking were quite well received.

As I (kind of) expected, this audience had deeper-seeded issues. Some of the language in the photos below is pretty harsh.

For those new to this: I spoke to them about my own issues of body image and being in the middle of a crowd of people. I asked them to think of their own issues and one word or phrase that causes them shame or sorrow. A label unfairly placed on them that mutes their music or shames their spirit. I asked them to give their pain to me, for a little while. Write down their word or phrase on my skin and leave it behind for as long as they could. I took off my clothes and and let the crowd surround me, writing on my skin. I didn’t run or cower, though my mind was screaming at me to do so.

They wrote, they purged, they wept.
Two souls left me messages: one wrote, “You are love” and the other wrote “You are beautiful”. It humbled and renewed me.
The results are below. Probably NSFW.

Photographs by Megan sky.

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First Act

My first fully public show of 2016 was for the Lili VonSchtupp’s ‘Monday Night Tease show. Five fantastic dancers. one hilarious host and me … and I did card tricks.

That’s what I do, you know? The cards are my canvas.

And then, once again I took off my clothes and asked a big room of strangers to write their burdens on my skin. Way out of my comfort zone, far from home. (Of course, I had a fantastic support team, people that love me and care for me, but still …) If you are unfamiliar with this act of mine, here’s a description of a prior night: Blank Space

The results are powerful. Tears, thank yous … lots of personal stories. My art … my craft genuinely touched people. We bonded and I made some amazing new friends. I want to perform this again and again.

Brian C. Janes photographed the event, and the stories those pictures tell is outstanding. See more of his work at bcjmedia.com

Here is a small gallery of my portion of the show. I hope it speaks to you.
The Naked Truth

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Damage. (Warning: Intense words)

He sat on his parent’s bed, at the foot, so that the splatter would be bigger and cover both sides equally. In his mouth was the barrel of his father’s revolver. Pearl handles, expert engraving … really deadly, beautiful engine. He had taken it from it’s hiding place, loaded it and spent time considering the best delivery angle. He could feel the front site digging into the soft tissue on the ceiling of his mouth. He fully cocked the hammer and applied slow pressure on the trigger.
He was thirteen, and he was just done. Done with the pain, done with the abuse and the indifference of callous ‘loved ones’. Done with life.

And then a voice. Inside his head? In his ear? Doesn’t matter. Just four words:
“You’re stronger than this.”

And he let go. Removed the bullets and put the gun away. Lived. Today, he told me (and a group of servicepersons) all about it.

USO, day two.

Suicide. PTSD, Depression … and Spirituality.

Dark and grim, at times. Cut through with truth, foundations and real world exercises in dealing with anguish and stresses. I opened today with ‘This Strange Engine’ (the same version I did for the TED talk). I spoke on relationships, passion, and following the road. “There are no useless cards.”
And I did card tricks.
My topic proved apt as the day progressed. Difficult topics were explored. Hearts were revealed, some in between sessions. I listened and I shared. I was able to boost morale a bit with an impromptu show during lunch.

I made friends with a remarkable group of people …

In the midst of my darkness, there is love. When I was at my lowest, I was sent rescue. Strong friends and positive voices in my head. Sure, it’s ‘kinda woo’, but I have faith in the power of love.

I realize that today’s post is rambling, so let me just say:

Communicate.
Reach out. REALLY reach out.
Love, even those who seem unlovable.
Believe in the unbelievable power of your gift, the unfailing direction of your road.
Damage can be healed.

Love. Wins.

h

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