Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Itself Gone Down

I can be utterly ruined by fear. Paralysed by it. Fear turns my shit to waterfalls, my skin to ants and my personality to a wrecking ball.

I am not a bitch unless I'm afraid. I'm never snappy and rude when I feel safe. When I don't see many choices I feel afraid - when I feel too late or too far down a path to stop or move, when I feel cornered.

I'm scared of so much. I always have been. I think fear is the single most dominating feeling I recognise from my life. Fear of failing and letting people down feeds deep depression, fear of the future and uncertainty throws anxious vomit into the fan powering my life, fear of breaking the rules made me meek, boring and obedient for so long, fear of not being good enough makes me jealous, bitter and resentful.

Fear must have its upsides - fear must make me a bit nicer sometimes because I am scared of hurting people and having them feel like I do. Fear must make me safer crossing roads. I see the point of fear - fear is what drives a species to seek survival. But what to do with this excess of it now I have a lock on my door and a freshwater tap.

I was a gullible, easily-led child. If someone told me a rule you could safely bet your house I was going to follow that rule. I let fear of negative consequences drive me completely. I succeeded at school because I couldn't break the rules by failing, I went to university because that was the best idea apparently, I got jobs to pay the bills and I got on with being diligent. Diligent is such a great fucking word to describe me. A little autobot whose primary response is to say, "Yes, ok - I believe you."

I was so naturally well-behaved and compliant that I never found out how ok it is when you do behave "wrong". I thought the world would stop if I got detention. A "D" on a test was unimaginable:  it couldn't happen because I literally couldn't imagine the consequences of not getting things right. I got right into my twenties before I found out that the consequence of not complying was just another human having an opinion on what you'd done.

Now I am a comedian. I feel like I shouldn't be though... other comedians seem to be these wild, rebellious characters who were born to be anarchic and fight the system. I feel like comedian-by-numbers... the PA who accidentally found a place in comedy. I don't take drugs (young me was told they are bad), I am not late to things or forgetful (that's rude and I mustn't be rude), I follow the golden laws of the industry. I work hard because you're supposed to.

I am a good girl. I look at the rebels and I simultaneously wish I could be like them and they could be more like me. Every time I saw someone succeed because they changed the rules and forged their own path I was gobsmacked and enthralled and enraged because yet again it didn't occur to me that rules weren't real things.

It's strange how my fears have changed since I broke down. In some ways I'm more fearful than ever before and in other ways the sound has been turned down on the peripheral ones. I'm petrified I've made the wrong choice about not having children - will I regret this forever? Have I ruined my life? Will I ever not think about what ifs? Is anyone going to properly step up and solve the climate breakdown? If they do, will I regret not having children even more? If they don't, what is the future going to look like? What am I living for?

Some of the biggest fears I think I could have. Fears that make my ribs icy. Fears that make me need to rub my neck to check for a guillotine. Fears that make me instinctively move about and want to touch someone's skin for comfort.

In other ways, I'm less fearful completely because I just don't give a fuck any more if I'm doing things "right". All that naive, small world girl belief in some intelligence and organisation from the people in charge has died a snivelling little bit part death. The adults have stopped being gods. The teachers and the kings and the parents have turned into just other people with no better idea of what they're doing than I have.

I'm no longer chasing the exceptional ones at the top of the slide. We've all gone down it and here we are in the pond behind the curtain splashing about making it up as we go along.

There isn't a "right". How exciting and terrifying?

I always had this "drive" for my career that I thought was a drive to get somewhere. My eyes firmly pinned on the horizon for this unknown location. That's where I'm driving to. The point of my career is to get over there. Never mind how smooth the driving is on the way - I've got to get to there.

And I think, and maybe it's a blip and a phase and only this week's emotion, but I think... I think now I just want to drive. I was so busy looking at the goal I forgot that I started doing this just for the pleasure of the drive. Because of the wind in my hair. My half a head of hair.

The last year gave me a taste of something nicer than a destination... I got a little flavour of my own ability to create my own style of comedy. I like things when they're nice, and safe and come from a kind place. I found a way to make softness part of what I do and I love that. Instead of aiming for a place, I'm aiming for a style of driving. Because... why not? I can buy back out of the idea of striving somewhere. It was only ever someone's idea. It wasn't definitely the right way to do something.

Work really hard.
To succeed.
You need to be financially responsible.
I am financially responsible.
You could have more...
I have what I want.
I guess you can settle.

And settle is a bad word?

 To settle is beautiful. To settle is restful. Settle an argument. Settle down with a cup of tea and a good book. Settlement.

Can I settle now, not because I've stopped dreaming, but because I dream better when I'm settled?

Last night I dreamed my frightened dreams; my husband caught me texting an ex and a pigeon got in my house and turned into a seagull which chased me and when I caught it by the beak it turned into a baby. Those are the dreams that fear induces... when fear drives me I look to all the other comedians to see what they're doing and why I'm not them. I write panicked jokes in the wrong voice, searching for the message I thought I saw in someone else's nomination.

That's why I write best on stage. On stage, I am settled... that's when the games break out and the voices and my "scenes" and the things I'm proudest of in my work. That's when I find my voice - when I'm settled. Not when I'm afraid.

My favourite thing about comedy is that is has a sell-by-date. No matter how big a star someone was, at some point in the future, the comedy will need explaining. Nothing is bulletproof for eternity as appetites, references, timings and tastes change. How marvellous. By all means have a legacy - but know its overall irrelevancy before you chase it to the exclusion of all else.

There's something so delicious about this stage of comedy - to be the anonymous highlight of someone's weekend as they laugh themselves to choking at you and then you slip away back home to put some washing on and they go and forget who you were. No expectations of you, no mantel to carry about. Whether they love or hate you, 99% of the room have forgotten you tomorrow.

That removes the fear, then. When people say "I couldn't do what you do - I'd be too scared." I think... scared of what? Only a very few remember you anyway so why do you care. Eat the best meal of your life and you only remember a vague outline of the flavours on your tongue and the textures through your teeth. It's the same with most comedy... you're left with the ghost of enjoying yourself instead of the details. It's delicious. It stops me being scared.