First let me state for the record: I’m not a Brony.
I’m an actor on the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (in case you didn’t know that about me), and I’m certainly proud of our work. I’m proud that against the historical backdrop of strong boy characters and wan bauble-loving princesses who want nothing more for their happiness than an impossible man-hero, ours is a show of strong female characters and princesses who have actual jobs and don’t need to be saved by men. As a father to a little girl of demographic age, I’m doubly proud to be involved in a thing that I’d have been thrilled to show her even had I not been in it.
But my daughter is primarily why I’ve seen most of it. I make a point of watching my own episodes so I can answer questions at conventions – and I enjoy watching it, I do, but if I’d had no kid, and had I not been in it, I wouldn’t have had any compulsion to watch the rest of it. I never experienced that moment so many of you have described where you watch one episode reluctantly and blammo you’re thirty hours in and somehow wearing a Pinkie Pie wig, a Fluttershy kigurumi, and you sport a Sonic Rainboom tramp stamp.
Now, I’m not judging- My experience with Bronies has been overwhelmingly positive. But it felt necessary to explain that despite being intimate with the phenomenon, and being intimately attached to the show itself, I remain also outside of the phenomenon, and feel thusly like a unique witness to it. And here’s what I see:
At the beginning I was worried. Prior to BronyCon2012 in New Jersey I had never met a Brony in person, although I had seen some rather pornographic fan-art. I had learned about clopping and shipping and it all felt more than a little bit slimy. On top of that there were the stereotypes that rather unfortunately get bestowed upon people in fandoms. The clop seemed to reinforce the stereotype, as must be evident, and thus I had no idea what I was in for at Meadowlands. There was the worry, and at the time I felt it was genuine, that I might have to physically avoid people dressed as my character doing far-from-genteel things to each other in the hallways. I’m no prude, but I felt like I maybe didn’t need to see that. As it turned out, however, this was the furthest thing from true. Instead I discovered 4000 of the kindest, most genuine and lovely people I had ever met. It changed everything.
Not only did I suddenly experience the flush of understanding of how wonderful it was that grown men were courageous enough to love what they love despite stigma, gender expectations and corporate demographics, but I found that I was changing too. I became less cynical. I questioned my sourness at new ideas and realized that I was using smug bitterness and judgement as a shield against my own insecurity – as a way to prevent myself from failing by making it unworthy even to try. In an instant, that mode of being was rendered utterly false by the experience of joy and camaraderie at those first few conventions.
I remember sitting in my basement suite on a Skype interview that summer and being asked what I thought the future of Bronies was. My answer was some rambling effort to say that Bronies can change the world. I think that it is a necessary step in the cause of equality for men to embrace the feminine; necessary for men to proudly love in the world. I saw Bronies as a step towards an end to hatred and violence and fear. I felt like LGBTQ rights, feminism, non-violence, and social justice were all positively influenced by the very existence of Bronies, and that there was no reason for that not to continue.
So what happened?
Over the years my experiences with the community have been tainted, bit by bit by bit. From the greed (or naïveté) of LPU, to the urinal picture in Milwaukee, and beyond. And the common thread, unfortunately, seems to be the deep-rooted entitlement of white men (though everyone can be guilty of this, so, I’m generalizing). Now, you may have noticed: I, too, am a white man. And I’m probably as guilty of entitlement as any of the rest of you, but that doesn’t make it not a problem. Routinely, I come across people who assume they can have a piece of me, or assume that my slice of pie is too big, or assume I have a power they’re jealous of, but that’s merely how it affects me directly. (to be fair, I feel entitled to be treated a certain way, too, so maybe I should check myself, too)
But the real issue to me is in the lunacy of fandom politics. I find it utterly baffling that a group who purport to be devoted to loyalty would in-fight; to generosity would hoard; to honesty would backstab; to laughter would grouse; to kindness would bully; and to friendship would foment a gestalt of clique and enmity. I see less and less of what I thought it was to be a Brony and more and more of the common racism and sexism and phobia of the cis male norm. And that’s a shame. It’s no favour to anyone to entertain their position just so you can pat yourself on the back for having heard it while traveling the road to the decision you were going to make anyway. I realize much of my old cynic has crept slowly back in to it’s comfy spot in my heart.
So why Brony?
A couple of weeks ago in New York I was asked by one of the most generous Bronies I know, Spike Firemane, to give away a carving he’d made at the voice over panel. He’d arranged the same thing for another actor at a prior panel, too – he and said actor had been at the same ten conventions and he wanted to commemorate it by doing something special. She gave the art to someone in the audience she felt was deserving and apparently the moment was magic. New York was Ed’s and my tenth con together and so he wanted me to do the same. I’ll admit I was skeptical of it. I was supposed to give it to someone deserving, just as the other actor had done before – but who? How would I make the determination? Do I hold it up and say, ‘tell me your story’ and choose whose hardship demands reward? In the end I decided to ask someone to find me a kid in the audience, and I’d give it to them. I was told there was a little boy dressed as Big Mac. Perfect. I brought him up, gave him the carving, and he was adorable. So fine: The end. Or so I thought.
A week or so later I got a letter from the boy’s father, Steven. Riley, he tells me: “had a strong speech delay. He struggled to communicate with my wife and I and he often had minor (or occasionally severe) tantrums from his frustration of being unable to express (himself). We couldn’t find any way in which to help appease him or consistently help him understand how much he was loved…. Then… he discovered Big Mac…. Big Mac was able to do anything he needed to, but didn’t have to say much to get it done. ‘Eeyup’ quickly became his favorite word and he would light up with a huge smile whenever he heard it in an episode…. It’s been three years now that Big Mac has had a positive influence on his young life, and at age five I know that your main pony will always be more special to him than any of the mane six ever could be…. He couldn’t wait to cosplay as Big Mac for Ponycon and he was beyond exhilarated when you presented him with your Big Mac woodwork this weekend. You have literally changed his life for the better in countless ways.”
I wept reading that. I’m close to it again retyping it. And again proofreading it.
See the thing I think we forget is that all of our lives have literally, actually changed because of this fandom, and that everyone we see in the halls of the convention, or on the walls of the internet, has that essential story. Perhaps it’s simply that our own story of bloom and change is more important to us only because it’s about us. But we all have this same story, ultimately, this same reality, and we’d do well to remember we are not alone in our experience of it. Nor, furthermore, are we alone in our need to share ourselves with those with whom we find ourselves orbiting through this life. Perhaps there ought to be a seventh element of harmony: Compassion or Empathy? In any case I think we all have work to do to get back to that place of innocence we were in when this all began, wherein everyone was a welcome participant in a phenomenon of love and tolerance that could yet change our whole world for the better and in countless ways, just as it has been for Riley.
Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing you all again soon, and hearing your stories.
I’ve spent much of the past 24 hours with bits of tissue crammed up my nostrils so my nose doesn’t drool snot out onto whatever might happen to be below it.
Despite this effort I have thus far adequately besnotted:
-1/2 roll toilet paper
-atmosphere of planet earth.
But you see it isn’t my fault. My sinuses are just privileged. They think they’re entitled to be this snotty, and to fling their jewely ribbons of mucous about the room. I know better. I know you don’t want to know about it, but my sinuses have taken over my brain and fingers and I cannot stop myself from inflicting these images upon you.
Like earlier when I thought, “oh, this is better than yesterday,” and sat away from my tissues for five minutes? My sinuses decided it was seriously showtime. They made me sneeze so hard a thick goob of clear green ooze flung from my nose. I still don’t know where it landed. Another dangled there, swinging in and out of my field of vision as I made a mad dash for the tissue box.
I recognize that you probably didn’t want to read that. You were just sitting at your computer, or scrolling on your phone, innocently hoping for cuteness or maybe inspiration and my entitled sinuses took that to mean you wanted them to detail how they’re using my booger to torture me. Now you have this mucousy picture of me you can’t really get rid of. I mean you’ll delete it immediately, of course, but still. You wonder: did I think you’d be turned on? You don’t even really know what to say, or how to address the issue with me. I mean you certainly don’t want to tell me your own nose-puke story. Is that what I’m hoping for? To get a picture of your nostril-vomit in my head so that when I play with my own snot later on I’ll have something to look at? You probably don’t want to know.
Thing is my sinuses don’t really care about you. They think they deserve whatever whim crosses their stuffy, entitled heart, regardless of your position on the matter. My head-cum wants you to know it knows you don’t like the term ‘head-cum.’ But it’s also angry at you for not being super grateful that it acknowledged how much you don’t like it, and so it has decided to say it as often as possible until you realize its way of thinking is the only correct way of thinking: head-cum, head-cum, head-cum! I mean it’s tolerant of your views, but let’s be real: there’s not a better way to say snot, no matter what you might think. You’re not a sinus. You’re being intolerant of it.
I mean really: My sinuses do a lot of good work. They harvest my vocal resonance, do all the labour of purging my illness for me for free! – but where’s my recognition for owning them? I should get a month.
Just now they feel subdued. They’re freshly blown and saying this has really helped to get a lot of what was bothering them out. I guess I should remember that listening to snotty little shits is the first step towards having compassion for them. It’s just so hard when they’re so full of poisonous goo, that flinging it at you is all they seem good at doing.
I admit it: I have used this annoying hashtag. Usually ironically. Like if I’ve been unemployed for weeks and the auditions are scarce and I eat too much to fill the void and the rejection and depression and feelings of inadequacy are getting me down and on top of it all I step in dog poo, I might be inclined to snap a pic of myself scraping the poop off my shoe and hashtag it #actorslife. But not a lot of non-actors get the joke. It’s funny because some actors use it to self-aggrandize or to advertise their glamourous (suuuuure) lives.
Another example: I always feel like tweeting: “I’m pregnant! #nohomo” or “Chugged a fifth of Xanax. Bye. #yolo!” The hashtags are what make me laugh in these admittedly dark jokes. I always think better than to actually Tweet them, however. Too many misunderstandings are possible, and Twitter blows for explaining yourself. The number of people who would leap on me for using #nohomo without seeing that I’m lampooning it (I believe a man can show affection for another man without having to also assert his sexuality.) And you wouldn’t believe the unnecessary concern I’d be subject to in the latter joke, when, again, the intent is to lampoon the use of the hashtag. I’d have to assure people repeatedly that I’m totally fine (I am). I just think it’s obvious that we only have one life and you’d better get out and live it, and that it’s generally pointless to draw attention to it; darkly humorous to indicate it in the context of death. I am expressly not advocating suicide, nor would I. And while I would hope that would be obvious, I’ve discovered that in fact is is, apparently, not.
I say all this because I keep coming across people on the internet who seem to hate me and I can’t figure out why. Of course, not everyone should like me, that’s not the point. Seven billion other people on the planet, I know I can’t expect to be loved by all. I’m not a total narcissist.
But still, I can’t help it: One can read thirty comments that say “Peter New is awesome,” or something, and the glow of feeling adored is utterly ruined by one person saying “if Peter New did that, it’s another reason to hate it!” I’ve gotten good at not letting it ruin my whole day (it used to). Now it only ruins a half hour. Forty five minutes on a bad day. I can’t help but think that the reason for this hatred of me is due to some misunderstanding. And the real suck-hard of the thing is that I can never know the truth. It’s a person in the world I have no choice but to write off as lost to me; a colleague I’ll never work with; a friend I’ll never have. And that’s the real shame of it. People are out there judging me for a thing I probably didn’t do, or didn’t do the way they think I did, or have no idea I did, and I’m powerless to change it. We have a word in English for this phenomenon:
I think back to before I was famous (and for the sake of argument: let’s disregard the extreme moderation of my fame for the moment), and I realize that I too have been guilty of tearing down those we see as having ‘made it’.
Once when I worked at the Duthie Books at Robson and Hornby in Vancouver, the very funny actor Michael McKean came browsing. I was star struck. I was a huge fan of Spinal Tap and much of his other work. Now, at the time I was performing a lot of sketch comedy around the city, to some small acclaim, though I had yet to sign an agent. I’d had maybe one professional job. But I also had high hopes for myself. To me, he was in the club. And I wasn’t. I decided, as he was leaving to explore the city on what was likely his day off from some gruelling schedule, that this might be my only chance ever to speak with him. So I chased him out onto the street, caught up with him on the corner, and asked him the only important question I could think of – some version of “How do I make it?” He rolled his eyes and sputtered an impatient answer that amounted to, “stick with it.” I was disappointed. For years I had a story of what a dick he was to me that one time I met him. #yolo
Now, I’ve learned a couple of things since then.
1. Ten seconds with a man is not enough to judge him fairly.
2. On an actor’s day off, in a moment said actor thinks is private, fan interaction can be (not always, I also love it, see #5 below), exhausting.
3. The question that’s interesting to the fan is the same question that’s interesting to a million other fans.
4. The answer really, actually, for real, actually is: stick with it.
5. The onus is on the celebrity to speak genuinely to every fan that talks to them, but that:
6. S/he will always fail with someone.
I’m on the other side of the coin now. I can still learn from those who came before. But I now understand a number of things that I think Michael McKean understands. I get that when you get asked the same question a hundred times a day, keeping the answer fresh is tiring, and yet you need to answer it every time. I understand that there is no club you get in. As actors we are always, constantly hunting for or creating our own work. This doesn’t ever stop. If it stops, you stop. There’s no magical fairyland in which you sail confidently from job to job. You have to work for it. In other words, my guess is that he was ‘sticking with it’ then as much as he was when he began; as much as I had to to get to here, and as much as I still have to to continue to grow. There is no single pathway to success in this field. There are as many paths as there are successful performers. His was his, mine was mine, yours will be yours. And lastly: of the 100 people asking you how to make it, roughly point one of them will actually succeed.
So, Mr. McKean, if you happen to read this- I’m sorry I misunderstood. I’m sorry I took it way too personally. And I’m sorry I called you a dick at parties. I’m glad 90’s house parties didn’t have comments sections. It prevented both anonymity and permanence.
All I can hope is that folks like @bronyasshole626 (the most recent one’s name was something like this, I’m not even kidding), feels the same way about me as I do about my own transgressions in a few more years.
We all need a place, and for me it’s the beach.
Where I live the ocean is usually placid. Waves lick the shores gently most days, swelling only a few inches before they break. When they crash it’s like a whisper, as though the ocean is eroding the land through relaxing massage. Sure, there are stormy days too, when the sea breathes and heaves in pulsing drama, and the waves get big enough that you can sense them pulverizing the helpless granite cliff-sides.
But most days it’s pretty serene.
These are rocky beaches, here, with pebbles of granite, quartz, and basalt as deep as you could dig. The sand, such as it is, is merely part of the continuum of desolation that the ocean and the rain and the wind collectively wreak upon the earth. The life cycle of the very planet is in evidence on these shores, but all the while the sea whispers, “shhh,” as the waves lap in, and then rattle back out to the Strait through the pebbles they’ve shifted by rolling softly in.
There are little crabs and birds; sometimes seals or eagles, porpoises or dolphins; sometimes orca; once I saw a grey. If you crane over the rock outcrops bright purple starfish cling where the water rushes in and out too fast for even the barnacles to stick. All this is what I want you to see when I say the word ‘beach.’
Today I went to the beach because it was clear and mild out but not because I felt like I needed to. I didn’t know I felt gnarled because it happens so gradually and maintains itself so steadily that it just becomes part of the way we are. But the beach can level you, as it will level the rock. The ocean will shift your sand, expose your boulders, and start in on washing all of that grit out to sea. It will do it on a gentle day. It will do it on an angry day. It will do it relentlessly.
I began on the beach with my hands in my pockets, a grown up with grown up concerns. But soon enough I was marvelling at the water. I was rerouting a stream as it coursed through the pebbles toward the waves. I dug with the heel of my shoe like I used to do in rainy playgrounds when I was seven years old. I dammed it with dirt and rocks, and dug canals with a stick and watched the river wash the sediment into the undulation of the waves. I hunted for sea glass. I scanned the horizon for whales.
I left the beach centred. The water and sand had done what they do, and smoothed the furrow in my granite brow.
One is never certain if an idea is truly good or not.
Goodness knows in my life I’ve made numerous artistic and professional choices that I thought at the time quite brilliant, and that went utterly nowhere. And conversely, things I never much thought about at all have garnered me praise and reward I never expected over what, artistically, I considered at the time to be inconsequential at best. In sum, I’ve completely given up trying to make a determination for myself as to what constitutes the ‘Good Idea’ and what is just junk.
I’m certain, that said, that some gems lie in the junk heap of my discarded creativity. My own personal cutting-room-floor. But moving forward from the strips of unseen tape upon which lie my brilliant death in Dark Angel and my gawking bewilderment on Supernatural, and from my scrawled brilliance on so many crumpled napkins is an inevitability. We can only move forward. Dwelling on the past – even on the successes of nominations and notoriety – is a pathway to self-loathing in the end. No one wants to be the chump who can only point to things from long ago when the spotlight hits and the audience is asking for what’s new.
I have boxes and boxes of writing. Much of it will never be of any use ever again. And much will never be of use at all, having never been shared, performed, or produced in any way. This writing is no longer an asset, and has become a mere souvenir of who I used to be. I have wasted years delaying my grief over this, instead convincing myself at routine intervals that someday I’ll hire someone to digitize it, or that someday someone will beg to see it all for some memoir that no one is likely to ever want to write about me. I need to mourn for these lost ideas, else they become anchors lodged in history, too heavy for my fragile ship as it struggles ever forwards.
If unshackle myself totally from the ideas that have shaped me – Comedian, Movie Star, Wealth Deyond Dreams, Writer of Reknown – then what is left of me?
The argument has always been it’s in my blood or it’s just who I am. But these arguments no longer carry me forwards. They are the arguments one needs to get started, and to overcome the barriers one sets up for oneself between ordinary teenager and artist. I am an artist now. I have been for some time. But I’ve been a slave to a notion of myself that’s based on exterior perception. What kind of artist do I want to be? Well that’s still the right question, though the answers I have given (a famous one, a rich one, an eternal and undeniable one) are all designed to inoculate me from work. The answers are more like: a dedicated one; one who forges new material; a fallible, vulnerable, mortal one. A creative one. One who works.
Do I want to continue to be an actor? Yes, of course. But I’d like to stop waiting around for the right producer to notice me and decide I’m perfect. Rather I would like to take each part as it comes and live in it completely, even if the only moment I get to be alive is at some crummy audition.
And a writer? Yes that too. But in this case I think it’s time I stop punishing myself for not always writing jokes as I used to, and instead engage with humble discovery.
These are the only two questions worth asking, as a creator: What’s next? and So what?
I ask the first question on a first pass, and the second question on a last pass. What’s next is expansive, a brainstorm, a playground. So what is contractive, a criticism, a butcher. Both these aspects are elemental to creativity, in order to find the new, and then render it clinically, with resonance. If you ask in the wrong order you get nowhere. I want to write about something. So what? No point I guess. What’s next? I guess nothing. But ask in the right order and you get DaVinci. You get Bowie. Rickman.
You get Art.
The realization I’m having now is that these questions are what drive us not just in creation, but throughout our lives, too. Our very existence is a kind of art. I’ve asked the questions of myself in the wrong order quite a lot in the last while. So what? No point. And so I shut down and try nothing before I get to question one. And so: What kind of artist do I want to be? The What’s Next kind. I want to be a creator from which people will not know what to expect, because I will not know it myself until faced with the very moment of creation. And what kind of person is that kind of artist? Wild guess. And that’s the hammer. Am I like that? Could I be? Only one way to know and that’s to try and bang in the very next nail.
So what’s on my mind lately?
Well, podcasts. I want to write a story and read it on a podcast, only I want you, the audience, to tell me what’s going to happen next. It might be hilarious, it could be sublime. And I won’t know, and that’s exciting. I began this process this week, and with some initial success. There’s a few introductory minutes of writing done, and I’ve collected a number of excellent suggestions from my fine followers on Twitter (I’ll call out whose ideas get used, of course). I’m not sure yet when this will come to fruition, but stay tuned. It’s what’s next. And it feels like a Good Idea.
It’s been almost a year since I shot a thing that I can’t talk about. It was a one-off thing, but came with a small chance of more, and zero promises.
Well here we are and more will happen but there’s still some up-in-the-air about whether or not I’ll be involved when it goes. And that’s the limbo I’ve been in for four months or so now: Maybe there’ll be plenty of work for me in the new year and maybe there won’t be and we should find out next week. Well it’s the new year now and we still don’t really know.
And that’s ok. The uncertainty and fear; the anxiety of the unknown.
It’s ok. Because it has to be.
This is the really difficult thing for me about acting. At any moment I could get a call saying, “You got it!” And that can mean a lot of money, prestige, notoriety, work, joy, or any combination thereof. It’s a pretty intoxicating combination. And it’s a very real thing: There’s a phone call that could happen any day now that says, essentially, “relax, you’re going to have high-profile work for months on end that pays well and could lead by its nature to even more future work.”
There’s a problem, though. I could also get the other phone call.
In fact, the other one has a huge statistical likelihood of being the call I get. Usually, mercifully, there is no phone call. If you don’t hear about it, that means it went away. That makes it easier to forget.
This is the common sense thing I normally do when it comes to auditioning. Do the audition, and promptly forget it. I move forward. I look to what’s next. An audition is so often for a job that won’t go beyond a few shoot days, or one or two recording sessions. It’s actually rare for me to find myself in a position like this one, wherein I already passed the audition and did the initial work and now my fate is caught up in the extended machinations of executive meetings and rewrites and production whims and a myriad things outside of my control. But as the process has been so extended and yet within it there’s been so little I control I can exert on the decision-making, the whole thing becomes somewhat manic for me. I start to think crazed things like maybe I should put another audition on tape for them to show them my range, or maybe I should take a trip to whatever LA boardroom in which my destiny is teetering, and glad-hand, live-read, or somehow or other otherwise totally screw myself out of the job.
No, no. All of that is craziness. It’s the insecurity of the profession made manifest. I would seem like a desperate nutcase at the Whole Foods with some homemade Almond Butter and misplaced chutzpah, doing the box step to impress the teenaged produce manager while she headsets the code for ‘call the police’ to anyone who’ll listen. I can see myself straight-jacketed and sweaty from dance calling, “Try my nuts! TRY MY NUTS,” smiling-always-smiling while they cart me off to the sanitarium we actors call ‘obscurity.’
So while every fibre in me cries out to DO something, I have to allow for reason to weigh in or I’m done. I have to trust that the job I have already performed is enough to buoy me over into the job I have yet to perform; that the people in charge have the wisdom to make the correct choice for their show (obviously I think it’s ME); and that the patience I can show now speaks well of my grace and humility should the choice to go elsewhere be the final decision. How I fail to get the job informs their future choices to hire me for something else just as much as how well I do the job does, should I actually get it.
That’s what we miss so often in the world at large, that oft secondary reliance on common sense and reason. I can understand, to take a page from recent headlines, the scared and juvenile urge to shut down borders, build walls and look only to faces built of familiar skin. But it’s obvious, really, that none of that constitutes a sensible position. Trade & tourism are interrupted by shutting borders, innocent people are punished along with guilty ones, walls don’t work (China built a Great One once. Anyone know how that worked out?), and faces of familiar skin are just as likely (if not more so), to be the ones on the wrong end of a trigger for your overall health, and it’s clearly folly therefore to trust or distrust people on that basis alone. So have the urge, sure. But temper it with reason, and your grace and humility in the face of what you cannot control will lead you far wiser than the bumbling oaf you would have been had you ploughed a swath through reason and ended up alone in the world with only your reflection for company.
And so, I wait in the limbo of anxiety, chomping at my proverbial bit. I’m alert, ready to act should I be required to. And as always, in the end, rationality and wisdom trumps the feeling you get before the easy answer is given any thought; the lunacy of insecurities made real.
Regular readers may have noticed a gap in my posts of one week. So briefly, before we proceed, I owe an explanation.
My computer is quite old and it misbehaves. Its most recent malady is that it, upon waking from sleep, had decided that various keys on its keyboard should no longer work. I had this idea that I would type a kraftily konthtrukteg blog thit uboigeg the eppekteg keyz (though I see now just from this sentence that that would have been murder to read, so perhaps it’s for the best that it didn’t work out), but the affected keys included more than one key required for my password and thus the whole notion of blogging last week was scuppered.
Happily, as a lovely gift for Christmas, I received a USB keyboard and I’m therefore able to continue upon my journey, and if you’re still here reading this then I’m delighted to have you along.
It’s time for that year end stuff. This was a year of great turmoil for me; of many endings and new beginnings. Some endings were personal, such as the death of a beloved relative and the collapse of a long-standing relationship, and some were professional, such as the recording of the final episode of Littlest Pet Shop, which has served as my largest and most consistent income stream for the last three years. In either case I haven’t discussed them much – the personal for I believe there exists a line over which I ought not to cross with regard to my personal life, and the professional because most of what I do is governed by contracts that may or may not exist and if they did exist they might or might not prevent me from legally discussing things until they’re publicly known. It makes blogging reasonably difficult.
The great lesson I take form all of this is about moving forward.
The stresses and tragedies one experiences that really knock you to the curb are in actuality quite few and far between. Lounging in the pain and difficulty of those things, grief and loss and the stresses connected to them, is like staring too long at an old photograph. One will feel the pain and the stress and the loss regardless – and it’s important to honour that – but why sit inside those feelings and remind yourself unnecessarily of them all the time. It’s a trap we all fall into. It feels good to feel hard done by. But to do this is turning your back squarely to the future that is barrelling towards you, and it’s wasting the present in an effort to stop that photograph from fading, which, if you’ll excuse my pre-digital metaphor, the photograph shall inevitably do anyway.
The better option is to move forward. Place your back toward the loss and heartache and whatever difficulty. Allow it to inform and instruct you as is useful, but not more than that. And step towards the unknowable mess of whatever comes next openly, joyfully, bravely and eagerly.
2016 holds much promise for me (and for you too, I’d hazard, if you choose to seek a positive vision from within the mists of the unknowable, as opposed to a negative one). I have love anew, and I have several professional prospects at every stage of possibility awaiting me in January, from promising auditions that may or may not mean a thing, to possible casting that may or may not come to fruition, to jobs I already have but don’t know how frequently I’ll be used. For the moment I choose to feel like I have them all in the bag (Joy!), and move forward from the disappointments if and when they ever occur. After all: I could be right!
There will be travel and laughter and, I can only hope, a steady fading of all that has made 2015 an exhilarating though somewhat uncontrolled ride down the rapids. I look forward to a more peaceful journey in the months to come. I hope that by choosing joy in all the moments between tragedies, and facing forwards in their wake, we can all find harmonious paths through the rocky stream of time yet to pass.
Happy New Year!
I’ve had several great ideas for a blog this week, from discussing The Elements of Harmony as they apply to my actual life to three other things that seemed like great ideas, on three different days, and that I didn’t write down and that now I’ve forgotten. In all cases the ‘great’ subject seems like a wan idea today.
I should have just written the blog early.
Someone told me when you find yourself saying ‘should’ to yourself, you need to find out whose voice it is inside you saying it. And if it’s not your own, you should ignore it.
Because should sucks. Should robs one of honesty. So I suppose that’s the only tenet borne of the Pony-theme I still want to discuss.
I’m not certain I’ve ever been truly honest. Certainly I’ve always felt honest. If you’d asked me if I was honest twenty years ago I would have balked at the tacit assertion that it were even possible that I wasn’t.
But I wasn’t. Not really.
Now: I’m honest about a lot- don’t get me wrong. I’m no thief. I don’t contrive to be deceitful. On the contrary: I struggle always to tell truths. I’m genuinely not trying to suggest that I’m a pathological nightmare of lies. But I have realized recently the deep extent to which I’m capable of lying to myself. I do it habitually. And the problematic extension of that is that I tell what I perceive to be truths, based on the lies I’m more comfortable believing, and thus, I lie. It’s called confirmation bias. And here’s the bad news: We all do it. To a degree. I think mine’s gone wrong.
When I was eighteen I dated a 20 year old ex-model.
She had been the face of Guess Jeans in Canada until a tragic accident burned her face and after the very successful reconstructive surgery, she had to maintain it by taking a drug that made her face puff up, which lost her the lucrative contract. She missed the work. She’d been to several continents to shoot, and even got lost in the Sahara desert for a short while because of mismanagement but she wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Despite our safe use of condoms, I impregnated her. Later she would tell my friends that I forced an abortion upon her, and that the procedure gave her cervical cancer.
All completely false, of course. Every word. She was charismatic and I was naive – a horrid combination. But it wasn’t just me she’d convinced. She was skilled as hell about it. And I think it was because she made herself believe herself before she lied to me. Once, in anguish because she was afraid of taking her drug, but in equal anguish about how she’d look without it, she decided to empty a package of Tic Tacs down the toilet in front of me and then cry in my arms. I believed the anguish, and she believed the Tic Tacs were the Cortizone, so I did too. But in hindsight? They were Tic Tacs.
Once I became able to see one thing as a lie (the abortion did it for me – I was nothing but supportive of her choices regarding her utterly false pregnancy), the rest of them tumbled out like projectile vomit. Cortizone doesn’t generally get prescribed to burn victims (this all according to a book I read 20 years ago), doesn’t look like a Tic Tac, and doesn’t make your face puffy. Abortions, also, don’t generally result in an immediate case of cancer.
You may be thinking how absurd it all seems written out in a paragraph or two. And it is, of course, when presented as such. But she played a long game. She never told the whole story at once. She’d let one tidbit drop, then fill in the blanks over months, fighting what she presented as a reluctance born of insecurity: until she trusted me enough to tell me. In this way she rendered me complicit in her falsehoods. I became an ally in her quest to spread her unbelievable-ness, which lent her veracity. The reveal, as they say in showbiz, was devastating, heartbreaking, painful. I was raw and vulnerable.
I spent many years after this not trusting people, particularly women, as you can imagine. But despite that I learned how to trust again years ago, it’s only recently that I’ve discovered a disgusting side effect. I became excellent at self-preservation. I would hold secret any truth that might lead to another scar on my heart, borrowing unconsciously from this viper’s playbook, to re-craft the truth to benefit myself and then present it as a believable veneer.
The last few months have been difficult. I’m making an effort to be as honest as possible, regardless of the hurt it may cause to myself or to others. But I’m still pretty shitty at it. I can be tactless. It feels dangerous to say what I feel without first containing it. Like sticking my hand into fire. But the fire I fear, it turns out, is my very passion for life. So I should let that fire burn bright and large outside the containment walls I’ve built over the last twenty five years…
And there’s that word again: Should. Says who?
Says me I guess.
There are days.
I mean there are bad days, obviously, where the events hit you like a sucker-punch to the gut, and I am talking about those. But I’m also talking about the good days; ones that fly by in a blaze of colour and electric joy. I’m also talking about the days in between. The ones that tromp past unnoticed: drudgery and work, errands and taxes. Stuff. They usually harbour a few pleasant interactions, a few forgettable ones, and suddenly you’re in bed, falling into tomorrow without a particular memory worth filing into the log.
There are days.
The ones which are a clock’s tick. A lonely trudge toward the welcoming arms of merciful death.
Depression isn’t an emotional state – it isn’t sad, as such. It’s a physical state. It’s a depression in the road, an inescapable dip through which all traffic must pass. It’s a sinkhole. A well.
There are days and days and days I spend at the bottom of the well.
Anyone that knows what I mean, knows it all too well. Anyone who doesn’t might never understand.
I spent much of the last 2 years at the bottom of the well. It’s dark. The walls are smooth. There is no rope, no ladder, nor any reason to escape. It’s hopelessness incarnate. I thought I might die down there. When you’re at the bottom of the well, you’re alone among friends, you’re sad when smiling, you talk of the future even though you don’t believe there is one. When you’re at the bottom of the well, there is only the well, and the cruel reminder that just up there, out past that dot of bright light at the top of the impossible shaft, everyone (and you do believe it’s everyone), is having an electric, joyful day.
Much of the last few months, I’ve been trying to discover the way out. But what can one learn limited by such geography, immobilized at the bottom?
Well. Quite a lot as it turns out.
Somewhere around 200 BC a Greek mathematician named Eratosthenes was the first to measure the circumference of the earth. All he needed was two wells, in two different towns. He knew if you looked into a well in Swenet (situated, as it happens, directly on the tropic of Cancer), that at the sun’s zenith, your shadow would block the reflection of the sun from shining straight down off the water. However on the same day in Alexandria this was not the case: the sun shone into the well at an angle, creating a shadow. By measuring the angle he determined what section of an arc equated to the distance between the two towns, and from that he extrapolated the first accurate measurement of the size of our ball of dirt. All without ever leaving Egypt.
It occurs to me that I haven’t been looking at my well in the right way. I’ve been seeing it as a trap. Eratosthenes clearly saw a well as an astronomical tool. Sssso… that’s pretty different. And really what are wells for? To give life by giving water. They are a cornerstone of civilization. And all I can seem to do is sit at the bottom of one?
I’ve been scrabbling at the sides trying to get out for so long, perhaps I have forgotten that I’m looking at it the wrong way, as a puzzle with only two solutions. Either scramble upwards, or dig more deeply. But as is so often the reality, it turns out that that dilemma is a manufactured consent – there are a host of third alternatives one fails outright to even consider. My solution? Fill the well!
I’ve decided to write, and I’ve been doing that more. I’ve been listening to more music. Paying more attention to art and politics, and somehow, suddenly, the top doesn’t seem so far up anymore. There’s more and more water floating me up towards those electric joyful days, or at least towards the gut-punchingly sad ones. Either way, I’ll take them.
My well is not as bleak and dark as it once was, thanks to this. Now its… refreshing.
I hate this blog today.
After last week and the predictably insipid side of the response to it, I’m at a loss for what to say.
I don’t really want to dig further into last week’s nonsense, but nor do I feel like retreading banal old dirt about change being the only constant and how to change it or whatever. (Pro tip: active choices, gang. Choose well.)
So, regrettably, here we go again:
Since last week’s blog (a rant to some, though I never felt it so), I’ve been told:
~to feel differently about it by strangers. (Pro Tip: How you feel about anything is not wrong. It’s just how you feel. Stop victim blaming.)
~by the same strangers that the guy who took the picture feels sorry. (Pro Tip: Dude has never apologized to me. Ergo, he is not very sorry at all. And that’s fine. That’s his cross to bear. See, if you aren’t me, or if you aren’t him, then it seems to me that your opinion is entirely irrelevant to the situation anyway, and you ought to keep it to yourself. Or at least stop victim blaming.)
~that I should have been on my guard. (Pro Tip: We live in a civil society. The only thing I or anyone should ever ‘be on guard’ for is civility. Period. If you can’t be civil, maybe don’t go out? Why should I or anyone have to be constantly prepared for your inadequacies? Stop victim blaming.)
~oh, this one’s my favourite – that my feelings don’t matter because I only voice background ponies. (Really? Ok, Pro Tip: You don’t voice any ponies. By your logic my job as sub-ponies makes me sub-human, therefore your job as not-ponies makes you sub-sub-human. So it’s really more your own opinion you’re saying doesn’t matter than it is mine, but whatever, that’s on you. More victim blaming.)
~that I overreacted. (Pro Tip: I just reacted. Over-reacting would be calling the Brony Army forth to seek and destroy this person, which I did not, and will not do. Or endorsing violence, or quitting the show, or shutting down my Twitter or whatever other dumb ass thing I did not/will not do. Stop Victim Blaming.)
~that I was graceless to have said my peace. (Pro Tip: I could have been far more graceless, I promise. I wanted to be, but it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be uncivil. Stop Victim Blaming)
~essentially that I should just do my job and shut up. (Pro Tip: My job is going to studios and making sounds with my mouth, and my job isn’t to go to conventions or to have shitty pictures taken of me without my permission or have them posted without my permission. So am I only allowed to talk about my job? That’s like 5% of what I do and who I am. Do people really think I actualy am a pony? Stop Victim Blaming.)
~that I’m an SJW. (I had to look this up to find out it doesn’t at all apply to me, but thanks for trying. Pro Tip: Diminishing someone’s feelings however illegitimate you think they are, by tacking a scornful acronym onto them is the internet equivalent of placing your hand over that person’s face while they’re speaking to you and pushing them slowly, rudely to the floor. It’s bullying. And it’s – what’s the phrase here? Oh yeah: victim blaming.)
See what almost everyone has been missing is that it’s not about me. I’ll be fine. What happened was unacceptable, but ultimately minor. I’ll get over it. I’ll still come to cons. You misread me if you were worried I wouldn’t. And you know me quite poorly if you think I wouldn’t let the perpetrator buy me a drink and offer his apology. (Pro Tip: Civility, yo!) It was never about me, neither this week or last: It’s about a society that rallies around the bully and scorns the bullied.
And not just that: It’s also about a society that, whether tacitly or not, concurs that there’s a debate to be had about it, and encourages that debate in the comments. It’s like if you’re five years old and you got sucker punched on the playground and the grown-ups gathered in front of you and argued about whether or not you deserved it, or if your bleeding nose was an overreaction, that your tears lacked grace, that it would be better if you’d just accepted it, you should have said nothing, how you feel doesn’t matter because you’re not in the cool class, how you’re just a child so what you say doesn’t matter, and besides only a few people know who the bully is anyway, and praising them for keeping that a secret. That would be absurd! Any reasonable person can see that it’s not ok you got punched in the first place and that there are consequences for it. Simple as that. No reasonable person believes it should be debated.
Again: this is not about me, or my situation. This is all about the fact that boys are still being raised to consider that rape, power, abuse, violence, and entitlement are all somehow valid. We can’t hide behind these things. They’re pillars of ash. Grown-ups do not hide from feelings, nor acquiesce when bullied, nor lash out with fists and guns when challenged, when their perceived power is threatened. (Pro tip: power is an illusion, and power over someone is not power at all, but a trap wherein you yourself are merely the rat who thinks he has control over the cheese.)
So look: hate me if you like. That’s fine. But don’t take the time to tell me how much you don’t care. One last Pro Tip before I never stoop to talk about this again: commenting about how little you care about those affected by bullying or violence, me included?
But while you should be caring for your fellow humans, all you can muster is the care to protect your selfish and bankrupt worldview from the destructive power of truth.