Adventure in Coming Home

It’s not unknown that the last two years have been hard and confusing. That I’ve been searching for something to fill that space in me. That space that I’ve been filling with things that I do enjoy. Jokes, laughter, making other people successful, performing things I enjoy, readings.

In February, as with every February, the anniversary of the beginning of the worst things rolled around, but it was also an audition for a show I’ve always desperately wanted to be in. I simply didn’t have the strength to do it. I believed with all of my being I could have been in it, but I didn’t think I could muster my strength to actually audition. The next weekend another audition presented itself. An audition with a new company that was focused on Shakespeare and his contemporaries. After a year of reading and a summer of improv, I decided my injured brain could handle this experience. It was, up to that point, the best audition of my life. I let myself go. I didn’t have anything to lose. I didn’t know these people. I still had comedy to fall back to if it didn’t go well. I could still stand if it didn’t go well, but it did go well. It went well enough that I walked out of there confident that I would get the role I wanted. So confident I went out to dinner with a friend to celebrate that very day, despite the bad news we had received personally between us.

A couple of weeks later I was cast in the very role I was certain I’d gotten, and I knew that meant comedy was going to take a bit of a back seat. It meant that a lot of things were going to take a bit of a back seat. When the break down of scenes came out, and it showed I was in every scene, but two and later every scene, but one everyone was going to lose a lot of face time. I knew that. People were largely understanding. Most people were largely understanding. I didn’t, however, want to stop investing in things I cared about. I would, while I could, make runs to the Let’s Comedy office before rehearsals. Grab a meal and run to the office after work. When one of our guys was in South Korea this month I made a point to run to the bar directly after work before every show if I could to set up the room and then run to rehearsal. I’d eat if I had time, which usually happened after rehearsal some time around 11. This is the life I wanted.

Being busy is one of the most lovely things to me. It can be exhausting, of course, but what it also does is keeps me from letting my depression and PTSD take control. Those two things often just need time to breathe to take over, and if they don’t have time to ruminate then they can’t take over my brain. If all I can think about is how Antipholous is looking at me and how I hope the room is filling up right now for Kinane and whether or not I actually said “else never” or “else ever” and if I remembered to bring my rosary out with me this time or not and did Jensen and I wear our blue socks on the same feet tonight? I don’t have time or space for my brain to get anxious with my depression or PTSD. I just don’t, which is beautiful. I’m not saying it’s healthy. It’s just what’s happening right now.

What has also happened because of this show is I have found my tribe. These people. They are kindred. There was an immediate connection. The woman I am almost constantly working alongside is someone I auditioned with. In the cold reads I threw her over my back, and she just let that happen. We’d never met, but she just let that happen. Her name also happens to be Halee. She also happens to have red hair. She also happens to get lost in obnoxious laughter that is constantly changing. We’ve slowly melded. And we aren’t the only ones. It’s not just her. I went out for drinks with another cast member one night, and we stayed out for six hours talking. It started with silly voices then got very serious then got silly then got serious then got kindred. People who understand that you ask if you can hug someone. A man in a Peanu Keeyes shirt. Kisses on everyone’s cheeks. Everyone is safe. Something about this group of people is different than other casts I’ve worked with before. When rehearsals were first starting, I was leaving my old job, and things were getting less than savory we’ll say. I wasn’t going to say anything, but I knew it was going to be a problem emotionally when it came time for rehearsal as rehearsals were getting more intense. I contacted my director who was 1) immediately indignant with me, and 2) understanding and supportive. Supportive in a way someone in his capacity had not been before. I was home. I was safe. I know I’m not alone in that.

I know because in this cast we’ve suffered losses, and we’ve carried each other. We’ve been injured, and we’ve carried each other and adapted. We’ve been emotionally damaged, and we’ve carried each other. These people are safe. These people are home. In a way I’ve never felt before, it’s going to be hard to walk away from this show on Sunday morning. I’m going to be sad not to see them every day. They are my tribe.

When Sunday hits I will cry. I will cry a lot, I imagine. I will try not to. I will work to distract myself. I’ll probably have brunch with Piper, because I don’t want to cry about how much I miss these people. I don’t cry when shows end. I will this time.

I tell you this now, because I do have a little time and last night we got to just spend some time together. Sure we had a brief rehearsal, but I also got to witness some of that carrying, some of that love and support. But I also wanted you to know you still have time to see this bond. You can still see this show before it’s gone. May 26, 27, and 28 at 8:00 p.m. at the Auer Center ArtsLab at 300 E Main Street in Fort Wayne, IN. Tickets are only $15.0012931081_457003501170169_8199661723697369969_n

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My tribe. I found my tribe.

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Adventure in Teeth Kicking

In my head this is a thing I don’t do every year, but this is absolutely a thing I do every year. So let’s recap the worst year ever, and let’s talk about kicking some serious ass in 2016. Sound good? I think so.

To be fair, 2015 wasn’t all dread. It was hard. That’s true. Some of it was down right shit.

From the very beginning of last year things started wacky and terribly dehydrated. Because as is my custom, I spent my New Year’s Eve making sure everyone else was okay, had not a drop to drink, of anything. Not water. Not booze. I got grouchy, but these kids had a great time. And carried me through the whole year. As you’ll soon see. I think even I’m about to realize 2015 wasn’t as bad as I remembered.new year new you

Then there was the whole panicked month of January. Putting together and directing a show that ends up starring three of your best friends. Your band drops out. You panic. You get a new band. Your best friend and one of your actors breaks up with you. Your show is on Valentine’s Day. And you cry for three solid days including work, excluding rehearsals. Still you find yourself with what feels like the most amazing project you’ve ever produced. Probably because it also came with a bunch of emotions, but also because it came with an absurd amount of support from so many people. I still can’t get over this.ssg 3ssg 1ssg 4

For every month of this that endured. The old friends and new friends. The real discussions and the pure silliness that came out of it. The potions and the motions. The puppy-headed monsters. Proverbs and no-verbs. These monthly Shakespeare readings are keeping my theatre brain alive. Those that participate, whether for pie, friendships, words, or any reason at all, make each month so fantastic.

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An internet challenge brought me 30 days of my own mediocre creativity, but it did force me to create, which was good for my brain. It’s proven even better now. Because while the final products are not the best things I’ve ever produced, I’m still proud to have produced them.art 1art 2art 3art 4art 5art 6art 8art 9art 10

 

This year allowed me some amazing opportunities to see and meet some fantastically funny and genuinely kind comics. Not all of them pictured. But so many incredible people. From the Puterbaugh Sisters who always treat me like a person to Danny and Mike who were just such treasures to spend time with to Bobcat Goldthwait who saved me from my rent being late without knowing it and gave me life advice to Brooks Wheelan who just wanted to talk about Bobcat Goldthwait to playing host to Kate Willett. And diving into improv again and unlocking some emotions that terrify me and suddenly connecting with a good buddy in the process. Comedy has been kind to me. It took a dark turn at the beginning of the year, and some things got lost, but it also forced us to band together and hold even tighter to each other. Which I love. It’s made us stronger. It’s made us smart. It’s made us love what we’re doing even more. Comedy, you keep doing you. You’re healing so many broken spaces.comedy 1comedy 2comedy 3comedy 4comedy 5comedy 6comedy 8comedy 9comedy 10

And a year of a heart-rending break-up. A year of a bone-breaking fall. A year of a head-injuring fall. A head-injuring fall that has caused enough complications, terrifying complications that even I don’t want to live with me, so many people are still here. Still here holding my hand. Holding my hair back. Holding my head in their lap as I cry. Crying in my lap, because I’m not alone in life being terrifying. Because one trauma can awaken trauma. And you’ve let me live, and die. You’re letting me die alive, and you’re letting me struggle to live. And I thank you for letting me fight for that. (not all pictured)

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Because as much as 2015 was terrible, and it was, I survived. 2016 might also be terrible, but I’m determined to do more than survive. I make no resolutions. I stand by my friends, as they have stood by me. 2016 though, 2016 is mine. It’s ours. I’m going to destroy. I’m going to chew it up with my mechanically and expensively straightened chompers and spit it out in 365 days. I’m going to kick its jaw off its hinge. I’m going to rip it asunder. I’m going to make more violent metaphors than I’ll make in my entire life, because 2015 broke me apart and actually broke me. 2016, I will break you.

Plus, lest we all forget, 2016 will bring us another Leap Day, where nothing counts! Because real life is for March.

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Adventure in Wrecked

I take myself to the movies more than I used to, because until recently I had someone to go with. When I lived in Indianapolis I took myself to the movies, because I didn’t have anyone to go with. I like going to the movies alone. It forces me to stop making quips or to over-analyze and judge.

This weekend I saw “Ant-Man” and “Trainwreck.” “Ant-Man” was a fun romp. End critique.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 09:  Honoree Amy Schumer accepts the Breakthrough Award for Comedy onstage at the Variety Breakthrough of the Year Awards during the 2014 International CES at The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on January 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images for Variety)

“Trainwreck” destroyed me. (I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers). When I got to the theater I ran into my friends Katie and Taylor. They invited me to sit with them, which was super generous. I warned them though. “I’m apologizing now. I am going to cry.” You may remember I cried through “Bridesmaids” too. But “Bridesmaids” didn’t do what “Trainwreck” did.

While “Bridesmaids” was a series of sketches strung together with a relative storyline, “Trainwreck” is brilliantly thought out. I loved this movie. That’s important to remember. Largely, I knew I would cry, because I, right now, am a trainwreck. I am. I knew it would be too relateable. It related all over my face.

In a way that the over-abundance of sex in largely male-driven comedies is the joke, sex in this was device. Drinking was a device. Just a piece of the puzzle. That’s not the part that I found relateable, to be clear. What resonated so much with me was this concept that so much of Amy’s life in the movie is pretty together. Good paying, if not smarmy, job. Steady relationship with “beefcakey” guy. But everything around and in Amy is falling apart. I think we can all understand that to a degree, but until you’ve found yourself faking everything. Every smile, every quick-witted retort, every laugh. Until you find yourself surrounded primarily by people who find you entertaining and useful, instead of deeply invested in your well-being, you just can’t know.

My walls are thick. I started to break them down, but last night, like many nights, I realized how much I have let them build back up. I know because I cried naked in an empty bathtub for two hours. I know because my cat threw shade at me when I moved the cry party to my bed. I’m not okay, but I’m going to keep putting that front up. I’m going to keep seeming fine to people who don’t care about me. I’m going to keep smiling and laughing, when inside I’m throwing up.

Not because someone instilled in me the idea that “monogamy isn’t realistic,” but because I’ve learned that the more I let people in on the truth the more they run away from me. Spin if it you want to, I know who my real friends are. But the truth is it’d be nice, living alone and single in the city, to just have a bunch of casual buds who I feel safe with.

(I apologize that this is so chaotically written)

There are several points throughout the movie where pressure is placed on Amy. Now that she’s found Aaron, she can start the fast track to kidstown. Some of us do want kids, some day, maybe. But there’s a low probability of that for me. So the moment that pressure is put on me I become a 23-year-old frat boy. “Whoa, bro. Nahhh. Yuck. Babies. Yuck.” Because it’s easier to pretend I don’t want it than to accept that I likely can’t have it. (in the traditional way) So far, the Church hasn’t helped me feel any better about that.

That when things get hard, it’s easier for me to just walk away. “This is the part where it gets hard and everything falls apart, let’s just speed this up.” If I never try, I can’t fail. It’s easier for me to promote and support the furthering success of those around me, than to make a damn move on my own and try. Because I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail hard, and I don’t know how much more of that I can take.

The point is. I am a trainwreck. I’ve never felt so understood by a movie in my life. But that doesn’t make it any easier. It doesn’t make me feel any safer. It makes me feel understood, but it also terrifies me. I terrify me, and I’ve seen myself terrify those around me.

Adventure in Back to Who I Was

In January a friend approached me about running auditions for a show his studio was having for Valentine’s Day. By the time Valentine’s Day rolled around we had a completely different show, a completely different band, and a completely different cast. I was directing, organizing, and acting as well. But by the end of it I also had 6 amazing friends supporting me and participating. I had a band that makes me cry pretty much every time I hear them. I had the support of a community. All in all, I had a success. A big success. I had something I’m proud of, which is new for me. You can read more about it here, just know that Matt and Brian could not have given an opportunity like this to a more appreciative human.
simon and simonLately, my life has sort of been a disgusting state of flux, but something about this show sparked something in me again, and I decided I couldn’t let it die again. To the surprise, I’m sure, of many of my college professors this month I hosted my first Shakespeare reading. Nothing elaborate. Just 12 people sitting around my living room drinking wine and beer and soda, eating cheese and reading through The Twelfth Night.

It was perfect, and it filled my head with so many new and exciting ideas. I’d forgotten all about how my heart races when a group of people who have little or no connection to each other come together for one purpose. It’s why I love theatre. It’s why I love collaborative art. It doesn’t have to be friends, but by the end of it, it’s hard not to feel even the smallest connection to the other people involved. They too just experienced the same things you did, produced the same product you did, and are now going through the same successes and failures. It’s a binding thing, and it’s beautiful.

For now, it’ll stay simple and living room bound, but that doesn’t change the value of it for my heart and my head.

Maybe some times regress is better than it sounds.

Adventure in Speaking Up

A little over a week ago a friend came over to interview me for his podcast. I can’t deny this was an odd experience. I do not find myself interesting enough to be interviewed by anyone for any reason. In the process he asked me some pretty good and hard questions. Questions about things I haven’t told many people. Things that will be available for anyone to hear starting tomorrow. Because maybe it’s time for me to start talking about it, or at least stop hiding it or feeling like everything about me is a lie because I can’t be honest about this one thing. So tomorrow you can hear it. Tomorrow I have to be okay with knowing that people I love are going to know, and people I barely know are going to know. People who have hurt me are going to know.

If tomorrow you find yourself wanting to hear it, know that you can. Know that it scares the shit out of me, but you can hear it. You can hear it here.

And if you are someone who has to respond to it, to shut me down or give false pity or who has genuine questions, that’s okay too. And I’m going to work on being okay with that. Please, be patient with me. Please, be gracious. And might I just recommend doing that with everyone you meet. It’s a hard world.

For a preview.
https://soundcloud.com/guerrilla-bio/episode-035-hayley-johnson-preview

Unrelated, I went to Chicago this weekend.

I went to the Art Institute when it opened and alone, which meant I got to spend about 20 minutes in a room filled with Van Gogh paintings all by myself. No one was there. Which also means I cried openly in a room alone. I was transfixed. I could not look away from his eyes. The man could have painted himself anyway he wanted to, but he chose to convey every single ounce of pain he had in him. I looked into his eyes, and he looked into mine. And centuries apart we had a moment.hayley 5 hayley 6

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But then I couldn’t stop staring at people’s eyes. Seeking out similar pains. No one carried quite the same sincere hurt.hayley 8hayley 7hayley 15

I kept expecting her to move. She was so flawlessly realistic. I couldn’t handle it.hayley 13hayley 14hayley 16

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Oh, and it was my birthday.
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And my friends are perfect. Far better than I deserve.

Adventure in Restructuring Revisited

Truth is, I wrote this a March ago, and I’m not at all sure why I never posted it. It’s nothing special. It’s not important, but it doesn’t seem right for it to keep sitting here. Finished.

Until last night I had not slept since Thursday night. Some of that was my own doing, some of it can be blamed on my brain (I call it Brian). One night off will upset my whole schedule.

What I came to realize is that I slept hard Sunday to Thursday. Hard. One night I got a little sad, pretty sad, so I went to bed and I slept 11 1/2 hours. I don’t even feel bad about it. I was processing my week with a friend, and I realized I was granted so very much sleep last week to prepare me for this sleepless weekend. Because the truth is Friday night I needed to be awake. I needed to not take a moment to myself. Some Friday nights I wanted to stay up late, most Friday nights I want to be in bed by 9, with every intention of waking up early on Saturday, a whole day free.

This particular Friday night I stayed up after midnight with a friend. And as I attempted to restlessly to sleep, my phone rang around 2 a.m. The thing about 2 a.m. phone calls is that they are either someone very drunk or someone very hurt. I don’t always answer them. I usually know which it’ll be based on the name. Friday night I had to answer. And I’m glad I did. I’d have stayed on that phone as long as I needed to. And while my friend in crisis had to go, I had to stay. I had to stay up. My brain wanted me to be the one to save her. My brain was convinced I could be. But the longer I stayed up. The longer I prayed–for her, for Joel, for Thailand, for any number of things–I was reminded I am not sufficient. I. Am. Not.

I know, full well, if I had driven to see that friend in the middle of the night it would have been appreciated on both sides (had I even been capable of that), but the truth is I would have been going because I could. Because I believed I could save her. Not only is that not my job, it is not something I’m capable of doing. And it’s very much in my nature to save people. I cannot do this. I can help where I’m needed and where I’m sent, but I am no one’s savior. I have to step back, a lot, to remind myself that not a damn thing in my life is about me.

Thankfully, I am increasingly surrounded by people who don’t let me stay stagnant, who don’t let good enough suffice. I am surrounded by people who actively push me to be better, to do better, but I’m also surrounded by people whose existence in my life draws me, compels me to be and do better. To live boldly.

I’m not there. I’m shit at it. But I’m getting there. I’m improving.

Adventure in Restructuring

Here’s the thing about human interaction. It has both positive and negative impacts. I can spend time with really any sort of person, even the sort that drives me bonkers from their incessant talking.

(And I know you know, I’m saying it for my own sake, to remind me. Sorry, things are getting selfish.)

The thing is that some times you can spend time with people you absolutely love, and they sort of destroy your soul because they take credit for your work. And you’re forgiving. Or because they really love to destroy their own lives and you don’t even bother to do anything to stop them. Not because you don’t care, but because they don’t care and being in their life has made you indifferent to everything. Because it’s easy to just let whatever happens happen. Because you lose your will to say “no.” Or you forget to focus on Christ and maintain a Kingdom mindset. You forget to love people well.

But there are people in the world that you spend time with that challenge you. That push you. Without even meaning to. They’re just having conversations with you and living life with you, and you just naturally pursue being a better version of yourself. You find yourself signing up with several organizations to volunteer. You find yourself actively working to maintain focus and constantly alter your perspective. You find yourself being less selfish. You find yourself loving life more. You find yourself loving people better. You find yourself working on the things you love and working hard at them. You find yourself working hard on things you don’t care about. You find that everyone is important, and you want them all to know how important they are.

People are so important. Voices are so important.

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Adventure in No One is Alone

Recently, I had the opportunity to–well, to be fair, I’ve had a lot of opportunities, but recently I had the opportunity to sit down with two dear friends.

That night we went to see (me for the second time) to see Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. There’s something intoxicating about seeing a band of friends working together to produce something important to them for the fun of doing it. It’s inspiring. In my opinion, it makes the end product all the more powerful.

That being said, after the movie we went out for a drink to sit and chat. After some awkward shuffling around small talk we began talking about survival. My friend David turned his glass in his hand before he began asking me some very probing questions, as only David can. Things I hadn’t thought about or things I didn’t want to think about, but there they were. And some times one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to be really honest with your friends.

One of the most valuable things that came from the night, outside of reinforcing how valuable these two people are to me, was perhaps the realization or awareness or maybe refresher that no one is alone. Not in Christ. That’s sort of the point of the Church. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity.”

As it is, there are people all around us who yearn to remind us that we are alone. Surrounded by people you’re alone. Safely in a relationship, you’re alone. You. Are. Not. Alone. It’s the devil’s game to make you think you are. I’ll say it. When Luna Lovegood says to Harry, “Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat,” she’s not wrong. Why would Satan want us believing we could all be united in Christ? Spoiler: He wouldn’t. When depression has you resigned to your bed, you’re not alone. You’re just not. Someone is on your side.

 

Unrelated, this is my new roommate.photo (72)

 

She wants you to pray for Joel.

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She also wants you to see Starcrossed.

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Adventure in More is Less

Over the last few months some changes have happened. Mostly job related, and while it seemed at the beginning it should have been a crushing blow, and maybe it was, it really all came as a relief.

I need to be honest with you all. Where I was and how I was before, I was sick. Life was so crushing and suffocating, I got really sick. I got friends-banging-on-my-door-in-the-middle-of-the-night sick. I got crying-on-the-phone-with-my-mom, sleeping-at-my-parents’-house sick. I got calling-a-doctor, getting-assessed sick. Depression is a bitch, and some people in life want nothing to do with someone who could be taken hold by it. Some times depression presents itself in some ways that outsiders can never understand. What’s more people who act, people who improvise are pretty good at faking happiness with strangers. Why would anyone know differently?

There are jobs in the world that you could be really good at. That doesn’t mean it’s the right job for you to do. Some things in life are so crushing that they do actually destroy you. Some jobs in life are exactly what you want to be doing with really great people, but they’re in a place that destroy you from the inside. Those places aren’t safe for your brain or your heart, no matter how hard those people love you and support you. Some jobs are horrible for you, and some of the people you’re with in it are fantastic and the place is great, but the whole thing makes you physically ill and destroys your brain.

There are jobs in this world you are adequate at that offer you no satisfaction in life and barely enough money to survive. Some times you become busier than you’ve ever been, but suddenly you’re happy. Suddenly life’s burdens are bearable. Suddenly you can still surround yourself with people you love and who love you. And in the mean time start back at doing the things you love. Things that give you life and give meaning to your life.

You remember how to meet new people. How to love new people. It’s a big beautiful world out there.

Depression is a horrible thing, and I want you to know that I’m so sorry if you have understood that personally. If you still understand that personally. It’s not something that ever really leaves you, I don’t think. It is something you can learn to better deal with. Some people really do understand. Some times moms are amazing allies. Moms are always amazing allies. Some times friends are more willing to help than you realize. Some times it takes changes. Some times it takes hours of prayer. It always takes support. It always takes time. It can get better. And it can get worse. It always takes time. Cut out the evil things that destroy you, the moment you realize they destroy you. Don’t suffer on until it’s too late and go on calling it living. It’s not living. It always takes time. It can get better.