Avalanches, Beyond Blue and Laughter Yoga

Laugh. I love making people laugh.

Yet I have not laughed much myself for near on two years.  The decision to move to Melbourne after living remote for a long time has been hard.

It has taken a monumental mental health crash to realise this. My social anxiety has been debilitating since a workplace injury.  But I am working really hard to recover.  But I need to sleep a lot, and I have had to ask for help and get help like I haven’t had to since my 20’s (when I was recovering from a temporary brain injury).

Part of that is doing the things I love that are light years away from Community Services. In fact, it looks like I can no longer work in community services and I have had to grieve that.  One burn out too many.

I do have two comedy performances coming up (a creativity workshop and a small run of four shows in March) – but I was hoping that this year I would be performing more, not less. This mental health crash means I still need to perform, I just don’t have the spoons to do it much and I have to get lots of support to be able to. Self-care has been a struggle, but friends have rallied around and I am immensely grateful to them.

Yesterday I did the washing six times, the same washing. Because I would forget and go to sleep and…yep…rinse cycle.

Some might think that the definition of irony for someone who loves writing, producing and performing comedy is to experience the mental health challenges as I do.

Or is it? Oh dear, there is that dreaded stereotype about comedians and mental health.  But it isn’t just comedians.  It’s everyone that is at risk.

I repeat. EVERYONE.

I started this blog a long time ago when I was about to trek the Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas and this blog was to raise funds for Beyond Blue. And to talk about happiness, of all things. Since then it morphed into my comedy website.

The fact is that trip to Nepal was life changing, the evolution of this blog reflects that fact.  I was trekking with a partner and during the trek we just missed being caught in the October 2014 avalanche and freak storm that killed 39.  Our next two days of trekking were very scary indeed.

Things unravelled. My partner and I split two days later and when I returned to Australia I moved out two days after we landed.  The stress of these things brings truth to the fore.

For me that truth was, bisexual me was forcing a relationship that was making me miserable.  Playing house.  Those who know me well know that this is plainly ridiculous.  Even more ridiculous is that since then I have realised I am also grey asexual, meaning real attractions for me are rarer than for most. I was bullying myself to conform.

Today I felt like, for the first time since an awful period of suicidality in November/December 2019 – like I could be aware enough to count my blessings.  Whilst I practice gratitude, when you are facing intense mental health challenges you can be practicing but not really practicing.

Some things I have shed from my 45th year (the beginning of this blog) to my 50th year:

  • Gender binary conformity
  • Giving a shit about what other people think about me
  • Denial of my neurodiversity – being okay with both the strengths and impairment of being autistic and having chronic illness
  • The desire to conform to ideas of monetary success (money stress still sucks though)
  •  Throwing in the bin any remaining concerns about the expectations of my family to be CISHET, regular job, non-artistic or any of there discrimination of the basis of neurodivergence.

Some things I am embracing:

  • Family isn’t biological.  My friends are my family.
  • Love is love and everyone deserves it.
  • It’s okay to need help.
  • I like me for the first time ever.
  • The status quo is not for me, so an arts career is probably where I should be!
  • I don’t have to be all things to all people.
  • Don’t read the comments.
  • Fuck shame.  It can piss off.
  • ENBY BI GREY-A intersectionality.
  • Block trolls.
  • Stay political.

So now, at the beginning of my 50th year I think it’s time to laugh more.  Very soon I will be a laughter yoga leader and delivering this will make sure I am laughing with others, regularly.

I am going to laughter yoga, comedy write and rest myself back to better health.  I am very limited in the time I can spend on any task at the moment and I am aware this is long path yet.  But I will persist. To quote Joe Cocker, “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends”.

Picture of me laughing for attention.

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Hold Space, Mad Pride Comedy

I’ve been doing comedy almost three years now.  It takes all my hours outside of my day job. It has consumed my life for the last 13 months.

I started doing comedy to hold space as a fat, nonbinary, autistic femme.  None of those words are insults, they are descriptors of diversity.  And diversity is a beautiful, interesting thing.

I just want to hold space as me.  I’ve only started to do that recently.

My first gigs were traditional comedy.  Boom, boom, tish, punchline based standup. https://youtu.be/YS-1KO6pGB4

Then Labelled happened.  I fully embraced who I was and wanted to tell stories, not punchlines. https://youtu.be/Q-VNpvLSxN0

Audio-visual.  Make people think about the issues of judging each other.

Anyway, I’m tired and I’ve lost my mojo and as far as I am concerned it’s showing on stage.  Because I’m starting to measure myself against the mainstream again.

madI did a show called Mad Pride last night and felt like I wasn’t shiny enough.

I let my anxiety rule me about performing in the same show as someone as shiny as Felicity.  But I’m not Felicity Ward (who is fantastic by the way).  I’m not skinny, fast and furious and filled with hilarity.

I’m fat, different, non straight, meandering, making people think and laugh at stories at a slower pace.  But last night I was so unhappy with that.  I lost lots of the energy I brought to the first solo show in Darwin.

I’m too worried about not being Felicity, that I’ve lost sight of the plan to hold space for everyone who isn’t Felicity.

I’ve been tearing myself apart about this performance – until Heidi Everett reminded me to just hold space.

So, I’m taking a break from too much comedy and going off in search of finding my mojo again.  I’m gonna do other forms of fun things I like.  Sing.  Improv. Radio.  Poetry.  Writing.  Just anything other than anything remotely resembling mainstream comedy.

I’m going to hold space.  I wanted to change up what the shiny people do and I need to stop measuring myself against mainstream.  I want to honour the;

Bentfat

Strange

Not pretty enough

Not popular enough

Fat

Queer

Disabled

Neurodiverse

Visible panty and legging lined!

Hold space

We don’t have to be shiny in a mainstream popular culture way.  

Comedy and NOT Hiding in Plain Sight.

“Hiding in plain sight”.  I feel that until I was 45 that is exactly what I was doing.  Then I found the joy of performing comedy.

My father’s father was a iron monger.

My mother’s father was a house painter.

My father’s mother was a milliner.

My mother’s mother was a “housewife” aka as business manager of a house painting business.

Working class.  Blue collar.  Not that Australian’s like to think we have classes.  But we do.

I work in the white collar field of anthropology, I am a writer and a performer. I travel lots. I don’t aspire to the same way of life my grandparents did and most certainly not to a “settled or domestic life”.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved and admired both sets of grandparents and appreciate how different their lives were and that many of the choices I have were limited to them or not available at all.  So, the motivations for how they lived had to be different as a matter of course.  However, some of my ancestors would not have chosen a different course even if it is available to them – of that I am sure.

Yesterday I walked through the Melbourne CBD, where I will be working in the near future – thinking how very different I am to the last two generations of my family.

None of them wore parts of the female anatomy on stage.  *Yes, I sometimes do wear a large costume on stage that is to do with women’s reproductive rights – but not always*

None of them went to university.  They only travelled because of war.  How very lucky I am and how very grateful to my ancestors I am.

And exactly how much my hiding in plain sight was linked to the identities of my grandparents and perhaps much further back than that. 

We now know that some of our inter-generational behaviours are genetic – so that explains some of how difficult it is to be different from our forebears.

It also explains something for me about how different my course is – but how fundamentally similar it is.  I will always work in jobs that fight for the underdog, the battlers and for those who experience disadvantage.  Those are my social and genetic roots.

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Thank you to the Melbourne Observer for featuring my show! Read the whole edition (and me on page 51.) online at http://melbobserver.com.au/wp/

This might explain why we might feel as though we are “hiding in plain sight”.  Trying to blend in where we don’t really feel we do.  I think this is the source of much unhappiness for many people.

We need to stop hiding in plain sight.  The world’s diversity is it’s greatest gift.  

Stop it.  Stop it now.

Be who you are.

I am no longer hiding in plain sight.

I am holding my own space – fiercely.

 

You can see my show “Labelled” at #SydneyFringe and #MelbourneFringe Festivals.

Sydney Fringe – Kings Cross Hotel – 14 & 15 September – book tickets at:

https://sydneyfringe.com/buy-tickets/?e=MTU2MzU

Melbourne Fringe – at the Hare Hole at Hares and Hyenas, Fitzroy, 24, 25 & 26 September, book your tickets at:

https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/labelled-a-comedic-story-about-stories-about-people/

 

Days 11 and 12 – Routine Change

Sometimes I imagine my life a bit like a fire alarm drill.  Does that sound a little cray cray? Nah, not at all.

Take the example of a fire alarm drill at work.  A voice comes over a loudspeaker.  It’s usually a loudspeaker that you didn’t know existed in the building and you’re not exactly sure where it is.

Life and the need for a change can be like that.  You know there might a message through life’s fire drill loudspeaker at some point that will require you to act, but you are not exactly sure when or from where that instruction will come.    

You can be just “trudging” through life when an external or internal voice, like our own fire drill loudspeaker says “you gotta move, do something different”.  Whether or not we listen to that voice can be the difference between living a life we want or just existing.

The next thing that happens in the work fire drill scenario is that everyone gets up and has differing responses.  Some laugh.  Some sigh.  Some complain “do we really have to do this?”.

When I first knew that the funding for my job wasn’t continuing I felt like my fire alarm drill response was a daily occurrence.  I felt disrupted and annoyed.  But I knew it was also an opportunity.

Just like a work fire alarm drill is an opportunity to get outside in the carpark and stretch your legs.  Have a chat, a laugh, for some a cigarette.  The point is, it’s not a real emergency but a routine change, prompted by the need to prevent emergencies.

I like to think of life changes like changing jobs or homes, or cities like a routine change.  Sometimes if we don’t do it, there will be an emergency of sorts.  For me, if you are in the same pattern at home and work and it feels like you are in a holding pattern, then maybe you need to change something.  A routine change of some sort.

Change is always uncomfortable, but if we make it routine change, like a fire alarm drill, we manage our thinking about it better. It’s not an emergency, it’s a routine change to preventing one.

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The awesome Feedback Cafe

I spent yesterday unpacking my car and organising my life.  Then I went for walk and had coffee in an awesome café, The Feedback Café (pictured above).  Booze, blues and coffee.   It is an awesome funky, quirky spot to hang out.   Oh, and bought a book.

I then cooked a hearty meal for my housemates (who I am immensely grateful for) and a couple of their friends.  I feel at the moment the urge to hurl myself in life, into job applications and walking the streets of Melbourne to find what organisations are out there.

But I recognised that I need to bring to routine to this change. So I made my space comfortable and enjoyed the awesome creative people around me.

My new little office/bedroom is in a bright, cheery, timber floored room in a sleepy inner city suburb of Melbourne.

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A corner of my little piece of inner city Melbourne

There is more to see and do within five blocks of me than I have experienced for a while.

I can go out the door and be surrounded by cafes and bookshops and art in no time at all.

I am enjoying this change, although it was prompted by life’s interrupting and annoying loudspeaker.

It feels right.  It feels like the right kind of challenge.

The loudspeaker of life is not making huge announcements at the moment, but there is static in the background that says “get organised and things will fall into place”.

I believe that is because I am prepared to let life deliver me whatever change, challenge or opportunity is next.  I will act towards directing that a little, but I am quite okay with being at the mercy of life’s fire drill loudspeaker.

Day 10 – Old Beginnings

Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions.  Well it feels unexpected, but in some ways, like there is some kind of draw to back full circle as well.

I only lived in my place of birth, Fern Tree Gully, Melbourne, until I was about four years old.  My immediate family then moved to Queensland.  In my teen years I very much missed out on getting to know the extended Melbourne based family.

I knew a bit about them and I have been working on a family tree for my late fathers side of the family.  But I don’t know them and they don’t know me.  Most of both sides of the family only know what my Mother tells them about me and I rarely know what is going on in their lives.  The lines of communication have been closed for many years and I am not really sure why.

There is a part of me that wants to reconnect with family here, but a part that wonders if I am too different, too strange.  I am in no way like anything I know my family to be.

Another part of living here fascinates me more than the family connections and that is the history.   Particularly the places Dad would talk to me about.  His childhood.

img_1921His time at Collingwood tech.  His apprenticeship at WL Ryan and Sons at 590 Elizabeth Street in 1939 (he is pictured above – sitting in the foreground on the box at the back of the workshop).

I still have his letter of reference from WL Ryan written in 1949.  I have searched for theimg_1923 premises, but they have been replaced with a modern building.  But I will go for a look and I am thinking about taking Dad’s old apprenticeship papers to the Victorian Museum for safe keeping.  They have some photos of inside the workshop, so they might be interested in his documents to add to the collection.

I am performing comedy in September in North Fitzroy, where my father was born.

I know so little about getting around Melbourne and I feel as though life is just starting again, despite the family history here back to the gold rush in the 1860’s.

It’s an exhilarating but most unexpected turn of events.  Everything is new and interesting and a touch daunting.  But I am very glad to be here, just a little bit away from my late father’s early life.