For auld lang syne

Okay, so I don’t really believe in time, but Happy New Year!

Look, it's me 9 years ago with sparklers. Can you tell I'm terrified? Photo by Laura Pope.
Look, it’s me 9 years ago with sparklers. Can you tell I’m terrified? Photo by Laura Pope.

Even though I think labelling periods of our lives as generally good or bad (i.e. “This year sucked!” or “What a great day!”) is actually not helpful and overgeneralizes the nuances of life, I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year for myself. For the past few months, I’ve been taking stock of everything that has happened. It’s a lot. It’s amazing how short and yet how expansive 365 days can be. Even more amazing is how vastly different a year can seem, just based on perspective.

When I focus on the struggle, the pain, the mistakes – this year seems awful and exhausting. Another year older, another year full of disillusionment, of hard lessons learned, of heartbreak, and parts of myself – innocence, behavior, ideas, friends, truths – lost.

But when I count my blessings, and there are so, so many – this year seems miraculous. I’ve finally finished filming my short film, got into stand-up comedy, shot over 15 new web videos, co-founded a sketch team, made it as a semi-finalist in a comedy festival, received a promotion at my job (which I love), and I’ve met hundreds of new awesome people and made so many new awesome friends. Not to mention I got in touch with my birth-family, created several new paintings, started eating meat again (I know) and continue to grow every moment as a breathing, living, flesh-and-blood human being.

My gratitude is overwhelming. So instead of going on further about how great my year was and how lucky I feel to be alive, I want to instead brag about some of my wonderful friends. Because they’ve had amazing years as well:

Chris Chianesi  launched his new webseries, #MANNYPROBZ, and he’s hilarious and his costar Leisl is adorable and it’s everything you want in a comedy webseries. Also, I was cinematographer on a couple of them and those shoots were so much fun.

Jessie Evans launched her new series, “Jessie Eats,” and it’s everything you want in a food blog/webseries – which is basically watching her adorably enjoy all sorts of delicious cuisine and drinks and you fall in love with her within seconds.

Taylor Tobin started writing for the website, Brokelyn, and her food listicles are all you’ll ever need while dining in Brooklyn. Her culinary advice has never led me astray.

Christina Stone has started making custom puppets! They are fuzzy, adorable, and hand-sewn. It’s the perfect gift to give to the children and young-at-heart in your life. You can contact her through her website to place an order.

Emily Duncan premiered her new, original musical, “Me and my Birdie,” which premiered at the Bad Theater Festival, and it was touching and hilarious. AND she collaborated with the magnificent Regina Gibson – they co-wrote and composed a new holiday song you can see Regina, who has the voice of Greta Garbo but 10x sexier, perform here.

Rowan Rivers started a new blog where he divulges his magickal insight on tarot card analysis and it’s wonderful. I love his writing.

Check out this touching and very funny video by Glamour Magazine starring the extremely talented Keisha Zollar and Andrew Kimler, as they talk about their first month of marriage.

The incredible Morgan Clarke is the drummer for the awesome band, Worthy Fools, who just released their EP this year, which you can buy on iTunes!

Cartoonist and illustrator Kyle Rose launched his new webcomic, The Working Stiff, and he’s made major progress on his upcoming book, The Comic Book Convention Survival Guide, so stay tuned!

Producer/Actor Andria Kozica released two new web shorts on Funny or Die this year that are hysterical! Go Bag and Meeting Mr. Reich.

And my best friend since 3rd grade, Nicole Sweeney, literally just seconds ago made the Board of Directors for Pure Romance, a company whose mission statement and products I love. You can buy awesome stuff from her here.

Honestly, I can go on and on and on. I’m am so #blessed to know so many amazing, passionate, creative artists and creators. Sometimes I just scroll through my Facebook feed and beam with pride. How lucky are we?

Here are some more friends who are creating awesome work you should check out:

ChEckiT! Dance, headed by the sweet and lovely Allison Brzezinski

Urban Spiritual, by the insightful chief editor/writer Terence Stone

The SoulGlo Project, a podcast and monthly live show with Keisha Zollar, Anna Suzuki, and Emily Schorr Lesnick.

Have a wedding upcoming or a special event you want captured to remember forever? Hire James Sireno Productions – seriously, Jimmy and his wife, Chelsea, are two of the nicest, most professional, talented videographers I know!

More people you need to keep track of because they’re about to be FAMOUS, they’re that talented:

J.W. Crump, Stephanie BencinMadonna RefugiaTabitha VidaurriDavid MonkCarolyn BusaBilly Bob ThompsonAlyson Leigh RosenfeldKristin Seltman, Miranda KahnBetsy Lippitt, Sarah Knittel, Graham Halstead, Ana Defillo, and actually this is super stressing me out because I have way too many talented friends and not enough time right now to list them all so please just go look at my Facebook friend list because I haven’t even gotten into the hundreds of New York comedians I’ve met this year who are hysterical and exciting.

So congratulations, mazel tov! If you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it through another year. I hope your 2015 was filled with as much love and pain and wonder and life as mine has, and I hope your 2016 is just as full, if not fuller.

Happy New Year!

EDIT: I can’t believe I completely forgot my amazing and talented friend, Hannah Cauhépé who, after doing a daily photo challenge for a year from her home in Paris, has now embarked on a massive world-wide journey and continues to document it with her breath-taking photos. She also has just unveiled her new project, The Lesbian Gaze, where she takes beautiful portraits of lesbian, queer, bi women from all over the world. I forgot because she’s always on the move, currently she’s in Nicaragua! Check out her work!!

But why

This actually started as a comment to my good friend, Hannah’s, latest post (check out her blog, her photographs are beautiful and incredibly interesting), but as I kept typing, I figured I’d just post it here instead of leaving an essay in her comments. Hannah is French. She lives in Paris, although she’s currently in the States. My heart breaks for her, and I am thankful she is safe.

People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Here’s what I was starting to write to her (and it takes off from there, as you’ll see):

I can feel your pain. My heart hurts in solidarity for you, for Paris, for Beirut, for everyone. I hear what you’re saying, absolutely. I immediately experienced empathy when I heard about Paris. I immediately thought of you. I imagined my city, my home, New York, being attacked again. I took the train down to Times Square later that day for work and felt my chest tighten with anxiety. We could easily have been those victims. I sit outside on balconies eating dinner. I have gone to clubs and concerts. I didn’t hear about the attack on Beirut until later that same day, (which is an issue that should be addressed). But do we or do we not put a filter over our Facebook profile pictures – and which one? Do we not post as much about Paris, but more about Beirut? Why didn’t I hear about Kenyan University where 147 students were massacred back in April? Am I a bad person? How can I put the French flag and the Lebanon flag and the Kenyan flag all on my social media while using non-religious but thoughtful hashtags so everyone knows I am good and mean well? How do we stay politically correct – how can we accurately report war and suffering – what is the right thing to do now against ISIS – what about – if we just – what about – this is wrong – this is right – what about –

I have no fucking idea. So I’ve been relatively staying silent, because for me, at this point, right now, none of this matters. I know there are a lot of complex political issues at stake now, and yes, discussion needs to happen, but we seem to be on the brink of a global war. Everyone is shouting, everyone is in pain. The core truth is that people have died, and I am sad. For all of them.

Pain is pain. No one wins when people try to compare suffering, and it is a futile, misguided effort. When in times of immense suffering, we want our pain justified, our grief validated, and our most natural reactions when our souls are in danger is to inflate the ego, retaliate, and look for someone to blame. We need a Why for our pain. Trust me, I do this all the time. Grief is an incredibly, incredibly isolating and lonely experience, not to mention extremely frightening, to explore the depths of pain in our psyche. It’s natural to lash out and try to find someone or something to cling to, even if we drag them down with us in the process.

It’s also natural that the Western media has reacted so strongly to the Paris attacks over the Beirut attacks. Whether or not that’s right isn’t really for me to say. It just Is. The stories that we most relate to are when the victims most look like us, when what happens is close to home, that all hurts much more. It’s natural and human to have empathy sometimes and just sympathy other times. If we could viscerally feel the pain of every experience outside our own, we would go probably insane and very quickly end it. It’s too much. So we distance, we dehumanize, we point fingers, we blame, we cause more pain, in order to protect ourselves. We do so out of fear, and always have. Because the world is too great, the suffering too immense, the losses are unbearable. We are angry because life is unfair.

And we’re right. It is unfair. It’s incredibly unfair. And it fucking sucks. But it Is.

I laugh now looking at my past blog and journal posts. I always think I have all the answers. I just keep having the same epiphanies over and over again. I realize a new truth, write about it, internalize it, and try to practice more mindful living. Which lasts a few days – a week or so if I really try. Then I go right back to being a human who gets angry and hurts and lashes out and clings and gets jealous and says mean things and has selfish thoughts and rolls her eyes and cries all the time and huffs and is just so OVER IT. Because I’m human. This time last year on my birthday, I wrote a whole post about being an adult. Hah hah! Boy, that lasted long. It’s very humbling, to say the least. But it does help me take myself less seriously, which I am always in need of.

You know, now that I think of it, Life IS kind of like school. Every year, you have the same core subjects with some new ones mixed in, and every year, you advance a level – if you do the work, that is. The material gets harder, more in-depth, more complex. But hopefully, if you work hard, do your homework, and listen in class, you become better equipped to handle such challenges. Sometimes you decide to abruptly switch your majors or transfer to a new school, which can also be so overwhelming and temporarily set you back, but you eventually adjust.

Ooooh, so that was the point of the first 21 years of my life. Now I get it. School’s just a metaphor, you guys!

Right now, I’m basically in “Life Whooping Your Ass 301: You Thought You Knew But You Had No Idea!” and I think I may be in way over my head. But thank god for tutors (aka therapists), amirite?

ANYWAY, point being, I’ve recently enacted an experiment where I put into practice one crucial key to Adulting that I totes forgot for like, my entire life, you guys. Acceptance.

As I’ve stated before, I have a crazy powerful imagination, I have a penchant for fantasies, an idealistic willful heart, and quite a passionate temper. I also tend to phone it in, coast, hide, and procrastinate when I can – basically at heart, I’m lazy. I also cling. Hard. To beliefs, habits, people, and some very longstanding grudges against certain people I feel have hurt me significantly. I do this simply because I can, because it’s easier, and because I’ve been getting away with it for nearly 28 years.

When I’m in pain, when terrible shit happens, when life’s unfair, there’s this persistent little voice in the back of my head that whines, “But WHYYYYYY?!” (Did you also read this in Cartman’s voice? No? Just me?)

Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)
Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)

God, I hear that voice a lot. But I usually don’t wait to hear the answer.

If I did, I bet my inner Good Mother would stroke my hair and simply say, “Because.”

And when I ask again, “But WHHHYYYYYY!?” She would probably wrap me in her arms, think for a moment, and thoughtfully, sadly reply, “I don’t know.

So I’m working out my next thesis. I think the next step in this never ending grad school of self-discovery is Acceptance. Even when the answers aren’t clear and there seems to be no reason or logic at all. Because only through acceptance can you then move forward, heal, and let it go. Do I really want to carry my pain of the past around with me my entire life – begrudgingly, angrily, indignant that I’ve been slighted? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s really time to let that painful fire rage so that I can rise from the ashes. Truly embody the Six of Swords and leave behind past pain which has been holding me back from becoming who I need to be.

That doesn’t mean doing so is easy. Nope. This. Is. Super. Fucking. HARD. And so incredibly painful – I can’t even describe the pain. It’s a slow, very painful process and I miss everything so much and the reluctance is so strong. It’s scary to let go. (But you can’t get rid of the Babadook!)

Acceptance doesn’t discount the pain or wipe it clean or encourage apathy. Acceptance accepts the pain for what it is (that’s a weird phrase, huh), acknowledges the hurt, and eventually, hopefully, then lets the pain move through us, rather than take over us. Yes, this happened. Yes, it was unfair. I was hurt. I still hurt. It has affected me. But it happened. This is part of my story.

Because there is Life After Death. And if we’re lucky, we’re reborn a thousand times. The messages of peace and love and understanding that I’ve seen in the aftermath of these attacks are so beautiful and uplifting. It’s time to heal, as a planet, as humans, as humanity. We need to take care of each other. I see it in the strength of the Syrian refugees, the families of victims of senseless violence, the survivors of violent attacks and immense trauma. They persevere. They still have hope. They keep living. Because this is Life. And it Is.

I’ll leave you with this amazing little video. Sending you love.