Trying for Joyful; I’ve Got This Round by Mamrie Hart

Recently I finished reading I’ve Got This Round by Mamrie Hart, a popular YouTuber. This is her second book and in both her first one, You Deserve a Drink and this one, she shares humorous personal stories about her life. In her first book many of her wacky adventures can be written off by her youth, or her drinking, or both. In the second, the stories all take place within the two years since her previous book. So she’s older and more successful than before but her stories don’t feel that different. She’s still telling stories about wacky adventures that don’t sound much like she’s changed.

But really this isn’t a review for her book. (Or it kind of is, and it’s kind of more.)

I mean, if you like her or her humor, read it. She’s an engaging writer and you’ll find her new round of stories fun and on-brand. I just don’t think it’s for everyone, which I’m sure even she understands.

However, reading it did get me thinking. Mostly because I recognize how strange it can be to read the stories of people that have more money or time or influence. When they do crazy things like purchasing tickets to Paris, or going on a cruise all on a whim, it’s hard to imagine yourself in their place.

Mamrie is a person in a uncommon position of privilege. Her status as an influencer and as a YouTuber personality grants her opportunities the rest of us don’t get. So connecting to stories about being fabulous places where she can drink and have fun adventures, is difficult.

Here though, is where I started thinking about what else her stories have in common, and where it’s not necessary to read her book to grasp the concept.

This about finding the joy in things. What she does is say “yes” to new opportunities. She reaches out to friends and loved ones to share in her adventures. Sometimes, when life is hard or we don’t feel good, this is the sort of thing it’s hard to do.

I find it difficult to lean in to new experiences.

And that’s the thing I found most often in her stories. Sometimes there would be a turning point… that moment where it’d be really easy to kick back. Sure, I find a day at home with video games or movies enjoyable. I’m a homebody and an introvert and once I’m in comfy clothes it’s hard to get me out of the house. But this isn’t just about getting out of the house. This is about getting out of a comfort zone.

Sort of like I talked about in my post about going to Omaha recently. I was there for a purpose – to see my favorite poet. But several times I tried to talk myself out of it. I tried to avoid going by myself somewhere fancy for dinner. In the end, I had an extremely enjoyable dinner and saw a great show.

I think reading this book was a little reminder that it’s worth it sometimes to push yourself a little more. And it’s doesn’t have to be big moments either. It could be saying yes to little things, like singing loudly in your car, or inviting someone to have lunch with you at work. I’ve also been considering how easy it is to hide the things we’re passionate about.

There’s a story Mamrie tells about going on the Backstreet Boys cruise. And I couldn’t help but admire the joy in that story. Not only do she and her friend just completely lean in to enjoy the shit out of that cruise as best they can, but there’s a whole cruise ship full of women doing the same thing. Sure, maybe their all there for different reasons but if you’re buying tickets to the Backstreet Boys cruise, you’ve really embraced your love for that band. And I kind of love that.

We talk a lot about this kind of idea in fandom circles; how not to yuck someone else’s yum, and letting people enjoy the things they enjoy whether it be a certain type of story or character or art. I think there’s more to that we can apply to just every day life. Being present for the things we love and opening ourselves up to opportunities to love more stuff.

Really it’s part of why I wanted to do this blog, or any blog again. I’m a huge fan of video games, comics, music… and it’s fun to be able to talk about them more, or share them to people who might not otherwise know about them. So, I’m really trying to embrace that whole concept of being present for the joy I have in the things and people I love, and being open or confident enough to do it even more.

Taking Myself Out

So, I drove myself about three hours north early Friday afternoon for a concert. I got into Omaha right about dinner time, leaving me enough time to eat something before going to the show. Now, I’m familiar with the city a little bit, but not the part the show was in. So I drove there first, making sure I knew the area a little. Then I found a place nearby that looked worth trying out for dinner.

Now I’ll be really honest and say it took me longer than I’m proud of to find a place to eat dinner. Mostly because I couldn’t settle on something but also because the conditions around the place for the show weren’t ideal. It’s really fucking cold outside and I didn’t wear shoes for walking a long way, because I’d planned to just park and eat somewhere near the concert venue. So I drove around a little bit while making my decision.

I had to have a good talk to myself during this little drive. A good, stern talking to. Because it’s so, so, so easy to fall into something easy when conditions are out of the norm or at least out of the expected. As I was driving I considered, a couple of times, stopping at some fast food place and eating instead of bothering with anything else. But here’s the thing. I drove three hours to a different city and I had both the time and the money to eat somewhere that wouldn’t make me fucking miserable. Plus, while I could’ve eaten quickly and sat in my car or at a coffee shop for two hours, I would’ve been bored and miserable just scrolling my phone. AND I knew afterwards I’d be kicking myself for not taking the chance to do something else. Hence the very stern talking to I gave myself to just make up my mind and get something.

I had to spend some time finding parking but I managed and the walk was brief. But I ended up at this nice restaurant near the concert venue that was actually a little fancy. I don’t drink alcohol often or much when I do, but since this was a treat for myself and at a restaurant with a wine and cocktail bar, I opted for a drink to.

Let me tell you. I’m so very glad that I listened to myself. I had a fantastic meal, even if it was a little awkward to eat alone. I sat at the bar, ordered a glass of wine and my meal and texted a bit while I waited for both. It’s not the sort of meal I could have often or would choose for myself when I’m home, but it was the perfect sort of experience for taking myself out. A little like a date. Fancy food, nice drink, and a good show.

Duck with endive and sweet potato chips, with a side of scalloped sweet potatoes smothered in Gruyere.
(Not pictured: a glass of Dr. Loosen Riesling.)

Once I got to Omaha and saw the parking, felt the cold, it would’ve been so easy to give up. I even thought about just skipping the show once I realized it wasn’t the sort of venue where you can easily grab a chair. I had so many tiny battles with my anxiety. But it was worth it.

After the show, I didn’t linger because I was eager to drive back home again, but the whole way home I thought about how glad I was to see the thing through.

Oh, and get this. The place I opted to eat for dinner is closing in two weeks. I found that out near the end of my meal. The owners are shutting it down after Valentine’s Day so they can do something new. The place was packed while I was there and the bartender was talking about how busy she expected it to be over the next week and a half. She loves the place and couldn’t speak highly enough of it. That’s an experience I’ll never be able to have again, even if I wanted to. So that’s pretty cool all on its own.

(And if you’re in Omaha before Valentine’s Day, check out Lot 2 in Benson. You might have to go early to get a seat, or sit at the bar, but the food is definitely worth it.)

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Creature Comforts Taken for Granted

cw: illness
One of the things we never really think about when we’re sick is how nice it is to be at home, surrounded by our own stuff and the comforting environment we’re used to. Early last year, I had a really stark reminder of that when I had a really bad case of Pancreatitis that led to a several day stint in the hospital and having my gallbladder removed. There was nothing quite like being at home once I was well enough. I was surrounded by all my own stuff and the peace and quiet of familiar comforts for the days I needed to fully recover. 
Of course being ill in the hospital is a little different. There, you have doctors and nurses looking after you and the minor annoyances of their frequent interruptions are for your own benefit. They give you medicine and see to your dietary needs or restrictions. You’re looked after in a way that you can’t get at home, despite the lack of familiar.
This weekend, my grandsons were over so their mother could get in some much needed study time for her nursing courses. The littlest, who is two, got sick sometime around 3 in the morning and I spent the rest of the morning up with him. He was understandably miserable. Not only was he sick, but each time he got sick, his mom wasn’t there to comfort him. Grandma is only second best in those moments. We sent him home for mom to care for sometime in the mid-morning after which he improved immensely and I don’t think it was all timing. Being around mom works wonders.
The following day we drove across the state to attend a visitation and funeral. Sometime Sunday night after the visitation, I started feeling pretty sickly myself. I have a pretty shit immune system thanks to Fibromyalgia so getting sick shouldn’t have been a surprise, but still, it was miserable. We’re fiveish hours from home and I spent all night Sunday violently ill. I missed the funeral Monday because I was sleeping off the night before. Being sick far in a hotel, far from home, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 
Even spending the day sleeping and recovering isn’t the same. I’ve missed meds, had trouble with food and clothes and what I really want is a day at home in my own bed to really feel 100% again. The weather has turned colder and as a result of being sick, sleeping all day and the weather, I’ve spend most of tonight up with a horrible migraine. I don’t take my migraine medicine with me everywhere because they’re intermittent, and so those are home. 
In a few hours we’re supposed to drive home and while I look forward to getting home, the stomach bug passed to my husband, who normally drives because I get incredibly sleepy in the car. So we’re going to figure out how to get home tomorrow, both of us tired and miserable. Then we’re both expected back to work on Wednesday. A strong reminder how much being an adult and having to care for yourself can really suck. 

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Andrea Gibson at the Lied Center

Last night’s show at the Lied Center was a pretty amazing hour of poems. I’m so happy I went. The stories that Andrea puts between the poems are maybe the best reason to go. I’ve heard or read most of these poems before, but the lead-up or the explanations that go after… they give them further context in a way that makes them maybe not more meaningful (although sometimes that too) but more powerful.

When you’re used to seeing artists on YouTube: dancers, musicians, poets — sometimes it’s difficult to understand exactly how they’ll be in person. For example, there’s a bellydance I LOVE to watch perform, but when I show people her videos online it’s almost impossible for anyone to get a sense of exactly why I like her so much. Sure, she has the technical stuff down, but it conveys nothing of the tension she puts into her dance.

I feel like as touching as Andrea’s poems can be when read, or heard on YouTube, being present for a reading of them, transforms them. You cannot explain to someone else how moved they’ll be. They have to experience it for themselves.

Anyhow, I say that to explain that last night was exactly what I’d hoped for. I’ve listened to Andrea’s new album, Hey Galaxy, but none of them quite transfixed me the way hearing them in person did.

After the show, I picked up their new book, “Take Me With You”. It’s a sort of short form compilation of the highlights of Andrea’s work. It’s short quotes from poems that are especially powerful. I think it’ll be a great way to introduce people to their work too. I plan on taking mine into the office with me. I get comments or questions about my tattoo constantly. This will be a good way to explain it to people.

Once I picked up the book, I stood in line for about an hour more to meet Andrea. I was alone this time and filled with a room full of people that were much younger than me (unless they were parents or teachers there with a teen). 

I also realized how very queer I felt in that moment, with my undercut hair, my Hannah Hart sweatshirt, waiting for Andrea Gibson, in my gender pronoun pin and my new Property of No One jacket. Married as I am, to a man, and in a corporate job where I have to dress pretty conservatively (though I’m prone to casual-down my clothing for comfort where I can), my hair is about the only bit of non-hetero-normative life I get to express. I do cherish the little moments I get to feel a little more like people see my full self. 

Just before I went up to Andrea’s table last night, as my stomach was churning and I was having a hard time breathing and felt sort of all over like DON’T SCREW THIS UP AGAIN panic attack was on the horizon. As the women in front of me left Andrea’s table, they stood up and disappeared around the corner. The person helping with their signing (girlfriend, manager, friend? idk) said they were going to get the dogs. 

You don’t know how thankful I am for that moment. Squashy, Andrea’s tiny dog, stood on the table in front of me, between Andrea and I as I handed over my book. I showed them about my tattoo. They signed my book and I scritched Squashy’s adorable little face. There could not have been more perfect timing for that dog to sit on that table. I know it wasn’t for me. But it was exactly what I needed to get through that moment, to say hello like a normal fucking person, get my book signed and walk away without losing my shit. 

Against my obvious evidence to the contrary (eg. these two posts about Andrea) I do not get this wound up about meeting people, getting things signed, going to events. I’m not good in crowds for long periods of time, but I don’t usually get so worked up over things like this. And even when I am excited, I still don’t have trouble introducing myself or talking to someone. 

But I also don’t get just anything in a tattoo. The time in my life when I felt good enough to get a reminder that sometimes you have to go through some shit to come out the other side a different person? It was really hard. So talking to the person that wrote down what I use as pretty much a daily reminder that things get better? Yeah, I feel like it’s not without reason that I’d get worked up over it. But I did it. 

And next Friday night, I plan to do it again. 

NOT a Midlife Crisis: Living for Friday

Today while I was chatting with a friend/co-worker in the office and we were sort of both joking about doing just the most basic work because it was Friday, I kind of wondered why we feel like we have to pretend that it’s a joke. Was it Friday? Yeah. Did that mean we were going to put less effort into our work? Not really. Maybe some people have jobs where that works for them, but I don’t. What we do have the ability to do, is be a little more playful at work… but we only feel like that works on Fridays. Because it’s the last day of the week.

It’s such an ephemeral thing, too. Like, yes we’re about to stay home for two days. That doesn’t mean Monday is going to be any different and honestly, Monday is when we should be having more fun.

Monday is when we need fun at work the most.

This is how they get us though. The ever-present “man” keeps us working for a weekend, so we shop and spend and try to forget that we’ve got to go back on Monday. Then, on Monday, we’re so conditioned to think about how awful it is. We’re away from our house, kids, pets, or whatever it is you’re missing when you’re at work. And it’s only the start of several days in a row where we’re going to feel that way.

Only not quite.

See Monday is the worst. And everything in pop culture about work life informs us of the awfulness of Mondays.

Tuesday is Monday, part two.

Wednesday is like our half-birthday. It’s a nothing day in the middle of the week. Yet it has a fun name like ‘hump day’ to remind us that the work week is a hill. It starts sucky and Wednesday is when it can’t possibly be worse. It’s the weekly climax of shitty days. It serves only to remind us that Friday is on its way.

Thursday is Monday, part three. Or, as most people prefer: pre-Friday.
We remind ourselves on Thursdays that we can do anything for another day. Especially when the next day is Friday.

And Friday. Well, that’s what got me here in the first place.

Friday sets us up for a weekend of indulgence and freedom. It’s why we do the other four days. So we can flip the bird as we exit at five p.m. and forget we have a job for two days.

Oh, we don’t all do that?

Of course not. One — especially if you have a long-term employer — you likely want to keep, or need to keep that job for one reason or another. And Two — well, we don’t all hate our jobs.

So if you can’t be lucky enough to be part of the group in the second point, then what do you do?

Pretty sure this is where media has made sure to show us how in their late-forties that most middle-aged white cis-gendered men have the dreaded so-called “midlife crisis”.

See, back in the day of my parents and their parents, you might only have just ONE job for…ever. And if you think of the work week in this sort of traditional cycle of boredom and duty, then boy howdy is it gonna suck. Of course you’re going to hate it. You get to your forties and it’s like the Wednesday of your whole life.

These days we’re far more likely to break-down long before we’re forty. Because we have shit politicians or assloads of debt or because everywhere we look we’re not: smart/experienced/good-looking/rich enough. Pretty sure as much as our parents wanted us to be rewarded for everything ever, we’ve learned quickly how to deal with disappointment. Not too mention, the definition of a full-time job or long-term employment is changing rapidly. Jobs like mine won’t exist forever. Kids are learning to become entrepreneurs at eleven and twelve. Hell, there’s a four year old on YouTube making money hand over fist. (Godspeed to his parents.)

What I’m getting at here is that there’s something to this whole work week perception. Whether you work Monday-Friday, full-time, part-time, for someone else or for yourself.

Perception is everything. Instead of living for Friday, living for those precious few minutes we get to indulge, maybe we just live. We don’t all have to love our jobs. But we should see them for what they are: a means to an end.

Go in happy.
Leave happy.

Just make sure to define (realistically) what happy means to you, and work to make it happen.

Passing Notice — Greetings without Intention

In the last several months, I’ve started to notice more and more how often people (the same people, not all people) will pass me in the hallway and ask how I’m doing as they pass me by. There’s no intention to the question beyond a greeting, they definitely don’t plan on or have interest in hearing the answer.

Now, I feel like here in the States and especially in the Midwest where we’re not necessarily kind but we’re kindly responsive or perhaps performatively responsive by default, this is pretty common. It’s not that we don’t know these people, or really if there was an issue we wouldn’t want to know about it. But we’re conditioned to respond to this “hey how you doing?” or “hey how’s things?” or just a simple “hey whats up?” as if it’s a hello. We say, “good”, “fine”, “oh you know” in response as easily as we might just say a hello.

This isn’t uncommon, but I feel like I’ve started to notice it more often because I’ve been trying to train myself to say something else. It’s a challenge really, for me, to try and greet people by name when I pass them in the hallway. So instead of a “Hey, how you doing?”. I specifically try and say, “Hey, Paul.” No more, no less. I started it because I felt like I was always passing people and doing the standard what’s up nod, or weird white people smile and not actually engaging. And then when people did want to say something to me, I wasn’t getting anything out in time before we passed each other by.

There is something sort of freeing, especially if you’re not really good with people or have anxiety, about being able to say something to someone in passing in a situation where no response is needed or required. You see someone down the hall, you say hello, you keep moving. I don’t typically have a problem talking to people, but I was feeling like in my corporate setting I was more comfortable passing quietly and then would feel bad when someone did say something.

Now that I’ve been doing this purposefully for sometime, the “Hello, [Name]!” Comes pretty easily, especially when I work on the same floor with the same people day in, day out. However, it’s made it far more noticeable when people ask a question they don’t want answered in response.

Me: “Hey, Stacey.”
Stacey: *keeps walking* “Hey how are you?”

Well, Stacey, do you actually want to know? Whether she does or not is sort of irrelevant in this situation. Because Stacey never broke her stride while she was asking me that question.

So here’s my new challenge. I don’t respond. It feels so ingrained, so habitual and instinctive to respond with a generic “fine” or “good” to that question. But it’s rarely true, or so simple to say and why am I bothering? One could say that it’s polite to answer. But I’m not trying to be polite to someone that’s only greeting me by way of performance.

I don’t know. Maybe it turns my challenge to be kind and engaged with the people I pass daily into a challenge to be unkind? But I also wonder how many people actually notice when you don’t respond. If I don’t say “fine” does it lose either of us anything out of the brief engagement? I don’t think it does. And I’ll go further and say that I think it’s helping train me out of snap, instinctual responses. It makes me think about the manner in which I greet people: a compliment in the elevator, a simple hello with their name, an actual question about their day/week/weekend. If I’m honest in how I start a conversation, then on the other side of the coin, I want my answers to someone else to be just as thoughtful.

Writing & Research [Passages]: On using people

A content warning, I suppose, is in order for this. At least if it were me, I’d want to know that I’m about to talk a whole lot about some specific [if nameless] shitty Christians. Also, a trigger warning for abuse of a minor (it’s an extremely brief mention).

I’m working on a story — well, a novel, maybe — and for that, I need to do a little bit of research. I want to build a framework around some old church sermons with a pretty specific theme. Thankfully (or not so much since there’s a whole lot of things I’d rather have stuck in my head) I used to go to the kind of church that espoused the kind of ideologies and doctrines this story is going to feature. This means I know pretty easily the kind of people to look up who might have sermons online to listen to.

Specifically, I found sermons from a travel ministry my old pastor taught around the country in the years long after he was the pastor. I listened to one tonight, just one, and I had to skip ahead to avoid the most boring bits. But here’s something I discovered upon listening: this asshole pastor (and he is for reasons I won’t get in to right now) is using stories told to him by the teenagers from my old school to shill his bullshit to the masses around the country. Oh yeah. Shocked me too.

Sure I’m aware pastors and evangelists, revivalists and missionaries, they all use stories from their own lives to weave into their sermons. And for the most part, we don’t mind because the stories are vague and mundane. They’re stories that could really be about anyone.

This isn’t one of those stories. My high school, in a good year, had maybe a total of 70 kids. 15 kids per grade, average for years 8-12. So when you talk about kids that attended the school at a specific grade level and whether or not they had a sibling and what gender they are. It’s not that difficult (if you know the place) to start filtering down to who he might be talking about.

But this isn’t just any story he told. He told a specific story about someone who’d graduated from school with enough details to figure out who it was. And maybe if this was a happy story about the person I wouldn’t be so shocked. But this isn’t a happy tale he’s sharing with thousands of people (or is online for anyone to hear). He tells a specific story that this person shared with him in private about a time as a kid when they were abused. Using details and language that should not just be upsetting for someone that even sort of knows who they are (like me) but for a crowd of church-going strangers twenty years later. This old pastor though, he shares details about the abuse, details about this person’s life… and does so not necessarily making light of it, but ignoring the depth of it in order to make a point, to use it as the core for his sermon. As a catalyst to action.

Listen, these people I was raised with, they weren’t good people. I knew it then, I know it even better now. And yet somehow, each time I learn a little tidbit of information about one of them, like this, I’m still surprised.

How…. how can someone who worked for dozens of years as a pastor, a counselor, a teacher of minds old and young alike, casually toss out information like that in a sermon to strangers? I don’t get it.

Now maybe I’m of base here and he got the permission of the person he speaks of in his sermon. Maybe, despite the gravity of the story, it’s not a big deal to this person? Having heard the story and having a pretty good idea who this person is, I want to assume that’s not the case. But readers… I was shocked and sad and really, really disappointed to hear it. And I didn’t want to be listening to this mess in the first place.

So I don’t know what of this series of sermons awaits me next, if there more stories from the people and places of my childhood to hear about. But I’m assuming there will be.

GCF: Podcast — I am a C. I am a C.H.

A little while back I discovered the podcast, Good Christian Fun.

According to their website:

Good Christian Fun is a podcast delving into the strange upside-down world of Christian pop culture. Hosts Kevin T. Porter and Caroline Ely are your tour guides through the weird and hilarious world of faith-based entertainment. GCF is a show for skeptics and believers alike, all are welcome. 

Don’t worry, we won’t make you go to church 😉 

Let’s have some good Christian fun!

Typically, I tend to stay away from all things church-based, but I’m also a bit of a masochist, so I thought it might be worth a try, given their description. Plus, while I didn’t listen to the Gilmore Guys podcast Kevin Porter previously hosted, I never heard anything but good things about it.

Cue: Me laughing out loud at work, dying at the memories this podcast has dredged up that I would’ve previously been loathe to relive. Instead, Kevin and Caroline do hold up their end of the bargain. What they provide is a good time and lots of laughs about the weird and often absurd world of Christian entertainment. Even for me, who went to a church too strict to enjoy many of the things they address in the current 18 episodes, there’s been something in everything I can relate to in all of them.

In fact, I spent the better part of last week remembering the awful, but catchy, kiddie Christian songs that they taught us little kids in Sunday School. The absurdity of them is laughable now, but what’s even more hilarious (and perhaps troubling from an atheist’s perspective) is how universal and resilient these songs are. They’re the eternal earworm. Not only did I remember them, but I remembered all the words and often the hand movements or “dances” (we didn’t dance, but the few movements could barely be called a dance) that went with them.

I brought up one of them at work and all but one person on my team was able to remember the song word for word. (The last one gets a pass because she didn’t grow up in the States.) And it wasn’t just one song it was more than a handful of songs that we memorized at Sunday School or V.B.S or Church Camp.

It only took me an episode to realize that this was a podcast I was going to turn to every week for an hour an a half or more of laughs and maybe a more fun spin on subjects that aren’t particularly happy memories for me. It definitely puts them in a different light, and lets me enjoy them in some way. For that, I’m grateful.

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