Improv has taught me a lot of things about life, there are so many truths that can be found in improvs simplicity. In how you learn Improv in order to perform you can learn from improv in how you choose to live. Can you teach someone how to make things up? Yes. Generally there are "rules" to improv and my goal is to use those “rules,” or my preferred term "guidelines.” I will use this in my work implemented in this blog and in my own improvised life.
Today’s lesson or truth is: If it feels weird keep doing it.
This is what I mean when I say that: whatever feels uncomfortable or scary... keep doing THAT until it starts to feel comfortable and almost normal. Everything new in life is scary and we decide what level of fear we interject into our lives.
Fear. Doubt. Doubt. Fear. Fear. Doubt.
It feels like that series of words has been running through my mind the last couple of weeks or so. I’ve had a lot of people reach out and tell me how much they appreciate my writing and I’ve had some reach out and question my motives. That is where I choose to put my energy, for those who say “I can't do this” or “I’m not going to do anything”. Doubt and fear have always been a portal to my downward spirals. It's hard for me to accept good things people say, but I welcome doubt and fear with open arms, even make them cookies and break out the good China to make sure they are welcome and comfortable in my life.
The last couple of weeks have been particularly, incredibly, annoyingly, frustratingly hard. I grabbed onto one negative phrase that was shared with me and I welcomed fear and doubt back in. It was like a scene replayed over and over and over again over the holidays as old friends from high school got together and talked about the good old days. Doubt and fear decided to get the old high school gang back together, so they called depression, anxiety, rage and who can forget that ol’ cut up who's always up for a good time, self-loathing? They share stories of the painful times that brought them together. Remember that one time where Jeff was a moron? How about that time Jeff did this stupid thing? Or What about the time Jeff threw this awesome opportunity away? Then they would laugh and laugh, and more stories about my failures would start up. Just like old times. Why? Why did I allow this band of ne'er do wells back in my head for a trip down memory lane? Why was I weak? What brought it on? The holidays? The mental exhaustion of the last few weeks? The open vulnerability from writing all this stuff down? All the above? Probably. Most likely.
Doubt is a jerk. He's that one friend in the group that hates everyone's idea for where to get dinner or always has to have a better story than anyone else and, even though you know he's probably lying about most of the story, it still makes you feel bad because you begin to think everything you have done sucks and is the worst ever.
This is a long journey of moving past my own battle with myself over the last 6 years. One of the avenues to leaving and moving on is this very blog. Writing out my honest thoughts and feelings for dozens to read. Why? Because for so long I've not shared anything about my life with anyone. I'm a super private and quiet person who has felt that people would not be interested in what I'm experiencing and I don't want to be a burden to everyone because they got their own stuff to deal with. I needed to move on I said I'll try the blog thing and write and share honestly. Why? Because being open with my feelings scares the crap out of me. It feels weird, so if it feels weird keep doing it. Eventually that weird will feel a little normal, and then comfortable, and then that messy or weakness becomes a strength. So I write about how I feel.
This is an idea of how I want to write and what I want it to look like. Sometimes it'll be funny; sometimes it'll have some teachable moments and others it may just be me stammering through just saying words. But this is what works.
I'll never claim I have it all figured out now because of everything I went through. Never. Because I don't. I think now that I'm being more open with myself and the world (i.e. the dozens of people who may actually read this) the light is shining brighter on my messy and weaknesses and what I'm needing to work through. I don't have it figured out. It's the opposite. It's improv. I'm making it all up as I go along and sometimes it's going to be beautiful and I'll be amazed at what was just created and other times it'll be a dumpster fire and so awkward that the people watching can't wait until it's over.
I'm proud that I have goals and dreams again. I'm happy that I have a path but I'm scared to death because now I have to produce something, try, and actually give a crap about what's happening. So doubt showed up and began to whisper that I can't do all the things I want to do. That I'm a no one. Reminding me of a few things someone once told me. They said that I wasn't special and people's lives are better off without me in them and that I'll always be a screw up. I know that to not be true, I believed those things for a long time. Wove them into my fabric and made them a part of me. Then I decided to not believe that anymore and worked to reverse that course and move on. I just want one day where I feel regular person normal and not the normal I've created which is way far away from regular normal.
Then doubt, that sneaky little jerk face, pounced back in and brought all that back up. Why? Because I lost my temper, over reacted and lost control because I'm not used to being so open. I'm guarded and don't let people in and then all of a sudden I'm sharing things that most people don't know and I'm opening up and now here people are responding and messaging me and thanking me and I start to put pressure on myself and my heart and emotions are raw and so I lash out and mishandle it because I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE CRAP IM DOING!!! THIS IS ALL SO NEW AND I'M NOT USED TO FEELINGS!!!! LOUD NOISES!!!!!
I just know this blog and honesty is the next step and it's going to take me somewhere. I don't know where but I'll be someplace I've never been. So I have to steady myself, quiet the world, change my actions, and minimize the doubt. I'm going to do the wrong thing at times, I'm going to have panic attacks and be depressed and have doubt play its mind games. But I know also that this is all part of some bigger thing and all these doubts and crap are temporary and I'll be better because of it. I've been through too much and come too far to say, “OK, well two weeks was enough of being strong so let's go back to the old ways. The comfortable ways. The ways that don't feel weird.” No, I don't want that way. That way brought me nothing and got me nowhere.
So I struggled. Big deal. It happens. I'm learning from it and growing as I need to. So thanks for stopping by, doubt, but I can't hang out right now. I got some pretty cool stuff to do. I get it. I'm not strong. I'm weak, utterly weak but to get stronger you push yourself and lift the heavy things. Doing the stuff that feels weird. Then what was once difficult becomes manageable and what was hard becomes doable.
If it feels weird keep doing it, that's what I’m going to do. I’m going to do the weird stuff and be better because of it. What scares you? What area of your life do you need to apply the phrase... if it feels weird keep doing it? Just like in improv it’s helpful to think that there are others on stage with you supporting you and making you look good. Let's support each other as we face doubt and fear and do the weird weird weird weird weird weird things that scare us.
Fear. Doubt. Doubt. Fear.
Maybe it should be doubt the fear... doubt that it has the all the power and take that power back and know that you have more in you that you allow yourself to see. That your mistakes don't define you and that your weaknesses are beautiful. You got this. We got this.
Go do something that scares you today and know how amazing you are. Then let's get the old gang back together and sit around tell stories about how we did the weird things and we got better and did things we never thought we could. I can't wait to hear how you doubted the fear and did something awesome.
jeff Jenkins is an award winning comedian, actor, writer, producer and director and writes about how improv comedy helps him in his ongoing battle with depression and living his best improvised life.