From Neighbors to Barn Cats

            I’ve been cooped up in my little railway-style apartment for 3.5 months now, biding away the time with various semi-productive endeavors like learning how to use Ableton, fantasizing about my next career as a nomadic chef/witch and finishing off family sized bags of kettle chips. While my insufferable millennial neighbors act like Covid-19 is just a non-stop party where the government pays for the beer, piling up in parks and walking around crowded grocery stores mask-free like they’ve never read a single article on the internet; I’m being an actual good human and trying not to kill people. I mean, not physically. In my mind, I’m committing mass murder.

            My still miraculously-in-love-constantly-laughing-next-door-neighbors might as well be letting children starve to death, I eye them with such hostility. Families biking merrily by my apartment, yelling and singing at the top of their lungs as I sit on my front balcony trying to write, get hit by invisible firetrucks. My lower neighbors, who have stopped having daily bed-breaking sex that could double as the most obnoxious opera singer’s vocal warm-up, are now drilling holes into my eardrums with the sound of their… footsteps. After sending a mind tornado through only their front and back windows, I initiate full-on warfare. I write them a letter and leave it in their mailbox. The suspiciously sweet but clearly aggressive jist is “Hey there neighbors! You’re great, I’m great, everything is great but COULD YOU PLEASE WALK AROUND QUIETER YOU DUMB FUCKING COWS.” To be fair, I specified “after 10pm,” and honestly it sounds like an 800lb man is training at all hours for a marathon down there. After no noticeable change I put my big girl pants on and repeat the message in person, where they look at me like I’m crazy before shutting the door and turning back into ogres. At 3am one night as they are stomping around with 15 of their best friends inside, read: illegally… I seize the opportunity and giddily call the cops. Yeah, I’m that person now. But I mean, cops aren’t exactly the most beloved of folks right now, and I figured I was doing a great service to humanity by inconveniencing two groups of dickheads. Fuck them ALL.

            Sooo it’s possible I might not be my best self right now. I decide the solution for social isolation bitterness is… more isolation. I just need to get out of the city! I fire off a wish to the Facebook Fairy asking for a house swap situation to get my bitter ass into nature, and within days, a colleague asks if I might want to look after his farm home for a month while he visits family. FUCK. YES. I only need to know two things: “How do I get there,” and “Can I bring my cat;” since we are now married. 

            One week later and a car packed embarrassingly full of all my “necessities:” just about 17 writing notebooks, my violin, amp, special effects pedals and every cable I own regardless of whether it even powers something I’ve brought (I don’t know what half my shit does still, I just put the thing in the hole that looks like the right shape), two camping tents (long story) and (oh fine I ordered one on Amazon, it didn’t come, they refunded it, I ordered another one, both tents appeared, tents are fun, I need 2 tents), and my cat and all of his catty desires.

            So it’s my first blissful morning in the middle of nowhere, away from my noisy neighbors, not to mention the classic Montreal summer soundtrack of construction noise covering every possible decibel and frequency within the range of the human ear. I make myself a coffee and a smoothie, grab one of my many notepads, and head outside to fulfill my dream of being a weird hermit writer person, thriving in peace and solitude, happily self-banished from society. No sooner than I can write one underwhelming sentence, I hear an abominable noise emitting from beneath the deck floor. It’s unsettling, deeply obnoxious, and from multiple sources… like a group of defunct chain smokers are transmitting their low raspy voices through a hospital full of crying babies. I see four scrappy figures come into the light of day and lurch purposefully up the stairs. Two dark grey and two splotchy white with dark stripes- all ribs and claws and mucousy eyes.

Barn cats.

            I remember my initial conversation with the owner. “Can I bring my cat?” “Sure, if he likes other cats!” He was referring to his two house-cats, but neglected to mention these prickly characters. I love all animals, right?! This will be fine. What’s another four cats, on top of the two cats, on top of my giant Maine Coon cat-husband George Michael? (That’s his name) Well, being ambushed every time I come outside for one. All day every day, the 16-legged muscular cat contraption waits on the deck poised, listening for the doorknob to turn before thudding towards me at lightening speed- throwing themselves at me with all their weight, rocking me like a bus in an angry mob. I use my right leg to “redirect their energy” across the deck. I walk down the steps bare-legged to escape for a moment under the guise of scoping out the garden; and the bigger grey one, who looks like Rocky Balboa in the last round of a fight, follows me around munching on my ankles like some sortof shitty appetizer to the food he clearly thinks I’m about to give him. I feel it necessary to note here that the bigger white splotchy stripes one is the spitting image of Garrett MacLaren, a kid I went to elementary school with who was really annoying.

            Anyway I message the owner. “Heyy! How’s the trip going?? So umm, is it normal for the barn cats to be pretty… aggressive?! Do you think if I fed them, they’d leave me alone? Cool cool because presently one is eating me. Just let me know.” He writes back: “Trip is good. Please don’t feed the barn cats.” I look at them, all but foaming at the mouths, their cacophony of yowls filling the air… and I start to have some very dark thoughts. Murdery thoughts. What if I were to just accidentally… Fuck. I’m a horrible person. I go right from mind-murdering my neighbors for walking too loud, to these poor barn cats for wanting a basic fundamental need met. I Tai-Chi kick them out of my way for I wanna say… 3 more hours… then I drive to the grocery store and buy a goddamn bag of cat food. (So the owner won’t know what sneaky business I’ve been up to when both his extra-large bags of Whiskas are mysteriously empty)

            I get back, and dump what I think is a reasonable dinner-sized amount from the bag into some plastic bowls- an amount I think the bag can sustain for the full month- and those fuckers gobble it all up in 8 seconds. They immediately glare at me for more. When I don’t budge, they harrumph as though to say “I guess that’ll do for now” and lounge in the sun, temporarily taking on the appearance of normal cats. I don’t feel any warm snuggly feelings for helping these creatures- I feel resentment. They are dependent on me. They NEED ME AND IT JUST MAKES ME WANT TO HELP THEM LESS. Why can’t they be like George Michael and the house-cats? (New band alert?) Chilling like the Lion King, eating bugs, happy when I bring out some food but not like SMOTHERING ME IN A BLANKET OF THE NEEDS OF EVERY SINGLE MEAL FOR THE REST OF TIME.

            But I realize, they live a life of uncertainty. They live from meal to meal, never knowing when the next one will come. George was born into abundance- he knows his food dish will always be full, so he never needs to beg. These guys beg because they need to. They are starving, and resourceful. They know, one out of every 15 times, their “method” works, as they have proven by cat science when I caved and bought the Whiskas. The fucked up thing is, I don’t want to help them. I want to help George and the house cats- the ones who already have everything they need. They want it too much, they’re too desperate. It reminds me of dating, where we’re only interested in people who couldn’t give two shits about us, and ignore the perfectly lovely person who’s standing there with flowers. Okay maybe it’s more like the person who texts “just woke up” selfies every 10 seconds and calls you “Babe” by the second date. They mean well… It reminds me, of how most of us only want to help those who don’t really need our help, and abandon those who need it most. Have I found a deep analogy for one of the biggest problems of humankind, or am I just becoming one giant crazy cat-lady trope?!

Why do we spend money on artisanal baby shower gifts when there are homeless people? Why do we order shit from Amazon when small businesses are going bankrupt? Why do we put exorbitant amounts of funding into cops when the only reason we need them in the first place is because there are people who don’t have access to education, mental health resources and basic living wages?!?

         I think if we really go deep and allow ourselves to answer those questions, the world would be a better place. In any case, I keep feeding the damn cats. And I find, it’s easier to feed them, than not to feed them. What seemed like a burden at first makes us all better off. Like any of us who have snapped at a stranger in an A&W line at the brink of a hanger craze, they transform into their sweet, natural selves once their basic needs are met.* Ah who am I kidding they’re still pretty annoying. But there has been a softening. They feel less desperate, dare I say even kindof cute… and I feel less murdery. We’ve reached a compromise. I feed them, and they leave me alone for a while, purring by my side as I read a book, finally relaxing into the unadulterated sounds of nature.

*After publishing this essay, I learned that the reason these guys are so persistent is because they used to be fed daily by someone who has since moved away. If you or someone you know in the Montreal area is looking for a cat to adopt, these guys really are quite healthy and sweet (once they’re fed!), and you’d be saving them from almost certain death come winter when they’re left to fend for themselves. Use my contact form to reach out if you don’t know me personally. Thanks for reading!

Witches and Magicians

I recently started taking a solo sketch comedy class online, from a theatre in Toronto. Why not? With classes being offered online all over the world, all these opportunities are popping up that didn’t exist before social isolation. I considered taking improv classes from UCB that normally you’d have to live in NYC or LA to take, until I saw the prices. $400 USD on a freelance musician’s government issued COVID-salary? Nope.

So my sketch classes run like everything else is running right now… over Zoom. Once a week, 9 of us form into a perfect Brady Bunch cube, and hone our monologue-writing chops. Honestly unlike other kinds of comedy classes, solo sketch works pretty well in the online format. The teacher spends a portion of the class talking theory, then asks us to do some short in-class writing assignments that we take turns presenting and discussing, then she assigns us homework to hash out during the next class. I was worried two hours of an online class would seem long, but the time just flies by doing the things I love: writing and being silly with other people who love comedy.

The class itself is very diverse, always a nice change from the mostly white, gender-binary world of classical music, at least in my experience; and the teacher is a freaking delight. She is hilarious, knowledgeable, and very helpful with her feedback. So I was a little thrown off this week when we were going through one of our homework assignments: 3 pitches for a presentation-style monologue, including the “who, where, and what’s their deal.”

When it’s my turn to share, I start with two somewhat unique ideas:

1. An eccentric hurdy gurdy scholar gets increasingly distressed as his instrument starts falling apart while demonstrating it to a class of disinterested music students; and 2. The CEO of a struggling professional orchestra asks all the musicians, aged 60 and up, what they would be “willing to do online” to keep things afloat while all their live performances are cancelled. Cut to them all begrudgingly playing “virtual ensembles” in their underwear.

Then, I pitch this pretty basic one that I haven’t fully hashed out yet:

3. A witch addresses all her fellow witches in a Youtube video on how to make spells from “what you already have at home” to avoid making unnecessary trips to the grocery store during COVID. Instead of “eye of newt,” you can use eye of potato. Instead of “blood of a pig,” you can use ketchup. And so on until she realizes she has ended up with a pot of spaghetti instead of a working spell.

The teacher, very astutely, says my first idea has the most promise, the 2nd one could be good though maybe logistically complicated, but the 3rd is a bit of a “hack.” As in it’s been done a million times, and I’d have to work really hard to figure out what makes this witch different from all the rest of the witches. This is my life right now.

We give the floor to one of the few white guys in the class, and he proceeds to pitch his first idea: A magician is talking to a bunch of other magicians, about how they can adapt their skills during COVID, with an emphasis on illicit activities. Or something like that. And I’m thinking, alright, teacher! LET ‘ER RIP! Tell him that’s a hack, just like my witch idea! But to my surprise, the teacher looks down at her keyboard, pauses for a moment, before laughing for like 5 seconds. Is this a fake laugh or a real one?! I don’t know her well enough yet, but it doesn’t sound like a genuine belly laugh… Then, she PRAISES HIS IDEA… before finally telling him the same thing she told me, albeit in a much more roundabout way. More emphasis on “this is a good idea,” with only a slight undertone of “but you might want to dig a bit deeper.” What the actual fuck?

This is an enlightened teacher- I know for a fact she’s not brushing off my ideas just because I’m a woman. She has no doubt struggled a great deal to get where she is in the comedy industry, having to work 5 times as hard as all the men surrounding her. So I had to think, What’s going on here? Is my idea really just not as good? I mean, a magician… breaking the law with magic, that could be good… but how is that so much better than a witch making a horrible spell out of rotting vegetables? Then it hit me- it’s not that his idea was better, it’s that she sees potential in me, and was giving me an honest answer so I can reach it. Clearly his ideas are lacking too, but she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. She knows on a subconscious level, that women are used to getting constructive criticism, and men* are not. She praised him so he wouldn’t get frustrated and give up.

*I’m going to leave other labels out of this for the sake of simplicity but one could throw in white, heterosexual, and cis; though I’m only sure about 1-2 of those things in this case. Please wait while I dig this hole a little deeper…

I could be totally off-base here. I feel very hesitant even writing about this because 1. Maybe my idea did just legit suck and 2. So many feminist writers have grasped this concept and many others in a far deeper, more educated way. I’m aware there is a lot of nuance I am missing here. But I’m not writing to expose some revolutionary new piece of information. I’m not writing out of anger or resentment. I’m writing- because understanding this phenomenon helps me take this kind of discrepancy with a grain of salt. When I get constructive criticism from someone who’s opinion I value, I will take it proudly, knowing it means they recognize my talent and see my potential. When I witness a man being praised by the same person for a mediocre idea, I don’t need to interpret it as “They like him more,” or “His ideas are better.” This is just the way we’ve been trained to act as a society.

I think we owe it to men to start telling them the truth. This applies to so many situations… I could write a whole book just on how this applies in the bedroom… *clears throat and looks at the floor awkwardly* but for starters, let’s just tell them when their ideas suck. Take’em down a notch, so they don’t think every idea that comes out of their ass is fit for a Netflix special. Tell them their idea is mediocre. That they just said something offensive, or interrupted us. That they aren’t actually that good in bed. *Cough* We owe it to all the poor, oblivious, talent-lacking dudes to outline all the areas where they could use improvement. We owe it to them, so they actually have a fighting chance to GROW UP. To join the ranks of the strong, talented women who have been hearing criticism- constructive or otherwise, our whole damned lives.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make a big pot of… spaghetti.

Strange Behaviors

I’ve been in isolation for 54 days now, and it feels like I live in my own universe. Here is just a sample of some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind during this crazy time… May this act as a record so it doesn’t all disappear like a dream when we’re back to checking our phones while packed like sardines on the bus to work to avoid talking to each other.

  • Do I smell worse or is my sense of smell just getting stronger?
  • My shoes don’t fit anymore. Did they shrink?! (No they’re just swollen from sitting on the couch all day)
  • Falafel makes me gag. At least if I’m the one who made it. Possibly based on the fact that I mixed the tahini sauce in a jar that previously had mouthwash in it.
  • I don’t like those “virtual ensemble” videos* that are floating around. The point of ensembles is that we respond and interact with each other and the audience IN REAL TIME. We don’t need to find shitty replacements for everything we had in the before!! We need to find things that work with what we have NOW. *I’ve made one. And it was fun. So, there’s that.
  • Literally nothing drags me out of a funk quicker than a long one-on-one talk with a close friend. Laggy group video chats make me want to smash things.
  • Getting outside is a close 2nd, but I’ve learned biking is far superior to walking, because I can blissfully avoid all the couples. You can’t hold hands and force me off the sidewalk while riding bikes, motherfuckers.
  • With no work schedule to adhere to, you can just change all the clocks in your apartment to suit what time it is in your head. That being said, doing this caused an artificial “jet lag,” and a lot of confusion with friends in “different time zones” so I changed the clocks back and learned not to judge myself for waking up at 2pm.
  • I need more wigs.
  • Going on walks alone is getting old… there must be some way to force my cat to come with me… I should get him a stroller.
  • I’d rather follow all of Donald Trump’s medical advice during this time than live between two neighbor-couples who participate in the following activities, respectively, every single day: 1. Porn-grade sex (loud, obnoxious, and unrealistically enjoyable) 2. Romantic picnics on a blanket on our SHARED BALCONY, playing the same song on the ukulele over and over while singing along, and constant laughing. Like, Elmo from Sesame Street laughing. Adorable, joyful, but somehow I wanna strangle you laughing. What the fuck could possibly be that funny?! DID YOU TWO MEET IN A FUCKING DISNEY PRINCESS MOVIE???
  • Mainstream porn is horrifying.
  • Trimming my cat’s butt hair to avoid pee-absorption feels like I’m shearing a sheep, and is strangely satisfying.
  • Playing etudes on violin is actually kindof fun, if I change the voice in my head from “this needs to be perfect for a lesson with my judgmental asshole of a teacher” to “let’s just give my brain something to do other than staring at the grease stains on my kitchen wall!”
  • Drinking in the evening makes me sleep like shit. Drinking in the morning is self-love.
  • Also self-love: bras. My boobs have been KICKIN IT.
  • Kimchi is really fun and easy to make, and way cheaper and tastier than store-bought… but to get the ingredients, you need to risk your life in the tiny aisles of the Asian grocery store.
  • Speaking of cabbage, I have not had to hold in a fart for 54 days.
  • Dancing alone doesn’t interest me.
  • Talking to myself in whatever character pops in to visit however, does.
  • I resent ANY kind of scheduling coming from the outside world- but the more I stick to a loose personal schedule, the less time I spend contemplating my meaninglessness in the world.
  • Cutting your own hair is therapeutic and empowering.
  • I never look in the mirror anymore, but when I do, it’s FRIGHTENING.
  • I don’t like getting advice when I’m feeling low. I don’t care how much the thing that worked for you could help me- by telling me I should be trying something, the message I’m getting subliminally is “You’re not good enough right now.” I just want to be heard. This is a serious one, and something that’s going to change how I am as a friend going forward in a huge way.
  • I don’t miss shopping, or eating out… I miss people, and live performances. And hairdressers.
  • Cooking shows and the first two seasons of The Office (where I can pretend I’m Pam, and Jim is mega-crushing on me) are a lovely way to take a mental vacation from Covid.
  • Listening to a meditation podcast where you’re expressly told to sit up and stay alert, is a great way to fall asleep at night.
  • It means SO MUCH when a friend does something for you on your birthday above just writing “Happy Birthday” on your facebook wall, especially if you’re single and live alone. This inspired me to figure out all my friend’s birthdays and put them in my calendar, so I can have more than zero minute’s notice to do something special if I have the means.
  • You can try to group a bunch of things into one delivery online, but [name of company I’m ashamed I ordered from] will still ship each damn thing to you individually. I’m looking at you, box of 12 pens.
  • Because delivery guys are some of the only people I can still interact with in real life, I find myself yelling words of love and affection at them after they’ve delivered something like I’m at a Beatles concert in the 60’s.

Feel free to comment with something bizarre or life-changing you’ve thought/tried during isolation!

The Artist’s Cray

I have been putting off writing a new blog post for weeks. WEEKS. Well, what’s the problem Lauren?! Don’t you literally have nothing but free time right now? Honestly it feels like I’ve been snatched up from Tokyo and barfed out straight into the desert. I’m surrounded by sand- literally NOTHING is holding me back from accomplishing all the creative projects I’ve ever dreamed of. Ugh but sand is so BORING. I want some obstacles?! Those are what make it feel like I’m choosing to do my art. Can I just go to Victoria or something?!

With nothing but freedom to do whatever I want, suddenly all these artsy things feel like chores. There’s nothing to balance it all out, no work to hype the play. To add to the craziness, I’m doing The Artist’s Way program by Julia Cameron, and I’m in week 4. Media deprivation week. Cooooool. So on top of being jobless until September 2020 at the EARLIEST, living alone and confined to my apartment except for tri-weekly trips to the grocery store or walks outside where I pretend everything is okay by focusing on all the dead-ass trees that STILL have no leaves, not to mention no contact with my friends aside from sporadic video chats where we just yell “YOUR SOUND ISN’T WORKING” at each other for an hour… I’m supposed to deprive myself of ALL THE THINGS THAT DISTRACT ME FROM THIS HELL ON EARTH?!?!?

Yeah, Julia, we all know social media, and Netflix, and the WHOLE FUCKING INTERNET are distractions from tapping into our inner artist *cut away to a waify white girl wearing a flower crown flailing like a gas station balloon to the music at Osheaga,* but I NEED THEM RIGHT NOW, OKAY?? I am on day #… I’ve lost count… of being alone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After my 2 hours of “creating,” what the hell am I supposed to do the rest of the day?! Stare out my window at all the happy couples going on walks with their screaming babies, and contemplate my obtuse loneliness? Listen to all the ambulances in the distance and flood my mind with visuals of BODY TRAILERS?!? Mmm yeah I’m gonna need to check the fuck out once in a while. You’ll have to write a new Covid edition of your book called The Artist’s Way: Watching The Great Canadian Baking Show Counts as Art when the Alternative is a Mental Breakdown.

I think if anything, I’ve been creating LESS during media deprivation week- I’ve just been finding way more inventive ways to procrastinate. For example, in my morning pages I’ve been going on and on about wanting to write sketch and learn how to edit video, develop some jazz improv chops on violin, and learn how to use all the electronic music equipment that came in the mail a week ago… What have I actually been doing? Well, this morning, I woke up, went back to bed for a bit, then dove STRAIGHT INTO MY COMPUTER looking for gluten-free dairy-free baking recipes (add that to the list of tragedies) and painstakingly adjusting my grocery list to include expensive-ass things like almond flour, coconut sugar and brown rice syrup. Then I looked up all my friends’ birthdays on facebook, and added them, one by one, into my phone’s calendar. Colour-coded. Very very important. So not only am I breaking the no media rule HARD, I’m not doing anything remotely close to my creative dreams. Well, I also made kimchi, Thai spring rolls, hummus, and salsa out of oven-roasted tomatoes; but yet… here I am finishing off a bag of Doritos. To be fair, my period is choosing the snacks. I have no say.

While eating the first half of said bag of Doritos last night, I did do something remotely creative… it’s not a solo show that combines electronic violin music and intricate storytelling that will win my future Pulitzer, or a polished sketch of me doing something hilarious in character; but it’s umm… something.

Enjoy your chips, friends.

The Infinite Beauty of Losing your Mind

I stand facing the bathroom mirror, head of a fresh Venus ladies razor in hand detached from it’s body. I don’t know if this will work; I’ve never done it before. I angle it toward my neck, take a deep breath, and start cutting. Clumps of dirty blonde hair fall into the sink and onto my sheep-shaped bath mat, as my cat watches judgmentally. You’re finally losing your mind, aren’t you. His sharp green eyes dance back and forth following my every movement. “Whatever you do, don’t cut your bangs!” A meme joked, circulating social media during week one of isolation. Bitch I already DID my bangs, I’m in the big leagues now. I’m doing what I would normally pay $70 for plus an overly large guilt-tip all by myself, before I’ve had coffee, IN THE DARK. I haven’t even turned the lights on. It doesn’t matter. This isn’t about looking like Taylor Swift on the red carpet, it’s about taking charge of my own shit. I had some dangly bits I’ve been eying with distaste in all my video chats, and it was just time to deal with them. Honestly, it looks pretty good. A $35 haircut at worst.

Look, things are getting a little rough here in Casa de la Roller. I’m single, I live alone (with judgy cat), and I have a VERY small family (just my mom and her partner who live in Nova Scotia). I have nobody to share ideas and emotions with unless I pick up a phone, nobody to eat with, nobody to rub my back or give me a hug when I’m feeling anxious. Every picture a couple posts of a delicious meal they cooked together makes me wince with pain, as I eat sardines out of a can with my fingers.

Yesterday I sent a message to a group of friends on Facebook asking what their exciting Friday night plans were, joking that I’d been invited to a zoom wine party with my mom and some other 65-year old ladies but was accepting other offers. Then I left for a long walk to the park. As I walked, I started to feel off, like it was getting harder and harder to breathe. Every inhale was shallow, while every exhale could have blown all the candles out on a senior citizen’s birthday cake. I felt like I could easily faint. I realized I was about one sloppy chess move away from a panic attack. Being just a little stubborn, I stayed my path, focusing on my breath and all the sensations in my body, ready to sit down if necessary. Exercise is what I need, I told myself, having slept horribly the last few nights because of a surplus of energy and a seemingly constant stream of ambulance sirens in my neighborhood. I tell myself when I get home, I’ll meditate for real and get myself back to normal.

The moment I walk in the door however, I reach for my phone, which I’ve left on my desk as a stern reminder to actually enjoy my walk. I’m clawing for something immediate. Something quicker than meditation. I check to see if my message got any responses. Nothing. They’ve all seen it, but nobody has taken the bait. I feel like a giant dangling high-five. I’m disgusted with how much this innocent thing is affecting me, but the reality is, I have so little in terms of human connection right now, that even the tiniest snub like that can completely derail me.

The fun and games are over. Some real shit is starting to come up that I need to deal with. I sit at my kitchen table defeated, and ask myself: “Why is this bothering me so much? Why do I need friends to respond to my texts? I don’t need to take this personally, they could be doing any number of things right now… Why do I need people to like my Facebook posts? To leave supportive comments?” Why do I rely on the validation of others to feel loved? And it hits me, why I feel so shitty. I’m clinging to something that has begun to slip away. Something I’ve depended on for so long, but don’t really need. I’m losing my identity.

Lauren DeRoller is a professional violinist, a writer, and a comedian; though she doesn’t quite feel she’s earned that title yet. She’s independent, creative, optimistic, curious and wise. She has lots of friends, and is lovable. She’s made sure of that since struggling a great deal throughout her childhood and adolescence, convinced nobody liked her because one of her mom’s emotionally abusive partners drilled that into her head when she was 7 years old.

Shout-out to Helene! Hey gurrrrl *catty lip smack*

I lost part of my “identity” when all my orchestral work was cancelled until July at the earliest; and then I said goodbye to some more when I realized I don’t need to be creating “content” daily for social media to prove I’m an artist . Now I’m left with just “has lots of friends/is lovable,” and I am clinging to it like a motherfucker. (Note to self work on similes) I’m going to say something harsh here, but bear with me: Facebook is not “friends.” Facebook is fragments. It takes literally seconds to like somebody’s post or comment on it, but a real friend will take the time to actually reach out, one-on-one, and ask if you’re okay. I don’t have lots of those, but I have a few. A precious few I want to start leaning on more during this. It’s scary to ask for help right now because I know everybody is dealing with their own shit, but no amount of Facebook likes can tear me out of a funk quite like a heart to heart with someone who really knows me; and I know I can give the same in return.

I think every single one of us is fighting a very specific set of demons right now. Every time I wrap myself in a blanket cocoon and feel sorry for myself, I remind myself this is a privilege. To be alone and healthy while there are sick people out there dying, and healthy people close to murdering their families.* To be given the chance to let go of what isn’t working for me anymore. If I say goodbye to my identity, what is left? What happens when I “lose my mind?”

*This is a joke. I am funny. I AM FUNNY GODDAMMIT

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle shares that amidst the most intense suicidal depression of his life, he thought the words: “I cannot live with myself any longer.” He writes: This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly, I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe,” I thought, “only one of them is real.”

What I’m trying to say is, I think “losing your mind” is a GOOD thing. Losing your mind is quieting that part of your brain that tells you what you should be doing, and listening to the part that tells you what you want to do. It’s getting rid of that strict set of rules that determine your worth, and just allowing yourself to BE. It’s cutting your own hair, coloring for hours, making up dance routines with your cat, making a giant batch of chocolate pudding then sticking your entire face in it just because it feels good. It’s learning HOW TO BE A FUCKING KID AGAIN. Remember watching Hook when you were little and thinking “that’ll never be me?” Well we all grew up, but we’ve just been given an express ticket back to Neverland.

Let’s be honest. This fucking sucks. My inherent optimism can only get me so far during a global crisis where hundreds of thousands of people are dying alone while emergency services work themselves to the bone and the rest of us have existential crises and sob nightly at so much as an unexpected plot twist in Offspring. But these crises are breaking us down so we have a chance to rebuild in the way the universe always intended. Less judgment, more fun. Less superficial, more deep and meaningful. Less suffering, more love.

See you all on the other side.