Hey, it’s been absolute insanity in my life since last I posted, but, starting this weekend, (after I’m done with my art show) I’ll be back to something resembling a normal schedule.
I really wish I had kept up with this during that time, though. I think it could have helped me. I need to get better with that.
Anyway, despite my lack of posting here, I have found myself in a genuinely happy mood. I think I may have even found the recipe for my own happiness! Here it is:
- Make sure I spend more time working in my art studio then tending bar.
- Painting more things I really want to paint than commissioned pieces.
- Cutting my alcohol consumption in half (this was probably an obvious one).
- Cutting the women I’m currently flirting and/or fooling around with down to 2. 3 tops. (Again, another obvious one.)
- Doubling my caffeine intake (replacing one type of self-medication with another! Yay!!!)
Honestly, while I think a good portion if that is true, I think this good mood is just the bounce back I typically feel after getting mired in a depression for awhile. And, parts of March got pretty dark.
Ultimately, I think I just need to keep doing the work. I need to find something to post here everyday. Even if I’m just faking it.
Hey, kids! I have not abandoned this blog, or the whole positive thinking experiment. I’ve been super busy working my day job, catching up on bills, and prepping for an upcoming art house. I do have some interesting things to write about, a couple of cool things I’ve cone across, and some updates on my own progress, and mental health. All very cool and very exciting, and I look forward to sharing it with you as soon as I murder all these dastardly interlopers clogging up my to-do list.
One of the many things I have been blessed with is a highly active brain, that, when running at peak efficiency, is a lot like a bee hive. There’s a whole lot going on in there, but every moving part is doing it’s job, being productive, and working toward a common goal.
But, when my bi-polar li’l noggin starts sliding towards the manic end of the scale, it’s like someone drop-kicked that behave and now all hell has broken lose. There’s a whirlwind of activity, but nobody knows what to and nothing is getting accomplished.
When I have a whole lot on my plate, as I do now, it’s always easy for me to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what I need to do. I’ll sit for hours debating what to do first, and consequently, get nothing done.
This is unacceptable, and acts as a constant hindrance to me achieving any sort of success in my life. So, I’ve decided to start making to-do lists. Daily to-do lists. HIGHLY detailed daily to-do lists. I’m going to start planning every inch of my day down to when I shower and even when I jerk off (hey, this is a blog about maintaining a certain level of happiness, some things are just plain necessary).
Each day goals will be set, and I will not be allowed to move on to the next thing until the last goal is met. Hopefully, after a few weeks, this will just become habit. That’s what this is about, training my brain to start thinking and behaving differently.
We need to reign those fucking bees in. You saw what they did to Nic Cage in Wicker Man.
As we end the 2nd week of this experiment I’ve already started to notice some changes in my general demeanor (the Giants winning the Super Bowl certainly helped with that, as well). In the few circumstances where I’ve found myself getting unnecessarily angry, stressed, or depressed, I was able to slow down, take a deep breath, and rationalize my way out of it. I’ve also been getting more disciplined as far as getting into a steady work routine, spending less money, and getting back into shape are concerned. It’s amazing how much just exercising again and getting some decent nights’ sleep can improve one’s mood.
The next few weeks will be the real test, though. I’ve got so much to prepare for, I have audition spots at a few comedy clubs in New York, I’m in the March Madness comedy tournament at The Stress Factory here in Jersey, and I have til April 6th to finish about a dozen pieces for my next art show. I’m also hoping to have caught up on my bills and paid off a few debts by then.
Needless to say, it’s going to take a clear head and a lot of discipline to accomplish all this. If I can get through it all without succumbing to the stress and pressure by April, and going on a nice li’l bender to close out March, then I’ll know I’ve truly accomplished something and that this shit might actually work. Until, then DEEP breaths.
In the meantime, I want to thank everyone for all the positive feedback on this thing. It was a little nerve-wracking throwing this out there, but I appreciate the love, kids. I even got a nice e-mail from the ex-wife who, as you could imagine, I have had a rather frosty relationship with the last 2 1/2 years. It managed to both crack me up and warm my heart. The Positive Thinking Experiment: mending fences and building bridges! Who knew?
I’ll leave you with the money quote from that e-mail:
“So I started reading thinking, “Great. Now everyone will know my ex-husband is a lunatic”. But I am totally impressed. You sound (dot, dot, dot) mature. It’s not your usual bullshit. Your writing skills paired with honesty is fantastic. Refreshing. I think this has super potential for you personally and the masses. I found myself wanting to read the next sentence instead of rolling my eyes at the latest, overly-witty, sarcastic, self-deprecating, etc, etc…….”
Great stuff, huh? Now you all know I’m a lunatic. Enjoy your weekend, everyone.
VERY excited about this. My friend Matt Kelly and I started a new weekly sports & comedy podcast we’re calling “Two Men Blitzed”. It’s not for everybody, but was a hell of a lot of fun to record. My cackle is all over the thing. Check it out here: wp.me/p152GJ-2a
That’s a favorite saying of mine, and should always be read in the voice of Professor Hinkle from “Frosty The Snowman” (also applies for anytime you want to say “Messy, messy, messy!!!” Try it. It’s fun!). I was so busy working in the studio today on a painting, sending out e-mails booking comics for my show, trying to book myself on other shows, and coming up with painting ideas for a solo art show I’ve got in April, that I couldn’t come up with anything in particular to post today, and then it occurred to me. The fact that I am so busy, and that I’m actually being productive and taking care of this stuff, is a pretty positive thing on it’s own.
While I know it can be dangerous to get completely buried in, or consumed by your work, it’s nice for me to have ways of getting out of my own head for awhile. I think busy is good for me right now. I even squeezed in a workout this morning and used some meditation and breathing techniques to calm myself down after stressing out about (Jerry Lewis voice now) a LAAAAADYYY! So, 3 days in, the Positive Thinking Experiment is showing small signs of success.
I’ll post some pics and videos over the weekend, and should have another longer written piece up either next Monday or Tuesday where we’ll delve into some other issues. Thanks to all that have been reading and following so far. I hope you keep diggin’ it.
The fact that a blog I’m starting as an attempt at self-improvement, and to become a happier, healthier person, is causing stomach-churning anxiety is ladled with irony so thick it’ll clog your arteries. It’s also, unfortunately, completely natural.
This is going to be an experiment. An amateur experiment in neuroplasticity (more on that term later). I’m the guinea pig. This blog is gonna track and see how we do. The end goal is nothing more than to live a reasonably happy, well-adjusted, functional adult life. The kind of thing a lot of you may take for granted.
But, first, I should state what we’re dealing with.
For those of you that follow me on twitter, have seen my stand-up, or know me in real-life, I’m sure one of the following words have passed through your brain to describe me: “dark”, “bitter”, “cranky”, “grouchy”, and, my personal favorite, “curmudgeon”. Those descriptors are all, to one extent or another, quite apt. They’re also missing the point a bit. Or, should I say, the source.
While I’ve been able to come to better grips with it in recent years, and have learned to manage and deal with it much better… I have, since the dawn of puberty til this very moment, suffered from bi-polar manic depression.
Now, I know that’s not something new for an artist/entertainer to admit. I’ve begun joking about it in my stand-up, and frequently reference my fucked-up li’l brain on twitter. But, I think there’s a disconnect in a lot of people’s brains between someone being sad and lonely, or having certain anxieties and neuroses, and having a legitimate medical disorder.
Society seems to have no problems with the occasional talk about moments of anxiety, or bouts with depression, or being a cranky, angry, nervous, or lonely person, but to be clinically diagnosed? To be mentally ill? To be… fucking crazy???
Yeah. There’s a bit of a stigma to that.
Which is why I sit here typing scared shitless.
The fact is, I am not merely a cranky, insecure son-of-a-bitch. I have bad brain chemistry. My wiring is a little off.
That’s scary to say. That’s scary to admit. And to do it quite publicly.
I know there are a few people who may look at me a bit differently now. And not in a good way. Some of the things I’m going to discuss and admit to on this blog are not going to inspire reactions of “Let’s be friends!”, “Come work for me!”, or “I totally want to date you now!!!” In fact, I think, in a few cases, it may inspire the exact OPPOSITE reaction. Time will tell…
Now, I have been able to deal with it as I’ve gotten older. It doesn’t consume and destroy my life the way it did for so much of my teens and twenties. But, every once in awhile, certain stumbling blocks come along that can send those synapses firing off some dark shit and take my whole personality spiraling downward to places I don’t want it to go. A divorce here, mom’s cancer there, starting up a new comedy festival with no experience, staff, or budget because “There should be a fucking comedy festival here. That’s why!”, and spending 4 months living in a mouse-infested Jersey City shithole with a bunch of strangers with shady pasts or current drug problems because you got conned on Craigslist and now have to go fight this bastard in court.
Those are just a few entirely random examples off the top of my head.
But, it doesn’t have to be something as monumental and life-changing as those events. Something as boring and everyday as cumulative job stress, fatigue, sickness, or meeting a new girl you really like and “Holy shit! I’m so happy! She’s amazing! And, now I can only panic and think about all the ways this will go wrong!!!” can set off anxiety attacks and lead to bouts of depression in me.
It was that last bit that inspired a conversation I had with a friend about how I should just give up on being in any sort of happy relationship. That, because my brain is wired wrong, I’ll never be able to find happiness with another person, or enjoy ANY sort of deep, meaningful human interaction. I needed to stop expecting it, stop trying for it, stop wanting it, and just accept that fact that I’m not normal. I’m not a real person. I’m an entertainer. And that’s the only way I can interact with people. Not as friends or lovers, but as entertainer and audience. The sooner I accepted this fact and started living my life this way, the happier - well, the less miserable I would be.
Now, society has a term for that line of thinking, “self-pity”. The medical and psychiatric communities have another term for it, “FUCKING BULLSHIT”.
A few years ago I read this article in Time magazine on a word and concept I had never heard before, “neuroplasticity”. Basically, it means that our brains are not as hard-wired as we thought. Instead of a fixed brain that mostly stops changing after childhood, with certain sections of the brain dedicated solely to certain tasks, our brains are far more malleable throughout our entire lives, are constantly changing, and can even be changed from within. Merely by practicing certain thought exercises, one can re-wire his or her own brain, literally changing the cellular structure and reworking the gray matter.
This article does a great job putting it more in layman’s terms, but my favorite part of it is this:
"Despite temporary fluctuations, the mind tends to quickly return to its baseline happiness level. Some of the highest baseline happiness measurements are found in Buddhist monks. In studying their brain patterns, it was found that the part of their brains associated with happiness (their left prefrontal cortexes) were highly developed, indicating an ability to “train” themselves to be happy and elevate their baseline levels. Conversely, someone who practices negative thinking will develop their right prefrontal cortex, which is associated with negative moods, thus lowering their baseline.”
I’ve spent my entire life giving my right prefrontal cortex regular triathlete level workouts, while my left one stood ignored, hands in pockets, staring wistfully at the ground and kicking sand.
The bottom line is: I don’t think I have to be a victim to this anymore. I think I can change my brain enough that I can have a nice, healthy, loving relationship. I can love myself (no masturbation jokes, please), be more confident, more productive. I can better organize my life and my finances (a notorious difficulty for the bi-polar personality). I can be a human being.
So, this blog is going to be a daily check-in, a document of my progress, but also a place to post something positive everyday. That’s right. I’m a-comin’ to spread some joy!
Now, I won’t be posting any bland or trite Oprah-style aphorisms. There will not be pictures of kittens hanging from trees. I will not be exploring my spirituality or ladling out chicken soup for anyone’s soul. In fact, the idea of spirituality or having a soul would pretty much contradict the entire scientific nature of this endeavor.
I’m also not looking to become some wide-eyed, incessantly grinning Stepford comic. I will not wake up every morning pissing sunshine and farting rainbows. I want to be happy, but I believe there’s still room in this world for healthy cynicism. No matter how well-adjusted you are, it’s ok to be a little angry or sad sometimes. I just don’t want to be consumed by it anymore.
And while I’ll certainly be doing things to change my diet, trying to get in better shape, and improve my body (the brain, as an organ, IS a physical part of it), I won’t be giving up beer or cigars. I may do something crazy like take up yoga, which, I know would make me a big, ol’ flaming pussy, but the fact that I’m a manic-depressive probably does that for me already.
Now, you may be asking “That’s great, Craig. Good luck with that! But, why start a blog and announce it to the whole fucking world? Won’t it feel as good without a public pat on the back, you attention-starved whore?” And, if you were asking that, you may want to get in on this positive-thinking thing too. You seem to have some anger issues.
While I absolutely ADORE attention, there are three reasons I’m doing this publicly. The first is to keep me honest. I’ve dabbled with this sort of thing before, but always fell off. By putting it out there and announcing it to the world, I’m forcing myself to work on this everyday. I’m hoping to develop not just a following, but a community, where you’ll push me and get on my ass if I slack off. Hopefully, I can help some of you.
The second reason is that I love science and new discoveries, and I think this neuroplasticity thing is cool as all hell, and I want people to know about it. I’m also hoping to learn more about it myself and maybe talk to a few experts in the field. Maybe even get a BRAIN SCAN!!! Getting my brain mapped would be the fucking tits.
Finally, I’m doing it to try and remove the stigma of suffering from clinical and manic depression, to get other people to “come out”. Suffering from depression does not mean someone is oversensitive, or lazy, or weak, or a goddamned pussy. It means they got fucked over genetically. Their brain chemistry is off, and it can’t be fixed by merely “bucking up”. It takes work. And that’s what we’re here to do.
So, let’s do it. Let’s work this fucker. Bruce Cockburn wrote one of my favorite lyrics of all time, “Gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight”. Well, I’m not nearly that poetic, but I am going to kick at the darkness. I’m gonna kick it in it’s fucking balls until it’s bleeding daylight out of it’s mouth. I’m gonna beat this thing. I think it’ll be fun.
So, everyone come on in, huddle up, and on 3 - “SMILE”.