I don't remember how this conversation started, but I'm sure we had it many times...
"I don't think you get sad on the same level that I do. Or not the same way." I said, looking out the window at a rolling hill of Austin Bluffs. I don't remember where we were going, but I know that I was not in a good place mentally. This was during the time in my life where I had extremely little control over my mind, and one day's depression could turn into a flood of actual psychosis. I frequently felt that my brain was attacking me. Feelings were symptoms. They were the animals stampeding out before the hurricane of batshit rolled in.
I made a mental note that this was my absolute least favorite stretch of road. There was nothing but crappy townhomes and a field with power lines that separates those townhomes from the suburban castles on the ridge. I hate this city. Inside I was thinking about emptiness. I was frustrated with him, because he never seemed to have bad days unless I manufactured them, but who would want to do that? You don't want to make someone sad, but it's hard to know if they understand your emotional struggle if you never see them have one. How could he have any empathy if he never got upset or hurt? Either that, or I was jealous of that kind of stability. No matter which way it appeared, I was definitely annoyed by it. I don't remember where we were driving to, but he was focused on the road and nonchalant. He usually was. It took him a minute to answer. He was thinking about it.
"I think it just happens to me differently," He replied finally, shifting gears and squinting out the window. "Your depression is like my sister's. You get really depressed for about a third of your day. I get depressed for about a third of my year. I see it coming. It's all at one time for me so I just get used to it when it happens. It doesn't surprise me like it surprises you."
Looking back on that now, five or so years later, I realize how right he was; all these emotions, every event in my life seems to follow that waltz; Quick, quick, slow. High, high, low. Who knew that emotions were also so keen on the rule of threes?
The past couple months have been blowing past me so quickly it's hard to know if I can keep up. I've changed time zones and states of mind like clothing. I have been sick and moody, then having fun and meeting great people, feeling truly fulfilled and then frighteningly alone. I think about leaving my ex as a terrible mistake, I think about going back to him as a worse one. I have thought everything is going the best it's ever gone and then thought my life is fucking worthless. I have been whirling and out of breath, but now the music has stopped and nothing is happening at all. Quick, Quick...
I've been in a writing rut for most of this month. I think that surprises people, because I've still put up jokes (none of which I'm very proud of), written for this site, written for shows... It's all been operating as normal I suppose, but I haven't felt okay about it. A lot of it feels like going through the motions. Most of the time I haven't been writing for the reason that I write.
As I formed that sentence in my head, I realized I don't have a damn clue what that reason is. Obviously writing is a form of communication. The fact that all of this is so personal makes me tend to believe it's something selfish or narcissistic. I struggle with that. I don't incubate self-esteem so I rely pretty hard on the validation of others. I know that's not healthy or sustainable but I have yet to come up with another system. It's very difficult to imagine myself any other way, given how long it's been.
I think I used to like myself a lot, but I saw what that arrogant version of myself did to others. She was far more cavalier about how people felt. That hasn't exactly changed, but I'm more aware of, or at least less okay with that ambivalence towards others. My own lack of self value has led me to value other people more, if that makes sense. I'd rather be humble, self hating and want the best for others than to think I'm amazing and value my success over other peoples' feelings. It's just a decision I apparently made.
I have had the fortune for most of my life of having someone to lean on when I was feeling weak, sick, or alone. I haven't had that option this year and I don't know if it's been tumultuous as a result of that or I'm just more aware of it because I have no safety net. To be fair, I have enlisted the help of a lot of amazing friends and one diminutive T-Rex and that has been very helpful. This is what it's like to be me, I guess. I'm finding myself more certain of who I am. I have anchors to reality now, because if I lose my head there's no one who's going be able to come get me.
I've hit that point where I know I can't wait for him, and I've had to stop using that as some kind of excuse. I'm not totally sure what that means but it's a strange sense of closure. We left on good terms. I ran into him once a couple months ago and we said everything that we needed to. He told me he wasn't angry over any of it and that maybe we'd get together in a few years and see how things were going. I had a friend in high school who said. "I don't ever miss people, I look forward to seeing them again." That's a nice sentiment but a little naive. I do think about that last part a lot. That's a level of closure I think you have to be really lucky to get, and here I am.
I think about him a lot more when I travel. I think about the things we could be exploring together, but sometimes I think about how indifferent he would be to what I think is fascinating. I thought about the trips we took together and how we didn't fight at all in the car on long rides.
There's a lot of silence in my imaginary memories though, and a lot of moments that don't go well. We would run out of shit to say, or I would talk and watch him lose the capability of pretending to be interested. That's something you realize after that much time with someone; the tepid moments are the ones you phase out of your mental worship. I could have been fine with him in any situation except the one we were in, and that was the only one we could put together because we hadn't figured out who we were. It's easy to frame it all through the person I am now, but I'm only the person I am now because I left him.
Since he's been gone I've stopped given a fuck about consequences, money, time or how I'm perceived. Part of that I owe to him though, funny enough. I use that relationship as a compare-and-contrast. I already know that someone loved me undeniably, so I don't really care whether or not these other people do. That being said I still feel incredibly compelled to try, I just don't take that kind of failure that hard. I've gotten pretty sensitive about comedy and writing, though. Bad sets effect me, stage fright effects me; the social game ebbs and flows.
I seek acceptance and validation just like anyone else, but more and more I find that I seek people I accept and I desire to validate other people, if that makes sense. I want them to feel fulfilled and know who they are, because wanting that makes more sense somehow. I'm still figuring out how to be this person that I am, but at least I know who that is now, and that sense of self all I could hope to give anyone else.
I am writing this from the low, slow place. This morning has been a struggle at best. I don't feel happy, or even reasonably okay for some reason, but if it's only going to be a third of my day at least I've got two thirds more to look forward to being just fine. There is no way he will ever be completely out of my system or out of my head, but that's taken a different meaning now. That's the person who taught me how to waltz. The funny thing is no one told me that I'd been dancing, and you don't dance because you've got some place to go. You do it because you like to move. I've stepped on a lot of toes figuring that out.
"Your problem is that you want everyone to be in love with you." It always amazed me how he could be so soft spoken and harsh at the same time. I never knew how to defend myself from it. It was something in his eyes. Some people know how to scream just by choosing not to blink.
"I do not!" I was looking into those eyes I knew I could look into forever and they didn't want to be looking at me.
"Then why would you stand in front of a crowd of people and try to make them laugh?"
You know what old friend, I think I wanted them to love you, too.
Jordan Wieleba, a Denver comedian died yesterday. It was a freak thing. First she was seemingly fighting a cold and now she's gone. I don't really know how to write about this but writing has reliably been my best way to process things. We got booked on the same shows pretty regularly, and she was someone I could always go up to in a room where I felt nervous and didn't know who to talk to. The last time I talked to her I think was at this brunch thing a few comics put together at High Plains. It was brief because we were both hungover. Again, it was an event where I wasn't sure who I knew, and she was one of the people I could go say hi to while I got acclimated.
We never had a lot of deep conversations. It was shoot the shit maybe, and sometimes just silence. We could just hang out and not have to keep up appearances and jabber about shows or how we're doing our thing or whatever. We never had to be "on" and I appreciated that, that's rare in this community.
There's a lot of shit talk and competition in comedy but I never heard Jordan say anything bad about anyone, not even so much as agreeing or placating anyone who was venting about someone else. She was always encouraging, and gave her all for whatever show and however big a crowd. She had an insane work ethic that I always admired, I aspired to. It's cliche to only say nice things about someone who's passed but I genuinely liked her as a person, even though effectively we were just coworkers. We didn't really hang out outside of comedy, and most of the stories I knew about her were things she said on stage.
I don't know the rules for grieving over someone that you didn't know extremely well. It's like snowmelt. Some feelings dissolve quickly in light of your every day life. You still have to go to work, you still have to keep trying, meet with friends, keep up appearances, and all those things propel you, and in a small way that absolves you of having to be upset. There's a release to it in a surreal way, but it doesn't feel right, either, there's this "Wait, but hold on a second" in my head, because I don't want her to slip further out of my life.
Just like snow, the feeling lingers in the shadows, you don't really notice until you stumble across some untouched drift and realize how cold you are, and how much is left. You don't really know how long all of it's going to last, you just have to wait and see.
The weird thing about being knowing another performer is that when they go on stage, they open up in a way you don't even get from your closest friends most of the time. She was vulnerable and hilarious and biting and sympathetic, I'd never met someone with so much control over what they were doing on stage. In person her thoughts were her own little private universe. On stage they were the words of someone with self awareness and empathy that makes you laugh and hurt because you want to be a part of it and let them know somehow that you know what they mean.
I know she struggled with loneliness and suicidal thoughts, like most of us do. I remember the unimpressed look on her face and the hilarious shit she'd whisper in the back when we were watching some well-intended but doofy dude tried as he to defend transgender restrooms and completely missed the point. She didn't tolerate bullshit, good or bad.
I know that she had faced so much of the world and knew exactly what she wanted from it. I always imagined her moving to New York and starting a TV show for some reason. She was at the top of the list of people I could say, "yeah, I knew her, we did shows together" as some weird humble brag when they got famous. It wasn't even a far off question of "If", it seemed like she was just about there.
The only time I remember seeing her outside of comedy really was one night at Karaoke. I'd never seen her do it before; we were hanging out at a table in the back and she was nervous. I knew she'd been in a band before, and I guess I assumed she was nervous because she played an instrument and wasn't the singer. A friend of us went up and sang beautifully, then Jordan got called up. She took a deep breath, shook off her jitters, walked on stage and howled out one of the best karaoke punk songs I've ever heard, she sang and danced and it was like looking in on someone's personal heaven. I hate that I can't remember what she picked. I think it was Punk Rock Girl by Dead Milkmen.
I don't have any real closing thoughts for this. I wish it hadn't happened and it's so stupid and random. I wish I was still going to see her tonight at this show we were going to be on together. I wish I'd told her that she helped me feel okay and that I always looked forward to seeing her. I loved her sense of style and her perspective. I wish I didn't have to keep going right away, that I could freak out for a few days and just scream and instead I feel numb, crying in the corners when I have them. I just have to wait for the thaw I guess.
We lost someone really special. She did us a huge favor and recorded a special of a lot of her jokes last year. This is one of her comedy works sets from earlier this year:
Thank you for doing my shows back when I was completely clueless. Thanks for being so kind to me and making this scene seem less alienating. Thank you for showing me what it looked like to work hard at this. I wish you knew how much you were appreciated and how much you're already missed.
Dear Me in the Future,
You're 27. I'm writing this about a week before that happens, right after High Plains. You'll be in California when you see this, and if it's anything like the rest of this year, you're in for some crazy shit. I feel a little tired and quiet and still, or at least I want to be. Writing this is a little hard. I hope I wake up in a bit.
I don't know that I have a lot of life lessons for you. I'm younger than you and don't exist any more, so maybe nothing I say is applicable. So far I've been playing by the rule of doing something that I don't know the result of. Whenever faced with a decision, I don't weigh whether I think which is better or worse, I think about which one I don't know the end to. I figure at least I'll get a memory and some new knowledge out of it. I'm not really afraid of bad experiences. Luckily there haven't been that many anyways.
I'm interested in being who I should be, and I am killing all the incarnations of myself that weren't. It's been a strange process because it seems like there's a lot of them. I've been thinking a lot about processes. I don't have much to say about it yet, maybe you will.
You lead a very strange life, pet. I hope you feel less alienated from your body than I do. I've been struggling with that concept for awhile. I wonder how people don't feel the same way. Maybe they do. Maybe you and your guinea pig will be on better terms soon.
The old advice is that the only thing that matters in life is the people in it. There's some truth to that but you and I both know that it's only a fraction, albeit a big one. That sense of loneliness that you incur happens whether or not you're around good people, and you have many good people.
It's funny to see people talk about success and find there's "nothing at the top." You start writing, getting attention, get to do bigger things, and maybe you do become famous, out doing red carpet shit, household name, whatever. The traditional wisdom, or at least what I've been hearing about that, is that it's lonely, there's few people that understand what it's like and it's hard to maintain close relationships that way. All of that's true, none of it means any thing. Putting any stock in "making it" indicates you think it matters. Again, this is a process.
I realized yesterday how that idea is still applicable for human relationships. We have a "top", at least culturally, for how we get to know people. You introduce yourself, become friends, get closer, maybe you fall in love and have a family, and the traditional wisdom is that it's what we're looking for, and you won't be lonely. Unfortunately, the closer you get to another person, the more difficult it becomes to maintain your other close relationships. It's an important thing to recognize, I guess. I'd been thinking there's this holy grail person (because there was, wasn't there?) who you can be everything to and vice versa. Even with someone who knows you that intimately, you can still be absorbed by a very deep seated loneliness.
Both of these things can seem terrifying and painful, but I think I'm figuring out the flaw. I don't have it entirely, but maybe you'll get it. It has something to do with expecting permanence. You can't expect another person to make you feel whole, you can't substitute a career for a person, either. I'm coming to the conclusion that there are times where feeling whole isn't an option.
You have to be climbing because you like to climb, you can't expect it to get easier or less lonely. Part of not being able to be eternal also involves understanding that you are an experience. Not even the human experience, that's another thing entirely. You're the kokadrille experience I guess. I don't want to call it that but I'm really lacking for words that I can call you, since you're me and I feel weird about saying our name. Writing is surreal that way, pet.
That's why you have to do the things you don't know the answers to, that's all you have, is the unknown. You have to wonder so you can learn. You have to keep going and you will make a lot of bonds and memories but none of them will be quintessential or your definition. I do not know if the romantic relationship ideal is in the cards for you. Probably, because at some point it's going to be one of those unknowns. It's going to suck for you, or at least it does for me. Maybe you'll get some good insights out of it. Relationships and heartbreak are drugs like any other and you could easily use them for fun or as tools depending on your life itinerary.
Sometimes I don't know if I'm a comedian. I just have these ideas, and this blog and those stages are the only way I can seem to communicate them. People don't know when to laugh sometimes, but I'm starting to sense that at least they're listening. All I want is to turn this thing I understand into something other people can understand. It feels like I stumbled on a secret when I was young, like walking in on a murder and I can't tell any one. It feels accidental, important, and very weird, but I have it so I have to figure out how to share it somehow or I really am going to lose myself.
Just to remind you though, despite my own doubts of being a comedian or whatever, here's some facts that hopefully you'll find encouraging. You are starting to make more of your living off of your words, which was all you set out to do this year. You've traveled to perform, which you also set out to do this year. You've started projects you said you were going to, and whether or not you got them to work you spoke them into existence. All of this is terrifying and strange but everyone is pretty chill. This is as close to feeling like you're doing what you want that you've come to so far. You don't have it figured out (I don't and I doubt the week made all that much difference) but you're figuring it out. You are kinetic, don't worry about where you're going to land, because you probably won't be there long.
By the time you read this, you'll be 27 and I'll effectively be dead. I actually take a weird bit of comfort in that because I am goddamn exhausted right now and in the future, you get to deal with it. Believe it or not, I love you and I have a lot of faith in you. That's hard to admit in a weird way. I guess that's the good thing about knowing that you exist and I don't. I have a lot of room to say things that are hard to admit. You are so fucking lucky, you giant child.
Things are going to get better, and worse. It's all parabolic that way. Learn what kinds of trees you see. Get better at math, it might make these explanations feel more solid for you. Keep going, and write letters. Maybe you'll figure out more of what it means to be an experience. I'd say keep me posted but it's not an option.
Good luck with everything, and Happy Birthday.
You from the past.
About A Blog
I'm a Denver Comedian, occasional cartoonist and person of interest to someone, probably. These articles are really too long.