Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Pretty Good Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attack!!!
For me, these manifest themselves in my chest. I can feel it coming before it completely takes over and that just scares me more. It's like the first tremors in an earthquake where everyone in an office looks at each other for a second to confirm what they suspect. Then, that first big wave hits and everyone jumps for a door frame. That's what it's like for me. I haven't had one in a while, so just like that California big one we keep waiting for, I guess I was overdue. Still, when those first few pin pricks gather in my chest and some part of my primitive mind floods the blood stream with fight or flight juice, my first thought is always, this is not an anxiety attack.
Ah denial.
It is all just part of the process. Because when I think that, the wave building in my chest explodes in my mind and all rational thought it done. Now I can only sit back and ride the ride. You can't think yourself out of an anxiety attack. It's like trying to repair a broken machine with the broken machine. That's the next thing I tell myself and that leads to the unbelievably depressing thought that my head is a broken thing. Depression and anxiety now!
Two for the price of the one. Great.
Do I sit up? Maybe I should go for a walk? Do I just lay there in bed? Will there be something on TV that could possibly help? There is no right answer and to every choice I entertain there seems to be a cascade of reasons why that won't do any good either. In the end, I usually end up laying where it started. These pass pretty quickly, but while I am in the middle of it, that thought never crosses my mind. What crosses my mind is a million things in rapid images that all say, you have failed. Isn't it nice when your own mind becomes your biggest enemy in a crisis?
I sit up in bed, take a few deep breaths and look and the tiny little room I rent. The anxiety starts to fade as quickly as it started. Now comes the soft landing of sadness. When I look at the small room I refer to as the box, I wonder if I will still be here when I am 50 and if I will still be thinking I am just a step away from the larger career in comedy I have wanted for so long. I think of a line from the Russel Crowe movie, Gladiator. It is in the beginning of the movie when they are about to fight the tribes of Germania. One of his generals comments, "Don't they know they are already beat?" Crowe, sitting on his horse barely smiles and says, "Would you?" That line has echoed around in my head since I saw that movie. At 40, the chances of becoming a well known comic are pretty slim. But it's the only thing I truly know how to do. It's the only thing I am any good at. It's the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. So maybe I am already beat and I am just too stupid or too much in denial to admit that its over for me. I could live in a nicer place. I could look for a better day job. I could hang up the dream and be a happy productive member of society. Right? When I think this thought I know that it is just a rationalization. Nothing more. When I ride the bus in the morning sometimes, I look around at the people dressed in suits and clutching their coffee. They already look defeated before even steeping foot inside the places where they work. I understand that the vast majority of us will never get the chance to live out our dreams. But looking around at the people on the bus, well, I don't know if they ever took a shot or if they ever thought it was time to just quit and get a "real" job, but I would rather keep living my life as if I haven't been defeated yet rather than join this somber army of those who did the realistic thing with their lives.
I have a lot of anger bottled up inside me. Anger for a system that blindly hands out opportunities to youth rather than talent. Anger that contact from the X still rattles me so much. Anger that any peace with comedy still eludes me after all these years. Anger, it seems is driving this latest anxiety attack. I was OK with the results of Last Comic Standing. I really was. Of course I wished I had advanced. Just the tiny bit of screen time I had got me e-mails from people all over the planet. All over the planet!
Almost everyone told me I was robbed. Well, no. Nothing was taken from me and the exposure was nice. it's that I wanted more. There was no sudden rush from Bookers or managers. So, for the millionth time I ask, what is it I have to do to get attention? And really, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. My petty wishes for fame are nothing compared to the suffering around the world. It seems silly, selfish even to be pissed about this. The thing is, without a larger measure of fame no ones career can move forward in this biz. I have felt stuck for a while now. That next level that next steep is so close. It's like a weight above my head. I can feel it. It's just that now I will be 40 soon and all this was how I felt at 30. I think thats what started this particular attack, age. Right before my chest went fuzzy with those pin pricks I thought, in 10 years I will be 50. Boom. Thats where it started. Because the thing is, I am like an addict. I can't stop doing comedy and yet I wonder if it is the most rational thing for a man my age to keep doing. I certainly don't feel like an adult. Friends are married, having babies, going back to school, enjoying relationships, moving into bigger places or new towns and here I am, sitting up in bed at night, alone and freaking out because I have poured so much of my life into a thing that could never offer any promises in the first place. That makes me think of the X. Was she my last chance at anything like happiness with another human? Fuck, I hope not. How can you find happiness with a partner who cheated on you once and lied to you a second time after you got back together? You can't.
So there I am, sitting up in bed crushed on all sides by silence feeling alone, missing a girl who broke my heart twice and questioning my sanity for still thinking that I could have a career like any of the people I see on TV. Yeah. That's a pretty good anxiety attack.


Dean said...

Eat a Little Caesar's Hot N Ready pepperoni pizza. Always seems to calm me. It's damn tasty and, at $5.42 with tax, much, much cheaper than Xanax.

Sandy said...

I've never had an anxiety attack, but have had friends who got them... and I know that they're not fun. You do a good job describing it... and it sounds awful!

I don't know... maybe it's because I'm almost 40 myself, but I really don't think 40 is that old. Come on, 40's the new 30!!! :D

And for that matter... 50's the new 40...

Besides, I think it's going to happen for you! You've got great talent! And, you're getting great exposure.

Anonymous said...

Hey Joe,

Just saw your bit on Last Comic Standing.

You made me laugh harder than any other comic from this season.

I'm bummed right along with you, but I hope you keep doing what you love. Sometimes it takes a while for the big entertainment machine to catch up with someone who is immensely talented. Don't give up hope!

Brent said...

For what it's worth, Joe, most people wouldn't know good comedy if it punched them in the face. Additionally, FWIW (admittedly, not much I suppose), I think you're a genius. I don't want to sound elitist, but I guess I will when I say, most people never get past the mainstream stuff you mentioned in this post:

I know it'd be better if everyone thought you were brilliant, but again, FWIW, your fans think you're a genius. Not that you need validation, but it can't hurt, right?

Brent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terri said...

Wow. That indeed was a doozy. Just like all those people you noticed on their way to their regular jobs aren't alone in their defeat, neither are you alone in this feeling of more or less not selling your dreams in favor of security. Speaking of great lines from movies, this reminds me of two. In Fight Club, Tyler Durden says "It's only when you've lost everything that you're free to do anything." And in one of my personal favorites Living Out Loud (a chick flick that you probably haven't seen but I recommend nonetheless), the main character Judith, after having her life blow up in her face, wisely realizes "What's so important about being comfortable and feeling safe?" Bold words yes, but people who live by them....I don't know, they really ARE free, aren't they?

No such thing as a perfect life unfortunately. Even if all your dreams came true, there would stil be something missing and leaving you unsatisfied. The human condition sucks. So just stay true to yourself, ride the waves that doing that will throw at you, and hang in there. :)

Joe said...

Thanks everyone. It's pretty selfish to get upset when things are pretty good. But thanks=)

MSB said...

Joe, Michael Banks here. So I watched a couple of the clips you have posted on your site, man you really busted me up. Some good stuff. Also, if I may, don't sweat the 40 thing, I just hope I look as good as you when I get to be your age.


Ginger said...

Well, hon, let me tellya. We're on two different sides of the same coin. We're about the same age and we both have pretty lofty aspirations; the only difference is you're making steps toward your dream, going for broke and taking a risk. Here I am in a nice comfortable home, contemplating yet another job that will waste my talent away in the humdrum of the ordinary, too afraid to risk it all to really make it happen.

See, I'm a writer, a screenwriter specifically. That's been my dream since I was 14 years old. Over time I've danced up to and alternately run away from the dream of being successful at what I believe is a God given talent.

I chose to raise a family and I have two phenomenal sons I wouldn't trade for the world. But when I see my friends, who took off for LA when they were 18, doing what I only dream to do I just wonder what opportunities I may have missed.

Did it have to be an either/or?

Maybe it has something to do with the age. Staring down the barrel of 40 life takes on new perspective. It feels like you have to act NOW.

But NOW can feel like too late.

Being a woman, especially a woman nearing 40, the opportunities are clearly diminishing. Meanwhile I keep dipping my toe in the water, waiting for that moment when the water will be warm enough to jump in.

Maybe it never will be. Maybe that's the point.

I truly believe you are talented enough to be discovered and reach that level of success you seek. I have never watched the LCS auditions then promptly went to find out more about a contestant that didn't advance.

The only reason that I can see you didn't advance was because of the taste (?) of the judges. I believe other people would have put you through. Try again next year. Never give up.

You've got it, kid. And you are, even though it doesn't feel like it, living the dream as long as you can pay your bills doing what you love.

I envy you.

Big hugs.

Ih8work said...

Hey! I'M 51, almost 52. You make it sound so old! Stop that!
You are just at the brink of your career. It's happening now, so enjoy it! Making people laugh is a gift. Finding humor in the daily details of life is an amazing thing to be able to do. I'm so grateful to those of you who are out there doing that. You keep the rest of us sane. See where you are at this time next year, and try out again if you'd like...I'll bet that it was a super close vote!

Ih8work said...

Hey! I'M 51, almost 52. You make it sound so old! Stop that!
You are just at the brink of your career. It's happening now, so enjoy it! Making people laugh is a gift. Finding humor in the daily details of life is an amazing thing to be able to do. I'm so grateful to those of you who are out there doing that. You keep the rest of us sane. See where you are at this time next year, and try out again if you'd like...I'll bet that it was a super close vote!

Daniel said...

I don't know much about anything (and don't pretend to) but I would like to say a few things.
As far as age, I really don't think it is a factor in one's success. If you were trying to be a pro athlete, maybe you should be a little more concerned. As a comic, even though it can be frustrating sometimes, I believe "it" can happen for anyone with the skills...and you definitely have the skills. I don't know the exact details, but I believe Lewis Black didn't really "hit it big" until he was almost fifty (that's somehow supposed to make you feel better). I find you ten thousand times funnier than him...I find you funnier than just about anybody.
Also, I think it would be criminal to give up on your dream. That's awful easy for me to say, seeing as how I don't have to pay your bills or anything, but I do have a little experience with that one. I went to college with two other guys and we all wanted to be sports writers. Over the years, they gave up on low paying jobs to pursue more money. Now, I still don't make a killing but I live a comfortable life doing what I love and have always wanted to do. Everytime I talk to them, which is often, they express how much they regret giving up the dream. They both make quite a bit more salary than me, but I wake up every afternoon (that's right, afternoon) with the chance to do something I love. I find it far more admirable to pursue your passion than to "sell out" for the sake of comfort. Plus, your funny as hell and I'd be pissed if I couldn't see any more of your shows.


Anonymous said...

I have read so many articles or reviews regarding the blogger lovers but this piece of writing is really a good paragraph, keep it up.

my web site: Juliette Frankland