I hesitated on the sharing my thoughts at all here, because I do not want to sensationalize. But, the thing about telling the truth, as I see it here, as the reason why I write and share…sometimes it just is about timeliness and attention.
When Mrs Doubtfire came out, I was 12 years old. It was one of the very few movies we ever went to go see as kids, and I remember stuffing handfuls of microwave popcorn (that my mom smuggled into her purse), taking swigs of store-brand Coca-Cola (that I smuggled in my jams), and laughing hysterically along-side my sister. I couldn’t WAIT to go home and put my face in a pie.
When that VHS came out, I watched it again, and again, and again. This, Sister Act, my rollerblades, and anything athletic became my refuge. I’d close the door, sit on my little red bean bag, and forget how un-funny things were just on the other side of that door.
Some of the funniest people I know, are also the saddest. The life’s of the party, go home alone, get in the bath, light some candles, and turn off all the lights. The facilitators, the people with the microphone, the ones who can talk to anyone: go home, pour a glass of wine, and carefully replay the dynamics of the evening. Was anyone left out? Should I not have made that joke? Is Jen okay? She seemed a little sad tonight, withdrawn (makes note, send Jen a card).
The funny people are rarely thinking of their next joke, it just comes easily…but they are often 8 steps ahead, wondering, how can they keep the momentum of the room going, like the conductor of the orchestra, or the composer of a song…by the last note, or verse, people like this are wondering how to leave a room, with the spirited cry of ‘one more time!’ And then, when that second round is going, and people are swaying, cheers-ing, and having the time of their life…the person with the baton in their hand, or the perpetual random pieces of paper in their pockets with the first few lines of a song….has quietly snuck out the door. Walking down the driveway, or through the parking lot, with both a sense of satisfaction and sadness. The silhouettes of togetherness upon glancing back, but an overwhelming feeling of ‘I gotta get out of here.’ Even a roar of laughter, heard through the walls, as someone replays something the funny person said out loud, with extra crescendo and flair…is not enough for the funny person to turn around and go back inside. No no. It’s too much.
I totally get this. Because I am this.
There are many routes to ‘becoming funny’ just like anything. For me, the route came from a place to survive a life that was extremely un-funny. For a long long time, and sometimes now, just beneath the surface of every joke, was an anger that feels most like fire, and a sadness that feeks most like water, in it’s big, immeasurable way it could overwhelm me.
I learned to be funny, early, as a skill to survive. Being funny was and is, my food and water. I can read any room, I can know exactly when, words and timing will move an entire group forward. I know this, because this was my whole life, I was the comedic relief at a tense dinner table. I was the one woman show, after a particulary loud fight. And, it brought me relief, because it brought us relief, in moments. And I’d do anything for those moments. I learned to pay attention, I became an expert at reading small changes in peoples affect, I became the conductor everwhere I went from the ball-field, to the classroom.
I felt responsible for environments vs. a contribution to environments, something I still work on distinguishing, so I don’t keep creating this beautiful life, that I ultimately feel I am not deserving of and therefore keep at arms length.
There are a few favorite life scenarios I have…and they are, people laughing together, and people dancing together, people laughing AND dancing together? Oh man. Oh and eating. A dinner party with no more than 7 of my favorite people, that ends up in a dance party is FOR SURE my favorite thing in the world. It’s so genuine now. The places I survived, and now the places I completely connect to…the places that fill my heart right up.
Sadness and anger, no longer drive my need to make other people smile or laugh. This is rare. But I am so aware that that’s where it began, and when I feel either of those emotions, which are totally normal emotions to feel, I panic. And I’ll do anything not to feel them. To me sadness and anger are to be escaped and defeated immediately, instead of just felt.
I’m working on it.
So what do you do when you are a so-called funny person and this has gotten you very far AND it’s very authentic to who you are, AND you’d rather die than not be laughing till you snort most days?
Well hopefully. You get called out on it from time to time, and you reflect.
I am in it right now in an interview process for a role I want with my whole heart. Like Christmas morning cabbage-patch-kids-just-came-out, whole-heart wanting. Like everything about this, feels like who you are as a person, and you cant believe it’s a job. Like how Oprah feels about being Oprah…I mean, you get what I mean. It FITS.
June was like a pony ride. I started interviewing. And the people in this particular department, are all the funniest people I have ever met. In my life. And so, one after the other, I was on a roll, interviewing, laughing, being serious and having great in-depth convos, repeat. After every interview, my heart would beat so loud, the rhythm of, this is it, this is it, this is it.
And then my pony ran out of steam. And ran off. And took the snacks. Like ‘thanks for the memories, I’m out’
In other words…it’s time to wait. And the deadline to know was pushed back.
That was not good news for me.
And my coping skills during this time, were to kick up the funny, which in turn, kicked up the general level of emotion, which, yep you guessed it, contributed to a certain level of crazy, which, the interview process was coming to an inevitable stop, with an ambiguous deadline, I was feeling emotionally attached to the outcome. When unfiltered, led to me crying on a professional phone call on a tuesday afternoon at 1pm.
Even writing those words makes me want to die.
But I did it. Just like my hair is brown. And I have a dog named Moose. Fact. I did not manage the experience, and I immediately met my old friend shame. Instead of just being with it, I let it do me, and managed the shame with a note of apology, you know, an EMAIL….with a joke in it. I should learn by now to sit on my hands when I’m not feeling grounded. I effect everyone around me, and it’s not fair.
That week, I got an email ‘hi, do you have a few minutes to chat?’ from my one-day-could-be boss. I immediately wanted to run out of the store, get in my car, and drive to Mexico. ‘sure’, I replied, super cool. ‘great, call me’, she responded.
I didn’t know what to expect. My call earlier that week, was not with her, but with the recruiter that’s been wonderful and supporting me the whole time (GUYS, THE RECRUITER) so duh, of course people talk about candidates, it’s literally their job.
Long story short, she says to me, in the simplest, most matter-of-fact, non-emotional-way… ‘communicating like you did, wont work’ she went on to share, about coming to every single call, grounded, clear, ready. She didn’t give a crap, what I needed to do, to make that happen, but held the expectation that this was a must, especially for this particular role, which is completely built on communication.
And your emails…she says.
Oh god. Oh no. Mexico. (these are my thoughts)
Lyndsey. You’re hysterical. Like legitely hysterical.
Yes, I know.
But there’s a time and a place.
Like not in professional emails.
I mean, still be yourself, but you gotta find a way to completely present who you are. You cant hide behind being funny. You cant.
Oh lord. She just called me out.
She went on to say, that if I am always leading and leaning on humor, then it will have people wondering, what else is there. That, after our first interview, she was blown away with my level of skill, drive and passion that I was able to articulate over the phone, because it’s overshadowed by my 2-drink minimum that I had established in our email exchange leading up to our interviews.
Communication is everything.
I met her feedback to me with open arms. With her delivery which was a blend of compassion and no bullshit, I just HEARD what was being given to me with no emotion. My thoughts about driving to mexico subsided. And I was left with what was. She made it clear again and again, that none of this was about me losing who I am, what makes me special, but rather, adapting.
I had represented myself in a certain way, and now, it was on me to either move that forward or not.
How it felt you guys, was ‘the jig is up’ I want to know who you really, truly are.
If I wasn’t so afraid to be sad, then I wouldn’t do things, like cry on a professional phone call. Which is very very rare, (let me just note), but not adaptive at the age of 33. It just shows me where I’m coming up short, and where I need to work harder, differently.
I am an emotional human being. I feel EVERYTHING. Your emotions? Yep, I feel them. Person on the street? I feel you. Anyone and everyone? Oh yes, let me just go ahead and feel it all. I read things about pivotal leaders like steve jobs, and other creative types, who are notoriously emotional, charismatic, and unpredictable. I feel better knowing there are other people like me out there. But until I have founded the next apple…I have some refining to do.
This feedback around being funny has really stuck with me too. I wont ever stop being funny, or wanting to be around funny people, NOT EVER. But, it was a moment to stop and think about why. Why do I feel the need to crack a joke almost always. Only the people closest to me (and now, a few thousand readers : ) know, I do have a level of sadness that’s just always with me too. It doesn’t run me anymore, but it does motivate me to laugh everyday. But of the thousands of people I interact with…only a few know I am the first to leave the party. That I’m a little bit sad. That I run the bath and turn off the lights. To go over every interaction in great detail. Meanwhile, back at the party, people are reenacting things I’ve said, and asking ‘where’s Lyndsey?’
Said another way, my mentor says to me, ‘you know, what is so captivating about you, what takes you so far, has everyone getting on your bus, is also your biggest downfall’. Typing that, scares the shit out of me, because it’s exactly right.
Well, so I’m right here. And it’s what I am working on. Just being here. Not hiding behind anything. Seeking out the laughter and the dance parties…but being okay, that life is not just that.
I’m asking for help more where I need it.
And everyday. I try a little harder. To be all of me, and not leave the party early. But also, to not be the party, not always.
To everyone I know who leans on funny…it’s okay to be sad or angry…let yourself, it’s part of being human.