Sunday, July 7, 2013

How to Not Get Eaten-- by an undercover drama queen

I'm perplexed at how different my life looks than it did last July. 

Last year at this time, I was on my way to Arizona to drop off my dog at a cattle ranch. Bonsai, an Australian cattle dog, and incidentally the love of my life, decided that it was necessary to protect me from my roommate with ruthless execution. This involved Bonsai biting him in such a way that he is still left with prominent battle scars from the experience. 

To be honest, it felt good to have a fierce protector (god knows I probably needed one) but unfortunately, the barista who is always so nice to me at Starbucks didn't know how to not take it personally when Bonsai ripped his shoe off as a punishment for saying hello to me. That's when I knew it was time to say goodbye. When your fierce protector turns into a jealous psychopath, that's when it stops feeling good. The irrational jealousy is cute until someone is checking my cell phone and interrogating me about the conversation I had with the gardener. Just saying.

I wouldn't bring it up, except this is exactly the kind of stuff that kept me from achieving what I wanted to with my art, or with my writing, or anything else for that matter. The fact is, if I need an excuse not to focus my energy my goals and dreams, I have no problem creating one. And I've done it over and over again. 

Why do we humans love drama so much? 

My first impulse is to go the scientific route and think about how we are still basically animals.  Back in the day, when we were all perfectly tanned and toned, adorning leopard skin loin-cloths, and carrying around clubs instead of going to them, being eaten was a real concern. So was the procurement of food. We lived viscerally, constantly having to solve problems ourselves, and relying on our wits and prowess to keep us alive. Here's a crazy tangential thought-- every single one of your ancestors reproduced before they died. Every single one made it to adulthood before being trampled by a wooly mammoth or attacked by a sabertooth tiger. I mean that's a miracle, right? Your existence is an anomaly, and it's kind of awesome. 
When life was easier

But in American culture today, we no longer really have to worry about things like that. We can get food at a grocery story, we don't have any major predators (except other people), and we live in homes that protect us from the elements. Where does all that mental energy go? If we aren't solving the problems of our physical existence, and if our lives lack the drama of survival, our gigantic brains will go to great lengths to create problems for us to solve. We can't help that our culture has progressed faster than evolution has. We all still have that gnawing feeling that we could be eaten at any moment, even though we don't necessarily need that feeling anymore. So instead of worrying about whether the wolves will come in the middle of the night, we find ourselves worrying about how we aren't making enough money to be a success, or we fret about all the nasty things that people are saying behind our backs, or we agonize about the last seven pounds that we can't seem to lose. 

I don't know, I'm just babbling. I could be totally wrong. The point I was hoping to make is actually a lot different. The fact is that while that feeling (the need for drama) will probably never go away, you can deal with it in two healthy ways that I have thought of so far. 

1. Put it to good use. (Create intense situations that are beneficial to you and others. Such as working on a something that you are passionate about, being creative, and having awkward yet important conversations that enlighten and comfort others)

2. Ignore it. (Tell it to shut up)
I know what you are wondering. Is there any drama in my life? Don't worry. I get it. I would ask the same question if someone wrote a blog that sounded this preachy. 

Well, for the first time ever, no. The weird thing is, I'm not bored, and I don't feel the need to create upsetting and distracting scenarios that suck up my time and energy just so I can be amused and occupied. But drama isn't just about people. It's about rigging your own game so that you fail. We don't pay our bills on time, we allow the gas gauge to fall way below E before we get off the freeway, we gossip, we aren't honest with people about what we want, and then we blame them for not guessing correctly. We take things personally when we don't have to.

Here is the honest-to-God truth that will probably be taken out of context in some way and recited back to me by my mother: 

I've been a drama queen my whole life. And I am the worst kind of drama queen, because instead of calling a spade a spade, people call me an artist, which is a way of excusing any insane thing I do and saying that it is actually romantic. I am of the particular variety that is seemingly blameless in every situation, and is constantly falling victim to the ploys of crazy people that get psychotic and weird for absolutely no reason. What a load of bologna. 

The thing is, if there is drama in my life, it's because I want it there. The same goes for you, my four loyal readers. I don't care what you say, your drama is serving a purpose. Maybe it's simply there to distract you from what your heart truly wants. Maybe its there so you have an excuse not to work on your goals and dreams, the ones that scare the living crap out of you. Maybe it's an excuse not to commit fully to a relationship that has the potential to break your heart into a million tiny little pieces. You decide what purpose it serves, because you're the only one who knows. 

I'd like to say that my days of being a drama queen are over, but I can still feel her sulking in my head, starved for attention. That something within me wants spectacle, grandiose gestures, outlandish experiences and insurmountable obstacles. To some extent I would say I've welcomed hardship and unhealthy people, just to prove that I could take on any uncomfortable situation life threw at me. Ironically, in trying to prove to others that I was strong, I simply appeared unlucky, powerless and victimized. I was only fooling myself, and I even did a half-assed job at that. Obviously.

With what I'm working on now, I'm all of a sudden too busy for that. I realize that there is no time for any negativity or self-inflicted hardship in my life because what I'm trying to do is already difficult enough without it. I wake up every morning and I definitely feel afraid of being eaten by Tendinitisauras, but it's invigorating.  Running from California to New York while raising money and awareness for veterans, and pushing myself to my limitations in terms of empathy and compassion is: a spectacle, an insurmountable obstacle, an outlandish experience, and grandiose gesture. 

It seems that I've found a healthy way to deal with my penchant for drama. 

Pouring myself into something that I truly care about, and only keeping the people in my life who love and support me, has been an eye-opening experience. All the energy I wasted on meaningless gossip, on unfulfilling relationships, on paintings that didn't inspire's mind-boggling. 

And, of course, it would be really fun to beat myself for my past mistakes. But I'm pretty sure that's just drama too. I'm beginning to understand how much of life I spend as a reaction, instead of initiating a new pattern of cause and effect or creating something entirely original. I'm trying to figure it all out, but this personal growth thing is somewhat of a slippery slope. Sometimes it seems I have to get past four lies I'm telling myself about who I am, and what that means, before I get down to the honest answers about what is really going on. 

There is good news in all of this. 

I have my whole life to figure it out. And as Scarlet O'Hara (the most infamous of all drama queens) stated in Gone With the Wind, "...tomorrow is another day."

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