She who laughs loudest…usually hurts deepest

If I wake up too early, as in 3 – 5 AM, or if I stay up too late, until those times, I get this feeling in my stomach. It’s the same feeling I have when I’m really scared or really upset.

It’s a nauseating mixture of emptiness and aching.

Ironically, this is usually the time when I can do the best writing. But it’s the kind of writing I don’t show many people. It’s always a little dark, and it’s sad, and for people who aren’t used to the darkness, it can be a bit jarring for them.

That’s one thing I’ve learned recently. People who aren’t familiar with ugliness have to be introduced very slowly to it, or not at all. These are the people who get visibly bothered by stories of my childhood, or are mind-blown that I can be witty and funny, not only in general, but also about that childhood. I’ve learned that I can’t be so nonchalant about it with them. I can’t shrug it off and say, “Yeah. This happened. Oh well. I lived,” because they can’t grasp the concept of a cruel mother and a dismal┬ápast.

I can laugh about a dark, witty joke that my sister makes about our father’s eventual release of his role as hero and his subsequent ignorance concerning the ways in which our mother began to reign over him, as well. Of how he just peeled out his own spine, notch by notch, and handed it over to her like a totem. We can joke about it, making the blackest humour out of it, but other people are horrified. Like the time our cousin was talking about how her eight-year-old son was once dropped by our father when he was climbing him, and now he was afraid of our father, and my sister just replied, “Don’t worry. He dropped us, too.” We thought it was hilarious, in our dark way. Our cousin just shook her head with a breathy scoff, used to the things we say, but her fiance was pretty shocked. He just sat there with this look on his face and I had to say, “Sorry, J. You’re not used to this humour yet.”

Because most people can’t find the humour in it. Or maybe in their own life’s ugliness at all. The idea that some people use humour as a coping mechanism are the strings that hold my marionette’s body up. I rarely got to laugh, growing up, but once I turned about 12, I had developed a sharp, entertainingly grim sense of wit and humour. I began to appreciate the jokes you had to lift up and look beneath to really get them.

I think this might be true for a lot of people who present to the world a funny, witty personality. People who have learned to laugh whenever the chance presents itself, because laughing was missing for so many years of their lives. You just kind of develop a superhuman sense for it. You begin to see the hilarity of Steven Wright — anyone, really, with his gloomy humour. Weekend Update was always my favourite part of SNL because you had to have a sense of the world to really appreciate the jokes.

Tina Fey is perfect for this. Maybe I feel that way because I can relate. I’m the first to laugh at myself or point out my flaws. Because I don’t think I’m better than anybody. If anything, I recognize exactly how fucked up I am and I know that in a lot of ways, this separates my from the pack. I will always be a little weird and introverted and dark. I was painted with that brush a long time ago and that shit don’t wash off.

Remember when Chris Farley killed himself? That guy was hi-larious. Everybody (worth knowing) has seen Black Sheep or Tommy Boy and obviously SNL. Everybody loved him. He was so funny and a bit self-deprecating and just awesome. But he was also one of us: a person who is forced to pull joy into his life with the fervour of someone who understood that the darkness could kill you. He lived his life by grabbing every opportunity by the balls and making it his bitch. He partied like a rock star and laughter probably fuelled him. Some people say that his overdose was accidental, some people don’t. I guess I just look at it like, we’re talking about someone who was no stranger to the perks crushed up and offered at parties in little white lines of escape. He knew what he liked and he knew how much to take, in order to feel the way he wanted. He was an artist, above all else, and his art was his life raft. Margaret Atwood said something along the lines of any form of art being the artist’s way of evading suicide. She fucking nailed it with that one. Artists are passionate people. Maybe not about the same things as most people, but our passion is no less real. We crave the feeling of living and laughing and the idea of being crammed into a cubicle or something is just a death warrant. I can pretend to be corporate, but it’s a short-lived motivation that keeps me there. Those are not my people.

My people, unfortunately for me up in my Canadian ice bubble, are in New York. Los Angeles. Lots of other places, obviously, but these are the places where opportunity is the thickest. It presents itself in wide ropes, while up here it’s kind of…like that shoelace liquorice. Except all stale and basically fucking useless. I can’t live on that! I can’t do anything with it! Well, except blog, I guess. But I’m not really sure what this is doing for me, in the long run.

I guess for now I just have to keep laughing at myself, maintain my usual sky-high level of self-deprecation, and writing out everything from the highs to the lows (also referred to as my dark and twisties), to the in betweens that sustain me. Despite all of the shit, I somehow still have this little voice inside my head that tells me to keep pushing and to keeping dreaming my lofty dreams. Kelly Oxford got outta here. So many people had this same dream and now they get to live it.


What Makes a Movie?

Sometimes, something happens and you just know that you’re never going to forget it, or that it’s going to make a wicked story to share, or anything like that.

Sometimes stuff happens and you think you’ll remember it, but you forget.

Sometimes you do your best to forget, and sometimes your brain just picks up a bad memory like it’s a dirty kleenex and drops it into a compartment marked Repressed Memories. Because that shit is not good for anybody.

Growing up, I lived in a small town. It was really ordinary and boring. Except it wasn’t actually ordinary. I definitely felt like it was, but as I got older I noticed that my life wasn’t like anyone else’s.

My friends had mothers who were smiling and warm and loving. They hugged them and talked to them, asked them how their days were. I had a mother who was a timebomb. I never knew which Mom I was going to come home to: the one who screamed and chain-smoked; the one who would furiously clean while muttering about much her kids sucked; the one who spoke instead of giving the silent treatment; or the one who acted “normal,” drinking coffee or reading a book.

Growing up, I believed what I was told: that her behaviour was my fault. That she had never wanted kids, so we were the reason she was unhappy and it was our fault that her life was the way it was. I was raised to believe I was lowly, so I believed it. The concept of self-esteem and self-worth came along and was foreign.

My dad was pretty great while I was growing up. He’d try to calm her down, he’d stick up for us, he’d smile and laugh, he was proud. He was always really proud of the fact that my sister and I had tested really well and the teachers wanted to skip us each ahead a grade. He was proud that we could watch Jeopardy with him and get answers right. He thought we were beautiful, but he only said so when our mother wasn’t around. The one time he told me that I was perfect, after I’d lost a bunch of weight because I was sick and I looked like a skeleton with skin stretched over it and I was really self-conscious because I knew I looked bad, my mother snapped at him, “Don’t tell her that.” Heaven forbid I have a sense of self-worth, right Mumsy?

I never imagined, while growing up, that my fucked up, dark, miserable life would be the basis for a screenplay that would rule my life for a good year. I’ve written and rewritten this fucking thing over and over. I love it and then I hate it. My sister hates the ending. But in reality…the ending is what it is. I didn’t write the screenplay for it to have an obvious happy ending. The happiness is embedded in the final scene. You have to work for it; look for it; dig for it. Because in real life, that’s what I have to do.

I never got to snap my fingers and have everything turn around. I’ve just gotten to slowly reach other levels of surviving.

But regardless, the little compartments in my brain are bursting. The Repressed Memories are fighting to get out, and I’m fighting just as hard to ignore them. The Good Times are so sparse and gossamer, not heavy or thick enough to blanket the bad. Because the Bad Times take up most of the space in my brain and they’ve spent 20+ years governing the democratic republic that is my brain. Pulling them out and lining them up in chronological order was a super fun and enjoyable task. Writing some of that shit pulled me into a dark place that I spent the better part of my early 20s trying to escape. I was forced to remember and forced to put it down in words. But words have always been mine. Even when I have to use them against me, at least they’re mine.

So now I’m done my third rewrite on this screenplay. I wrote the parts that I skipped over and over because I refused to relive them and, for some of it, can’t relive because they’re fuzzy and blurred past comprehension. I’m sure some psychoanalyst could hold my brain in her hands and wring it out like rain, dripping the blackness that’s been hiding in there. But do I want to do that? That would be opening the proverbial can of worms. Like, not even worms. It would be Medusa’s head, times a thousand. Am I strong enough for that?

I could argue for and against that. I’m still here, so obviously resiliency isn’t paltry here. But do I want to drag myself into a well that fills as quickly as metal boots magically grow on my feet? I’d have to be crazy to voluntarily dive in. But…I am pretty fucking crazy.

I’m crazy enough to be 29 and still dreaming of a life far, far from the one I have. I still fantasize about meeting Tina Fey, writing for the screen, waking up and getting to feel the indescribable feeling of living my dream. What does that feel like, to be utterly happy?

It’s sad that it’s foreign.

It’s devastating.