We also spent a surprising amount of the lesson talking about characters with hooks for hands.

Taking improv classes was a good decision, not only for having reigniting my joy of performance. It’s been challenging mentally and at times emotionally, but it’s certainly forced me into dealing with discomfort that lies beyond my comfort zone. It’s been so rewarding to notice the class collectively adapting to each new lesson, progressing and coming out of their shells. You’d think we were taking… improve classes or something.

Last night’s class was on character and relationships. Given the rapid fire nature of the format, being able to snap instantly into a character is vital. Character encompasses so much. How big is your character? Are they a “straight man” or something more absurdist? A pivotal part of the scene? Or a mechanic to help along the narrative? What is their relationship with the other characters? High or low status? What is the mantra that they hold on their heart? How could we decide all of this in the instant before we entered the scene?

As always, our teacher encouraged us that we knew this already. That a lifetime of stories had taught us that this was instinctive. If a character was a yoga instructor, what did we already know about them? What about an investment banker? There were no wrong answers. Our first thought was usually right and we just needed to follow those threads.

We tried a technique called The Alexander Method. We walked about the room in a neutral fashion. Neutral pace, posture, expression. She gave us instructions that we slowly incorporated. Light on our feet, quick, indirect How did that inform posture? Breath? Emotion? What did our character think about when they woke up in the morning? Then simply turning to a partner and introducing ourselves, our names and mantras. Committing to the choices we’d made. We tried again, this time heavy, direct. We were instructed to lead with a body part. How did it hold tension? What was our mantra this time? Again we introduced ourselves to sometime, as if at a networking event, gave them our mantra. Then break, back to walking around the room. Light, direct. Who were we? How did we relate to others? Then introducing ourselves to the nearest person as if they were an ex we hadn’t seen in some time.

I knew my character was constantly off in their own head, ceaselessly analysing. My yoga teacher ex was trying to catch up while I was mentally only scantly there. Feeling entrenched in character, I realised that this had always been the case, that she’d been looking for something in me I wasn’t interested in providing. My charger was baffled by human interaction. I could sense her frustration in the moment, but felt so in character. I was genuinely confused. Why did she think she was worth my time? Why would she think to divert my attention. I was adroitly dismissive, looking for an excuse to be physically elsewhere too.

Later in the class we sat down and volunteered to do scenes two at a time. I was paired with a woman and told that we were characters on the verge of divorce, but we’d both unintentionally turned up to collect our child from school. She arrived after I did and instantly I knew. She was always like this. Late, unreliable. She was the “fun one”, but it was always on me to pick up the pieces, be the bad guy, sort out appointments, keep the house in order. The scene became very visceral and raw as it all flooded out. Our child arrived, oblivious to the tension. “Do you think I’m a bad mother?” My partner asked. My eyes narrowed and I felt the pettiness come forth. I wanted to be cruel, to stick the knife in. I replied. “What kind of mother do you think you are?” The test of the class made an involuntary noise, like they’d seen a small animal harmed. The teacher cut the scene. I tried too let go of it, but holy shit were my shoulders tense. I was shaking slightly. Too real. After class I took my scene partner aside and checked in with her. She felt the same way. It worked, but did we ever feel it.

Now I can’t wait for next week.

It’ll be like my teenage years all over again (except for the angst and random boners that is).

It’s getting late and I don’t know what to write. Part of the trouble is that I want to have direction. If I start with a good enough prompt, it’ll give me somewhere to go. Another issue tonight is that I keep stumbling over my own fingers. Seriously, I do this every day. Why am I having such difficulty typing? Of course you’re not gonna see that outcome, since I’ll tidy it all up for you. Just know that it took two minutes to get this far into my entry. I was so bogged down by the trail of typos, scattered like bones amongst sand in the vast desert wastelands.

My improv teacher said one of the biggest issues that people face when they start out is trying to be funny. If you’re trying too hard to be funny, you’re fishing for the right answer, when you should ideally be going with your instinct. The right answer is often the simplest one. If you want to be spontaneous you don’t want to overthink it. When I think back to the origins of this project, that was the point. I wanted to find the creativity in lucid thought. Non-linear ideas were fine. As time evolved, I found that the entries where I had a theme to work turned out to be more cohesive. Restriction breeds creativity, right? At the same time, once in a blue, green or velvet moon I’ll flick back through my archives (they’re vast and mostly incomprehensible) and find some mental tangents. They’re weird, wonderful and yet cosy. I’m not sure how they feel to others. Having written them myself, they feel intimately familiar, like pulling a long forgotten hoodie out of your closet. While I rarely remember the day they were written, I’m sucked straight back into that frame of mind. I can follow the flow of thoughts from one point to another, understanding how connections were made. Of course I would say that though, wouldn’t I?

It’s funny, but as I’m writing this out, I’m having a concurrent conversation with a friend about my aversion to making plans. I used to plan ahead all the time. In recent years I’ve cooled off that kind of proactive plotting. I’ve become more enamoured with the convergence of spontaneity. Toronto’s a big city and there’s always something on. I think in a way it’s been a matter of keeping options open. Rampant FOMO, y’know Joe? While that sounds innately selfish, there’s actually a different reasoning behind it. If I’m really looking forward to an event, I get totally gutted if my activity partner cancels on me. I understand, because everyone’s time poor and has limited spoons, etc. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’ve been left in the lurch. More disappointed than Kevin Sorbo, even. Reflexively, I hate committing to anything if I might not be able to deliver. I abhor the idea of making others suffer those Kevin Sorbo disappointments. I wouldn’t want it done to me, so why do it to others? Subconsciously, I often take the path where this eventuality would rarely be a reality.

This mentality frequently pushes me away from relying on others. If my brain tells me it’ll likely end in disappointment, why bother? I’ll get concert tickets on my own. If it turns out another friend happens to be going, fantastic! Most often I’ll just go and chat to randoms while I’m there. Every once in a while I’ll make a new friend. I’ve realised lately though, that I’ve pushed myself into shitty patterns. I value spontaneity, but not everyone does. This means I’ll be continuously reaching out for companionship last minute and come back with nothing. I’ve been doing this for years and my success rate has gotten so bad, I’ve found myself refraining from asking instead. Obviously the lesson is here is to either conform to planning as others do, or get used to feeling let down. The latter seems a less rosy preposition. In any case, giving up on rampant spontaneity seems like admitting that the world isn’t a magical place. That too seems to be a shitty option.

Maybe the right answer is somewhere in the middle. Make plans, but loose ones. Book out time to be present with someone, but don’t sketch in the details too finely. Do x activity then get food. Be in this part of town and see what happens. Jeez, I can’t remember the last time I “hung out” with someone at their place. No agenda outside of experiencing one another’s company. Could that be the answer? Walk that tightrope between certainty and the unknown?

Or is it as simple as using Google Calendar again?

The CRA just paid me $9. I’mma go hogwild!

Do you ever have those days almost entirely spent waiting to hear back from other people? Where you’ve made plans contingent on forces outside your control? You can’t make x move until y condition is met, etc? Friends of mine just sold their house, so I know they have explicit understanding of my situation. I finally got my confirmation, which is excellent. It would’ve been double-plus excellent if it came through before 5pm instead of spending the whole day stressing. I’ve unlocked the ability to move onto the next stages of my balancing act, at least for one of my many spinning plates. Enough about all that. Venting about stress is only fun for so long. On a long enough timeline, ranting about it’s gonna make me sound like a legit grown up. I don’t want to accidentally stress you all out in my stead.

Toronto Fringe has started, which means I’m girlfriendless for the next two weeks. No doubt the plot of every 90s bloke comedy has led to to believe it’ll be non-stop testosterone fuelled shenanigans from here to fortnight’s end. Since I’m not drinking right now, my guess is that rediscovering video games is about as lewd and raucous as it’s gonna get. Grab meals and catch up with my long neglected friends. I might even hang out and watch movies with friends. Not even porn, just gruesome horror (the line between is infinitely slim though), if I get my way. Possibly venture out of the house to see some theeeeuhtuuuuuh. No orgies, bar brawls, drug benders or world domination on the docket. How many nights in a row do you think hookers and blow stay fun? At some point you’re gonna want to watch Netflix and come down. Maybe eat some cheese.

The honest truth of my disinterest in rocking out with my proverbial (or literal) cock out is that I don’t feel like I’m being liberated from anything. I’m not stuck in some stifling relationship with a “ball and chain”. We’re a couple of individuals smushed together in a relationship. We have our own hobbies and friends. Given our already split schedules, it’s not like we’re seeing a ton of each other as it is. I love hanging out with her and adventuring together, but I’m also just as happy doing my own thing. I’ve got more than enough ways to kill time and frankly, not having to factor someone else into my plans makes it a lot easier to get shit done.

Plus it’s way easier going to sleep alone. Perhaps I can start catching up on my twenties’ worth of sleep that I skipped.

Does this make me The Big Sycophant?

Friday night. Taking myself out to see an early showing of The Big Sick because I forgot how much I love seeing movies alone. It’s such an honest experience. I don’t know about others, but when I watch films in company I’m not able to fully let go. I feel this bizarre compulsion to mask my reactions. To, I dunno, hide weakness? It’s primal ape type shit and probably symptomatic of a culture where toxic masculinity still holds sway. As if losing control would make me inherently less dominant. It’s weird and makes no fucking sense in not only 2017, but especially with my own personal values and politics. If I were really secure in myself I wouldn’t give two asses for friends (who were obviously close enough to me that I invited them out) seeing my vulnerability. Idiocy most profound. So I’m gonna enjoy The Big Sick in an entirely unfiltered fashion on my own.

Also because I clearly have no friends.

This is one of those films that means a bunch to me. Starring Kumail Nanjiani in a movie co-written with his wife Emily V. Gordon, it’s the story of how they met, loosely adjusted for slightly more dramatic effect. I say slightly, ’cause their story was pretty fucking dramatic. Why do I feel attached? Why do I care? Because they co-hosted an outstanding video game podcast called The Indoor Kids. Podcasting is such an intimate (admittedly one way) medium that it was hard not to fall for them. They’re a brilliant, supportive couple who are equal parts adorable and awe inspiring (why not “awww inspiring?” -ed). Over the years they’ve climbed the rungs of the Hollywood career ladder. His comedy career has taken off, which in turn lifted his film and television portfolio. She’s a former therapist for at-risk teens who’s folded that talent into managing the egos of fragile comedians. She’s also a super talented writer and really fucking funny herself. They’re dynamic, inspiring and deserve every success.

Okay. Waiting for the film now. Observations:

Every old person in Toronto is at this 7pm movie. This is 30.

They’re calling their kids and shit. It’s like being in another world.

An old couple of staring at their phones, not talking to one another. OLD PEOPLE ARE JUST LIKE US YOU GUISE.

Everyone’s wearing glasses and it’s not even a 3D film. I missed the memo.

Dude behind me doesn’t realise he’s eating popcorn with his mouth open like a fucking sociopath because he’s too old to hear a goddamn thing.

There’s an Inconvenient Truth sequel. Everyone around me has an aura of “not my problem”.

To be fair, Al Gore is everyone’s problem.

Oh, movie’s starting. I’m looking forward to the couple next to me repeating all the jokes one second later.

In Big Willie World, is marriage outlawed in favour of getting Hitched?

I wonder if there’s an alternate reality where The Willenium happened instead. A reality where, on that dark morning of September Willeventh 200w, the world was reeling from the premiere of Wild Wild West 2. If instead of picking fights with major news outlets and condoning sexual harassment, the Will House’s POTUS spent his time angling for the Rubik’s Cube to become a major plot point of The Pursuit of Happyness. Imagine a world where Suicide Squad never happened. Political rallies where cries of “WOO. HAHA HAHA” fill the air. It’s there and I like it.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I get distracted easily. While my brain is most certainly tethered to this reality, that has no bearing on how freely it wanders. I’m constantly thinking about all kinds of inane or absurd ephemera. Thoughts come and go. It can appear that I’m concentrating intently, but I could be a world away. I remember one of the many times I took my driver’s licensing test, paying attention but also not being able to shake thoughts of Slith Predator. It’s a Magic the Gathering card. It’s not (and never was) particularly good. I liked the art and, as a green player, wanted it to be as good as Slith Firewalker. I was paying attention to the road, certainly. I was also trying to think of how the card could be utilised if I so wished. What if it had haste? What if I had a whole deck of green beaters who had haste? Some kind of mono green beatdown deck that leveraged Concordant Crossroads for the advantage. Was my indicator on? I could throw in cards with heavy green costs like Fangren Firstborn. Oh, and maybe that would’ve been a good opportunity to turn onto the main road, but that car was coming on my right pretty quickly. What about a beast synergy with Ravenous Baloth? How do I handle issues of redundancy. Okay, time to turn. But if I throw in the Baloth, is there any point in using the Slith Predator at all? The licensing tester doesn’t look pleased. Shit, did I just fail? Also wasn’t getting to play the Slith Predator the whole point of the deck?

I did fail, by the way. That’s not the point. The point is that weirdly now when I’m driving I think of Slith Predator. Still. I made that deck, by the way. The Predator was great in there. The deck probably sucks now. I still get distracted by something from years ago. I also get distracted by things that don’t exist and other things that will happen in the future. With a brain that’s obsessed with being anywhere else, presence is kind of difficult to cultivate. Of course I can concentrate when I need to. I don’t suffer from leaving tasks undone. It’s just that I’m not giving my everything at all times.

Yesterday was my three year anniversary with my girlfriend. We’d planned out a big day of spending time with one another. I’ve also been recently preoccupied with something big on the horizon. It’s hard not to be constantly turning it over in my head. It’s a breeding ground for anxiety and a lot of hard work, but it could turn out to be a very positive step. I’m not ready to talk about it yet. That didn’t stop it from creeping into every waking (and attempted sleeping) moment. I realised that while this future endeavour was important to me, if I didn’t push it out of my mind, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy our anniversary.

Presence.

Presence is so important. To live in the moment and enjoy experiences as they come, not to spend time stressing about things outside your control.  I’m not saying to ignore the future, but there’s a balance. If you’re not authentically within your experiences, why are you doing them? Why half ass something you’re doing for pleasure? Why rob yourself of that joy? Why, on a day devoted to something my partner and I have created and nurtured together, would I be anywhere else? It wouldn’t be fair to her or me. So I focused on investing in the moment, spending time well and truly finding fulfilment in her company. It was the best decision I could’ve made. We had an amazing day together, reminding me just how lucky I am to be able to spend my life with her.

Good thing the Willenium never happened. If, by government mandate, we’d been forced to spend the day watching Hancock on repeat, my brain would’ve been a universe away.

This might take longer to write than the next Game of Thrones book, but I’m in.

This was a lot easier two years ago. Last year, even. That was all different, but familiar territory. This year marks a new milestone. I’m three years into the longest romantic relationship in my life.

There’s no caveat. I’m not gonna get your hopes up then turn around and be all “KIDDING. I had a longer relationship, but the romance was dead.” I haven’t been together with a partner for three years, period. What’s more, it is still romantic after all this time. I’d say that I love you as much as the day I met you, but that would be a fallacy. I didn’t love you when I met you, I didn’t know you. After three years, I feel like I know you. At least a little. You’ve heard movie characters stating that they can “read [insert person] like a book”? I get it. I finally know how that feels. When we’re together there’s a tacit language beneath the words and expressions. I understand what you’re saying, or when there’s something you’re not saying. When something’s off, it echoes through my bones. Subtext has become natural. I’m not bragging, I know you can see through me too.

The most exciting part is that this in no way means that you’ve run out of surprises. Have you ever found a book that appeals so much that you think it was written with you in mind? A book so rich in character that something new jumps off the page with every skim? It might be a peculiar sentence structure, a bold idea from out of nowhere. The vivid imagery with which its memories are etched. As new chapters appear every day, it’s no wonder you can’t put it down. You crack its spine each chance you get, even if only for minutes at a time. Like the most beguiling contraband. A page or two when the sun wrests open your eyes. A chapter before bed. A few clandestine sentences by moonlight. It’s intoxicating. You can’t wait to have read it in its entirety, but couldn’t bear for it to be over.

If our relationship began in its infancy, it would be talking by now. Growing and maturing, understanding the world around it. The recognition that as old as we felt before, there was so much yet to come. That we’d barely scratched the surface. There is so much yet to come and as each year passes, I appreciate and love you all the more. How adventurous your soul is, game for anything. How your gorgeous visage hides exponential beauty beneath. How boldly you embrace what the world throws your way and smile as it comes. How deep and fierce your emotions run, pulsing through the veins of every direction you take. How sincerely and openly you love, giving of yourself without barriers. How much you care for anything you can. You embrace life with an envious passion and I feel honoured to bask in your warmth.

I cherish writing our story together for this year and many more.

We all knew that was coming, right?

A while back a friend told me of a Vonnegut quote that I think of constantly. I’ve definitely mentioned it on here before, but if my worst case scenario is reminding you, I’m willing to take the consequences. It reads:

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

I wrote earlier that I think of it constantly, when really I should’ve instead admitted that I couldn’t think of it often enough. It’s easy to get bogged down by anything that irks you. Every day is a series of microaggressions and interactions that could’ve gone better. Living is anxiety, in that if we had to stop and consider every infraction, we’d find the nearest bridge and a pair of concrete boots.

Conversely, we don’t give enough credit to moments that lift us. Negativity is far easier to feed than the alternative and feeling petty is exponentially more satisfying than contentment. I wonder though, if that’s a function of how much energy we give to that which doesn’t go our way. If we spent more time acknowledging pleasant moments, to carve out those few seconds each time, if we’d notice the difference in our lives.

Take today for instance. Today wasn’t remarkable in any way, but it hasn’t given me anything to complain about. If someone tomorow were to ask me how my weekend was, today would’ve likely factor into my recount. Still, when I think harder about it, I’d almost say it was a perfect Sunday.

I woke next to my girlfriend and we snuggled for a bit. I got up, breezed through public transit and headed for the gym. Without immediate engagements, I didn’t feel remotely rushed. I took my time between sets and really considered which muscle groups I was hitting. While normally I’m bound by evening events or exhausted from work, today I got to spend as long as I wanted without trying to get in and out in about an hour. I left the gym and dawdled around a few shops, then checked out a new Japanese restaurant that opened in Koreatown. It was great, the yakiniku beef was incredibly flavourful, the salad was much more than the usual iceberg lettuce drenched in (admittedly delicious) salad dressing. There was some kind of dried vegetable on the side and the miso soup tasted unusually vibrant. I left satisfied, without a bulging stomach.

I did some fruit and vegetable shopping on my way home. Ten minutes after I arrived, friends came over to play some Magic. We played for hours, the games were interactive with shifting status and tensions. There weren’t huge stalemates, play was fluid and dynamic. We had discussions about the wider metagame and format, then they left and I had the house to myself.

I’ve got a bolognese sauce on the stove which is minutes away. I spent time prepping, listening to music and took advantage of the fresh ingredients I bought earlier. Having tasted it already, it’s gonna be piquant as fuck. Plus the satisfaction of having cooked it myself is an entirely salient taste.

I don’t know what else to say, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.