IT TAKES A VILLAGE

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I wish you could be with me right now. I snuck away to the balcony of a venue I’m performing in Charlotte, NC. I’m watching the team set the stage. They use big words I don’t understand and they do techy things with cords they call cables and screens and pullies and lights and it makes me feel stupid. They tear black tape and they move speakers and they check the sound on my piano with more playing ability in their little finger than I have in my whole body. I use my hands to type words but they use their hands to make those words come alive on the stage night after night.

Before I found my way to the nosebleeds earlier today, I was surrounded by the rest of my tour team in a creative meeting. So many beautiful minds going in so many different directions, but coming together in the end for one cause, one goal. I feel certain that given a mic and a cup of coffee, any one of them could also stand up there and do a little comedy while they’re at it, but that may be asking too much.

The misconception of tour life via social media, is that it’s this one-man-show, but most of you know better. To some of you it would seem effortless. How hard could it be, right? It’s who you are. Just get up there and hold that mic and be funny and sing us a few songs. What you don’t know, probably, is that being a comedienne is not some secret career path I’ve always hoped to follow. It’s not a craft I’ve been honing for the past decade. I haven’t been hitting the comedy clubs in between nursing my children and fixing dinner. I never signed up for comedy. You did. You signed me up. You told me I could do it, so I did…and here we are.

Just a few short months ago I had to figure this thing out. Am I going to keep working my big girl job or am I going to sit across the dinner table from my daddy and tell him I’m quitting my job to do comedy full-time? Am I going to give up the only bit of security and stability I’ve ever known to take a risk based on the popularity of a few videos and some blogs?

Actually, yes.
I think that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
And so I did.

But I didn’t do it alone. Were it not for the consistent encouragement of a few close friends and family members, and now, my tour family, I would be curled up in the fetal position in the corner of a room somewhere eating checkers and talking to my imaginary friend. The fear and the weight and the responsibility is gripping and can numb your mind quicker than gin on an empty stomach, but do you know what I’m finding?
I’m finding that the payoff is greater than the risk. The possibility of failure, in my humble opinion, is way more palatable than the question of the what-if.

And the team around me that spurs me on and loves me and the behind-the-scenes-payoff as much as I love hugging necks and telling jokes is worth the ride. It takes a village and mine is strong. Fixed. Our homes are made up of bunks on a bus, but our hearts are a settlement. We are guided by the same principles. Centered.  We are all of different bends and trades, but we function as a unit. We are all of equal value.  Our walls are strong. We work hard and we love well and we live for justice and we fight hard for the good of the whole. We are unified.  My allies – they push and they spur and they steer the ship.

My village. It takes one.

And in a world that tells us we can do all the things alone, sometimes we just need people. We need community. Cheerleaders – telling us to go after the thing and do it afraid. Lovers of the ride who tell us, “If you don’t, you’ll regret.” Motivators who say, “You’ll never know until you try.”  Believers who remind, “I have faith in you.”

Friends…fans…you…who love and encourage and keep the dream alive.

Leaning in to the support doesn’t make you weak.
It makes you strong.
Life is not a one man show, and living in the shadows is not really living at all. Pushing past the insecurities and the fears and the “I can’t”s, I think you’ll find, is way more exhilarating than eating checkers.

So, what is that thing? That fear?
That belief in your gut that you want to go for.
That mountain staring you in the face begging you to climb it.

What is it?
And what’s holding you back?
Maybe it’s just simply…you.

Take your chance. Be a risk-taker. Find your like-minded village and surround yourself with people who believe in you and move you on to greatness. Find your tribe that puts a mic in your hand and pushes you out on stage with nothing but a glass of water and says, “Now, go tell some jokes.”  Find those people, because they are gold. And if you can’t find your people just yet, be your own cheerleader. Tell yourself to go for it and not look back, because it will bring you life – a life that you most definitely need to be living.

THE GIVE-BACK

To all my friends who read…it’s been awhile. Forgive my absence. I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been writing you a book – a very sarcastic, non-sensical, ridiculous, yet sadly factual, comedy book due out in the spring. I’m sorry I broke up with you so abruptly with no warning, but the truth is, I want you back. I have no flowers or chocolates, but consider this 1989 and consider me John Cusack in Say Anything and let these words be my boombox serenade… I need you.

It’s been a crazy few months. I’ve written my first book, been to Haiti, released my debut country album and am currently on a comedy tour. I can hardly believe this is even my life. When I AIN’T DOIN IT first got started I was living a different story. I was working 8 to 5 and mom-ing 25 hours out of everyday. In one fell swoop I had gone from a two-income household, the house, the dog, the kids in public school, you name it – to “how in the world are we going to make it?”. Before, I was the one passing out hope by the bucketful to anyone who would accept it. Five years ago, though, I was the one on the receiving end. I would now know the weight of financial difficulty, of loss, of fear of the future. I would be the one found trapped by rigidity in my feeble attempt that maybe, just maybe, there was one thing within my control. I was the one figuring it out and trying to keep it together when I wanted to fall apart, all the while knowing deep down that somehow, some way, things were going to work out.

Despite what some of you may think from the candor in my videos and the sarcasm that runs deep in my veins, I love people. And loving people in the truest verb tense has always been at the top of my perpetual life goals list. Even in the difficult moments, it’s always been in my heart to give whenever I was able, and to love always.  Don’t get me wrong. I’m human. I can roll my eyes with the best of ’em and have been known to call a sister out when she’s being rude, but at the core of me, I love.
And I love a good give-back.
Giving back looks different for everyone, but for me, no matter how big or how small, it’s an acknowledgement, it’s an explanation and a declaration that says, “You matter. You’re worth it. Nothing in return…”  Once the door to my comedic path opened wide (what, even…), opportunity to do more of what I love presented itself, and it is not a threshold I cross lightly.

Last week, I came back from an eight-day beach vacation with my children and my partner-in-crime/best friend/assistant, Tosha, and her family. My kids played and I laid on the beach like a dead person for seven solid days. The only sounds I cared to take in were the waves, the seagulls and the Indie vibes that were playing in my ears. My plan was to read a book I’ve had on my radar for ages, but because of the nature of my decompression process, and because when good music is playing I have to stop and soak it in like a sponge, I didn’t make it past page 9. I also reached the height of what I would consider remarkable parenting status, as I barely ever knew where my children were the entirety of the time. About once an hour I would try to wake myself from my euphoric state to look around and see if I noticed their sunburned shoulders bobbing in the water, in the hopes that surely if they were drowning someone would’ve told me.

As I laid on that beach, day after day, my mind played old tapes of where I had once been and of how one accidental video now allowed my heart room to breathe. I felt the vacancy in my life where fear and worry once staked their claim. I remembered where I was and how I felt when I was fighting the war and compared it to how I felt in that very moment – at peace. I remembered the struggle and the cycle and the anxiety of doing it alone and I remembered you – the one who’s still in it. The one who doesn’t see a light at the end of their tunnel. The one who will most inevitably come out the victor but doesn’t know it yet. You – the one who is choking back the tears as you read these words that sit heavy on your chest. The one who cries yourself to sleep wishing and praying for any kind of breakthrough.
You.
I thought of you.
I remembered you.
And I laid there next to Tosha and we talked it out and we cried for injustice and for parents and children who just needed a break. We soaked up the sun and the love and the reality that we were finally in a place to do something about it, if only for one right now, at least that’s something. So, right there in all the talks and the thoughts and the internal fight for what’s right, the give-back presented itself. “Let’s give somebody what we once needed. Let’s love. Nothing in return.” And in that conversation, we decided to send a single parent and their children on vacation.

Hear me – this is not about me or Tosha. And this is not some sick display of false humility or some manipulation tactic.  I don’t want your attention or your accolades.
I just want you to do the same.
You may not be able to give away a beach vacation yet, but I just bet you can give something. I bet you can give a hug or take someone to lunch or listen to someone’s story over coffee. I bet some of you can help turn a single parent’s lights back on or buy someone’s groceries. Opportunity will likely come to you each and every day. And she will look you dead in the eyes and ask you if you’re ready – if you’re willing. Willing to look foolish, to break routine, to lay down pride, to give selflessly in your own time of need. And you get to answer.
You get to choose. But let me promise you this – if your answer is yes, your reward will most definitely be greater than your sacrifice. When your head hits your pillow at night and your heart is pure and full of peace and empathy and your conscience is clean knowing you loved well that day, that is the ultimate reward. It’s not the size of the gift you give. It’s the heart behind it.

And to those of you who are still in that cycle that you think will never end – the ones who want to love but can barely love themselves – the ones who are crawling through the valley right now, know this. Your knees will not be muddy forever. There is a clearing and a light and one day you will stand up and it will lead out. You are not finished.  Don’t let bitterness and resentment hold you under water. Throw your head back, tell it no and show it who you are. Show life and everybody in it that you will love in spite of circumstance. With everything in me, this is what I believe – this is what we are made for.  We are made for the give-back.