Jessica Michelle Singleton

Usually I try to come up with some snazzy, artsy, punny title for my posts. You know, something that has a vague allusion to the subject I’m writing about, something a “Writer” *hair flip* would do. Not for this one. It’s important to me that right off the bat, we know what we’re dealing with.

Jessica – or JMS, as I (never) call her, when I want to make her sound like a battleship – is so many things to me. I told her at…let’s check….11 PM last night, when I wasn’t quite drunk but was starting neatly into my cups, that I had to write about her, that it would kill me not to. That wasn’t the alcohol talking. It’s the fact that she’s phenomenal.

I went to school with Jessica. She was a year ahead of me, and I had transferred from a different high school after my sophomore year, so we only got a school year together. I’m not sure exactly how or why we crossed paths, but we got along immediately and became friends quickly.  We’ve kept in touch since.

She had a dream, and it was… well, to be honest, a daunting one. She wanted to make a career as a comedian, one of the hardest artistic professions to not only break into but do well at. It’s a profession that very often doesn’t take women seriously, and Los Angeles is a city that I absolutely love but fucking eats the souls of those not ready for it. I know. I moved there when I wasn’t ready for it.

When I turned 21, I moved to L.A. with two friends and no plan. I was going to be an actor/writer, I thought to myself, with six middling theatrical performances and a handful of questionable short stories under my belt. I even got headshots done. Did it matter that they were taken in a mostly abandoned warehouse by a man with half a dozen cats, arranged by a guy who ran a softcore pornography website as a side business? Not to me. I didn’t even see it when my friend said that one of my pictures looked like someone had just told me my pet had been run over by a car.

I was going for, I don’t know, pensive? It doesn’t matter. I didn’t become an actor/writer and my sheer unpreparedness for the city left me chewed down to gristle. The distance from the only home I had known, financial concerns, an unsupportive woman and, ultimately, myself left me broken. I moved away, defeated.

Jessica didn’t give a flying shit. Or maybe she gave all the flying shits. Either way, she moved down with an idea of how difficult things would be, discovered first hand the reality that it was so much more difficult than she could have imagined, and she endured it. With the storm that raged inside her continuing to roil and churn, she pushed it back and let sheer force of will keep her there, keep her fighting for every minute she could get on stage, every single person she could tell a joke in front of.

And she made it work. She has been making it work. She’s made a full-blown career out of it, doing a mind-boggling amount of shows each year, a cross-country tour, an international tour, radio shows, television pilots, YouTube sketches. She’s partying with Brian Regan in Las Vegas.

She came home for her high school reunion and did a couple surprise performances. I caught the latter of the two, the fourth time I’ve been fortunate enough to see her perform live, and she absolutely slaughtered the crowd. Just killed it. In a scarce three years, she has gone from doing fifteen-minute spots for nobody headliners to headlining shows with an hour and a half of solid material and hosting tours.

She’s a woman who had a dream, a horrendously difficult one, and spat in the face of adversity, wrestled that dream into something that not only supported her but brought genuine joy to others, and continues to make it work for her. The opportunities continue to flow her way, due to her hard work and her talent.

Professionally and artistically, I respect and admire her a great deal. She is doing what I meekly tried to do and continues to pursue her dream ravenously, with a fervor and talent that leaves me dazzled. It was a pleasure and a privilege to see her give an audience so much, so gleefully, striding across her element with a confidence I haven’t felt in over half a decade. She’s a hero to me.

And if it was just that, it would be enough, but she’s still so much more.

Jessica has been an invaluable friend. She’s that rare breed that won’t bullshit you, but also understands exactly what you’re going through and empathizes. Empathizes, which is much more difficult to do than sympathize and is typically much more emotionally taxing for both parties involved.

There is parental resentment. There are creative struggles. Most critically, there is trouble with mental instability, something I’ve come to learn recently is shockingly more prevalent than people are comfortable discussing. She talks about depression and bipolarism in her sets. She mentioned it in the first (and only, so far) guest post I’ve had written for my blog, which you can read here. Fun fact: That was written exactly one year and two weeks from yesterday.

I have texted her drunk, and not, at 3AM or 3 PM, wracked with angst and insecurity and desperation, and she has walked me through some storms. She is patient and guiding, despite the distance, despite anything else, because she gets it. She has been supportive and encouraging, and I will always, always be grateful for that.

Three days ago, I caught her warm-up set at an open mic comedy show. Afterwards, we had an opportunity to catch up some, and I expressed how proud I was of all that she had accomplished and was continuing to accomplish going into her high school reunion.

“Mine’s next year,” I said. “I’m 27 years old, and all I’ve done is write three books that don’t sell for shit.”

“But you’ve written three books,” she said. “Do you have any idea how crazy that is? What you’ve actually done?”

It’s so easy to discount every aspect of my life and get into a rut where I feel like a failure. Like I haven’t done anything. Like I’m not doing anything. At several critical moments since I’ve met her, Jessica has been there to gently pull my head from my ass. She has reminded me of the positive things that I have, that I’ve done, that I am. She’s been there, a thousand miles away, while I’ve wept and railed against the world, and she’s made me feel okay and normal when I was anything but.

I love her to death. That my first novel is on her bookshelf is a deep moment of pride for me. That we are friends is a shining diamond in my life.

image

Jessica Michelle Singleton. Beautiful. Loyal. Intelligent. Raunchy. Wild. Hilarious. True.

You can follow her on Facebook here, check her site out here, and follow her on Twitter at @JMSComedy. Also, just Google or YouTube her or some shit. She’s funny. You won’t regret it.

In Vein

There is a saying
That writers have ink in their blood
My ink shouts and trembles on the page
My blood is fire and lightning and
The echo of a cavern
My heart, lonely engine, grinds on
Drumming in my chest
Pushing against the cage
A beat-up old shop, looking for purchase
My ink does its job
Speaking and thinking and drinking in the
Minds of those who turn eyes onto it but
My blood is what bellows and
My body’s parchment can scarce contain it

Back and Ahead

I was strapped for ideas on what to write. The last week has been, erm, interesting. I had a particularly eye-opening but emotionally intense therapy session and I’ve been dealing with some financial stuff due to some poor decisions I made. All in all, it’s left me more or less where I’m used to being: right back at the beginning.

I needed something to write about. Something to keep my mind off of things. I reached out to someone that means a lot to me and she suggest I write a letter to myself five years ago, and myself five years in the future. So. Sorry. This blog is going to be a bit self-indulgent.

Five years ago.

Jered. You sad, silly bastard. This is a pretty dark time for you, I know. You’re not in a good place emotionally, nor professionally, but that’s okay. Baby, you’re going to bounce back, I promise you. You’re going to fall in love again; she wasn’t kind to your feelings and you didn’t know how to handle your own feelings again. You will find other women who leave an amazing impact on your life, and it’s going to…

Well, it’s going to end bad, too. Every time. You’re kind of shitty in relationships, to be honest, and you keep picking women who aren’t fair to your emotions, either. It’s a bad mix. You’re bad at it. Be patient, kid, and have more faith in yourself and know when someone’s using you. You won’t,  of course, but you should.

Still, this woman will stick with you for years, deep in your heart. She has affected you. But she isn’t the first and she won’t be the last, and you should write about that love and that hurt, because someone somewhere will resonate with it, and if nothing else, there will be a record of what you lived, loved and experienced.

You’re going to recover from this. Not only that, but when you’re at your lowest, feeling your worst, when you’re loneliest and feeling the most shitty, you’re going to write your first book. Yeah! It’s going to be long as hell, and it’s not going to sell for shit, but you’re going to write the shit out of it. Men and women from 18-60 will read and enjoy it. You’re going to write two more and finish the trilogy. You’ll have written a trilogy of epic novels that are enjoyed and talked about. You did that. You made that.

Life is fucking hard, kid. But I’m writing this from the future, yeah? Which means we have survived. We’ve lived through it. The hurt, the heartbreak, losing our adopted parents, losing our loved ones…we never lost our friends. We never lost ourself, though the best parts may have been tucked back away for a while. You have endured so much and you’ll endure a shitload more. You’ve got this. You have this. Write about it.

Five years from now.

I thought I’d be married by my age. I thought I’d have maybe a kid by now, have my shit together and a job that actually feels rewarding. I don’t. I don’t know who I am exactly now, but I hope you have a better grip on that.

I don’t want you to be lonely, man. I hope you’ve found a way to manage your mental instabilities so that your emotions don’t dictate the way you act so much. If you’ve found someone who can love and work with you despite that, then great, but I hope sometime between now and when you are, you put yourself first for once and get help and help yourself be better.

Don’t be discouraged by writing. However small the audience might be, you’re providing an escape for people. You’re leaving the world a better place behind. I worked my ass off for this, future me. You better not take it for granted.

I want to be you, older Jered. I want to breathe this air and fall in love and be heartbroken and have momentous sex and write more books. I want to be a guy who feels everything, but is better able to manage those feelings. Can you be proud of your reflection, future me? You better be. Because present me is struggling and angry and hurt and if future me doesn’t get somewhere better, present me is going to kick his fucking ass.

Sincerely,
Yours Truly,
Much Love,

-K. Jered Mayer

P.S. Just tell her you fucking like her and see where her head’s at, you asshole. This goes for both of you.

Some Fires Just Burn a Little Brighter

I’m a subscriber to love. I don’t believe there is one type, or a specific intensity. I don’t believe that young love is a myth. There’s a woman I fell for when I was fifteen years old that I still miss deeply and hope the best for. I do believe love can be foolish and reckless and selfish, especially when someone doesn’t have much experience with it, or with life. You can love young, and you should love when that feeling presses up against your heart and seeps into your lungs, but it doesn’t always mean it’s going to work out. Love is messy, and like tungsten carbide, it can be the strongest thing out there and still shatter with the right amount of pressure to the wrong spot.

You can probably guess where I’m going with this.

Seven years ago, I still fancied myself an actor. I love acting, to be honest, but though I have a small circle of friends who were always seated in the front row for my shows, I don’t think I was particularly good at it. Keep in mind I moved to Los Angeles a year later to try and actually do it for a living. It backfired spectacularly.

But this is before that. This is before I could enter an American bar. I got into acting late in high school. The first show I ever did was the Outsiders (Dallas Winston. My very first performance, I yelled out FUCK in front of the entire school when my gun got stuck in my coat pocket during my super emotional death scene), followed by Grease (Kenickie, because I’m a whore and a hickie from me is like a Hallmark card: when you care enough to give the very best).

I did some community shows afterwards, including playing a lead in a Halloween show about werewolves where I played a pastor (*cue laugh track*). That show was great. The uncut script was phenomenal, and though we had to trim it down for time, it still ended with my stage wife blowing me away with a rifle.

Strangely, I kept getting cast in musicals. I’m a terrible singer. I never did choir, I don’t sing in the shower. I don’t like my speaking voice, let alone my singing voice. Then there’s the dancing. I’m the clumsiest, least coordinated guy you could meet. Now I’ve got to master dance moves and sing and act and holy shit, how many scenes do I have in this thing? I was the Pirate King in a showing of Pirates of Penzance and though I look dashing in a goatee and a red coat, I felt like an asshole trying to co-lead that show.

Anyway. I did that Halloween show and she saw me perform, although I didn’t know that at the time. We would meet a few months later, during a musical (again) in which I had a mercifully minor role. The show was set in 1920s France and I was set in the most ridiculous costumes I’ve ever set eyes upon. We met for the first time during our first rehearsal. I think even then, there was a connection.

We talked. A lot. The girl I was dating at the time broke up with me over text, and I didn’t handle it very well. It hurt my feelings, and I was mopey. This beautiful actress, six years my senior (older women is my fetish. And younger women. And women my age, but at 20, hey, this older women thing was something new and different and flattering) did a lot to build my confidence back up. She made me feel handsome. She encouraged my writing. She made me feel talented, and through spending so much time talking to and being around me, she made me feel desirable during a time when I really held myself to being worth so little as to be a throwaway text.

The first night I went to her apartment wasn’t a graceful one for either of us. We had met up for food at the tavern about a block down from her place and she invited me back for drinks. Adele was playing from the CD player, Chasing Pavements, the first time I had heard the singer. Candles were lit. Glasses were pulled from the cabinets. We both had a little too much wine and, coupled with the pasta she had ordered earlier, the night ended with my holding her hair back while she let everything return from whence it had come. She was embarrassed, and she told me so then, and she told me so later. I wasn’t bothered. I held her until she fell asleep and then I made my way home.

I fell for her then, I think, in that moment. Not because she was puking. That’s not… I’m not into that. Maybe because she was vulnerable and she trusted me enough to hold her there. I remember her nestled against me, my arm hooked under black and full hair. I recall the light freckles on her olive skin and the way her chest rose in soft breaths, exhausted from what she had just been through with the food and drink.

We talked about it the next day and hung out soon after, and I think the fact the experience hadn’t turned me away or shaken the feelings I was having for her made an impression that lasted. Not long after, we began seeing each other in a fashion I guess I would best describe as being intensely passionate and equally torrid.

We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Not during the show, not after the show wrapped. When we were around each other, the chemistry was unbelievable. Rarely have I looked so deeply into a woman’s eyes and found so much art and life waiting to rush back at me. I wrote poems for her. I wrote short stories. I’ve written about muses and love before, and I’ve left this woman out, I think in part because of how things ended, but she was a fire inside me for several months and she lingered in me for years after.

She made me a journal. The cover was custom designed, and the pages were sporadically filled with pictures of her, of us, of my favorite things. There was a picture of the Eiffel Tower from when we lay curled around each other, wistfully talking about running away to Paris together. I lost it a couple years later in a cab in Los Angeles. The thought still pisses me off.

She introduced me to the Woodshed, the karaoke bar that became a second home to me for many years, a place that has brought me some of my favorite stories and best friendships. She was the impetus for my throwing myself into a life of art, be it acting or writing. Jesus, I don’t know if I ever would have had the balls to actually move to Los Angeles if it hadn’t been for her, and though that move broke me in ways I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from, it still changed my life in a lot of great ways, too.

I felt confident with this woman. My creative synapses were like lightning around her. I’ve had very few physical relationships that were as full of intensity and aggression and expression as when she and I were together. Sexuality, emotion, inspiration ran together in a single, twisting, uproarious current.

Of course it didn’t last. In my experience, things like this rarely do.

See, here’s the rub: I fucking loved her, and I know she felt strongly about me, too. I don’t think it was love for her, and that’s fine. She wanted to be around me and with me, and often it was a companionship that vibrated with a whole different level of energy. But I was young. 20, 21. I liked to party, and party hard. I was dumb. I lacked the maturity that comes from tragedy and actual relationships and general life experience. She was in her mid-20s. She liked to party, too. She was deep in an art scene and fresh out of a relationship with her eyes on the world.

We were good. We were great. But there are other great people out there. And there are plenty of debilitating distractions.

We began to fight. I grew jealous. She was partying harder than ever, and I began to worry about her health. I expressed this by getting drunk and angry and yelling when she refused to listen to my concerns. I was a wreck. I was immature. She was merciless in her comebacks. It got bitter. We grew apart. We stopped seeing each other. We stopped talking to each other.

Years later, I had moved back to Alaska after two years of struggling to find myself in California and Washington. I was working at a jewelry store, a job I kind of really hated, and I wasn’t feeling too hot about myself either. A beautiful, familiar woman walked up to me while I was standing at the front of the store counting minutes. She said “Hey,” and flashed a smile. The smile, her smile,  the one I used to kiss hungrily, the one that left me weak in the knees, the one that made the words come quaking to my fingertips, begging to be unleashed upon the nearest parchment.

It was the smile I remembered looking up to from that fucking break-up text right before she told me things were going to be alright.

She apologized to me, saying she wasn’t in a great place back then. I told her she didn’t need to apologize, it was me that was in a bad place. We talked briefly. She’s married now. At the time, she had one kid. She has two now and is still happy, still in a good place.

I ran into her yesterday after watching the World Cup final. She was performing on stage, her voice as silky and lovely as I remembered. She came over to speak to me afterwards and we caught up. She dug up an old story I had written for her and e-mailed it to me. She seems happy, and I am so happy for her. She deserves it.

What’s funny to me is the timing. I don’t believe in fate. I’m not a believer in a divine plan. I do believe in chance, so maybe I just got lucky, but our paths crossed at a time in my life where I am hitting absolute rock bottom. I wake up in the morning feeling gutted, I’ve been bleeding money on bad decisions and intangible nonsense. Seeing her reminded me of some very positive things. A passionate love that, though tempered and tucked away in the art gallery of my heart, still remains. I was reminded of a woman I wanted to run away to France with, of a time when I saw the world in a woman’s eyes.

She found a good life, one full of art and passion and love and family. Maybe some day I’ll find something like that, too. She gave me one more gift, after all these years, after everything that’s happened: a little bit of hope.

If I Only Had a (Proper) Brain

This, hopefully, will be the last post I write about anxiety and depression for a little bit. I would like to get back to writing about writing, about stories I like, and ideas I have to make things better. I’ve just been having trouble with my words lately, and I think it’s because my mind has been so frantic and crazy.

It’s always sort of a mixed bag when I reach a point where I break down entirely. What’s amazing – and not in a good way – to me is that there seldom seems to be a specific source for it. I have excuses: I miss my family, I feel abandoned, I don’t feel good enough for people, either friends or otherwise, I feel like a piece of trash.

But a lot of those things aren’t my fault. I was adopted and loved, it wasn’t my choice for my parents to leave or for past girlfriends to cheat. I do my best to build up and support the people I come across. I know I have positive qualities like creativity and empathy and an ambitious sex drive.

I suppose that last one depends on your point of view.

Still, unpredictable and unreliable dick game and slam poetry skills aside, those kinds of thoughts are the thoughts of a rational, logical mind. I’m not a religious man by any means, but I used to recite the Serenity Prayer to try and get through difficult times all the same.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

If that’s a little too religiousy for you, it basically breaks down to this: you can only control what you say, what you do, and even if you can’t necessarily control your emotions, you can control how you react to them. The world around you and the people in your life and outside of it do their own thing. That’s a good lesson, an important one, and yet still one that is hard to accept and live by.

See, deep down I know my life isn’t that shitty. I make decent money. I have a talent. I’m not sexy by any means, but women seem to like me well enough. I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on. I have incredible friends and all four limbs and decent wit.

Yet mood swings, including deep, nearly crippling depression will hit me hard. Hard, and out of nowhere, and the resulting surge of emotions drive every rational thought into the gutter and through the grate for Pennywise. Suddenly, I hate myself for no reason. I’m grieving for memories from long ago. I’m lamenting the relationships I never had with family members. I’m upset about things I’m not really upset about. It is an intense whirlwind of emotion and desperation not for anything specifically, but just to feel something positive. My fear of failure and my loneliness amplifies to uncontrollable levels and I flail about trying to find someone to tell me it’s going to be okay. Friends become targets of this turbulent storm and begin to think it’s about them, that it’s about irrational love or irrational hate, and frankly, the more I try to explain what’s going on, the less people believe me.

This has happened several times before. It’s ruined relationships. It has ruined friendships. It has contributed to the loss of at least one job. I get to the point where I don’t even want to get out of bed, just because I lose track of who I am. Or was, I guess.

Though I’ve struggled with depression my whole life, this cyclical self-destructive implosion has really only been coming around maybe the last seven years. A woman has been involved a couple times, sure: the older girl who left me right after my birthday, the girlfriend who told me she didn’t believe in my writing. But there have been so many other instances: financial stress, work stress, deaths of friends and family, loss of personal pride. All those things build up and explode inside me and outwards because I can never quite figure out where to get started in coming to terms with it.

This latest instance wasn’t about a woman, though one became involved. It wasn’t about being in love. In an absolutely horrendous case of timing, I began to spiral out of control sometime between my return from my grandparents’ family home in Montana and the anniversary of my grandmother’s passing away, and she took the brunt or it, unfairly. Despite my best efforts to distance myself from her and others, to try and get my mind back on a positive track, I’ve absolutely annihilated that friendship. I put in my worst results ever at work and got reamed for it, and I stopped being able to look my reflection in the eyes.

And I’m tired of that. I’m tired of pushing people away and wanting to fuck or fight just to get some feeling that isn’t emotional hurt or personal resentment. I’m tired of not being the guy I was. That guy was awesome.

I woke up one day and came to a really unsettling conclusion about myself, something I didn’t want to face because I have a hard time making friends and being in relationships as it is (and I’m by no means saying I’m ready for or should be in a relationship), something I didn’t want to say to myself, because I don’t know how to say it to someone else:

I’m mentally ill.

Actually, I was still in the middle of a bender, so I think my actual words to myself were, “I’m goddamn fucking crazy, fucking crazy, and I can’t even make my WORDS WORK ANYMORE. Shitwriterhackfuckingnutjob.”

Something close to that, I didn’t write it down at the time.

For the first time ever, I’m pursuing therapy seriously. The two sessions so far have been good to me, and I like my doctor. “Crazy,” he tells me, “isn’t really a word we like to use,” which is nice and probably accurate, but who’s the word guy here?

Hypomanic bipolarism and depression, exacerbated by extreme anxiety which often will lead to minor panic attacks. I sob-laughed at that. Seemed appropriate. He offered to recommend me towards some doctors for a medical prescription. I can’t afford it without insurance, and I’ve got a while to go before I can enroll in that, so I got some black-market (read: a friend of mine) xanax to help tide me over. I don’t take them every day, or even a full pill. I never take them before going in to the therapist.

When I do take them, on days I wake up and I feel like my sternum is trying to turn itself inside me like a steering wheel, it curbs the attack. For the first time, I feel like I can function normally.

The treatment is coming too little, too late to save some relationships with people close to me, I fear. I’ve been too erratic, too intense, and left so poorly an impression that it’s tainted whatever positivity had come before. However, I’m hoping it isn’t too late for me to learn about myself, improve my control, manage my life and generally be a better person.

It’s hard. I’ve never been one to trust easily, and it always seems like those I finally do are the ones who leave the quickest, because they’re the ones who I burst out at the most regularly and overwhelmingly,  so even as I find time to talk to a professional and find proper medication, some days are just a struggle to get through. I wish I had someone to be a partner with me and help me, sometimes.

Though I’ve lost some people this time, again, important people to me and people I care very much about, I’ve also found a support from a number of surprising sources. I freely admit I have been in shambles this last month. I sleep terribly, I weep sometimes at night, when it’s quiet in my home and I can’t keep my mind from racing.

Yet, I’ve received phone calls at 4 in the morning, text messages during the day, and woken up to messages on Facebook checking up on me, talking me down from dark places,  building me up into stronger places. These are not always close friends. Some are friends I haven’t spoken to in quite some time. Others are people I barely know or have almost never spoken to. I can’t put into words how important and helpful that has been for me, and how appreciative I am.

If there is a silver lining to this, I guess this is it: this morning I received a message of appreciation in return. A very talented woman that I don’t know well reached out to me to let me know she enjoys following me on various social media formats,  not just for humor (which, my words, is obviously often used as a coping mechanism), but the deeper ones, such as the ones relating to depression and heartache, which tend to hit home for her. She ended her message with an offer to always be an ear and a shoulder.

I have always let my intentions be known from day one. It’s difficult for me to trust, but I’m an open book, at least here, at least in my writing. It’s rare I find someone I can express myself in person to face to face, but I have and will always be honest, regardless of how I’m relating my life. My feelings on something or with someone are no mystery, and almost never is. I don’t like to mislead anyone. I will never lie, nor will I exaggerate an event in my life, the lives of my friends or my family.

I am an intense person. I am emotional. I am, for fuck’s sake…mentally ill. I am not always proud of the things I do or say.

But I will be true to myself. I will be true to you, my friends, my family, and my readers. My cards are on the table, fully. I apologize to those I’ve hurt or pushed away or stressed out during this period or any previous period where I’ve been down like this. I am so grateful to those of you who have shared your strength and support to help me get through it.

Lastly, if any of you, friends, family, strangers, readers, ever need someone to talk to, you can always reach out to me as well. My e-mail is kjeredmayer@gmail.com.