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How do you deal with emptiness?

My first reaction is to panic. I woke up today with nothing on my plate until the evening. Same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next. I’ve never been so not busy in my life, except on vacation. When I’m on vacation, I allow myself to be OK without things to do. To be OK with no-doing. But outside that context, those empty swaths of calendar terrify me.

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It was the morning of an improv gig I had booked in Oberlin, Ohio with my show Happy Karaoke Fun TimeI did what I do when I’m traveling, which is to log into Grindr as soon as we arrived. A man named Ben messaged me. Ben was a stocky, muscular guy whose photo looked the part of a corn-fed farmer bro from the great Midwest (I found out later he was a graphic designer living with his mom). We started chatting, and he was interested in meeting up for a hook-up on my one night in town. We traded pics; I liked what I saw, though he only sent one out-of-focus face pic of himself in a foggy bathroom mirror. I could have pressed for more photos, but I wasn’t being too picky. I was on the road, and I was horny.

He asked why I was in town. I mentioned my improv gig, to which he responded, “Oh, well, I’m hilarious in my downtime.” This seemed a very unfunny statement to me, but I wrote back, “Nice.”

He replied, “Ha yep. We will jive pretty good then.”

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The In-Between Place

I get bored easily these days. I percolate between writing my thoughts down or just thinking them endlessly. My attention span is short. I’m smoking too many cigarettes. And it’s not even nice out yet.

I read too many lists on “How To Be Happy and Productive” on Medium.com. I check my stats on socials every hour for a little hit of dopamine because someone noticed me. I log into my email obsessively, waiting for someone to need or want me for something. I’m on my phone in parks.

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The Old Man And The Car

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It was a bright, cold morning in March, 2011 in Chicago. I had just had the best improv audition of my life at The Second City. I skipped, high on life, back to my 1992 BMW 525i car in the perfect parking spot I’d found right outside the theater. I started the engine, and the radiator exploded in a cloud of fumes and acrid smoke. It ballooned outward from the front of the car. A jogger ran right into the cloud. She coughed and stumbled to the driver side window. She started screaming at me for poisoning her lungs. She threatened to sue me. I shouted back, “It’s my car, not me!” She flipped me the middle finger and jogged away.

The car was totally dead. And, as it seems to happen in my life, I’d gone from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a split second.

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The Nothing

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When I have nothing to do, I encounter The Nothing.

You may remember it from the film The Neverending Story. It is the embodiment of annihilation, portrayed as a menacing black wolf.

It terrified me in nightmares as a child. As an adult, I experience it in my waking hours, whenever I am waiting, or listless, or have no plans.

It is my fear of insignificance. My fear of being forgotten. Of having missed my moment or the right turn to realize a dream.

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