Compersion, in poly terms, is the happiness one experiences watching their partner being happy in love/sex with another person(s). I feel like there must be a parallel concept/word in the performing arts, for when one is genuinely happy watching other artists succeed. What we call it doesn’t really matter, I guess, because I usually experience the opposite: I wrestle with professional envy, all the time.
Don’t get me wrong! I am also happy for my successful friends, I am! People are fucking talented and giving, and I am fortunate to have these folks in my life. I also intellectually know that success is not a finite thing. Success is actually an infinitely replenishing pie, and in theory it is possible for everyone to have a slice. But lurking right there in the background of my happiness and my intellectual understanding, there it is: envy.
I get it looking at people’s line-ups at Fringes, or media coverage, or Facebook photos of audiences, even though I know full well that what goes on Facebook is slanted heavily to sunshine and rainbows. For me, envy is like depression, in some ways. It’s a jerk, and it makes me think jerky thoughts, and it’s just there.
I used to feel really bad about it, like, not only was I a shitty colleague, but I was also a shitty friend. When my envy crept in, an oily dark stain on my soul, I could feel myself retreating further and further into a shadowy corner. I peeked around at all of the happy faces—some happy because they were having big successes and others I guess happy because they did possess that ability that I lacked—and I felt even shittier. I forced my face into an expression more friendly and welcoming and happy, because otherwise I was in danger of turning into a malevolent troll. Or I just went home and got my grump on in private.
This is not ever a good space for me to be in, but given how financially rough this past summer’s tour was, I was in it all the time and it was eating my heart out from the inside. Fortunately, I recently found a mantra that will hopefully—over time, as I get better at it—lead me out.
“My world has many paths.”
It’s a short sentence, but I really thought it through. It involves three concepts or beliefs that feel important to me:
- I own this world that I move through. I don’t mean literally, just… it’s mine, the way that I perceive it is uniquely mine, and I have some power—often more than I think— to change it.
- There are many ways through that world. Sometimes I just have to clear away some of the underbrush, and sometimes the paths don’t even exist until I lay down the cobble stones, and sometimes I’m trotting along on someone else’s path for a while, but I get to choose the ways that I go. There’s no judgment attached to any of these paths, either; they are all just ways and means to get to where I want to be.
- Success means many different things, and I get to decide the metrics.
I say this mantra now, when I’m feeling fragile and envious, to remind myself that I am actively creating my life, and it will be different from other people’s lives. The way that they are working is not going to be the way that I work.
Our successes will look different, because surely our visions are different too. I am aiming for different goals, some of which may not come to fruition for a while, slow-burn projects. I am diversifying my income streams, a literal application of the “many paths” philosophy.
I don’t think this is me making the best out of sour grapes. (I mean, maybe it is, but if that’s what I’ve got, I’d rather make some nice balsamic vinegar, you know?) I choose to think of it rather as reframing my place in the spaces where I thought I had to live. If I do not succeed in that particular way, it is not the end of the world. I have other ways of surviving and thriving.
It also helps me remember that the work I bring to the world is unique and needed. I will probably not ever have a blockbuster hit in indie theatre, or be running an intense route of workshops and sex-ed conferences, or whatever. But that’s okay. I know how to write the work that sings for me, and teach the workshops that feel important. I write blog posts that resonate for some, and create erotica that makes people jump for joy, and host Smut Slams that are rowdy and replenishing at the same time, and I do many other things that no one else can do.
My world has many paths.
One of those paths, darlings, is Patreon. If you agree that what I do are important things to bring to life in this world, you can show your enthusiasm by becoming a patron of mine. Your small per-piece pledge merges together with other people's pledges, and then it winds up making it possible for me to, say, concentrate on my book projects or move the 2017 tour up to a higher level. Go on! Put your money where your heart is!