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  • Writer's picturePenny Sterling

Slugging and Joy

We're reviving one of our old family holiday traditions today: Slug Day! This is a tradition as old as VHS, where the family gathered 'round our old 36" (measured diagonally) CRT television wedged into our Home Entertainment System cabinet and watched all the movies we got each other for Christmas, in our pajamas and comfy clothes, consuming all the unhealthy foods we had left over from the day before, getting up only to leave a slime trail to the refrigerator or bathroom (often to preserve Newton's Third Law of Liquids Consumption*). Yesterday was wonderful. Quiet morning, presents in the living room, and an afternoon/evening with family, talking, laughing, playing games and enjoying each other's company. I've got a good family and extended family. The gathering ended with a game called "Vertell!," which is literally designed to be played once a year. It's a game that asks thought-provoking questions about your life and the lives of the people around you. One of the questions asked was to rate the past year on a scale o 1-10. Everyone in the group gave it a number between 7 and 9. I gave it a 4. For every wonderful thing that happened--and there were some truly, spectacularly wonderful things--there were several truly distressing events to counteract: I was nominated for a Emmy. Then my mom died. Then my job--hell, my whole department--was eliminated. I spent the summer touring with my show, but I can't find places to book it. I've applied to every job that fits my skill set and even a few that don't and nothing's happening there either. Plus, there's an administration and numerous religious leaders and organizations actively trying to marginalize the GSM (gender and sexual minority) community, prompting increasingly aggressive hostility towards me specifically. And I'm alone. I know I've been alone before, but being alone with a job is infinitely easier to deal with than being alone and unemployed. Last week I had my physical. My doctor' office sent me a link to a screening questionnaire about my current status--overall health, medications taking, any issues to address, et c. Included in this were mental health questions, which I answered truthfully. My doctor went over the questions with me during the appointment, and then told me that, according to the scoring I was clinically depressed, and maybe I should consider therapy. I gave her the Spark Notes version of my life this past year, and asled her"after all of that, what other way SHOUld i feel?" I'm not depressed. I may be sad, and scared, and frustrated, but that's not ALL I am. The last three lines of my show are "I'm Penny. And I'm happy. And that's enough, for now." Even as I wrote those words, I knew they were inaccurate. I'm not always happy, because happiness is a fleeting thing. Happiness is a situational emotion--a response to external elements, and thus temporary at best. Honestly, happiness is overrated. I only use the word because it's simpler than the truth, because the term that best describes me is unusual and in some ways anachronistic, and I believe that using it in the context of wrapping up my show would ironically cause the audience to think, rather than feel. I'm joyful. Joy is a much deeper, and contemplative emotion. It does not really respond much to external factors. So even when I'm sad and scared and frustrated, I can still rely on that combination of spirituality and faith and relief that I'm living a more authentic life that makes me grateful for all that has happened and continues to happen to me. I'm Penny. And I'm joyful. And that's more than enough for now.

This was taken Christmas Eve. Trust me it's better than my Slug Day look.

*"For every action, there is an equal and opposite trip to the bathroom."

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