Let Your Life Speak Interview: Put That Dandelion In An Open Field And Watch It Go
An interview with Angelina Blasich, LMSW, Professional Ridiculator
Carefully choosing who and what you surround yourself with is one of the most important things you can do to develop constructive habits, reduce stress, and increase longevity. Integrity is a habit, just like any other behavior that you engage in repeatedly. It is not an attitude or a belief; it is a practice. I depend on surrounding myself with people who are pursuing lives of integrity in order to continue learning how to best cultivate my own integrity. I am always on the hunt for media that also bolsters my learning. I hope this does that for you.
Talking to Angelina Blasich, LMSW, Professional Ridiculator
Ridiculate: To purposefully participate in communal acts of shared joy and silliness instead of dismissing them as ridiculous
Angelina Blasich is a dynamic mental health professional, public speaker, facilitator, comic, educator, professional Ridiculator, and award-winning artist. Angelina holds an LMSW and an MA in Social Science, and recently returned to academia to teach at SUNY Binghamton. Angelina maintains a website, Purposefully Ridiculous, where folks can witness her work, buy her art, and contact her about leading workshops or public speaking.
In 2019 she offered a talk at TedX Provincetown about the transformative power of Ridiculation, entitled “Ridiculous on Purpose”. Last year she was awarded a Communicating Across Agendas workshop series contract with the NYS Department Corrections, focusing on developing respectful, nonviolent, dignity based communication patterns. Angelina currently serves as the director of a medical program and chairs the board of her statewide industry council.
In a handful of sentences or less, can you tell me who you are underneath all of your professional accomplishments, or perhaps as the foundation for all of them?
I’m a comic. I’m a beacon for joy. I think I absolutely suck it in and then spew it out as far as it can reach. I’m a lover— that’s where I come from, that is the foundation of everything I do. I’m an artist. I look for beauty and work to amplify it. I look for ugly grossness and transmute it into beauty. That’s an artist’s job, or at least that’s my job as an artist. I seek out opportunities to love in earnest— to love others, to love myself, to love the world, to love the people that I serve, to love my community.
What is a core belief that you carry— about people, about relationships, or about the world— that you feel really shapes your life? How did you come to believe it?
Everybody has the capacity for growth. Everybody.
Y’know, my mom was the first person I saw. I mean, her character arc is just fantastic. Her capacity for growth is just gorgeous. Her ability to transcend what she was dealt and grow through it is just profound. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is one of those quintessential pieces for me. If you are able to afford genuine meaning to something, then you grow through it.
There were also three nuns who were my teachers. There were two torturous nuns, as we are all wont to tell stories of, and then there were the ones who were super profound, and I got to have both. The two that were the most torturous were a teacher and a principal who were just wretched, mean, miserable women. Miserable at their core! And I’m sure they loved Jesus, but gee whiz, they were just miserable.
Years after I was their student there was kind of a shift in the Church where nuns were more able to choose their vocation, as opposed to just being told what they had to do, and these two women, who had worked together for years, went on to run this foodservice group for elderly people and they were the most joyous, happy, fulfilled people you could imagine. You wouldn’t recognize their faces for the joy that spilled off, as opposed to when they were shrieking at children about damnation. It was such a different space, and I looked at them and thought, How shitty it must have been for them to have had to fit themselves into a box that didn’t suit them while trying to fulfill such an important mission. The way they’d had to do it had nothing to do with who they were as people, so they weren’t able to grow. Once they were able to be servants in a way that suited their spirit? They bloomed where they were planted.
This song we used to sing when we were kids about blooming where you’re planted used to make me so mad because I thought it meant just shut up and grow, right? Now I’m coming to receive it from a different place. Sometimes you can’t, but you just need to be transplanted into more hospitable soil. Growth is possible for everybody as long as we have the right environment. And sometimes we can manage to pull off that dandelion moment in the crack in the sidewalk and it’s truly inspirational for everybody involved. But there’s not much space to spread our seed and continue to really grow there. Those moments are beautiful, but I say get that dandelion to an open field and see what it can do.
What helps you to live this belief?
One, I let myself grow, which means I make mistakes as often as possible and work to greet them with non-judgment. That’s my goal. I don’t know how effective I am at that all the time, but that’s my goal.
There was this wonderful commercial for Dyson vacuum cleaners, where the vacuum guy, we’ll call him Mr. Dyson, says that when they were designing this vacuum they went through 40,000 prototypes, and in my mind, I thought, How awesome. They failed 40,000 times. Forty-thousand times they didn’t get it right.
That was so impressive to me, so wonderful. I use it in therapy sessions. I use it myself. I say, Listen, Dyson. Keep going. This is just another iteration of you and the next one will be better. And it may take forty tweaks to the left to get it as far as you need it (and can we ever get far left enough, really?), but it can just take us a while to get there.
As an artist, that learning process can be messy. That’s what I’m getting now, what I’m receiving from teaching myself to paint with acrylics. I’ve always been very protective of my learning process because I didn’t want to look like a fool. And then I came to understand, through professional foolishness, that unless you’re willing to look like a fool you won’t really get the lesson. And if you’re so concerned about how it looks to learn, then you’re not learning.
if you’re so concerned how it looks to learn, then you’re not learning
So, I put on my fool suit and I started to share my paintings before they were done, when they were still in their ugly, messy phases, or when I was unsure of them, and that’s so unfamiliar, so foreign, so messy. I don’t know how to paint! It became this process of showing people how much I don’t know, and we all got to appreciate it from such a deeper level because people got to see all the layers that go into it, as opposed to just the polished product.
That’s what I work to do. I work to offer myself the same room I offer to other people to be really messy in their learning, and to make mistakes out loud and on purpose, and to celebrate them, like, Mistake made! Clink!
What mistake did you get to make today? How did you totally fuck up as a parent today? What did you do as a friend that was totally ineffective? How, as a self-employed employee, did you totally screw your boss? What did you say that wasn’t your best iteration of self? And instead of ripping yourself to shreds, being a scientist and being like, Oh, cool! I totally disproved the perfection of that. Tomorrow we do it again!
What gets in your way of living this belief?
This performative nature of “you-ness”. Angelina is “A”, fill in the blank in whatever group you’re in, and you have to be that for those people. And growth means that that is always a blank, right? How do you perform your you-ness if your you-ness is not a performance, but just a being? And if you’re in this state of growth then it’s definitely not a performance. It’s a deep state of humble, vulnerable being.
Who the hell wants to be in a humble, vulnerable state of being all the time? That’s terrifying. That fear of being a fraud, or that people will think you’re just this crazy, delusional, grandiose being that thinks people should put on tutus and dance around in the middle of the street with you.
So, I think I get in my own way by deciding, Oh, well I think we’ve just had enough of that! Now I need to stand back in the you-ness of Badass Bitch who thinks she has control of something. And, y’know, both parts have growth in them. My Badass Bitch has definitely learned some things over the years, which makes her more badass, honestly.
The more humble and vulnerable and open to growth she’s willing to be.
What is the joy, or satisfaction, or benefit, for you in doing the work to live into this belief?
I get to behold all of these things. My mission is one of beholding that which is precious and rejoicing in it, celebrating it out loud and on purpose. So I get to be this joyous life Celebrant. Literally holding Church wherever I go. Have communion with these trees over here, or this cashier clerk, or these children that you’re batting eyes with and playing air patty-cake. Whatever. When I’m in the zone, and I’m doing it in the way that I feel most effective, then it kind of feels like this constant state of communion, like a doxology almost. Like everything I do is this song of celebration.
To be this Celebrant of Joy is just the greatest privilege.
Thank you, Angelina! And thank you to all of you, my dear and wonderful readers. None of this would be possible without you. If you enjoyed this, please feel free to like (click the heart!), share, and comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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what a delicious dose of positivity on this grey cold January day! Thank you! It was all the 'ridiculating' we did at camp that made it so special. <3