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Laughter Is The Best Medicine…. Sometimes

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My name is Hiena (Portuguese for Hyena).
I’m an Actress,
Producer,
Capoeirista.

It was nearly a year ago, after the annual Batizado (Capoeira graduation), that I started off my first blog with almost that exact same introduction. But today, I’m substituting my real name for my Capoeira nickname: Hiena. Traditionally after a certain period of time, everyone is given a nickname that reflects them in some way. I got the name Hiena because- much like the animal- I default to laughter, out of frustration or discomfort, when being attacked.

It was a hot, sweaty day at the Academy when I was given the name. There I was, spinning and kicking, pushing myself hard, trying to keep up with the high speed and high intensity movements we were drilling. As if my adrenaline wasn’t high enough, I could see Mestre (Master) Boneco in the corner of my eye, watching my technique, walking in my direction. Shit. What was I doing wrong? I could hear him emphatically instructing adjustment at me. Straighten your leg! Open the hip! LOOK. Make sure you are looking! Faster. Faster! With the pressure bumped up a few notches, and not immediately able to modify the moves, I crumbled to laughter, annoyed with myself for not rising to the occasion. Mestre jokingly cackled back at me, light-heartedly mocking my laughter, “HE-HE-HE, HE-HE-HE,” poking a bit of fun at how I always resort to laughing, “like a HIENA!” And my nickname was born.

With the next graduation ceremony just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of this name. I’ve come to realize that my Hyena laugh is a serious defence mechanism and self-imposed road block both inside and outside of Capoeira. What if I push past that frustrated laugh and just stay focused and keep moving forward? How does delving into frustration take me out of the possibilities of the moment and put me into my own head? How much is that frustration tied in self-judgement and criticism versus reality? Well, it seems that the only way to find out the answers is to let go of that defence mechanism, bringing down that ‘giggle’ wall to see what’s on the other side.

I’ve come to realize that laughter, in this sense, has become my wall, my way of disengaging. And man, when the going gets tough or scary, it’s so easy to turn to disengaging habits. Whether it’s pouring yourself a drink (or two or three or four), binge watching a Netflix show, or procrastinating what you really need or want to do by wasting away time scrolling through Facebook, we all have ways in which we avoid facing life’s challenges.

But I want to live a life where I engage more. I want to redefine my relationship to laughter. I want to stop laughing when I’m worried or about to make a mistake, and instead laugh at myself after making it! They say laughter is the best medicine, so I want to use it to heal rather than to deflect. As they say, “laughter is the fireworks of the soul,” and I want to use it to spark things in my life rather than shy away from them.

So, as I go into this year’s Batizado, my intention for both the ceremony and the year ahead is to reinvent what it means to be Hiena. To transform my laughter from one of frustration to one of joy. To move further away from fear and closer to faith. To grow confidence. To stop taking career and life and Capoeira quite so seriously and to have more fun! To go with the flow more. To believe.

What’s your defense mechanism? What do you do to disengage? And most importantly, how do you let go of that? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Brittani Noel

About Brittani Noel

(Actress/Producer/Capoeirista) Shortly after graduating from USC Brittani produced/starred in her own award-nominated indie webseries Stockholm, written/directed by Emmy & Streamy Nominee Scott Brown. On a mission to give her acting resume a kick in the butt, Brittani began training in the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira. Little did she know how dramatically that decision would transform her entire life. Since starting her training in the fall of 2011, Brittani has co-produced the multi-award winning musical webseries Destroy the Alpha Gammas, is Associate Producer on upcoming webseries gRIDLOCKed, appearing along with Andrew Keegan (10 Things I Hate About You) and Richard Riehle (Office Space, Bridesmaids), and guest-stars in upcoming comedy Disillusioned from Director Shilpi Roy (Hipsterhood). While continuing to take on interesting acting roles, Brittani is currently co-producing Brown’s short film The Other Side and recently moved up a cord level in Capoeira.