Anytime anyone says “Allow me to enlighten you,” get away from them as soon as you can.
I wonder if there has ever been a successful fraud. I guess we’d never know, because if it is known, it was found out.
I mean, I know some scammers get away with identity theft – the internet has made it all too possible to succeed at that kind of fraud.
But the bigger, individual, public frauds. The kind that fools a nation.
It amazes me that people always think that somehow they will be the one person in history to get away with whatever it is. Despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary – people continually being caught – they decide to do it anyway.
It’s like there’s some blank spot in these people. They are not going to be found out.
Perhaps it is pure hubris.
All I know is that I have too healthy a dose of the reality of consequences to go that route. Or maybe I just don’t feel that lucky.
That’s not to say I am not a fraud.
I am fraudulent in presenting myself as if I know what I am doing on a daily basis. I appear to be a fairly sane, fairly successful, fairly confident person.
Not at all how I feel on the inside most of the time.
So in the spirit of coming clean, to not go down that path that always leads to the revelation of the lie, I hereby admit that I feel like I have no idea what am doing much of the time, feel pretty crazy often and am terrified on a daily basis and usually insecure.
There, now you know.
Most of my life, I have dreaded small talk.
I’ve often felt very judgmental towards it, seeing it as superficial and not understanding why people would want to engage in it.
I usually felt very anxious around it. I’d often feel lonely and empty-feeling during and afterwards. A bit lost.
I believe some of this has to do with my being a heavily-introverted person. Introverts, as it has become widely known as of late, often do not enjoy small talk.
But why this is true for many of us is largely misunderstood.
Here’s an excerpt from a well-written article by Lecia Bushak: Why Introverts Hate Small Talk: The Myths And Misconceptions About Our Quieter Companions.
Introverts Are Exhausted By Small Talk. People who are introverted tend to prefer “heavier” conversations pertaining to philosophy and ideas, rather than small talk. Indeed, introverts can get easily intimidated, bored, or exhausted by small talk. They would much rather be “real” with someone and talk about more weighty things.
For years, I thought I was shy. I was told I was shy as a child, and the way in which it was said/used signaled to me that being shy was not a good thing to be. I grew up hating that about me, even though I wasn’t even really sure what it actually referred to about me.
In my confusion, I put together the theory that I was “shy” meant that I was quiet + I was thoughtful and that these things = that I was defective in some way.
To this day, I bristle when people use the word shy in reference to their children as in: “Don’t be shy, say hello,” and “She/he is shy.” In the former example, the “shy” is usually said with an inherently negative-messenging tone directly to the child. In the latter, it is whispered about the child, usually in their presence, as if it is something to be ashamed of, or apologized for. Why do we do this to our children — label them with such far-reaching labels? (Don’t even get me started on that word!!!)
There is a difference between introversion and shyness. Being shy is about social anxiety. An introvert may not have social anxiety. They may just really not need or enjoy being in groups to socialize. As Bushak says in her article:
Introverts tend to turn inward when solving problems or observing the world around them. They process stimuli better internally, rather than reaching out and socializing with others. Where extroverts become energized from social interactions, introverts regain energy through alone time. After going to a party or spending time forcing themselves to network, introverts often feel drained from the stimulation and must go home to recharge.
They’re more likely, in general, to want to stay home with a good book and a cup of tea, rather than go out and experience the night through partying, loud music, and meeting new people. But just because they gain energy from being alone doesn’t mean they’re shy or socially anxious. Social anxiety and introversion are two different things. “The number-one misconception about introversion is that it’s about shyness,” Dembling told The Huffington Post. “The best distinction I’ve heard comes from a neuroscientist who studies shyness. He said, ‘Shyness is a behavior — it’s being fearful in a social situation. Whereas introversion is a motivation. It’s how much you want and need to be in those interactions.’”
I sometimes do experience shyness and social anxiety. There are parts of me that are very young and are not adept at socializing and so become very anxious around it. It makes total sense to me. When that happens, I tell them to go play and let me take charge of the situation. I take care of those parts because they need taking care of in those situations. That does not make me a shy or anxious person. That means I am a person experiencing shyness or anxiety.
Conversely, there are parts of me (both young and adult parts) who are totally adept at small talk, joke and story-telling and being gregarious, parts who love making people laugh and think.
I tend to be an introvert, so yes, I tend to prefer one-on-one conversation and that it be deep rather than chat about nothing at a party. I do feel drained after social events. I do need to refill my well with alone time.
And I like to meet new people, and if I am in the mood, I am a great listener and converser. If I am in the mood, I love parties. At one time in my life, I was even considered to be a “party animal.” That did not mean I was out-going.
Once I began to really see what was underneath the “shy” label that so affected my early self-perception, I began to explore my introversion and extroversion tendencies and find compassion and appreciation for both. None of them define me as a person. They are simply colors within me.
I no longer judge all small talk as superficial or something that is for people who are afraid to go deeper. Today, I am able to appreciate that sometimes “pleasantries” are a useful bridge or transition in social situations, and have a time and a place as well as the deeper, meatier conversations I prefer.
I do not want to have meaningless conversations that avoid intimacy or risk, certainly. But there are times when there is something in-between. Hence, the phrase “small talk.”
I used to read that to mean “nothing” or “inferior” talk.
Now I get that it can simply be a “brief amount”, an “easy amount”, an amount that does not weigh or cost much.
It’s actually quite a lovely thing and perfectly named. Small talk.
So whether you are an introvert, shy or someone like me and a mix of it all, here is a great article with some helpful ideas for navigating the tricky waters of small talk: Christina Park’s “An Introvert’s Guide To Small Talk: Eight Painless Tips.”
And for more reading, here’s another interesting piece on the subject: Cherie Burbach’s “I Hate Small Talk Why Introverts Can’t Deal With Making Small Talk”
Here’s to those of us who sometimes feel shy, sometimes feel introverted, sometimes feel like stealing the show. It is all a part of being human, and it makes conversations work. Imagine if we were all one way or the other! Either we’d all be listening in silence or we’d all be talking over each other. Thank goodness, there is a need for it all.
I gave you my heart, outright
Had I known you’d be giving it back someday
I would have charged interest
I felt the tickle of a trickle of sweat run down under my arm as I waited just beyond the corner past his locker. My mouth was dry, my heart pounding.
It was now or never.
I had to have a date for the dance coming up next weekend, and he was the only boy I could think of to ask.
He was a Kicker, not in the Popular league, so more within my reach. (Me definitely not being in the Popular League or anywhere near it.)
We got along okay, I thought. I sat behind him in history and sometimes we exchanged a few words. He at least saw me. I made him laugh once with my impromptu impression of the teacher.
I spotted his cowboy hat and forced myself to call his name, my heart suddenly full of hope. He turned and came over my way. I felt like my whole life was about to change.
My words tripped over my tongue and landed between us with a clumsy thud, but he got the gist.
He paused for what seemed a lifetime. My heart sank in the silence.
“Nope, I have to say no. But don’t feel bad. I wouldn’t say yes to a dance, not even if you was Susie Moore.”
Susie Moore was hands down the most popular girl in school. She was everything I was not: pretty, petite, outgoing, a cheerleader, funny.
I laugh a curt, self-derisive laugh and say “Oh yeah, of course!” a little too brightly, a little too pushed.
I walk away, my hope around my ankles, the taste of recognition of my non-Susie Mooreness bitter in my mouth. I’d known it already, but having it stated to your face is a whole different ball of wax. Especially from the mouth of your major crush.
Never again, I vow silently to myself. Never. Again.
I read my writing for the first time in a public forum today. It was amazing to share my words live, and to experience the other writer’s works.
Because I was so involved with that, I thought I’d repost Old Baggage for today’s word prompt, but this came to me instead. 34 years later and I still feel the sting. Isn’t it amazing? How intense our early experiences can be?
I read my writing aloud in public for the first time two weeks ago.
I began this blog a year and a half ago as a way for me to begin to break the silence and shame I felt inside.
You see, I grew up in an environment that encouraged me to suppress my feelings and my true thoughts. In essence, I learned to hide my truth.
Because of things that had happened to me when I was young, I was afraid that to speak my truth would bring pain to others in my family. I needed their love, so I learned very early on to present a version of me that would be pleasing for them and others. It was literally a matter of survival, keeping my truth hidden.
Additionally, problems in our family were not acknowledged verbally for the most part. We pretended to each other they did not exist. If it was something that absolutely could not be hidden, there was a real strong pressure to keep the family problems secret, to keep them inside the home. I was not verbally warned not to seek help. But I knew it was considered dangerous.
So I learned to keep my true self buried deep inside, hidden far away from my family, and from the outside world.
I got so good at it, I lost touch with my own true self. I had hidden it so well, it became hidden from even myself.
I am a performer, so I need to be able to use my truth to reveal the truths of the characters I play. I learned to go deep within, but I found that as much as I loved bringing what I could to my work, there were internal tensions that made it very challenging. And so I began to embark on unraveling those tensions, to see what was underneath, to find more freedom and to expand my capacity to reveal through my work.
It has been an amazing process. I did not set out to, but I have ended up finding my self in the process. I’ve been making a deep excavation within, bringing out the remains into the light.
It has been excruciating at times, terrifying, wondrous, exquisite, mind-blowing, beautiful, sad beyond belief. But most of all, it has been a becoming whole.
In the process of finding me, I discovered that I wanted to be able to own and share my truth without fear or shame. So I started to practice doing so.
First in small, safe ways. To trusted people. Then, I began increasing the risk level, expanding my level of comfort by extending myself into the world in ever-widening circles.
This blog has been a hugely gratifying experience. It has been so important for me share my true internal experience, my real creativity, here. There have been times I have felt so fearful after hitting the publish button…it has felt so risky…what if someone in my family reads it? What will they think of me? If people know this or that, will they see me differently? Will they judge me, label me, only see me this way or that?
I realized that I was so afraid of only being seen for what has happened to me or what I have done, the mistakes I have made, or what I have NOT done or accomplished. I didn’t have a sense of being valuable just as I am, not what I do, did, will do, haven’t done.
The blog and posting has been stretching me in so many great ways. It has also helped me learn to let go of needing to be seen a certain way in order to feel valuable, safe or lovable.
What I did not expect was how amazing it would be to have people read and then reach out to share back. That has been and continues to be such a gift. (So thank you.)
And then, I had the opportunity to submit a piece I adapted from a blog post for an evening of work written by women on what it means to identify as a woman.
When I began writing this blog, I had never, ever intended to read my work anywhere, but there I was, sending it in, in hopes of being chosen, so I could share my work live, in person. (What?!)
When it was selected, I was ecstatic. And terrified.
Every childhood-conditioned muscle in my body was braced for trouble. Every old voice that wanted to keep me silent was working on my psyche: Who was I to think I had something of value to share? What if I upset people? What if someone was unhappy with what I had to say?
In the week before the event, I was questioning my sanity in having chosen to do it.(What was I thinking?! Why was I putting myself through this?!)
The fear and the voices continued right up until showtime and as the first readers read their work.
And then, my name was called. My turn. I gathered together my courage and began the long walk down the aisle, my heart pounding in my chest.
And then three steps from center stage, I suddenly felt something click inside. When I stepped into the light, I just knew in my bones that I was in the right place at the right time. I felt a sense of home inside. I felt warm. I felt safe.
What an amazing experience! It was an experiment, but it turns out I love sharing my words live, and also experiencing the words of the others involved. Who knew?
I am so grateful to whatever healing force inside me has been leading me on this journey to be free. It is a beautiful thing to break free of the shackles of one’s own past and to be able to freely express one’s own self.
*(Written 10/17/17, but I used a draft from Oct. 1 and didn’t realize I needed to change the date before publishing it! So here it remains, looking like I wrote it Oct. 1. But I promise I wrote it 10/17/17.)
I was born a square peg
But I didn’t know enough to value it
Tried to force myself into that circle:
that round hole I was so sure I wanted to fit
Now I am neither round nor square
My corners are worn and I’ve scrapes on my sides
Neither shape feels like home
Guess I’ll have to make my own mark
“Before you launch into another tirade about how cucumber sandwiches are only to be served sans crust, I ask that you please set your concerns aside just this once in order to provide an empathetic ear to my complaints,” Myrna plaintively, yet forcefully, interjected.
Though her crimson-painted lips were set in a rather firm horizon line uncharacteristic for her features, her flushed cheeks belied her trepidation at having taken such a strong public stance, and she immediately tittered a rather anemic laugh and waved her hand in a vague attempt to dissipate any remaining resonance of what she had just said.
She turned her full attention to the deviled egg on her plate, nodding now and then to maintain the illusion of her part in the conversation at hand.
Coincidence? I think not. Happenstance? No.
It was divine guidance. Fate. Destiny. Meant to be.
I would never have been in Central Park otherwise that day. Hadn’t been there for years.
Avoided it, actually, as I did any person, place or thing that connected me to you, or the us that we had been.
But for some reason (it felt so random at the time,) I decided to get on the train and head uptown.
It was a sunny Labor Day. New York City felt generous without most of her locals taking up space.
I had no plans. I was trying to stay active so as not to slip into loneliness.
I came out of the subway at Columbus Circle. No plan. No route in mind. I wandered, following my nose, enjoying just being in the world.
I suddenly realized I was in “our” spot, on the Great Lawn. A fluttery fear made its presence known in my belly.
Without conscious intention, my eyes scanned the horizon, and just as I realized what I was doing, I saw you lying there.
Even face down, I’d know your body anywhere. Long, lanky, tanned. Shirt off, ripped, worn jeans low on your hips.
My heart somersaulted. A rush of heartache and bruised love and attraction rushed through my body.
In a moment of agonizing indecision, I considered turning away, walking past, walking on.
But my feet and heart had other ideas, and they took me to where I was standing over you.
Did you feel my presence, or was it just that I was blocking the sun?
You turned your head and said hello.
Just like that.
It had been three years of no contact. Three years since I came home to an apartment emptied of your things. A total shock.
Three years since I learned you’d been seeing other people for at least the last year of our relationship.
Three years of putting the pieces of my heart and my life back together, mending the gaping holes you left.
And today, of all days, “randomly,” our paths cross.
I say I’m well, and I mean it. I ask how you are, and then I wish you well, and I mean that too.
The truth is, I’ve never been better. The truth is, you don’t look so well.
I see the pack of cigarettes and the empty tallboys in the grass. I see a guy who is nursing last night’s drunk with midday hair of the dog.
You look like you’re in exactly the same place you were before the shit hit the fan. The place where we both drank too much. The lost place. The place where our love did not survive.
I see this, and I wish you well, from my heart, and I walk away.
I smile to myself, a bit astonished at my strength. The capacity of my heart to forgive. My resilience. My spirit. At the Universe knowing the perfect moment, the exact moment I am ready for it, providing me with this chance to see that I have healed. This chance to let it all go.
I move forward, into the sunlight, into the lush green of the park, into the present beauty of my life.
Commit yourself to a mighty purpose.
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
I was saved, in large part, by reading and acting.
Growing up, my friends, my hope, my pleasure, my education all came from what I watched and read. As this was before the internet, this meant books, magazines, television shows and movies.
I had friends, sure. And a family. But I didn’t trust most people, with good reason due to early trauma. So I turned to other resources for help. To what was available to me as a child: books and television.
Through them, I could enter into other worlds and become a part of them. This saved me from the intense loneliness I felt, the extreme “otherness.”
I have no doubt that were it not for books and movies, I would have descended into a kind of madness that might not have turned out so well.
Fortunately, I had a library and a television at my disposal. They brought me works that gave me hope that another life could be made for myself. They gave me company. They gave me connection.
Today, as I navigate my life as a performer and as a writer, I can think of no higher purpose for myself than to create work that can do the same for someone else.
I am on a never-ending quest to examine and understand both the light and the dark sides of human behavior. I’m drawn to works that explore and celebrate the human spirit. Stories of how people rise above the problems of life and the human condition to make change and follow their hearts. I have a soft spot for the seemingly ordinary moments and people in life: the underdog; the unsung heroes; the quiet, small moments that can sometimes hold a lifetime.
It’s my mission to collaborate deeply and bravely as an actor and singer with all of the people who make up a production, so that together we can create stories to inspire, educate, elicit, and evoke. To wake people up so that they may live life more fully and authentically and to embrace their lives.
I also volunteer as a reader with SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s BookPALS program. I read storybooks to kindergartners in hopes of sparking a lifelong relationship between children, reading and books that I hope will help them navigate the murkier waters of growing up, of life.
That is my mighty purpose. What is yours?