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The Theatre of Embarrassment

May 18, 2010

A good title for what this life is sometimes, don’t you think?

I had an experience this past weekend when I found myself in the middle of a surprise anxiety attack and needing to call on my friends to help me out. I found myself face to face with my inner demons, and it freaked me out. 

I could say more about the anxiety and the demons, but what I’m left with right now is recalling how I felt compelled to apologize to my friends over and over again for needing their help. At least I thought I had to. They, being good friends, were happy to be there for me. But I always put so much value on keeping everything about me so together all the time! So when I lose it (my cool; my equilibrium) I feel like it’s some kind of failure. Like I’m supposed to live up not only to my own expectations of how I think I’m supposed to show up, but everyone else’s as well, and all the time. I was embarrassed I broke that unspoken contract that asserts that  “You act like ‘you’ over there, and I’ll act like ‘me’ over here, so neither of us will get exposed to the unexpected and suffer the discomfort that results”. 

This is where the concept of “dignity” becomes a dungeon and “self” a straightjacket. Imagine that I felt the urge to apologize for needing help! Or for exhibiting a part of myself I normally keep under wraps. A good friend of mine referred in a recent email of grappling with  “…the places within my psyche where I’m reluctant to believe it’s okay to be me”. Yes – especially those parts of “me” that are not cool; not calm; not together.

Then again I always was embarrassed to be afraid, which is mostly what I was suffering from the other night.

How much energy does it take to carry these fears around? And how much energy does it take to keep them buried underground?

Or to keep from feeling embarrassed about something?

It makes me sad to think about it. What else do I carry? What else do I try to hide? What don’t I want you to see? 

I’m scared you’ll see how scared I am, and how often.

I’m scared you’ll reject me if you’ll see my “ugly” side – my lust; my greediness; my neediness. My judgmentalness. My bigotry. The bully in me. How ungrateful I am sometimes. How petty or stubborn.  

So yes, sometimes life feels like a theatre, or a play set up to play with our pride.  Perhaps we’ll be embarrassed less often if we expect this. A lack of levity (or transparency) about ourselves can lead to embarrassment, just as a lack of humility often leads to humiliation.  

Put another way, we often play the fool, but maybe the most foolish thing is to be embarrassed we’re playing the fool. 

Hey — any thoughts about this?

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Diana Slattery permalink
    May 18, 2010 1:31 pm

    Think of it as a game where you are learning to turn a bug into a feature. Hint: shortest route is not to consider “it” to be a bug.

    Or something like that.

  2. May 18, 2010 2:34 pm

    First there was the fear, then the embarrassment that fanned that flame, then the apology to erase the experience others had of you, and now, finally, the process of reconciliation with yourself, your Self. What a beautiful process of flowering! It would be interesting to put the time lapse camera in reverse, to encounter the original seed of the entire experience.
    We love you Charley! And we love your process. Thanks for sharing it for the benefit of everyone.

    • May 18, 2010 2:40 pm

      Sharing all that stuff is the process of releasing control of it, the control that initiated the entire cascade of events, the control that was your response to the way your parents responded to You, your true Self.

      You are beautiful and that is the truest, original seed!

  3. May 18, 2010 7:34 pm

    A nice honest confession. Sorry you had to go through such an ordeal.
    But I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s no surprise to me that you have
    all that hidden goop. Why shouldn’t you? It’s natural. You’re human and
    you’re sensitive and beautiful; it all comes together. And you know what
    you can do if you want to exorcise those demons. Fondly,

    • May 19, 2010 5:45 am

      Joe, I know where you”re going with this, and I’m afraid I’m not interested in going to church for an exorcism 🙂

  4. Dave Abramowitz permalink
    May 19, 2010 3:38 am

    Charley, I climbed a mountain and I went into a cave. It was numbered Cave Number 4684. In the back of the cave there was a little old man sitting there. He was chuckling. He had three teeth. I said, “Little old man sitting in back of Cave 4684, you have three teeth.” He said, “So, I flossed a little too aggressively. Then, he said something that has stayed with me these last forty six years. He said, “You’re mostly talkin” knaidlach when lima bean soup is only what is being served. Get over yourself. There’s a lady over in Cave Number 3764. Find here. Talk to her. Tell her you like her ears . So what if she has only two teeth and flossed a little too aggressively. Tell her her two teeth and her look of laughter turn you on.”

    We’re only human. We all have gums. Don’t hide it!
    Factor God into the equation . . .

  5. Klein permalink
    July 15, 2010 10:55 pm

    “Put another way, we often play the fool, but maybe the most foolish thing is to be embarrassed we’re playing the fool.”

    I remember Garrison Kieller saying that God writes the scripts of our lives as comedies. The problem is we are terrible actors and we keep trying to perform them as tragedies.

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