You’d think I would have learned by now. You would, sadly, be wrong. Not that I’d blame you for making the mistake. It would appear, these last few years, that I’ve had plenty of chances to have learned better. And, on that, you would be correct – at least in theory.
In real life – my real life – that is, it apparently doesn’t work that way. Sure, there are times I think I’ve learned a lesson, only then to be blindsided by a feeling so powerful I seem unable to fight it off. Those are feelings I’d hoped to have left behind me. I suppose, though, some things are so strong they stay with you for the long haul. That’s what happened today.
It seemed simple enough. All I was going to do was get up and introduce a special food drive at church. Aside from my usual attack of nerves about speaking before a crowd, that should have been a breeze. That, however, was before I decided to script the introduction. Well, actually, it sort of goes without saying that I will script this sort of thing. Even so, you wouldn’t think that was a problem. I needed to know what to say, right? Still, a note or two couldn’t have sufficed? Well, no, not in Ben’s world. Instead, I worked here and there on it for the past two weeks. I felt it needed to be funny and inclusive at the same time. And it was. Well, it was to me.
Just before church, I was asked to keep the announcement very, very short. Okay, no problem, right? I had a pen with me and a few minutes to decide what to drop. Thankfully, the paragraphs in the final draft were fairly self-contained. All I had to do was read them and it would be okay. Again, that was the theory. What actually happened was that I’d been thrown. I don’t seem to do all that well with a few minutes. I wanted to ad-lib a little to make my new, shorter version work, but I discovered I don’t actually know how to do that so well. The possibilities for disaster seem too great to simply wing it, so why did I even try?
I learned a different lesson today. Okay, I hope I learned a different lesson today. Time will tell, I suppose.
Ever feel like parts of your life have been scripted for you? Some people feel that way when their parents try to push them, gently or not, in a career direction. Some people are overtaken by others’ desire for a big wedding, when they’d really rather elope. You get the idea.
But what if you’re entire life were scripted? What if you were afraid to appear in public without your script for fear you’d say or do something to offend or anger someone. Worse yet, what if it meant you’d make yourself a laughing stock – once again. So, in order to try to shield yourself from any of those things, you begin to script your life. You begin to attempt to show people only what you want them to see. You even begin to lie to yourself about who you are.
Welcome to my world. I don’t think I consciously started out to live life this way. I can’t even tell you exactly when it started, though I can say with confidence I wasn’t yet five. The process was complete by my late teens, perhaps my early twenties. The mold was set. It became somewhat unconscious.
Here’s the deal. It seems there are a lot of people out there willing to accept me for who I am. There have been those people for most, if not all, of my life. Unfortunately, the question that runs fairly nonstop through my head is, “But who is that?” Apparently, I’ve never come up with an adequate answer to that question.
And, so, I script. I attempt to plan the entire thing – my life, that is. Here’s how it’s going to work. There’s this and that over here and certainly some of that over there. It often seems I planned my death decades ago and am just waiting for life to catch up to my reality. Reading this, I know it sounds insane. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who does this, even if I’m an ever-so-slightly extreme example of it.
In some ways, we all live in the past. I’ve done more than my fair share of it and hope I no longer stay there as much as I once did. On the other hand, everything I am today is made up of all that past I drag around behind me. To make matters worse, I’ve spent a great deal of time anticipating the future. Actually, I don’t anticipate the future so much as I plan it. Once planned, I tend to fast-forward and try to live there right now. It seems it should be safer there because it’s designed the way I want it. Of course, it rarely works the way I think it should. That doesn’t seem to have stopped me. I’m left wondering where to go next.
So, where does that leave the right-now? Not sure about you, but too often it leaves the right-now for me filled with a little more pain than I’d prefer. I say that even though I tend to guarantee the pain by living in the future. My guess is that many of you do, too. In fact, society seems almost to require it.
I know I’m not unique. So, why does it still feel that way when something jumps you from behind and tries to drag you back down again? I probably know the answer to that, though it escapes me at times like these.
And here’s the hard part of that – the “at times like these.” I’ll admit this hasn’t happened in quite some time. I’ll also admit I’ve not felt well lately and I’ll have to factor that in. That, however, is in retrospect. Here’s how it went: announcement that didn’t go well, in my opinion (stress on the “in my opinion”); back to my seat where I knew it hadn’t gone well; momentary, blessed reprieve as I sat through the rest of a beautiful service; service over, smiling and talking as though the world was actually extra peachy today. Next, getting to the car; overwhelmed by a feeling of failure; driving home thinking the pastor must be angry with me, knowing I must have offended everyone, and wondering how I can possibly ever go back there. Oh, and that was merely the beginning. I rode that wave for hours.
The wave has largely passed. The waters are looking a lot smoother now. I’m exhausted. I’m also thinking, “Surely I not the only one who experiences this.” If nothing else, I’m hoping I’m not the only one who experiences this, though that seems a little mean-spirited – a little like wishing pain on others.
Much of this, it seems to me, stems from it all too often being all about me. I get trapped inside a bubble where it’s hard to distinguish what’s immediately outside my thinned-down view of the world and myself. It’s hard to remember why I was doing the announcement in the first place. It’s a good cause – that’s why. It’s got nothing to do with me. It shouldn’t have anything to do with me. This, usually, is where I drag out the 2×4 and pound away at me a little harder.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll be up and ready to face the world again. I’ll know a little better again who I am. I’ll look around me and remember the world is a much better place when it’s not all about me. In fact, the world is a much better place when it’s hardly about me at all. If I’m lucky, I’ll also remember to leave the script at home. I’ll try to remember I don’t really need it, after all.
I thought I was clear in this post that the bad things going on were all in my head. However, some of the reaction I’ve received probably says I shouldn’t have posted while I wasn’t feeling well.
The point, I think, was supposed to be that I set myself up for some bizarre reactions on my own part when I try to script my life – in any form. Let me be clear, however. None of the negative reactions came from the people I know and who were there yesterday. I feel pretty certain they took very little notice of my shortened announcement. The only person wielding the 2×4 was, as usual, me.
It’s wonderful that I have friends who want to jump to my defense. The defense, though, would be against myself. No, the care of my friends is what helps me step away from this type of crazed thinking much more quickly than I would have in the past.
Hmm, perhaps another lesson learned?