January 25, 2015
The Power of Living Like No One is Watching
Have you ever imagined that your life is in fact a television sit-com? Perhaps a show from the sixties. Leave it to Beaver. Dick Van Dyke’s show. Hopefully at least one of you have had a similar experience. I don’t like being the only one who feels like this.
I’m self-conscious about almost everything I do. You may think this is strange, but I even feel this way when I home alone. Dogs and Cats don’t count.
The feeling is like there’s an audience watching All The Days in the Life of Susan Honthumb. The Laugh and Applause lights help cue the audience during the show. I probably ought to have a groan side as well. Don’t worry if you fall asleep during the show; at least I was able to do something positive.
The pressure of performing my life in front of a live audience can be nerve-racking and stressful Even though I’ve been doing this bit for almost fifty-five years, I still screw up. I don’t always remember my lines. Often I change things around and sometimes it works and sometimes I fall flat on my face. I try to be perfect. I try to be liked. I’m always successful in these endeavors.
There’s a lot of power, personal power, to be gained by being able to Live Like No One is Watching. Think of the power in harnessing the sun. I don’t expect that I’ll turn into a fireball, but barely having a pulse isn’t the way I want my life to be. Possibilities are endless. With this power, I’m able to cut the strings and move in the directions that I want to go, not the direction I think you want me to go. I really get twisted in a knot when different people want different things.
Being able to live like no one is watching is the difference between Living and Pretending. Going through the motions.
Earlier today, while listening to Pandora, one of the songs, perhaps Journey’s, Don’t Stop Believing, I saw a preview of how I could live the next half of my life. I was kicking up my heels and having a blast. People would say I was a firecracker. This was much better than living with habitual stage-fright. Deer in the headlights.
The only reason I’m spending all of this time weighing in on the issue of living in the shadows of self-consciousness is how much I struggle around music. I love music. I love singing along to a song regardless if I can find the notes or the words. I listen and then try to jump. It’s kind of like jump roping.
While singing with Soromundi Lesbian Choir of Eugene, I wasn’t studious. I remembered as many words as I could, but often I would follow what I heard and in mixed formations of parts, I didn’t always follow the right pattern. Instead of singing the Tenor II part, I’d slide into the Bass section or every so often I’d personate a Alto. I saw looks that made me think I was screwing things up. To prevent mistakes, I began to mute my voice so that the people around me couldn’t hear me. I also had muted all of the fun and ended up quitting the choir even though it’s the perfect place for me to sing in and to sing out.
Some of you may be asking what’s the big deal? So what if I look like an idiot on the dance floor or can’t sing on tune?
I try to think that it doesn’t matter. The game then becomes a tug-of-war game between the voices that tell me to sing along with AC/DC and scream out the song, Back in Black or at least play some air guitar. But my insecurities are holding the other end of the rope and they try suffocate the desires to just play with the music. I try to avoid the quagmire in the middle of this tug-of-war game that’s called embarrassment. There’s nothing worse than making a fool of myself.
The difference between a life without anyone watching and having stage-fright for fifty-five years is like the difference between dancing and singing to a great band playing and sitting still, avoiding contact with the music. Dancing around versus motionless? Which looks more fun? Which is more fun? I’d have to say that dancing and singing to Steppenwolf is much more fun. It is impossible for me to not react to the America when they sing, Ventura Highway. My feet getting tapping. I know all the words. It helps that they sing in my range. Sometimes that doesn’t even matter. I’ve tried to follow Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey, and those two sure have pipes that can reach the Heavens.
I’ve been looking at this issue for the past few days, thinking that it would be a great blogging topic. I’ve stopped and started close to a dozen times. The longest document was eight pages. In each and every one of them, I felt like I hit a wall and couldn’t move any farther.
I don’t like admitting that I’m self-conscious. There’s not many things I won’t admit to, but this one feels just a bit more personal. Maybe you will think I am crazy and I’m being ridiculous.
I’m a puppet with self-consciousness pulling the strings. What I do. What I say. How I look. Will the Audience ratings go up or down. There’s always the risk that the show will be cancelled. It happens all of the time. People are fickle in what they like. If my audience were dogs and cats, I’d have no problem. Anything goes. I’m sure I have driven people crazy when I baby-talk with my dogs or make strange sounds that the dogs like.
It’s important for me to work through self-discriminating behaviors. I know by telling the audience to go home, I’ll be a much happier person.
Living like No One is Watching frees me to think about better things than what you and everyone may think of me. It frees me to just be. Keeps me from second-guessing myself, trusting that I’ll do the right thing. And since there’s no wrong way to do anything, that shouldn’t be hard.
I’m probably not alone in that different ages effect how I behave.
When I teach elementary school kids, self-consciousness fades. I can’t say that it goes away completely, but I’m more apt to go off script when I am with kids. I can be spontaneous. I can be my true self. I struggle with middle school and high schoolers as I worry about what they think of me. I know I’m not supposed to one of their friends, but it does help to be liked.
There are shades of my self-consciousness. There are times when the cloak is barely visible and I can flit around and sing off-key without a care in the world. It’s when the cloak is black when my inner desires are shielded, shrouded.
To be able to live like No One is Watching opens doors to possibilities. It allows me to put down the extra baggage I’ve been carting around. But to live like this is a constant battle. I pretend that when two people are whispering they aren’t talking about me. There’s that saying about Faking it until you make it. I’ve been doing a lot of that in my life. There must be something wrong in letting others know that I can’t do something right.
Self-Consciousness has effected my entire life. I can remember clearly in middle school French class. I was more afraid of how my face looked in attempting to say certain words like Oui. The vowels require more funny mouth positions. Middle school is the worst time for Self-Consciousness. I know that isn’t a real word, but I like it.
Being a writer is all about exposing oneself and letting the carrion pick away at my bones. So why would someone who is so self-conscious want to put myself out there for others to see and judge my worth. Am I worthy of your time?
There’s one place where I don’t worry about looking foolish, and chances are it’s a place where I do look foolish. It’s my car. Especially my Mini Cooper. When I slip into the black leather sit, I take on another persona. I sing. I move about. I drum on the steering wheel. And in many cases there are people watching me. But I don’t care. My goal is to take that experience and spread it around to when I’m not in the car.