Who Are You?
Long ago and far away I had a friend who was, and is likely still, a performer. She loves performing so much that she’s made it her life’s work. If all of us felt as passionate about our profession as she, life would be a proverbial tiptoe through the tulips. This woman has a fabulous speaking voice and gets up in front of people whenever and wherever possible. If you won the Boston Marathon for the first time, you’d want this person in your PR court. Similarly if you died and needed a eulogy, nobody could do it better. (I don’t suspect she would discriminate between the two, either – for doubtless in her mind, both are her performance pieces.)
If my friend invited me to meet her for lunch at a public venue, it invariably ended up with her agenda being far more interesting and important to her than mine could ever be – that is, unless she could convince me to speak not only with her as originally planned, but to the entire swarm of humanity gathered within the building. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, C’MON!” – elbows jabbing my tender ribs. Get up there! You have so much to say – get up there! Hey, folks! This woman (finger pointing at the crown of my head) is fabulous, brilliant! Listen to her!”
It is easy and perhaps even human to want others to share the enthusiasm that lifts the hearts and minds of people like my friend. Bear in mind, however, that some of us liken sharing in public to the odd voltaic jolt to the kidneys. In marked contrast, my own heart and mind are buoyed when I glimpse a father tenderly stroking the cheek of his sleeping infant; while delectating in rare fractals of light at the close of a rainy day. I love the in-between moments, those apertures of tranquility.
When I was younger, I would savor more than a smattering of Chateauneuf de Pape or Beaujolais de Village and dance in public like no one was watching. I shared too much of myself with strangers; squandered half my precious existence in an earnest attempt to be someone others would like better. It left me feeling used, hollow and bereft.
I’m not sure the world loves introverts – but the world needs us to think deeply for it, to feel what others cannot or will not, to record what we observe and to validate the depth of human experience. I’m not saying we should all be divers – then again, I’m not goading anyone into inauthentic expression. If you want peace for example, be peace – and if it takes twenty-four hours a day of virtual seclusion for you to attain balance within, so be it. As Cat Stevens skillfully laid down in Hard Headed Woman:
I know a lot of fancy dancers
People who will glide you on a floor.
They move so smooth, but have no answers.
When you ask, “Why’d you come here for?”
“I don’t know.”
My question, exactly. But then – that’s just me.
Who, when it’s all said and done, are you?