I’m Not a Real Person, but I Play One on Television

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Maybe, Mr. President, but in the spirit of clarity and full disclosure, I think the other thing we really have to fear is ourselves . . .

. . . or as the ever-astute Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

I’m speaking, of course, for all of us lily-livered, yellow-bellied, totally ordinary milquetoasts in the world who have ever awakened on a perfectly calm and sunny day filled with dread for no other reason than that we are over-anxious about anything–or nothing. By this, of course, I mean practically everybody. On a bad day. Those few of you magicians who have never once had this experience, I salute you with admiring astonishment. And I implore you to hustle out and patent your technique and figure out how to produce it in vegetarian-safe three-a-day capsules for the rest of the waiting world.

Meanwhile, back at the Reality Ranch, I can lay claim to having plenty of days free of the aforementioned bane, but certainly plenty of times too when it seemed it would be far simpler to raise a sunken battleship singlehandedly from the bottom of the Mariana Trench than to haul myself out of my cave and interact with the world as though I were a competent human. And I’m not talking about dealing with true clinical depression or anxiety disorder, both of which as you know by now I have entertained as unwelcome guests in my own head in times past (pre-treatment). I’m talking about that state most mortals enter occasionally, where we’re certain that our horrible inadequacy is a glaring banner of toilet tissue perpetually trailing from our waistbands, that we are so clearly impostors in our own lives that we’ll soon be successfully replaced not by another person but by a badly made mannequin and no one will notice or care.

Yesterday, I was reminded in conversation of a fine and sometimes very helpful method for dealing with this characteristic in myself. Don’t know why I’d forgotten the source for so many years, as it’s really rather handy. I was in the high school drama program–and lest you die of shock at this news, be assured that I got into it initially because (a) I liked reading and viewing plays and (b) I happened to know that there was a lot of off- and backstage stuff to be done. Somewhere along the line I drifted from stagehand duties and lighting design and being mistress of all things costume and prop and set-related to, you guessed it, acting. Clearly not because I was destined to grow up and take Broadway by storm. But there it is, weird as it sounds. I mentioned in a previous blog that I have won theatre awards, including in those years, Best Actress, but this was high school, and hardly a magnet school for the Arts, for Pete’s sake.

However, I think I did perhaps earn the award from among my peers, and obviously not because of my natural vivacity and gregariousness. What I had was a wonderfully tolerant and clever set of teachers that did their best to spot weaknesses and needs among their students and find ways for them to overcome themselves. Because of course that was precisely the problem in my case. How could an uptight introvert get up onstage and act? I could barely conceive of how to play ME in my own life at that point.

The answer was really rather simple to state, and not, it turns out, impossible even for an uptight introvert like me to execute when I put my also-natural stubborn will and desire to be better than I was behind it. “If you can’t imagine someone like you getting up on the stage and acting a part, then start with playing a good actor. Then let that actor play the part.” Convoluted? Of course it is. Silly? You bet. But somehow that one extra step of remove let me pretend it was somebody else doing what I knew I couldn’t do myself, and that was that. While I had forgotten the specific inception of that nugget of useful knowledge in my life until yesterday, I know that I have employed it to many and varied extremes over the intervening years, and can thank the idea (and Mr. C and co.) for thus having pulled me through many a dicey situation since.

So far I have played a college graduate, a construction worker, a landscape and interior designer, an artist, a teacher, a poet, an administrator, a blogger, and many other roles, not all perhaps to award-winning standards, but enough to help me survive them and sometimes even forget myself enough to truly enjoy them in the moment. And I think I’m continuing to get better at the role of Me, the one role that might actually matter the most come to think of it. I’ll keep you posted if any honors other than my self-appointed tiara should pop up.

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Never Fear, My Darlings, We're All in this Together . . .

2 thoughts on “I’m Not a Real Person, but I Play One on Television

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