Why does it take so long to figure out what is good for us? Why are we in our 20s before we realize that greasy pizza makes us feel yucky the next day, or that too much coffee makes us jittery? Why do we reject the feedback our bodies give us regarding all-nighters? Why do we stay uncomfortable for so long?
Every audition is different yet every audition is the same – packed with people eager to impress. Recently in one of these familiar environments there was a woman dominating the room – standing when everyone else was sitting, talking loudly though most of us maintained a solitary hush. She seemed determined to command the world swirl around her, maintaining a giggly conversation about shared connections while periodically scanning the room to see who was looking at her.
For once, that woman was not I.
I fall into that trap all the time. It’s easy to when you’re a performer. We are paid to attract, to allure. All that shimmer has its place, when we are on stage and helping people forget the world for a while.
But how easily it turns into compulsion: We want our star quality validated. We want to be so magnetic that we are asked back. Any many, if not all of us, are trying to meet the extrovert’s need for attention.
But here’s the thing about feeding that particular beast: it can’t ever be sated. The more we shimmer and cast our glow over the room, the greater the need to impress becomes.
Unthinkingly, I recently tried to feed the beast. I got into the car after an evening around others and realized I had spent most of that time trying to be the funniest person in the room, constantly drawing attention back to myself. I needed these acquaintances to want to be around me. They laughed at my jokes with genuine smiles.
I had worked the room, but when I got in the car to go home I felt like I should take a shower. I cried for emptiness, for desperation, for pathetic need. My actions were harmless but I lamented all the wasted energy, the oxygen I’d sucked out of the room, for something that left me dead inside.
Just like Boston Crème donuts and Long Island iced teas and the other things I crave, attention for attention’s sake leaves me jumpy, regretful, and unfulfilled.
I woke up the next day pondering an antidote. I had shimmered as I’d longed to, and been left with only ash. So later that day, back in a large group, when asked how I was I didn’t launch into a long entertaining story designed to attract a crowd, or a monologue disguised as an answer, but I turned the question around and then listened to the response.
We live in a world of stories and so many go unheard. My illness taught me how much it matters to have someone hear your story, and I am working to provide that compassionate ear.
When I listen I’m no longer the performer but the audience. I shove my need away to meet another’s. I disappear, and it goes against every inclination I have. But that very disappearing sets me alight again, and the connection between us sparks into fresh holy fire and oh, how we shimmer.