I just don’t like the limelight — I never have. Which is completely ironic and kind of a slap-in-the-face-by-the-Universe given that many people have suggested that I ‘should’ do all kinds of things that would require a love of limelight.
“You should do more presentations — you’re a great speaker “ they’ve said.
“You should be a lawyer — you love to argue “ others have said.
“Why don’t you do stand up comedy — you’re so funny! “ at least one probably-well-meaning-but-obviously-delusional-soul has said.
Now, all of these suggestions are essentially great ideas, and are usually coming from people who genuinely care.
> I do love speaking — it comes easier than writing and DEFINITELY easier than singing. But what am I going to present about? And where will I do this presentation? Who would come? And why? So many questions, so little time… and so much anxiety.
> Arguing my points comes naturally — I used to be fond of an impassioned argument in my day. But I don’t see myself able to deal with scummy people on a daily basis (I’m referring to the other fictional lawyers here, and assuming they’re all like the ones I see on episodes of Law & Order). No point in arguing with me about this <see what I did there?>.
> And I guess I can be funny… but stand-up- comedienne-funny? That would require me to be funny for at least 15 consecutive minutes AND have a plan (as opposed to making some off-hand witty comment fueled by margarita-juice).
But most terrifying of all, all of these options require me presenting myself in front of more than one or two people, placing myself as the object of scrutiny, and doing it on a regular basis.
AKA, my personal ninth circle of hell.
Now, it could absolutely be argued that my fear of being famous stems from a handful of less-than-stellar forays into the world of public attention.
Some early traumatic experiences are at least in part to blame. I know this because along with the normal heart-racing-sweaty-armpits at the thought of doing anything in front of a crowd, I also get a faint pain in my right ear.
Which I realize sounds very odd (the pain in the ear thing). But, as a trauma informed therapist in my earlier career, I recognize that this ear thing is possibly a deeply-ingrained body-memory, rooted in the time I was chosen for the role of Santa Claus in the Christmas play at my all-girls convent school.
Weirdly specific, and as usual, there’s a little story here.
In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I was picked for the role of Santa because — as one of the tallest and most solidly built <ahem> girls in my class — I could wear the adult-sized red velvet suit without alteration. But at the time, the role suited my shy personality perfectly since it only required me to memorize and say one line: “Ho, Ho, Ho and a Merry Christmas to all.”
A win-win, right?
Now, my absolute favorite part about having the role of Santa Claus was having to make my own Santa beard (those were the days long before costume stores were common).
Making the beard satisfied my artsy, crafty, creative side. I still remember amassing a whole pile of squishy cotton balls and fashioning them together into something that looked like a long woolly cloud — perfect for Santa. The only dilemma was how I was going to attach it to my face.
Being the eternal improviser, I used a wire coat hanger to attach the whole beard (it was quite heavy) so that it hung from the wire, and then fashioned the ends so that they fit around my ears, eye-glass style.
I felt like MacGyver (who else watched that show religiously?), and looked like Santa.
Even though I was dreading going on stage, the idea of wearing my miraculously crafty creation made the ideal of it almost enjoyable. Almost.
This is where the whole concept of product-testing really should have come into play.
As I came to understand, wearing that beard for 30 seconds during the creative process was a far cry from wearing it for the whole Christmas performance. The beard was SO HEAVY my ears hurt from the weight and the pressure. Combined with my nervous sweat, the polyester suit and the pillow shoved inside to give me added girth, I was literally a hot mess.
By the time it came time for me to say my one line, I was close to passing out from pain and heat-exhaustion. My right ear was taking the brunt of the torture, and it felt like it was going to go up in flames or simply fall off at any second. And there were SO. MANY. EYES looking at me from the audience.
Of course I survived, but my ear was hot and painful for days. You better believe I cursed that santa-beard.
My foray into stardom was short-lived —indeed, I believe it died on the stage that day in a mess of sweat, fear and red velvet polyester.
Of course, there are many other incidents over the years that solidified my desire to stay in the shadows and avoid public scrutiny. They say trauma is cumulative, and I’d have to agree.
Which brings me to the real point of todays #tuesdaystale.
I’ve been asked by many friends when or if I’m going to write a book. Usually I just shrug and reply “I don’t have any plans to write a book” and “I don’t think I could write a book” or “I don’t know what I’d write about.”
But really, if I’m being totally honest, I’ve always wanted to write a book. A book that helps, shifts and empowers in my own unique style. A book that has the power to help lots and lots of people. But the reality is I hadn’t researched it, or even formulated a plan.
Plus, I’m kinda terrified of being famous.
So, when friends suggest writing a book, I stumble and flounder and make up excuses, because that seems easier than the truth: “I don’t know if I can, and if I do I don’t know if it’ll be successful.” And if I was REALLY being honest, I’d say “I’m kinda afraid to fail.”
Sitting in my pajamas drinking tea and tapping away on my keyboard — no groups or audiences in sight — seems far easier and far safer right now.
But safe gets stale — and since I’ve spent the best part of my adult life coaching people to feel safe in their own skin, it’s a little inauthentic to cling to my pajamas right now.
Don’t ya think?
So, with a dream in my heart and a little fear in my right ear, I took to Google to research how a person gets a book published.
Armed with lots of great ideas, credentials, experience and a dream… What more does a girl need?
As it turns out, a lot.
Apparently in order to be considered a ‘publishable author’ by a large publishing house, I need to be famous and/or have a large following.
Obviously, being famous is too people-y for me. Also, it isn’t true.
So, then, what is considered a large following? Lots of people reading my blog, maybe signing up for my email list.
A couple of thousand?
So I did some more research. In my pajamas. With my tea.
FIFTY THOUSAND OR MORE PEOPLE.
What? You’re joking. That sounds VERY PEOPLE-Y.
With this news in hand, I decided to take it to a captive audience of social media experts: my teenage daughters.
Here’s how that went:
Me: Kate, so apparently in order for me to be considered by a large publishing house, I need to have 50,000 or more followers. What do you think? Do I need to give up on that dream and perhaps just publish a little ebook on Amazon instead? <imagine a slightly terrified, pleading, whiny pitch to my voice>
Kate: Fifty thousand? That’s no big deal, I could help you get that.
Me: <eyes wide> Seriously? What? HOW?
Kate: It’s easy. Just become an ‘influencer.’
Me: A what? <advanced age showing>
Kate: An influencer. Y’know, you just need to wear a bikini-
Me: Let me stop you right there…
Kate: No, seriously mom! It’s easy. Just wear a bikini and take lots of pictures of yourself on a beach.
Me: <staring wide-eyed in horror>
Kate: Lots of people have done it that way!
Me: It’s not happening. I don’t need the kind of ‘followers’ I’d be getting. And I’m not ready for that kind of hate.
Me: Wait, what? Oh, never mind. Can we come up with a different plan?
Kate: I guess… <shrugs shoulders, resumes scrolling TikTok>
And that’s where we left it.
So, you see, I need to come up with 50,000 or more followers and it must NOT require bikini pictures.
Or santa beards.
All the limits I’m placing on myself really says something, doesn’t it?
I’m just like that little kid standing on the edge of the pool, wanting so badly to make a big splash but not wanting to get wet.
Which got me to thinking — how often do we start out with big dreams, only to remind ourselves why it’s impossible, unreachable or simply unreasonable.
How often do we abandon our dreams — abandon ourselves — by deciding our dream is really somebody else’s?
And simply go back to drinking tea. Daydreaming in our pajamas.
Big dreams scattered everywhere.
<Or is that just me being super dramatic?>
Of course, I’ve realized over the years that ignoring, minimizing or steamrolling my little scared parts doesn’t get me (or anybody) anywhere.
Holding onto my fears and my dreams, I’ve decided to put on my red velvet panties and super-strength deodorant and march toward my big dream of writing a little book… determined to find a way that doesn’t involve taking bikini selfies.
My right ear is burning just a little as I write — but it’s okay, I’ve got this (and you do, too)!
P.S. What big dream are you working on — or afraid of working on — right now? I’d love to hear about it!
P.S. Want to help me reach my dream? It’s easy! If you enjoyed this or any other of my #tuesdaystale posts, I’d sure appreciate you sharing it with your friends, and/or signing up to receive an email each time a new tale is on the blog!