embarrassment, empathy, endurance: why the show must go on… and why we should help it

Once, several years ago— before marriage and babies— I found myself giving a 50 minute long one-woman show to an auditorium with over 500 people watching me.  As if that wasn’t adrenaline-inducing enough, I had just stepped on the edge of my floor length skirt and felt the clasp in the back pull and undo.

That was fun.

I remember, continuing my performance, and simultaneously pleading for the Good Lord, in His mercy and goodness to prevent my skirt from completing its malfunction in front of everyone.  That I could just do my “job,” without something very important falling down around me.

It’s an extreme AND completely real example.  It’s one that I thought wouldn’t apply to me again very much at all in my life.  But, man, was I wrong.

Here we all are, aren’t we?  Just trying to do our “jobs”— trying to live and maybe tell our stories.  We don’t want any extra drama.  We don’t want anything more to think about because the job, though hopefully enjoyable , is still daunting enough.  But then… we feel something begin to give way that shouldn’t.  We suddenly shift into worry and doubt and fervent prayer because we know, that just a little bit more… just another inch… just one more slight shift… and we will be vulnerable in ways we never, ever want to be.

IF my skirt had actually fallen down that day… if that whole auditorium had seen me, standing there, exposed in my undergarments and embarrassment… honestly, what would have happened?  Okay, so I would have been completely mortified and would have wanted to claw up the floorboards of that stage in order to disappear… but besides that?  What would have happened?

I wouldn’t have died, no matter how much I would have wanted to.  I would have swallowed hard, and pulled my skirt up, made some comment to attempt to save face, and feel my cheeks grow hot.  My throat might have almost closed from choking down the emotion of it all… and I might have even had to excuse myself before going back out and continuing where I left off.

That’s what would have happened.  Because I needed to finish my job.  Finish what I started.  Tell the story that placed me on that stage in the first place.

I think, whether or not you have been on stage at all, you know exactly what it is like to be in the scenario I found myself.  Life has taught you to be afraid that something horrible is going to derail what you are doing— and what you are doing is plenty enough already, thankyouverymuch.  We are afraid to be left exposed and scrambling.  We are petrified of our jobs being harder, our lives more complicated.  We are scared of contingency plans and crisis modes and being distracted from what was **so carefully** planned, practiced, and rehearsed.  And maybe, just maybe, we are worried about what people would say and think as they witness it all fall.

Hardship is so, well, hard to even think about.  There’s a reason why those thoughts instantly drive us to worry— and hopefully and much better— prayer. The grand irony of it all is that we are just as much audience as performer.  We watch others live all around us, and don’t think for one second that they are worried about their own wardrobes exposing them, or tripping on stage, or forgetting their lines.  That they are just as afraid and vulnerable to messing up themselves.  They seem to have it all together as they go along, while we feel like we just stumbling by.  Honestly, shouldn’t we know better by now?

We know the truth.  The fact that we are all actors should make us the most empathetic audience in the world.  It is exactly because I know what it is like to imagine the worst case scenario (by almost being or ACTUALLY being in worst case scenarios) that I can lean into other’s experiences when their worst case scenario happens.  It’s why we can join others in the uncomfortable, and not let our own awkwardness keep us from doing what is right.  And what is right? Right is swallowing your own discomfort to make it easier for your friend or neighbor or fellow momma to pick up her skirt and her pride, swallow hard, and keep going when her world is falling apart.

Best of all, we don’t have to say and think anything beyond admiration and support— in whatever capacity we can.  

Life itself is a stage, someone brilliant once said.  

We are all players.  

And in this global cast, faith, hope, and love is the obligation for all of us.

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