caught in my tin can

I got caught singing in my car today.

I was in full-on concert mode; not pretending to be Adele, but pretending that her song was my song and I was on stage fully bringing it to my adoring audience.  The crowd was vast, waving their iphones with the candle-app; I think I was even doing the closed-eye thing singers do when they are really feeling the groove.

Just as I hit the chorus, I got completely snagged. I was doing a little hand motion thing, fist clenched with passionate intensity, when I felt eyes on me. Not the eyes of my adoring imaginary audience, but real eyes from the car speeding up next to mine. My heart beat out of my chest.  I had that horribly mortified feeling like I just stepped out of the shower and dropped my towel accidentally in front of a crowd.

As I was cruising along in my little tin can on the highway, I forgot, in that private moment, that I was, in fact, out in public.

We all do things we wouldn’t do if we knew someone else was watching. We all do things in front of some people that we might not do in front of others. In so many instances, we put away pieces of ourselves for others. We have our “at home” self and our “in public” self.  We are careful about what we say. We rein ourselves in. As we were taught as kids, we demonstrate self-control.  We diligently protect ourselves. We carefully protect others from ourselves.

I don’t mean to imply that not putting oneself completely out there is bad. The world would be pretty nuts if we all just said and did exactly what we were thinking all of the time; I mean, there’s something to be said for a little bit of decorum!  But as we tuck pieces of ourselves away, out of fear or shame or insecurity, we risk losing what is most wonderful about each of us.

So where is the line? When does putting away who we are when no one is looking to be who we are in front of others become a compromise of our own integrity? How far do we let the fear of not being accepted take us?

Teenagers are in the thick of this. I see it every day as I witness their wade through the deep waters of figuring themselves out.  While they are rolling in the deep, the older I get the more I feel like I just take the occasional plunge. I thought for sure I would wake up one magical day and not care one bit what anyone else thought of me.  Do I dare admit that I sometimes care? And if I admit that I care, do I somehow compromise my own character?

With each day I grow more comfortable with the fact that I do care, that I do censor myself to a degree.  Each day I grow more at ease with admitting that rather than trying to hide yet another piece of myself by pretending that I don’t.  For me, that’s as authentic as I can be right now.

There are people in this crazy world with whom I don’t have to put any pieces of myself away.  With each day, I realize the incredible value of spending my time with those people.

And so there I was, wanting to just speed away from whoever was in the next lane over without ever looking at them.  Just as I was about to accelerate away from the embarrassing confrontation, something in the air made me duct-tape the mouth of my innerjudge.  I faced my fear, and there in the next lane, in the car with all of the eyes, was my dear friend B with her husband and their three kids; all of whom I love.  They were all frantically waving and laughing and giddy at seeing me in concert.

I laughed and waved back, still singing.

shine on, john travolta!

I saw John Travolta. Yup, I did.

He was strolling down 5th Avenue, checking out the elaborate Christmas windows at Bergdorfs on a Friday night just like some sort of normal guy in New York in December. It was chilly, the crowds had thinned enough that my mom and I could really see the windows up close and then, BAM! There he was, John Travolta, walking down the street, carrying a baby, laughing with his family.

He was glowing.

Really, he actually had a bright light shining around him. Oozing out of him. Even his baby was glowing (probably why Mom completely missed JT as she goggled over the lit-up baby). The Travoltas: magical beings carousing on 5th Avenue; beamed down to Earth to spread their light and bring joy to the masses.

And joy they brought! I was star struck. I whipped out my phone to text Kate that I’d spotted the real Urban Cowboy, the better-with-age Vinny Barberino, our god-in-the-flesh Tony Manero in all of his one-piece-jumpsuit glory. I told everyone who’d listen about my special moment. My 3 second brush with celebrity gave me a weird rush; as if being in the mere vicinity of JT’s fabulousness somehow made me fabulous, too!

His glow made me glow.

On the train down to the city I got a phone call from one of my students letting me know that she’d been accepted Early Decision to an incredibly competitive college. I cried. And then I giggled uncontrollably. The woman one seat over gave me a funny look, not knowing that the stifled weird squeaking noise was my version of holding back from jumping up and down and yelling to the whole train about my student’s amazing news. While I was giggling a giant spotlight seemed to shine on me with that loud Thunk! you hear in the movies when the stage is dark and then it isn’t.  I’m sure the entire train was looking at me; like that scene in “The Lonely Guy” when Steve Martin goes out to dinner alone. Only they weren’t looking at me because I was awkward; they were looking at me because I was experiencing the fabulousness of someone else’s magical moment.  I was glowing.

Celebrities are cool. But they’re only cool because of us. Not to discredit JT. He’s pretty amazingly cool.

But, so are we!

My friends shine light like there’s no tomorrow. And my students, my students are stars. My nieces and nephew, beaming. My brother, on fire. My parents and the rest of my family are all kinds of lit up with coolness.  And, on a good day, when I’m surrounded by all of the energy and light of the amazing people in my life, I am a firework.

That’s UBUNTU. You glow, I glow, We glow.

There’s enough light to go around. Shine some. It’s fun.

 

 

 

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