Friday, September 14, 2012

The vicissitudes of humility

I suffer from anticipatory funk.

It’s a disorder whereby I accept an invitation to an event – nothing threatening or weird.  Maybe even something I’ve always wanted to do. 

I mark my calendar and begin to make preparations.  I tell my friends and family who coo over me and tell me how they want to be just like me someday.  My self-esteem puffs up and my posture gets better. 

Then, behind the scenes, in a wadded up cranny of my perverse little brain, like the spore of a shitake mushroom, a contrary idea finds footing.  Really?  It says.  Really…you’re planning to do that?  Oh.  Well.  Good luck with that.  No, really.  Good luck. 

Oh sinister little fungi!  How you wheedle and wend you way into a person’s consciousness!  

It’s not long at all before my personal portabella field has proliferated.  It has grown from a niggling sense of nostalgia into full-blown trepidation.  From oh!  I’ll miss my husband and my kitties to I just don’t want to go!  I wish I didn’t have to go!  Why oh why did I ever say I’d go!? 

I can’t say where this affliction originated.  Maybe it’s an offshoot of what I call the “Avatar” syndrome.  (I used to call it the “Sound of Music” syndrome, but I’ve lived long enough now that I’ve had to update the reference.  The dynamics are the same.) 

A new movie is released with enormous fanfare.  It’s the best movie ever!  Oh, the drama!  Oh, the laughter!  Oh, the special effects!  Movie making will never be the same!  OMG you MUST see “Avatar.”  

“Avatar” was good.  I’m not saying it wasn’t good.  But honestly, admit it; it wasn’t THAT good.  Was it? 

Maybe it would have been better if I hadn’t listened to the hoopla.  No movie could measure up to the level of mental hype I generated.  Man I wanted to see that show! 

But I came out of the theatre humming that old Peggy Lee song, “Is that all there is?”  (Please let me know right away if you know of a cooler, more current musical expression of disappointment.) 

I know it’s on me now.  I have to gear down and adjust my expectations.  I don’t like cultivating cynicism, but a tiny thread of doubt makes for pleasant surprises instead of colossal letdowns. 

On occasion I’ve let the funk take charge.  When an event swells in my field of vision I’ll make an excuse and duck out.  It’s almost physical, my reaction.  Fight or flight.  Something seizes me and I just turn and run!  It feels so good to escape.  Freedom!  No pressure.  No expectations.  Only a little guilt and that can be managed.  

Once I signed up for one of those “ropes” courses.  You know, the ones where you’re strapped into a harness and walk the high wire with your friends “on bole,” protecting you from falling and building a bond that surpasses all human bonds.  I freaked out.  Feigned a cold sore or something.  Didn’t go. 

And then, just like John Lennon warned, instant karma.  I regretted my cowardice.  I saw that that opportunity would not present itself again.  I had a chance to revel in a unique experience, but I stayed home in my pj’s.  What a wimp!  

No matter how good your excuse is, everybody knows you flaked out.  They’re nice to your face, but they know.  And of course, now they have the bond. 

So OK.  By the time you read this, I will have powered through my disability.  Like an agoraphobic in behavioral therapy I’ll have sucked it up and stepped into the open.  I can only hope I don’t look like Elvis squinting into the sun he seemed not to recognize after so much time in the basement of Graceland. 

I’ll be midway through the trip I’d begun to dread.  I’ll be having a great time, smiling, making new friends, learning things a person simply cannot learn by staying home, safe, at her keyboard.   

Of course the downside of success is the disorder that accompanies an adventurous spirit who sallies forth conquering the petty fears of the weaklings around her:  Insufferable competence.  Its symptoms – infuriating graciousness, knowing looks and strutting.   

I certainly hope I don’t succumb.