Saturday, March 22, 2008

Stage Fright

My stage fright knows no bounds.

In a most perverse way like much of the rest of my life, my talents such as they are, lie in the area of the performance arts. Before my ‘me-ness’ took control of this body, I was not a bad singer at all. Then somewhere in the process of growing up, I decided I would rather die than be on stage, and that was that. I forced myself on stage a few times after this malaise gripped me, hoping to conquer the fear and knowing that one good performance would do wonders for my confidence. These turned out to be occasions of such bitter failure and nightmarish shame that the fate of my singing on stage was sealed. Nowadays, if anyone were to ask me I just say I can’t sing. There’s no shame in that.

I thought, as did many others, that since I wasn’t bad with the written word, I would logically fare well in debate and recitation as well. But then again, though I conquered my fear of performing in public to the extent that I could be pushed onto the stage, gagging and willing myself not to throw up –when my turn came to speak, I would start shakily and then entirely forget what it was I was meant to say. The resounding silence of the auditorium would echo back at me, and I would open and close my mouth like a pop-eyed fish flopping about at the bottom of a boat.

Acting! By the time people had started suggesting acting to me, I had wised up to my condition, and lived my passion for it vicariously by helping out backstage as bouncer, makeup person, and general busybody.

But now that I’ve weeded out most things that inspire such terror (except trying on clothes in front of those ghastly lit mirrors in stores) I haven’t felt stage fright in a long, LONG while. (I’m a coward, but bravery is overrated anyway.)

Until yesterday that is. I went to the hospital for an abdomen scan. Apparently one needs to feel like one needs to go wee-wee, before they’ll do the scan thing on you (you need to feel the urge to go, but not go, of course.). People would keep coming at me and asking if my bladder was full, and despite the fact that I’d drunk an entire litre of water earlier on I could only shake my head miserably and whisper “not yet”. A little while later I tried to brazen it out and pretend that I needed to go. But the technician caught me out convincingly when he began the scan and sent me out with a flea in my ear, to sit and wait ‘For toilet to come to me’ in the waiting room.

An hour later and people were giving me the disappointed looks that teachers gave me in school when I walked off the stage after saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, the topic of debate for today is…is…excuse me I need to barf”. My husband, usually the most patient of souls, started looking quite distressed after one and a half hours of waiting for me “to get the urgency” as one of the staff described it. I felt like I was letting him down, the hospital technicians down, and most of all myself down. It was standing on stage all over again, I just couldn’t do it. ("feel the urgency", not do it).

I eventually got the scan done successfully, but that stage fright of mine made the simplest thing the hardest thing to do.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Goodbye my friend...

I must say after breaking my foot, my view of people has changed. I’ve been coming to office for two weeks now, the first week in full cripple regalia with a cast on my foot, and two crutches under each arm. The next week I toned down the image a bit and came in a modest crepe bandage, enormous surgical shoe, and one crutch tucked discreetly under the right arm.

My faith in human nature has almost completely been restored. People have gone out of their way to open doors, offered to help me in and out of places, and asked me incessantly how it’s happened and where the fracture was. Complete strangers have stopped me and asked “ So…what happened? Not well-ah?” ( “Ya, my foot has caught a fever, so I’ve wrapped it up warmly in brickhard plaster.”)
I have been told the fracture and torn ligament stories of everyone on this floor (let me tell you it’s one helluva large floor…try walking across it on crutches and one leg), been advised to take calcium tablets, and consult a homoeopath -- usually by people I’ve never seen before and not seen since. The drivers of my morning and evening cabs have been accommodative enough to drive as close to lifts as possible. One driver even took it upon himself to haul me unceremoniously out of the car by the arm despite my loud protestations (as he dragged me out) that I could manage myself.

Of course there is always the boor. (What would my blog be without boors? Insipid.) This one guy probably thinks I bring a crutch to work as a fashion statement, and lets doors swing back in my face if I’m following him in anywhere. Of course I give him the stink eye whenever I hop by his desk, so he’s not getting away with it.

I went to the shopping mall Forum (just me and my crutch) last week, and the advantages were numerous. Not only did I get to sit down unchalleneged on the “For Handicapped and Senior Citizen’s Bench Only” next to the entrance, strangers actually held lifts for me, and offered to stand in the billing counter for me while I sat down.

A visit to a jam-packed Hard Rock Café told the same story. We were shown directly to a table with my husband commenting in sotto voce throughout that it was my crutch that worked the trick and that we should never go anywhere without it for the rest of our lives.

But now the time draws near to wean myself off my trusty crutch. Back to being pushed aside, stepped on, yelled at. Back to having people not asking me where it hurt and not having a receptive audience as I tell the story of how it happened with a brave “I’ll be OK, don’t worry” smile on my face.

Siiiigh…Goodbye my trusty crutch, it was real special, but we knew it couldn’t last…

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A brief madness

People, regardless of age or background, have a few stock phrases and responses when they’re angry. I, having been in the midst of many an angry skirmish, am well placed to draw up this list of the rather senseless things people say in anger. Note that this is in no particular order:

1) When one says “I was busy” the invariable retort is – “ As if I’m not.” Noone said YOU’re not busy…I was merely saying that I WAS.
2) One often makes accusations and then adds a “and you know it” to add weight to the accusation. Often it is the first time that the accused has heard that he’s a sonovabitch, so he can very well claim not to know it.
3) “Don’t tell me what to feel!” Is another comment that puzzles me. If the reaction is far beyond what the stimulus warrants and you point that out, this is often the comment that comes whizzing back at you, even though it makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever. If I choose to laugh heartily through Schindler’s List and people turn around and give me outraged glances, does it make sense if I say “Hey, Don’t tell me what to FEEL, OK???”. Probably not. (On an aside I laughed uproariously through most of the tragic parts of ‘Life is Beautiful’. Not because I’m a chump; but because I had aimed to comfort a friend who was crying inconsolably next to me, and groped her quite comprehensively instead.)
4) If you point out certain flaws in near and dear ones, you will roundly be accused of being a complainer and a whiner, who can never appreciate one’s good side and will always harp on the bad things. In the ensuing heated argument, the original accusation is entirely forgotten, in which case this is quite a good tactic and shouldn’t be here. (But the point I was getting to before I recognized this as the brilliant ploy that it is -- I wasn’t saying that you are entirely bad, I’m just saying your habit of being selectively deaf is something I would now wish to exclusively talk about, at length, and in high-pitched tones. Again, of course you’ve done a lot of good things, but we’re not talking about that JUST now. )
5) This is somewhat similar to the last one, only from the other person’s perspective. When someone has really got into the groove and is in the middle of calling you every name in the book, you start saying things in self-defence like “Don’t you remember I lent you money two years ago, and I picked up your crazy aunt from the station because everyone else refused”, etc. and generally remind him/her that you’re not all bad and have done some rather nice things for him in the past. Pat will come the completely shameless dodge -- “Oh so you have to throw my poor aunty in my face now. There’s no point in doing a friend a good turn if you bring it up later… and now that we’re on the topic I’m glad she bit you.”
6) “When I die you’ll feel bad you said that.” With a sad droop of the shoulders, like you’re dying as you speak.

And so on, you get the drift. I dare all my readers to delve into their memories and deny they have either used these arguments or had them used on them These comments distract people from the issue; making the arguments confusing, long-winded, and not as intellectually stimulating as they otherwise could have been.

But then again, anger is a brief madness, and generally not a recognized forum for the exercise of intelligence or time-management.