Visibly Lacking

I’m taking an online course with souls from all over the world. We meet live as many as five times a week. It’s astounding to see all those faces on my computer screen.

Today, just before we were to be paired up for a practice exercise, the leader gave some instructions. I didn’t understand them, but then – Poof! … there I was facing another human being.

An image came to me of a male elementary teacher. He was standing in front of me with a yardstick in his hand, ready to smack my fingers. A voice roared: “You did it wrong!”

Later I decided to share with the large group about what I had gone through. The leader was coaching me to stay with my experience, without conceptualizing or telling a story. As I struggled to find what was true for me, I felt myself dying again: “You’re no good. You’re too afraid of the teacher’s disapproval. All these people are watching.” And I shrunk.

The teacher kept trying to bring me back out but I fell deeper into the hole. I was grinding through the moment – so different than talking about a previous grinding moment. “I’m so embarrassed.”

Bruce was disappearing, and not in a transcendent way. It wasn’t a case of losing something and finding something sweeter. Of saying goodbye to the ego and then rising into rarefied air. No. I was just plain lost.

***

So, Bruce, what’s true?

At times, I struggle to stay with what I’m experiencing
At times, I get scared so easily
At times, I shrink under the eyes of others
At times, I wallow in seeing myself as “less than”

But you know, Bruce, something else is true
You’re willing to be visible

Through the warts
Through the fear
Through the not knowing
Through the public viewing
Through the words stumbling out
Through the heart sinking to the floor
Through the desires for approval
Through the not making sense
Through the “wrong answers”
Through the tightness in the throat
Through the blushing
Through the pain

***

I’ll take it

Urinal

I left home for my Toronto trip minus one essential accessory.  Since I usually have to pee twice during the night, a urinal sits beside my bed.  Not this time.

No problem.  After all, this is the metropolis of Toronto and Shoppers Drug Mart is an easy walk from the B&B.  Let’s see … “incontinence” and “constipation” – sounds like the perfect aisle.  Nope, and actually no aisle did the job.  “I suggest you drive to Shoppers Home Health Care on Lawrence Avenue near Bathurst.”  Thank you, sir.  I know those stores have lots of medical equipment – wheelchairs, walkers, urinals.

So off I went in dear Scarlet, 4:30 on a Friday.  Rush hour can’t be that bad.  Wrong.  I stopped and started and stopped all the way along Lawrence.  Strangely, I was pretty loosy goosy about it all.  Gave me a chance to drink in a 200-metre-long mural under an overpass, full of vibrant faces and the wonders of the natural world.  Some of my friends in adjoining cars were quite antsy, however, zipping in and out of lanes, only to end up one or two car lengths ahead.

Finally a left turn into Lawrence Plaza and I was there.  I strode confidently into the store and was greeted by a woman wearing a huge smile.  “Oh, sir, those have been backordered for two weeks.”  (Sigh)  All this way for no peeing vessel.  What I did find on the shelf was a yellow plastic peanut-shaped thing, about two inches high and eight inches long.  I calculated how much pee it would hold and whether that would fulfill my nightly needs.  “Oh, just buy it, Bruce.”  $1.12.

Homeward bound to the B&B.  Altogether the round trip was one hour and twenty minutes but at least I wouldn’t be stumbling to the hallway bathroom at 3:00 am.

3:00 am

I sat on the edge of the bed and did my thing in the soft glow of the table lamp.  I watched expectantly as the urine climbed the walls of the peanut.  The flow stopped about 3/8 of an inch from the lip.

9:00 am

Open my bedroom door.  Open the bathroom door.  Put up the toilet seat.  Return to the bedroom.  Grasp the peanut at each end.  Walk oh so slowly out of my room, down the hall and into the bathroom, negotiating a variety of changes in flooring.  Think “What if someone comes by right now?”  Worry.  No one.  Tip the contents into the toilet.  Rinse the vessel.  Slink back to my room.

Okay, this doesn’t rank up there with an entrancing conversation or an inspiring concert but it still was a true life adventure.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

On The Stage

I went to a workshop yesterday for beginning actors.  I wasn’t nervous at all as I walked in.  I talked to a few people in the foyer, put on my nametag, and then took a chair by myself.  Gabbing and not gabbing … both were okay.

For the first hour-and-a-half, our leader did a lot of teaching, and then it was time for coffee.  I started talking to a woman whose nametag said “Gladys”, but other people laughed when I called her that.  Shirley liked having fun with nametags.  And so do I.  I asked her if we could switch.  She was all for it.  For the rest of the day, I had my moments of confusion, as I heard my fellow participants referring to “Bruce”.  Not the me I know.  I was enjoying being Gladys, that’s for sure.

Our improv group of three decided to be uptight bank robbers brandishing guns at a teller.  Little did we know that she was an undercover cop.  Such fun.  And I got to dress up in a fancy black suit jacket and a floppy hat.  I felt quite nasty for close to an hour, as we watched other groups perform and then did our thing.

Next on the menu, we sat in a big circle on the stage.  One person suggested a topic and would give us a sentence about it, starting with the letter A.  The next improv-er got to continue, beginning with a word that started with B.  And so on.  On one go-round I got Z, and was very pleased to come up with “Zowie!”  After a complete circuit of the alphabet, we debriefed.  I mentioned that I didn’t like it when someone was struggling to create a sentence beginning with a certain letter, and others would chime in with suggestions.  Duly noted by the group.  When we began again, with the topic slowly morphing into a discussion about pets, it was my turn with the letter K.  And I couldn’t think of a darn thing.  Naturally nobody helped me, and the silence deepened.  The tension rolled through me for at least thirty seconds, until I blurted out, “Killing pets is really not a good idea.”

So I got to sit with my fear.  And I realized that drawing a blank was all right.  I didn’t die on the spot.  Oh, drama, what a teacher you are!

Later in the day, our groups of three each put on the same ten-page play, holding our scripts as we told the story.  Partway through, I got really confused about where I was supposed to be standing, and how I was supposed to kiss a woman without blocking her from the audience, and in general about all the stage directions written in the script in italics.  Out of the corner of my head, I heard silence hanging in the air, and finally found the highlighted line that I was supposed to say seconds earlier.  Humbled again.  Totally out of character, I smacked myself in the head.  At least I got a laugh doing that.

I survived this faux pas as well, and learned one more time to laugh at my imperfections.  Later, I would have a third opportunity to eat humble pie.  Quite delicious, actually.  The workshop was over and I had gone to a restaurant in St. Thomas.  I sat at the bar and watched big screen sports.  Had a good conversation with the bartender.  After a generous helping of nachos, and a sinful brownie, ice cream and whipped cream combo,  I checked my shirt to see if I had blobbed stuff there.  Nope, I was fine.  But there was a piece of paper stuck to my chest.  It said “Gladys”.  My friend behind the bar said he hadn’t spoken up about it since it was none of his business.  I told him the switcheroo story.  I think he understood.  If not, it was another rich life experience within the world of dramatic arts.