Embarrassing Moments of Life
Speaking in front of an audience is a scary experience. On a stage, at a social function, at work, giving a presentation, experiencing embarrassment equals physical pain. Sweaty palms, beating heart, nausea, flushed face and the most difficult one is the sense of inadequacy. I remember embarrassing moments vividly even if they have occurred many years in the past. Each memory of them a sharp painful dagger re-opening the scar that healed over as time went by. But one memory, one trigger, a word, smell, leads to neurons firing and bringing out the event to the front of our internal viewing screen. We are then thrust into the moment, remembering the pain and how much we wanted to disappear into thin air, change towns, lives, whatever it would've taken to get the people who were present when we said it, did it, acted embarrassingly, out of our immediate surroundings. We don’t want to run into them. We don’t want to be reminded because we are confident that the feeling of inadequacy would return with one judgmental look or a crooked smile, a wink, a role of an eye.
Some of the feelings are perceptions because the other person is probably focused on their internal struggles and worries. They have their unique embarrassing moments they are thinking about, worrying about, but knowing this does not change our own painful experience and the need to hide behind a stronger persona we forge on the fly, tough shell and tougher layer of concrete around our façade, while others try to penetrate it. It’s a constant struggle, back and forth, harden the shell, fight to crack the shells around us, to discover people. It's a perpetual conundrum.
The other night I went to an open mic event at the local co-working space. It was a great evening. I came late, so I was slated to read towards the end of the evening. I had three poems. They were about a few “heavy” topics, and I thought the audience who was in happy Christmas spirits might not want to hear my poems. But I swallowed my self-doubt and read anyway. On the third poem, which was about Aleppo (Syria) at Christmas I stumbled, I forgot a whole page of the poem. I stopped in the middle of it and had to admit that I had no poem to finish. I ran off the stage. It was a terrifying experience.
My husband pointed out that the people who attend poetry readings and music gatherings are usually a forgiving bunch, full of compassion. He deduced that they do not judge unkindly when someone is struggling on the stage. Although he was probably right, this did not change the fact that I felt as if a hundred bees stung my exposed skin and I felt burning sensation all over my body and my insides too. I just wanted to disappear into the night, or what would have been even better, I wished that someone could have erased the five minutes I was on the stage from the memories of the people who watched me.
Don’t get me wrong, as a sane person, I understand that I am probably over-inflating the whole episode, but this still does not change the fact that this embarrassing moment will never cease to exist in my memory forever etched with a sickening feeling of inaptness deep in my belly.
I do wonder, how come these memories are often the most vivid ones. I wish I could remember my babies' smiles when they were little as vividly as I remember my childhood's embarrassing moments.
If I could invent something, I would create a pill that could erase the sinking feeling beneath the surface during these moments of extreme vulnerability.
My husband says that this episode should not stop me from reading my poetry because it's essential for me to share my thoughts and feelings and that regardless how embarrassed I felt, I still need to put myself out there, put my words in front of other people. Because if I don't, these words continue to live only in my notebook and they do not serve the purpose of educating and evoking feelings of understanding, compassion, and recognition. Embarrassing moments or not, poetry is indispensable, and I must continue to share it, at the expense of embarrassing myself.