Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Color of Pumpkin

t's easy to tell when I'm embarrassed. Despite all my best attempts to prevent the color from flooding my face, I've never been able to accomplish it. My pale skin doesn't help matters. I might not wear my heart on my sleeve but I definitely wear my embarrassment on my cheeks.

The good news is that I've never had caused to be really embarrassed. Sure, I've had a few mishaps now and then (falling asleep in the middle of conducting training with a new employee),and I've said some things I probably shouldn't (refer to the previous example, along with about a dozen other things that have ended up on the quote board at work), but all-in-all, I've lead a life unworthy of headlines. I've said before I could be a great politician if I only liked politics. There would be very little dirt to uncover.

I was thinking about embarrassment because of a recent experience. One of my closest friends, who has been a huge part of my life for more than a decade, was embarrassed to call me for help simply because we've been out of touch for a while. One of the reasons I moved back to Orange County was so that I could be around her kids, and yet she was sheepish about asking me to spend a few hours helping out at a high school football game. She knew I would say yes – she even told me that. But she still felt like she shouldn't ask.

As I pondered this situation, it occurred to me – most of the time when we're embarrassed it has everything to do with our perception of ourselves and very little to do with the actual situation. We want to be the one person on Earth who has it all together – and yet none of us do. Our pride prevents us from laughing at experiences because we are too worried about the impression we've made. My friend didn't want to call me because of what it said about her – not because of me. She thought that because we hadn't talked she hadn't lived up to the expectations of friendship, and although we both were well aware of the situation, she didn't want to feel exposed.

I think exposure is half the fun of the experience. Learning to be vulnerable means learning to be real. That's one of the reasons we have a quote board at work. We all say stupid (I mean witty) things, we might as well all share them.

Laughing at myself didn't come naturally – it was something I had to learn. But now I don't mind sharing about being scarred of "the brown dog with ears" or the alligator I thought I saw on the Toll Road, or even how I said that one of my co-workers face was red – like a pumpkin.



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The Color of Pumpkin