What If Everyone, or No One, Was Looking?

Preaching to the Choir, Selfie

This is a mental spanking to electrify your leanings. Do you boldly go forth as if everyone can see you in life? Do you don a totally different persona when you’re alone? I stumbled into a typical spiraling and was mentally trying to pull myself out of a super funk. Instead of flexing my muscles, I was fluxing my synapses to overdrive inundation. I needed a break but was already still in my comfy clothes post-lunchtime. The iconic ‘lightbulb’ popped on and I was laughing profusely at the idea: Maybe I would kick myself out of the doldrums more easily if I knew ‘everyone’ was looking at me. Then again, I might run for the hills to the safety of a place where no one was looking for a while. All in, I soundly projected to my inner self this amusing concept that we are chameleons of circumstance.

I’ll give you some raw data. I started writing this story and was consumed for a few seconds with a booger lodged in my nose. I couldn’t conceive of managing to type until I got that little thing out! Then, I needed to wash my hands. That required me to get up and move from the sweet sanctum I’d created overlooking the palm trees swaying in the clear blue skies breeze, snug on the couch, under the squishy blanket. All of this was compounded by the look I was sporting. My unwashed waves of hair were piled atop my head in a big bun. My mismatched ensemble was strictly sorted for coziness. I had no makeup, deodorant, and no underwear on (probably more than you needed to note). Basically, I was in the private-me mode. The whole process fed more of my funny bones when I pondered what anyone would think if they’d been peering into my absurd pause in writing.

Would my indulgences be there same if I knew a webcam was pointed in my direction? What if my laptop camera wasn’t covered with a pink glittery piece of thick tape? Engrained in our behaviors, and maybe even warped into our modern culture, is the notion of attention on ourselves. I reckon the attention we put into detail of self doesn’t get an authentic break maybe as often as could be useful. Even if simply for self-exploration of what you like to do, feel, believe, think, try, and the challenge of yourself when you ‘know’ no one is looking. Today’s reading is an exercise in exercising your credibility and catching where you fold yourself into being something for someone else.

Take that dance breaks moment in the middle of my consulting meeting intensive brainstorm session this week. There I was in the public Tom’s Shoes coffee shop outdoor patio nook throwing down some creative genius moves with a new friend launching a brilliant new brand (more on that later when the cat’s out of the bag and I can share). We promised one another we’d take a breather instead of ing through three hours of work without stopping. So, he jumped up to stretch his body and mind, as I jumped up to join him in my twirly dress. Next, I bent over into a favorite down dog yoga stretch and was a bit aghast to meet my hairy calves eye to eye! In another prime example of human purity, and without a romantic partner on current rotation, I hadn’t remembered to mow the lawn of my personal life landscape. Yet, I had felt free and pretty enough to garnish my goodness with the flowy frock. I immediately catapulted my thoughts to the initial sit down to work moment with my male friend. Were those sideways glances downward merely pensive moments, or was he fixated on my unshaven limbs. Did I truly care?

I suppose the eloquence I’m priming is the drastic contrast we may be presenting in anchoring who we really are meaning to be. What if everyone, or no one, was looking at you? In every single instance of your existence, what if that was your filter — deciding if you were going to be the same if you knew everyone could witness you, or if no one could see you. What would you display when all the limelight is known? What would you get away with if you thought no other would ever know a thing about it? I will state this is some of the deepest self-work I’ve ever contemplated. I will honestly share that I’m not always the same person with an audience as without. This bothers me but fairly keeps me challenged. I continue to explore why I would cheat myself out of being a bona fide Braden all the way.

Human nature is my reply. The reptilian part of my brain likes the daring, dark, intricate gambles of life. Risk, embarrassment, shame, brazenness — they all live in the space within me that doesn’t want to care what others think, and often reaches farther when I consider I’m flying solo and I have no accountability in sight. The times I’ve caught myself stealing things falls heavy into this category. When I was younger this may be a roll of toilet paper or pens from the production office to use in my apartment. Somehow as time passed, this could take on a larger quality such as stealing a dress from a friend’s packed closet or change from someone’s piggy bank to use for doing laundry or parking my car. Illicit actions formed this hole in my heart core. They spawned this permission to wreak havoc on my soul self. In these moments I became in violation of my own self. When I perceived that no one was looking, I acted crooked.

The clandestine triggered my Universe and God spots. Dark criminal corners of my inner sanctum confronted the big puppet masters in the sky. My black-market persona always seemed to be met with a cerebral smackdown. I would reach for the item and literally feel the weight of the hand of God upon my action. Plenty of times it wasn’t enough to stop me. Yet, every time it was enough to sit with me… forever. Forever is a mighty long time to hold onto illegitimate pieces of one’s self. So, I started to talk more with this force of life. I’d apologize out loud to the air, begging forgiveness. I’d explain why the function of my follow-through would undoubtedly wake me up further. I poised myself over and again to be repentant and set free from ill-fitting ways.

The absurd has a way of repeating itself. I think much of the antics we perform in life are humdingers set afoot to delight the spirits that created our being. In short, best of luck to you with showing up as a perfect being without any ludicrous aspects to your lifetime. After a particularly embarrassing family day in Alaska once, where I was just introduced trial by mocking fire to standard ‘stick-shift’ driving in a monstrous outburst of me stalling out often, I was suffering a migraine (likely from the stress). Beaten down, but wanting to keep on a good face, I’d placed a clothespin on my ear to help acupressure-away some of the pain points. We were sitting in a restaurant. My aunt took out her phone to snap a photo of me. I flipped her off and didn’t care that the world might see me this way. My point is that sometimes our true colors shine in the craziest flashes of life because we’re worn to a nub of letting go of the assumptions or worries over whether anyone is looking at us or not. Then again, during Los Angeles rush hour, whenever I have a similar clothespin on my migraine throbbing head or ear, I’m quick to pull it away if a car slows too close to mine for fear of someone seeing me this way.

At a Buddhist meditation center gathering tonight I was reminded of compassion for myself first. There’s a genius simplicity in looking out for yourself before any other state of being. In fact, the very mindfulness many chase is found in being loving with you foremost. With this space for you first comes understanding to release persecution of self. It’s ok to be messy, look silly, dress poorly, wear things wildly, envy, pilfer, and so on. But in doing so, one must recognize there is a lesson. One must charge into the knowing that everyone, or no one, maybe be looking with the knowledge of what if both are always true. Who then are you? Who then do you wish to be?

Strip down and plunder into the wonders of the most unpretentious you.

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