Sunday, March 22, 2009

Walking on Eggshells (No More)

Oh how I walk on eggshells. Those damn things get stuck in between my toes and scrape the bottoms of my feet and hurt like a mother. And those are just the physical effects...

I watched my favorite program today: CBS Sunday Morning. It's always chock full of fascinating stories. Today I was blown away by writer Arthur Laurents. You just might recognize some of the stories he's either written or been associated with (the first two in this short list are my favorite movies of all time): West Side Story; Gypsy; The Way We Were; La Cage Aux Folles and Alfred Hitchcock's, Rope.

When West Side Story was created for Broadway it was with the genius of Arthur Laurents' story, Leonard Bernstein's music, Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, and Jerome Robbins' choregraphy. Oh to be a fly on that wall... Arthur is 91 years old now and, as he puts it, works eight days a week. He recently finished refashioning West Side Story written in 1957 for 2009 Broadway. What's different about it? It includes some of The Sharks dialogue being spoken and sung in Spanish. Simple yet brilliant. Click here for Josh Getlin's story about this in the LA Times.

What inspired me most about Arthur (pics are of him then and now) is his extreme confidence and his belief that you should tell it like it is, plain and simple; no need for sugar-coating your opinions to please others or to be PC. If you don't tell it like it is, you must be afraid of something and you might want to take a look at what it is you're afraid of. His other brilliant observation is that all that matters is being in the moment and doing the work you know you're meant to do. "Reviews" (read: REJECTIONS!!) are completely meaningless; they simply don't matter. As he puts it, "If you listen to your critics, you're dead."

If you ask anyone who knows me they'll tell you I'm not one to shy away from my opinions. But what they may not realize is I tone things down all the time in order not to hurt someone's feelings or not to appear crass. To be honest, it wears me out. It's tiring and inauthentic. Here's a question in poem form to illustrate the prospect of "full disclosure":

What would it take to fearlessly
lay it all out for all the world to see
like Natalie Wood as Gypsy Rose Lee?

Don't worry. I won't be using that in either a novel or a song! I don't know the answer, but I'm committed to finding out. From this point forward, I promise to step away from my fears and trust myself more. I'm pulling those nasty eggshells out from between my perfectly manicured toes and walking forcefully in the direction of my dreams. Hopefully, long before I'm 91 I'll be a power to be reckoned with!

Where are the places in life where you sugar-coat your opinions or walk on egg shells? And, as Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?"

38 comments:

Sandra Leigh said...

Where are the places in life where you sugar-coat your opinions or walk on egg shells? And, as Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?"

LOL. My first impulse was to answer as follows: "Most of them" and "Not well" - but then I decided to do a little self-censoring, so I wouldn't sound like such a whiner.

DebraLSchubert said...

Sandra, "Self-censoring" is not allowed! The whole point is to tell it like it is. Repeat after me: I WILL call it as I see it, I WILL call it as I see it...

valbrussell said...

Hi Debra,

I don't think I sugarcoat enough. Many years ago a friend called me hardcore in my approach to speaking my mind. Time has a way of softening your terms and conditions, but the older you get, the more important it is to be clear about your intentions and meaning. At least that's how it's been for me. I like this post.

Sandra Leigh said...

Okay. I WILL call it as I see it. I WILL call it as I see it. Hey - I liked that!

I remember my former mother-in-law saying (in her fifties) "When I get to be 80, I'll say whatever I damn well please." As she got older, her target age kept getting lower, so that by the time she was 60, she was ready to say "I'm 60, and I'll say whatever I damn well please!" I'm lagging behind that lovely lady, but thanks to your mantra, I can begin to catch up.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I'm always direct, as I just don't have time or energy for anything else. But, I don't look to hurt someone's feelings, and if that means explaining something in a kind way then I consider myself lucky to be able to discern when different approaches are warranted. I also think that in our culture, we are led to believe that our opinion matters - always. It doesn't. Just like I don't care what some others think of me, they don't care what I think of them, therefore I don't waste my time even thinking too much about it. No time for that either.

I think if you mix truthfulness with kindness it's not censorship, it's being compassionate.

I do call it as I see it when it comes to myself - and in my thoughts that I don't share. But not everyone is up for that.

Maybe it's easier to rid your life of those you must sugarcoat for, if it's exhausting you!!

DebraLSchubert said...

Val, You said it perfectly: "the older you get, the more important it is to be clear about your intentions and meaning" that's exactly what this post is about. I'm glad you liked it, and I'm glad you "get" it.

DebraLSchubert said...

Sandra, Good for you! I'm glad the mantra helped. It seems to me your mother-in-law was not only lovely, but very smart. Lowering the target age for saying what you please is pretty darn brilliant - I plan to follow in her footsteps as well.

DebraLSchubert said...

Amy, I'm certainly not talking about "aiming to hurt anyone's feelings" and I doubt Arthur was either. That's cruel. I'm talking about saying what's real for you and not "worrying" about how others might interpret it. I think we humans exude way too much energy worrying about how others feel or what others will think, when a) we don't know how they feel or what they'll think and, b) most times, what does it matter? If you're being genuine and authentic in your life, then it really is too bad if others are put off by it. It's not the people in my life I need to get rid of due to feeling tired and inauthentic. It's my fear of other people's reactions and not trusting in myself enough. That's what I'm working at ridding myself of.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

In the short time I've known you, you've had very good instincts. I guess you have to learn to trust them, I bet lots of other people already do!

Angie Ledbetter said...

you should tell it like it is, plain and simple; no need for sugar-coating your opinions to please others or to be PC.

LOVE that. Like Amy, I am careful in not blatantly and needlessly hurting others feelings, but on the whole, I pretty much tell it like it is. Now...there's a great song for you from my very favorite artist! Go hear him. You'll get goosebumps. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcbbOYcEz88

Joanne said...

Oh you said it, to be a fly on that creative wall putting together West Side Story. I can't even imagine the vibes in that room.

And on your other topic, what I'm a little surprised about here is that you've always seemed very straightforward both here and in your comments. I've never sensed sugarcoating, and appreciate what I see as your comfortable honesty.

DebraLSchubert said...

Joanne, I do try to be as honest as possible, but I think it's like the proverbial onion. There are always more layers. I'm ready to peel off a few more layers!

DebraLSchubert said...

Amy, Thanks. I'm working on it!

Angie, Greg Allman, Bonnie Raitt and Aaron Neville??? WHAT a treat! Thank you SOOOO much!!!

Anita said...

Hmmmm...I know people who tell it like they see it, but who are also wrong a good portion of the time. I think telling it like you see it is a good idea, but you also have to be open to the idea that you are not always right. Otherwise, you become a real pain to be around.

Anita said...

And regarding your direct question, I don't walk on eggshells at all. Sometimes I choose to keep my mouth closed, because I know I'm not going to change someone's opinion simply by stating my own. I do make sure I'm tactful when delivering opinions to my children...I don't want to pay for their therapy later.

DebraLSchubert said...

Anita, "I think telling it like you see it is a good idea, but you also have to be open to the idea that you are not always right. Otherwise, you become a real pain to be around."

I couldn't agree more. If you think you're right just because you're stating your opinion on something, you're going to be in for some very unpleasant conversations.

The whole point here is simply to be authentic and genuine and not let the fear of what others may or may not think about you effect your words or actions.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I missed a lot of SM (which GMR and I love to watch), but I did catch that! What a man!

WHere do I sugar coat or walk on egg-shells - hmmm, I'd have to really think about that one!

DebraLSchubert said...

Kat, Isn't Sunday Morning the best? What you said is really quite relevant. I think, for the most part, we're not aware of where we walk on eggshells or guard ourselves from talking or acting in certain ways. Our fears our deeply ingrained and simply become a part of us. IMHO!!!!

Big Plain V said...

I eat boiled eggs everyday; I try to throw the eggshells away.

I don't know if it's the same thing, but I try to be gentle with people, especially my wife.

DebraLSchubert said...

Ray, A guy being gentle and kind is the trait of a "mensch." Do you know what that is? It's one of the few Yiddish words I know (along with "schlep" and "schmuck") and it means "a person of integrity and honor." It's beautiful that you honor your wife that way.

PS: I love hard-boiled eggs, in fact not five minutes ago I mentioned them in my current WIP - weird!!!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Wonderful post, Debra. Very inspiring. We can learn so much from people who've been down the path before and who can teach us their lessons learned.

Good for you for giving up the eggshells! As for me, my filter is pretty much off. Though when you say anything, especially in jest, somebody's sure to take offense and then you hear about it.

Remember my post on my brilliant idea for a sitcom about a family with the swearing kind of Tourette's? (I still contend that's a brilliant idea.) Well, wouldn't you know that was the one day a Tourette's mom landed on my site and blasted me!

People can choose to take offense or not. You tell it like it is and fuck their whimpy sensitive asses if they can't handle it!

P.S. Any chance you'll be going to Loretta Lynn at Penn's Peak next Monday night? I'll be in Jim Thorpe visiting my aunt and my sister and I will be there.

DebraLSchubert said...

Linda, I agree with you re: people choosing to take offense or not. As long as I know I'm not deliberately trying to hurt or cause pain, then there's nothing I can do if someone chooses to take what I say the wrong way. The older I get, the less I care about "niceties" and the more I care about being "real."

I'm not planning anything on Monday night. I'd never heard of Penn's Peak before, but I just looked it up on line. It's about an hour and half due north of me. Are you in town for a few days? If so, maybe we could meet in Allentown.

Kasie West said...

I like to have a filter between my brain and mouth most of the time--because really, I've learned that most people don't want to know what I'm thinking. But I definitely don't say things that I don't believe just to make others like me or think I'm cool (unless saying that makes you not like me or think I'm uncool). Thanks for this post, it's a good reminder that we should say what we mean and mean what we say.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Debra, shoot me an email so I have your address--it's on my profile. It's going to be a quick trip, but maybe we can work something out. I'd love to meet you!

giddymomof6 said...

We got the kitties yesterday! Thanks! They are super cute! And I've always, ALWAYS stood up for what I believe in, no matter if it was the norm or not. I believe we should all stay true to ourselves. LOL! Thanks for the post. Jenni

DebraLSchubert said...

Kasie, "I like to have a filter between my brain and mouth most of the time--" Too funny!

DebraLSchubert said...

Linda, You got it, girlfriend. It's on the way...

DebraLSchubert said...

Jenni, Yay! My kitties are in England! Does your 10-year old like them? Please let me know if they're behaving and being polite. I tried to teach them "please" and "thank you" but they talk really quietly, so I'm not sure if they got it.;-)

And, good for you for ALWAYS standing up for what you believe in. Why the hell not, I say!!!

Broke But Still Drinking said...

The sugar-coating tends to get washed away with a few beers. This is why you see so many crying drunks.

DebraLSchubert said...

BBSD, You always make me laugh. Yes, the alcohol tends to make us more "authentic." (Or is that more of an ass? Or is it all the same thing? Hmmm...)

Debbie said...

I saw an interview with Arthur and was impressed with him too. I thought it must be great to be so self-confident.

DebraLSchubert said...

Debbie, No kidding! He really is an inspiration. I want to be like him when (if!) I grow up.

nsiyer said...

Extremely well written. I like the stuff about authentic communication, and being forthright as Arthur believes. But not to the point it hurts.I am fine with being authentic to the extent the message is communicated.My understanding is that hurt leaves one with remorse and at a point that he may not transform. My thinking would dictate that whatever the context, it should ultimately lead to improvement and transformation in the person or the context itself.

DebraLSchubert said...

Nsiyer, I agree completely. The whole point of this post was to be a wake-up call for people (including me!!!) to be more genuine and authentic in life. Hurting people, if that is the INTENTION, is simply cruel. Hurting people UNINTENTIONALLY is something we have no control over. We shouldn't let the possibility that someone may take offense or feel hurt stop us from being the truest manifestation of ourselves. (Clearly, I could never be a Forum Leader!!!!)

WendyCinNYC said...

Didn't Arthur Laurents piss all over the stage of West Side Story because he didn't like how it looked? I think I read that once.

Planning on doing *that?*

Ha! Send your rejections a bottle of pee.

DebraLSchubert said...

Wendy, Wow! I never heard that, but I wouldn't be surprised. (They didn't mention that in the Sunday Morning interview...HAH!) But, yeah. New ideas for dealing with rejections. Hmmmm....

Lilly said...

I do call it as I see it but it also gets me into trouble too. I think its a bit of an art and you still have to know when to draw the line. Fear is a terrible thing and we all experiece it. I do believe you have to face your fears bcause the rewards are overwhelmingly great for your self esteem. Debra you seem confident and sure of yourself and very smart. I say go for it. What have you got to lose. If things dont go to plan, we just pick ourselves dust ourselves off and do it all again. Why have regrets!! Great post!

DebraLSchubert said...

Lilly, Thanks! I think it's better to put yourself out there and see what happens as opposed to holding back, being guarded, and generally "not trusting." You're right - what have you got to lose? I'm used to getting a bit dusty here and there. That's fine. That's why God created showers. (*grin*)

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