Learning who to allow into my audience
Several years ago, someone sent me a poem about the people who are part of the audience of your life. The piece explored who should be allowed in our front row. It was powerful, and I read it repeatedly, even saved it in a Word document.
That was a few laptops ago, and though I probably saved it on a thumb drive somewhere, it was lost along the way, along with a lot of the writing I was doing as well (sob). However, from time to time I think of that poem and its truth. And one of those times was last night as I snuggled close to my husband after his presence and words had recentered me.
The author is unknown, but I created the image below using a background from Canva. It appears all over the internet, from Pinterest posts, to blogs, to images, to articles.
For the last week or so, I’ve been giving away tickets to my life, soul, and heart a bit too freely. Actually, it probably began before then. In an attempt to broaden the community of writers I can appreciate, learn from, and read, I have given some up-close seats to a few tomato-throwers. Which would be fine if they tossed the misunderstood fruit-vegetable at a bad poem or a plot hole. If they heckled a bad pun or highlighted a misplaced comma, I’d probably laugh along or alter a document.
But it isn’t my craft on the chopping block. It’s my being. What is my being? Well, my being is made up of my faith, my foundation, my family, my feelings, even my free speech. And the worst part? I’ve listened. I’ve invited them to be a part of the VIP crowd.
In fact, I’ve ousted a few of my tribe and handed my seats over to strangers who view me through two-dimensional, single-issue glasses. I’ve become an unredeemable caricature of what I believe in, who I may have voted for (even who I didn’t vote for), what outrages me, what doesn’t outrage me enough, and all manner of things. There are plenty of flesh and blood people with whom I disagree about all of those things. However, because they have chosen to know me — not a piece of me, but me — they understand the humanity that we all share. It’s harder to hurt someone you’ve met and touched and shared a meal or a prayer with, isn’t it?
Not so with a stranger. We can create an effigy of all that angers us on the face of a stranger, and the anonymity of the internet empowers us to pretend we are not cowards. We can hurl words at someone we will never meet and label it as bravery, truth, freedom, and honor. When let’s face it, it’s just the same old schoolyard bullying that the big 6th grader visits upon the small 3rd grader.
So why in the world did I oust the people who know and love me and invite those who are incapable of apology, tolerance, or depth to take their seats? That is the mystery. And why do I allow myself to join the dance? True, I have the capacity to apologize when my words go rogue — that humanity again — but why dance at all? In 2020, do even the most reasonable and careful words matter to someone who doesn’t want to listen? Who doesn’t want to see the other side as human?
I need to close the curtains and find a new venue. I need to close up the booth and figure out how to distribute the next round of tickets. And I need to build a bigger balcony and rope off the front row. Imperfect and flawed as I am, I am valuable, and, quite frankly, some people don’t deserve a seat to the show. They don’t deserve to write a review.
I’m not afraid of criticism. As a lifelong performer, I know criticism well. As a creator who works in a building full of scientists, I know blunt feedback with regard to my skills and tasks. I haphazardly published a terrible draft of my first novel, and I still cringe knowing I can’t scrub it from the internet.
I’m not afraid of bullies either. I just don’t want to give them the headspace, and more importantly, the heart space. The power to pull me into the very dark, very tired, and very tenuous spiral I have felt myself fall into over the past week. All it takes is two words — I’m sorry. But no one says them anymore. We are so angry, so arrogant, so full of our own hubris, we double down on our cruelty rather than apologize for what we know is just plain ugly. We are children, and children always say “she did it first!”
My audience is going to shrink. I’ll rent a small, elegant theater with ambiance and limited seating. And I’ll invite those who will view me as a fellow human, regardless of whether we enjoy the same genres. I’ll happily open the doors to those who can see the humanity in me that is behind the disagreement.
As for the rest? Sorry, the tickets are sold out. You’ll have to wait for the DVD.