The man walked in the front door and browsed around the music store. After a period of time, he began to engage me in conversation. He wasn’t a musician, but several in his family had been. At one point in the conversation, he remarked, “My uncle plays the piano by ear.” I couldn’t resist the opening and said, with a twinkle in my eye, “That’s nothing, my grandpa fiddled with his beard.” Unfortunately, either his sense of humor wasn’t on the same wavelength with mine, or the double meaning just went over his head, so the conversation faltered and he left soon thereafter.
I am a lover of jokes, more specifically of plays on words. Frequently these are puns, at other times just a clever turn of a phrase, but I do tend to go a bit overboard with them. Mealtimes at our house are a joy for me, pure torture for others at the table, since as a captive audience they must endure the best (worst?) of my repertoire. I have enjoyed a good joke as long as I can remember, especially if I am the one telling it. As a teenager, I was the bane of the existence of any number of teachers in school. I’m not sure if I would have been called the class clown, but I loved the attention gained by being the jokester. I still post a joke almost daily to my Facebook friends, either for their enjoyment or dismay. To a punster, a groan is just as good as a guffaw, so I’m not sure it matters what the response is, as long as the jokes are read.
You would think that being a joke-lover would mean that I am basically a jolly person, but that’s not necessarily true. Often a sense of humor can hide depression and sadness. I wouldn’t describe myself as depressed, but I frequently have “down” periods and the jokes just keep coming. I suppose a psychologist would say I was compensating. I realized again today that there is something to this theory. I had taken a little nap after supper and awoke to notice that the television was on one of these hoarding shows. You know the ones I’m talking about; the perfectly normal appearing folks who secretly have filled their homes with junk and even collectibles they cannot get rid of for anything. I was struck by the honesty of one of the hoarders on the show. She admitted that she did this to make up for being a failure in her own eyes. She was successful at collecting a mountain of things, so the failures at other things; marriage, school, and parenting no longer loomed larger than life in her eyes.
Now, I’m not a hoarder of possessions. If anything, I throw away too much, possibly for fear of becoming one. I am a hoarder of attention, though. It’s a common problem, wanting to be the center of attention. It’s encouraged in our culture. We push our children to perform, starting with the baby’s abilities we must demonstrate with shared pictures and phone calls. It continues through all ages, children in pageants, in sports events, in dance and music recitals, and on and on. We reward the exhibitionist mindset with publicity, monetary awards, and fame. Is it any wonder that so many of our stars self-destruct just as spectacularly as they came to notoriety?
Early in my life, a classmate (who later became an excellent teacher) helped me to understand my tendency to seek attention and approval. I have never forgotten the lesson, even if I have not always heeded it. We were in Mrs. Brunson’s third grade class and had a drawing assignment. I have no idea what we were drawing, only that I was extremely proud of my creation. Instead of waiting for someone to compliment it, I circulated through the class asking, “Isn’t that a crummy job of drawing?” Fortunately, Susie was in one of the first groups I approached. With a wisdom beyond her years, she replied, “No Paul, I think you just want us to say how good it is; don’t you?” I was crestfallen, realizing that a girl had seen right through me, but I certainly got the message. Now, years later, I still recall her words frequently, and they have encouraged me to analyze my motivations in many situations. Am I still an attention hound? Yeah, I do tend to be, but there is a good bit of tempering of that penchant. The most important change is the ability to simply do what I do without needing the strokes of adoring fans. I don’t mind the “atta-boy” comments that come once in awhile (we all need a few of those), but they are no longer what determine my actions.
It doesn’t hurt any to have a full-time fan living in the same house. I can always count on the Lovely Lady for applause and criticism, both of which make me a better person. You should all be so lucky.
“Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to draw attention to their shining; they just shine.”
(Dwight L Moody~American evangelist~1837-1899)
“What a banker sighs for, the meanest clown may have – leisure and a quiet mind.”
(Henry David Thoreau~American essayist and poet~1817-1862)