I watched the Oscar winning film, Man on Wire, a couple of years back. It is a documentary about Philippe Petit’s high wire stunts, in particular, his 1974 high wire act between the tops of the former Twin Towers in New York City. It is a mesmerizing film.

Mssr. Petit’s balance was AMAZING. It wasn’t exactly as if he were walking on solid ground, but it was about as solid as one could possibly be under the circumstances.

I frequently find myself in very stressful circumstances. Sometimes, I am able to keep my balance and walk as if the ground is as solid as it could possibly be. Unlike Philippe Petit, I have not sought out these dangers. He had to have constructed a very different reality to justify his actions. I thought of his friends and family and how painful it would be to be a part of his life. Then I figured that anyone who could actually tolerate being with him must share in at least a bit of his acrobatic justifications. I don’t remember if this topic was addressed in the film but in my imagination I see his wife indoctrinate, I mean, explain to their young son (in English with poor French accent because this is my imagination), “Aaah, your Papa cannot stay on the ground. For him, it is a death. When he dies, he want to be…ALIVE.”

But I digress…

I find myself lately flailing a bit, having a hard time keeping my balance. When I flail, it is not pretty. Sometimes, I fall on my ass and stay there until the pain and embarrassment subside. At other times, it is more like a tap dance on a small stage. I shuffle, I step. I keep testing the ground for firmness, trying to find the right place for right now. It all seems very much on display. I can continue to struggle to find my footing even while I am experiencing a positive situation. It’s the ups and the downs that get me. If something positive happens after a negative, I sometimes find myself doing a little dance routine, “Hey friends and family, who I have depressed and worried with my tales of woe, look at me! Look at me! I am having THE BEST time. Ta da!!!!!!  I was good, right? Isn’t this great?”

Sometimes the level of observation I do is incredibly helpful. At other times, it enhances my self-consciousness and minimizes any chance of ease I have in the moment. This is a long-winded way of saying that I sometimes think too much.

I’m not quite sure how to get out of this mode. I know that it is fear based. (The nightmares I had over the weekend were a tip off. See, I am a professional. 😉 ) I am feeling the urge to apologize to people but when I really think about what I could have possibly done to hurt anyone it is that I have been flailing and awkward. I haven’t really done anything and I know from years as  a frequent flailer that the best way to increase the awkwardness that flailing creates is to apologize. If my awkwardness was all internal, my apologizing just confuses other people. They don’t know what the Hell I am talking about. And then I end up trying to explain myself and as the words come out of my mouth I realize that I am flailing in circles. Alternatively, the other person provides reassurance that I have not been awkward and flailing or that my awkward tap dance was completely understanding. This kind of reassurance can be a drug to us reassurance-seeking types and actually reinforce anxiety. The better course is to move on and keep going.

Eventually, I regain my footing.