When You Realize

You know the moment that something brilliant pops into your head.  An idea or a truth. The light bulb over your head turns on. Maybe it even strobes or registers an exclamation mark.  A stroke of genius will trigger the “Do You Realize??” song by The Flaming Lips and the “happy dance” cannot be far behind.  It is like scoring a touchdown and every part of you wiggles and waggles in celebration, ignoring that part of your brain that told you to act dignified, like this was no big deal.  Even better, someone has recorded your moment of self-expression and put the video on YouTube where thousands are laughing at your “Elaine dance” in the end zone.  Welcome to fame.

Every single one of us believes we are witty and these insightful remarks roll out of our mouths, the kind that brings laughter and approval from others.  Admit it, when we are in our element, we are dynamite. With our families, close friends or business associates, they cut us (a lot of) slack and welcome our remarks, laugh at our jokes, invite and hang on our observations. In our minds, we are Baryshnikov; in reality, Elaine.


With our newfound confidence and swagger, attention is like catnip, it fuels the ego and soon makes us impossible to be around.  A good slap will wake us up.  “Snap out of it,” as Cher said in Moonstruck.

Remember that time of youth, that phase of nativity, when we were overtaken by a feeling of riding the top of the world, we possessed something no one else had sampled, it was a key to the kingdom of knowledge and truth.  Yes, the “I am the king of the world” moment from Titanic.  Except we are not.  That first time we imbibed on alcoholic, and with no internal resistance, it robbed us of the ability of regulate our emotions and good sense.  Unchained, our youthful exuberance spills forth, unregulated and we are unable to help ourselves.  Even though embarrassed, that did not matter to us.  In youth, it was all uncharted territory; unable to distinguished when good behavior turned to bad, and from an all encompassing high of emotion.  How could anything that felt so good not be good for us?  Well, we would understand how that could be true; but for now, we soared until we crashed.

Of course, alcohol is only one trigger. Idealism or moral righteousness taken to the extreme can also cloud judgement, particularly without the experience of boundaries or caution to modulate our behavior.  Focused on a belief, shielded from considering other viewpoints or facts, exposes our inexperience at constructing logical arguments, only to be shot down with other compelling positions.

Life is not always darkness and light.  The light bulb over the head is not always an idea or thought, it is a guiding light.

In time, we realize that not every word from our mouths are gems or pearls of wisdom in a universe that has heard it all before.  It might be new to us, but old hat to the world. Our words and truth stand before the alter of all that has passed before us.  The time I utter something relevant and sharp, only to have it thrown back at me in a polished and sophisticated form, the substance of time-tested truth and wisdom.  A painful, but valuable lesson in humility.  Life is a set of sponges for us to gleam the nuggets: food for building complex knowledge and perspective, like a radar for the unknown or the ambiguous moments in life.  If we learn to pay attention, the lessons can be life changing.

On a good day, there groups of people who will welcome us when we walk in the room. To those people we bring a ray of sunshine even when the weather forecast may call for something else.  Our warmth will burn through any gray clouds.

On other days, the room will ignore us. We are an early frost; the audience will social distant us. Beware, it will happen again, and again. Like a comedian with out funny jokes.

The good times spoil us. It should be rainbows and unicorns every day. It’s all blue sky to eternity. But it isn’t. Rain and storms will come, even when we are dressed for the beach. The wind will shake the house loose from the foundation. And it might take the roof off.

For most of us, “we” have more sunshine then rain, but not every day is a touchdown dance or even a light bulb.  It is not standing room only and thunderous applause. Some days, our family tolerate us, but love us anyway.  Sometimes, when the light bulb appears, it is not an idea per say, it is something else, something most valuable – perspective, and humility.

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