Monday, March 17, 2008

The Ego in the Road…

Ever been driving along a country road, sun shining, pink cherry blossoms blooming, only to hear a BANG! THUMP! and realize your peaceful moment was just interrupted by a stinky, dead creature lying in the middle of the road? This weekend, I experienced a series of events that made me realize that my ego sometimes becomes that creature. I didn’t like what I saw.

All parents were required to help with a children’s play production. I didn’t have a strong job preference, but one of the items on the list was “makeup” and since I’d done it as a teacher and a student, I offered to help. A few days before the production, I received a call from the play coordinator saying that they wanted me as a “pair of hands” but that the head make-up mom (HMM) wanted me to understand that she was in charge, that I wasn’t to do anything “artsy” and that I would only be following her instructions. As I didn’t know either the coordinator or the HMM—had never even met the HMM--I thought the request was unusual, but I assured her that I did not want to be in charge and was happy to do whatever she wished.

When I arrived at dress rehearsal, I did exactly as asked. I made-up 5-6 kids, checking with the HMM each time before I excused them; each child was deemed passable. On about child #7, HMM was busy so I excused the child without checking. Child #7 was immediately called back for a little more eye make-up. When I checked with HMM on the next few kids and all was fine, I again tried to release a child who was then called back because he wasn’t “done.”

At this point, you should have seen my ego. It was growing, and GROWing, and GROWING. I was about busting buttons, trying to keep my mouth shut and my ego from spewing all over the room. As any of my friends or family will attest, I LIKE TO BE RIGHT! I do not like to be told that I am wrong. And it takes about every ounce of self-control that I have to keep my mouth shut when I think I’m right!!!!

I didn’t say a word. They wanted my hands, so I kept my hands busy and tried to keep my mouth shut.

After awhile, a mom came in with her son, reflecting aloud on how hard it was to do the “quick change” make-up that was necessary in his role. I casually mentioned that I’d heard that if you wash your face with cold cream prior to make-up that it can help in the removal process. The other mom nodded. HMM looked up from the face she was doing and said, “No. You can’t do that because it will make it so the make-up won’t adhere.” I closed my mouth and put my hands back to work.

But, oh man!!!! My ego wouldn’t quit. The minute I got home, I pulled out my dramatic makeup text and looked it up. I found a paragraph supporting what I’d said, almost word for word.

So there I sat, ego on one shoulder, reason on the other.

Ego: “You should tell her because it would make the production easier for everyone.”

Reason: “No you shouldn’t. It’d just make her mad and she wouldn’t do it anyway.”

Ego: “But I want to be right! I want to look smart! I want to look like I know what I’m doing! I want to be more than a pair of hands.”

Reason: “You are so full of yourself. Be quiet, shut up, and let the HMM have her moment. Why do you have to be right all the time anyway????”

Ego: “You bug me.”

Reason: “You’re like a smelly, dead animal lying in the road.”

I was really ticked at Reason, but in a rare, unusual sign of amity, I let her win.

Performance day was a repeat of rehearsal. I was the hands, HMM was the boss and the brains. It was all I could do to keep BFE (big fat ego) in check.

In Sunday School the next day, I shared my story in a conversation about people’s desire for power and control. I wasn’t a bit proud of the feelings that the experience had brought up for me. I so, so badly wanted to be the boss, the one in control, the one who was right. I really appreciated one response…”If you had pushed your agenda—if you’d spewed—if you would have made being right the most important thing—it would have been an act of violence against that person.”

It was a lightbulb moment. My ego and its incessant need to be right…at whatever cost…is a form of violence against others. It is the dead, smelly thing lying in the middle of a beautiful country road.

P.S. I have no reason to believe that HMM would ever come across my blog. But if you do, I honestly enjoyed working with you and you taught me more about myself than I’ve probably learned in the last few years. I appreciate it.


Ansley said...

Oh my, no wonder we are friends...or is it- How do we ever stay friends?

From one BFE to another- Cheers!

richmomma said...

LOL. I guess we have BFEs about some of the same topics! :)

abc123vn said...

I absoluetly love this post! I think I need to come back to it when my BFE gets in my way. And I need to learn a bit more of your restraint, I would have opened my big mouth and it would not have been pretty. Thanks for sharing!

Sherri said...

Beautiful writing, beautiful lesson (one I am learning with you)

Kelly Hogaboom said...

This is a great story; I've been there. I have a lot of thoughts but you shared your story better than I likely could articulate my own. Thanks!

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