Watched (My “Per Bristow” Moment)
Does anyone really like to be watched? I wonder.
I like to be seen. I need to be seen. But there are precious few times when I like to be watched. I think that to be willing and able to be watched takes an incredibly high level of consciousness. An incredible level of trust and safety. Or of unconsciousness!
Maybe this is why I like being a guide, because it gives me a chance to lean into my edges. And one of my big edges is my ability to let myself be seen. To be watched. My willingness to step into a situation where I will be seen and potentially (even likely?) to be judged.
And one of my big questions for myself is about the difference to my system between being seen and being watched.
As I write this I can see that what I am afraid to do is be seen moving through places where I might be attacked for being where I don’t belong, for having done something wrong, for having made a wrong turn somewhere, shown up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It reminds me of those recurring nightmares so many people have, of showing up unprepared. Naked in the classroom, on a day you forgot there was a test.
There are SO MANY TIMES I have dreamed about looking down and suddenly seeing that I have no clothes on. How could I have gone out naked? How could I have forgotten again?? I thought I knew better. I thought I knew to get dressed! Oh my God. How did this happen AGAIN??
As I feel into this, sitting here in the greenhouse still, Brain still working on the lettuce, I can see that to a part of me, I was naked coming in here. I was coming in without my usual protective layers. I was coming into new territory where I knew I was uncomfortable.
Oh! New realization…this is actually why I came in. I was inclined to just go on, say, “Oh, that’s OK, I know it would be a little uncomfortable but it’s OK, I’ve got this” It was a Per Bristow moment and so I stepped up to it.
Because I have learned this, about myself. I know what Per Bristow Moments feel like, and I know that when I’m having one, the gig is up. I will be getting in that line, up on that stage. When I feel that certain way, I need to do this thing. No more talking. Time to do. My animal is talking to me in no uncertain terms. So, I do.
There are certain moments in my life that take on big, big significance, and become headlines or images that I can touch back to when I need a lifeline, or a reminder.
For me, a few examples are my phone-a-friend moment with Wil at the pay phone on the wall in Rapid City, South Dakota, the paper-or-plastic moment in the grocery store with Karen, and my Per Bristow hand-on-the-rail moment in Las Vegas.
These moments feel like nodes in my web that stabilize everything, ground me back into the wisdom of my own experience, and give me a moment’s rest in some way. Perhaps I am talking about moments when it was safe to learn, when I was deeply supported in a big moment.
I had been following Per Bristow, a singing and voice coach, for several years. I really liked his energy and his style of teaching, so when he offered a day-long workshop in Las Vegas I decided to attend.
This was during a time in my life when I was taking a lot of trainings from a lot of people, trying to get my own business off the ground, and my own fears and doubts under some kind of control. I had been advised by one coach that time on stage was something to NEVER pass up – she had said to just consider any opportunity to be on stage as worth $10,000 toward my career. It was a random number, of course, but a useful image.
So I drove from Montana to Las Vegas with the desire to take the workshop, and an ironclad intention to get on stage with him. I knew that there are always opportunities offered to do that, and I was determined to take one.
So there I was. I had chosen a seat as close to front and center as I could get, raised my hand at every volunteer opportunity, and not yet been picked. But in the middle of the afternoon, he made an offer to the group in general, saying, “Ok, for this next bit I am going to take twenty people from the audience, and here’s what we’re going to do.
You’ll line up here, and when it’s your turn you’ll walk up these three steps. There will be a microphone here,” and at this point he grabbed the mic stand and plunked it solidly at center stage. “You’ll stand here for one minute, and do whatever you are inclined to do. What I want you to do is try your best to connect with the audience. However you do that. You can tell a story, sing a song, be quiet, whatever. Up to you. I’ll tell you when a minute is up. You then walk over to these steps,” and he walked over and indicated the stairs on the opposite side from the entry point. “And here’s where the assignment really kicks in. When you put your hand on this railing like this, I want you to notice how the railing feels, and what you are saying to yourself. Are you kicking yourself for what you didn’t do, or are you congratulating yourself for having given it a try?
Because, my friends, this is the key to being engaged with your life. What you think, when your hand is on this railing. After you have shown up and tried something scary.”
Wow, what a great challenge!! This was perfect.
And I proceeded to see myself run an old pattern.
After driving thirteen hours for this specific moment, I watched myself shrink into my chair and think, “Oh, this is a really good challenge. This will be good for a lot of people. But I’m actually pretty good with connection. I should let someone else have this opportunity. I’ll just sit this one out.”
WHAT?! Happily, whatever part of me was watching THAT shit got right in my own face and said, “Are you KIDDING me right now?? Are you SERIOUS?? Do you not SEE what you are doing? Get your ass out of this chair right NOW young lady and get into that line before it fills up. MARCH! Get! GO! Don’t make me say this twice! Don’t make me get my broom. GO.”
So, I found myself clambering over chairs in my hurry to get into the line.
I made it, and had my moment on stage. I did almost all the things wrong that I could do. He had suggested trying to stay out of our own heads, while in line. Try to not think about what we were going to do ourselves, but support the person on stage. Well, didn’t do that very well. I did go up the correct set of stairs. One for my side. I did arrive at the Mic. Two for me. In the moment I forgot the assignment completely, and just told a story, trying to entertain. Forgot I was supposed to connect. Heard the call that my minute was up, so I stopped. Good, score one. Walked to the other stairs, check, put my hand on the rail, check.
From here my memory is foggy. Did I remember to say – wait a minute, be kind, follow the assignment, what are you saying to yourself? I kinda don’t think so. My default was so completely to look at all the ways I had failed, what I didn’t do. How badly I had messed it up. What I had forgotten.
But I did do one thing in a very big way: I took away the lesson. Eventually, I noticed what I was doing. And I gained such a GREAT tool, in that image/anchor of my hand on the rail. Asking myself, “Notice. Stand and notice. What am I saying to myself straight now?”
This was such an incredible tool for my movement forward. I had gained my Per Bristow Moment.
I can now call back and hold that awareness. I can notice “my hand is on the rail” when I have just done something. What am I offering myself now? Kudos for giving it a try, beginning, stepping out and up, or am I punishing and attacking myself for what I didn’t do?
There in lies the key to my personal happiness, and my personal ability to live an interesting life.
Because as he explained and I believe, my willingness to try again, to keep going, to practice and get better, lies in what I say to myself in that moment.
Am I saying, “Wow, that was cool, that felt exciting, let’s give it another go!” In which case, I will practically run around the stage and insert myself back in the line, to give it another go.
Or am I saying, “You dimwit. Can’t you even remember a simple assignment? How could you forget that you were supposed to be focusing on connecting? What the heck were you thinking?” At which time my animal slinks away in shame and becomes one step more determined to never, ever put itself in THAT position again.
So, yeah. The Per Bristow Moment. I know that a lot of trainers call this facing your fear, or say, “whatever you fear, that is what you must do”, or anyone of several other ways to say the same thing…but those words are meaningless to my animal. It just wants to know if it’s going to be shamed or loved and supported through the experience. And when it knows it’s going to be loved and supported it will go to the ends of the earth for the mind that supports it.
Of course, there needs to be accountability on the part of my mind – because once it trusts, my animal will follow the yes train all the way down the track, to the end of the earth. My mind needs to show up and be trustworthy, worthy of that level of trust.
My mind needs to stay awake in the key moments.
My mind – heck, both my mind and my animal – have some serious unlearning and learning to do, about what all this means.