I used to be really, really afraid of looking stupid in front of people. I could think of nothing worse. I’m a complete control freak, so I wanted to as appear smart and capable and brilliant and effortless and perfect as I could manage, and it takes a lot of time and energy to maintain that façade. I thought I was doing a pretty convincing job of it. I think I even had myself fooled for a while.
One thing about epilepsy that has been simultaneously freeing and frustrating is that I am being forced to not be in control. I am being forced to face this fear of looking stupid in front of others head-on because I have no control over my seizures. They just happen, and…who knows what I’ll do. I sure don’t. Often times I’m embarrassed when I get the report from the witnesses as to what I’ve done. Or when I view the videos my husband takes on his phone to show my doctor. I hate watching them, but at the same time, they help me to see that life continues in spite of these lapses, that people don’t give up on you when you fail (or when your brain does), that my “self” has not diminished, that I am not destroyed.
This disease is making me braver.
It has granted me a “license to idiot.”
It has made me much less afraid of what people will think of me, because I feel like I’ve already survived the thing I feared the most. (Being found in a supply closet without pants at work was pretty humiliating, even if the staff did handle it gently.) And now, looking back on it, it seems like kind of a foolish fear to begin with. It’s hard to live, to take risks and to try new things and be courageous when you are terrified of looking like an idiot.
Well, I have a license to idiot now.
And it is changing how I see myself. I am starting to believe that failures are merely setbacks, not life sentences like I had so long believed. Humiliation is not as bad as I’d thought—it has certainly made me more compassionate. And I have survived many humiliations since my diagnosis, and they have all given me the courage to get up and try again.
My goal this year is to pursue publication of a book. It has been written for a couple years, but I did not try sooner because I was terrified. I didn’t want to face the rejection of an agent or publisher. I didn’t want a bad review. I didn’t want people to judge me for what I had written because it was offensive (although honest). So I was just holding on to it, holding on to my dream, smothering it against my chest until it died of suffocation. Dreams need air and freedom.
But now, with that license to idiot, with the knowledge that failure is merely evidence of trying, it’s like the universe has given me permission and even its blessing to fail. It has thickened my skin and given me the courage to try, to push my dreams from their nest and force them to take flight.
I will embrace my idiocy and set those dreams free.