Chorus Lines

(This is the first post after challenging myself to not edit my emotional material.  I wanted to be more open and not as guarded and composed as I sometimes come off as sounding.  Or at least, how it sounds to me.  My goal is to open up more, and see that I am truly not alone.  To some, these might seem like my normal sort of posts, but to me I hope to leave feeling a bit anxious and nervous after clicking the “Publish” button.  It’s about not censoring myself just because there are a few people who read this, or to anguish over literary sort of things.  This is just plain me – however that comes out as.)


I always joked that I needed backup singers.  So that wherever I went, and whatever I said, I had a trio behind me punctuating what I said with punchy harmonies and flowing melodies. It would make what I said more interesting, and have people actually pay attention to me.  Sad, but true.  It was typical me – self-deprecating, self-immolating, and yet on the surface, amusing. A joke where I was the butt and I was also laughing, and crying, the loudest.

What I didn’t realize is what I really have is an alcoholic Greek Chorus of sorts with me all the time.  A Chorus whose job is to give me the running commentary of my life, who is to shout out (or whisper when necessary) my real flaws, who  manages to throw the failings of my life back at my feet, and who feels it necessary to lead me astray as to who I really am.  Not what a real Greek Chorus does in a true literary sense, but like I said, this is an alcoholic one, and like a good alcoholic Chorus, refuses to take direction well in the play of life.  We all like to be the actor and director, don’t we?  My Chorus is no different.

So here are some things that my Chorus liked to shout out any and all times in my head in my drinking days:

“You’re a shithead.”

“Everyone thinks you’re a loser.”

“You’re ugly – why bother even trying to look good?”

“The planet is better off without you in it.”

“Drink that stuff right there…right now.  You’ll feel better.”

“Stop crying, you wimp.”

“You’re a shithead.” (a favorite) 

These were Chorus lines that paraded through me throughout my entire life – sober, drunk, then sober again.  My Chorus also hated when I would ask for help, singing out “Coward!” in 12-part harmony.  My Chorus taunted me for no reason.  My Chorus wanted me dead, I think.   My Chorus said it loved me. Still does at times.

The best thing my Chorus did, and still does to some extent now, is shout out my fears.  It gives me a running start at doing absolutely nothing about my fears, other than fearing them and cowering like a little child.  So here are some fears, in no real order or apropos to this moment, that it’s shouting at me as I write this:

You will write a shitty piece that no one will like reading.

You will not meet your expectations or the expectations of anyone reading this.

You will go back on your word and censor yourself. (So far I haven’t.)

You will be seen as a fraud.

"Fraud! Fraud! Fraud!"
“Fraud! Hubris! Shame!”

Oi vey, Chorus…leave me alone please.  Go offstage for a smoke or something, won’t you?

This is where I usually I bring out my spiritual toolkit and start looking for a hammer or something to quiet the Chorus.  Prayers, meditation, step 10 work, talking to a friend or my sponsor, walking, working with another guy, etc. all give the Chorus a big Get Bent and let me get closer to the Creator.  It is in communion with the Creator that allows me wiggle room and peace from the crowding Chorus.

But here is what the Chorus has been shouting at me lately – something that I am having a hard time getting the Chorus to stop chanting: “You don’t want to be accepted.”  This is a hard one.  This is one I struggle with right now – the fear of being accepted.  I had to listen to this one again: the fear of being accepted.  It’s not the fear of not being accepted.  That is different. It has a different complexion to it.  The Chorus has been raging at me with this one for a couple of days now, and it’s only now that I am starting to get a bit of clarity.  Or maybe not.

So here is the difference between the two things.

Let’s say I am asked to join a book club. The guys in it really want me to be a part of it. This is how the script looks like when I come to it with the fear of not being accepted – this what the Chorus reveals:

“You don’t read as many books as they do.”

“Your opinions aren’t as good as theirs will be.”

“They are better educated and have more to offer than you do.”

“They won’t like your book choices when it’s your turn to choose.”

“They probably picked you because they are desperate.”

Typical stuff for me.  I lived my life running with lines like that going through me.

But here’s how the script looks like when it comes to the fear of being accepted:

“You are very knowledgeable about books.”

“They will like what you choose when it’s your turn – you have a great library.”

“You’re a good fit for these guys – you’d do well there.”

“You are easy to get along with.”

“Why are you scared?”

But the end result in both scenarios is “Sorry guys, I can’t make it – I am working late those nights”.  So what’s the difference?  What I have realized is that in the first case, I am swimming in self-pity.  I am selfish and judgmental.  I fear rejection, abandonment and having my pride trampled.

The second case is harder to pin down, and this is where I have a hard time with this.  In the second scenario, I am confident, I don’t fear rejection, I feel that I have self-worth and value and I know in my heart that they really want me to be there, that I am someone they like.  So why can’t I cross that bridge and actually join them?  What is my real fear here?  Why won’t I join that book club?  Is there a lie in there somewhere in the script?  Am I not facing things the way I see them?  Is the Chorus scrambling me around to keep me isolated?

Even more frightening without the masks...
Even more frightening without the masks…

I think the answer is simple – ego.

I fear being accepted because it will change a vital and longstanding life script of mine – being Less Than.  I have used that feeling of being less than for my entire life.  It separated me from everyone in my life.  It separated me from my Higher Power.  It separated me from my own self. I have always sabotaged my life to prove to myself and my Chorus that we were right – I am a shithead, I am a loser, I am not worthy to be in the same room with you and breathing the same air.  You’re a fucking loser, pal.  Get over it.  Stop whimpering.  Man up or get out.  Wimp.  I used to walk out of AA meetings because I didn’t think I was like them – that they were better than I was.  Sick thinking, yes?

I have come a long way in my self-value, and I know that I am worthy of much.  But there is still that part of me that refuses to budge, that still wants to be separated and “safe” – aloof and not involved, because that would mean intimacy and being right-sized.  So there it is.  That’s what I have been mulling over today. That is where the Chorus has led me.


So it’s time for a a leap.  I seek counsel on this.  I seek validation of self not through feeling better than or less than, but by being with myself and loving myself and liking myself and wanting to hang out with a guy like myself.  I seek love through the Creator’s children around me and knowing I am them and they are me.  No difference.  To think any other way is ego talking.  My ego, my Chorus, likes me to be isolated and away from you.  And I can’t afford that.  I need to be with you.  I need to be of service to you.  I need to love you as I need to love myself, and how the Creator needs me to love you.

I love you all for being here.

Chorus – exit stage left.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. risingwoman says:

    I really liked this, Paul.

    Although I have always found your posts open, this one does indeed have a vulnerability that none of the others I’ve read have had. This one has a true honesty, a no-holds-barred vibe. A lowering of the defences and the barriers. It’s really good.

    Bravo for having the courage to do this!

    1. Hi Michelle – thanks for the props. I think the whole idea of trying to open up more is a bit more difficult than I thought – that is, I think what many have said is that I am pretty open, and perhaps to think that I have to hit some Deep Truth in a wailing and gnashing way might have been something I aimed for realizing that I don’t have to do that. Regardless, I will forge ahead and not censor…which I think is what I am more realistically doing now.

      Thank you for being here, as usual 🙂


  2. Thanks Paul! Great, and very honest post. I can relate very much. I think for me there are two thoughts that come to mind. First, being so used to beating my self down and listening to the “chorus” has become sort of comforting. It has always been there, I know it, I know what it says. I learned to belive it. Second though is when I finally try to re-write that “chorus” line and grow some confidence, then I am scarde of acceptance for one, because I am so used to not being accepted and listening to the chorus, and also I am afraid of failure, and the idea that maybe the chorus was right all along. It sounds complicated, but it is like a kid trying to grow up; he is still holding on to his mom’s hand as he is yelling “Let me go!” at the same time!

    1. I totally get what you are saying…it does seem complicated, but for us, it’s quite easy. We want to let go, but can’t stand the unknown of what lies ahead. And the more we stay put, the more we shrink and get further into ourselves. It’s a play that plays itself over and over again, and the performance gets worse and worse. I guess I am learning to listen to something else, to let go of the chorus and move forward. Not always easy, for the reasons you mentioned! Thank you for the killer comments 🙂


  3. byebyebeer says:

    Earlier today, I read this post and am struck by the similarities:

    Glad you opened up and shared.

    1. I LOVE Anne Lamott’s work. I have her “Bird by Bird” book on my shelf – reread it a few times when I was heavy into my writing. And I remember this part, but never ever saw it through the lens of anything other than writing. But perhaps it needs one more reading, through the lens of life and this deal we have here.

      Thanks for the link and tie-in. Awesome!


  4. Erika says:

    The fear of being accepted! I was just discussing that today with my mom: it doesn’t matter where I stand, where I go, I always find a way to feel less than EVERYBODY, it’s a constant in my life. I have a lot of work to do in order to change that recording. Remembering that we are connected, ahhh, wow! I love that and I feel that, really. I am reading Lisa Newmann’s book and I’ve been understanding many more things thanks to that. She also coaches me and i’m so blessed for that.
    I’m also blessed to read this, at the right moment, at the right time. WE ARE CONNECTED!

  5. Oh man, this was hilarious. Many chortles and snortles. Brill, baby! And brave. And spot on.
    Fortunately, I can’t relate to any of it. And whew! What a relief. See, I’m laughing at you. Not with you.
    As if.
    It’s one of the things I love most about reading your work. I can always relate. I also appreciate your relaxed, conversational writing style. No pain, no strain. Just one alcoholic talking to another. But a really funny one. I warms me to see the message carried in such nimble fingers.
    It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
    And I suspect it wouldn’t be the same if you were hammered out of your mind, trying to tap through the vomit on your keyboard. (Just an intuitive hunch)

    “Even more frightening without their masks” is still killing me. In the best way.
    Thank you.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some hand-wringing torment to attend to. Having The Furies over for tea.

  6. iceman18 says:

    Excellent post. I’m reminded of that “feeling of less than” and how it pervades instantly when in fear, ego and self. I am grateful to be conscious of this today and recognize when that thought invades.

    1. Thanks iceman – you certainly nail it there. I too try and be conscious of this – sometimes I miss it and I get into some sort of trouble!


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