Accepting a compliment from another human being in person is quite possibly one of the most difficult things to do in this life.
It's not because we don't want compliments. Quite the contrary actually. We really want them.
It seems we spend most of our lives chasing compliments, wanting people to tell us how good we are, how pretty we look, or what a wonderful job we've done. The funny thing is, once we actually do get those compliments, the compliments we've thirsted for like water in the desert, we dismiss them as though they are no big deal.
"Don't be silly" we say, or "It was nothing." We do this because the actual act of receiving an honest compliment is way more difficult than any of us are willing to admit.
I think the hardest part about a compliment is the eye contact. Having to look someone deep in the eye while they express to you how they feel about you and the work that you did without looking away... wow. I mean many of us can't do that with the people closest to us, but even strangers? That can be intense.
It is certainly something most of us are not used to. Nor do we actually know how to react. It is incredibly disconcerting. That connection is strange. But if you can find a way to embrace it, it really is electric. It will make you feel unlike any way you've ever felt before.
Or if you are like me... you will cry.
Not little sissy tears either. Nope. Big, huge, waterworks, man baby tears that don't stop.
The plays I had been working on for the past 3 months finally went up last week. Thursday and Friday night saw the end result of weeks and weeks of intense preparation. Everything that had been an idea, a possibility, or a thought since July became a reality twice over the course of 48 hours.
And shortly thereafter, it was merely a memory.
After the lights went out the first night, I felt kind of strange. The shows has been great and everything had gone off without a hitch. And yet, I did not feel like I expected to feel.
I did feel good about what had just transpired. I felt proud, and slightly accomplished. But I didn't feel an overwhelming rush crash over me like the wave of joy I had hoped for. One moment the shows were about to start, and slowly but surely they slipped away from me, like sand through my fingers.
Friday however, was different. The air in the room even felt different before the shows started. People seemed more excited than they did the night before. There was an energy in the room that added something to the performances that I could not have planned for.
And when the lights went out on the final scene of Friday's show I felt excited, I felt slightly relieved, but I was energized. And I was lucky enough to have many of my friends and loved ones come up to me and congratulate me and say such wonderful things.
I did my best not to dismiss the compliments. I, my cast, and my crew (Andrea) had worked hard for this. And if people had good things to say, I really wanted to appreciate the fruits of our labor. I wanted to take in their compliments, digest them, and squeeze every last drop of goodness from them.
Wishing my actors good luck before they went on I got a little teary, and the same when saying some personal thank yous to my friends after. But I was pretty much able to keep my emotions at bay. The tears sat patiently locked up in their cages behind my eyes.
The after party happened, many hugs occurred, and eventually the night came to a close. I went home and went to sleep.
The next morning when I woke up I was feeling pretty great. Exhausted from everything, and a little surprised that I hadn't had a complete emotional breakdown immediately following the applause.
The catalyst that triggered my breakdown actually would come in the form of a compliment from a person I didn't even know.
You see I had a good friend fly in from California on Friday just to see my shows and hang out in the city for a short weekend. She came with a friend of hers whom I had never met. But I was anticipating liking her since she was flying 3,000 miles to see my $12 dollar show.
We all got together for brunch on Saturday and spent the day having drinks and walking around the neighborhoods. We ended our day with a fabulous dinner at a great restaurant, a lovely place with low lighting and delicious food.
And sometime after dinner, in the middle of a low lit dining room, in the west village in Manhattan this stranger told me what she thought of my plays... and I cried like a little kid lost in the woods.
Not big whaling cries with sobbing and huff huff huffing. No it was just a very wet, can't turn off the faucets kind of cry.
We so often take for granted the support we get from our loved ones. And that is not a good thing, but yet it still happens. Yet there is still something so heavy about the compliments given to you by the people you do not know. You realize they may not be as concerned with protecting and nurturing you, they don't owe you anything, and when they say it, well, you have no choice but to pay attention.
Perhaps there was more involved. Maybe it had something to do with having had a full day to process what had actually occurred the night before. Or maybe it was the 2 bottles of wine we had with dinner. I mean that probably helped.
But who knows if I would have cried like this had this fine human not said what she said to me. Maybe my emotional connection to my work would have faded with each passing day. And maybe I would have found myself bawling in my bed one night as the exhaustion got the better of me.
But I am glad it happened when it did, because it felt right. It put a definitive end on my emotional connection to my work. It signified completion. It put a soggy exclamation point on an incredible mini journey.
And I wouldn't have had it any other way.