Stranger on the Bus and the Vulnerabilities of Clowning

I keep being reminded how the simplest encounters can sometimes be the most profound. I was sitting on the bus yesterday, waiting to go to work, when a young man stepped in. Immediately he had my attention. I don’t know why, but I’m sure you know that moment when someone completely random just grabs your focus. He proceeded to connect with a guy sitting in front of me and eventually sat down next to me. I really wasn’t thinking too much at this point, just kind of listening to their conversation. At some point, however, it stopped and I looked over at the guy next to me and saw him pull out a book from his bag. Well, from the super-thin pages, I could tell it was the Bible and when I surreptitiously focused on the script, my thoughts were confirmed. All of a sudden I had this voice inside my head saying, “You need to talk to this guy. Come on… he’s reading the Bible. When do you ever see someone read the Bible in public? Go on!”

Well, I tried not to listen to the voice because it’s so uncomfortable to just strike up conversation with someone I don’t know because the moment I do, I’m presenting my vulnerability on a plate. Then I start thinking, “Oh man. This could go really wrong…”

But… I recently read a book my good friend Erinn recommended to me called The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. The tagline reads: “Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” Now, this might not seem like it has anything to do with the above anecdote, but it does. This book talks about having the courage to embrace your vulnerability and risk showing it to those around you without worrying about what they might think of you because no matter what, you’re worth it and your thoughts and feelings are valid. Believe me, I think this book had opened my eyes quite a bit, so now, in addition to the list of resolutions I made for this year, my big one is to be the most authentic version of myself I can possibly be. And with that comes the truth of wanting to talk to this man about the Bible.

So, after hemming and hawing and taking a deep breath (and waiting until he put the Bible back into his bag), I said, “Have you read the whole thing?”

I think he was a tad shocked.

But he did answer me and we were able to have a conversation about religion. Religion! Talk about a taboo topic; honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve decided not to talk about my faith for fear that someone was not going to accept me or that I wouldn’t fit in. But I did it this time and through this teeny-tiny conversation I was able to learn two things: first, that maybe I should read the Bible (yes, I confess, I haven’t read it all yet…); and second, that even though the two of us are from two different faiths (kind of; both Christian but I’m Ukrainian Catholic and he’s Baptist), we can respect each others’ ideas and reasons for doing the things we do.

Which brings me to topic numero dos.

It amazes me that I could have a conversation with a complete stranger of a different faith and feel heard and respected, but when it comes to friends of mine of the same faith, I don’t always feel that way. In fact, sometimes I feel quite judged and ignored. I know you’re probably wondering how clowning fits into this, so I’ll tell you. Last night I had an epiphany about why it hurts me so much when people say they don’t like clowns. Before I quite get into that, I want to explain a couple things about clowning.

The clown is quite an iconic figure in our society. We know they wear red noses, have white faces and big, painted red mouths, wear goofy clothing and oversized shoes, and are supposed to be funny.

Well, what if I told you that if my clown wore oversized shoes, she’d probably trip and fall; and if she sees herself with a white face she gets scared because she thinks she looks like a ghost; and her makeup is pretty minimal (probably because she actually thinks she’s super hot and that all the boys love her just as she is); and she thinks her clothes are not funny but just perfect.

At this point you’re either probably thinking, “I’m not reading this anymore” or “This is stupid” or “I don’t get it” or “Why is she talking about the clown as if she’s another person?”

To address the last question, I talk about my clown, Dot, as if she is another person because she is. My clown is made up of the most vulnerable parts of me all rolled into one; she actually reminds me of myself when I was around 7 or 8: not shy, would speak my mind, loved being silly, super emotional. So, even though my body is the vehicle for my clown to act within, I’m not me at that point. It’s almost like acting, except I’m taking all the extreme emotions I feel as I feel them and make them larger-than-life.

The most important thing is that all the feelings I feel when I’m in clown are true. They’re not made up or put on; it’s how I actually feel at that moment. So, if we back up to people saying they don’t like clowns, well then, they might as well say they don’t like the most vulnerable parts of me, the things I hold most dear to my heart.

That sucks, when you feel like the things you’re most passionate about or your feelings aren’t seen as valid.

Now, I don’t expect everyone to suddenly like clowns and I’m not saying I’m perfect either; God knows how I struggle not to judge or demean other peoples’ passions too (especially sports). I’m just saying that we should all strive to learn about each other and support each other. We don’t have to agree, but we do all deserve respect and to feel like we are worthy and the gifts we have are worthy too.

Maybe by writing this I’ll remember and hold myself accountable. Hopefully you can too.



P.S. My little cousin is in the hospital, so if you could please pray for her, that would be wonderful. Thanks 😀



Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Stranger on the Bus and the Vulnerabilities of Clowning

  1. Alan

    All I can say to that is, well said!

  2. Oksana

    Religions aside, I think there is something incredibly spiritual about being able to connect with a “stranger” like that. If we can see godliness in others, we can identify it within ourselves. I understand how difficult it can be to talk about faith especially in secular environments. I applaud your clown/spirit and just want to encourage you to keep on doing- exactly what you are doing.

  3. Your good friend Erinn encourages you to continue to explore these moments. I’m glad you are starting to “see” those opportunities to take a risk, that you can identify your inner resistance, and that you overcame that long enough to talk to him when you could have easily chosen to sit through the impulse in silence. I also encourage you to continue to make connections and ask others about their interests even if they’re different than yours – I will join you in this thought because I think it’s important for building compassion. We often expect people will think what we’re doing is amazing, and then we judge them for liking, example, computer design or engineering. And lastly – get out and clown if you can, because it’s an evolving part of who you are (and it will keep you sane).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s