Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.


A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)

(Copyright 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

The Pleasure of a Good Upset

July 16, 2009

Tags: compassionate wisdom, healing

Im upset (thats a lie, but its a good opening line). Im not really upset, but if I were upset, Id be upset that its blog time and I have absolutely nothing to say. Ergo, here is an old column I wrote several years ago for UPI. Its a piece that seemed to either help or annoy an awful lot of people. Read at your own risk.

☺ ☻ ☺ ☻

My drug is panic panic so vital I must refer to it as a pronoun: The first time I tasted her was in front of an audience of a hundred or so people. I was performing in a play, mid-speech in a two-page monologue. As my throat closed and I fought to breathe and talk at the same time, I thought I was going to die. My scene partner looked puzzled as I clutched her arm and flop-sweated onto the table between us.

You turned white, she told me later.

I know, I answered. I dont know what happened.

Another actor in the cast suggested it was because I had taken on a virtually new character with no rehearsal. For this performance, the lead, who had an emotional range from 1 to 1.2, had been directed to be explosive, and when somebody is suddenly blasting you with killer energy, it brings out a whole new set of responses new enough to turn me into a new character for whom I hadnt set a foundation. Apparently, I had short-circuited.

However, since I have an emotional range from 1 to out-of-my-mind hysterical, my inner actor subsequently decided that the problem wasnt just the aberrant performance, but perhaps it was any time I had to speak uninterrupted for more than a paragraph or any presentation or any time I had to talk all these events became openings for her.

Over the next few years she came and went in the form of panic attacks. Some years I completely forgot to be afraid of being afraid and she hibernated. So did I convinced that I was just too sensitive for this world, I hid. Gradually, I recovered from that delusion and rejoined society. So did my panic attacks. Last year, they erupted in the middle of a phone call to an editor about a freelance job, and my next call was to a hypnotherapist. Our sessions were fun and enlightening, but I didnt feel panic-free.

Last week, coming home from the supermarket, I passed two cars vying for the same parking space. I sensed an explosion and walked quickly by. Bang! Slam! A shrieking female voice and a torrent of cursing.

I think she was looking for a place to let loose, I said to a fellow pedestrian, and the two of us rolled our eyes.

This week has been hard I didnt get what I wanted and was very upset. Everybody around me was upset, too. Some got angry, some got sick, some got drunk we each have our pleasure.

What would it be like to never get upset? I wonder. What would it be like to be consistently calm?

Is that all there is? sings Miss Peggy Lee in my minds ear her sultry, hopeless voice making me suddenly uncomfortable.

Huh? say I.

Is that all there is? she repeats, insisting that I contemplate it:

If theres no upset, it might get dull. If its gets dull, I might be bored. If Im bored might I be less alive?

Is that all there is? asks Miss Peggy.

As I type, Im listening to an athlete on the radio: I live for the excitement, he says, as if this were a rational notion.

If we dont get angry, sick, upset, drunk, excited, are we less us?

The woman fighting for the parking spot was high on her rage. And I would wager that, although I hate being panicked or upset, theres a kind of high to that as well. After all, its adrenaline. And hiding underneath that high, I suspect theres something else a sneaky, embarrassing belief: being so upset, so sensitive makes me special, and being so special makes me superior superior to the masses.

And again I ask: what if I did give up being upset?

What a concept! If I know Im doing it intentionally getting upset to feel special, superior, weirdly alive, I can stop it. Because, clearly, I already am alive no effort needed. I am the only me, so I am special as special as everybody else. I am! We all are!

And thats all there is. Could it possibly be enough?

And suddenly Im smiling and calm. Very calm.

Nothing like naming an addiction (with all her deep, dark, nasty pleasures) to dissipate her power. Unmasked, shes smiles at me sheepishly. Then, sticking out her tongue like a petulant child, she slinks off to excite somebody else.


  1. July 19, 2009 1:05 PM EDT
    A quiet and calm life is so underrated. While drama is so overrated. I think sometimes, you need to experience the drama though, before truly appreciating, that you have the choice of peace.
    - Jenny

Selected Works

Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

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