The Peyton Manning Syndrome (or What You See Isn’t What You Get)
It’s really a most bizarre situation in which I find myself. I’m struggling in a sea of grief, but I don’t know how that looks. What’s the visual that goes with that? If I show what I’m thinking at any given time I would just be in a heap on the floor. That doesn’t seem wise. There are two sides–what I feel like sharing with the world and what I think others see or want to see or don’t want to see. It’s a lot to juggle. What’s appropriate? Everybody expects something different. Frankly, I have no idea how people expect me to behave, it’s just that all those things go through my mind every time I encounter someone new or some situation for the first time. To make them feel comfortable, I think that I have to appear in control. I don’t think anyone expects me to feel joyous, but they probably don’t want me to appear shattered for my sake and for theirs.
My profession, as an entertainment publicist, has allowed me to rub shoulders with some really, truly amazing people over the last 35 years. Some famous, some almost famous, and some unknown. The level of fame does not equate to the level of talent. The people I work with are hugely talented in so many different ways. Recently I was working with Vince Gill, my most long-term client and a good friend. We were at the Bridgestone Arena for the 50th Anniversary of the Country Music Association Awards. Vince’s amazing wife, Amy Grant, was suffering from a bad cold and couldn’t make it to the show. So since he was dateless, Vince asked me, and my business partner Alison, to take turns sitting with him in the front row. During the opening segment, Vince was on stage so his seat was being filled by historic quarterback Peyton Manning. Peyton was nice and we chatted in the few minutes leading up to the live broadcast. I knew that I was very likely to be on camera at some point just based on the fact that I was in the front row of the biggest night in country music—but I wasn’t prepared. So, thinking ahead, I jumped in a hair and makeup chair backstage and begged the stylist to make me “TV ready.” As the show unfolded I watched Vince open the ceremony then it moved through into the monologue by hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood. As per usual they pointed out numerous celebs in the audience and predictably they ended up picking on Peyton. What I did not know was that he was wired for sound and had a “hot mic” on. I quickly figured out that he was actually part of the monologue singing to the tune of his “Nationwide Is On Your Side” commercials. I could not be sure if I was on camera, but I had to assume that I was so, I tried to laugh and smile and not look stunned. Later, when I left my seat to trade with my partner, I turned on my phone to find dozens of Facebook comments and texts. Wow, I had NO idea that sitting next to Peyton Manning that night would give me my 15 minutes of fame. Actually it was more like 5 minutes but who’s counting when it comes to time in the spotlight?
People were so excited for me, and don’t get me wrong, I had a blast. Their comments often included that it was “so good to see me smile,” “happy to see you smiling,” “Great to see you having a good time,” and so forth. I appreciate so deeply my friends’ joy in seeing me happy. It is so caring and so loving.
What I couldn’t say on Facebook is that even though I had fun in the spotlight, the only thing that I could think of was that Pete wasn’t watching. That he wouldn’t be leaving me a voicemail, “Hey Babe…saw you on TV. You looked great,” as he had done a few years earlier when I had taken a seat next to Vince. He wasn’t at home when I walked in the door to tease me and to say how cool it was that his wife was on television.
I don’t know how to deal with this. I don’t want to talk myself out of being happy and I don’t want to tell others, “Don’t be fooled, I’m really miserable.” That would be crazy, but that’s how I feel, and I don’t think I’m not letting myself be happy. I’m totally open-minded to feeling good when I can. But it’s about the visual. I am concerned that if I look happy everyone will think that I’m good, that I’m recovered and that I’m over Pete’s death. It bothers me to imagine people thinking that he was that easy to get over.
I don’t think there’s an answer to the visuals. I guess if I spend time making others feel comfortable and that I’m okay, then it will wear off on me and I’ll believe it too.
How do you juggle the visuals–the difference in what you feel and what you portray?