Penny Wrenn
Photo: Greg Miller
PAGE 2
I immediately thought of my good friend Tracey—an irrepressibly happy, married working mother who lives in Brooklyn. In Tracey's world, everything is always "Great!" and "Yay!" Stop by her house unexpectedly, and she'll whip up a batch of cupcakes. She took up deejaying when her daughter was just 4 months old, and she spends her weekends zipping off to Home Depot with her happy, handsome husband. If my life were an episode of Extreme Makeover, Tracey would be my desired "after" picture. And hanging out with her would be more than just a chance to borrow some octane; it would also give me a chance to flex some faking-it muscle. I would match her "Yay!" for "Yay!"—even if it killed me.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Brooklyn. The sun was shining. All my normal clothes were in the laundry, waiting to be washed, so I ended up wearing a sexy summer dress I wouldn't otherwise have chosen. And feeling sexy gave me a spark—a spark so strong that it didn't fizzle out even when I ran into an old boyfriend and his new fiancée (whom I liked more in 20 minutes of chatting than I'd liked the boyfriend in two months of dating). By the time I showed up for brunch with Tracey, I was on an energy roll. I was present. I was engaged. My dress got the attention of an actor sitting one table away. (Flirty glances from handsome actor? Instant energy boost.) Tracey came with her family, and as we laughed and talked, I forgot I was there to wiretap her zest. I simply enjoyed myself.

And then another funny thing happened: On the way to Tracey's house after brunch, she expressed surprise at my low-energy complaints. "I've always seen you as energetic," she said. Then she stunned me with the news that she envied my energy vibe—specifically, the way I could talk to anyone about anything and become the resident conversation-engager in a room.

I figured that since we were being honest, I might as well tell her that I was jealous of the way she was always "Great!" and always had stuff to "Yay!" about.

Then she compared me to Dorothy's friends in The Wizard of Oz—the Scarecrow looking for brains, the Tin Man looking for a heart, the Lion looking for courage, when in fact they'd had these things all along.

I went back to my couch to think about what Tracey had said. She wasn't the only person who was baffled by my energy quest. So maybe I wasn't as low energy as I thought. Or maybe I was defining energy the wrong way.

It was true, as Tracey believed, that I zoomed in the presence of other people. I greeted friends with an excited "Hey!" or "Look at you!" I hugged, kissed, complimented, checked in on the latest news. I smiled a lot. And laughed—loudly—when I got a kick out of someone. It was usually when I was alone that I felt zapped.

Maybe I had two personas—onstage and backstage. Or maybe I'd been unwittingly faking it all along, at least in some situations.

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