My heart was beating so hard while I was sitting on that stage that I could hear it in my ears. For days before…that entire morning and for the few hours we’d had so far of afternoon…even as we climbed the stairs and took our seats…even when they closed the curtain and only the low, sodium-yellow lights of backstage illuminated us…I was fine.
In fact, I had sort of adopted this “I don’t care” attitude. I’ve recognized, in myself, that I do this at times. It’s almost as if the situation is pushing me so far out of my comfort zone that I kinda flip…over the precipice into the other worldly “past” point…where it’s dark and melancholy and colorless.
I know this is my coping mechanism. I know I’ve spent entire YEARS of my life in this colorlessness. I’m THERE. I participate. I talk with people. I laugh, even. But I’m only partly there.
But I digress.
My point is that I was fine until the curtain opened and Alexandra and Jen made the show’s opening remarks. And before I knew it, they were introducing Sini. And my heart opened up and went, “WAIT! NOT YET! HOLY SHIT I DON’T THINK I’M READY YET.”
But of course I was. When it was actually my turn to cross the stage to the podium and stare out into that bright nothing of an audience, I’m told I did well. Truth be told, I was hyper-aware of my every move.
“Don’t take your finger off that page or you’ll lose your place! Don’t touch your hair too much. Look up at the audience as if you can see them, but don’t bob your head up and down too much or you’ll look like some sort of psychotic bird. Is your grandmother’s gold cross necklace showing, or did it slip inside your dress again? DON’T REACH UP AND TOUCH IT! It’s fine. It’s there. It’s near your heart and that’s all that matters.”
I know no one saw or thought these things of me but me…but when they’re screeching around inside your skull you may forget to pause while people chuckle at your story of little boy raucousness.
Before I knew it, it was over. My literal five minutes of fame…done. Complete. Golden in its goodness and sealed with that smack of satisfaction that says, “HOLY SHIT. I DID THAT.”
Afterward I could feel my body relax. If I hadn’t been in a dress and hose and heels and seated in front of hundreds of people onstage I might’ve been inclined to pull my knees up in front of me and hug them to my body as I leisurely listened to the wonderful stories being told by my newest friends. Instead I told myself to sit Princess Di style, legs together and angled to one side, ankles crossed demurely below. Like some sort of lady.
In some sense it was akin to torture…presenting myself in front of all those people, baring a piece of my soul through something honest I wrote like that. My body was cold but my feet were sweating. I could hear only my voice as I blocked out nearly all other sounds.
But I’m glad I did it.
On the one hand, I believe that by pushing yourself to try new things you’re truly living life. I don’t want to just survive. I want to participate. Fully BE there. Immerse myself in all that I possibly can while I’m still young and healthy enough to do it. I so badly want to be one of those interesting old ladies who has stories wild enough to keep the young people listening. One of my favorite quotes ever is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Do one thing each day that scares you.” I want to inspire others with my lifetime collection of experiences.
On the other, Listen to Your Mother is a series of shows celebrating motherhood. If ever there was a show worthy of all the stomach-churning nerves, this would be it. Having nearly a decade of experience under my belt, I can attest to the fact that Motherhood can be a lonely, frustrating and exhausting place where the demands are high and immediate results low. To find not just solace but things worthy of celebration in the everyday is what we mothers strive for. I can’t tell you the number of times a friend has told me a story that ended with, “I know it’s just a small victory but it meant a lot to me.” To which I always reply, “Oh, I know sister!” Because I *do* know.
And THAT is the beauty of this show. THAT is why the nerves and the sweating and the internal dialog rolling around in your head is worth it. Why it’s worth it to push past all of that self-doubt and to tell that voice inside your head that tells you that your story isn’t good enough to just shut the hell up.
Because by going on stage and telling our stories, we’re getting an entire audience to go, “OH. I KNOW SISTER.”
And we’re all a little less alone.
Listen to Your Mother is a series of shows performed within the two weeks leading up to Mother’s Day. Started in Madison, WI just five years ago, there are now shows in 32 cities nationwide! A celebration of motherhood, the stage show consists of people reading their own works on motherhood – either being one, loving one, having one or not. The Milwaukee show took place last week at the Wehr Theatre at Alverno College, but there are others still happening and I strongly encourage you to attend. If you missed your city’s show, or even if you didn’t, I hugely STRONGLY wholeheartedly encourage you to consider auditioning next year. You will NOT regret it!