Yesterday, May 3rd, at 2:00 PM, the sound of Listen To Your Mother DC’s opening music, “Uptown Funk” reached my ears from my last place in line, as I waited with my cast mates back stage. I heard a burst of wild cheering and clapping from the audience, and I was overcome with emotion. I can’t cry now. Not NOW! Even though I was last in line, I would be the first to read in the show. “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first,” says Matthew 20:16, which is SO fitting. Let’s rewind.
When I heard that I’d gotten a place in the show, I was both elated and nauseated. This. Was. Happening. I had signed up and auditioned for this show, knowing it would be a colossal challenge for someone who had avoided public speaking all her life. I wanted to get my blog name out to a new audience, and get people to READ what I write – isn’t that why I started all this in the first place? But this was ME reading what I wrote before hundreds of strangers; a totally different experience from clicking “Publish” in the safety of my living room.
I was told a few weeks ago that I would be first in the show, because the directors thought that the first line of my story, “The Night the Devil Chased My Mom,” would start the show off with a bang. I knew in that moment that I would either set a precedent or become a cautionary tale. I almost nervous-pooped myself, right there in my chair, which really would’ve been uncomfortable. For me and everyone.
I was the first to read in our practice that night, which caused me cold shivers and hot embarrassment at the same time. I pulled off my sweater and then shimmied my arms back into the sleeves for the best of both worlds, and read my piece in front of the group. They smiled, commiserated, and laughed while I was reading. I was so relieved to be done.
I had no idea what was in store for me when the rest of my cast mates read their stories. Because of my social anxiety, it’s not natural for me to intimately get to know a WHOLE GROUP of people in such a short span of time. This was a total unique, alien, and fucking awesome experience. I cried, laughed, tried to hold back the Ugly Cry, failed, commenced to ugly crying, laughed, and commenced to Ugly Laughing. (Is that a thing? Well, it is for ME).
It was beautiful, and I knew, that night, I needed to start embracing this blessing.
The week before the show, I practiced my piece in front of my husband. He unfortunately wouldn’t be able to attend because he’d booked a trip for that very same weekend. I hadn’t wanted him to change his plans, but now I was dreading being left alone all weekend leading up to the Sunday show. I WAS FREAKING OUT. Every time I practiced my story, I broke out into demonic laughter. The kind of laughter that makes people back away and call the paramedics. The kind of laughter that makes people think they’re missing the joke, because THEY ARE. Because there really isn’t a joke. There is only the totally inappropriate and outrageously hysterical laughter, which only brings on more waves of inappropriate and hysterical laughter. (Has this ever happened to you? It’s kind of amazing and horrifying at the same time).
Anywho. I eventually calmed my crazy ass down, but I was really hung up on how I was going to say the last line of my story, which was “Bring it, BITCH.” I said those words in the shower. I said them to myself in the mirror. I muttered them while I speed-walked down the streets of my neighborhood. I whispered them to the frozen broccoli in the coolers at my local grocery store. I probably yelled them in my sleep. What was the best way to say it? BRING it, bitch? Bring IT, bitch? Bring it, BITCH? BAH-RING IT, BEEATCH? I never did make up my mind.
The morning of the show, I woke up at 6:00 AM with the kids, after tossing and turning all night. I made their breakfast and re-warmed yesterday’s coffee. About 45 seconds after taking my first sip of coffee: POOP SOUP. BUTT SOUP. SWAMP ASS. The Nervous Poops were back, and they were back with a vengeance. They wouldn’t stop. I put the coffee down and ate some cereal. I had to run to the bathroom 5 minutes later. I drank some water. I had to run to the bathroom 2 minutes later. I went to take a shower. I had to stop the shower and run to the bathroom dripping wet 3 minutes later. I went out to the garage to leave for the show (after the babysitter got there), and I had to run back into the house and to the bathroom 1 minute later. They weren’t going to stop! How was I going to drive an hour to DC, and then sit in the green room with my castmates, do a short rehearsal, and then READ at a LIVE SHOW without shitting my pants? HOW?
I made it to the National Geographic Grosvenor Auditorium at 11:00 AM. We weren’t supposed to be there till 11:30, but you know how I am about being late. If I’d been late, it would’ve set the nervous poop explosion scale to DEFCON 1. As the directors and my other cast mates arrived, I started to rest easy. They were all nervous too, and that was so comforting.
Our awesome directors, Stephanie and Kate, gave each one of us these beautiful necklaces, a sweet card, and a “clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose” pep talk.
My friend Ashley from The Malleable Mom brought a flask and whipped it out at about 1:50 PM. It was a type of whiskey called The Devil’s Apple (how appropriate) and we all just took one nip but it was like a toasty, warm dessert after a Thanksgiving meal. It was just what the doctor ordered, and it didn’t make me poop.
The opening music, “Uptown Funk” reached my ears from my last place in line, as I waited with my cast mates back stage. I heard a burst of wild cheering and clapping from the audience, and I was overcome with emotion. I can’t cry now. Not NOW! Even though I was last in line, I would be the first to read in the show. I ran out of the line to grab some water, and I noticed my cast mate, the sweet Joan, followed me to make sure I wasn’t jumping ship.
“I’m okay, Joan,” I gasped. “I just needed some water.” TO GULP DOWN MY TEARS. My heart was thrumming like a baby bird’s, and I felt so much like a baby in that moment, like a child. Vulnerable, cold, confused, and unsure of myself. I awkwardly followed Joan, who will be 76 next Sunday and was bopping to “Uptown Funk” like it was her job. Love that woman, but she made me feel like I was the 76-year-old! Thanks, Joan!
I saw the familiar faces in the crowd. My dad, his girlfriend of 21 years, Robbie (who was celebrating her birthday by coming to this show), my mother-in-law Marsha, two of my sisters, my sister Bridgitte’s husband Josh, my friends Lila, Laura, Christy, Angela, Amy, Luke, Stephanie, and Steph’s husband Mike from Papa Does Preach. (Ok, I didn’t actually SEE all of their faces, but I knew they were there. Made me want to poop even more, if that’s possible. I love these people, but I knew that they would feel actual physical pain if they saw me screw up).
After my intro, I sort of blacked out. I remember my legs shaking, and I remember holding my hands in front of me, taking the stance of that little child I mentioned earlier. I remember it getting better as it went along, and I remember people laughing, like I hoped they would. I remember wanting to lick my dry lips so that they wouldn’t stick to my teeth but I remember not doing it because I didn’t want to look like Wile E. Coyote. I remember the trepidation I felt when that last line approached, and I remember that “Bring it, bitch,” no matter HOW I said it (and I don’t remember how I said it), made people hoot, holler, and clap.
I remember crying, choking back sobs, as I heard my other cast mates tell their sad but empowering truths. I remember laughing hysterically at the hilarious stories some of them told. And I remember the moment I walked off stage and broke down, allowing myself to feel that tidal wave of emotion that threatened to overtake me when I was about to go on stage. I remember the audience’s deafening approval, and in it, the culmination of all my writing dreams.
This is how I remember it. It’s what I’ve told my kids, and what I’ll tell my grandkids. If it happened differently than I remember, well then, in the words of Stevie Nicks: “Baby, I don’t wanna know.”
UPDATE: The YouTube video is out! If you want to see my performance, here it is! I look so nervous, but I’m proud I got through it.
Here are the names of my amazing cast mates. Some of them have blogs; please visit them to read into their exceptional lives.
Our Amazing Directors:
Kate Hood: The Big Piece of Cake
Stephanie Dulli: Stephanie Says
Ashley Fuchs: The Malleable Mom
Jennifer Oradat: Mom Babble
Joan Cicero Hamilton: Happy Early Birthday, Joan!
Caron Martinez: Wise Latina 101
Shunnell Lewis: A fierce, funny twin mama!
Brent Almond: Designer Daddy
Patricia Mirchandani: Raising Humans
Sonya Spillman: Spilling Over
Susan Fuller: Fuller By Design
Lindsey Maines: Rock and Roll Mama