Monday, April 29, 2013


I'm no stranger to putting myself out there. I've done my fair share of public speaking. I've given briefings to four-star generals on matters of national security (for real). I've taught conference rooms full of lawyers how to use computers. I've taught classrooms full of adults how to use computers. I've led seminars on editing at writing conferences.

But this time, it's personal.

I have been sharing myself through writing on blogs and through personal essays. But not like this. This time, it's Listen to Your Mother and I feel like there is so much at stake. It's not just for me; I owe it to the show founder Ann Imig, to our show producers and organizers who have worked so hard, to our other awesome cast members.

This is a national speaking series.

This is going to be in front of a live audience. And then saved on YouTube for posterity.

This is me, laid bare, sharing more personally than I ever have before.

I can write just about anything, and I'm sure that if I took my essay and just posted it on my blog, it would cause me much less drama. But breathing life into this 1,200 words is scary.
... What if nobody laughs when it's supposed to be funny?
... What if nobody gets it when I cry because I think it's sad?
... What if everybody thinks it's stupid?
... What if they just look at me with derision?
... What if they throw rotten tomatoes?
Logically, I don't really think any of these things will really happen ... but still, the idea of the possibility of these things happening just terrify me, haunt me. This is a step into the unknown. This is personal. This is the tiny little part of me that's deep down inside that is screaming to come out, but that hides behind the door when it actually gets the chance.

I remember, back in grade school, when I was in the choir at church and the choir director said that I sang "like an angel" and I was given a solo in the Christmas Eve service and I practice and I practiced and when it was time for me to go up to the front of the grand, old gothic Lutheran church that I loved, I climbed the carpeted steps, turned around with my hymnal open to What Child is This and proceeded to ... whisper it out. I tried to sing it louder; I tried to project, but my whisper was so soft that even the microphone couldn't pick it up. My flute accompanist looked confused. This was my moment! I could do this--I'd been waiting for this! I was the last of 7 kids, the youngest by at least 4 years and I was always jumping and struggling to be noticed, to be seen; and here I was, being put front and center, it was my dream come true.

And I couldn't deliver.

That moment has haunted me.

We had our read-through for our show yesterday, and it was an amazing day. A life-altering experience. It was like childbirth, one of those moments that strips you raw, leaves you breathless, takes all of you away but somehow also leaves you fulfilled and weirdly energized. I felt good reading. I heard good feedback. I gave and received hugs and tears and laughter and applause.

And then I went home and proceeded to tear myself apart with worry and feelings of unworthiness. Some small part of me knows--I have to trust the producers, because I wouldn't be in the show if I wasn't worthy. But, I know it's not a valid worry; it's that inability to deliver, it's those deep-seated feelings of insecurity. It's not something external, it's all within me.

And I see that. That's the first step.

It's time to face my fear. It's time to win the battle over insecurity.

And, I remembered that little voice that encouraged me when I was so nervous on the day of live auditions, and I'm holding it in the back of my head:
Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear
Just sing ... sing a song!
And this time, I will.


  1. you! seriously, you afraid? you did not seem so. lionhearted you were rrrrrawr !

    1. :) I'm cancer; I've built up a tough shell! But yeah, terrified.

    2. I should've known you were a cancer. You were awesome.

  2. Mari - I just read this post on trust. I read your Tuesday one earlier today. Know, know, know, belong on that stage. Your story needs to be told. It's beautiful and sings a sweet melody. Tell those tormenting voices to "shush up" or better yet "shut the hell up" or as a dear friend of mine says, "put them in a jar and screw the lid down tight". As you approach the microphone on Sunday just remember we are all behind you (with our tissue) and with our hugs.

    Lisa R