What can I say about Sunday’s Listen to Your Mother show?
I can say it was amazing, but “amazing” is a totally overused word. As is “totally.”
No, Sunday’s show was more than amazing, or totally amazing, or even amazeballs, because I am in no way cool enough to use that word freely. I’m still reeling from the high of the day, the jolt I got from the audience both during and after the show, and the beautiful sense of camaraderie and kinship I felt buzzing through the other cast members and myself as we chatted in the green room, anxiously awaiting show time.
The thing is, up until that moment, those wonderful 2 hours with these 15 fantastic writers sharing their stories, I didn’t feel I belonged there. I had read other bloggers and writers I know across the blogosphere describe their Listen to Your Mother experiences as “amazing,” “enchanting,” or “the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” But I didn’t get it.
I loved my piece. It’s not something I have here on the blog (yet). I wrote it specifically for LTYM, and after a lot of editing, I really felt it deserved an audition. So I was thrilled when I got an invitation to read for Wendi and Liz.
And then I received the email that said, “Welcome to the Cast of Listen to Your Mother 2012!”
My first thought?
OMG what have I done?
This was a big deal. I worked ridiculously hard on this piece and put myself out there so I would have the chance to be a part of this wonderful experience and read it in front of 200 people. And now I was going to have to read it in front of 200 people.
And thus began the spiral into self deprecation.
Few things have made me feel so irrelevant as to sit at a table with the other extremely talented cast members with their marvelous pedigrees and hear their amazing, intricately woven stories. My first reading in front of the group was abhorrent, taking place after a long, hard day in which my husband confirmed that yes, our kids are being assholes today, and the wine I had with dinner didn’t help ease my nerves in the least.
I had no idea how hearing the other chosen pieces would crush my confidence. These ladies were good. They had stories. They were, like, professional writers.
You see, sometimes our stories are so “our stories,” that they seem almost commonplace. We forget that our experiences are unique to us, that not everyone delivers babies at 31 weeks and spends 5 weeks in the NICU. We forget that we have a tale to tell as well.
But still. I left rehearsal that day feeling small and insignificant. I didn’t belong here. And even worse? I didn’t deserve to be reading this piece that seemed so very moving and made me sound like a good mom on a day when all I wanted to do was lock my kids in a closet and go down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the name of “Damn this job is hard.”
So naturally I went home and threw a big pity party. Surely everyone could see that I didn’t fit in. I felt like the annoying little sister trying to hang with the big kids at the party. Everyone knew I wasn’t supposed to be there. They just tolerated me.
My self confidence continued to waver through the final rehearsal, but there was no going back. I was in this show. Wendi and Liz felt I deserved to be there, and I tried hard not to let my uncertainty show.
Then there was show day. Oh, how I just wanted it to be over. I’m uncomfortable being the center of attention, preferring to cast the limelight on someone else. I’m a good number two, not a number one.
But as we arrived in the green room, excitement started to buzz through us all. We admired each others outfits, fawned over Catherine’s little baby girl, and compared styles of Spanx. We talked about our work, our lives, and basically tried to keep our minds off of the fast approaching curtain call.
And then it was show time. The time we had all been anxiously awaiting and fearing all at the same time.
From the moment Wendi and Liz first walked on stage, the room was filled with an electric energy that fueled us all to rise to the occasion. Everyone in the theatre was there for a reason — to see US. To hear our stories, and share in our triumphs, tears, and laughter. One by one we shared our hearts and our stories with a gusto that never presented itself in any previous rehearsals. We laughed louder and cried harder as we delivered these pieces we had worked so hard to bring to life. It was truly a magical two hours.
I can’t speak for the others, but somehow reading in front of 200 people had the opposite effect I thought it would. It boosted my confidence instead of pushing me into my shell like I feared. I looked out into these faces of the people who were here to see someone they loved. Maybe it was me they were here to see, maybe not, but they still wanted to hear my story. They were eager to share in my experience. Their titters of laughter and genuine applause sent me on a high that I have never felt before in my life. After all, I’ve never done any drugs. Is this what I’ve been missing?
As we went through the rehearsals, I feared that my LTYM experience wasn’t living up to the hype that others had described. But that day, in that short span of time, we fused together as a cast and a team. We rooted for each other. We clapped harder than we ever had. We clasped hands when we knew one of us was about to share something brave and painful.
We all belonged on that stage.
The show was over all too quickly. Afterwards we congratulated one another, but it felt weird to leave the reception and say goodbye. Like we were just getting to know each other and now it was time to move on. And now that it’s over, we’re all aching to get together again, free of the pressure of the show, to just be in each other’s presence. We bared our souls together, and that’s not something you let go of easily.
I now know what past LTYM cast members are talking about.
I too will gaze at my LTYM poster (yes I kept one) with pride and heartfelt memories.
I too will look back on this day with pride and humility.
And I too will forever talk about the kinship I forged with those women that day.
If you have the chance to attend a Listen to Your Mother show in your area, please do so. You will not regret it. If you have a chance to audition next year, even if you did this year, please do so. Every step is growth.
If you’re a part of the cast of a Listen to Your Mother show? You are going to ROCK it. Enjoy every minute. Be present. They love you.
See the entire Austin show in YouTube here. Trust me — you want to watch this show. Thank you so much, Liz and Wendi, for including me in this wonderful show with these amazingly talented women, yourselves included. And thank you to Ann Imig for her vision and for giving us the chance to be a part of it.
Photo courtesy Christina Linnell. Cast photo hopefully coming up soon!