When I saw the open call for the San Antonio incarnation of “Listen To Your Mother”, I decided to give it a shot. On the day of the auditions, I tripped as I walked through the door. I literally “stumbled in off the street”. When I was called back, I talked so much that the moderator and host actually had to ask me to begin my reading. My piece was short. Too short, probably, and my hands were shaking. Not only did I read at light speed, I ran out of the audition at warp. I called my husband, my best friends, my brother, and my dad to tell them how it went. I grabbed a tea and settled in at a coffee shop, knowing I’d broken the laws of physics and a pattern of shyness that had persisted since I was a child.
Whether or not I’d made the show at that point, was of no consequence. I was just proud of myself for trying.
I’ve never been good in front of a camera or on a stage. In my second grade production of Betsy Ross, Seamstress With a Mission, I got so nervous I threw up green beans all over ‘Old Glory’. It was fair to say I choked, or I guess, projectile-ed. It was like Mission Impossible except I was both a less attractive, taller, girl version of Tom Cruise and less attractive, with only slightly better teeth version of Linda Blair from the Exorcist, simultaneously. We did not win any awards.
In middle school, I joined the band and during chair tests I would claim to forget where I was in the music so I didn’t have to finish. I would then take my French horn and slide down to happily take position as third chair. Out of three. Hooray!
I learned a long time ago (around second grade, actually), that I’m a “papergirl”. Sure, I’m nice in real-life, but I’m also socially awkward and usually too silly. Luckily, those are things I can hide easily hide behind my computer screen or a nice yellow legal pad. I’m just better on paper. Crowds make my knees wobbly and I am awful at making friends or conversation, but on paper? That’s where I live.
So why was LTYM different? Not because I wasn’t silly. Ask my cast mates. My poor cast mates, but because LTYM wasn’t about me. It was about an experience–the shared experience of motherhood. Our show was poignant, and funny, and silly, and gross (Brooke). It was about connection.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still mostly a “papergirl”, but LTYM let me use my paper for wings.
Now, when I’m writing something that scares me or starting a project that looks too big for a “papergirl” like me, I’ll look to my wall. On the wall above my desk, I keep the things that remind me to be brave and one of those things is a poster. A poster signed by a girl who thought she was better on paper, but who somehow became brave enough to begin to read loud. A girl who finally stood behind her work.
And that girl?
She’s raising a daughter who just leaps off the page.
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