Monday, May 2, 2016

Try Something New 2016

Every year, leading up to my birthday, I try something new. It is my way of proving to myself that I'm not too old for new experiences. Also, it keeps me from being bored and/or boring. This year, my Try Something New has had me living on pins and needles for nearly the last two months.

In February, I heard about this show called Listen to Your Mother. They were looking for stories about moms, being one, or having one. I jotted the information down on the back page of something important in the pink binder I have become physically attached to, and decided this was it. My Try Something New. I scheduled my audition before I could think better of it, then I set out to write the perfect story.

Only there wasn't a perfect story. So I wrote a few okayish stories instead.

One was awful. (You will never read that one. It has since been lost to the abyss that is my MacBook's trashcan. But it used words like 'meconium' so we should all be ok with that decision.) One made me cry every time I read it. I ruled that one out through choked back sobs. One was about my kids doing basic kid things. It wasn't Shakespeare, but it was about being a mom. Good enough.

I write things all the time. People read the things I write all the time. Granted, they're usually reading them in the form of a school newsletter, but they read them nonetheless. So, I shouldn't have been nervous about reading this non-Shakespearean mom story to a couple of people. And I wasn't. At all. Because 'nervous' doesn't come close to the level of gut-wrenching, soul-crushing anxiety I felt that day. Nervous doesn't even live in the same galaxy.

I thought that would be it. My Try Something New. My goal had been to audition. And I did. I was so confident that I wasn't going to hear back, that I celebrated the conquering of my fear, my successful Try Something New, and worked to put it out of my head.

A week later, I was busy working and received an email that stopped me dead. "CONGRATULATIONS!" was as far as I read before my eyes started to tear. Was I excited? Terrified? Going to vomit? The answer was yes. At first I contemplated the very real possibility that a mistake had been made. Perhaps there were two Joannas? But more details followed. There was no mistake. I had somehow tricked those directors into thinking I was a competent person. They had faith in me. They complemented me. An early April Fool's joke? Probably. But they just kept including me in emails, then the table read, and the rehearsal. They even put my name on the flyers and programs. Nobody said "April Fool's!" so I kept going along with it.
It wasn't until yesterday that I truly realized my Try Something New had morphed into Try Participating in a Nationwide Show Which has Included Actual, Real Live, Published Writers like Jenny Lawson. (YOU GUYS. I LOVE JENNY LAWSON.) It was too late to run and hide somewhere in the desert. Besides, I don't like being hot, and my family would just use Find My iPhone to locate me. I had to go through with it.

So, there I was. Standing backstage with a group of fantastically talented people. Trying to convince them (and myself) that I was not there by mistake. Trying to quiet the loud voice in my head that kept screaming "IMPOSTER!!" Trying not to barf. I refreshed my insane looking make-up, sprayed a smelly powder something in my hair, and steeled myself up to face the audience.

Me before the show, looking awkward in a dress. With several of the fantastically talented people mentioned above (Juanita Mantz, Angela Riggs, Patricia Willson, Ashley Alteman), who look decidedly less awkward.
Then it was my turn. Just me. On stage. All by myself. Alone. I temporarily forgot how to read. Took a breath. Remembered. Then, just like that, it was over.

For two months I've thought about that moment. I've panicked on it. I've faked confidence. I've even pictured myself contracting some terrible illness that would keep me bed bound the night of the performance. Two months of preoccupation and worry instantly replaced with relief, and an amount of pride that almost embarrasses me.
Me immediately after leaving the stage. This is 'relief' personified. Not a single worry in the world.
I did it. With my friends and family there watching, I slipped on some heels and jumped outside my comfort zone. So far outside that by the end of the night I was even hugging strangers. (That's correct. I let people in my hula hoop. On purpose.) It was a Try Something New I won't forget as long as I live. And I can't wait for an opportunity to do it all over again. Barfs and all.

Thanks to Suzanne, Taia, and every one of you who gave me kind words and encouragement leading up to last night. Especially those of you who gave me Snickers bars. I'll never find the words to be able to express what your support means to me. So, I'll just say thank you, and thank you again, until you get tired of hearing it. Thank you.

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