Friday, May 20, 2011

Maybe the Sky Isn't Falling

"Fears are nothing more than a state of mind."

By 12:23 it was over. All the fears, the nausea, the rapid breathing. In fact, most of my symptoms went away as I stood in front a group of my peers, other writers traveling a similar path, and said, "Hi!" Of course I still had my presentation to get through but if I could have I would have turned around to face myself and say, "see. SEE. you can do this. it's not so bad. I'm so proud of you. listen to them laugh."

I tried saying those same words to the shaking girl in the mirror before I left home but she wasn't really listening.

I have to say there is something kind of heady about hearing an audience's reaction to your work. They laughed in all the right places. Places I'd written so many times I thought they'd failed to be funny at all.

When it was all over I looked at my Sweetie and breathed a sigh of relief. He was quietly proud, "the wind beneath my wings". I stood with my hair dresser, Chuck, who was the subject of my recital, and we both took a bow. He was loving the limelight and I didn't mind sharing. When I sat down there was only the tiniest bit of butterflies and they kept fluttering til long after I was home. Sweetie called it PTSD!

So what did I learn from all this?
That the chicken little persona is getting a little stale.
That without realizing it I've surrounded myself with talented, funny, caring women who embrace me (as I do them) wherever I am on my journey.
That my stories, like life, can be both funny and poignant. They can touch others on an emotional level. [I think that's what I like about writing (and reading) ... being able to say, "you too? I thought it was just me."]

And perhaps the biggest lesson of all that may take some practice and remembering.
About 5 minutes before the show was supposed to start, I looked at Sweetie and said, I need a pep talk. So he gently led me out into the hall and asked me what was going on. "I'm scared," I said, sounding a lot like Little ME.
What are you scared of? I don't know.
If you knew what would it be? I don't want to be embarrassed.
What would be embarrassed look like?Tears began to pool at the tip of my lids. I knew, but didn't want to open the flood gates. Being embarrassed looks like me doing the very best I can do and hearing my father say something about the "Mary Reynolds" show which to my ears did not sound like a compliment but a put down. Until almost the very end of his life he had a way of clipping my wings and whether he meant to or not (which now that I'm older I don't think he did) saying "you're just Plain Mary so don't be getting too big for your britches." And me doubting the reality of what others thought, the applause, and the laughter and the high fives and the hugs. It's the doubt that is debilitating. The difference in feeling like I did my best and yet left wondering. And then, even if I did my best, feeling like it puts me above others and I should slink away, embarrassed - not for failure but for success.

When I got home this was sitting in my inbox from Weneki:
Mom, I wish I could give you the gift of living free of fear.
There's just no need for this much fear unless you're being chased by a bear.
You're going to be wonderful, as you always are.
Just breathe into the anxiety, and trust that you're going to be okay.
Better than okay.
Don't empower the negative voice;
start hearing the voice you reserve for those you love.
The voice that peps me up and believes in me.
Turn it on yourself and feel the love and shine on.
Pardon my French, but fuck the fear.
:) Love you.
You're awesome and are going to be great today. Try to enjoy it rather than endure it.
~ wendell p. peptalk

Words I wouldn't have been able to hear before my performance. But words of love that begin to make sense. My daddy is gone now. Isn't it time to bury the negative voice and begin trusting the voices of the ones I love and who love me. Isn't it time to say:
Dear Carolyn,
Good job!
I'm so proud of you.
I know it was scary but look how far you've come.
There's nothing you can't do.
Believe in your words. Believe in your gifts. Believe in you.
P.S. I love you.

For all of you who have also been on this journey of discovery with me, thanks for listening to me ... especially when I whine and cry. I may not always be able to tame the boogie man but I think today might be a turning point. If I hold on to and emblazon it in my memory bank, maybe it will one day replace the negative voice.

"what I wanted today was their stories, their energy, their presence
I think we forget just how important presence is
I soaked theirs up this morning
I don't think I'd be able to survive without women in my life."
Terri St. Cloud

Wishing for moments of real clarity so you can see, taste, hear, feel and hold your own goodness,
Merry ME


Anonymous said...


This is a beautiful post. You've made me cry. And yesterday you made me laugh (your readers should know I think it was THE funniest one.) I'm so glad you are walking through the fear and proving victorious over those damn self-doubts. Yay you!


terri st. cloud said...

so proud of you, and tickled for you and so thankful for your presence...

Unknown said...

Mary, You're learning a lot about writing and speaking, but you know what? I think you're also getting to know the strong, brave, multi-talented, beautiful person you are. She's pretty wonderful, isn't she! What an exciting journey.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I thought of you all day. I knew you would be great and "the" best if not the funniest. Can't wait to read about you and Chuck and your hair. Miss Wendell knows how to say it - the apple didn't fall far from the tree there! ld

Fire Byrd said...

There is a self help book, which I don't like but I love the title and you embraced it with what you did ..... Feel the fear and do it anyway.
You go girl!