Last night I got up on a stage, in front of a sold out crowd of 650 people, to tell my five minute story. Holy crap. It wasn’t awful, and it wasn’t great, perfect! That’s all I wanted to accomplish, as the only way I was able to have the nerves to do that in the first place was to keep reminding myself that failing is part of the path. And what would have been failing anyway? Panic attack and giving up? Maybe. But even that, at least I leapt! And that’s not a failure. Just doing it is the point, the only point that I decided would matter.
That, and that I just want to learn; thus, to grow. That’s all experience is really for. Then the clincher, allow that growing to make us know that all we have to do is just Be anyway. We forget in all the doing and learning and growing that we already had it, we already are the answer to all of our questions. One question going into this was to simply find out more about myself. From that new knowledge, I continue to expand. So Being becomes simply allowing myself to continue with the next right step, instead of resisting that step with fear. And knowing what the right step is can only come from allowing myself to Be. What a paradox it all is! “And I love that” (-Kyle Cease).
So back to specifics, what I learned from last night. I learned that while waiting to see if my name would be called (contestants put their name in a hat, only ten get picked), I wasn’t as horribly nervous with the usual symptoms as I thought I’d be. In these situations, my heartbeat often betrays me. It feels like a gorilla in a cage, beating on my chest to get out. It makes my breath shallow and my voice loses it’s resonance. I feel like asking the person next to me, “do you see this thing?!” It’s so heavy and strong that I’m sure the protrusions must be visible on the outside.
But this time, not so much. Until of course, my name was actually called – #4 out of 10 storytellers. As I jumped out of my seat to walk to the stage, at least I had the relief of “thank god I didn’t have to suffer through to 10!”. But once I got to the microphone stand, whoo lord, there came the gorilla. I said “Hi” into the mic, and was acutely aware that I already felt breathless. So I took as much air in as I could, and turned my head to the left to exhale. I didn’t want to blanket that scared-shitless-breath onto the audience, they didn’t deserve that. Let the stupid air take it. “Screw you, air!”
I began. And like in similar past situations, I was not in my body. I was not calm, or in the moment. Little Me was slightly to the right of my body going “don’t forget that line! oh shit you forgot that line! omg now you have to make something up! this is sucking! they’re not laughing! this story is too intense, you’re making everyone uncomfortable!”. Meanwhile, Infinity Me was chuckling.
Infinity Me, my good buddy, has been talking to Little Me more lately. “You’re doing just fine, you always are, you’re so cute and funny when you freak out, I’m laughing, see?”. Little Me noticed but tried to ignore Infinity Me. “Whatever dude, they’re not, I’m dying up here!”. And lo and behold, I go completely blank. I am now somewhere between Little Me and Infinity Me. The next line has escaped me. I pause, and manage to play it off for a second, thinking “stay with me people, this is part of the brilliant drama of the piece!” Infinity Me then whispers, “just make something up, they won’t know the difference”. So, I obey. I keep going, while also aware I’ve skipped a whole paragraph somewhere. And now, the all important last line has escaped me. But Little Me is quiet. I don’t panic. Now I’m just noticing the fear instead of becoming it, and a variation of the line pops out that’s not half bad. Done!
As I walk off the stage, Little Me wakes up, “oh god that was awkward!”. I proceed to step down onto what looks like the steps, but it’s actually the speakers, just barely keeping myself from falling. “Omg how embarrasing!” A kind, elderly gentleman in the front row gets out of his seat to extend his hand. I recover graciously and walk a few rows back to sink into my own lonely seat, pretending to enjoy the next storyteller, “haha! see everyone, I’m so relaxed and don’t care that I’m so disappointed, haha!” When the story ended (“got a better score than me, of course!”), the nice man who helped me gets out of his seat and walks over to where I’m sitting. He reaches for my hand again and leans down to look me in the eye. “I really liked your story. It was genuine and sincere.” Well then. Of all the compliments I could have gotten, I’ll gladly take that one. His name is Ralph and I run into him later as I’m leaving. Tomorrow he’s going to Shakespeare in the Park. “It’s going to be so fun. Hope to see you at the next Slam!” Ok Ralph, if you say so.
When the final scores came in, I landed pretty square in the middle. The middle, between Little Me and Infinity Me, was where I was on stage. I played matchmaker. I don’t need to dump Little Me for Infinity Me after all. I want them to fall in love. Little Me deserves it, so does Ralph. Infinity Me just can’t help it.