On Saturday we had our first rehearsal for Listen To Your Mother Boston 2015. It’s my 3rd year going through this. I’m at the point where sometimes I underestimate how something will feel because I assume I have a handle on it and I know what to expect. Sure enough, the whole thing can take me by surprise sometimes.
I’ve been sitting with words on pages, names on note cards, getting the cast figured out, trying out different orders, going through edits. So I was a little off guard when I got in a room with all these wonderful people and felt like I was overflowing.
I got up to walk everybody through what was about to happen and I found that I couldn’t give the whole talk I’d planned on because I knew if I started telling them how amazing they are that I’d lose it. So I cut my notes down a bit and decided to just let them see what was about to happen on their own.
In my current show order (still not finalized) I put myself in the second slot. So it was only minutes after I started the reading that I had to read myself.
That was when I got another reminder of how this all works.
Reading your words out loud changes them. And it doesn’t feel the way you think it’ll feel.
I’m a crier and it’s not a happy piece, but I was already struggling in the second paragraph. I didn’t audition, so this was my first time reading these words to anyone and that wasn’t helping.
But part of it was that I don’t get to talk about these things. Even to my friends, even to people who know, even to people who care about me. There’s this thing we all do when something is difficult where we downplay the struggle and upsell how well we’re doing. We’re afraid to make other people uncomfortable by showing our vulnerability, our fear, our need.
Even me. Even a person who shares her soul on the internet has this problem.
I realized while I was reading these words that I still don’t get to talk about anything besides the practicalities of divorce and single parenthood. I don’t get to have conversations with people about the terror and the loneliness and the struggle of it. I write about it, and that’s not nothing, but it’s also not the same.
I have talked about divorce a lot in the last couple years. I can talk about it without being upset, without batting an eye. But as soon as I start talking about it this way, in a way that isn’t stating a fact but opening a tightly held set of feelings, every bit of that emotion just comes gushing out and I don’t have much practice at dealing with it.
So yeah, I didn’t exactly have a perfect read. And I know I won’t have a perfect read on show day. It is going to be a struggle to get through and I know that. But saying these things showed me how much they need to be said.
And I am glad I get to say them. Even if I don’t say them calmly or thoughtfully, even if I’m kind of a mess as the words come out of my mouth. Saying them matters, even if it only matters for me and no one else.
This life is all about fake it till you make it, and putting up that strong front is almost second nature now. I do it with everyone. Because if I take it down, even if it’s just for a little while, then I know that person is going to worry about me. And the minute they ask me if I’m doing okay, I’m just going to put that front up right away. The defense mechanisms kick in and for whatever reason I can’t let myself be vulnerable even if I want to.
That’s part of what’s hardest about being on my own. Being partnered gives you that person, the one where you put your fists down and just say what you feel.
I can see how much I miss that in my life. I can see how much harder it is without it. I can see all the bottling up that’s still happening, all the demons I still haven’t fully confronted, all the fears that are still tucked deeply inside.
Sharing here just doesn’t quite do it. If you asked me about this post tomorrow, I’d respond with a smile and say I’m feeling better. That reflex just doesn’t turn off.
So for now I’ll stand in front of a few hundred people in a few weeks and speak those words. And I’ll still have my defenses up, I’ll still be working hard to say those words without losing it completely. But I’ll be saying something that needs to be said.