I sat seated on stage before my piece, scanning the sold out seats to pick out familiar faces— my family members, friends and co-workers, so honored they all came to see me. So honored to be amongst such great writers on stage.
I'm not going to lie— I was nervous. I didn't realize I would be nervous until the day of the performace, when old fears began to resurface.
A very long time ago (we're talking back when I wore friendship safety pins on my Keds and slouched E.G. socks over my jeans), I had dreams of being a Broadway actress.
I loved acting and singing and was in countless plays and musical performances up through high school, where I developed a terrible case of stage fright. It seems the combination of being a self-conscious teenager and putting your talents on display in front of your peers do not mix well.
It wasn't enough that I was afraid of performing badly or forgetting the words, I was most afraid of PEEING IN MY PANTS ONSTAGE.
Can you think of anything more embarrassing to happen to a teenage girl in front of their entire student body in a high school auditorium?
I credit my overactive imagination. I was like Speilberg thinking of worst possible end-of-the-world scenarios except on a much smaller scale.
I used to wait until the last possible moment and then try to relieve every last bit of liquid before I took the stage. If I misjudged the timing, I would go back and do it again, whether I had to pee or not, sprinting back from the bathroom to make my entrance— ensuring that I was always in a state of panic when I took the stage.
I remember during a final dress rehearsal, I tried to run through lines while being totally distracted by the supposed fullness of my bladder. You just peed before you got up here, I told myself— it's in your head.
Then my sub-conscious dared me to let my bladder loose to prove a point.
I remember the small trickle of pee that slid down my leg before I could stop it, then trying to get through the scene while wondering if anybody noticed. (Keep in mind— this was in high school, not after I had my fifth kid.)
It was enough to make me give it up for good.
I peed about twenty times before finally walking on stage, one last time practically delaying the opening of the show— old habits die hard.
And I thanked the production gods for putting me third in the line-up so I could get it over with and enjoy the rest of the show stress-free.
Once I was up there reading, I wish I could say that a different animal immediately took over. But I became very aware of my leg shaking as I began and silently cursed the fact that I had worn heels.
But the audience was very receptive and when I started listing the items my daughter had stolen from me to the 911 operator (read the piece if you have no idea what I am talking about), they erupted in laughter and applause so loud that I actually had to wait until it died down to continue.
There is nothing that feeds a performer more than laughter from an audience. I tried to soak up each moment for all it was worth.
When I sat back down, my intial reaction was one of relief. Not only had it gone well, but I had made it back to my seat with my bladder fully in tact.
But as I watched the other performers take the stage, it occured to me— I WANTED TO DO IT AGAIN.
I'm too old to let a teenage fear take away from a truly spectacular moment.
Next time, if there is a next time— I want the freedom to just enjoy it.
It's time to put this fear to bed.
Or lock it in the bathroom, where it belongs.
What fear do you wish would die an ugly death?