I have been here. I have been quiet, humble, introspective, but here. This has been a time in my life that has called for experiencing. Not yelling. Not speaking. Not storytelling. It has been a time for listening to what life wants to tell me.
But tonight, here I am.
I walk around in a haze, unable to feel any more emotions. After a week that brought the sale of our beloved home, Mother’s Day with my entire joyful and energetic family, and my Listen To Your Mother show performances, I am full.
I am so full I have been emptied.
The dynamic Jess, of Jess Rotenberg Photography, captured the LTYM performances and our opening night. She posted this picture to Facebook with one word to accompany it: Brave.
And it makes me wonder, am I brave?
I wanted to stand up there. My ego wanted to be pacified, I wanted my voice to be heard. I say ego, you say self-confidence, my friend says passion, my mom says a calling. Either way, I am not sure it was bravery that compelled me to submit. I cannot say it was bravery that made me walk in to the audition room. It was not bravery that got me through that audition, reading a piece about my kindergartner while he sat behind me, with headphones on.
But in the few short days after the performances have ended, after I quietly slipped out of the cast party too scared to say good-bye and too scared to admit to anyone that this was The End, that word comes up again and again. Brave.
I find myself needing to process. I find myself needing to speak. For a writer, for me, speaking is here at this computer, with you, dear reader.
The nights of our performances unexpectedly bowled me over. My knees were knocking, my lips quivering. I squared my shoulders and faced the light. I wasn’t sure if I would start. How could I get through this?
It was amazing. Me, the woman who loves to speak, who has given presentations on blogging to hundreds, was a mess of tangled, red thread inside.
What happened to me? At what point does public speaking cease to be a presentation and start to feel violently personal? I don’t know, but I do know I had passed that point. LTYM was a performance and I was setting myself up to be horribly rejected. What if they didn’t like me? What if they didn’t like something that felt like a piece of my heart? It was very, very personal up there.
So I am brave. All of my castmates are brave. Strong, fierce, passionate, loving, and brave.
We are not brave simply because we stood in front of a spotlight and spoke to a faceless auditorium.
We are brave because we took experiences that weren’t perfect and offered them up to anyone and everyone. We took our personal lives, our personalities, and who we are and turned our souls inside out. On a stage. We stopped hiding behind Facebook statuses and Instagram filters to be REAL. We forced life to be raw for over 90 minutes. We forced ourselves to feel (a million times over again) each other’s stories and we forced the audience to feel them, too.
We were brave because we chose to be real. We chose to speak about our uglies and we chose to share how those uglies made our lives in to beautiful stories worth sharing.
That kind of bravery is remarkable and it does, indeed, deserve a standing ovation. In life today it is so easy to hide while pretending as though we are sharing. We can “Like” and “LOL” but that doesn’t mean that we’ve truly connected in a meaningful way.
To connect in a meaningful way requires facing the fear that we might not be liked. We have to walk around the ugly reality that someone might leave a negative comment, form the wrong conclusion, or judge. We have to trust that who we are is worthy of being known. We have to be brave.
Bravery doesn’t require battlefields, it turns out. It isn’t just for soldiers and Hollywood movies. We have to want to push aside the fear that keeps us from sharing our true souls. Bravery, it turns out, is accessible to each of us every day if we want it.
And, based on my experiences over the past week, you want it.
You really, really want it.
So go out there: be brave.
You might find yourself gripping hands with 12 other amazing, brave people while looking at a standing ovation. You never know where the journey might lead.