“We can do hard things.” I pinned this quote to my vision board on Pinterest a while back. I like the simplicity of it, and the boost of self-confidence it gives me. It’s true: I CAN do hard things. I’ve done them before and I’ll do them again.
Of course, there are different kinds of “hard.” There’s giving birth after laboring for 20+ hours with a faulty epidural when not one thing is going according to your carefully drafted birth plan. There’s surviving the stomach bug when you’re 8 mos. pregnant and home alone with a toddler. There’s keeping it together when your child has a bad accident and needs 13 stitches. There’s watching helplessly as a parent weathers a medical crisis. There’s saying no when it would be so much easier to say yes. There’s making it till bedtime on those days when Dad is working late and you’ve used up every shred of patience and sanity you possess.
There are plenty of things that are hard about being an adult in general and a parent in particular. So as I sat in my car the other night blasting my “get-pumped” mixtape (that’s a playlist to you, kids) and repeating my mantra, I had to wonder why on earth I was SEEKING OUT hard things. Like life wasn’t presenting me with enough already? Why did I voluntarily sign up to bare my soul — first in front of a group of strangers, then to the greater Baltimore area, and then to the entire Internet — when I could have just stayed at home in comfy clothes drinking wine and watching my boys wrestle on the family room floor?
A part of me knew this was just nerves before my first Listen to Your Mother rehearsal. I knew it was an honor to be chosen for the show and that this was a great opportunity to meet new people, be a part of something special, and break out of my comfort zone. But at this particular moment I was wondering what, exactly, is so bad about staying in your comfort zone? The appeal is spelled out right there in the phrase: c-o-m-f-o-r-t. Comfort is GOOD! Right?
Then the words of India.Arie, one of my favorite singer/songwriters, floated out from the car speakers:
You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself;
You cannot fly until you break the shell
The truth is, I’ve been keeping myself small for a long time. The truth is, I’m scared. The truth is, it’s so much easier and more comfortable flying under the radar, not challenging myself, doing the same things I’ve always done.
But it’s also true that I’ve wanted desperately to be a part of LTYM since I saw my first show 2 years ago. And it’s true that I am a writer who someday wants to publish a book and maybe go on a book tour, so it’s not the worst idea in the world to try out this live-reading-in-front-of-an-audience thing.
I don’t necessarily need to touch the sky or to fly, but I do want to touch people with my words. That, to me, is the most powerful part of storytelling – whether it’s sharing a story around the dinner table with friends, writing your story in a blog post or personal essay, or reading your story on stage in front of a live audience.
Part of the show’s impact comes from not knowing what the cast members will be reading until the performance. So no spoilers here. (Although if you know me and my blog at all, it will be no surprise that I will be providing some comic relief.) But I will tell you this: every story you hear will touch you in some way. You will relate to it personally, or think of someone you know, or wonder what might have been. I guarantee you will not walk away from the show unaffected.
After I sat there in my car for a while, I realized my pre-rehearsal nerves were mostly about meeting a bunch of new people. I don’t feel like I’m that good at small talk, and I’m terrible at remembering names. And is there a woman among us who hasn’t second-guessed her outfit choice before making a first impression? My nerves began to evaporate shortly after meeting the other cast members, however. And by the end of the rehearsal they were gone. Yes, I will be nervous on show night. But I know I can do this.
I can do hard things. So can you. And we choose to do hard things because that’s how we grow. Right?
INFO O’ THE DAY: If you live in the Baltimore area, I would love, love, LOVE it if you would join me on Sat. April 26 at 6pm. Buy tickets and get directions here. 25% of ticket sales benefit the House of Ruth, a Maryland shelter for battered women and children.