There is a scene in my book, where I bought this really sexy dress to impress my boyfriend on New Year’s Eve. I was 17. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Then, on the big day, I was so uncomfortable with the attention the sexy dress garnered, I wore a coat all night to cover it up, and wound up leaving the party early.
The scene kept coming to me as my reading drew closer. There is the idea of “attention” and it’s great, and then the reality of it is really uncomfortable. I felt sick with nervous energy prior to the reading. It’s one thing to write behind the safety of your computer screen. It’s another to be vulnerable sharing your work face to face.
But then people started coming and there were so many friendly faces. If you are an author and you want people to come to your readings, join a women’s chorus. They will come. My Windsong sisters were there in large numbers to support me. Many who could not make it sent emails of congratulations and encouragement. Thank you Windsong!
So many friends from so many different areas of my life were there. People from our public school days, lots of homeschool friends. Neighbors. Friends I have not seen in months and didn’t think would be able to make it showed up. My heart was very full of appreciation and I do think it is time to give up the tired old belief that I do not have a support system, because it sure felt like I had a community there.
The woman who read with me is a poet named Terre Maher. She went first and the audience listened raptly as she read a prose piece about a family dinner she and her siblings experienced with her hostile father, all while her mother lay dying of cancer in an upstairs bedroom. It was very moving, the way her child-self disassociated from the drama at the table, and then the tenderness between she and her mother as she answered her mom’s call bell, her escape from the dinner table.
I mentioned in an earlier post how Terre and I had a lot in common. One in particular of course is we grew up with severely wounded fathers. What we found out in our phone conversation earlier in the week is we are from the same hometown! Her family is from Binghamton, NY. They moved when she was little but returned every summer to visit her vast extended family. Of all the people in all the world who would be reading together, what are the odds? I wish I had thought to get a picture of us together, but I didn’t have on my thinking cap for such details at that point in the night! (Most of the pics in this post are from after the reading).
Next, it was my turn. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when I just flat out admitted I was nervous and said I was going to take a breath, and the whole audience spontaneously took a deep breath with me. It immediately put me at ease. Deliberate breathers are good people.
My neighbor Heidi gave me a reassuring wink. I felt a hug from Lidi halfway back to my left. Kirsten was in the front. Meg smiled. HT met my eyes. Cindy nodded.
Once I got rolling, I felt okay. Sure, in my head earlier in the day, I’d had all of these pithy little things I was going to interject (and they all went out the window), but I didn’t faint. I read three pieces, one about a huge fight I had with my father when I was about ten years old, over the TV show Laverne & Shirley, one on a transcendent moment I had as a child while on an inner tube on a lake, and a final piece about how I got to college against all odds, due to the generosity of a boyfriend’s parents.
Many people said I didn’t appear nervous. It seems I have a good poker face.
A whole bunch of us went out for dinner after.
HT worked ’til 11PM Friday, then got up and went to work at 6AM Saturday so he could have the evening off and come to the reading. He then worked at 6AM Sunday after going out the night before. Looking at this picture just fills me with love and gratitude for him. For being there, for dealing with all my neurosis leading up to the reading, and also in the aftermath of it Sunday. Because there was fallout. I seriously had a hard time with all the vulnerability the event drummed up in me and felt like crawling into a hole to hide on Sunday.
I wanted nothing more than to put a big thick coat over my sexy dress.
My ego got hold of me. I questioned myself. I wished I had not used certain words during the reading, (“balls,” I was quoting someone, “assholes,” all mine). I watched a few minutes of video HT took and noted my mouth looks strange when I talk. I questioned whether I am just damaged and starved for attention and is that why I felt compelled to write this book? Is it why I blog? Am I mean or vindictive writing about my father when I know he is so very wounded and ill? I felt ripped open and raw and was so very hard on myself. And I had this strange feeling all day of needing my mom.
I have not allowed myself to “need” my mom in over twenty years.
Around 8PM, I called her.
She reassured me of the value of my writing. Even if it is painful for her or my father. She reassured me it is good for me to write and to share our experience. She said I have no idea who it might help. She reassured me I am good.
She mothered me.
I let her.
She shared more of her story than I had known. She shared her regrets.
She said to give all my worry and self-doubt to God.
It’s okay for me to write my truth. It’s okay for me to share it. I don’t even have to understand the whole picture.
It’s okay for me to shine.