Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mothers, Daughters, and a Public Reading

Last night my daughter went with me to hear me read at the public reading for my writing class. She was the only teenager there - it was really special to have her there with me.  The honest discussion on the way home about how she feels about things was priceless, especially because she opened up to me without any prodding or questions from me.

She was really proud of me for being brave and shared my anxiety about reading in front of a crowd.  I need to stand with a cane but am not coordinated enough to hold a microphone, read from a piece of paper, and feign some sort of eye contact while propping myself up on a cane.  I think I could have managed if I didn't have to hold the microphone.  There was nowhere to put my cane, so I put it on the ground.  I stood on my bad foot a little with most of my weight on my good one.  My voice quivered, which made me anxious.  My hands started shaking, which amped up my anxiety even more.  I cried a little at the end.  My daughter said she cried too. 

I am absolutely suffering today in more ways than one.  My bad foot is hurting badly, and my good one (which is not that good) is hurting some.  I have a million things to do, but the nerve in my right foot is spazzing.  I think I may need to give in and go to the pain management doctor.  Maybe they will give me special lollipops instead of hard-core narcotics. 

I am very upset that I showed my anxiety to my daughter.  I wish I had held it together.  I wish I had chosen something different to read.  Maybe anything would have had the same effect.  It wasn't what wrote and read that brought me to tears - it was the anxiety.

The funny thing is that I have led countless meetings, given presentations in large lecture halls to sometimes hostile crowds, conducted user training for people who weren't there by choice, and spoken in front of VP's and department heads without any real problem with only flushed skin revealing my discomfort.  But I never fell apart - not even once.  It got easier and easier the more I did it.  Self-confidence in what I was presenting - in the application I designed or in an idea I had - was what got me through.  The speaking part was a necessary evil, so I sucked it up and did it.

I am torn between never reading in a public setting again and forcing myself to do it.  I'm not sure.  Next time, I will definitely pick something less personal and something more upbeat.  Or maybe something I have already successfully read out loud in the larger group in my class would be easier.  Lots of people who read last night read things they have presented before.  It didn't really occur to me to do that.  That would have been a safer move.

My mother called me tonight to ask how it went.  As I mentioned yesterday, I read her a chapter of the story over the phone and made her cry.  I told her she shouldn't come if she would get upset, and she agreed.  In retrospect, it would have been funny to have three generations of women crying together over a piece about my grandmother (er, uh, the character's grandmother) - four generations of women in the same room, three of them crying about the loss of the fourth. 

Up until now, my mom has been completely disinterested in my writing - it holds absolutely no interest for her.  If I mention it, she changes the subject the way I change the subject when my step dad starts talking about car repair.  She just doesn't get it at all.  Once I read the chapter to her, she got it.  I told her the other ideas I had.  She listened carefully and was truly excited.   

Tonight she called to ask me how it went.  I told her I cried and I got so nervous my hands and voice were shaking.  She told me I shouldn't let that stop me from writing and that I'm a wonderful writer.  She told me she wants to read the story when it's done.  That is literally the only genuinely positive thing my mother has said to me ever, and it means everything. 

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