There is a Spoken Word Poetry open mic night in town on Wednesday. I put my name on the attending list about a month ago. I was really psyched that I’d reached out, so proud of myself that I’d taken another step out of my solitary, secret life of writing. It was all happening, I was doing it!
But, I wasn’t. As usual I was talking about doing it. Yes, of course baby steps are important and deserving of encouragement but I am at a point where it’s just not enough for me anymore. I’ve been here before…
Not so long ago, I had a similar opportunity to push myself further than ever before. To take that gigantic leap, to be brave, to break the chains I wrap around myself and I got so close I could taste it. Sure, it was a highly intense time for me. I had just broken free of a relationship, it was Christmas and my whole life was turned upside down. Everything was broken. But, it was magnificent also because, all that was left was truth. My truth. Everything was so clear and terrifying. I knew exactly who I was and what I wanted. And I ran towards it.
My friend was visiting from the States and was concerned, as he knew my life was a mess, so he kindly offered up his last night in the country and invited me to the city for dinner and a supportive shoulder to lean on. At the same time, my brother sent me a link, informing me that The Moth was having an open-mic kind of event not far from where I was going to be that night. I’d been watching Moth stories online and craved to be part of it and now it was right here. I couldn’t ignore it! My heart exploded into hyper drive and I began to write. I wrote and wrote for every second of the next twenty-four hours I wrote. I wrote a piece so beautiful and relevant and passionate, it encapsulated my entire journey to freedom in a five-minute metaphor. I could see myself perform it, hear my voice speak it, feel the release I craved so desperately. I was ready.
I told my friend about it and was thrilled when he said he’d go with me. As a talented, successful, confident artist himself, I could not have asked for a better person to be there for me. He looked me in the eye and held my hand and told me to embrace the passion that was burning and churning in my stomach. Take a deep breath and speak my truth. I was inspired and was practically climbing the walls with anticipation. This was it.
As we put on our coats to go to the club, he opened the door for me and…I paused. My feet stuck to the floor and I felt my throat close up. “I’m going to choke. I’m going to disappoint him and myself. I can’t do this. I’m not brave. I’m terrified. I don’t deserve this. I’m weak, I can’t even move or leave this room, of course I can’t do this!”.
He patiently waited. He explained my choice to me. “If you don’t want to. Don’t. But, if you really WANT to, let’s go. It’s up to you.”
So, I stepped through the door and out into the rain.
We ran and jumped into a taxi and I kept breathing. We arrived at the club and I stepped through the door, threw myself at the ticket desk, drenched from the rain, frantic and shaking. I told the lovely young girl behind the desk that I’d written something and to sign me up.
We were too late. The names of the people to speak that night had already been picked out of the hat. Performances had already begun. If I wanted to go in, we’d have to slip quietly past the stage. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to interrupt someone’s story when I had paused to tell my own. That person on stage didn’t pause. They did it. They made it on time and bravely took center stage. I hadn’t. I had paused. My feet had stuck to the floor when I had every support, every opportunity to do otherwise and my fucking feet wouldn’t move and tears pricked my eyes. “I don’t deserve this.”.
All was not lost and I took away a lot of positives from the experience but if I’m really honest it’s still eating away at me. The organiser of this open night mic on Wednesday sent me a message to say I’m welcome and that I don’t have to speak, I can just go and see how I feel and listen to others. This is a fantastic opportunity to ease myself in gently, meet some nice people who are inspired by words, just like me. I just wish that demon inside of me would be quiet. Stop reminding me of all the times I have failed.”You have backed out of every, single performance opportunity you have ever been given. Even as a child, you quit everything, hid everything..”. Shut up Demon. “Why?! You’re shutting up enough for the both of us!”.
But, I suppose… I’m not hiding now. I just read back over what I’ve just written and realised despite the fear, despite the self-deprecating thoughts, I’m pushing through them, little by little. I’m not hiding, I’m sharing. When that self-doubt takes hold it can really fuck you up. And it makes me laugh because the piece I wrote for The Moth was about exactly this. About how you just need to take the step. Step into the fog even if you’re afraid you will lose your way. Okay, so I go on Wednesday and with some luck I will want to get up and read. Worst case scenario, I get up on stage and choke right? But, at least this time I will have made it as far as the stage. I will do it. One day I will be ready. In the meantime, I think I need to stop hating myself for not being the person I want to be yet. Trying is better than hiding. If you hide, you have only demons to invite to dinner.