I have decided that this summer is about new experiences – getting out more, trying new things, learning something new. So far, I give myself a bit fat “C” – I’m not exactly failing in my goals, but I’m not passing with flying colors, either.
The first thing on my summer “bucket list” (thank you, Rob Reiner – now everyone is on this bandwagon) was to try out a writing group, which I did this past Saturday. The group was fantastic. Every single person who was there is a gifted writer and every one of them is extremely positive and supportive of each other’s endeavors. It wasn’t surprising, since this particular group was recommended by my friend Susan who not only is an amazing individual and meeting facilitator, but she also tends to surround herself with highly remarkable folks.
I knew before I showed-up that there was a high chance I might melt-down and while my friend Anna and my husband Jay gave me repeated pep-talks about “self-fulfilling prophecies” the week prior, I knew I had to be prepared for the worst. See, when I joke about trying to remember my name or title when introducing myself to a group, it’s actually my number one fear. So, in preparation for the meeting, I read and re-read my story aloud to try and make sure the words were second nature. I tried to remove any word “bumps” that could cause my tongue to stumble. I wanted to try to get as close as I could to that feeling I had in orchestra –being in a concert playing and discovering near the end of the piece that I hadn’t really looked at the notes.
It’s a good thing I practiced, because when I was asked if I had prepared anything I tried to become invisible while cursing at the paper in front of me for waving at everyone. “OH MY GOD, would you stop waving?!?!!” Funny thing about the laws of nature, it turns out that in a room full of people who are looking directly at you, you actually can’t become invisible. It doesn’t matter how good you are at disappearing in a crowd, once those people have locked-on, you’re in trouble.
All the synapses in my brain fired at once sending varying signals in all the wrong directions. In my mind I wrapped my arms around my body and began to rock slowly in place while trying to remember “these are nice people, doesn’t that banana bread smells great, they’re really supportive, they haven’t eaten one of their own that you’ve actually seen, you laughed, remember how you laughed a minute ago? What if you cry? You better not cry. Oh GOD, wouldn’t that be horrific if you cried? You’re not going to cry, are you? You’ll have to read. Crap, they’re still looking expectantly. Start reading, fool.”
It turns out the synapses weren’t actually firing off in random directions; they had a purpose, they were telling my body “hey, want to see something hysterical? Let’s dump a ton of adrenaline in her system while she’s trying to read. This will totally blow her mind. Ready, set, GO!” And that’s when I started shaking uncontrollably. I haven’t shaken that badly since 8th grade when I delivered a report to my English class. Heck, I can dance in front of people, I can play in front of people and I thought that after going over my story repeatedly, I could read in front of people – especially in natural lighting (no spotlights were used) at a cozy kitchen table laden with all sorts of yummy food and a cute dog napping on the floor. While reading, I kept repeating “calm down, Beth – breathe”, but it didn’t work and all I could think was, “wow, this is really LONG”. When all was said and done, everyone was extremely kind and gave positive feedback on my story, which helped let the adrenaline die off and reabsorb. Although, it still wasn’t completely out of my system as I tried to jot down a few notes. I’m positive I could fool a writing expert with this particular sample; it bears little resemblance to my actual handwriting.
I’ve been invited back, which I’m greatly looking forward to and I think as I get to know them my anxiety level will completely dissipate.
The plan for next month is to join the Writer’s League of Texas. Rachel, one of the talented writers in this group, helped me reframe how I think of the Writer’s League. (See, I don’t think I belong there and that it’s rather presumptuous of me to even ask to be counted among their numbers. I’m not a writer. I’m a blogger whose readership is limited to a handful of friends and family.) She basically said, “think of it as supporting a local charity organization.” Brilliant! Now, that I can do; I can easily get behind supporting a non-profit – that feels ok – unlike that other thing.
Next on the list is sewing, which will start in a couple of weeks. I should manage ok since there won’t be much expectation that I speak and hopefully, my years of being Dad’s sewing assistant will come in handy.
As for improv, the class I hope will help me overcome my anxiety issues (see, it’s hard being a burgeoning extrovert when you’re trapped inside someone so painfully shy), well that’s on hold indefinitely. I was going to attend the free class today, which is something I want to do, but I really don’t want a repeat of last week’s freak out. There’s only a finite amount of humiliation I’m willing to take in a short period of time. This means, there won’t be any funny follow-ups on this activity for awhile.
Cooking may be in there at some point, but we’ll see.
Where I initially started out on this list with an enthusiasm I haven’t seen in myself since I was fairly young, “I’m gonna be a WRITER! A DANCER! A SEAMSTRESS! AN ACTRESS! A CHEF!” – I find myself needing a second wind to become re-motivated. Thus, I give myself a C. We’ll see how I rate at the end of the summer.