Thursday, February 4, 2016
The Show Must Go On
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a fund-raising event at the Phillips Area Community Center.
It was an evening of “True Stories and Tall Tales,” emceed by Phillips’ very own Winona Davenport.
Headlining the event were four gentlemen; author Doug Dunlap of Farmington, Rep. Tom Skolfield of Weld, Maine Guide Niilo Sillanpaa of New Vineyard and Maine Guide Roger Lambert of Strong.
And then there was Me.
As you can see, I was in the Presence of Greatness! Doug and Tom wove comical down-home tales of Maine and Mainers; a subject near and dear to locals’ hearts. Niilo and Roger are master moose callers and seasoned hunters; stiff competition, indeed.
Why, immediately following the last time I tried a moose call, The F.A.R.M. was overrun by feral cats from across the western region of Somerset County! I haven’t received that type of response from an audience since the evening I practiced on my bagpipes up in the orchard. Shortly thereafter, the Township organized a protest and presented me with signed petitions demanding that I ship my pipes back to Scotland…and my kilt, along with it.
But back to Saturday night. I was nervous. It doesn’t matter how many times I stand up in front of a crowd, nor how small or large that crowd might be; I always, always get nerved up. I get grumpy in the hours leading up to the event, which results in my family being less-than-thrilled each time I accept an invitation to do “Stand-up.” My stomach gets upset, too…which can lead to its own set of challenges.
One of my biggest obstacles is that when I get anxious, I can’t remember what I want to say. I get a big “FAIL” when it comes to memorizing my lines. My shtick. Even though the words or the poems or the stories are mine…totally original and created by me…I forget everything I want to say.
So I cheat. I write it all down.
You wouldn’t think it would be possible to mess up if you’ve got the words right there in front of you, would you? But yes…it is possible. In fact, it seems to be par for the course.
One time, my contacts went all screwy. Dry eyes? A product of my nervousness, perhaps? Whatever the reason, those babies refused to float on my corneas and instead, they stuck to my eyeballs like they were super-glued in place. I couldn’t focus on the words in front of my face. So…not only was I stuttering as I tried to remember my lines, but my face was contorted, my eyes squinting, my eyelids flapping as I tried to read my typed pieces of paper. The audience probably thought I was having a seizure.
On another occasion, I brought a fan on stage with me. An abundance of sweat is an added effect of my nervousness…and few things are less pleasing than to watch sweat dripping off the nose of a person on stage; a person who is there to entertain a crowd, not repel it. When I stepped over to turn on the fan, I forgot that it was not only pointed directly at ME, but also at the podium which held my stack of papers. The very papers I intended to follow along on, as I spoke. The sheets went everywhere...and didn’t even have the decency to fall on the floor in some semblance of order.
Naturally, my non-existent equilibrium took an even greater hit as I scrambled around on the floor trying to scoop up the pages that were intended to assist me in appearing suave and in control. Another FAIL!
Each time something goes wrong…each time I stand before a gathering and make a fool of myself…I swear I’ll never do it again. Never, ever!
I arrived in Phillips well-situated within my Comfort Zone. I was grumpy. Jumpy. I had stomach cramps. A bit of a headache. My clothes felt uncomfortable and I knew I’d probably fall off my heels before the evening was over.
BUT! I had my sheaf of papers, printed in large “16 font” just in case my eyes decided to betray me. I wore my glasses instead of my contact lenses. I didn’t eat all day in order to keep my digestive track under control.
If only I’d remembered to staple my pages together.
Yes, half-way through my spiel…I dropped the page I was reading from. It floated gently to the floor, landing underneath a table where others were sitting. I immediately forgot everything I was saying. Didn’t have a clue what the topic of my story was. Without that cheat-sheet, I was lost.
There ensued some ungainly attempts on my part to retrieve the paper -- but by then, the others in my hand seemed to lose their order. I didn’t recognize a single word on the top page in my hands. I might have stammered on for several seconds…or for several minutes. It’s all a blur. The mind has a way of doing that – of protecting delicate psyches such as mine from the pain of reality.
But the show must go on, mustn’t it? Somehow, I recovered and moved forward with my silly tale. The gentlemen who shared the stage with me were gracious and kind, as was the audience. I survived.
And even though I keep swearing I’ll never put myself through that again… I’ll be speaking to a group of young ladies at next week’s Girl’s Talk banquet.
After all…the show must go on.