The Listen To Your Mother Austin cast had our first table read yesterday. I walked away feeling warm and hopeful, and really fortunate to have my mother, and to have my son.
When I sent in my original essay to start my LYTM audition process, I didn’t have expectations. I didn’t even tell anyone until I’d secured an actual audition. Almost anyone. I got my most difficult audience out of the way before I had even heard back from the LYTM producers: my mom.
My mom isn’t a difficult audience because she is a critic–quite the contrary. She’s my biggest fan. But, she was my most difficult audience because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read the piece to her aloud without crying. I didn’t either. I think I got three paragraphs in before I started meeping, and had to choke out the last four because…my mom.
Still, I managed. I read it aloud to her because she deserved to hear it before anyone else, and because if the essay had any success at all, it was down to her. No Mom, No Essay.
Then, I took the piece to audition. I made it most of the way through before I started to cry.
See, I love my parents–most of us do. I don’t think I am any special case when it comes to that, but I do think my mom is a special case when it comes to being a mother. Is she perfect? No. Are any of us? Uh-uh. But in her humanity, she took everything she had good in her, and used it for me. She took everything dark in her, and shoved it down as deep as it would go, and did her best to keep it from me. She absolutely did the very best she could, and you can’t ask for more than that.
I am one of those people who worries, “What if this is the last time I see Joe?” Every morning when I drop off my son at school, I watch him walk away and think, “If this was it…” Then I pull myself up short and turn on Sports Radio because that is a terrible way to start a morning. But that concern colors my interactions with the people I love. If this was the last conversation, did I leave it with your total assurance that beyond all of the minutiae of life, I love you?
I wanted to read the essay to my mom because if the piece wasn’t selected for audition, or if the audition didn’t go well, or if I got cast, but something terrible happened before I could perform it for her, I wanted her to have heard it first. I believe in eulogizing the living. It doesn’t do the dead a lick of good.
My son wandered up while I was reading it to her, and he leaned against me. Maybe one of the greatest gifts I can give him is to let him see my willingness to be vulnerably in love with his extended family. Love exposes us more than any other emotion. I want him to know that the exposure is worth the risk.
At the cast read, I was first in the line of order. No relaxing into it. Just feet first. Cold water. A room full of peers, some of whom are six rungs up the ladder from where I want to be. What was coming? Judgment? Critique? What? Extreme vulnerability is what. But my mom is worth the risk, so I jumped in.
I made it all the way to the last paragraph before my nerves shook the tears out of me. That’s a win! And there was no judgment. Just appreciation.
We went in a circle, each woman reading out of her vulnerability because the risk was worth it. Each story came from a tender place, an honest place, and a hopeful place. Each story was about how the risk of love is worth the vulnerability of exposure, whether it is love for a mother, a child, a friend, or for yourself.
In part of my essay, I talk about how my mother’s unwavering faith in my ability has meant that even when I know I can’t win at something (like any sport, ever), I can still enjoy the process of losing. I’m not embarrassed, or afraid of failing–I don’t like it, but I don’t let not liking it keep me from trying. And that’s all my mother in me. That is 100% because of her.
I hope if you’re near Austin, you’ll come out to the show. I’d like you to get to hear me say the words out loud, and let you get a look at my mom, who will be in the audience. I’d like her to hear your applause because the audience is really for her. I’m just the voice getting to tell you what a fantastic mother she is.