An email notification from the Listen to Your Mother producers appears, and I know immediately what this is.
They’ve made their decisions.
Eighteen days earlier, in the aftermath of the snowiest weekend of the year, I auditioned for one of 13 spots in Pittsburgh’s Listen to Your Mother performance.
If you’re not familiar with Listen to Your Mother, it is a reading/performance event hosted in connection with Mother’s Day in 41 cities. It celebrates motherhood with original writing by 13 individuals who get onstage in front of several hundred people to read their funny, sad, heartbreaking, and hilarious essays about being or not being a mom, trying to be a mom, missing one’s mom, etc.
It’s also a fundraiser for a different charity in each city. This year, 10% of the Pittsburgh’s show proceeds will benefit Jeremiah’s Place, a crisis nursery in East Liberty open 24/7 for all children ages 6 and under who need free, temporary short-term care when families are in crisis or experiencing an emergency situation and need safe care for their children. That crisis may be emergency medical care, urgent childcare needs, and care of children at risk for child abuse. It’s staffed 24/7 by trauma-informed caregivers and social workers. Children’s length of stay is determined based on the needs of the family and availability of care. In addition to providing free, round-the-clock childcare, Jeremiah’s Place is also working to invest in the kinds of programs that prevent child abuse and neglect by providing parenting classes, community events, and a mentor program.
Last year was the inaugural year for Pittsburgh’s Listen to Your Mother show, and although I had an audition time in 2015, I wasn’t able to make it because of the damn weather that particular weekend. Although this year wasn’t much better, things worked out.
I’d written and re-written this particular essay, gotten The Husband’s blessing. Yes, this story was and is mine and I don’t need his permission to tell it, but it’s a story that’s a significant part of our 25 year history together. So, you know, courtesy and respect and all that. Plus, we’re a little fragile these days, so speak now or forever hold your peace if you’d rather I not tell the whole world about this, that, and the other thing.
I asked if he wanted to hear my essay ahead of time (he said the choice was up to me). I bitched about not being able to nail the tone in the way I wanted, wrangled over an entire section, killed some darlings, and stayed up late editing and revising. I practiced the entire piece alone in our bedroom, timing myself with my cell phone to stay at the 5 minute requirement, and spent a Friday night watching YouTube videos of Pittsburgh’s 2015 Listen to Your Mother cast. Revised and edited some more. Rinsed, lathered, repeated.
And now, in the middle of a perfectly ordinary Wednesday, was the verdict.
It took a few minutes for the news to sink in, that, yes, I had been selected as part of the 2016 Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh cast. I re-read the email several dozen times. Mum was the word, at least until everyone had been notified, so there would be no running into my coworkers’ offices. They knew about the audition and promised to come to the show.
(I love my coworkers, who are some of the best people in the world, but … ehrmaGAWD, the FUCK have I done?!)
I did, however, text The Husband and make sure he really was interested in hearing me tell this story to 600 people on May 6.
(He repeated that yes, he is. And that he was so, so proud.)
While I would have been disappointed — and, ultimately, fine — if the decision had been different, this is a big freaking deal to me. As I told the producers before reading my piece, this is a story that I haven’t told publicly. I made a brief mention of it during a church service 15 years ago but I’m just starting to write more about it.
Although this is something I’ve lived with for almost 31 years, this openness is something that is very, very new. I’m still getting used to this, which is an odd feeling. Sure, I could have easily gone the rest of my days without sharing this story. After all, it’s much easier to remain quiet and hidden than to put yourself out there. But sometimes, when opportunities present themselves, I think that’s a nudge from the universe to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and surprise ourselves by doing greater things that we would have never thought ourselves capable of doing.
Which is what I’ll be doing in a big way, standing right here, onstage at the Carnegie Lecture Hall on May 6. And if you would like to see me be brave, you can get your tickets NOW by clicking here. Based on last year’s sales, this will sell out quickly.
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is …
~ Sara Bareilles, “Brave”