How does it feel?

To have crashed and burned?
To have lost it halfway through performing my poem?
To have completely blanked out on what came next and spent five minutes – OK, maybe 30 seconds – trying to get it back?
To have humiliated myself in front of friends and associates?

“How do you feel?”  The question was asked me in a very solicitous way by a woman I didn’t know, in a tone that suggested to me that she expected me to feel crappy.

The answer took a while to get clear for me, then came through loud and clear….”It feels thrillingly human.” It feels like a relief.  It’s something that I knew had to happen sometime.  I have been performing poems at Jubilee four times a year for ten years and I’ve never had a poem not hit a home run.  I’ve had little ripples – times when babies cried and it threw me off my game and I would lose a line.  But nobody would ever know.  I always rallied and took it home.

This time I did rally also and finished strong.  And I did once again have people say that it worked for them – and that my stuck place, which in this case was totally obvious to everyone, did not take away from the impact of the poem, that the poem meant a lot to them.  One person said that it was her favorite part of the whole show.

So, thrillingly human – someone who can make mistakes.  There’s no safer place for me than Jubilee to make mistakes.  This poem opened the show for a dance performance – a very sweet movement and story-telling show filled with amateur dancers.

My poem opened for a dance performance on the topic of legacy - and my poem sprang from a friend's legacy of being abused as a child..  The choreographer and dancers, familiar with my track record as a killer poet and performer, expected me to open the show with a bang.  Was it a terrible thing that I fell apart delivering my poem?

My poem opened for a dance performance on the topic of legacy – and my poem sprang from a friend’s legacy of being abused as a child.. The choreographer and dancers, familiar with my track record as a killer poet and performer, expected me to open the show with a bang. Was it a terrible thing that I fell apart delivering my poem?

What if the worst had happened?  What would have been the worst?  The worst would have been for me to not recoup – for me just not be able to get it together, and to slink off the stage in shame.  That would be the worst.  Maybe not the worst though – because even that I could have recovered from.  Tonight I feel OK with that.  The worst, maybe, would be if that was not OK with me – if my infraction tonight stirred my self-hate – that would be the worst.  But even that wouldn’t have been so awful, because it’s human, because I go in and out of it all the time, because I’ve developed more skill in recuperating from self-hate and I bounce back from it.

In truth, what happened was not so awful.  In truth, it provided the audience with a wonderful experience – a chance to reach out to a performer, to be pulling for me.  Is it not possible that them opening their hearts to me, right at the beginning of the program, gave them a chance to be an even better audience for the rest of the show, to really open themselves to the dancers and the storytelling about their lives and their innocent, heart-felt,amateur dancing? I think that almost certainly this was true..

So the worst happened and it was OK.  No, the worst didn’t happen because I was OK with stuff that I surprised myself by accepting.  I fell apart in a way that I would have told you in advance was terrible and it was not.  In fact, it was perfect.

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9 thoughts on “How does it feel?

  1. I’ve probably presented doves at some 1000 Memorials or Funerals in 10 years.
    My script comes from memory, unlike yours, where it’s pretty much the same.
    I take pride in saying it from my heart. On occasion I forget some words, or the background music is too loud and I stop to change it without making a big deal of it. Regardless of mistakes or interruptions, I go forward, pick up, take a breath, get back on track. I think my greater accomplishment is how I appear in my ability to be at ease with my own mistakes and imperfections, making the corrections (when possible), and moving forward.
    One time I replaced the name of the deceased (in the presentation) accidently with the name of her friend (standing before me). After It was over I was told that the deceased would have loved it that way, and they, had a good laugh around my blunder.
    Although very apologetic, I had to laugh with them.
    I too am learning to find peace with my humanness that does not always pull off the perfect home run. And I have had many a home run to be proud of.

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    • I relate. My daughter was married this May. I was suppose to sing a song (as I’d done rather well at my son’s wedding a few years ago). Things happened before we got to the venue…a traffic ticket…running late…getting lost. I was frazzled. The band was doing its thing and I was getting ready for my entrance. I rehearse the familiar lines of the song in my head and …oh, shit…my mind went blank. I could not pull them out of whatever neural complex they were hiding. and I hadn’t bothered to write then down. Such was my confidence. I went up to the band leader at a break and cancelled the performance..my own.

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  2. Majo, I love this post! I feel liberated reading it. I am on a path of freeing myself to make more mistakes, take more risks, and not stop because of fear of failure. Let’s be perfectly imperfect humans together!:)

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