Me on the outside. Accompanied by several voices on the inside.
For me, being quiet on the outside usually means my attention has been diverted to shouting down a bunch of voices on the inside.
Some say these are not actually voices, per se, but thoughts. Pick your poison.
They can either be consuming or entertaining, depending on your perspective.
Recently, after waiting almost two years due to a worldwide pandemic, I was to be the tenth performer in a live audience production.
This meant waiting on stage in full audience view, facing the audience, for the first hour and fifty minutes during moving and often dramatic performances of cast mates.
I am sorry to admit that on the outside I was trying to listen to the performances...over an ongoing drama of some voices on the inside.
And I'm still with Tom Petty: "The Waaaaaaiiiitttin' is the the Haaarrdestt Part."
Urinary + Assorted GI Tract: “Did you go to the bathroom?”
“But did you go ENOUGH? Maybe there’s a little more and sitting here like this shivering from cold and nerves is going to shake down some more and then you’ll have to go again, and it is only going to increase and increase until minutes before your turn at which point you’ll have to run off stage to relieve yourself, only seconds before you’re up and the WHOLE AUDIENCE, and PRODUCERS and CASTMATES will be left in shock wondering WHERE IN THE HELL DID SHE GO? And the show will just move on to the next performer and THAT WILL BE THAT. “
SO BETTER THINK ABOUT THAT WHILE YOU SIT HERE APPEARING ALL CALM AND NOT RELIEVING YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOU PROBABLY DO HAVE TO GO A LITTLE MORE!
RIGHT NOW! LIKE RIGHT NOW! GET UP AND EXIT STAGE LEFT OFF THE BACK. NO ONE WILL NOTICE AND THEN YOU & I BOTH WILL FEEL SO MUCH BETTER AND THEN WE CAN RELAX!
Me: Ok. Just a little more. Let me listen now.
Stomach (standing for recognition): Um, hello. It’s me Stomach. We’re feeling a little nervous.
Me: It’s OK. You’re just excited. This is exciting, right?
Stomach: Yah, but you know how I can get.
Me: Yes, but you’re OK now. You’ve been fed exactly what you like right? So you’re fine. You’re going to be fine.
Stomach: How can you be so sure? I’ve turned on you before and I can do it again.
Me: True. But you’re a part of this TEAM, right? And the TEAM really wants to do this thing right? So you don’t want to ruin it for the TEAM, right?
Stomach (looks embarrassed, acknowledges and shakes head)
Me: Just try and listen. There’s some good stuff happening right now and you don’t want to miss it or make the Team miss it.
Stomach (taking his seat, looking down): Ok, I guess. Not now.
Stomach (looks back up – sends out a large Growl): Some other time though, right?
Me (making deals with her stomach to allow it to have its way and steal the scene-- and likely an entire day--at some future point): Sure, Some other time.
Heart: Reporting in... Lots going on here right now. We are monitoring the situation closely.
Me: It’s excitement! You haven’t felt this in a long time, but isn’t it exhilarating? Doesn’t it just make you feel alive?
Heart: The kind of “alive” that precedes “dead,” possibly. We are monitoring all systems for a full-blown arrest right now.
Me (simultaneously appreciating Heart's deadpan humor): Come on! No heart condition has ever been detected. Don’t be a drama queen.
Heart: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE ME.
Me: Ok, sorry. I do respect you and your power.
Heart: That’s more like it —and HEART hereby reserves the right to SHUT THIS MOTHER DOWN if she so desires.
Me: Roger that.
Heart: Also, just so you know, here’s how it would play out: I flick this single switch, you feel a tightening, and then, BOOM. You slump over in your chair onstage. No one notices for awhile. Then as I shut down blood flow, your body slumps sideways and off the chair to the floor.
Heart: And then MY SHOW begins! They would rush to check your heartbeat.
NONE! EMTs get summoned. Some of them very cute, but you wouldn’t know… yada yada, the rest gets boring and routine.
Me: Ok, thank you, Heart for that play-within-a play. You are the Master of Ceremonies for sure. Let’s listen for now, OK?
Heart: Carry on.
( Tom Petty: "...to make me wanna live like I wanna live now...")
Worry Center: What if you get, like, really really nervous? You know you are NERVOUS. I still don’t just know about this. Why on earth would you choose to do PUBLIC SPEAKING? The thing that most people would rather DIE than elect? And what if you DIE up there? Either literally or figuratively?
Me: True, but I have a good story, and once people laugh, it will be all worth it.
(Tom Petty: "...Oh, don't let it kill you, baby, don't let it get to you
Don't let 'em kill you, baby, don't let 'em get to you...")
I look up and notice it’s almost my turn. The thoughts/voices all gather around, kind of shushing each other as my name is announced.
FULL BODY SCAN: All PRESENT? REPORT OUT!
YES! ALL PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR!
VOICE (clearing throat): CHECK CHECK, WORKING
LEGS: UNFOLDING AND PREPARING TO MOVE
FACE: STIFF BUT READY.
All Internal Systems (Congratulating each another): OK, we did our best—she just decided to go through with it anyhow. Let her be.
Me (opening line of story): “In my life I’ve had three nipples”…
Live Audience: scattered laughter
Internal Systems (exchanging glances, then… laughter).
Me (to voices): See that guys? We did it!