Listen to your mother

Back in high school, my sister was the family performer. Megan spent hours practicing her lines, belting out her octaves, and driving our entire family insane while she prepared for each new role. Even now, 25 years later, I can still recite every lyric from “Bye Bye Birdie” because of my over-rehearsed sis.

Megan was designed for the stage.

For me, the thought of having to perform in front of an audience is pure torture. When I worked in business, I would beg, borrow, and steal to avoid such predicaments. And when all else failed?

Well let’s just say there is a reason God invented flasks.

And rum.

Sadly, the days of writers hiding behind their word processors and publicists are long gone. Writers are expected to put themselves out there in public forums for public scrutiny doing public things. Publicly.

One such forum is the “Listen to Your Mother” Show. As far as events go, this one is rather inspired. The concept originated when humorist Ann Imig sought to celebrate Mother’s Day by giving a voice to motherhood itself. Writers submit pieces, audition, and hopefully secure invites to share their stories onstage. With coverage by the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Washington Post, the show has become a national phenomenon. There are 24 cities participating in this year’s “Listen to Your Mother.” Thousands of published authors, writers, and regular moms submit pieces for consideration.

I was fortunate enough to meet Chicago producers Melisa Wells and Tracey Becker at a recent blogger event. There were shushed whispers of “THOSE are the Chicago producers of Listen to Your Mother” every time they entered a room. Being oblivious to anything not directly related to cake, I had no idea what everyone was talking about. Yet Melisa and Tracey were not at all offended by my ignorance, and they actually encouraged me to submit something.

Writing has always come pretty easy, so I was surprised when I sat down to write a submission and blanked. The thought of having to read my own words in front of actual people was paralyzing. I poured myself a drink. Then another. And maybe one more for good measure. Before I had the chance to sober up and re-think my strategy, I had already hit the send button.

When I re-read the piece the next morning, I was shocked and mortified. I had written an essay where a certain word describing a certain part of the male anatomy is used 152 times. You guys remember I have sons, right? The word starts with a “P.”

I figured my work would never see the light of day. There was zero chance I’d get an invitation to audition. The producers most certainly had standards, integrity, and a likely aversion to essays where the P-word appears 152 times.

I had purposely sabotaged myself to avoid getting on stage.

Yet the stage is exactly where I will be auditioning in a few weeks. I opened the email a few days ago and read the news in disbelief. It took me 24 hours to even respond because I was convinced I was reading it wrong.

What have I done?? How in the name of all that is respectable and dignified am I to get up and read the ramblings of a 2 a.m. liquored-up Marianne with a sudden affinity for the P-word?

I definitely needed that flask to audition. I scoured the house to find it and immediately regretted the decision. Joe received the flask as a gift while standing up in his cousin’s wedding. The cousin had each flask monogrammed with the appropriate groomsman’s initials. My husband’s name is Joseph E. Walsh.

That’s right.

Joe’s flask has “JEW” printed across it in big, bold letters.

Things were going from bad to worse.

Despite everything, I am ridiculously grateful to be part of this fantastic event even if it is merely for purposes of tanking during the audition process. After all, mothers are the ones who shape our leaders, our thinkers, and our future. To participate in a forum, however brief, that celebrates and values these voices is an honor I shan’t ever forget.

So be sure to check out the site and consider attending this Mother’s Day!

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