I hit the stage again this week, my shyness in tow. My friend Tim Byrnes, a multi-talented musician who writes his own songs and plays the guitar, let me have a few minutes of his stage time Wednesday night at the Mandolin Café in downtown Loveland.
After Tim introduced me to the dozen or so people at the coffee shop, I read three poems, including “Leaves, Me,” which I memorized and performed last week in a fashion show competition.
I told myself that I wasn’t nervous and that I’ve done this before.
First, I threw in some humor, comparing myself with Emily Dickinson, because we both have written 1,000 poems, well except for one difference: most of mine remain unpublished.
I told the story behind each poem.
And I used gestures and expressions to act out some of the lines.
Despite a rapid heartbeat and the printouts gripped in my hands, I tried to look up at the individual audience members. I was surprised to see that they had stopped what they were doing to hear my reading. I expected them to talk, put in orders and ignore me.
Again, I eased into the spotlight. By the second poem, I engaged my serious poem reading voice, using the right cadence and tone to capture the meaning of my words. In other words, I got into what I was doing.
My heart calmed. My hands stilled. And again I fell in love with the stage.
I am starting to see that this label I put on myself, that of shyness, does not apply to every situation. I didn’t feel shy on stage. Maybe a little nervous and scared that I would make a mistake. But that’s different.
I guess I have to get rid of the baggage of my past, which includes calling myself shy, socially awkward and last pick, and step into the rest of my life, not as if I’m on stage, but as if I am in the now, being real and living, breathing and doing.