Last Wednesday, I experienced the scariest moment, actually, the scariest 5 minutes of my life. I got up on a stage and told a story. In front of a huge audience. There was a mic, bright lights, and me.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Moth Radio Hour” on NPR. The show is filled with regular people telling their stories. Every month or so, a “Story Slam” is held at a different venue around the country, centering on a specific theme.
Has it ever come to you, perhaps after watching someone jump out of a plane, or run 26 miles, “I could do that”? That’s happened to me. After listening to stories on the radio, I was compelled to prove to myself that in fact, I could do that.
Lucky for me, the topic this month was tailor-made: “Mama’s Rules”. Man, I have a whole arsenal.
So, here is how it works: a gazillion people buy tickets and line up to enter the venue. If you are one of the few who are brave enough to tell a story, you put your name in the “hat”, which is located on the stage. The emcee picks names one at a time, until 10 people have told their story. I was picked second, which is a good thing so I could get it over with, but maybe a bad thing because I sure didn’t have time to get my “vibe” together.
Contestants are judged on sticking to the five-minute time frame, sticking to the theme and having a story that has a conflict and a resolution. AND no notes are allowed! Yup, purely out of your head.
The story I chose centered around the brave, jumping-out-of-a-plane act of kicking my son out of the house a few years ago. David was in the throes of addiction, and his drug use had completely upended our family. So, just like that, my husband and I were forced to jump. We issued an ultimatum: get sober or get out. Much to our surprise, he left.
Thankfully, the story had a happy ending, although it sure took a long time to get there. David is alive and doing very well.
I told my story, the story of how once I was a good mom, packing the lunches, and soothing the ills, and then I became what seemed like a not-so-good mom, kicking my son out of the house. But the real story was about how I really became a new kind of good mom. A mom who would no longer rescue her son from the consequences of his addiction.
Getting up on stage and that telling that story to a bunch of strangers was the scariest thing I have ever done. Not only are there around 200 people watching you, there are 2 judges seated on a couch behind you on the stage, one with a whistle to indicate your five minutes are up. Oh, and did I mention the 3 groups of judges chosen from the audience? To make the whole situation even worse, those teams give you a score, like you’re in gymnastics meet, and the score is announced and posted on the board for everyone to see! And those scores stay up on display the entire evening! I sweat just thinking about it.
When the scores were ranked, I am proud to say that I came in 3rd place, out of 10 contestants. And, no sour grapes here, the ones who scored first and second told really funny, compelling stories.
And, no, I did not get on the radio, although I’m still waiting for that phone call. I really don’t know if any of us got on the radio.
The next day I felt exhausted and hung over. I have never put so much mental energy and anguish into anything. My husband asked me if I would ever do it again. I replied with an emphatic “no”.
Still… I just read next months’ topic: BOLD: “Prepare a story about living out loud, rising to the occasion and undertaking the adventure that has always been dream.” Do you suppose they would allow me to tell the story of how I told a story last month? Probably not. But I’m sure thinking about it…
To hear “The Moth” in your area, or to listen to the podcast, go to: