Listen To Your Mother logoYesterday I was at a rehearsal for Listen to Your Mother: Providence – our last time running through the show before we perform it live on Saturday afternoon before a huge audience of screaming fans (okay, a few hundred likely quiet, respectful friends and family members, but whatever).  I’m one of a lineup of fourteen women who are taking that stage and speaking the words that we’ve written about mothering; it’s an experience I can only liken to suddenly being invited to eat lunch at the cool kids’ cafeteria table, and sitting there holding your breath the whole time because you’re wondering when they’re going to drop the bomb that your presence there is really part of an elaborate practical joke.  Emotionally, it’s a little bit like waiting for the pigs’ blood to ruin your prom dress.  Except without all the murderous rampage that comes afterward.

Everyone on that stage is so SMART.  And gorgeous.  And funny.  And talented.  And real.  But they don’t SEEM real, because they’re impossibly perfect.  Beautiful and skinny and put-together and competent.  Published authors and entrepreneurs and people who are living the dreams they made for themselves.  Confident, flawless, kind, intelligent, unimaginably capable people.  The photos – oh, Lawd, the photos! They make me cringe – lumpy, messy me, too short, too wide, too big, too small, too awkward, hair not even right after what I thought was a good cut, makeup never the way it should be, caught as always mid-gesture, a living caricature of myself.  That’s how I always appear in photos.  And it’s worse next to these starlets.  Immeasurably worse.

I joked that I’d definitely trip up the stairs on my way to the stage.  I didn’t.  I tripped up the stairs TWICE.  I was too short for the podium but felt I’d be too tall on the stepstool.  I wanted to pace but I had to stay in one spot, so I kept sort of half-jutting out around the sides of the thing like I was trying not to step on the toes of an awkward dance partner.  I spoke my piece and couldn’t even look at some of my fellow cast members in the audience; people whose stories I knew were far more consuming than mine, whose lives are so much harder than mine and deserve so much more respect, whose right to be on that stage speaking their words are far greater than mine.  My work is just so much navel-gazing, I know, next to theirs.

I spent the rehearsal transfixed, as I knew I would be, by the shine of these women.  It was our first time performing these pieces on the stage we’ll inhabit come Saturday, and the razzle-dazzle of being in that space – even with a shabby podium and a microphone that didn’t work – brought out the polish in every bit of the work.  I loved every minute of it and left suffused with energy, consumed with self-doubt.  That’s the double-edged sword and it seems impossible, but I assure you, it’s very possible to live in both that lightness and that darkness at once.

Back home much later that night, I went to open the refrigerator, and my eye fell on a thank-you note I’ve tacked to the freezer door.  Billy from Time at the Table sent it to me after last week’s conference:

“My fellow truth speaker!  I love your honesty and heart…”


This is what people are after, I think, and for whatever reason they invite me to join in seeking it with them, and sometimes providing it.  This is why I’m allowed to be on that stage on Saturday amongst the powerful people; because navel-gazing or not, lumpy and awkward though I may be, there’s something in what I have to share that people experience as truth.  I may not dazzle them with my humor or pierce them with my pain or transfix them with the beauty of my language, the way my castmates assuredly will.  But I will speak truth as I experience it, and maybe that’s, after all, what I’m doing in this old world anyway.  It’s a hard and complicated thing sometimes, this business of truth-telling, but maybe there are moments in it that get to be more about the joy.  Maybe there’s some good in it.  Maybe there’s some good in being awkward, lumpy, clumsy old self-doubting me.

Yes, this is a food blog, I know.  You’re not here to listen to me philosophize on matters outside that realm.  But I’m sharing this with you because I think many of the people who come to this blog on a regular basis are seeking to live a life that aligns with some truth they recognize, a truth that others around them may or may not see or accept.  And I want you all to know that it’s okay if living that truth sometimes feels hard, and if you sometimes fail.  It’s okay if you feel like you’re not up to the challenge some days, and if you feel like sometimes you’re just not good enough to compete with whatever benchmark you’re using to measure yourself against – somebody else’s entirely organic, homegrown lunchboxes served with their own kombucha, or their nightly three-course family dinners eaten on the good china, or their daily green smoothie regimen for their chard-loving three-year-old who rejects all sweets and has the food consciousness of Michael Pollan.  It’s okay to buck the trends and live joyfully and truthfully even if you feel like half the time you’re bumbling through; it’s okay to not really feel like you know what you’re doing, but to push forward and keep doing it all authentically anyway.  Nobody said truth-tellers had all the answers; they just mean the answers they give, and give the answers they mean.

So on Saturday I’ll be up on that stage in all my lumpy, clumsy, fumbling glory, telling some truth that I needed to speak and that hopefully, somebody else will need to hear that day.  I hope you’ll be somewhere living your own truth, too, not just on Saturday but every day.  The way I see it, the world could use more people of authenticity, even the messy kind.  Especially, probably, the messy kind.