Last night, my lovely and supportive university hosted an open mic night. The first draft of the first monologue of my first play is finished (well, mostly) and I was going to read it. Out Loud. To people. Strangers, most likely. I had spent the morning proof-reading, editing, and practicing the words out loud. Trying to imagine myself up on the school stage, reading for ten minutes without crying, shaking, or sounding completely uninterested. This is a play, after all, and I should at least sound present, if I can’t sound like my character. (I’m a writer, not an actress). I was ready to go. I had emailed myself the monologue in order to print it once I got to campus. I had the bus schedule all mapped out. I knew exactly when to leave my apartment so that I would have time to print, sign-up, and get settled before the start of the show. I knew what I was going to wear, from the shoes to the earrings. But, at 5:30pm, instead of taking a shower and primping myself for this big moment, Monkey Mind took hold and had this to say:
You know, they have this thing every quarter. I still have time. And the monologue isn’t fifteen minutes yet. I really want it to be fifteen minutes. So, that means it isn’t finished yet. And I have so much homework. I really need to stay home and finish this quote sheet for Dr. S. I mean, it’s due in less than two weeks. And I still have papers to write. It’s okay if I don’t go. I don’t have to go. I won’t hurt anyone if I don’t go. I didn’t promise anyone I would go. I only said I MIGHT go. Yeah, homework is definitely the smarter choice. Time to be responsible.
And with that, I stayed in bed wearing my pajamas, ate a voodoo doughnut for dinner, and instead of doing my homework I played online solitaire and watched the worst episode of American Idol to ever air. I chickened out. I let Monkey Mind win. Again. And the worst part is that I was completely aware of letting it win. Because I was scared. And it was easier to “rationalize” my way out of something scary, than to breathe up bravery from my toes and do it anyway. So, to compensate for my feathered-friend behavior, I leave you with a tiny sample of my monologue. The woman speaking is a traditional Umatilla Indian, born in the late 1800s, she is also a ghost. She recalls the grief of sending her only daughter and her sons away to boarding school:
When she was five years old, I let those white men take her away and she was gone for a very very long time. I got quiet. I stopped talking. The white men took my sons away too. Each baby disappeared. I lived and worked in silence. I stopped singing. I knew I could only listen. I walked hours each day up and down the river. Hoping that the spirits would tell me what to do. But, I saw only shadows of salmon, heard only water touch shore, felt only damp chill. There was nothing. And then the letters came. I thought the spirits had heard and were sending the children home to me. But, I could not read these letters. I did not read English. My husband translated the letters, but after I heard him say, “Dear Mother and Father,” I stopped listening. I stayed silent. I bathed only in the river. I ate only the river foods. I drank only the river water. Chuush. I was swimming everyday, even in the cold winter waves. Snow piled high on the banks. I wanted to be the river. I wanted to become fluid and clear. Who would carry the wisdom of this river when I died? My heart and my body became a prayer.