Last week I learned that I had a near miss with catastrophe, and I didn't even know it. I shudder to think how close I was to disaster.
My sister, who has apparently never met me, was planning the dreaded 40th birthday surprise party.
Thank God she abandoned her efforts before calamity could strike.
To say I don't like surprises would be an understatement. If there is anything I like less than being surprised, it is being surprised while a roomful of people watches me. I hate to be the center of attention, or to have people looking at me. Turning 40 is alarming enough in and of itself -- I don't need to do it with an audience.
I know what you're thinking: if I hate to be the center of attention, why do I put the details of my life out there on the interwebz for total strangers to read? That's TOTALLY different. I would argue, in fact, that writing is the perfect hobby for an attention-phobe like me. I can put my carefully edited and polished thoughts out there for you to read while I hide safely behind my computer screen. But those of you who have suggested that I should turn some of this stuff into a stand-up comedy routine? Fugeddaboudit.
I vividly remember trying out for the drill team in high school. At that point I was unaware of just how uncoordinated and dorky I am, so I didn't realize what a bad idea this was. In practice I did fine. But when the time came to perform my little routine in front of judges, I froze. Totally forgot what I was doing and screwed it up worse than even I could have imagined. It's a good thing I didn't make the team -- I guess I hadn't figured out that if I did, an entire football stadium full of people would be looking at me every Friday night.
The year my oldest niece was born, I was Mary in our church's Christmas play. This was mostly because it made sense to have my four-week-old niece play the part of Baby Jesus, and my sister, who was our music director and would be otherwise occupied, wouldn't let anyone else hold her for the duration of the show.
All I had to do was walk down the aisle with Joseph, sit down and hold the baby. No acting required. No lines to memorize. In fact, once the music started up again, no one would be looking at me anyway. How tough could it be?
I was a nervous wreck.
You should have seen the look on my face when my high school principal told me I was the class salutatorian and would be making a speech at graduation. I didn't sleep for a week.
I think in some hidden room of my subconscious, my attention phobia is one of the reasons I've managed to avoid marriage, or at least a wedding. I can't imagine anything worse than having to kiss someone in front of church full of people.
The weirdest thing about all this is that I'm not exactly a wallflower. In the company of friends and family, I'm outspoken to the point of obnoxious. I crack jokes. I have a hellacious cackle of a laugh. It's not like I blend into the woodwork.
But put me on a stage, literal or figurative, and I can't handle it.
I wish I didn't suffer from perpetual stage fright. If I could overcome my fear of people looking at me, I would love to act. I'd give my right arm and possibly my left leg to be able to sing. But an ability to sing really wouldn't do me any good, because I'd be afraid to use it.
I actually DID sing, a little bit, once upon a time in a previous life. My church, back when I went to one, had a praise band that led Sunday morning worship. There were eight singers, and I was one of them. But I never got over feeling awkward and weird when I was on stage, even though I was considerably LESS weird than some of my fellow vocalists. Ultimately I volunteered to be the group's sound technician, which allowed me to hide in the back of the sanctuary throughout the service.
I sometimes think I would have been a much better performer if I had started my Sundays off with a nice glass of wine.
My sister tells me that surprise party plans have been abandoned, and for this I am grateful. There is still a surprise of some sort in the works, but she assures me it won't involve an audience.
My sister is only 33. If she's lying, I have seven years to plan my revenge.
I'm excited to announce that I've been chosen to write for the Ohio Moms Blog, the latest addition to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog group. I'll be posting there twice a month, along with a group of very talented bloggers from across the state. My first post is up today -- I hope you'll read it and share your thoughts!