Last week a one-woman play I wrote and performed had a two night run at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Manhattan. It was my first effort at playwriting and acting since I was a teenager, so it was a leap of imagination, to say the least, to even think of undertaking the project. About a week before the show was to go on, I started to get nerve attacks at any odd moment. My director had upped the rehearsal intensity and, as the date got the closer, the full reality of what I was about to do flooded my nerve endings. I was going to go up on stage and be a character I had created. I couldn’t even blame the script on someone else.
I cried at strange times. Out of the blue I would be awash in an electrical nausea circulating just below my skin’s surface. I might have thought I was having a breakdown; that I couldn’t do what I’d set out to do.
Instead, I thought, “I know this. I’ve felt it before.” Before big races. As recently as the Three Peaks Challenge in Cape Town in November. The week before an intense, new effort I’ve cried while running, so overwhelmed am I by whatever the challenge is that I’ve taken on. I’ll think, “I can’t do this.” I’ve arrived at the starting line of marathons, of ultra-marathons and thought to myself, “I don’t know how to run.”
But I’ve learned, over the years, that I can do it, whatever “it” is. That the feeling of losing control, of not being up to the task is just part of the process, part of the creation of the just the right amount of nervous energy to fire me when the time comes.
So when I felt “that” feeling again a couple of weeks ago, as I headed into the play, it was almost like an old friend. Uncomfortable, to be sure, but familiar. This was the feeling of preparedness, the feeling that it was time to go, time to go for it.
Thank you, running. For preparing me for all the challenges in my life.