Because I wanted the challenge, I accepted the organization's request. Instead of being the author interviewed about my blogs, books, or life; I would be the one asking the questions.
Months before the guest writer came to town, I read an early copy of her book. This was an easy assignment because it was well written, humorous, and left the reader with the valuable message of living life fearlessly.
On my first foray into its pages, I used a narrow Reporter's Notebook to jot down questions, thoughts, and insights I'd explore. I was intent on becoming a first-class interviewer, with Terry Gross as my exemplar.
As the weeks went on, I re-read the book; this time highlighting passages and using Post-it flags to mark pages. And in the days prior to my first gig as an interviewer, I stood at my bathroom mirror, smiling confidently, and asking aloud the questions I planned to pose.
The morning of the event, I queried my daughters, who had often been the subjects of radio and TV interviews. "Give me tips," I pleaded, still nervous as if I were about to audition for a Broadway role.
"Pause after each question," they agreed. "Don't look down at your notes and rush on to the next. Perhaps linger on her response and explore that a bit longer."
"Thanks," I said, certain their combined wisdom would guarantee a flawless performance.
The night of, as I waited in my building's lobby for my friend to pick me up, I asked the evening concierge if I could practice on her. Delighted to be the subject, she responded openly to my on-the-fly questions. (I scolded myself when I interrupted her once or twice.)
Because I knew a spot of wine would help calm me, I persuaded my friend to stop first at a bar across the street of the venue. Time was growing short, so the bartender put the remainder of my drink into a child's Sippy cup. If courage lagged while on stage, I could innocently imbibe.
When we entered the room of our event, I was relieved to find a good-sized number of people already seated, with more streaming in prior to introductions. I checked off one concern: the room would be full! A handful of my friends took front row seats; and best of all, the visiting author and I became immediate fans of one another. This would be a breeze.
I opened the program by asking the author to read a favorite chapter. That turned out to be a good idea because she was funny and the listeners quickly fell in love with her. My interview followed, which went as I had hoped. I didn't interrupt, I pressed on for further wisdom, and then asked the audience to relate any similar experiences. I was on a roll.
Now it was time for the Q & A. As fans raised their hands and directed their questions to the headliner, I felt my body changing. Slowly, my age slid backwards and I was 5 years old. I imagined myself stomping my Mary Jane shoes, pounding my fists on my little knees, and wailing, "What about me! Isn't anyone interested in me!"
I was jealous! At this event -- unlike those when I was the subject -- attention was focused on the visiting writer. As it should have been! So, where was this ugly emotion coming from?
I had spent so much time and energy on being a great interviewer; I wasn't prepared for my ego escaping and threatening to swamp my achievement. Where had that reaction come from?
Perhaps it would help if we travel back through the years and enumerate moments of jealousy: Childhood (why does Mom love Ronnie more than me?), High School (why was I chosen "funniest" instead of "most popular"?), College (why am I in a city school while my friends live in dorms Downstate?), Marriages (why does that couple get to grow old together and I'm solo?), and more pitiful plaints.
Of course, I quickly erase these trite and tattered jealousies because I have been granted an abundance of blessings. But, did the experience have a lesson for me -- just as the book had for our audience? Instead of fearlessness, as its pages promoted, perhaps my take-away was the need for graciousness.
Or, maybe it's simply that I'm human. The wounds we feel throughout our lives can be bandaged over with the salves of good fortune. So the next time I'll be a sidekick, rather than star, I'll hopefully leave my toddler self at home, and be a grateful second banana.
Image Copyright : Lorelyn Medina