(Back to the story.)
The rabbi didn't actually push me through the door, but I still felt like a baby bird being kicked out of the nest. For about a second I contemplated running back into the Secret Rabbi Room and perhaps crawling under the sofa.
My stage fright isn't as bad as some. I can speak in front of groups, as long as there's a script. But every once in awhile I find myself in a situation which elicits the same kind of primal fear that originated back when cave people came face to face with wild beasts. The first time was at a piano recital when I was 11; I was second from last on the bill, and spent two hours waiting backstage and biting my nails. Finally it was my turn, and I walked out on stage and sat down at the piano bench--and the next thing I remember was the sound of applause, and my teacher gesturing from the wings for me to take a bow. Apparently I played well, even though my mind was on some other planet at the time.
I was a bit more aware of my surroundings when I sang my first solo ever, twenty years later, at an a cappella workshop. The setting couldn't have been safer: a song arranged just for me by my boyfriend at the time, who stood behind me on stage. And an audience comprised of fellow students who would tell me I was fantastic even if I collapsed mid-verse. But I walked out front, looked at a terrain of faces which seemed swollen at the center, like in a funhouse mirror, and thought: I am going to die. Right now. This is it.
I opened my mouth and sang, and was still alive at the end, although I wasn't quite sure how or why.