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The Queen of the World

Do you, like me, sometimes worry that you are not good enough, you don’t belong, the scene is too grand for you, and that the stakes are too high?

Do you dread messing up, worry how people might respond and fear that you’d never live it down?
Do you envy those rockstar types who don’t feel the same way as you do?

If any of this rings true, then spare a moment for veteran superstar Patti Smith. Patti has sung on stages all over the world, but when she was invited to sing at the Nobel Prize awards she fluffed her lines. In front of Royalty and a massive TV audience, the scale of the situation got to her. In the middle of performing her song, Patti hesitated, stumbled, forgot her lines and stopped singing.

What a disaster! What a failure! How on Earth would she ever live that down?

Then Patti did the only thing available to her. She apologised and she explained. “I’m sorry, I’m just so nervous.”

Throw your vulnerabilities out into the world and how do people respond? We fear, all of us, that the crowd will seize upon them and tear us apart in the ensuing bloodbath.
But in reality, is that what happens?
What happened to Patti Smith on that mortifying night for her?

The audience of kings and queens and all the fancy important people immediately burst into applause and began rooting for her.
“You too, huh?” they seemed to be saying. “I thought it was only me who worried like that.”

And then Patti Smith began to sing again, hesitant at first, but growing in confidence and power as she hit her stride.
And by the end of her song (still nervous, still not perfect, but honest and determined and passionate), Patti had brought tears to the audience’s eyes.
Everyone was utterly rooting for her — not as a famous singer at a swanky ceremony, but as a lonely woman daring to stand up and try her best.
A look in the mirror, in other words.

The Crown Princess of Sweden — Victoria Ingrid Alice Désirée, Duchess of Västergötland no less — sparkled in an enormous gown dripping with diamonds and jewels, the very picture of glamour and royalty and importance.
But that night she applauded Patti Smith as though Patti was the very queen of the world.

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  1. I was asked by my son to officiate his wedding. I was full of pride and full of nerves. I’d spoken in front of hundreds of people before. But this was different.

    I forgot an entire section of the ceremony, including speeches from his mother and his brother. I felt awful. But immediately after pronouncing them husband and wife, and realizing my mistake, I asked the new bride and groom to return to the spotlight and called on his mother and brother to come forward and have their moments. It was not as planned. A bit off beat. But there it was.

    Later that might, my son told me he loved my mistake. He and his new wife saw it as a heartfelt memory of how I felt that day, my pride and joy getting in the way of a mostly organized mind.

    I knew in my heart my flub in the end meant nothing compared to the beauty of that day.



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