‘Excuse me, excuse me.’ I push my way through the crowd of groupies cluttering the courtyard by the backstage door. There’s some jostling as they hesitate, reluctant to give up the precious spots where they’ve been waiting for who knows how long.
They turn to look at me, at first with disdain – and then, upon seeing what I’m carrying, disdain grudgingly turns to understanding and envy.
Fuck, this is awkward.
I start to feel nauseated. I can’t believe I am doing this. Maybe I should turn back.
Who the fuck do I think I am? I don’t belong here.
Every cell in my body wants to run, but I resist the urge to turn around and instead continue to put one foot in front of the other, slowly moving through the group towards the front.
Come on, Natalie. Breathe. Use your tools.
I’m having a mental block, and it takes me a moment to run through my usual coping tactics.
Okay, an affirmation.
Ikeep moving forward.
I’ve got this. I’ve got this. I’ve got this.
Nausea still rises. But I keep breathing. Then it dawns on me: now would be a great time to test my new theory about affirmations.
Okay. I’ve fucking got this. I’ve fucking got this. I’ve fucking got this.
Focusing on the power the extra word gives the affirmation, the stormy ocean that is my belly calms, and my energy and confidence surge. I soon reach the front few rows of fans; now I can see the security dude guarding the door. He’s massive and looks like he crushes butterflies for fun.
Shit. Perhaps I should go back? What the fuck am I doing?
But I can only imagine what the groupies’ faces will look like if I turn around. I’m such a people pleaser that the mere thought of their faces, unimpressed by my failure, drives me on.
No. I’ve fucking got this. I’ve fucking got this. I’ve fucking got this.
I push through the last of them. The ones at the front are the hardcore fans; they’ve probably been here since early this morning. I expect them to resist. But they part for me, as if out of respect that I’ve made it this far.
Butterfly crusher sees me and raises an eyebrow.
Okay, game on. Come on. I can fucking do this.
‘Hi,’ I say. ‘Um, I’m here for Justin Timberlake.’ The lie feels clunky in my mouth.
Butterfly crusher says nothing, and so I turn my body slightly so he can see what I’m carrying.
‘Oh, right.’ He looks relieved. He’s probably dealt with a few too many obsessed groupies in his time. ‘For massage. Sure, come on in.’
A rush of endorphins flood my body as I realise that’s the first gatekeeper down.
Hell yes, I’ve fucking got this.
He pushes open the doors, and after manoeuvring myself and my table through them, I find myself at the end of a very long corridor with multiple doors. I recognise the familiar warren of backstage.
Ah, shite, where to now?
I turn back to the closing doors. Seeing my questioning face, Butterfly Crusher catches a door and holds it open. ‘It’s Joey you’ll be wanting, the tour manager. He’s at the end on the left, name on his door.’
‘Thank you!’ I smile in relief.
Yep, I’ve fucking got this.
Iwalk with confidence into the depths of backstage.
I can hear what’s possibly a sound check going on in the belly of the building. There’s a buzz of pre-show adrenaline in the air. People dressed predominantly in black jeans with oversized black tees and sporting hair overdue for a haircut nod at me and say hello in voices out of an American sitcom. I smile and return the greeting, feeling a bit like I am in an American sitcom myself.
The last door on the left has an askew laminated sign attached to it reading ‘Joey’. I try not to look too closely at the naked cartoon man that someone has drawn in the corner.
The door is ajar, but I knock anyway.
‘Yep, come in!’ the sitcom voice calls from within. I push open the door to find a man sitting behind a makeshift desk, wearing – surprise! – a black t-shirt and in need of a haircut.
‘Hey, Joey,’ I say, ‘I’m checking in to see if anyone’s needing massage tonight.’
Please don’t let this be all in vain.
‘Oh yeah, cool, sure.’ Joey gets to his feet. ‘Let me find you a space to set up in. That would be great.’
Boom, second gatekeeper down! Hell yeah, I’ve fucking got this.
Joey finds me a small room that’s not in use and I set up, putting out some of my own laminated signs to direct people to me.
Iwish I could tell you that I did in fact get my hands on Justin Timberlake that night, but it was mainly crew and his band. Big American roadies who asked for deep pressure and then took it back when they felt my strength, making jokes about how they hadn’t realised they’d be beaten up by a woman today. And small, toned dancers, their overworked bodies hungry for a therapeutic touch.
Ileft that evening with my pockets full of cash and, more importantly, my confidence flying. Not only had I done something completely out of my comfort zone – I had nailed it.
Back when I lived in London, I massaged musicians backstage and celebrities in their penthouses weekly, through the company I was contracted to. Here in Australia, I didn’t have the backing of the company, and I missed the work and the money. When I heard Justin Timberlake was playing Brisbane, I wondered who of my colleagues might have been assigned to him in London. Then I thought why not me, here, in Australia? Could I just turn up and wing it?
This thought reflected the shift which had been happening within me recently. Since becoming a mother, I’d found my fierce. The lioness within me had awakened: the mama bear, the protector.
This fierceness was echoed in my journaling, my thoughts, in the workings of my inner world, and now it was manifesting in my outer world. I was doing things I hadn’t thought myself capable of.
And I started colouring all parts of my life with this shift. This mama was claiming her space in the world. This mama was making shit happen.
Specifically, my affirmations. I had started dropping an F-bomb into my affirmations.
And fuck, did it work! My affirmations felt stronger, fiercer, more reachable. It was like giving them a turbo boost.
They felt awesome.
But let’s back-track for a moment. Let’s go back to when I first found and fell in love with affirmations. Let’s go back to that decade when Paula Abdul was playing on every ghetto blaster, and no top was complete without shoulder pads.
Let’s go back to the late ’80s:
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