When I was a kid and teen, I spent a lot of time on stages in dance recitals and in choirs, specialty choirs, and in a few plays. I had dreams of being a Broadway star or a movie star, or rock star in the way that any fifteen year old girl dreams what she dares to dream.
The drama teacher I had in high school had an approach that was very intimidating for me at that time. She terrified me. She terrified me right off of the stage. I don’t know why I let her get to me so much, well I have an inkling, but I don’t really want to get into here, this is not a therapy session, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of battling my personal demons.
After one play in which I had a decent role, and one background chorus part in a musical my freshman year, I never went back. My mantra for years afterward was, if I have to deal with another director like that, I don’t even want to do this anymore.
I continued to do chorus in college, but didn’t seek out solos anymore. I was terrified anyone would hear my individual voice. I hung around a bunch of bands and musicians, secretly wishing I would just jump in and join them, but I never did. I was a party to infinite jam sessions in college and beyond. I even felt intimidated to learn to play guitar, though I carried one from one dorm room to another, to apartments in Boston and beyond. It was an old one my mother had picked up in a pawn shop in the mid-fifties that never held a tuning.
After college, I still longed to do something like that, but was too chicken. Slowly, I was led back onto a stage of sorts, reading my poetry at coffeehouses and getting featured gigs. I was still terrified, and anyone who saw me give those earliest readings especially, can tell you how much my leg shook, which was violently. My teeth chattered, too. Not so great an effect when you’re baring your poetic soul into a microphone.
I never did get used to mics. I learned to tolerate the presence of one in front of my face, but, never enjoyed hearing my voice hovering around my words as I spoke them.
I have always sung at home, and in my car. But I’m self-conscious about singing in front of others besides my family. Captain Comic’s sensory sensitivities also put a damper on my singing, as I can’t sing freely, without him suddenly and vehemently saying he can’t take it, stop!
But something happened as I reached my mid-forties. I didn’t care so much about what I couldn’t do anymore. I didn’t care about intimidation I felt when I heard someone with a beautiful voice do a solo on Sunday morning, I didn’t feel particularly intimidated by professionals when I went to concerts. I just felt like I wanted to get up and sing again, after over twenty years without a chorus, only singing in the shower, in the car, or in the kitchen, with someone screaming for me to stop it. I joined the choir at my fellowship. I was comforted and felt the joy of blending voices again. I did a solo line in a song surrounded by them last year, and another, actually the same one, again this spring.
And then the music director said, if anyone wants to do a guest song during a Sunday service, he would help make it happen.
And then I got an Idea. And it grew, and I sent a song to the minister, choir director and music director. And then things started to happen. For Real. It wasn’t just an idea anymore. In the end, it didn’t happen quite how I thought it would, but it happened, this Sunday. I sang a capella in front of an audience, on a mic, with virtually no rehearsal. I faced my fears square on, and loved it. And then my heart did arrhythmic flip flops after the second service performance.
Honey took a bit of cellphone video, and I find it incredibly hard to listen to or watch. I do not have the control of my voice I once had, when I sang with a lot more practice twenty some odd years ago. I think I do, and then I heard this. I am going to share it, because I need to face my fear and embarassment because only through doing so, will I be free of it. Besides, I did sing in front of people. On a microphone. All by myself. If Toots can be proud of jumping off a curb enough to say, “Yay! I did it! I did it! I jumped off the curb!” Then I can be proud of myself, in all my imperfections. Because I faced what most terrified me in my life, and did it anyway.
It’s just a piece of the piece, but this is me, as is. Thanks for listening.