Singing My Way Through The Fear
All of my life I have wanted desperately to sing. I have been obsessed with music for as long as I can remember, but singing was something I ached to do. I used to sing into my skipping rope at the top of my lungs to my Olivia Newton-John records certain that I had that thing that singers had. That thing that moved me so much that I never wanted to stop listening.
Then,when I was about 7 or 8, I overheard one adult tell another that I couldn’t sing. It was a comment that I wasn’t meant to hear and would never have been said had this person known that I was eavesdropping. But I was, and it shattered my confidence.
I wonder sometimes how any of us survive when we are all so fragile as children that makes it impossible to reach adulthood unscathed. I find myself wondering if these things don’t happen to force us to grow, but so often we don’t know how to heal and remain stuck.
I played the flute all through Jr. High and High School. My flute was true love and I have no doubt that I was born to play it. I made it sing, but still I ached with jealousy over those who could use their voices. I won scholarships to International Music Camp where I sat in top chairs with other students from all over the world. Teachers told me that I was gifted, but I never could believe it somehow. I don’t believe that this had anything to do with the singing comment, just a total lack of faith that I could ever be anything special. Musicians were my heroes. They were special and I was not. I dreaded the day that everyone would find out the real truth. My anxiety lead me to give up dreams of studying music. Eventually I quit all together.
I surround myself with musicians. I know that this is no accident, but it made sense because my brother is one, and very talented at that. The group of musician friends that hung around with him when we were young are now also mine. Back yard bonfires and house parties always come with guitarists and bass players and singers and the most fun I can ever have. But for years I felt I had no choice but to sit on the sidelines. I wouldn’t even sing in the shower, but the aching never went away.
Finally, 5 years ago I took a two-week group singing class for adults. The course consisted of 8 evening sessions. The group was large enough that I felt I could hide somewhat, but not too large to overwhelm me. I immediately felt comfortable with the instructor, and signed up for fall lessons.
I loved every lesson. I discovered that I really could learn to sing, and even survived the first recital. The one I was determined not to take part in. I continued for three years, and though I grew in confidence and skill, still I could not shake the last remnants of my anxiety disorder. Fear created tension in my body and tension and singing just don’t go together all that well. So for all I accomplished, it still held me back.
I switched teachers for a year, but allowed life and fear to get in the way. I didn’t have the courage to practice all that much, and it became too difficult. Though I was determined to push through. Apparently The Universe had other plans for me.
Last year, I just couldn’t afford tuition, and was far too busy working multiple jobs to focus on singing lessons. I was forced to stop. I prayed that it wouldn’t be for very long, but didn’t see how I would be able to start-up again any time soon.
Once in a while, a thought will suddenly come to me out of the blue. It is my thought, but it seems to come from somewhere outside and it slams into my mind with amazing clarity. I find that on the rare occasions when I have this experience , the thought that comes to me is always a small but life-altering revelation.
The thought was; “When I am lucky enough to be able to take lessons again, I am not going to waste it by being afraid!”
That was it. I had set an inadvertent intention.
So, this July, I signed up for lessons. I’ll give anything else up if I have to. But it seems clear to me that it is time to start living my life instead of waiting for the right circumstances, and then complaining when they don’t show up.
So I joined a choir.
Choir practice was incredible fun. I realized that I am out of practice at reading music, still shy in a group, tensing most of my body and unable to breathe properly while sitting down but I’m already working on it. The gut wrenching anxiety was nowhere to be found. The rest can be worked through with practice and faith.
My first lesson surprised me. I am not nearly as rusty as I thought. I left the lesson aware that my new attitude isn’t just some words that I have tried to believe in. It has changed the quality of my voice and I can’t wait to explore this new perspective. I’ve been focused on this for months and the wiring in my brain is getting the lesson. It ran on overdrive, as it did at the previous day’s rehearsal with everything that I haven’t thought about for nearly two years flying through all at once, and yet I remembered my commitment and simply observed what was happening in my mind and my body, knowing that by being there and staying with it, I can work to change what isn’t serving me, if not today then some other day. I had no desire to leave, in fact… I didn’t want either experience to end. And I get to do it all over again next week!
Two years ago, just days before my last recital, I opened up one of those tiny books of inspirational quotes to a random page and read the quote that lead me to where I am now.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. ”
I finally get that it is not only about giving myself permission to make mistakes. It is also about believing that I am worthy and have the right to shine.
Musicians might be special people, but that is because we are all special. Each and every one of us. All too often we do not believe in ourselves enough explore our own potential and cannot find our gifts, so we never know what they are.
While learning anything can be a long arduous task, we do not have to allow perfection to get in our way. There is no need to be perfect at anything… this is good because it probably isn’t possible. Even if it is possible… it isn’t necessary.
I’m beginning to understand that the point of all of our desires is to simply move from where we are today, to wherever we end up tomorrow, and then do it again. The key is to remember to stop and cherish the gifts that learning brings along the way.