image source: www.centerworks.com
If you know my story, you know that I overcame paralyzing stage fright about ten years ago. I still have a lot of anxiety around performances. Nowadays I’m better at understanding and dealing with it.
This week it’s a performance by my 4th and 5th grade chorus. Today as I was waiting for the kids to arrive for our last rehearsal I was seriously freaking out. I calmed myself by remembering something I’d learned years ago.
When I have trouble seeing something across the street, when my vision is blurred or doubled, the problem may not be nearsightedness. Instead, I simply may not realize how far away the object actually is. Sometimes without realizing, I’m actually focusing somewhere in front of the object, and in order to see I would need to imagine I’m looking beyond it to compensate and make it come clear.
By analogy, if you think about a baseball player who is trying to hit a ball, he doesn’t really want to focus on the moment the bat hits. That moment of impact is so small and very hard to think about. Better that he envision the result, the ball sailing into the outfield so that he can organize himself to make that happen.
In my class today I found myself fixating on the moment the kids were going to arrive. By focusing on that hour, or even that minute, I was pouring a lot of anxiety into a small space. No wonder the moment felt explosive and unsafe.
Once I realized, I began to think of today as a step towards the performance. I thought through the rehearsal to the time beyond it. That settled me and reminded me of what I had to do in the time I had to manifest my goals for the rehearsal.
This was one of the lessons I had learned as a solo pianist with crippling stage fright. Once, while preparing a piece with my teacher that I was terrified of ruining, I asked him, “What if it’s the last time I play it?” “It’s never the last time,” he told me.
I really liked that reply. I saw what he meant, that even if it was the last time, it was better to be thinking through the moment rather than get stuck on it. After all, music is always in motion and to fixate on a spot, or even a performance, ruins everything.
This “playing through” mindset could be helpful with everything from having a conversation to writer’s block. First I have to recognize that I’m fixated on a moment. Then I have to find a moment beyond it to move towards.
Does this sound like a familiar dilemma to you? Or have you moved past it? I’d like to know how you apply this in your world!