There’s this famous book by Susan Jeffers called Feel The Fear… and Do It Anyway….
…that I haven’t read yet but everyone keeps raving about.
And the title can’t help but resonate.
I have mixed feelings about valiantly working through fear because I’ve learned in the past few years that feeling uncomfortable, un-aligned, plain stressed or in “cognitive dissonance” is not necessarily the quick self-help path to happiness that it’s promoted to be.
Instead, self-compassion probably works better.
Still, there are things in life that scare the s… out of you but you know you got to do it anyway.
Starting your own business, taking that dance class, having a baby…
It’s that or staying stuck in indecision limbo and that sucks.
For me, it was singing.
Singing – it’d been nagging me for years, the little voice in my head saying ‘You’ve got to go and share your voice now’ that I’d been trying hard not to listen to.
On the 1st of January 2017, almost a year ago I picked up an old dusty ukulele in my parent’s garage. I gave myself a month to learn a song and go sing at an open mic (which at that time I called ‘a professional environment…’)
It became Plan Of The Month.
I picked an easy song (for those of you who ever want to learn how to play the uk’, Adele’s Hello is a good one to start with)
I religiously went through all the youtube tutorials.
I practiced at the very least one hour a day (and got extremely grumpy when I couldn’t)
Booked in additional private singing lessons.
Early on, I located an open mic with a reputation for being easy on beginners… and went to check it out twice quietly staying, wallflower-like, against the wall.
Still, despite all that, I just couldn’t smooth out the transition between the chords, kept losing the rhythm mid-song, and hitting flat on the high pitched notes…
At the time we were flat-sharing with an Actual Musician, one who was touring the US, was in a real band, and had a much liked famous page (and, incidentally, good music too…)… I’d go practice on the rooftop – in London, in January – to spare him my practice and my eternal shame…
It was all a fun side project, yet as we got closer to the finals days of January tension was eating me away constantly.
On the morning of that fateful Friday the 29th of February, I checked if, maybe, I could push back by a day or two and find another opportunity to perform over the weekend.
But no. – the ‘nice’ open mic suitable for my level was on that day… like waxing, waiting would only make it worse.
I took my bike and rode through the cold, dark London roads with my ukulele on my back on my heart in my heart
Who am I to do this?
Who do I think I am to do this?
Who the F*** DO I THINK I AM TO DO THIS?
Yet there I was, in that little corner pizzeria whose flight of stairs and blackboard sign dryly invited me to come down and join the herd of musicians who flock there every Friday night.
How nice it’d have been to simply sit on one of the tables, pick up a menu, order a wedge and a glass of wine and safely stay on the ground floor…
I stopped breathing on those stairs.
Numbing myself not to hear the crazy drunk monkey steering the wheel of my mind and its galloping thoughts crying Danger, Danger, I saw myself put my name down on the list, take out my ukulele, avoid anyone’s gaze and wait.
And then you get called. And your palms sweat like they never did before. And your heart beats so fast you can’t hear anything.
And you sing.
There is something wonderful that happens when you create music.
It’s like praying.
Everything becomes silent, even the two drunk comedians exchanging banter at the bar and the couple loudly flirting at the front.
And the humming of your body forces to be present to the beauty of what you’re creating.
It was the end of the song. There’d been tempo mistakes, flat notes, wrong chords.
It’s true that they were a kind bunch…
And it didn’t matter. I’d been singing.
And was ready to do it again.