I performed at an open mic last night, with Jerry. I met him at his house beforehand, and we both laughed about how nervous we were. The open mic was at a tiny coffee shop in Greenlawn, a Long Island town. We’re talking Manhattan tiny. When we got there, it was packed with performers, and because we had gotten there a little late, we were among the last to take the stage. The performers before us were, for the most part, solid. There was a pair of high school girls who went not long before us, who sang a couple of pop songs and a church hymn in stunning harmony.
Jimmy said: “Count yourself lucky you’re not going on after them.”
I wondered if I should be insulted by that, but, it’s part of it, honestly. When you do something creative, it feels like you’re surrounded by people who are much, much better than you – and often younger than you (lol). Jerry was feeling it too; several of the guitar players who had gotten up there were very proficient. I told him we had to just break the habit – or compulsion, really – of comparing ourselves to the others. All we can do is focus on our craft, our progress, and leave the comparison (and the feelings of insufficiency that follow) out of it.
When it was our turn, I felt the electric buzz of nerves coursing through me. Before it had only been in waves; now that I was up there, with people staring at me — and at this coffee shop, it’s not like how it is at a bar, i.e., you’re not in the background, people are totally attuned to you and your performance – the electric buzz had become a constant. But then we started, and I felt the weeks of practice, and the new-found strength in my voice, over-power my nerves. The more I heard myself and realized I sounded good, the more the nerves, while still there, gave way.
It had gotten late, so they didn’t let us do our third song (which disappointed us quite a bit, as it was our powerful closer), but we still got a lot of acknowledgements from the crowd and encouragements to keep coming back. Jerry and I agreed that we wanted to come back as soon as possible; having tasted what it’s like to perform again after months of not doing so, we felt hungry to work on it, to get better, to realize our vision of what we thought we could do. We decided to come back next Friday and give it another go.
Later I watched the video Jimmy had taken of our performance, and I felt a little discouraged. I sounded good; better than any public performance I had done in the past. But I didn’t look good. I looked like a self-conscious goober. It was irritating to see, actually. I sounded so solid, yet my presence was not reflecting that at all. I thought of those high school girls, so young yet so confident, and such perfect harmonies. I’ll never get there, was what the voice inside my head said – followed by: what’s the point? I’m not in high school. I’m 34. Even if I got to a place of pure confidence with music, toward what end? I’m not trying to make a name for myself in the music business. I have a family, and a full time job. Is this “hobby” worth the effort, or is like reaching level 20 in Super Mario? For a second you feel SO proud of yourself, then you look around for someone to tell and realize (1) no one is there; and (2) no one cares, at all; and (3) you spent the last month tirelessly trying to reach a goal no one gives two shits about.
These are the voices I fight when I pursue music. How do I fight them? I know life is about progress. Tony Robbins makes a big deal of this. If you want to feel alive, you’ve got to be progressing in the areas of your life that matter to you. Music does matter to me. It brings me joy, and more than joy, freedom – and more than freedom, connection to my heart, and others. When I sing it feels like my heart is breaking wide open and letting everyone, and everything, in. It’s a marvelous feeling. If I could hone accessing that feeling while performing in public with others actually present, I would be on Cloud 9. That’s a pretty wonderful result, and something that sounds worth pursuing. So, that’s the point, I guess.
Also, obviously, my focus is off. Instead of focusing on the fact that I sounded better than any public performance I have done to date, I focused on how I looked like a self-conscious goober, and that momentarily made me want to throw in the towel. Silly. Especially since that’s easy to fix. It would be hard to fix being tone-deaf, for example, or having a very limited range. But fixing this takes (1) being aware of it (check!); and (2) coming up with a strategy to address it next time I get on stage.
The other question I might have for myself is this one: can you allow progress to be slower than what you want?
Let’s be real here; success doesn’t happen over night. It happens incrementally, every day, as a result of the moment-to-moment choices we make. That’s why allowing yourself to slip for a day, or to vacation from your goals for a weekend, has a much larger impact than what you realize. Success happens in those day-by-day choices; so does failure.
I’m not where I want to be, and that’s a good thing; it means there’s room to grow, and that’s what life is about. And, I’m progressing – what more can you ask for? We’ll try again next Friday, and it will better than this past Friday, but still not what I want it to be because it just isn’t going to happen that fast. But if we keep doing it, we’ll get there.
I bring all of this up because my goals are going much the same way.
On goal 1, my spirituality ritual, I struggle to prioritize it. I find myself wanting to rush through it, and then I get frustrated that I want to rush through it because I know that defeats the point (which is to connect to how important it is, among other things). I’m also impatient with my ritual not being quite right, not what I want it to be, forgetting that the whole point of the goal is to be patient with it, let it evolve, understand that I’m not going to immediately arrive there – it will take time.
On the “wins” side though, I was pretty consistent with it this week, even though it was hard. The babies were crying, I still had things to do before I could get on the road for my two-hour commute, etc. So I give myself credit for making it happen, however reluctantly at times. On the days I did it (all except one this week), I’m not sure I saw any marked difference, but it’s hard to measure. I think it’s something that will show up when I look back at a longer period of time, rather than day by day.
On goal 2, I dropped another half-pound, down to 134. My goal is a pound per week. This goal too is not progressing how I want it to, and that means I have to turn up the heat. That’s the other part that’s frustrating; you think you’re doing a lot, then you measure your results, which don’t lie, and realize you have to turn it up a notch (that said, I can see my body is starting to change, and those results are satisfying). I mean, I cooked my meals for the week, I watched my calories, I did my exercise routines every morning, I hit the gym. Again, though, it’s a process. I know despite all I’ve done, there’s another level — there must be, look at my results. And I can turn it up a notch now, from this point; I couldn’t have turned it up this high from zero, from where I began, or even from last week. So it’s more gradual than what I would like, but I’m getting there.
Final thoughts – Jimmy starting a center is causing me to realize that I maybe hold him small sometimes. Back when he was starting to build a coaching business, I was very involved (I almost insisted on it), and some of it was supportive, but some of it was maybe almost condescending, thinking he didn’t understand what would need to be done or he wouldn’t be as active on it as he needed to be, etc. Now, I don’t have time to be involved except at the periphery; I have a lot on my plate. As a result, some things are being revealed.
Specifically, last night I realized that maybe my busy-body like involvement before hurt him, or held him back. Like, maybe I was the problem. Because now that I am not involved, he is ON it, and feeling a lot more confident than what I can remember in the prior effort. For example, he’s having a meeting with his two partners this afternoon. Before I condescendingly began to say: “Well do you have an agenda?” etc., he told me he had developed an agenda, a list of things they’d need to decide, plans for future meetings, and that he’d scheduled a date for a meeting of potential investors (and had a list of who he was going to invite). He wanted me to attend (only that meeting, not any of the others he had in the works), and he also asked if I had availability to prepare legal documents for them. I said sure, you’re going to nee—he cut me off, and said they were going to discuss at the partner meeting what they needed, and he’d let me know what they want me to prepare and when they needed it by. He then presented a sales plan, which was based in part on a sales presentation he and I had recently attended (for an entirely different business) which, while not perfect, had some effective attributes (that he had apparently taken copious notes on). That’s just the tip of the iceberg; he showed me a number of other plans he has in the works, for the investment presentation, the business plan, how to avoid pitfalls of other centers, etc. He had my head spinning.
This all took me aback, wondering about myself, my character flaws, how my “support” may sometimes not be support at all (uncomfortable realizations). Part of me was happy about it, though. Happy that I don’t need to be involved in, or in control of, everything in order for it to work. Happy that my husband is stepping into his leadership in a way he hasn’t in a long time, and he’s feeling alive as a result. Happy to trust him in this way, and happy to ditch my unproductive attitude toward his aspirations.
Okay, that’s a wrap! I have a small group meeting coming up and then my personal counseling session and then work and babies, babies, babies in between!