I played the violin but I couldn't look up off the page. If you took my sheet music away the instrument would lie lifeless in my hands. My fingers itched to jazz but the sheet music for violin sometimes didn't exist. So I slowly coaxed my mind to create the notes from thin air. In the quiet stillness of my forest green bedroom the music felt freeing. But on a stage with lights burning down on me stones sank into the pit of my stomach. Jazz band sounded like fun until the director assigned us all solos. Unwritten solos felt like a far cry from the fleeting improvisations I had done in my forest room. The stones hatched into birds that fluttered around my ribcage as each note on the page in front of me rushed me headlong into that gaping white gap where my solo lurked, amorphous and unrehearsed. The notes that filled the gap that night are lost to murky old memory. But the feeling of fluttering birds and a gaping white mouth linger with me. They are familiar friends now.
Stepping out onto the street corner in the Seattle rain was terrifying. Thin mist cloaked my amp and I was sure the batteries would spontaneously combust. My icicle fingers moved sluggishly across the strings. Street performing felt vulnerable and completely anonymous at the same time. I was sure I was about to get pelted with vegetables. I was simultaneously sure no one was going to care. But after my first two songs on the street corner a woman smiled at me and dropped a dollar in my instrument case.
We all struggle with fear. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of what others might think. Overcoming fear starts with a deep breath, or a count of ten, or pushups. When was the last time you were afraid? What did you do? Did you beat it? After years of performing, stage fright is an old friend. She stops by to say hello during shows that really matter to me. Practice and time have helped me overcome that particular fear. How are you practicing embracing the fearful?