It was as joke. It got a laugh, at the engagement party for my classmate who was getting married for the first time at age 63. That joke landed on me. It was too poignant for me to find funny. I had never heard it before, because I had never said it before that moment. Messages come to me that way: through my own mouth.
Rebecca, the bride, had been in musical theater in New York and our classmate, Diane, had been an opera singer there too. They both were talking about still having stage freight when they stepped on stage.
I said “Do you know how I deal with the fear? I don’t get on stage”.
That message haunted me because it was true. And FEAR was the theme of my focus when I went to the Canadian creative conference called Mindcamp a few days after the party.
The electricity was off on the first night when I arrived at the YMCA camp on the lake outside of Toronto. You know how those creative types are all alike….they adapted without complaint. The session I chose included making meaning of the art we randomly pulled from a pile. We used our cell phone lights to show the pictures.
I was glad that it was the first session, and it was dark, and nobody knew me or saw me when I described my picture. I thought my commentary was too conceited.
Here’s how I described my picture: In the middle of the egg was me. I am sending out loops of energy and reaching north, south, east and west. All of us in the egg are emerging from waters into the light. My diverse audience is influenced by my message.
Yes, it was a great message for me to have received. Yet, I felt self-conscious that I would be so bold as to suggest that I had an audience.
Mindcamp has a smorgasbord of creative classes to choose from every hour and a half. That was my first session during the long weekend. And it was the foundation to build on for the others I was drawn to.
The next day we came out of the darkness and into the light.
The class I chose was on PARADOX. There were signs on the walls with paradoxes written on them. We were told to stand near the one that we could understand and we liked. There we were automatically sorted with partners who were standing by the same sign. We shared our insights with each other.
The paradox was:
This made perfect sense to me because to give is to receive. It is more blessed to give than to receive because giving feels so good. We have this experience when we volunteer or share or give time to others. Perfect sense.
Then, the next assignment repelled me. I breathed deeply through my anxiety, because I knew the sign she meant for me.
Her directions sounded something like “go to the sign that you refuse to acknowledge”. Argh! Not that one! It was the one so against where I would allow my mind to go. I couldn’t deal with it. I went to THAT sign.
WE ARE HARDWIRED FOR FEAR (SURVIVAL)
WE ARE HARDWIRED FOR LOVE (AWAKENING)
See what I mean? I am good with love and awakening. Fear and survival, I didn’t want to deal with. I’m the one who has always said: “If a hurricane demolishes my house and I am on the nightly news, do not put ‘SURVIVOR’ under my picture.” And certainly NOT “VICTIM”. I am a THRIVE
So here is how I dealt with that paradox: As those seem to be at opposite swings of the pendulum, the pendulum doesn’t stop swinging in mid curve. In order for me to have the emotional depth of love and awaking, I must not resist the feelings of fear and survival. In resisting, I am cutting off what I might want to do because of the fear. Since stage freight was a fear and the picture I interpreted the night before was speaking to the masses (love and awakening), I couldn’t have one without the other. I would have to be brave in order to do the outreach. Fear had been limiting me. “I don’t get on stage.”
Hence the next bricks to building on the foundation from the night before.
I had a newfound sense of empowerment that lead me to the next class.
It was called “From story to stage presence”. We worked on our stories in small groups. Then Michael asked for a volunteer to get up on stage at the microphone in front of the group to work on our stage presence. This is the time that I would be a great audience to the brave one who volunteered. My hand shot up and up to the stage I went. I was that brave one.
It was a wonderful rush. He helped me figure my one line: Everyone thought I had it all together, that’s why he picked me.
He coached me to pause in my delivery. We went through several exercises with emphasis on certain words and different accents. I was good. It felt wonderful. As I was leaving the stage I said “I have a fear of speaking to large groups, so because of that stage freight, I had to get up here today”.
This guy told me later that my admission inspired him to get on stage. He was an imposing big black guy and his line was “I should’ve been in jail, but I am here.” I got to know him as the weekend went on.
Another man who was one of the creative leaders told me that he wished he had gotten on stage, especially after what I said. Yep, he was doing what I would’ve been doing….wishing to get on stage.
I was now feeling all powerful. I was no longer limited by stage freight.
I went immediately to volunteer to do a bit that evening event called the Camino. The night before I had seen what people were offering. One woman was seated under a tree with a sign “Coach is in”. There were a group of people standing back from the private session “in the waiting room”.
That gave me the idea for the setup of my space. I had been playing with the idea of reviving “Advice Ladies” that a group of us did for fun at CPSI (a creative conference in Buffalo). But since I didn’t have the ladies, I came up with “NOT yo’ Mama, Edgy advice without the baggage.”
The sign says “Nothing confidential, may be tweeting on the spot” “Shift happens in 2 minutes”. And since there was nothing confidential, I invited folks to gather round as I recruited people to come talk to Not yo Mama.
It was great fun and I made many new friends in my outrageousness. I found out something about myself there. People in Canada thought I had a Southern accent, and with that Southern accent I could say any edgy thing and it was it was okay. Bless their hearts.
That evening right after me debuting Not yo’ Mama it was time to go to Karaoke.
And guess what I did? I was a great audience. I didn’t get on stage. Way too shy for that stage. The good news is that there is still room for me to grow; and the only way to do that is to go straight FEARward.