I’m a singer. Not by profession – though when I sing my kids waver between holding their ears shut, and insisting I “could have been;” – but by avocation, by commitment, by passion. The joy of singing and the bonding it creates has been in my blood for generations. I once mistook my Dad and his brothers for a Barbershop Quartet on the radio. Oh the thrill of being steeped in such a sound, and even more so when I myself contribute to it!
As surely as the love of music and singing grew and expanded and filled me as I was growing up, the dreaded performer’s anxiety was weaving its way into the fiber of my being all through those early years as well. In High School, I couldn’t wait to audition for my first musical! I had gained experience and confidence in leading song in Grammar School assemblies and other programs. I was encouraged and praised for my singing then. Yet, when my turn came to climb those stage stairs and sing my selected audition song, I froze, unable to even get up from my seat. Crushed at my insipid cowardliness, I served in Stage Crew that year.
The next year, another song prepared, another time ascending those steep stairs; this time I got myself to center stage and opened my mouth, but to my utter dismay, not a sound could escape beyond the tight constriction of my throat. Seriously? I SOUNDED SO GOOD IN MY LIVING ROOM! Mistress of Properties that year.
Finally, in my Junior year, I practiced like crazy, had been given a few solo and small group opportunities in Glee Club, and I became determined to sing in my audition the way I sang at home. This time I got a small part, and the next year I earned the leading role. At last, my passion and my voice were liberated, and I sang and acted my heart out in that role!
The family parties continued, during which my Grandmother, a professional pianist, alternating with a few very talented cousins, played the piano for hours while the family sang and swayed and loved around that family jewel and centerpiece. Many years later, I satisfied my longing to release my voice once again by singing in my Church choir. I taught myself to harmonize, I sang a solo every once in a while, and I surrounded myself with friends who also loved to sing.
After my last went away to college, and after my career changing Graduate degree was completed, I knew it was time to focus on more challenging music, and to find once again like-minded people to share that thrill and that bond with. I researched the many Choral Groups that were holding auditions that Fall, and chose the group whose philosophy and passion matched my own. The audition was no problem; I knew nobody and had nothing to lose. I was accepted, and my choice was confirmed within an hour of the first rehearsal. Here was real passion and soul; here was a community committed to one another, to music and to having fun…lots of it!
I was shocked when, a few months later, auditions were being held for a few solo sections in the upcoming concert, and that old familiar dread crept in, and the vocal constriction prevailed once again. I thought I had outgrown this, but somehow, now knowing this director and the many onlookers, I somehow felt I had a lot on the line. This went on for 6 years! Every time a solo opportunity came up, I would rehearse, I would often take a voice lesson or more. I would pray, I would rehearse some more – and rock that song in my living room once again. And then at the audition, my knees and my voice would shake, sometimes profoundly, sometimes a little less so, but never was I rewarded with a concert solo. I couldn’t complain, I knew that I hadn’t given a good performance, except to the mirror at home.
This beloved group has held Cabaret Shows every couple of years or so, and I took to auditioning with comedic songs that I was confident in singing, and that I knew would enhance the entertainment value of the show. I was accepted into the roster for many of these, but I knew in my heart I was shortchanging myself. Minor to significant vocal constrictions prevailed even in these performances, but my comedic timing made those imperfections tolerable. But Oh how I longed to have the courage to audition for, and sing a serious song, a ballad or a show stopper, one that allowed me to liberate my voice, and sing my heart out once again.
The longing was visceral; it was what kept me pushing forward, determined to overcome those inner obstacles, and to experience that moment of freedom, of union with the song and with music itself. I yearned to express a part of myself that was instilled at birth and would be satisfied with nothing short of full liberation, self-connection and Joy.
My moment finally came. Not without further fears and anxieties, not without a few more moments in which I held myself back, and allowed the fear (fear of what?) to diminish my voice. But come it did, and it was worth the wait. As part of a group voice lesson program, I had worked on and sang that serious song at our recital. The feedback was stellar, and I knew I had grown stronger in my voice, and more skilled in my singing and performance presence. Despite the ample praise I received, I once again knew that I hadn’t given it my all, and I knew that I was not completely free. The song was a belter in parts, which helped me push past the constriction to a large degree; but I knew it still lurked in the background.
I was encouraged to audition with that same song when my Choir was holding another Cabaret this Winter. I was accepted! Once again, I rehearsed, I reviewed, I carefully experimented with finding the ideal vocal nuance for each word. As the date approached, I knew I was as ready as I could possibly be, and that the rest was up to myself, in the moment of performance. There was nothing holding me back but my own self-doubt. The first night of the show, I was steadier than I had been in recent years, and once again, I received praise; and once again, I knew I held back some.
The next morning, I confronted my fears in my morning meditation. I told them to back off, that I understood how scary life could be, but that I no longer needed their protection. And then I visualized the performance of my life. I saw it in spectacular detail, and I sang that song in my imagination, basking in the glow of self-love and release. I claimed the moment as mine, and stated my intention: This is the night I come out. This is the performance where I hold nothing back. I sieze THIS moment as the one in which I do what I know I can do, and put it all on the line. I felt the confidence, and connection, the joy of being fully alive, and fully me. All day long, I recalled this glorious reflection, and re-claimed the day as my own, and the evening’s performance as fully expressive of that.
All evening, as I awaited my turn to sing, I felt the shimmery feelings from the morning. I felt more alive; I felt more connected to each of the other singers and the audience. I continued to affirm that THIS was my moment. I had almost no anxiety as I walked to the microphone, and I claimed once more the moment of release. And then I sang. For 3 ½ minutes, I was floating on air. Every cell in my body was alive and engaged, and I sang with the passion and the freedom I had longed for. I was in a flow, an ecstatic current of natural and exhilarating energy; it was effortless, and yet I poured myself into it like I never had before. Several people who had seen both performances noticed the difference, and a few were even moved to tears. One friend captured my journey by celebrating with me and declaring, “You’ve come out! You’ve inspired me to come out too!”
Suddenly I realized: this experience was right in line with everything I believe and teach! I had a desire, a longing that I knew I must pursue. I gave it everything I had, and sought the skills and expertise I needed to bring it to fruition. I refused to give up despite repeated failure, because I KNEW there was more inside of me, and that I must continue to pursue my dream. I believed that triumph would come, and then I crashed through my self-imposed barriers to success. I had visualized my ideal performance, felt the sensations as though they were unfolding in my life in just that way; and then I brought that vision to life.
All of this contributed to the experience I had, of creating a facet of the life I was longing for. In the ensuing days and weeks since that exciting night, I have been meditating once again, this time assiduously instilling into my being, my belief in the process of creation, and how essential visualization is to that process. It has reinforced my trust in my inner longings and desires, and my innate ability to reach out for them and achieve what I set my heart to.
What are the desires that dwell in the depths of your being? What are the daydreams that haunt you, returning again and again? What areas of your life are you unsatisfied with; what ideas have you had that you’ve dismissed as fanciful or impossible to accomplish? Walt Disney is often quoted as saying: “If you can dream it, you can do it!” If it lives inside of you as a longing of any strength, a desire for something different; if your inner voice shouts or even merely whispers “enough! It’s time for change!”- then you can achieve that change. And let me tell you, the euphoria that you will experience from digging in and calling forth more of you than you thought possible, is liberating; it’s exhilarating. Then you know that this is what life is really all about. And then you thirst for even more.
Resourcefully Yours … Ginnie