2012 ended rather gloomily, and 2013 was starting slow and creaky. I was talking the talk of being a goddess of self-actualization, but I was not walking the walk. Inspiration and motivation were in short supply. Something had to give.
I read the essay (below) from Keri Smith’s “Living Out Loud” a few days ago, and it seemed fitting as I tried to find the right approach to achieving my goals for the coming year. It made me realize how much I compare myself to others and/ or worry about what other people think of me. I don’t think this is a huge issue for me, but it’s funny how it can still creep in from time to time, without me even knowing it, and create unseen obstacles in my life.
In terms of my goals, I had especially been thinking about how intimidated I felt about attempting a triathlon. A lot of my fear comes from the fact that I’m pretty much surrounded by super-athletes. OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But a good portion of my close friends and broader circle of acquaintances are very athletic, many of them quite accomplished. I’m not sure if it’s because we live in an area of the country renowned for its outdoor recreational opportunities, which tends to attract a lot of adventurous sporting types, or if I’m just drawn to healthy active people (a good thing!). Either way, for the kid who grew up being picked last in elementary school gym class (not just a cliche — but actually true!), it’s hard not to make comparisons and feel intimidated about athletic endeavors.
Sometimes reading an essay or article like this one provides exactly the little jolt I need to bring things into perspective and start moving forward again.
Below is the piece from the book (which I keep in my Zen Kit, by the way, with all my other slightly touchy-feely stuff…). And here is a link to a longer version on Keri Smith’s website.
Facing the Fears
The week I turned thirty I made a list of “30 Things to do in my Thirtieth Year”. I wanted to move forward into a new decade with power and excitement. Many things on the list were relatively small and easy to accomplish: Enjoy a long walk on the beach, eat a fresh lobster, plant a rosebush for my mom. Some of the things were more difficult and intimidating: Write a book, learn to drive. These things were a way of trying new things and pushing myself “out there” beyond my known world.
One of the difficult things for me to do was singing in public. When I mentioned this to one of my friends, an accomplished folk singer, her eyes lit up, and she invited me to do a song with her grop at its next show. My reaction was one of giddy excitement, which quickly gave way to fear. (Singing around a bonfire is more what I had in mind.) “But isn’t this what you wanted?” I asked myself. “What better than an opportunity with a deadline?” I had to try.
The show was more than a month away, providing ample time to rehearse and work on my voice. But could I sing? I had not sung since sixth-grade choir, when my best friend at the time let me know that I might better spend my energy on things. Even though, I loved to sing, I had never sang again.
I was pleasantly surprised by my first rehearsal with the group. We managed to learn the song and get some harmonies down relatively quickly. To my untrained ear, it sounded on key and actually quite good, but could I really pull this off? We had chosen was “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls, a tune that talks about moving beyond comfort zones and taking life less seriously, something I had hoped this whole experience would help me with.
After weeks of practice and lots of support, I had an epiphany: I cared too much about what other people thought. I worried that if I san poorly, people might think less of me. I had to be willing to fail! I had to surrender to the process and let it happen. I finally realized that I made my list to push MYSELF, not to impress OTHERS.
On the night of the performance, the cafe was packed. There was an electric buzz and energy in the place. Although I wasn’t singing until halfway through the second set, I started to lose feeling in my arms. I said a silent prayer to whoever would listen. When it was my turn I seemed to float in the direction of the stage. I pulled up the stool for support. The audience, which had been so rowdy, now sat silent and transfixed with all eyes on me. And in that moment all my fear vanished.
I told the audience about my list of thiry things, and people cheered. Then I knew that everyone in the room was with me. I had no fear because they had joined me in my journey, I could not fail because I had already succeeded in pushing myself. As we held the last note, the place errupted into wild applause. I screamed into the microphone, “I did it!” More applause. I was on top of the world. People ran to hug me as I left the stage. A woman with tears in her eyes said, “Thank you. You’ve given me courage to face my own fears.”
I have learned that we must never underestimate the poer that facing our fears has on other people. We help the world to be stronger when we ourselves become stronger.
So there it is, a little reminder not to get caught up in comparisons and worrying about what other people think. Easier said than done sometimes. But reminding yourself does help.
Here’s a link to the Indigo Girls singing “Closer to Fine.”
And here’s some more cool stuff on Keri Smith’s website. Because a little touchy-feely every once in awhile never hurt anyone.
Last word: Finally went running today for the first time in weeks. It was good. : )