Monday, September 6, 2010
A really weird thing happened to me the other day. As I was playing piano in front of people, I noticed a woman who was holding a paper over her mouth and talking to her neighbor, and staring at me. I had been smiling and singing, enjoying the music and the crowd of people that were smiling back, but when we made eye contact, she dropped her gaze, finished her statement, then fluffed her hair, looking away. She didn't look at me the rest of the set.
The strange part of this moment was that I was transported immediately back to elementary school. Being a musician means you're putting yourself out there, being vulnerable in a way, to the slings and arrows of criticism. I found myself thinking about my outfit, my hair, my singing tone, my pitch, even the volume of the piano. I went to a very "wounded child" place, where I suddenly felt not-that-great about myself or my art. Wow, can you say second grade?
I have no idea what she was discussing. She was not yawning. Perhaps she was covering her mouth so that she wouldn't be disruptive. Do you like my "benefit of a doubt banter? Why did I feel so fearful and inadequate and why was it so palpably painful?
I have given this situation a lot of thought, unfortunately. My students may deal with this and I used to, but thought I'd gotten over it. Guess not. I guess deep down inside there is still an introverted child who pushes herself to perform.
The grownup in me gave myself about 5 seconds of those feelings and then said, "enough!" The adult person in this body knows that she is capable and sharing something unique. I will not dwell in the fearful place. I will not be judged by a stranger. I am not perfect, I am me. That is enough, that's all I can be. I am flawed and cracked; but I will not hide.
Men don't deal with this in the same way. They are compared, yes, but my husband says that rather than build concensus like women do, men are direct or dismissive. Women like to gather like-minded women to the group making them feel empowered, men make an assessment and conquer it single-handedly, sort of. Why do we DO that? Ugh, it seems ridiculous to me now.
It sure was a blow to me that I could be transported to an ugly place in the blink of an eye, while trying to concentrate on playing and singing well, leading others, and don't forget, to "keep on smiling".