Saturday, October 21, 2006

I live here now.

A few weeks ago, when I was in the middle of life-transition blues, my mom shared something that really helped me through it. She told me that she felt the same way after every move, and she’s been through many as an adult. (She was a military kid, as I was, but how easily we transition when we’re kids!) After the house was unpacked, and we kids were off to school, she said she asked herself every time: Ok, where do I fit in this picture? Then she assured me that while the feeling may stick around for a while, one day she’d just wake up and it would be gone. She lived there.

Well, as moms often are, she was right. One day last week, I realized that the feeling of anxiety and fear that had been hanging around me since I arrived in NYC was gone. I live here, and my patterns are starting to show that. I’ve been more social, getting out to know the different parts of the city, going on some dates and spending time with friends and the Brooklyn Birds (brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew). An art exhibit, a concert, a friend’s recital (his first Winterreisse!), a cabaret show (where I saw Liza Minnelli!! Me: Look, there’s a Liza impersonator. MP: Um, no, that’s really Liza!), and yoga classes and workshops at my new yoga home. Lessons with Mark, of course, and audition and recital prep with JD.

I live here now.

But there is still fear. It’s just a different kind of fear, one that’s been with me for a long time and one that I’ve let dictate my actions for too long. Maybe writing about it here will help me conquer it. It is the fear of success.

Why I’m afraid of it, what exactly I’m afraid of, I can’t tell you. But I can see how this fear is starting to get in my way. I know that “Regnava nel silenzio” (from Lucia di Lammermoor) is going to be my aria, the one that says to anyone who heard me sing last year or the year before “Check this out: I’ve grown up.” The aria that is the difference between “We like her; let’s keep an eye on her.” and “We like her; let’s hire her.” My goal was to have it ready for my NY City Opera audition, which is on Monday. But have I done it? No. It’s stuck at the 90% level, all the notes learned, memorized, all the cadences settled, etc., but I just haven’t taken the time to really get it into my body and voice. I’m pretty mad about it, too, and I know I’m the only one to blame. I have so much time these days, a true luxury, and I’m wasting it. WHY?? Fear.

Today I went to a yoga workshop focusing on headstand. Many people talked about the fear that was holding them back from mastering the pose, and I realized that I’ve never been afraid of it. (My issues are balance and holding the pose, two things that are getting easier as my body gains strength and my mind gains clarity.) The teacher said that we too easily stereotype ourselves and psych ourselves out of an action; she called them “personal chauvinisms.” “I don’t do headstand.” If we say that, we’ll have a hard time ever getting our feet up there! It works the other way, too, and I think I’ve always seen myself as someone who does headstand. Sure, why not? So I do it.

After the workshop I went to coach with JD, and I realized that while I can do a headstand (I even held it for ten seconds by the end of the workshop!), I’m psyching myself out of a lot of other beneficial actions because of my fear. Singing the right rep is only one, but it’s a big one.

So tonight and tomorrow night and Monday morning, I’m living with Regnava. It’s time to stop being afraid of it and get it out there. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! Right? Eek.


Anonymous said...

Your post reminds of of the book "A Soprano on Her Head," by Eloise Ristad, and not just because you are a soprano doing headstands! I would highly recommend it if you haven't read it already. Also "The Perfect Wrong Note," by William Westney. Both books are about "freedom" for musicians: freedom in practice methods, freedom from nerves, freedom to take that extra step...

Desperate Operawife said...

What a wonderfully honest post about the true nature of the business of singing. I find myself going through these same emotions (and I'm the spouse) and can totally relate... Thanks for sharing your thoughts, ACB.

ava said...

I totally understand the fear thing. I recently had to learn five roles in five different operas in not much time and was completely afraid of what I had to do and the responsibility that had been handed to me. I thought "I'm a phony - they're going to see right through me - what the hell am I doing?" So instead of letting that fear spur me on to dive into things and conquer those doubts, I'd respond by procrastinating. I'm working on responding better to fear and stress, but it's a real challenge sometimes!

Go kick Regnava's ass!

Anonymous said...

Looks like I'm not the only one who identifies with that fear!

I literally just yesterday got assigned 1st Lady (Magic Flute) in our scenes performance, since the regular hasn't shown up for rehearsals for 3 weeks and I've been "subbing" for her in rehearsals so the others could practice their parts.

Now I have to sing virtually the whole role (ie all the "Ladies" scenes) for a paying public in less than a week.

As they say, "Feel the fear and do it anyway!"

(My word verification string right now is "ovljv" which of course reminds me of the name Osvaldo Golijov...)

Best wishes now & always, dear ACB.

Sarah said...

You are not alone in your fear of success, which I hope doesn’t belittle your feelings. Doing what you need to do in order to succeed is a great way to combat it, sort of like backwards cognitive behavior therapy. I know a lot of singers who won’t even admit that they’re not working as hard as they could, so good for you for not only admitting it to yourself, but admitting it to the world!

I recently documented my changes by sending myself an email on I was pretty detailed about how I feel right now, dreams I’m having, milestones, etc. I’m looking forward to a future Sarah getting the email. I’m sure it will give me insight into my life now and then. Check out the website if you think you might be interested.

Have an AWESOME NYCO audition! Can’t wait to hear about it.

nick said...

Have a fantastic audition today!

What a great and honest post. You will be great today! Enjoy!

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