Sunday, March 26, 2017

     Have you ever had stage fright? Some call it “Performance Anxiety.” Did you know that many famous celebrities suffer from this often crippling condition? It’s the “What If” syndrome. “What If” I fail? “What If?” I’m not as good as I was in my own house? “What If” the audience thinks I’m a loser? 

     Performance Anxiety has fascinating roots that many would be shocked to discover. I won’t talk about those, as they aren’t terribly flattering. I will admit to having PA, however, and it’s fascinating how this condition can manifest itself. 

     Sometimes, I actually become paralyzed and can’t practice. Sometimes, I clean an entire house or sort through thousands of photos I’ve been meaning to clean out just to avoid what I know I have to do. Sometimes, I get irritable, and often I am filled with an overwhelming feeling of panic and loss of common sense. I have already written about the real culprit: ME. If I could just leave ME home, I’d be perfectly fine.

     Does it comfort me to know that Adele, Beyoncé, Donny Osmond, Renée Fleming and Ariana Grande have it? Does it make me feel better to know that a genius like Andrea Boccelli still struggles with such fears? Not really. Recently, Adele stopped her song and started over again. That is something performers are told NEVER EVER to do. Whatever we do, we are supposed to keep going. Well, sometimes, you just can’t. Adele did all performers a major favor that night; she let us all have our moment of “human.”

     With four upcoming performances, I have cleaned several cupboards, washed floors, sorted photos, found numerous errands to do and taken many naps. Am I nervous? You betcha. I’m telling myself this time all of my angst will be gone by the time I take the stage two weeks from now. It is all about controlling the self-talk. If there was not self-talk, there would be no worry, right? So how do we do that? If I could tell you that, I would be a very wealthy woman, and I wouldn’t have to perform. If you could control your anxious, negative self-talk, think of all you could accomplish, and all you would undertake.

     I’ve read about positive visualizing. Yeah, right. I picture myself half-way through a piece with a blank brain, and I’m supposed to imagine some magical force just takes over and finishes the piece without me? Nope, that’s not going to happen.

     For professionals, their reputations are at stake. Their salaries depend on their successful performances. For me, I’m just having fun. Hmm. How can angst be fun? Last I knew, angst was on the negative list. If I crash and burn, the worst that can happen after being publicly humiliated is that I stop doing this and play golf and bridge like the rest of my retired friends. For me, those activities have as much angst as being on stage. There’s always an audience, but the most critical audience is Me. 

     I write often about perspective. A few weeks ago, I was flat on my back on a gurney wondering if I’d had a heart attack. Seems like that should have more anxiety attached to it than sitting on a piano bench and searching for a C7 chord. I have friends who wake up every morning in pain. Seems like that could be anxiety-provoking, and that doesn’t go away with a final bow. Where’s the logic? There is no logic to fear; it’s just plain fear.

     My father always said, “Stop thinking about it, and get busy.” My daughter calls it “Self-inflicted stress,” and my common sense says, “Get over it. Do the best you can, and get on with your life.” 

     Hmm. I think my files need organizing. Any “What Ifs” in your life this week?