Wednesday, November 8, 2017

     Have you ever thought about quitting something that you really loved? Did you say to yourself, “This is getting stale,” or “I am not getting anything out of this anymore?”

     A month ago, I was ready to quit performing which meant giving up my one-woman shows and my Toastmaster affiliation. I cancelled my two performances scheduled for 2018 because the pressure was getting too great, and my practicing was becoming a daily burden and interruption to my retirement dream of “enjoying life.” 

     My Toastmaster affiliation began in the 80s, and I have been an active member and officer off and on through those years. I asked myself,”Why are you doing this at your age? It’s not going to do anything for you,” especially in light of my decision to stop performing my shows.

     As a result of cancelling my shows, the pressure is off. Now that I have no deadlines for my performances, I am practicing more. If I want to take a bike ride or go for a hike during my sacred “practice time,” I can, and I do. Once the show is ready, then I can decide if, when and where I will perform it. But the question is “Why did I start this in the first place?” 

     My one-woman show is like starting a Masters degree with no diploma at the end. The research is exciting and stimulating. It makes me read, take notes, weed out what’s relevant to the performance and write a script. I love all of that and always have. This is the academic need that fuels my creative gifts. Then I must choose the composer and the pieces I want to perform. The short period when I’m trying different compositions is fun. I can play and not practice until I find just the right combination of pieces. This keeps my fingers agile and the structural part of the show planted in my mind. Then I move on to the serious part of the year-long preparation by learning the pieces well, writing the script and editing it numerous times. Once that is done (that usually takes at least six months), I begin rehearsing and offering previews to test it out. By the end of the year, I am ready to take a real stage. So why did I start it? Because it fills a need:  the need to create with the gifts God has given me, and the need to share it with others for their enjoyment. The bonus is that I have created a much-needed purpose for myself as well as an identity, which for me is important. These shows have been my oxygen for over two years. Giving it all up, I knew, would be taking pressure off, yes, but it would also be stripping me of my purpose. I can’t do that, and I haven’t. 

     The Toastmaster decision turned out to be different than I expected. I decided to give it “one last meeting.” At that meeting, I connected with a few members who never seemed to notice my presence. They asked me questions, and they made me feel relevant. I stayed in, and I am now Vice-President of Membership. The real gift came, however, in a new friendship with a member who is also a musician. We now share our music, writing and speaking goals regularly over coffee. We leave each other energized. She also told me about another professional organization which helps speakers and performers earn money with their craft. This group has added a whole new exciting dimension to my life. Thank you, Toastmasters. Thank you, Debi.

     Do you feel like quitting something right now? Is it weighing on you and causing sleepless nights and unnecessary stress? Maybe it’s time. Maybe not. Maybe you need just “one more meeting,” or maybe you need to let go of just part of it. Think about why you started, and maybe you, too, will find a whole new reason to get up in the morning.