We Have Nothing to Fear… Not Even Fear Itself

Last week I was depressed.

It was a perfectly bitter draught of physical turmoil, nauseating nostalgia, work-worries, and playing the role of psychologist for several of my nearest and dearest.

That is why I missed my deadline on Friday for this blog, which of course made me feel very ‘blegh’ when I woke up, far too early, the following Saturday.

As I blinked myself into consciousness and watched the sunrise through my ineffective window blinds, the mental negative-nellies were there. They reminded me of my ignored obligations and personal disappointments as the sky turned from a rich cobalt to a pale pink. I tried to shake them off, tossing myself to the other side of the mattress and pressing my face against the pillow, but closing my eyes only amplified those thunderous “tsk-tsks”.

It was 4:15 in the morning… I didn’t want to get up, but I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, with a soft growl of frustration, I flung my arm out and snatched up my mp3 player. I shoved the earbuds in place, pressed “play”, and waited…

You can’t run away forever, but there’s nothing wrong with getting a good head start. You want to shut out the night, you want to shut out the sun, you want to shut away the pieces of a broken heart”…

Oh my god, Meatloaf. And Jim Steinman. Saying exactly what I needed to hear.

And as I started to cry and laugh at the same time, I realized that perhaps this day could be saved… but first I needed two more hours of sleep.

Fast forward to seven o’clock. I set out with a new sense of energy; running some errands before I attended my weekly therapy session voice lesson.

With every action taken, the nagging-negative-nellies grew quieter. They never vanished (they rarely do), but soon they were drowned out by other voices cheering me on and reminding me that, yes, life goes on.

Until recently, I took for granted how much courage it takes to live. Every time you make up your mind to move forward in some way, you have to defeat those “twin serpents, Doubt and Pride.” Some battles last longer than others… but every victory is hard-won and worthwhile.

Many a schoolchild knows that when something scares them it’s “Fight or Flight.” However, that there is a third, more insidious option: do nothing. Apathy is attractive, until you realize that not doing anything often makes you feel worse than making the attempt and “failing.” Failure, at least, offers the knowledge of what went wrong; doing nothing leaves you with nothing.

Therefore, I have resolved to not fear Fear. After all, “Fear is the clearest signal we will get that we’re on the precipice of greater success, greater happiness, greater impact.”

I think about the stage fright I still get before every performance. I’ve been singing for 20 years, you would think I’d have gotten over it… but now that I reflect on it, I realize that my “fright” is just my body/mind being revved up for what lies ahead. The butterflies flapping about in my stomach are like wind turbines, filling me with energy. Every time I wonder, “eeeh, can I really do this?”  there comes the immediate, almost angry, declaration of “Hell yes I can!”

Perhaps the reason I get uncomfortable at this time is because it is not my natural state… but should it be? I am more alert, more excited, and raring to do more than usual. Maybe then, it’s time I embrace fear and thank it for kicking me into gear.

I’d rather be in a state of chaos than sunk in depression any day.

Rock On, Readers!

This Above All…

To thine own self be true.

Platypus Meggie | “Odd duck” is understatement | Still she is Happy

Recently I had a discussion with my mentor about pursuing the things that make us happy… simply because they make us happy.

Isn’t it strange, I mused, how the things that make us naturally happy as children: eating tasty food, running around like ninnies, dancing and singing with abandon, blowing bubbles, etc. are frowned upon when we are adults?

Judgement (and the fear of being judged) hangs over our balding heads:

Enjoying that brownie? You’ll regret it.

Want to get out and do something? Good for you! Staying fit will keep you from getting fat… (um, actually, I just wanted to go for a walk because)…. FAT AND LAZY! AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

Dance down the aisles of the grocery store to the music playing overhead? Sing while strolling down the street? Is there something wrong with you? What a strange person.

It seems to me that as we get older, and in theory are therefore supposed to become masters of our own universes, the less agency we truly have. We spend so much time worrying about what others think of what we do and what we say, that we risk shutting down entirely; going through our lives with the same tight-lipped, slightly disdainful expression of shopfront mannequins.

This anxiety is not without cause, mind you. I know the pressures of too many bills; student loan and credit card debt; annual rent increases; bad (and I mean BAD) genes that may strike me down in middle-age; not enough time in the day to be a functioning, social human being; concern over the welfare of my loved ones… and those are just my personal woes. There is, of course, the threat of war, melting polar icecaps, some future epidemic that wipes out 90% of the population and renders the survivors nearly feral for the first quarter century…

Whew! Hand me that blanket; I’m going to sleep for the next 100 years.

However, in spite of the sturm und drang of… existing… if you live as the person you are, you’ll be happier.

I know, I know. This sounds super trite. I’m not advocating that you quit your job to write the next Great American Novel. Instead, if you can make the commitment to yourself to write for thirty minutes every day… you’ll be better for it. Don’t do something because it’s expected of you, do it because it is what you want to do.

It’s taken me nearly three decades, and the loss of some truly incredible people, to realize that embracing ALL of who I am (slightly-OCD, lover of terrible puns and lame jokes, no-nonsense introvert, compassionate friend, musical theatre nerd, childish, self-centered brat, mature, thoughtful human being), brings me joy; even on those days when I hate what I’ve done or how I look in the mirror. Remembering and cherishing the crazy platypus that I am allows me to step back, take a deep breath, and go sing something. And I feel better.

As I expressed to my Maestra, there is a reason we describe the things we love to do as “emotional outlets.” When you plug into an outlet, you generate power; power that can light a room or an entire city block… so shouldn’t we plug into our outlets as often as we can? Even just for a quick “charge?” It’s clean, renewable energy!

No effort is wasted. Wild yeasts in the bakery make the best sourdough bread… but an empty oven will stand cold and rust and produce nothing nourishing.

Bake your bread. Blow those bubbles. Fly those “freak” flags. Be your own platypus.

Connect the Dots

According to MBTI, I am an INTJ. Now, like all qualifiers of personality, I am not certain how accurate this assessment is, nor do I intend to go too far into what it means to be an INTJ. However, most commonly we are labeled “Masterminds;” always thinking about “the plan” and how things fit together.

In other words, “I live in my head… because they know me there.”

And yet, in spite of my introverted nature, I am a Communications professional. Networking is not an option, but a necessity. I go to events, I shake hands, I swap information… and miraculously of all, I make small talk.

My job centers on making connections outside my head… and I confess, I LOVE doing exactly that.

What is “connection?” It is a linking, a joining… connect Legos, and you can build a rocket ship; miss your connecting flight and you are stranded, unable to move forward; connect with another human being and you become friends… or more.

We crave connection as proof that we exist; proof that we affect others and are affected by them.

When I make a connection with someone, I actively listen, both to what is said and unsaid. There is much to be learned in silence… probably why it’s golden.

And yet, I find that I am most connected when I sing. Connected to myself, to others, and the “something bigger” that we share in that experience. Performers thrill when “there is great energy out there;” energy generated when an audience gives as much to the artist as they give of themselves… and believe me, when you feel it, I feel it. Connection Established.

And beyond the realm of performance, be it professional or artistic, I realize that the mind-body connection is crucial to my contentment. If I neglect one in pursuit of the other, I am decidedly unhappy. That is why singing is such a wonderful outlet… it demands that I connect with my body (breath, posture); my mind (lyrics, pitch, story), and another human being (the audience).

So this week, I invite you to go forth and connect (and if you’re shy, do not underestimate the power of re-connecting with someone or something worthwhile).

Consider: connecting the dots is often the final step to completing a beautiful picture, a brilliant rhapsody, or the journey from Point A to Point B.

Dear Friend

I’ve been thinking of the transient nature of life. Almost since I was born, I have moved every four or so years. When people ask me “where I’m from” or what my “hometown” is, I laugh. And then, after apologizing for giggling, I take a deep breath and start ticking off the locations on my fingers: Born in Washington, moved to Texas, than Cheyenne Wyoming, then Maryland, college in California, and back up to Washington. “I guess I’ve come full circle,” I chuckle, even as I wonder when the circle will break and I’ll find myself elsewhere.

The longer I stay in one place, however, the closer I am to finding “home,” because the people I encounter during this time become very special friends.  These friends are special not because they are superior to others, but because they inevitably see more of my life and who I am.

These friendships start with shared interests (theatre, choir, school, career), which then extend into shared sympathies and humors. As time passes, I inevitably grow to have an understanding with these friends; an understanding of what is said in silence; an understanding of the words beneath the words; and an understanding of their hopes and fears… past, present, and future.

And it seems strange, at times, to realize that some of these friends of whom I am thinking, are people whom I rarely engage in conversation anymore, or even see.

I suppose the nature of adulthood is that we leave things behind. The myth of adulthood is that we ever do. When someone has truly touched your heart, in any way, it lingers; like a spray of water upon your skin, even after you’ve wiped it away.

We don’t shed people and places, we carry them with us; wrapping ourselves up in a quilt of memories; each thread a link to what was, each square a fragment of recollection. These memories are imperfect, idealized, but they comfort us, and strengthen us, so we cherish them, even when they start getting a bit tattered around the edges.

It never ceases to amaze me how powerful these connections are, and how some friendships continue to endure in spite of neglect. These people re-enter our lives in “very unusual ways” : an unsolicited letter of love when we are feeling utterly alone; spending time with someone after five years apart, and feeling like it was just yesterday that you said “see ya’ around”; the voice in your head, which offers counsel during times of trouble, taking on the tones of a childhood companion.

Instances like these make me reflect that although life is transient, and I myself am never destined to remain in one place for very long, everywhere I go is home so long as a friend is there.