:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Step 1: Be joyfully and enthusiastically terrible. (Patresa)

I will sing and play the guitar in front of strangers. This is my project. The thought of it makes me want to barf. Wanting to do something that makes me feel like barfing doesn't make much sense, per se. But what DOES make sense is not wanting to limit my experiences because I have an irrational fear (and this fear is irrational).

This is largely an ego project; I will confess that right upfront. Music has been a big part of my life since I was a little kid; and the fact that now it's just meaningless and obscure personal trivia (similar to: "Judy makes good lasagna when she isn't filing at work."), makes me feel kind of sad. So, if I am being 100%, self-incriminatingly honest, I will tell you that my ego wants you to like everything I play and everything I do and for you to think I'm really awesome. I probably won't be satisfied if I suck and nobody likes my songs.

…which is the problem. I have absolutely no delusions of rockstar-ness. I will not be a rockstar. I will not be discovered by Sheryl Crow while she's passing through town. I'm okay with that. But I really don't want to suck. I really don't want to be awful. I really don't want my friends to come watch me play, and have them feel embarrassed for me. I can't bear the thought of people politely telling me, "Oh, that's an interesting song. How nice!" And then wandering away whispering about the disaster.

…which is the other problem. When I'm nervous, my breath becomes weak and shallow. Weak and shallow breathing = crappy singing. When I'm nervous, my hands get sweaty and trembly. Sweaty, trembly hands = crappy guitar playing. When I'm nervous, my brain races, and I can't focus. Racing, unfocused brain = poor memory for chords and lyrics. So a crap performance is a given.

So, if the fear is of being crappy; and crappy performances are guaranteed, then before I do anything, I have to embrace the suckage.


If I must be terrible, I will be terrible with great joy and enthusiasm. And I will laugh about it and then I will get over it and then I will try it again.

I remember this girl in elementary school named Julia. What I remember about Julia is that if you said, "Hey, Julia, sing us a song," she would do it. She would sing "The Rose" with great passion, with her eyes closed, with hand gestures and exaggerated vibrato. It would be sincere. And it would be awful. Just hideous. But she didn't care. The girl loved to sing, and she didn't give a flying crap if you liked it.

I see adult-Julia's now--I see them with clumsy guitar skills and bleh bleh voices, corn city lyrics, crooning away in bars and coffee shops. And I think, "Oh, you are terrible. This is painful." But they fail so brilliantly and with such verve, that I am simultaneously repelled and envious. I want to know what it's like to feel so free and comfortable that you can fail publicly and truly not care.

I think if I could get over my fear of failure and my own imperfections, that could really free me up to do a lot of things --not just sing and play the guitar in public.

Here is my concrete-yet-changeable plan:
  1. I will polish up 3 originals and 3 covers.
  2. I will work up a practice schedule and stick to it (more or less). My husband is a musician and former guitar teacher. He will like telling me what to do.
  3. At some point I will institute a "Can't say no" policy, wherein, I am not allowed to say NO when someone asks me to play.
  4. I will interview Wendy and Tawni, both of whom are musicians who have played and sung in front of strangers lots and lots.
  5. I will observe open mic nights.
  6. I will post a video of myself sounding hideous.
  7. I will post a video of myself not sounding hideous.
  8. I will give my family a concert.
  9. I will give my friends a concert.
  10. Then, I will stumble into an open mic fully embracing whatever happens.
It will be beautifully and unabashedly horrific.


amy said...

As someone who freaks out when told she needs to relay brief bits of information to small groups of adults (who she happens to be work buddies with), I must say that I LOVE this project! I bow to your awesome feats of massive bravery (in advance).

Hooray P!

patresa said...

woo! you may want to hold that praise until it actually happens, though!

T-Free said...

You are going to ROCK! ROCK, I tell you! I can't wait to hear about your musical adventures. Have you thought about making a short videos of your songs as a baby step? You could post them here for your safe group of trusted, kind people to view, and later work up to playing them for crowds of real live strangers. :)

patresa said...

in fact, t-free, i have! i posted a few to facebook a while back. yes, it was my babystep. i just never stepped any further. :)

Stephany said...

P... when we're in Lawrence in April for the big race, we need to hit a couple of the bars that do open mic nights. I want to hear you perform. I truly do. You will ROCK, and we will adore you all the more!
It's an honor, friend, to have been invited along on this journey. Am soooo looking forward to our victorious conversations bound to occur a year from now! :)

Wendy Jans said...

Patresa, this is BOLD! Not saying no when asked to sing... a concert for family... and for friends... woa. Thinking about all that kinda makes ME want to barf and I have a fear of barf. (No really, I do).
But I know you can do it. Because you ARE fantastic and nobody will need to patronize you or lie after your performance (while you're smashing your guitar). And if you don't get the response you were hoping for, just know that they're jealous. Or mute.

Katie said...

P, I just realized I haven't commented on this yet! Bad COFFEE member, bad! But I do want to say how much I appreciate your ability to be simultaneously self-reflective and yet brave as hell. I think that's the fun part about this challenge. All of us are insightful, smart and articulate women who know EXACTLY what this challenge means, yet willing to do it anyway. What a fantastic group of women you have gathered, fearless guitar-strumming leader!! You'll be great, and I can't wait to watch you take this step. At least it'll be easier on your knees than a marathon!

patresa said...

open mic in lawrence, check! maybe after the race so i'll be too tired to barf. woo!

wendy b jans, i'm pretty sure i stole the "can't say no" plan from you. i swear you implemented such a plan way back when you first moved to nashville. am i making that up?

katie, i marked your demerit in my demerit book! insightful smart articulate women. i love it! and yes, let's hope gee-tar picking is not tough on the joints!

T-Free said...

P.S. I just read the comments above and wanted to tell you that there used to be an open mic every Monday night at the Bottleneck in Lawrence when I lived there... and you wouldn't know anyone there either, which might help ease the nerves a bit. :)