(this news item posted on April.29.2007)
When I was little, back before I realized there was any significance to this conflict, I had many fears. Perhaps not more or less than most youngsters, but in our society, youngsters have many fears. And I had my share. I was DEATHLY afraid of any flying insects whether they stug or not. Whether they bit or not. Just flying was enough. And I was oh so afraid of germs. GERMS ARE EVERYWHERE!!!! RUN! I was terrified of dirty dishes and dirtly laundry, and sure, it was convenient, but I was also resigned to it as a fact of life. These "phobias" are just always going to be with me. But the biggest fear of all, the king-daddy was the fear of rejection. The fear that people weren't going to like me. And that no woman was ever going to let me touch her boob. The possibility of that seriously traumatized me. A LOT.
So, I began scoring small but impressive victories before I was even really very aware of the scope of the confrontation. My mother was sick and made a lot of dirty laundry and could not do laundry herself and so somehow I just found the inner strength to start doing laundry. And even though the thought of her maybe saying no made my stomach wrench with flummoxed pain I found the courage to ask Heather for her phone number and then ask her out on a date. And then when she moved in and she was like "No, you just don't understand. I have SO much stress! I have to work constantly. Home. Work. Home. Work. If I have to wash ALL of the dishes I'm going to FREAK OUT!" And so I found the strength to touch the dirty dishes with ALL THE GERMS IN THEM! And after a while went by and I didn't die, germs didn't seem so scary. By the time Opus 2003 rolled around I was washing dirty dishes for 120 people.
All of that was well and good. But there was still something gnawing at me. Something that felt undone. I felt like I had something to say. Something that the world needed to listen to. Part of it seemed obvious enough. I had books to write. No problem, not at all afraid of writing a book. But, for some inexplicable reason, I felt called to perform. Do poetry in front of a live audience or something. Or even RAP. Terrifying!
This call made absolutely no sense. So I ignored it and just let the phone keep ringing. I was SO DEATHLY afraid of public speaking. I had a public speaking course in college. I gave my little 10 minute speach with my hand shaking and the paper rattling and my voice quivering and me trying to hide behind the rattling piece of paper more and more. I gave that speach, I passed that class and that was IT! I was never, ever, ever, ever going to have to appear in public again. Plus, I already knew with a certainty that I suck as a performer and my words should be read without having to subject people to my voice.
Yet, still... something was calling me. Made no sense. Until I met Amy. And I began to get the feeling that I wanted to impress her enough that maybe, just maybe, I could deliver a poem in front of people. So I tried it and it didn't work. Whatevs. No big loss. And then I went to Opus 2004 and I was feeling such love that my fear began to melt away just long enough that I could deliver a poem in front of my Opus peeps. That was such an amazing feeling. I felt very loved.
I got home determined to answer the call and do it some more. And I tried. At an open mic at a place that used to be on Elmwood called Coffee&. And it didn't work out. And I was daunted. But not enough to keep me from trying again. And again. And eventually I started getting it right. I was afraid. But my fear was manageable. I was learning coping strategies. I was improving with practice. I was receiving just enough love from my performances that I was able to push my fear away a little more every time.
Over the last couple years fear has mostly disipated. Audiences get larger. The nervousness gets a little less. I went from being nervous 3 days before a show... to two days before a show... to one day... to hours beforehand... to minutes... to only nervous while I'm performing. That's where I was last month when I played for the Bloodthirsty Vegans for the first time. I was just a little scared. But that's natural right? I mean I felt like that was the best one could do. You're always going to be a little scared I figured. That's no big deal.
And then I got the DVD of our performance and watched myself. I looked like I was having a pretty good time, but why was I so wooden? So stiff? The music is so awesome, so why was I holding back on the dancing and the smiling and the joy? Why?
Watching myself on DVD gave me a new outlook on performing. I was going to write a "New Outlook on Life" blog post before the Lizzard Ball, but I was afraid to commit to it. I had it as a goal and objective to really pursue my joy at the Lizzard Ball and embrace love and ignore fear. Most of the people at the Lizzard Ball love me or only fail to love me because they don't know me yet. So that was what I wanted from the Lizzard Ball. To be loose and free. Freedom from fear is a very powerful kind of free.
So tonight I won. I succeeded. I got so loose that performing was just absolutely nayural and joyous. I would not have won this victory without love and fearlessness from my friends. We have this whole stupid society that conditions us to be afraid. BE CONSTANTLY, CONTINUOUSLY AFRAID. And so it's hard to get free from it by yourself. But my friends Lara and LJ were there. And Lara let me sing with her and that was so freeing. And then when the Bloodthirsty Vegans started performing Lara and LJ just started dancing so freely, so joyously that everything was going to be alright. And then Amy and Sophia from my Ice 9 family jumped up and they started dancing so joyously and so free too. And before you knew it there were almost a dozen free humans who could just exist in the moment of their freedom.
When it came time to rap, man, I just didn't care. All I wanted to do was return as much love as I was receiving but it was coming in faster than I could give it back. The Bloodthirsty Vegans were playing so amazingly and joyously so I just channeled the love as fast as I could.
Oh what a night.
Tonight the Green Party had the most profitable Lizzard Ball that they've had since I became a green. In fact it may be the first profitable one I've been associated with. That was just icing on the cake. And all of the solo performers got paid and the Bloodthirsty Vegans got free drinks all night, and I drank a lot of free water, and I just had the time of my life tonight.
I can't wait to do it again next year.