At the start of 2015 I made a declaration to myself, stating that I would do anything I was afraid of, if asked.
I decided to tell people this was happening, however, and not to just keep it to myself. I wanted to have others help me to be accountable to the commitment, knowing well how easy it is to convince myself out of something later on.. This has worked very well.
So far, I have crossed on some major things on my 'fear list'.
Nice big things like putting my art out there in a big way-- a gallery show, some online exposure and just in general letting other people see it--and playing my own music in public. I have spoken at workshops and seminars that I might previously avoided, and have offered up opinions in group settings where I might previously have stayed silent.
Given the outcomes, this might have been one of the most productive and effective challenges I have ever given myself.
(...previous challenges also included:
-not buying anything new except underwear and socks (FOUR YEARS DURATION)
-not buying a coffee or other drink unless I had a to-go mug with me (THREE YEARS DURATION), and
-learning a new latin bird name every day, and keeping them all memorized. (TWO FULL DAYS OF AGONY IN DURATION. This was a very bad idea. )
Other successful challenges have offered me growth in terms of social and environmental responsibility, but this new one has stretched my personal capacity and expression in ways I have not experienced yet. It has been quite magical, really.
And so as a result of it, this weekend I was stretched again, though not in a 'new' situation per say, but a far more uncomfortable incarnation of something I have experienced before: singing with my family.
We had a music festival up north over the last couple of days, a beautiful gallery that happens every year in my hometown called Arts on the Fly. Great tunes, amazing people, and just an all-round good-time experience of small town BC culture. My two sisters have long been involved in the production of the festival, and then they both--along with my father and younger brother--have also performed most years.
I, have not.
It's not that I can't play music (according to my Mother and boyfriend--both of whom might not be considered the most unbiased sources--I have quite a nice voice, and I've played guitar and piano for a very long time), or even that I don't like doing it (quite the opposite, really), but that I just never have done it. Or at least for the last 15 years.
I was rather content focusing on my appearance and social standing (ie How Cool Can I Be) throughout most of my 20's, and then on how developed and effective of a healer I can be in my 30's, and music has largely been relegated to a side project at best.
My family, however, are all incredible and prolific musicians, and quite famous to boot. They have played all over the world (my older sister and her husband, as Pharis and Jason Romero ) and are putting out new albums fairly frequently (the younger sister's is just on the way), as well as developing their talents in ways that I have just not done over the last however many years.
I love to listen to their music, and enjoy their success in a vicarious manner given our close connection, but I have really always felt like the uncomfortable and undeveloped black sheep in our family when it comes to musical ability.
And so this weekend when my older sister asked me to come up and sing with whole gang (minus our brother) on one of her songs, it was not fear of the audience that I was really working with, but a fear of just messing up the whole thing by being part of it with them.
Fear of being the fuck-up, I guess?
The boyfriend stepped in during the discussions and my protestations earlier in the day, however, reminding me (as asked) of my commitment, and so I agreed. I know how to sing, and really wasn't afraid of the audience, I realized, but of just being that one sister who just isn't as talented as the other ones, you know?
Now, I don't know how stage monitors and all the rest work but I think (maybe?) it went okay. I couldn't even hear myself, so hopefully that is a good thing and doesn't mean I wasn't completely off. I don't think I totally botched it, and truth be told it was quite a fun thing to do (once my legs stopped shaking).
But the greatest pleasure I gained from it--and from every time I have chosen to leap past my previously defined limits of personal expression--was the sensation afterwards that this might not be something I 'just don't do' anymore, much like showing my art or speaking in public.
I effectively let another fear bite the dust this weekend.
I pushed through my limits.
It might seem like an insignificant or strange thing to you, this fear of singing with my family, but like other peoples' fears can often not be fully understood, it has been a big thing for me. And releasing it feels mighty fine.