Tonight I had to cancel a show that I had been preparing for — that I had pretty much revolved my whole life outside of work around — for the past two months.
For some reason — or reasons — this show meant the world to me. It held all of my passion and drive captive. It felt like I was taking the biggest leap to the moon because, for once, I was actually excited about performing in front of people. After so many years — a whole lifetime — of stage fright, I was excited.
And what I finally realized just last night, the biggest thing of all, is that it represented a moment where — before even stepping on stage, before I might receive any praise from anyone else — I completely believed that I would do an incredible job by my own standards. It was that self-validation, that I know I’m still in the process of working on, that I felt I was realizing.
I was working with two other singers on this show, as well as an event organizer who is a musician in his own right and had brought us together. He supported us, promoted us, put us on a pedestal. He was on the ball, so wonderfully communicative, making sure we were on the right track towards putting on a great night. He motivated me with our messages and conversations. He believed in us.
Him and I talked about our similar approach to putting on a show like this — that, while there was passion and fun involved, it was work. You put in the work and you get back so much more. And it wasn’t even about me hoping that “more” meant more performing opportunities. Whatever it led to might not even have to do with music.
But it was the lesson I have learned throughout my whole life, in which things have not been handed to me, that great opportunities that come along can and do lead to things that change your whole life around for the better, that change your perspectives for the better, that connect you to people who by virtue of knowing them make you better … if you put in the work.
So, I put in the work. I canceled plans when I felt even remotely exhausted because I didn’t want to get sick. Or I refused to make plans and explained that I need to stay home because I wanted to practice or rest. I drank almost nothing in the past month to preserve my voice. I studied my music, practiced my guitar playing.
But at the same time, I found myself going through continuous stress. Some of it related to the show. Some of it related to life. And I just kept telling myself that I needed to self-care. I needed to write about it. I needed to rest more. I needed to make healthy choices. I needed to meditate. I needed to let go of the frustration, bitterness, resentment and be accepting, adapting and compassionate.
I told myself that there were much bigger problems in life — like people getting their houses bombed in other countries — and that I had been through way worse in life, so I was going to be just fine.
And then, I got sick. And I have no issue saying that it was no fault of my own. But, wow, it was demoralizing. It was a slap in the face. It was a message from some asshole in the wings that it didn’t matter how hard I had tried, I was doomed to always get sick.
And yet, still, I told myself I had to stay positive. Because stressing would not help me get better, it would make me worse. And people would frown at me and wag their fingers if I didn’t do everything possible to be well for the show. And why was this such a big deal anyway? It. Was. Just. A. Show. Even if I couldn’t sing in it, I would be fine. Life would most definitely go on.
But I wasn’t fine. I was stressed. I was mad. I was disappointed.
It’s so ironic in a way, because while I have no real need to perform — like the kind of need I have to be in nature or to write music — I felt that my contribution to others in performing was to give them permission to feel.
I was willing to lay all of my emotions — pain, sadness, sensuality, despair, anger, hope — out on the table and through doing that, to let people know that it’s okay to feel these things.
I have always believed that one of the greatest, and most common, travesties in life is that people don’t let themselves feel. They bottle things up. They feel ashamed or scared of showing their emotions.
And here I was — after all that — not allowing myself to just feel. Why? Because I needed to be strong, be the “bigger person”, be there for others going through worse, be a “better me”.
I have cried non-stop the last two days. For so many reasons that go well beyond the unravelling of the show. As I was reminded today, in the past year I have checked off so many boxes on the Life Stressors list. And through it all, I don’t really know how much I have let myself truly grieve and accept that — while I’m stronger now — these things have still made their deep impact on me.
Crying has been exhausting. But it has been needed after so many self-denials to cry. Of course, I will pick myself up. I will do what I need to do to not spiral to a dangerous low. But in the meantime, I will cut myself some fricking slack and just let myself feel like the human being that I am.
~ Janice <3