I Manage Not to Faint

Wednesday, when I was on vacation, my music minister called and asked me to sing a solo for Sunday night. That is kind of late notice (and he apologized for that), but we decided on a song that I had sung a long time ago, before I lived in Nashville, even, and he would accompany me on his guitar.

That song is called "He Redeemed Me," by the way, and it is a great song, and I plan on talking about it another time when I am not interested in talking about myself. That may be a while.

So here's the deal: in addition to my other crippling fears, I also have stage fright. Well, that is nothing out of the ordinary, and actually it has come in handy, because in my speech classes we do have a chapter about facing stage fright, and I am able to share my personal experiences with my students and they feel better about themselves when they hear the story of how I fell off a stage.

I'm not telling that one yet.

Fortunately, as I have gotten older and had more experience with speaking/singing/performing in public, my stage fright has become less of a hindrance. That doesn't mean it has gone away, though.

Typically, my stage fright manifests itself in four ways:

1. I can't breathe.
This happens to just about everybody. I remember giving a speech in my 11th grade American History class that began like this: "Ladies and gentlemen , I would like to ...." and so on. What's really bad is when you do those wheezing gasps where everyone can hear them and it sounds like you're having an asthma attack.

2. I shake.
Like the leaves on a tree in a huge summer storm. One time I sang a song while my legs--not just my knees--but my entire LEGS were trembling. Because I have the shakes, I always hold a microphone with both hands. This not only keeps the mic steady, but it also provides a "life raft," of sorts, to cling to. Here is what my dad said to me after my first public performance: "Did you kill the microphone?" I had a white-knuckled two-fisted grip on that thing, people; it was going NOWHERE. He said it looked like I was trying to pop the top of it right off. Tonight, ten years later, guess what--I two-handed the microphone.

3. I forget things.
This is actually not JUST something that happens when I get on a stage, actually. However, I do always have that moment of panic right beforehand when I cannot remember ANYTHING, even my own name. That is why I always have a cheat sheet in my hand. I never cheated on tests in schools, so I came to the cheat sheet later in life. It comes in really handy. Like, tonight, I was just fixing to get up to sing, and I did not remember the verses of my song. So I looked at my cheat sheet, and I remembered all the words.

4. I can't remember anything afterwards.
I think, sometimes, that I have a little epileptic fit--the kind Silas Marner had, not the shaky kinds, but the ones where you just stare into space for a while. Because I cannot recall what I've done when I'm done singing or performing or speaking; I figure I AM done, if everyone's clapping or whatever, but I usually have only a couple of snippets of memory of ever having been onstage. From tonight's song, I remember smiling at the minister of music, seeing this one girl in the audience that I haven't seen in several months, the note I hit on the last chorus and being relieved it wasn't flat, and ... the end. That's actually more than I usually remember. I describe it to my students like this: "I lose consciousness a little, and then it's over."

In spite of having stage fright, I do enjoy getting up in front of people. It helps that I am a teacher, and have to do that for a living now, but I think that as I've gotten older, I've also gotten more confident, and that helps A LOT.

Still, I do give myself a pep talk sometimes. It goes like this: "Mei Flower, you are THIRTY YEARS OLD. Now quit your whining and stop acting like a baby and JUST DO IT, for crying out loud." My pep talks tend not to be so peppy, somehow.

Anyway, I made it through the song, and I did it the best I could, and I think it went well. My parents said it was good, but that doesn't count. Some teenager told me it was good, and actually, that DOES count, because teenagers don't like anything.

The most important thing is that my slip wasn't showing, my voice didn't crack, and I didn't fall off the stage, so I call that a success.


Cindy said...

Mei, I SO identify with your experience. For some reason, I don't have a problem with public speaking OR with singing in any kind of a group...even a duet! But when I sing alone, I experience everything you do, except the lapse in consciousness. Oh, I'm totally aware of every little thing that's going on during the song.

An added feature for me is the terror I feel while waiting to go up and sing. I picture myself tripping and falling, exposing my underwear to the congregation. I sit there and nervously pray that everything will go all right.

My solo stage fright got so bad that a few years ago, I asked my music minister not to ask me to do solos anymore. Now I wish I could sing solos again, but I haven't figured out a way to tell him, "Hey, I think I want to try the solos again."

Mei said...

I experience everything you do, except the lapse in consciousness

hee, that might only happen to me ...

I love singing; I sing in the choir at church, but I also sing in the car, in the shower, in the kitchen, and so forth.

I never sang solos until I was in college (I wasn't even in choir in high school!). I didn't start until I heard this one lady speak at church and she said that if you have a gift and you don't use it, God will take it away from you.

So I began to sing, at first with groups, and then, SEVERAL years later, as a soloist. I get scared every single time, but I still enjoy it; I still want to do it again!

Tell your MM you want to sing solos again; he's probably been trying to figure out a way to ask you to do that anyway. Good luck!


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