I feel like I get to breath again.
Man, it has been a busy last few days: we hosted two Holiday parties in our home (which involved the prerequisite house cleaning and extensive arrangements). I played piano for a high school choir performance, performed at the airport, handled the usual going ons with my teaching business… and played piano on TV this morning.
Let’s pull this apart a little bit. Each of these things carried with them a certain amount of risk or uncertainty. Playing for the high school choir of course required me to be prepared and to play well. Yet fortunately I did just that. And it helped that I have many, many years of experience accompanying singers and learning music for gigs exactly like this.
Hosting our Holiday party required coordinating with my wife, being of good cheer throughout the process as we got our house ready, and of course being a good host and enjoying the company at the party. Yet this is our 11th party we have done together, so the amount of uncertainty and risk is limited. Plus I had all year to mentally get prepared, and we had plenty of time to prepare all the physical aspects of organizing a party.
The airport gig was fairly low risk, because I was mainly playing for passerbys. There wasn’t a lot of interaction with them. I needed to do was keep playing until my allotted time was done. Also, I had done it last year, so I knew what to expect. Simple process.
Now we get to being on TV. Even though I have done this multiple times (today was the 5th, to be exact), the risk and uncertainty of the situation still was WAAAAAY up. After all, I was on a show that has 100,000s of viewers. I mean, I know my stuff as a pianist, for sure, and yet, I just don’t think it’s possible to take such a thing lightly (I never take any performance lightly, but this is on a whole other level.)
Even though this is my third year performing on this show, it still is a big deal. No doubt my biggest exposure to date. Each time has gone really well, in terms of me playing well, and being articulate and cheerful and all that. Yet inside, in the previous two years, I experienced some inner turmoil as a result of automatic reactions to stress.
The previous two years, I was adjusting to the experience of playing on TV. Along with the triumph and excitement of a job well done came a certain amount of overwhelm, and a tendency to make myself wrong for every thing I thought didn’t go well. These were the “crimes” my mind sometimes decides that I have committed, when all that is really going on is that I am in a situation that is outside of my comfort zone (this is nothing unusual for me). Last year, my “crime” was leaving my Christmas fake book. I felt guilty about this for months… actually, I’m not sure what I felt worse about, leaving it there, or not calling up the TV station about it afterward. I felt like a chicken for not calling them.
The bottom line is, the resulting guilt I experienced, and the length I experienced it, was disproportionate to the offending act. A mantra I have been repeating a lot recently comes from Tony Robbins: “See things as they are, but not worse than they are.” It is time that I put this to full use. You hear that, Chris? I am …. slowly… getting this… into my head! I shall not continue beating myself up for every thing that is uncomfortable.
As can be expected, today at the TV station there were a few curve balls. In this case, the anchors had some old information about me from last year, so they introduced me in a way that wasn’t exactly up-to-date. So I had to adjust accordingly. I navigated through it just fine. And yet. And yet, some of that same old voice of guilt was trying to take over.
Fortunately, I spent some time thinking through my mind-state and getting present to what was going on in my head. This helped me identify the old negative programming, and to let it go. As a result, I truly feel clear-minded for the first time after making a TV appearance. I am very excited by the possibility that I don’t have to suffer through my mind beating myself up ever time I get uncomfortable. What a concept!
And did I mention that I played well today on TV? In fact, it really went great, there really is nothing wrong. My brain was simply fabricating lies, a concoction consistent with an old story meant to keep me feeling small and unworthy. Fortunately, I am using the power of Presence to overcome that.
I don’t need to ride on that train anymore! I’ll catch the next one!
As I started this post by saying, I feel like I get to breath again. Yet it’s not simply because I got a lot of high-priority activities done. It’s because tonight I feel powerful, as I am learning to create freedom from automatic mental bullshit rather than being its captive.