Monday, June 2, 2014

Performance Anxiety

My husband and I were on the way to my belly dance recital when I mentioned it casually, as if it were no big deal and I was normal.

"I've been asking other dancers about performing in restaurants around town", I said.
"What?  Why would you do that?" He asked.
"It's just that I'm at this point that I feel like I should do something with it.  You know, progress"
Should is an evil word.  I knew that well before it slid out of my mouth.
 "You should probably start enjoy performing before you do that."

And he's completely right.
The fact is, I've never even thought about enjoying being on stage.
Not once.
Cause how could someone get on stage in front of real live people and enjoy it?  

I would like to say that I set the goal for that evening to be savoring the joy of performing. But, who am I kidding?  That was way, way too lofty of a goal for someone with terrifying stage fright.  I had to use all my energy doing what I normally do,  trying to act normal.  Disguising the myriad of worries that constantly swirled through my mind.   

Did I double knot my halter top so it doesn't fall off mid performance?
Do I have to pee?  I think I do.  No.  I just peed.  I totally don't have to.  And if I do go again I'll probably end up with my skirt tucked in my panties or something.  Best not to chance it.
I should be social and talk to other dancers back stage.  What do I say?  
Wait, she's talking to someone else, I don't want to intrude.  Unless I'm just making an excuse.
Am I making an excuse?  I am aren't I?
Never mind, I'll just stand over here out of the way.
But getting out of the way of someone means getting in someone else's way in a small dressing room. 
Maybe I forgot how to balance my sword on my head.  Let me try it here in the dressing room.   Where there's no room.  And I may accidentally blind someone.
About 20 times.
Just to be sure I can still do it. 
Did I double knot my halter top?
Do I have to pee?
Oh thank god there's a box of wine!
I'll just have 3 sips.  Just to take the edge off.
I wonder who brought the wine?  Should I contribute a couple bucks to the wine fund?
(And this is the short list of my anxieties.)

It didn't help that in practice right before rehearsal I whacked my arm on my sword.  Which caused a series of other screw ups that rattled me.  Causing me to have even more to worry about.  When the waiting was finally over and I stepped out on stage for the performance, I swirled in a whirlpool of self deprecating thoughts.

This is stupid.
Why am I doing this?
I should be enjoying this.
Everyone else is enjoying it.

Somehow, I made it through the performance without any major mishaps.  Craig didn't fare as well, he couldn't get the video camera to work, so I don't have video of it.  I know, I'm disappointed too.  (Ok, that's a total lie.  I'm relieved.)  I don't think I smiled once.  I know this from the photos he took.

 When it was over,  and I was back in the relative safety of the dressing room, someone came over to me.  "Did you enjoy it"  I don't even know what the hell I said.  But, I can tell you what I thought.  Why is everyone obsessed with this 'enjoying it' thing?

So after I slipped into regular clothes and was sitting in the audience to watch the rest of the show, I finally enjoyed it.  From a distance.  Until it was over.  At which time, I was so exhausted from my anxiety, I made a break for the door.  Maybe I should take up running, because I make a pretty damn fast exit from social situations.  Maybe marathon running is more my thing.  And bonus, they never smile.  I mean, I hate running, but what does that matter?

Now, you might think I'd be relieved that it was done.  Maybe I'd even have a sense of accomplishment that I'd faced my fears.  But, that wasn't the case.  Instead, I quietly retreated into my head and ruminated on my flaws.  All of them. The more I tried to stop, the worse it got.  By the end the night, I was on the verge of tears.  And all this is for a performance that went well!  This is what anxiety does to me.

Did I mention next month is my pole dance recital?  Where the time before last, my anxiety gave me a  pre-performance migraine.  And what could possibly go wrong hanging upside down on a pole with excessive sweating involved.  Let me count...

(If you're interested, here is me practicing performing the sword routine ALONE in the comfort of my own living room on a tiny stage sans people.  Without smiling.)


Leah Griffith said...

I nearly peed my pants reading this. I love how you force yourself out the the wrapper. You are amazing and hilarious!

joeh said...

Holy Crap!! I could think of a thousand things that might go wrong...including decapitation!

You've got guts!! and talent.

Joy Page Manuel said...

This was funny to read, but it wasn't funny while it was happening, I bet. Well, first of all, congratulations on another successful recital! Second, for whatever it's worth, congratulations too on being able to do all that you do in spite of your anxieties. I mean, if I were in your place, I probably won't even bother taking the lessons and step out of my comfort zone knowing that there will be a recital at the end of it; or that the lessons have to be in a group setting. So, pat yourself on the back and celebrate the steps you are taking to conquer your fears. :-) Well done Marie! said...

great performance, Marie. Are you going to share the date/place of your recital so we can stack the place?

Muriel Jacques said...

Well, marie, it looks like you can't be stopped. Pole dancing recital? I can't believe it! What is next, may I ask?

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