I’ve always been a list maker, a rule follower, and a perfectionist to a fault. It was the only way I knew how to keep my depression and anxiety at bay, even when I had no idea that I suffered from these lovely issues – all I knew is that when things felt out of control (i.e. ALL THE TIME, more and more as I got older and had more responsibilities and a life) I could quell the nausea by getting something DONE, by doing anything. After all, how can you be a failure when you are always doing and winning and accomplishing ALL THE THINGS?
I could only keep that ridiculousness up for so long. I remember admiring some of the people around me in my highly creative college, including my boyfriend (who later became my husband) for their ability to simultaneously push themselves with crazy difficult musical challenges and make-it-or-break-it performances and yet to also ENJOY them, to let go and live in the moment of doing what they loved. I used to watch my guy play guitar and just marvel, because when he plays, he is just pure joy. He radiates. I can’t imagine what I looked like during some of my performances in college, but I imagine I sounded great and looked fine from afar yet in my eyes was PURE, UNADULTERATED HORROR. Must have been fun for my fellow actors onstage with me! Not to say I wasn’t good at what I did, I’m pretty sure the opposite was true, but I was never able to let go. The director of my program, my voice prof, and my choreographer all said it to me, yelled it at me, begged and pleaded with me, whispered it in my ear, everything (bless all 3 amazing women), but I just couldn’t. To let go was to let whatever I was to let whatever I was so terrified of (myself) do whatever it was going to do to me (nothing) and face certain failure (not really). Once I’d earned my panic enduced, white knuckled music degree, I moved to New York like all of the stories you hear with suitcase in hand, dreams in my eyes, and roaches in my bathroom. Left to my own devices in a city that isn’t exactly kind, I started to realize that these forces I was fighting had a name (I call them Depressies & Anxies for short) and that I was doing less and less and sinking lower and lower until 5 years after moving, ironically the same month my boyfriend moved to the city, I had to stop. I couldn’t endure it all anymore. I had to reevaluate what the hell I was running from and why and what I really wanted. It’s funny, because the minute you let go, everything becomes much clearer – that’s the first time I truly experienced the feeling I so envied in my classmates, and I wanted to feel it more. In that time, I began to learn how to be still, how to feel how my brain worked (and didn’t work), what triggered and what helped me through hard days, how to be in the moment, to feel joy without guilt and self-hatred, and I re-learned that what I really loved to do was to write. However, in beginning to let go of my need to control everything and to constantly DO, I also met my new bestie, procrastination!
Writing, whether it be a song or a book or a blog post or anything else, is so HAAAAAARD! *whine* The two sides of me, Lady Overachiever and Miss Lazyass, have to balance perfectly to be in the right frame of mind to create, and that happens less than I’d like to admit. Not to mention that actual good ideas only come along every so often and you have to grab them quickly when they do, or they’ll be gone before you can get your phone out on the next stop of the L train and so you can let go of the pole long enough to scramble to get them down in a note that you’ll read later and think, ‘huh?’ It feels like the stars have to align perfectly to be able to create anything, let alone something that isn’t destined for the trash bin. Fun, right?! But even in my early stages of all of this, in both ways I have felt the matchless high that comes from following an idea through from brain to paper to performance or paragraph, and oh my, there is nothing more fulfilling. That in itself makes it worth it, but I need to learn to ride the wave better, y’all! When we first started to perform as a band, I was all ‘I’ve got this’ since I’d been singing for so many years, but holy shit. I had to re-learn everything I already knew in a much more terrifying way, because while in musical theater there is a script and a score and blocking and choreography, here there were NO RULES. As I stated earlier, I historically do not do well in those situations, but with a little push from my husband I learned to ride the wave, to let go and be fine with whatever came out, because it was ours and it was real and that is what is most important. Writing is the same way, but even scarier, because there’s no tempo pushing me forward, no bandmates to bounce ideas off of, and I can’t lean back on the fact that whatever it ends up being I’ll be singing it, which is my safe place. Nope. Just me, Compy or Lappy (yes, I named them, and yes, they are stupid names, deal with it), usually some Dave Brubeck, L.O. and M.L., and that’s it. Waves come and waves go, whole paragraphs get deleted and rewritten, but I’m learning how to surf this tide, too, and it’s an amazing feeling. For the first time in my life, not only am I not ignoring my inner voice, I am listening to it and celebrating it. I still succumb to procrastination, I still doubt the worth of my words and songs, but I’m DOING again. With approximately 85% less terror and 99% more joy, which is what the creative process is all about. Well, that and a sense of humor. And patience. And Colin Firth.