I've been wrestling with the performance anxiety alligator for many years now, ever since it first reared it's ugly head in my youthful days and frightened me half to death!
Today some enlightenment came in an unexpected way.
I thought we were done singing at church for the year. I thought I had heard the organist/choral leader tell us that from this point on and over the summer we could just show up and sing hymns if we wanted to. Since this weekend was my son's high school graduation and I had a houseful of company, I was glad to just saunter into church today and sit with my family.
But I saw some of the other choir members sitting in the chairs over in the choir section, and I began to wonder if I had made a mistake, and was supposed to show up for something. With a flushed face, I kind of tiptoed around the back and tapped my choir friend on the shoulder and asked her. She said that I was right that I didn't have to show, but they were doing that song we had worked on for Corpus Christi and they could use my help. They looked happy to see me and eager for another voice.
I was relieved to find out that I hadn't messed up after all, and that I had not committed to being there without remembering. Since I was with my family, I told her that I was going to stick with my original plan to be in the congregation.
As I sat in the pew through the mass, I reconsidered, "oh, well, maybe I can slip over there when they sing the song and just help sing along. I'll sneak around the back and sit behind my friend and just contribute in an unobtrusive way."
When I did just that, at communion time, the choir members startled me by standing up and walking over to the microphone and the podium. Oh no, I'm not dressed to stand at the podium! I have my casual outfit on and flip flops. Well, it was too late now. I just stood behind the other three.
Next, I had my book turned to the wrong page. The song started and I just started to laugh. I looked on my friend's book and read along, and now I had to really wing it because they weren't doing the song she told me they were doing.
What happened that was good, however, was that I began to feel very relaxed and enjoy singing up there. The absurdity of my position made me realize the joy that was in making music up there, and that all the constrictions and stipulations and requirements I had imposed on singing up in front of people were just big monsters that I had made up. Instead of feeling horror at the situation, as I would have so many times in the past, I felt a sense of utter delight and amusement.
Everything was wrong. It was wrong that I was not dressed right. It was wrong that I was winging it in front of people and not prepared. It was wrong that I was on the wrong page. It was wrong that I wasn't taking it all much more seriously up there. And most of all it was wrong that all of this was happening in front of a large group of people.
And yet I never felt more right in my life at last. I really really hope that I can hold on to this!