Busting out of the Fear Factory
It was a simple Facebook comment that did it. One minute I was scrolling idly through my mum's page. The next I'm kneeling on the floor sobbing.
The comment? "Mimi would have been so proud".
Mimi was what we called my beloved grandmother. (Because she felt that 'Gran' was too old and fuddy duddy, and because she'd got it into her head that Mimi was French for Grandmother and, by the time she'd been gently disabused of the notion, it had stuck. It suited her perfectly.).
It'll be a year since she passed away on Tuesday.
The comment, made by one of her dearest friends, was in response to a video of me singing a big band song. It had been posted on Facebook and Instagram by my vocal coach, and shared by my mum. (I'll be 40 in 7 months and my mum is still doing that kind of shizzle - what can you do?).
I was sobbing because it was a bittersweet compliment. It was a bittersweet compliment because Mimi never heard me sing. She never heard me sing because I never let any of my friends or family hear me. I never let anyone hear me because I was scared. Scared of not being good enough, scared of not being liked, scared of being made fun of. Scared of I don't really know what actually.
At university I once got all my courage together to audition for a part in Guys & Dolls. I sang another big band song. Didn't even bother to go and read the casting notice, for fear of the disappointment and looking silly when my name wasn't on there. By the time I'd found out that I'd been given the lead, it was too late. They'd given it to someone else. Because I'd been scared.
It should have been a lesson, but in reality it took me about another 15 years to learn it. Do the stuff that scares you. Especially if it's the stuff that makes your heart sing.
In the year since Mimi passed away I've been making myself do the scary stuff. I'm not clear why, but I do know that losing her has something to do with it. Those big life shocks can often put things into clearer perspective. In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter whether I'm any good, if someone doesn't like it, or if I make a fool of myself? If I love doing something, if I feel like I should do (or say) something and there's part of me that doesn't feel right unless I have, why let fear get in the way?
It can seem that life is full of fear these days. Organisations are often fear factories. Politicians use fear for their own means. The media stirs up fear about everything from refugees to birthday cake . It's easy to be afraid. Our brains are wired so that fear overrides all else. It's a throwback survival mechanism but, these days, when in reality we are safer, healthier and live longer than we ever did, it prevents us from really living.
When my singing coach (who I started visiting on the quiet as a birthday present to myself, and who has become my spirit animal of fearlessness) told me he was going to record my lesson and post it online I had two options. I could listen to my fear and tell him not to be so bloody stupid. Or I could say "F**k It - What's the worst that could happen?". I did the latter, quickly, before I changed my mind. Because that's the way to deal with fear, I've learned: don't hang about long enough to let it get a look in. I said 'OK, if you think it's good enough go ahead', then I went home, popped over to my sister in law's for chinese food and thought no more of it.
Until that comment. That comment told me something. It told me that I'm an idiot. That a) unless I'm facing a mugger at knife-point, or a burning building, or the prospect of a Trump presidency, my fear is 99.9% certain to be a nonsense and b) this is not a rehearsal.
It's said so often that it's become a cliche. But cliche's are often truisms in fluffier clothing. This is the real deal. You get one life. You should do the stuff that scares you. Now. Next opportunity you have. Look it in the eye and say 'bring it on'. Do it even if your stomach is churning, and your hands are shaking. Do it while you have the people who will champion you around you to cheer you on.
Because that's the real shame. While you are letting stuff scare you, the people who love you aren't getting to see you really live. I wish I'd told my fear of singing in public to do one years ago, while Mimi was still about. While she could have heard me and been proud. While we could have shared in my joy of doing something I love. But I'm a doofus.
So don't be like me. Don't be a doofus. Do the stuff that scares you. Right now. Make your Mimi proud. xxx