Fear Itself: Awareness, Part II

Anita_Ortiz - 049

‘How’s my outfit? Am I blending in okay?
Do I look scared?  Anything in my teeth?’

aware –

  • knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists
  • feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion)
  • knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you
  • having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge

Aware:  Merriam-Webster.  Definitions retrieved March 10, 2014, from: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aware?show=0&t=1394477374

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Part II

Catch up on Fear Itself: Awareness, Part I here.

Do you remember the moment you noticed the opposite sex in a whole new way?  I do.  I remember the very moment.  (Or perhaps the moment you realized you were attracted to the same sex. . .)

My childhood best friend – I’ll call her Sunny – and I were at McDonald’s.  As we carried our trays full of McNuggets, fries, and extra packets of sweet ‘n sour dipping sauce to the table where her mom was sitting, a gaggle of teenage boys opened the doors and entered the building.  I swear they were moving in slow motion.  And I’m pretty sure this played over heaven’s loud speaker:

Followed by this, played over the McDonald’s sound system:

A serious case of the giggles came over us, as well as some involuntary blushing, and we started making gestures resembling the Lenny & Squiggy palm bite.

“Oh brother,” Sunny’s mom teased.  “You’d think you’d never seen a boy before.”

The thing was, we never had seen a boy before that day.  We weren’t even aware that boys existed.  I mean, we were aware they existed.  But we weren’t aware they existed.

That’s how awareness seems to work.  One moment – complete obliviousness.  The next moment – an awakening to feelings you’ve never had, and reactions you never saw coming.

The few things I remember leading up to my first on-stage freak-out are now clues that my performance awareness was awakened that day.  “Awakened” seems too delicate a word, really.  It conjures images of a mommy stroking her little one’s head, singsonging, “Wakey, wakey eggs and bakey.”  This was more like a splash of Alaskan glacier-fed lake water to the face after a deep and warm slumber.

These were some of the new-to-me thoughts that rolled around in my decade-old head as I waited my turn to sing at my first vocal recital:

  • Why am I so early in the program?
  • These other singers are so much older than I am.
  • Will I sound like a baby?
  • She’s really pretty.  I’ll bet she’s a good singer.
  • I wish I was that pretty.
  • Is my outfit okay for this?
  • Is my song babyish?
  • Is my song boring?
  • What if I forget the words?
  • Wait, what’s my first word again?

Still, who would have thought that I’d have such a strong, physical reaction to these thoughts once I was on stage?  Then again, who would have thought I’d ever react like a female version of Lenny & Squiggy to the sight of a boy either?  (Now I reserve that kind of juvenile reaction for Big D.)

Performance was never quite the same for me after that day.  As they say, it was impossible to get the genie back in the bottle.  But it didn’t slow me down.  I was in love with music, and I wanted to be involved in every aspect and every opportunity I could find.  I never really addressed my panic attack.  I pushed thoughts of it aside, categorized it as an unsolved mystery, and learned to manage my nerves . . . okay, sometimes better than others.

– Anita, Noted in Nashville

TO BE CONTINUED . . . again.

*This is part of my “Fear Itself” Series.  To catch up on past posts, click here.

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20 thoughts on “Fear Itself: Awareness, Part II

  1. I love that you can remember your first Ah-ha moment in regards to boys. I sure can’t. But I can remember having many of your same thoughts before my piano recitals. Up to a certain age, I just went and played because my mother entered me in the recital. And then suddenly, one day, that crippling awareness hit me just as you describe. Would I forget the music? Would my fingers betray me? Will I embarrass my mom? NOT good thoughts to have before your name is called.

    • I didn’t mention, “Will I embarrass my mom?” But I do remember feeling that way too. I think part of my awareness was that she was paying her hard-earned money for me to learn, and I didn’t want to disappoint her.

      There really is something cathartic about hearing other people admit to experiencing the same sudden, and crippling awareness. I’ve been private about my stage fright for so long, I’m starting to wonder what took me so long to talk about it. 🙂

  2. When you figure out how to squelch that panic thing about speaking in front of people, please share! I am quite aware of the heart pounding that it evokes. I can remember being in a spelling bee and it was up to me and another boy. I just knew I had it! But then, that fear thing snuck up and I spelled DENTIST incorrectly. Funny, going to the dentist makes me fell that fear thing too.

    The boy thing…hmmm, I can’t remember. Probably at the skating rink during “all skate.” ha!

    • Ha, ha! Oh, I loved the “all skate!” Good times, good times. . .

      Memories like your spelling bee and my first voice recital sure can leave a sting – just like a shot from the dentist. 😉 I promise to share books and other helpful info. soon. There are a lot of helpful tools out there.

      Meanwhile, just opening up about my fear has already made a big difference for me. I think keeping silent about it kept me disconnected for far too long. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everyone trusting me with their stories of similar experiences!

  3. Imagine having one of these “attacks” in the middle of an awards presentation/banquet for junior high athletes with their parents in the audience. I had never experienced anything like it before, and I had to cut short my speech and other witticisms and get away from the podium. I’m sure my sudden shift in my otherwise smooth presentation raised some questions in the minds of parents, fellow coaches, and administrators. Not my proudest moment, mind you. Very distressing since I was a speech minor and thrived in speaking situations and performances before without any kind of episode. Needless to say, ever since then, I’ve never been comfortable alone in front of a group, or classroom, even though I taught for 35 years!

    • Isn’t it funny (strange, definitely NOT ha, ha) how these things seem to come out of nowhere? And they certainly don’t go away as swiftly as they arrive. . . 🙂

      Thank you for reading my ruminations, and for sharing your story. In addition to overcoming my own fears, I want to help my students overcome theirs.

  4. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t notice boys. I can tell you who I had a crush on in the 1st grade. All those questions we ask ourselves. If we could only quiet our egos and listen to our spirits. Looking forward to more.

    • Ha, you had a head start on being “boy crazy.” I arrived a little late. 🙂 I had a boyfriend in 1st grade, but he broke up with me because I wouldn’t kiss him after school behind the building. Actually, he had his best friend break up with me and tell me that he had a new girlfriend – one “who doesn’t have a cowlick.” It’s funny the confidence I had back then because it didn’t bother me in the least. Ah, to have that kind of spirit back again. Thanks for stopping by Lori!

      • As children we aren’t “aware” of all the “bad luck” possibilities out there, so there is nothing to fear. Now, well, the piled up horror stories and opinions of others can weigh us down. The secret is to learn how not to let it. If you find out, fill me in. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Fear Itself: Awareness, Part III | Noted in Nashville

  6. I loved the heavenly song and literally laughed through the post because it whipped up memories I thought were long buried. The day I gave my first speech at an event, I just forgot my lines and you could just imagine the horrible silence that followed. Since then, I’ve taught kids at Sunday school, so I sort of overcome my fears of public speaking. I’m certain you would too, writing about it is also a good step forward!
    Great post Anita!
    🙂

    • I think forgetting lines or lyrics is at the top of everyone’s list of worries. It’s amazing how often it happens too. I guess there’s not enough room in our heads for fearful thoughts AND a speech/song. 🙂

      The more I hear encouraging words like yours, the more I begin to believe them. So, thank you, and keep telling me! 😉

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