Fear Itself: Awareness, Part III

Aware People are Happy People

Part III

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

A wise man once told me, “Aware people are happy people.”  I have questioned the authenticity of this pearl from time to time – especially at the height of my performance anxiety.

Remember the description of my first panic attack?  ‘I opened my mouth to sing, and nothing came out. Not a sound. My throat choked. . .  There was a roaring in my ears that I can only compare to the rush of an avalanche.  My vision went blurry, my muscles went numb, my skin was stinging, and I stumbled forward.’

Now, imagine this happening at a funeral.

Let me set the stage a little.  I was raised Church of Christ.  If you’re unfamiliar with that denomination, all you need to know is that we sang without any instrumental accompaniment – a cappella.  No piano.  No organ.  No guitar.  No orchestra.  And certainly no drums.  Not even a choir.  The voices of the congregation were our only instruments.

When I was in my early 20’s, I was asked to sing a solo at the funeral of a man who attended my childhood church.  I was flattered.  I had sweet memories of him, and I could think of no better way to say goodbye.  I should have thought a little harder.

I had sung at funerals before, but never by myself, and never in front of the mourners.  In past scenarios, there was a small room – more like a large cigar box, really – tucked away where the singers hid behind a curtain.  I always assumed it was set up that way so that the focus remained on the departed.  Anything else would resemble a performance, which seemed improper timing.  Whatever the reason, it was more than fine by me.

But for this particular funeral, the attending minister had called “dibs” on my cigar box, and arranged for me to sing from the front of the room.

By myself.

A cappella.

With everyone’s tearful eyes on me.

Right next to the coffin.

I gotta tell you, I wish I had told that minister:


But I didn’t.  Per my usual, I was compliant; and when I got to the part where I ‘stumbled forward,’ I broke my fall by slapping my sweaty palm on the coffin.  I felt the stand beneath the wooden box begin to wobble. . .

And then nothing happened.  You thought I was going to say the coffin fell to the ground, didn’t you?  Thank goodness my life doesn’t resemble a Frank Oz film that closely.

Although I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself, the situation provided a good cover.  People assumed I was just overcome with emotion, and got choked up.

Oh, I choked alright.

Once our awareness is activated, we are forever changed.  All of the sudden we know that something, in fact almost anything could go wrong.  Something like, falling at a funeral.  Or tripping on your dress on your way up the stairs to accept an Academy Award.


But we also know – although it gets buried beneath the fear – that something, in fact almost anything good could happen too.  Like, winning an Academy Award.  Or getting to wear a Dior Haute Couture dress upon which to trip.  Or being asked to honor someone’s life by singing at their funeral.

Otherwise, we’d give up altogether.

As an adult, I am beginning to believe that awareness isn’t nearly as all-of-the-sudden as it seems.  Awareness is a process.  Awareness is an opportunity.  And perhaps, aware people really are happy people. . .

– Anita, Noted in Nashville

TO BE CONTINUED . . . for the last time, I promise.

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


12 thoughts on “Fear Itself: Awareness, Part III

  1. More, please! This is such a good read. I free up cofc too 🙂 and my first sermon was when I was 19 in a packed house of 150 “souls”…and a coffin with a dead body placed below the pulpit where the “Lord’s table’ usually went. The funeral of some woman who had dies two days before was three awaiting the end of thee service for a funeral! And my sermon was on Judgement Day 🙂 🙂 no kidding!! LOL!!!!!! Thanks for sharing . Great insights on awareness !

  2. A very powerful post Anita. I can just imagine how you froze, but I guess people would rightly assumed it was the raw emotion you felt for the departed. Like you rightly pointed out, we don’t need to be overcome by fears. Good things happen along the way too, and I believe we can overcome our fears!
    It’s always a pleasure stopping by your site my friend!
    Much love. 🙂

    • My mom was the only person I told the truth to – that I was just, plain nervous! 🙂

      It’s always so good to read your encouraging words. I am still working on overcoming my fears, but writing about them has been a good first step.

  3. That’s probably one of those stories that’s funny in retrospect but not so much when it happens to you. But hey, at least you didn’t knock over the coffin. 🙂

    I’m sure you sang beautifully despite your anxiety. I imagine you’ve sang at many a funeral since, too.

    Loved the clip from Pushing Daisies, by the way. I enjoyed that show and was sad to see it canceled so quickly.

    • My general rule now is that I only sing at a funeral for someone I didn’t know.

      Aren’t all the best shows canceled too soon?! I thought about putting “Here lies Anita’s confidence. . . pushing buttercups” on the picture. But I didn’t want it to seem like I was making light of my friend’s passing. . .

      If I don’t make light of my anxieties, however, they’ll always get the best of me. 🙂

    • Thank you, Rick! I’ve decided to out my most humiliating moments. 🙂

      I just realized that you responded to my idea about re-posting your story and new song. I didn’t want to do it without your thumbs up. Now that I know it’s okay with you, I’ll do it Thursday or Friday. Thank you!

  4. Anita, I can SO relate to your tales of performance anxiety. When I was teaching kids I had no problem at all – but when I switched over to teaching adults, that was a different story. It took me a while to figure out what was going to relax me – the key was to relax THEM. Humor did the trick. ~Terri

    • That’s really good advice, Terri! If I can learn to approach the audience like I approach company at my home – making them feel welcome and comfortable – then I’ll feel better too. And, of course, humor puts everyone at ease. You are a smart cookie! 🙂

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