Saturday, December 14, 2013

Stress Reduction Step 1: Know that you know your stuff

With the solstice, I plan to embark on a year-long quest to eliminate stress from my life (and I as I incorporate new methods, I will chronicle them here). Sure, I keep talking about getting rid of stress and I even manage my stress pretty well, but there are certain patterns I'm seeing that contribute to my stressed out state and I have so far been unable to change them. This Solstice will mark the first step in a journey that I hope will alleviate some of the stress (most of which I place on myself).

I've identified one of the biggest contributors to my stress levels remaining high, and it is an insidious little bugger. Here it is: the way my brain seems to work is that if I don't do something consistently and keep improving at it, I start losing the skill. Now, that's not the insidious part. I figure a lot of us have that issue in that "if you don't use it, you lose it." No, the part that stresses me out is what happens to my perception of my ability to do what I haven't been practicing. 

Instead, of thinking, "oh yes, I'd better practice that up a bit so I have my chops up for this gig or that event," I end up thinking something along the lines of, "Holy crap! I haven't done a palm reading in three weeks, and now I have completely lost my skills to do it." Partially, that's because when I consciously try to remember *how* to do a palm reading, I draw a blank. It is not until I am seated at a table with someone in front of me that my years of training (and doing) flood back and I not only remember but usually kick butt. And that's the thing. I've practiced it and studied it sufficiently that the skill is no longer conscious. It is hard wired into me now. And yet since I no longer have conscious awareness of possessing the skill, I have a feeling that I also no longer have conscious awareness of confidence in the skill.

I'm not sure it's a conscious thing but I can certainly feel the effects of that mindset. Before every job, before every gig, I get that "Holy crap, what if I've lost the skill" feeling. It is ridiuclous. I know it is ridiculous. I've read palms for thousands of people. I've read tarot for tens of thousands. I know my sh*t and analytically, I know that I know it. But, that doesn't seem to matter when I stress out in the moment that I have forgotten my own name, much less all the ins and outs of my particular way of doing readings.

This happens to me with songs I have been singing since before I can remember. I will forget the words or the chords or I will forget how to consciously play this or that fiddle tune. Here's the thing: when I get up on stage, I inevitably remember or if I forget while I am performing, I am perfectly able to make a joke out of it with the audience and then do a "Two to Tango, take 2," quip and then move on. Obviously, I prefer not to forget the words or the music and so I practice, hard, daily and certainly before every gig (more than once Rich Potter has remarked that he thinks I practice way more than enough). And I make sure I know my sh*t before every reading, music, or other performance gig. And I make sure I have my presentation down cold before every school visit. 

I know I know my stuff but in the moment, it is hard to remember that I know it.

A lot of my gigs are seasonal and I don't perform the same material year-round (unless it's the jazz, folk, or original music). There are holiday songs, songs from different cultures, etc., that I only play say near St. Patrick's Day or during Hispanic Heritage Month or around Halloween or the December Holidays. So, they are vastly different repertoires, all of which I need to know and keep up on. 

So, I do it. I keep up on them. I practice and I maintain my certainty of knowing my stuff. It is time consuming, and I've been thinking the amount of practicing I do is likely unnecessary. So this year before my international holiday shows, I ran an experiment. Instead of starting at the beginning (with lyric and chord sheets) like I usually do every year because I am certain I have forgotten every song I ever knew, I just broke out the set list and practiced all the music from memory with no chord sheets or backup. I wanted to see if I could remember it without the crutches. Sure enough, I could. And I had remembered so much that I added a bunch of new songs because I saved myself so much practicing time.

Last night, I did the same with the palm reading gig. Instead of freaking out about not remembering where the life line is (jk, it's never that bad), I instead did a meditation where I told my nervous nellie inner self that I knew my stuff and that I would be fine (I used different words but that's the jist). Sure enough, I did do fine. 

In fact, a number of people were shocked at the accuracy. One woman to whom I said, "You have just taken a huge leap of faith. You have to go while others stay and that is a good thing," was shocked because literally an hour before she had just decided to quit everything and move to New Jersey to be with the man she loved.

So, the key for me seems to be that I need to know my stuff (iow, practice) and more importantly that I need give myself credit for knowing it. That seems to have been the missing piece. Sure, I can know it, but if I don't take the time to acknowledge it and credit myself for my years of training in all my various endeavors then I misplace my certainty that I can do it.

In the moment, I kick ass when I read, play, present, perform, etc. In the moment, I know I know my sh*t because hey, here I am doing it. It's the stuff before I step out to do what I do that needs to be modified.

So, that is what I will affirm for myself at the solstice. I will affirm my abilities and I will begin the life changing process of fully crediting myself with how far I've come.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff, Izolda! I can empathize with this, and look forward to your ideas about how to relax in the certain knowledge that you're prepared, you've done enough. Keep us posted.