Look in the mirror…that’s your competition.
As I struggle to prepare a long list of opera scenes, a role, a one-woman musical monologue, 6 arias, 6 cabaret pieces, and sightreading of contemporary composers’ works for an upcoming month-long music festival, I’m reminded that I’m both my own best friend and my own worst enemy. I look in the mirror and see panic staring back at me. After 2.5 months of injury and illness, I’m feeling underprepared and underqualified. It’s been such a challenge just to sing one note lately that the long list of works to prepare is daunting…to say the least. Guilt, Fear, and their good friend Stress pop their heads into my practice room and set up camp around my piano–waving their hands wildly in front of my face until the scores I am looking over transform into a collection of blurred lines and black smudges. After a few moments of this, I stop, take a breath, and look again.
After glancing back at the mirror I see a glimmer of hope. The face of determination furrows her brow and begins to talk some sense into my rattled brain. Before every performance, every music festival, every major lesson or coaching, every jury, and every audition I have performed, I have struggled with these same feelings. Yes, I’ve been thrown quite a curve ball this year with emotional and physical trauma, but the reactions are the same. Yesterday I was complaining to a friend about the vocal difficulties I have been facing and she asked me one mind-blowing question: “so, are you going to back out of the festival?”
Mouth agape, I stared at her with shock and horror. Back out of the festival? I’ve been preparing for this all year. I’ve been planning music, researching characters, learning scenes and arias, and working every spare moment to fulfill my performance goals. Quit? Never. Yes, it would have been nice to feel solid in my voice going into these long days of singing and rehearsals; but, even if I had been able to practice these past few months, I still probably wouldn’t feel fully prepared. You see, the only one I am in competition with is myself. And, unfortunately, that person in the mirror…. she keeps getting better. So, I guess I’ll just have to get back to work and strive to beat out the competition: one note at a time.
#yogagivesbackchallenge day 13: wheel pose.
“Tonight, this strange interior gesture of friendship—the lending of a hand from me to myself when nobody else is around to offer solace—reminds me of something that happened to me once in New York City. I walked into an office building one afternoon in a hurry, dashed into the waiting elevator. As I rushed in, I caught an unexpected glance of myself in a security mirror’s reflection. In that moment, my brain did an odd thing—it fired off this split-second message: “Hey! You know her! That’s a friend of yours!” And I actually ran forward toward my own reflection with a smile, ready to welcome that girl whose name I had lost but whose face was so familiar. In a flash instant of course, I realized my mistake and laughed in embarrassment at my almost doglike confusion over how a mirror works. But for some reason that incident comes to mind again tonight when I need comforting and I find myself writing this comforting reminder at the bottom of the page.
Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a FRIEND…” -Elizabeth Gilbert