As you may well know, we are planning a tour of house concerts for the middle of August. That idea has been in my mind since at least January, but I lacked the confidence and vision to start planning it then. So it’s July and I am nailing it down. Which is fine, really, except that I need to keep a rigid schedule to make sure that I am actually doing everything that I need to be doing (and honestly, I feel like I am inventing a wheel here and I sort of don’t know all that I should be doing). Oh yeah, also, the kids are home for the summer, and my sister is getting married in 2 weeks. So, you know, real life is all around me every day in the midst of planning this trek across the country. Everyone keeps saying, “I am so excited for you to go on tour! “ or “Wow! Fun! Tour!” And, honestly, I don’t know what they are talking about, because, and I just realized this a minute ago, it's as if an entire family of critics, nay-sayers, fear-mongers, and work-a-holics moved into my mind and set up shop as soon as I wrote that last blog and announced our tour to the world.
Yeah, you know who I'm talking about.
Finally, yesterday, I paused long enough to realize that this is absolutely not the way I want to approach our maiden voyage. I want to approach my life, my art, my endeavors from a position of JOY, not FEAR, and I have been holding a fear-ball in the pit of my stomach since I wrote an email asking people if they wanted to host house concerts. And this fear-ball sucks all the life and all the excitement and all the joy out of this whole process for me. And I really want to figure out how to start bouncing it and playing with it and getting it out of my stomach.
So, I figured it would be a good idea to catalog all of my deep-seated terrors about tour, and see if any of them hold water. so here they are:
That I am not good enough.
That I am going to be a disappointment.
That this is going to feel like so much work and no fun.
That I will feel awkward about money with my hosts and their friends.
That I will somehow damage friendships in the process of playing at friend’s houses.
That I will irreparably damage my children and they will grow up to hate me/us and blame all of their social anxiety on their parents who took them along on tour.
That we won’t eat well and all get heartburn or food poisoning or giardia
That the whole endeavor will be a bust and a huge waste of money and time.
So there you go. There is my full-blown tour anxiety in black and white.
Now that I have written that I am like, “What the hell am I doing?”
And then I think, “Why do I even want to do this? Any of it? Why do I even want to continue playing music and trying to share it with others?”
Then I remember yesterday in church. I remember singing the hymns with my whole body, because, honestly, if you are going to go to a church that still sings hymns from a hymnal, why not just go all out and sing the alto part at full volume? And when they choose one of your favorite hymns that you knew all the verses to back in your evangelical days, you just belt it out, not worrying what the lawyer in front of you is thinking. Because that’s what you were made to do. Literally.
My body was made to sing loud. I guess I was made with a volume level that (sorry, guys) "goes to eleven." So when I actually stop feeling embarrassed about this fun little fact about myself and I actually start playing with it, something wonderful inside me starts to happen. I get really really happy. I guess that’s what joy feels like. It feels like a lump in my throat that automatically travels up my face and into my cheeks. It makes me feel full, like post-brunch full, except I won’t have heartburn. It makes me feel soft and a little sappy, and I know it makes me feel a whole-hearted satisfaction that, for some reason, only happens when I do music. The piano kind or the singing kind.
So how can I figure out how to apply that kind of joy to this scary and arduous tour-planning process?
I think I start with playing. There must be a reason we call it “playing the piano”. We don’t say, “working the piano”. Somehow, in all that music training and in the process of figuring out how to make money doing music, I forgot how to play.
A quick etymological search tells me that the word “play” finds its roots in the West Germanic word “plegen” which means “to occupy oneself about” and can also be traced to another word, “pflegen” that means “to take care of, cultivate”.
Cultivate. Play is cultivation. Playing music, for me, cultivates joy.
So I am going to head to my piano now. I am going to see if I can play my way out of my tour anxiety. I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully, after some time at the piano I will start feeling more like this: