Sometimes I Get It: Playing Without Fear

I gave a friend my courage stone – a small polished piece of hematite etched with the word “courage” that’s been on my remembrance altar for almost 25 years.

She faced a major challenge, one that would require all of her intellectual, emotional and spiritual resources to get through. I wanted to give her something tangible to remind her that she had what it would take, a talisman to hold close when fear appeared. I left it for her with a note saying “You will have all you need.”

And I remembered when a different friend put the courage stone in my palm and gently closed my fingers around it. I was slogging through therapy, doubting that I would find the path through the darkness, doubting that I would survive to ever find joy. I needed all the courage I could muster.

I remembered those dark years, and the long-ago comfort of that stone in my pocket while on the way to the Consort dress rehearsal I was dreading. While wandering through the backstage hallways, I realized that if I thought of all the things that were truly frightening and truly life threatening that I survived, this or any dress rehearsal was not on that list. This wasn’t cancer, or my mother’s violence, or a head-on collision, or a nearly lethal viral infection. This was just playing music I practiced and played all semester with people I know and like. That’s all. Nothing hard, nothing threatening, nothing to dread.

I played the entire rehearsal without fear, without dreading some future moment when I might screw up, without arming myself with strategies for managing the shaking hands, twisting stomach and racing thoughts of performance anxiety. What a joy to just play, to feel confident, to revel in the sounds of the different instruments coming together, to feel the music fill the recital hall. What a delight to enjoy the rehearsal and to have fun playing!

A week later, I had just as much fun playing in our concert. By remembering the past, there was nothing to fear in the present. By giving away courage, I had all I would ever need.

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4 thoughts on “Sometimes I Get It: Playing Without Fear

  1. What a great way to reframe playing music so that the fear was not there. Great insight. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Nanci. It’s a bit odd to feel so much freedom by focusing on what playing music is not….but that’s what’s working. I had another fear-free recorder ensemble dress rehearsal tonight, for which I am very grateful.

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