Friday, March 6, 2015

The Only Thing

we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke those words 81 years ago, almost to the day, on March 4, 1933.  It was the first of his four presidential inaugurations.

Boy, is that ever appropriate these days, on so many levels.

First of all, the world. If you pay attention to most media sources, you'd think that Destruction and Chaos have camped out at your local Starbucks and are waiting for the perfect opportunity to rob you of all your possessions. Recently, I had someone tell me that the world banking system was going to collapse within the next 6 months. She shared the source of this news with me, which was, of course, a video making the rounds on the Internet. I had to point out to her that the video was initially published in April of 2014. And it is now March of 2015. Last time I counted, that was more than six months.

This article from the March issue of The Atlantic does an excellent job of explaining our unnecessary fear.

I'm not saying everything is hunky dory in the world; indeed, bad guys and problems abound. But they always have and they always will. You can't change that, but you can change your attitude.

Turn off the news, walk away from your screen, or if you're going to sit at your screen, watch the Hanover Eagle Cam. It's much more breath-taking than Facebook, especially when both of the eagles are there.

You know what I do every morning? I don't let my feet hit the ground until I think of three things for which I am grateful. They can be as simple as the fact that I am breathing, the sun came up again and my bed is warm. This way, I start every day with positivity. Establishing the habit has taken, oh 730 days, but it has made a huge difference in my life.

Then there's the fear of taking a chance. I'm surrounded by people who are asking “should I go to that audition or the other one?”, “what if they don't hire me?”, “should I send my manuscript to that publisher?”, “should I leave the job I hate even though it pays well?” and on and on. The real questions that are being asked are:

What if I'm rejected

or

What if I fail

Here's the truth. I'm not sure what will happen. But I do know this. You are destined to be rejected and to fail by the very act of not acting. When you don't take that leap of faith, when you don't put yourself out there, failure is guaranteed.

If you've done your preparation, heck, even if you've done a portion of the necessary preparation, I am here to tell you – GO. LEAP. JUMP.

The only way you'll find out is if you act.

I speak from experience. Lately, I've been doing quite a bit of leaping, jumping and facing fear. In January, for the first time in my life, I did an entire solo cabaret. I sang and played the piano for the entire program. Was I scared? Yes. But I did excellent preparation, including hours of mindful practice and a trial performance for friends. That was key. I sat by myself before the show started, allowed myself to be scared for 2 minutes and then I was done. I walked out on that stage, I leaped and the sold-out house loved it. So did I, because there's nothing like facing your fears and having them run away.

The following week I started taking an audition class. What?!?! Why are you taking an audition class? Because there is always more to learn. What a humbling experience. I'm the oldest person in the room by decades. I'm supposed to know what I'm doing. But there's a big difference between telling someone what to do and doing it in front of a group of people who are just as focused as I am. I have fallen in this class, but when that happens, I get up and do it again. It's exhausting, it has challenged me to the core and I love it.

I'm taking this audition class because I've returned to the world of auditioning, a world I haven't visited on a regular basis for a good 15 years. These days, you'll often find me schlepping up and down the Northeast Corridor with my audition binder, changing from travel clothes to audition outfits in public bathrooms, hanging out in coffee shops or hallways with mostly twenty-somethings and giving what I've got today. Is it scary? Not anymore. If anything, it feels a little awkward. But I'm facing those fears and once again, they're running away.

I'm not telling you this so you think I'm amazing. I'm not telling you this so you email me or post a comment telling me you admire me. You can do that if you want, but the truth is, I'm rather ordinary. I'm telling you this because I want you to know that you can do it too. You can take that chance, whatever it may be. You will get scared, you will have setbacks and you might question your sanity, but you can do it.

The last fear I want to write about is the fear of growing old. Now, if you're under 30, there's a good chance this makes no sense to you. Good. Until recently, it didn't mean bupkus to me either. I'm quite happy about that.

But if you're one of the ones who are afraid of growing old, I have news for you. Just like every other human who has lived before you, who is living with you now and who will live after you, you are growing old. We all are. From the day of our birth, what happens? We get older.

You have a choice. You can embrace the beauty of being older, like not caring as much what others think or doing the things you've always wanted to do but were too, ahem, afraid to do, or you can whine away your days complaining about the aches, pains and difficulties. Yes, they're real, but they don't have to stop you. That's a choice you are making.

Get out there. Take a chance. Leap. The sun is shining. Life is short. Make the most of it.


Because like FDR said, the only thing we have to fear.....

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