Understatement alert: I like to be the center of attention.
It’s a big temptation for me, when I’m with new groups of people as I have been this week, to really turn it on, becoming a caricature of myself rather than being my actual self. I get overstimulated by new people and can end up jumpy, restless, and not the person who I am when I am most grounded.
I have always wished I were the kind of person who could sit still, and I imagined stillness to be an act of inhibition, a willing of the self to subdue. I thought it was adding another layer on top of the spastic surface, making sure the layer was thick enough to hold me down.
When singing we often fill our performances with extra, stomping around the stage, gesticulating wildly, allowing our focus to sweep around the room and back, over and over. In the same way I often try to fill my life, making sure no moment is left empty, that I am always accomplishing or impressing or improving. I end up full – but as anyone who has ever eaten too much ice cream cake knows, full is not the same as satisfied.
Last night we sang in Wyoming. As we took the long drive back across Wyoming and Colorado, the stars bright and low on the horizon, I sat back in my seat, rested my head, and was still. It wasn’t an act of will but an act of core – everything about me was placid, and my needs weren’t crying out to be filled with chatter or attention.
The most confident singers are not the most histrionic, but the stillest. What great bravery it takes to strip away the flailing and wailing and just give our simplest offering, confident that what we offer will be enough. I long for that stripped-away stillness, that knows what is enough and is willing to let the rest go.