Sunday, May 31, 2015

Reflections of a Passionate Introvert: Why Mission Matters

I always resonated with Garrison Keillor's line about powder milk biscuits giving the shy person the courage to go out and do what needs to be done. Though many who encounter me as I engage in my life passions find it hard to imagine that I am a shy person and an introvert, both are true and have been since I was quite young. The thought of taking up space on a stage or moving beyond overwhelm in the sea of strangers at a cocktail party could send me under the covers or into my turtle shell!

It has taken me a lifetime to find the internal motor, my own formula for power milk biscuits, to allow me to step onto the public stage and do what needs to be done. And the internal motor is fueled by my sense of mission, which is sourced from my heart. Courage has never been lacking in my character. But taking up space and "commanding" attention do not come naturally!!!

My first foray into the public arena came as a child, when my passion for helping people pushed me into positions of leadership that I had not quite wrapped my mind around. Nominated to be class president in 8th grade, I sat on the stage and spoke to my classmates from my heart: not the typical political rhetoric. And to my amazement, I won the election!

Somehow public speaking became a natural thing, just because my heart was moved to share things that might touch other people's lives or make a difference. The strong pull to be of service and make a positive difference in the lives of others has always pulled me beyond my internal resistance to public vulnerability and visibility, no matter how painful it was!!

Being able to consciously take up space on stage as a singer is one of the hardest challenges. Going deep inside and feeling deeply...and then singing from the inside out comes naturally...But a singer can't have their eyes closed all the time and make contact with their audience!! And as I have been learning in the Cabaret world, having stepped away from the comfort of the singer/songwriter with her hands on the piano to the microphone front and center stage, my job isn't just to feel the song internally, but more so to paint the image externally to my listeners. I am grateful to John O'Neil as my coach as I undertake this growth-provoking task!

Last night, as I had the privilege of attending the amazing Gale for the Newton Festival of the Arts, I found myself encountering my lifelong demons once again. As the only member of the Boston Association of Cabaret Artists in attendance, I did not have a safe cohort to hang out with. Going solo to a large social event with many unknown others is probably one of the most intimidating activities I could undertake. I found myself wanting to hide under the table with the proverbial cat or dog. But at Mt Ida College, there were no four-legged allies. I was grateful that the wonderful videographer for the festival and his wife were there, since there were warm and I had already established a connection with Larry, the videographer, since he had filmed me. And as it came to be time to find a table, I was even more grateful to see that a poet/writer I had known since decades ago at jazz aerobics classes at the YMCA was there with her husband! Robin is very warm and far more outgoing with strangers than I could ever be. So, being able to sit at a dinner table with someone so ebullient was a joy for me. Those gentle threads of connection allow me to face my internal dragons and take in the gifts of such a special event, even if full of strangers.

And towards the end of the evening, after stunning singing performances by a 12-year old boy and a 17-year old girl, I found myself moved to congratulate these two rising stars and acknowledge their contribution!!! As soon as I see a person to acknowledge, a cause to support or a connection that might plant a seed, I feel pulled out from my natural internal shyness to stretch my social muscles and connect.

I am glad I can find the internal wherewithal to keep facing my dragons and that the universe graces me with just enough guides and teachers that I am becoming more facile at handling the most intimidating of circumstances! The journey never ends!