It was a few weeks ago now, but I can still feel the pain as if I am there.
I was performing in an orchestra and I had a few prominent solos. I had listened to the recording, I had learnt my part, I had practiced with the tuner and metronome. I had done my mindfulness exercise, showered, perfumed and coiffured.
Rehearsals had gone well, it felt easy.
First performance still felt easy, and think I did ok.
Then in the second performance, BAM. All of a sudden the right notes didn't come out. Hmm. 'Thats ok' I say to myself. 'You have an even bigger solo later in this piece, and that will be better. You have nailed that one every time. No problem'.
Then BAM again. The big solo, very exposed, starts ok, but in the middle of it, even more notes were not right. What just happened? Wash of shame. Devastated. What a mess, so embarrassed.
Please someone, just open up a hole in the stage and swallow me up.
As I walk off stage, I feel an old familiar vibe. I imagine that everyone is also embarrassed for me. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but my mind says that everyone is feeling pity for me. I see it in their eyes, I hear it in their voices, in the silence around me as I pack up my instrument. I feel so alone and ashamed.
Some kind people come up to talk to me afterwards, but as I see it through my 'warm wash of shame' prism, they are pointedly mentioning the other piece on the program that had gone well. I know they meant well, I know this is the embarrassment talking and I know they did not mean what I thought they meant, but all I can hear is patronising platitudes, as in 'wow, you really screwed that piece up, didn't you. You must feel so awful...but that other piece was not so embarrassing'. Thank you, mind.
I walk out of the venue and Imagine that people are talking about me, feeling pity for me. It is like someone has sucked out my insides and all that is left is a screaming vacuum of agony. It is all I can do to get home and get into my nightie and hide my head under the blankets.
You may think this next statement is a load of bullshit, but even at the time, I choose to see this experience as a gift - in the midst of this self consumed suffering, there was still a part of my brain that I have now trained to watch my mind and body - to stand above and observe, to get some distance and give my self some kindness, to remember all the stuff I say to other people when I am talking about how to cope with these events, to remember what it is I care about, to get some perspective.
One of the most difficult things about screwing up a big solo like that is when you have to go back the next night and get back on the horse. Step back into the gladiatorial arena. Feel your fear and do it anyways.
I am pleased to report the next performance was 'nailed'!