Be Present, Accept, Do What Matters
Today is a great day to write a blog post. Tonight I have a performance with a pretty exposed, lengthy solo. It's not a difficult solo, but it seems to draw a lot of attention. In the rehearsals up to now I get a shuffle from the players around me, and I take that to mean these people are impressed by how I play it. (I think I could write a couple of blog posts about 'the shuffle' and its functionality).
By my terms, this solo and the others in this piece have sounded good, but after each time it goes well, I have the thought 'disaster is coming' or 'you are not going to be able to play this well in the performance'. Not helpful, mind.
So back to the ACT process - be present, accept and do what matters.
I am present to the thoughts 'I can't do this', 'I am a shit horn player' and the 'what if I screw this up?' I am present to this feeling of panic - a tight chest, a sort of buzzy tingle all over my body, legs a bit wobbly, in fact an overall feeling of weakness.
I put down the struggle with these thoughts, feelings and sensations as this is what happens when you do something you care about. I say things to myself like 'this is performance anxiety'. I can't control these things.
Do what matters
I focus on what I do have control about - what I put my mental attention even though the anxiety is screaming at me to run and slow down my breathing and make sure I am taking diaphragmatic breaths. I also make sure I am task focused.
And I ask myself 'how do I want to play in the presence of this anxiety?' I will answer with 'beauty, warmth and accuracy.
I will also deliberately be kind to myself if things don't go according to plan. I will always do my best and that is all I can do.
I am pleased with the concert. I played almost as well as I can - a few blips, made a not too unpleasant, not shaky sound.
I have really been working a lot with the passengers on the bus metaphor when I play, and last night during the performance one passenger was calling out 'look!!! your mouth is getting a bit dry. what if when the big solo comes your mouth completely dries out and you can't get any notes out and you will be sitting there on stage, with everyone waiting for you to play and you will start sweating and everyone will be laughing at you and it will be a disaster!!!'
I am serious. This really happens.
Instead of listening to this passenger, I just said 'another passenger, thank you' and reminded myself WHY I was doing this and what I wanted my life right here in this moment to be about. Do I want it to be about my anxious passenger or do I want to make something beautiful?
This stuff really works. I am living proof.