It’s that time again. My post for Pagan Activist is due soon and I am revisited by inertia, a blank page and a major case of procrastination in tackling my promise. I should add that writing for Pagan Activist is something of which I am extremely proud so this isn’t a case of putting something off because I don’t want to do it. I’ve tried to figure out where this comes from and finally got a glimpse into the cause last Thursday morning when a friend came over to interview me for a class she is taking about female spirituality.
Cassie is a friend of mine who came into my life via Occupy Hartford and when the formal interview was over our conversation turned to all sorts of things. I heard myself say “I’ve lived most of my life with a giant case of stage fright”. At that moment, lots of things began coming together. I was flooded with memories of that sick to my stomach feeling before dance performances and before entering the house of a 911 caller when I was working as an EMT. What is it all about?
I think it is all about wanting to do everything perfectly, with precision, leaving no room for criticism or anything less than acceptance, wanting assurance ahead of time that failure is not a possibility. How grateful I would be to join the ranks of those who are able to say they did their best and move on from there to the next performance or project needing attention without the paralysis that often precedes eventual action.
As a Pagan following a solitary path, I had the luxury of constructing my personal rituals as best suited me, often as I went along, giving no thought to how my efforts might be evaluated by anyone else. Just a few months ago I was very honored to be invited into a small coven. My first thought was that I didn’t have nearly enough experience or knowledge to even be considered. Stage fright manifested itself in the question of what could I possibly have to offer to other members who no doubt were far more worthy than myself. One of the sisters who extended the invitation explained that there is more than specific experience that we all have to offer. In my case, it was very much an appreciation for my energy to be involved on a Pagan path. As we take turns gathering in different homes for ritual, we also take turns being responsible for preparing not only the space where we will gather, but the ritual itself. A couple of weeks ago, ritual was scheduled for my house. Stage fright in this instance resulted in doubting that I knew enough to put anything meaningful together that would be appreciated and up to the standards of my sisters. As I dove into the project however, using the guides of past rituals and lots of questions to a sister or two, I accomplished my task. As usual, I found at the end that my worry was unwarranted and my efforts were received in a spirit of sincere appreciation.
As an activist, I find myself deeper and deeper in projects requiring actions for which I often feel unprepared. Stage fright shows up in assumptions that someone else can do it better because they have more experience, better community connections or some un-named personal characteristic that will make other people take them more seriously than I should ever expect. My most recent brick wall came last week as I was preparing for a call-in radio interview on the subjects of GMOs and the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, two subjects in which I am well versed. For two days leading up to the interview, self doubt about carrying this off in a truly informing and reliable manner spun its way through me. Nervous stomach, difficulty sleeping, inability to give other tasks my full attention were all part of my conscious experience. Ultimately, the one hour interview seemed to fly by. Questions were answered, resources were shared and I felt successful. My stomach settled down and I slept soundly.
There are many examples of stage fright attempting to undermine my abilities. Some of the things that recently required my attention included speaking face to face with a congressman to express annoyance that requests for a meeting have gone unanswered, contacting union representatives to suggest collaboration with Activate CT, a group of which I am a proud co-founder, offering to be the liaison between Activate CT and ConnFACT (Connecticut Families Against Chemical Trespass – another group of energetic and very capable activists from whom I’ve learned so much) as well as sending letters to the editor of my area newspaper about matters of local and national concern. After all, who am I to think I have what it takes to make a difference? Well, I acted on all of the above examples. A meeting with the congressman is on the calendar, union representatives are enthusiastic about collaboration and my work with ConnFACT is becoming a true partnership. I just received notification that my letter to the editor will appear on line and is being considered for print publication.
I offer this post, not as a shout out to myself for the things that I’ve accomplished, but rather as inspiration to others who may share the onus of self doubt either in their personal, spiritual or activist experience. Our efforts are needed in so many ways. We need to act if we want to make progress as individuals. We need to act if we want to contribute as world changers. We need to act if we want to truly feel alive.
I suggest we all listen to all of our sources of encouragement and share that encouragement with each other. We must remember that doing our best will always be more effective than doing nothing. If we let stage fright prevent us from taking to the stage and giving the best we have to offer, not only do we let it prevent it from us from making a potentially vital contribution to our community but we stand to lose the opportunity to grow, realize our strengths and expand our experience along the way.