Monday, September 15, 2008

723. A cliff, part 2

(Continued from here.)

I ditched work for the afternoon (way too easy to do when you're self-employed), sang it over and over and over again for the rest of the day, and then again at dawn the next morning. I sang it too many times. I knew I knew it, but didn't believe myself. I worked myself into a state of near-panic and barely made it to services because of, shall we say, physical issues. I was at once confident, angry at my irrationality, and sure that catastrophe would strike once I reached the bima. And equally sure I'd do a perfect job. Stage fright is no fun. I was so confused that I didn't know what I was thinking.

I did well. And when I sang, to my surprise, I understood once again that the breath within me was shared. My nerves fell away and I felt stronger than ever, certain that if I missed the mark, if I needed to be propped up or slapped into sensibility while chanting, or at any other time in life, I would always find an open door leading me back home. About to lose my balance at the edge of a cliff, I was in the world's safest place. I wanted to run away, yet never leave.

I don't understand why the act of memorizing a few pages of Hebrew can tie me into such metaphysical knots. For days afterwards I was completely spent, exhausted on all levels. Last Shabbat I chanted part of Parashat Shoftim, harder to learn than Va'ethanan, and barely broke a sweat. Maybe I needed to drive myself to the edges of intestinal fortitude in order to understand how much more pleasant it is to remain calm--or maybe, sometimes, I need to be a little nuts in order to understand what and why I am singing. Either way, I will keep hiking up that cliff.


Regina said...

Wow- I really admire you, aa. I am rarely ever put in a position where my nerves get tested to such a degree- personally, I think that is a huge lack in my life and something that I need to work on...

"I was in the world's safest place."
Gosh- that is so cool, aa- I am starting to feel that now since joining the Quakers. I thought to myself yesterday about that line from a Bob Dylan song- "he not busy being born is busy dying..." I want to get busy being born, or, to use your words, keep hiking up that cliff...
It's good to know we've got friends...

alto artist said...

Not getting ridiculously nervous is not a lack, but something to be admired! I wish I could be like you--I often overreact for no good reason except my own insecurity.

How wonderful that you've found the place you're supposed to be!