IT’S NOT YOU IT’S ME
By: Lauren Anderson
So, this weekend I thought I was losing my mind. Let me explain.
We were doing the show, same as it ever was, and in the middle of the first act on Saturday, I could swear all the music got slower. Like, I could swear by it!
We had a full house that was laughing and engaged. It was great! And as I’m up there on stage singing and dancing my heart out, my body starts reacting. Something feels weird. I am not a fully trained singer or anything like that, but I am a professional. I’ve been a full-time stage actor for over 15 years, I can sing, and I have good rhythm.
And the pace felt, well… off I guess?
You know when your body can sense that something is off before it registers in your brain?
It was like that.
So during intermission the music director comes back stage, and gives me a high five and says, “Good show! They’re loving it!” And I blurt, “Really? Cause it felt so slow.”
Then we go round and round for a bit trying to figure out what felt off. I thank him for taking the time to talk about it, because intermission is NOT when we usually do this. But we had two shows that day, and I didn’t want to feel like that again.
He says he’s playing it the same as it ever was. I believe him, because he’s the expert about music… but I swear, absolutely SWEAR that it felt slower. He hears me, and I feel heard. We come to some sort of understanding.
He asks, “Do you mind if I ask the rest of the cast and see what they thought?” And I said, “Yeah, please do.” And that was that. After intermission we head back into the show, and the second act feels good. It felt the same to me and my body.
So basically, it was just the two songs that I had the lead in singing. Hmmmm.
During the break between shows, he pulls me out to the piano and we go to work on the songs. I appreciate this, because this time is our dinner break… but when things go awry, it’s also a useful time to “fix” stuff.
I ask, “Did the rest of the cast notice anything?” And he said, “They didn’t feel any difference.”
Hmmmmm. So it was just me huh?
He asks me to sing it at the tempo that feels right to me. I do, and now he’s the one shaking his head. It doesn’t feel right to HIM now. We are at a strange impasse.
Not a contentious one by any means… but a confused one.
“That’s so weird!” I say. Because I can’t understand why he can’t feel it. I am also frustrated that I seem to be the only one that is feeling this way. I am grateful that I wasn’t being dismissed by him, but also feeling like I’m suddenly this diva that’s making demands that are unnecessary and silly.
I start to fold in on myself. He notices and says, “Hey, we want it to feel good to do, so let’s try this faster tempo for the second show and we’ll go from there.” I thank him for his time.
I even half-joke, “Thanks for doing this. I appreciate you taking the time to come together with me. I am fully aware that it might just be a ME thing.”
So… can you guess how the second show felt?
YUP. NOW THE SONGS FELT TOO FAST.
Even though we worked on a tempo we both could agree on. And he very much was doing the agreed time. I know for sure because he set it in his metronome on his phone.
WHAT THE HELL?!
At intermission of the second show he checked in with me. I laughed and shook my head. “You’re not gonna believe this…”
We had a laugh and decided that one song felt better a little faster, and the other song we’d meet somewhere in the middle for next week. And then let it go.
I thanked him for going on this somewhat pointless journey with me, and tied a bib around my neck to eat some humble pie. Because it took all this effort by him to help me realize…
IT WAS ME THE WHOLE TIME.
I was the one who was off. I was the outlier. I was the difference.
Maybe I was feeling tired so the song felt like it was dragging. Maybe I was feeling too amped because I had more caffeine than usual. Maybe the rest of the show felt slow, so I was trying to over-compensate during the songs where I had most control. So my body wanted to go fast to make up for time? Maybe I was experiencing the uncanny valley that is doing a “BEST OF” show. Where I have done these sketches years ago, and my body (aka kinesthetic memory) is remembering them one way, but it’s impossible to replicate because it’s years later, and it’s with different actors and EVERYTHING CHANGES WHETHER WE WANT THEM TO OR NOT.
Or, I could just need to drink a glass of water.
My point is, it could be any reason. I think the take away for me this week, is it’s really hard to notice when it’s ME. It’s easy to look around and say well, it’s this or that or those people. But it’s really hard to notice when it’s yourself.
You know the saying, “You can’t see the forrest for the trees”? Yeah. It basically means, you can’t see what the whole forrest looks like, because you are IN that forrest and all you can see are the trees. The saying sounds funny because it’s old-timey. So it’s “For the trees” when nowadays we’d probably say, “Because of the trees.” But you get it.
This weekend, not only was I unable to see the forrest, because I was looking at trees…
I WAS THE TREE.
Just all the way inside my own deal, and not even realizing it. Not only do I want to take responsibility for this, but I also think it’s important to give myself a little pass here too. For two reasons.
First, even though I didn’t notice it right away, when I did notice I owned up to it. And really, that’s all we can do when this happens. Own up to my own deal when I notice it’s mine. Take responsibility.
I didn’t do anything wrong per say. I just made the mistake of thinking my personal reality was gospel. And that isn’t exactly right is it? It never is. It’s part of it, sure, but it’s not the whole.
And second, I will give myself a pass here because I’m not the only one that has done this. I believe we’re all inside our own deal MOST of the time. We live in these bodies and brains, and sometimes we forget that our perception and experience is only one version of the reality.
When I’m OFF, I am only listening to myself. I can’t see or hear another point of view, because I am too wrapped up in my own experience. I can be strict, rigid, and get stuck. Judging, blaming, and pushing back.
When I’m ON IT, I can assume best intentions. I can see other people’s perspectives. I can be fluid, and bend to allow other people’s ideas. I can listen and fold in information from the outside to form a wise opinion or decision.
Thankfully, “TEMPO-GATE 2020” didn’t go down poorly. I tried my best to stay open to possibility and suggestion. And when it was discovered that it was a “Me thing”, I took responsibility. We kept our sense of humor and stayed polite.
I think it also helps that my music director went out of his way to listen to me and seek a compromise that felt good for us both. Imagine if he hadn’t? I would’ve probably been pissed and felt ignored. Or assumed I was 100% correct, and everyone but me was wrong.
I know we all know that feeling too… and it sucks.
I guess my point is, we’re human. And I think humans are kinda victims of their own making sometimes. Maybe at some point we’ll figure out how to use that part of our brains that allows us to telepathically empathize with each other… but until then, I think this weekend was a good lesson.
It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. Whether it’s working out at the gym or talking to my grandma,
My perception is only one side of the reality. And a jillion things can inform that perception.
And when things feel off, I need to remember to check in. Because there is always the likelihood that it’s a ME THING. And it suits me to be able to practice noticing it, and admitting it.
Because the more I’m willing to stay open, the easier it is to find a rhythm that works.