Shut up, inner voice

Yesterday I gave a lesson to a person I consider a peer. He is a pianist, singer, voice teacher, and music director in Baltimore, extremely well-respected. (Basically, he is the Baltimore equivalent of Milwaukee’s Donna Kummer, right down to the law degree.) He has asked me for lessons a couple of times, and I have to admit it made me very nervous. I cancelled the first one, nearly a year ago, because I honestly was exhausted after a morning of rehearsals for O’er the Ramparts and didn’t think I would be at my best. Since then, we just haven’t been able to make the time work. So when he called me this time, I thought, okay, fine, let’s do it. There were two reasons:

1. I am a good teacher and I have something to offer.
2. I really needed the money. It’s been a lean summer.

But my inner voice was whispering, “Who do you think you are? He’s a better pianist than you. He’s more educated than you are. He might even be a better singer than you are. If you do badly, he’ll tell everyone and then people will know that you really aren’t very good.”

For some odd reason, that voice has an Estonian accent. I don’t know why. She whispers variations of this taunt in my head frequently. Most of the time, I keep her at bay, but once in awhile, she gets in my way. (Hey, that rhymed.) She has been known to keep me from trying new things, from taking risks, from living fully. Not as often as she used to, but she tries.

So when he came over, I admitted to him that I was a little nervous. And then I sat down behind the piano and that all disappeared. Because when I’m there, the little voice – oh, let’s just call her “Renate,” shall we? – has nothing to say. This is where I’m in my element, this is where I take control. The lesson was great. I had fun, he had fun, he paid me (yay!) and scheduled another lesson (double yay!).

And today I encountered another inner voice – this one had my own voice, or maybe it was that of art teachers in the past. I decided to try adult color books as a way of meditation. I’ve never been good at art. I can visualize what I want to do, I can come up with an idea, but when it comes time to create something within the visual arts, I … suck. But the patterns, which were billed as “relaxing,” were already created for me. All I have to do is to choose which one to start with, pick out the colors and go. I’m pretty good at decorating, so this should be a piece of cake.

So I did. I actually began it a couple of days ago. I started with the outside circle and did the outer ring first, got that far and called a day. Today I picked it up and decided to do a little more. And that’s when the voice started.

“Why on earth did you choose black for the outline? That looks awful.”
“That brown in the center boxes looks like mud. Why did you pick that?”
“The outer ring looks like band aids. Turquoise and blue band-aids. You suck at this.”

I told the inner voice – we’ll call her “Kristina” – to STFU and picked up an orange colored pencil and started to work on the center. Hey, that looks kind of cool. I really like that. I think I’ll outline it with turquoise – oops, I went outside the lines. I’ll just erase…. oh. There’s no eraser. I can’t erase it. I’ll just continue. Maybe I’ll fix it later. Just go. And it struck me that this is what I’ve been told – you can’t be an artist and an editor/critic at the same time, whether that art is writing, drawing, singing, playing. You just have to create and fix what you can later, assuming it needs to be fixed.

And as I continued, Kristina shut up. I don’t own coloring. I am not a master at it. Art is definitely outside my comfort zone. But when I was done, I was proud of it. There are things I’d change. I wouldn’t use the black outline. That brown center doesn’t really work with the turquoise and blue. But it’s pretty. And maybe I’ll get better at it. Or maybe I won’t. No one will die if I don’t become a better artist.

So here’s the finished product. (Don’t look too closely, okay?)

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