In the Ideal Life Exercise, on one of the Mondays (today, for example), my theme is Music.
Music is my passion. It is what holds me together. When I peel the onion that is my life and when I get down to the gooey part at the center of who I am, there is still music.
How music exists in my life now is not how I would have dreamed to have music when I was young. But even with all the disappointments and misunderstandings along the way, there is still music mixed up in the oozing, gooeyness of my soul. It is the cream of tartar to the egg-whitish stuff that makes up my soul.
A person without passion
Given that, in social situations I tend to put on a mask of the “entertainer”, that is, a person who can talk to anyone about anything, I ask a lot of questions. “How did you meet?” is a really good one, if I meet a couple and am afraid of how the conversation is going to go. That conversation can last a good thirty minutes and keep me from having to reveal anything about myself. “What is your passion?” is another. And if they say something interesting, I follow up with, “Wow! How did you discover that?“
These are usually foolproof.
However, I remember once, a long, long time ago, another country and lifetime away, I had a colleague who asked me to go to lunch. She seemed nice enough. I discovered, very very quickly, that she would be depending on me to make all the conversation for us.
As you know, while I have that nice little “entertainer mask” that I can wear in a group, one on one, it becomes more uncomfortable and more exhausting to maintain, unless there is some give and take. That “entertainer mask” can fall entirely if the give and take is balanced: equivalent senses of humor, equivalent storytelling ability, shared history or shared values. Those relationships, those very precious few are energizing and safe.
But this lunch date was one where I would be pulling us both along. I asked her what her passion was. Nothing. “So how do you spend your time away from work?” Laundry. Cleaning. Watching TV. “What do you watch?” Whatever’s on.
Oof. We have an expression in French that says, in a circumstance like that, you must “tirer les vers du nez” (pull the worms out of someone’s nose. Charming, isn’t it? And you thought French was all romanticisms and wit.)
Now, what became obvious to me, as I dug for some answers, was that this woman suffered from anxiety. She did finally share with me that this invitation she had extended was something her therapist had told her to do: something that scared her, in this case, invite someone that seemed safe to have lunch with her. Apparently, I seemed safe enough.
While this inordinately uncomfortable lunch encounter was a worst possible scenario for me, it cost her even more. I guess in the end, I was honored to be someone she considered safe. But that was the longest hour of my life.
Passions make uncomfortable moments more comfortable
When it comes to my passion and my anxiety, let me tell you this: my passion has thrown me into some of the most horribly uncomfortable, sweating bullets moments of recent memory.
I sang with the symphony orchestra here in town on a few occasions. I was asked personally by the chorusmaster to participate on one occasion, because of the uniqueness of my voice (I have extraordinary lung power in the very, very, very high ranges.) Apparently, the fact that I was asked to participate, instead of having to audition, was a small nub a reason to be unwelcoming towards me from the get-go by the ladies who were the regulars in this kind of thing.
As you know, social awkwardness and antennae being my jam, this caused me to dread every. single. rehearsal. But I did it. Why? Because music is my passion. Because I really wanted to sing this Debussy piece. Because when I am singing I forget who I am and how incompetent a human I can be.
My goodness, I am thinking of a shoe problem I had on the night of one of our performances. We were supposed to wear black shoes (a fact of which I was neither aware, nor did I own black heels at the time.) You know how I am a rule-follower. I live by limits and boundaries and firm rules. Had I known that we were supposed to wear black shoes, I would have worn black shoes.
As it were, showed up, all dolled up in my fancy black dress, with a pair of very nice nude heels.
You should have heard the tsks of disapproval.
Finally, having had enough of the looks and the whispers, I went to the chorusmaster, who had asked me to participate, and I explained that I hadn’t gotten the message about the shoes. Would it be better that I not sing? I didn’t have a different solution.
The fact that I did not have the right shoes, apparently, was not a significant enough reason for me to not sing. “You don’t sing with your feet, do you?” Was literally the question he asked me.
Which was pretty funny, since it had been long-since established in a different context that I am a person who sings with my feet.
That very next day, however, I went out and bought my pretty black heels, the shoes for the eyes and not for the feet, to wear at our next performance. The pursed lipped appraisals by those unpleasant women made me sweat. But they could not find fault with me. I was wearing the black shoes, darn it.
Just for fun, here is a link to that concert. At about one hour and fifty five minutes into the concert, you will see me, third from the left, singing Debussy like my life depended on it. I was wearing nude heels, which you can’t see. But apparently, I can wear nude heels and sing Debussy and it is not going to ruin the whole thing.
Your passion is your medicine
My sister’s wildcard theme is Travel. I have been chatting with a lady whose wildcard theme will be Books and Reading. It might be Fishing for one person, or Gardening for another.
Whatever your wildcard theme is, it is the theme, the passion, the activity you turn to in order to calm your soul, to carry your mind to another place. It is the activity that leaves your feeling more peaceful, happier, sometimes even transformed.
Your wildcard theme is the one that you are willing to face up to your own discomfort in order to pursue.
What is your passion?