Gravitas, you silly creature. Gravitas, as I went into detail about in an article earlier this year, is a word to describe what I imagine growing up might look like. This desire to grow-up is something that has been part of me for as long as I can remember. I have yet to grow up.
However, the act of, every three weeks examining what kind of progress, or at least, what tiny beads of Gravitas I have managed to string onto the necklace of my life, has brought me to some unusual conclusions about the feebleness of my own self-image.
Before I go too far, here are the statements of how I would like to see Gravitas appear in my life.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who:
- speaks her mind with concision
- is calm, slow, strong and composed
- knows what she wants and is patient while she works to get it
- does not confuse hobbies for work
- manages her anxiety
- has remarkable self-discipline
- behaves the same in private as in public
- has well-placed self-assurance and is self-aware
- has her $#!t together
- stays quiet when she has nothing useful to add
- doesn’t listen to gossip
- is classy
- lives in harmony with the ups and downs of her creative process
Where are you coming from?
If I have said it once, I have said it a million times: I loved lockdown. 2020 was this socially functional introvert’s dream year. Life was so much better when I didn’t have to deal with people.
I say that, knowing full well that people aren’t the problem. It is how I interact with people as a function of my own self-worth that is the issue. The fact that I view myself as a person with as little to offer the world as an annoying child with a big vocabulary is perfect fodder for social anxiety.
We could not stay in 2020 dreamland forever, and when 2021 started up, so did the necessity for social interactions. I undertook my social interactions with an almost clinical, scientific point of view: anything in which I engaged had to be something that brought me intense joy, and if I felt anything but joy, then I needed to examine my motivations. If I was motivated by guilt, by duty, by anything other than joy, then I needed to name those things and then find a reason to still do the thing with joy.
This clinical study of my motivations helped me be the same on the inside as on the outside. And wow, this made me feel powerful. Because I wasn’t acting out of guilt or duty, but joy, I could be myself. Because, whether I like it or not, joy is a word that gets tossed around when people talk about me. It didn’t used to be real joy. It was just some kind of surface façade of bubbliness. But this year, it was joy, because my motivations were in the right place.
I had several encounters this year which surprised me. Me, who hates mingling, who hates small talk, but does it with great skill? Well, when I was doing an activity with joy, I didn’t hate the mingling and small talk so much. I didn’t feel the need to make people laugh to know that the interaction was going well. I know this seems so small a thing, but really, for me, this was huge.
Wow, I am realizing that I really did make strides in this area this year. I am thinking of one particular situation, one that sticks out in my mind as a highlight of the year. It was a dinner with several moms from the school my boys used to go to. They are almost all Muslim women, most of them veiled. They are moms I would see every day at school pick-up and drop-off. We were very friendly, our kids would play together at the park, we would share snacks and salacious gossip about the teachers. We were all foreigners. We had a bond.
When one of the moms lost her dad to COVID back in her home country, she was devastated to not be able to return home for his funeral. So, in his honor, she organized a dinner in his honor and invited us moms. Dinner was amazing. Conversation was so easy. After dinner, all the women got out their prayer shawls and one of the women lead, in Arabic, a prayer for the dead. Another woman sang a song. I had a little niggling in my heart to sing something, since, as you know, I am a funeral singer.
So, while everyone still had their heads bowed in prayer, I sang “It is Well.” I didn’t sing it because I wanted to be heard. I sang it to honor my friend’s father, I sang it because it is a song that I sing regularly at funerals and I know it by heart. With all my flaws and humanity, I still had something to bring to the table.
It was, hands down, the most beautiful, natural, most joy-filled evening of the year.
Gravitas, I seem to have learned this year, is about knowing what I bring to the table, or at the very least, acknowledging that I might have something to bring to each situation, even if what I bring is just a willing ear, and knowing that what I have is enough.
Where are you going?
Fresh from our weekend concert series, I am full of ideas. It is true that when I am performing solo, I possess natural Gravitas, and it is truly the only place and time when I do not, even for a second, doubt myself. My friend Aline, who is my co-conspirator in all things musical, has ideas for us to branch out and create more of these little “take anywhere” concerts.
These concerts provided a context to bring people from across the city, all walks of life, together for a purpose, and then let them mingle afterwards. So many beautiful encounters were created because of our concerts, and we want to see more of that happen.
So, the health situation permitting, we intend to do a lot more of this. It is a hobby, and in my pursuit of Gravitas, I want to be someone who does not confuse my hobbies with my job. I am very willing to accept that I will never be a professional performer…but I will be a prolific hobby-singer.
In the next year, I intend to lean hard on my willingness to accept that I have something to bring to the table. I will not listen to the voice in my heart that tells me I am out of my depths, because my self-worth will be founded on the truth of who I am, not on the false idea that I am a useless, annoying child with a great big vocabulary.
In 2022, I will stop thinking I am lipstick-wearing hyperactive pig, and start seeing myself as I am…more like a shy zebra.