Another Successful Performance - Let's Do More! / by Michelle Cowan

Last night, I gave an amazing concert at the home of a friend. The entire experience was a true treasure. Of course, stress and dozens of little inconveniences littered the week before, resulting in me waking up on Saturday morning with no desire to put on the show that evening. However, I'd already invited friends, and I knew that performing would ultimate feed my soul more than a day of moping.

Nonetheless, it was hard to get through the day. My apartment complex lost power, and I had to deal with some incorrect debit card charges from a coffee house I'd visited earlier in the week. Luckily, the Bayou City Art Festival was going on, so I took a break from adult life to peruse the wares downtown.

All this to say that I stepped "on stage" (in my friend's living room) with virtually none of the preparation that usually goes into the makings of a Michelle show. I even showed up late to the event! Yes, true musician style. The week before had been too packed with layoffs at work (thank you, financial crisis!), apartment complex issues, medical appointments, and all the other things I fret about needlessly. During the week, of course, I in no way related my stress to nervousness about the upcoming performance. A serious oversight, it turned out.

On Saturday, my insides felt so squeezed and turned inside out, I didn't know what to do. Restlessness spread throughout my system. The smallest things began to stress me out. I held on tighter and tighter to accomplishing all the tasks I needed to to do, and when I saw that I would be unable to complete them all, I felt a breakdown coming on.

But instead, I stepped out of it and lived through the restlessness. The power went out; I went to the art festival, where my mother and a friend accompanied me and got my mind off of the stressors. I had to go prep my friend's house after that and get a few refreshments. I also needed to take a shower and go over a few songs. Well, I didn't go over the songs. No time! I handed it over to my higher power and hoped for the best. Before I left for the concert, I even took a short run to try to shake all the stress out of my body. Just that little bit worked, and I noted that I could have given up a few of my to-dos earlier in favor of more centering (although less outwardly "productive") activities. I am trying to let go and learn how to balance.

What can I say? Today, those restless feelings have vanished, replaced by a curious peace, knowing that I have expressed myself in one of the ways I feel most truly alive. Friends came together from various parts of my life; everything converged.

I could go into the many, many issues that come up during and after the concert, but it all feels far too private for the Internet. Suffice it to say that every time I perform, I feel whole. I know that I am doing what I was meant to do. Singing is my gift, to myself and to the world.

So why do I avoid it? A frightening vulnerability occurs when I perform nowadays. I no longer sing for my family or to win prizes or to be famous. I sing for myself and for love. Last night, I openly shared events from my life, both in the lyrics of the songs and in my transitional banter, that I have not spoken of with anyone. People asked me where songs had come from. They wanted back stories; they wanted to go deeper. A channel opened where suddenly I was able to transmit part of myself to a group of people and receive a thousand blessings in return.

This gift sounds irresistible. Why do I resist it? Fear. Playing music for me is like unzipping my chest and exposing something deeply personal. I may be performing, but when I do, people see ME. And while I long for that, for people to see the true Michelle, I am human. I know that the true Michelle could still be rejected or that I would somehow be misinterpreted. Many fears. I can't think of them all right now because they all seem silly when what I gain out of the performance experiences so far transcends any potential negativity.

Perhaps an even greater resistance lies in a bit of laziness and simple ignorance or lack of talent in certain, more logistical elements of being a musician. It's difficult for me to find venues and plan in advance to play somewhere. I always tell myself that I am perfectly capable of doing that, and I am. But that doesn't mean I WANT to do those things. I just want to la la...but it takes some footwork to get there.

Fortunately, as my courage and fortitude grows, it's getting easier to imagine and easier to tackle the logistics as I play more and more. Each time I perform, I realize the potential within me and strengthen my resolve to put legs to my dreams (even though my dreams regarding music are quite vague).

Last night, I got several ideas of places to play, and I also enlisted the help of others to get those shows off the ground. I realize that while I can craft songs and lyrics (and even my own stage persona) myself, I cannot craft an entire music career on my own. I am in particular need of manager types who will say, "Hey Michelle, want to play _____ on _____ day and time?" It's surprisingly easy for me to say yes to that. Finding it all on my own is another ordeal entirely.

So - I am learning to ask for help once more, but more than that, I'm learning exactly what I need to ask for help in doing. I am getting a better idea of my actual needs. I've always known that I need help, but it's hard to ask people for help without a specific request in mind. Now, I can approach people and ask if they can look for venues for me to perform in and relay the information to me. I can even ask them to contact some venues for me. While there are certainly things I need to do, there are people out there willing to assist.

In any case, a friend made a digital recording of the concert, so hopefully, I will find a couple of solid-sounding songs to disseminate to you all online. Another friend took what I'm sure will be fantastic photos, so you never know, I could have the beginnings of a nice little promo package. We'll see.

For now, I'm enjoying the calm that comes from being authentically me and facing challenges with openness and bravery. I have dealt with quite a bit of loss in the past few weeks and am rising stronger than ever. Most of all, I am thankful for true friends who actually "get" me, as much as anyone can.

For today, I am letting go of all the to-dos and remembering that everything will be taken care of. I am searching for that balance between taking responsibility and letting go. It often seems like I have so much on my plate. Right now, I just want to give it up so that the creativity can flow. Oh, but I hold on so tightly. So tightly. Last night, I released. It was definitely a ritual that bears repeating.