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Guitar Hero: The First Days are the Hardest Days (Part Two)

A few days ago, I wanted to talk to Josh and I wanted the kids out of the room.  First, I asked the ChickieNob politely.  Then I told the ChickieNob to get out of the room.  Finally, I told the ChickieNob that I had to tell her father something terrifying and if she overheard it, she would have nightmares for months so could she please, for the love, get out of the room so I could tell her father this without damaging her delicate psyche?

Absolute wrong tactic: she perked up and moved closer saying, “you’re going to talk about something terrifying?  I’d love to hear!”

There are things the ChickieNob doesn’t like, but few things that scare her.  We were hiking in the woods and we came across this snake, and the natural instinct would be to jump backwards, but she moves closer.  She loves haunted houses, vampires, werewolves, and monsters.  She always picks the roller coaster, the steepest part of the hill for sledding, and marches straight into the ocean.

At 6-years-old, she is absolutely positive that she is going to be a bass player in an all-girl band (this all-girl band includes her brother because — as she rolls her eyes — he’s her twin and she guesses that he should be included).  At the music school, she announced to the cashier working in the store where I bought some guitar picks that she needed a 3/4 electric bass — a silver one — and an amp.  She needed the amp to go extra loud because she was going to “rock out.”  She told the boy that she was going to form the band with some other kindergarteners, and casually dropped that they were going to be bigger than Green Day.  And I believe her.  She has me convinced.  She has this swagger when she walks and she is fearless.

I once asked her how she was so brave.  She thought about it and said, “I try to be the scarier thing.  When I’m scared, I either scream to scare the other thing, or I try to freak the other thing out so that it isn’t the scariest thing in the room.  I am.”

Let’s juxtapose my timidity with the ChickieNob.  Before the first lesson, I sat on a piano bench outside the music room with my stomach in knots.  She danced around and I silently stressed out about how bad I was going to be.  I kept reminding myself that there was nothing at stake.  If I sucked, I sucked, but it wasn’t like high school where I’d be getting a grade and it would direct my future.  This was supposed to be fun, but it was making me a stress case.

My teacher came to fetch me and the twins, and I walked back to the practice room.  We talked about form and posture.  I was deeply aware that my enormous boobs were resting over the top of the guitar due to the way I was sitting hunched over.  We talked about what I hoped to accomplish with these guitar lessons (you mean, beyond the ability to ROCK OUT?  Oh, then I guess I’m looking to play some stadium shows.  You know, that sort of thing).  And what sort of music I like to listen to and hope to play.

I have a bunch of old papers and sheet music books in my guitar case, and I took one out to show him that I had taken guitar lessons from this school when I was a child.  Underneath it was the book I had been working on when I quit and he picked it up.  “Did you know that this is the book that they use for first years at Peabody?  You were playing from this when you quit?”  We flipped through my old teacher’s notes on songs and I felt so enormously sad.

I felt like I really wasted something by being so damn scared of everything.  When I quit, I chalked it up to wanting long nails (and to be able to wear polish) and not spend time practicing.  But I also know that a lot of it had to do with the anxiety I felt playing for anyone.  I’m not talking about performances — I mean, just playing for my old piano or guitar teachers.  I was so worried that I’d mess up and spent those lessons as a kid with my stomach in knots.

Josh and I joked before my current lessons began that I’d have to ask the new teacher to face the wall while I played so he wasn’t looking at me, and I would have if (1) I wasn’t concerned with also appearing sane and (2) the Blair Witch Project sort of ruined the whole face-the-wall thing for me.  I can count the number of times I have ever played piano for Josh, and in all of those cases, I was drunk and inhibition-free.

In quitting, I stopped feeling that anxiety.  But when I look at those old books, I also look at what I missed out on due to the fact that I made myself feel so terrified over something that was — again — low stakes.  So what if I messed up, especially when it was just me and my teacher?  What if it took longer than expected to master a song?  I was really really good — I have the notes from my teacher to prove it — and I had literally no self-confidence.  And I’m not even talking about having the self-confidence of the ChickieNob who, at age six, would literally be able to command the stage in a stadium and get people to rock out for two hours.  I didn’t even have the self-confidence to play in my own living room.

I walked out of my first class elated simply because I had gotten through it.  I had picked up my guitar and played a few chords in front of another human being.  I have had three classes now, and while I can’t say that I have picked up much of the ChickieNob’s swagger, I am now able to play for Josh every night.  I am playing for my teacher and when I mess up, I just laugh and say, “start over.”  It’s not that I’ve gotten rid of that internal voice that keeps telling me that I could suck.  But I am working on being the scarier thing in the room.

What fear would you like to get past?  What fear has limited you?


1 serenity { 02.14.11 at 1:00 pm }

I swear, Mel, you have this GIFT of posting something about which I am thinking often.

I have been drafting a post in my head all morning. About fear and how to overcome it.

I’m not certain at this point in my life what I fear most – failure…

… or living my life the way I do now because I’m afraid of failure.


2 manymanymoons { 02.14.11 at 1:11 pm }

Your daughter sounds like a freaking rock star already. I am so envious of that adventurous spirit. I don’t’ think I was ever fearless like that, even as a child. I suspect she probably gets that from you even if you don’t see it in yourself.

3 Birds and Squirrels { 02.14.11 at 2:45 pm }

I love the ChickieNob’s attitude! I’m going to have to write that down and keep in my pocket for when scary things come up. I’m so much like you. I am afraid to try new things because I am afraid of looking stupid. I am so proud of you for doing something that stretches you out of your comfort zone. That is very inspiring!

4 Heather { 02.14.11 at 3:33 pm }

ChickieNob is her mother’s daughter…you’re not NEAR as timid as you think you are. We are our own worst critics.

I’m totally afraid for the future…for what happens to my Jack when S and I are gone. What a burden that will place on his sister. It scares me. A lot. and makes me get twitchy.

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.14.11 at 3:41 pm }

ChickieNob is inspiring. I now also want to be the scariest thing in the room.

Wait a minute. I already am.

Yay for the fear-shedding you and your guitar.

6 Tara { 02.14.11 at 4:08 pm }

I have so many fears I don’t even know where to start but your daughter’s theory really hit home for me! How wise of her, at such an early age, to decided she would just be the scariest thing in the room.

7 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 02.14.11 at 6:59 pm }

ChickieNob has obviously been reading up on how to fend off bear attacks.

I don’t actively feel it, but I think I must have enough fear of professional rejection because something is preventing me from doing what I ought to be doing.

8 a { 02.14.11 at 10:03 pm }

I fear social situations. Making small talk. Because I am the scariest thing in the room and I do freak people out. 🙂 Well, not exactly. My sense of humor is unorthodox, and I am horrible at filling silences or making people feel at ease. I also used to quit my piano lessons every time the word “recital” was mentioned. (Except for the one year when my teacher (Sister Onefootinthegrave – she was just so old!) told me that perhaps I wasn’t quite ready for the performance. Phew!) And yet, I have no problem doing presentations or testifying in court. Odd. Probably because I am confident of my subject knowledge, and people are forced to listen to me.

Anyway, Chickienob sounds like a powerhouse of confidence. Maybe you could borrow some of hers. But I’m glad you’re making progress in conquering your fears.

9 Kerry Johnson-Smith { 02.15.11 at 2:09 am }

I love love that your Chickienob is a badass when it comes to knocking fear to it’s knees. I shared this with my Ballerina and she totally understood Chickienob’s thought process.

10 musicmakermomma { 02.16.11 at 2:53 pm }

I was able to “be the scariest in the room” on my chosen instrument – I have played – and LOVED it – in front of thousands, all alone. But NO ONE knows about my IF struggles. A few people who were in on the secret when we started have quit asking, and I just never bring it up. You are so brave. I am jealous, and embarrassed that I can’t just say, yeah – I’m 45 and trying for #2, still! I think it is my age that freaks me out more than anything else – that judgement I don’t want to see in their eyes. We have two more frosties (DE) for our last FET attempt in April (6th IVF). Maybe I’ll get scary enough to say something this time…

11 Battynurse { 02.18.11 at 9:41 pm }

The fear that I’m not good enough at whatever. The fear that I’m always the negative topic of conversation and that I’ll never be truly liked or cared for.

12 Bea { 02.28.11 at 6:01 am }

The scarier thing? The Chickinob rocks (out) already. That is great advice. And I’m glad you’re giving yourself a second chance to overcome this fear.


13 Tio { 03.01.11 at 1:00 am }

The ChickieNob is The. Smartest. Chick. Ever.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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