The Wet Fish Face-Slap of Fear

People tell me that I’m brave. But I’m not. I know fear. It’s closing in quickly. And I may fold.

There are a lot of seemingly scary things that don’t bother me at all. I have no problem speaking in front of groups. Travel is a breeze – give me a plane ticket and a six-pack of Diet Pepsi, and I’ll conquer the world. Travel alone? Go to Guam? No problem. Live in a foreign country? Easy. Come home with parasites and the mumps? No sweat. Press conference in Rome with 48 hours notice to get on a plane? A breeze.

Having a kid? Well, that’s a story for another day. But I digress …

The wet fish face-slap of fear is looming.

I haven’t been sleeping well since the date was set. Usually around 4 am, I wake up with a nervous sweat (not a hot flash, thank you very much), go downstairs, get a drink of water, and worry. Nervous energy has resulted in a clean house, folded laundry, and complete reorganization of the settings for our crappy DVR.

Why? Because I agreed to sing in a recital on August 8. And I think it’s gonna kill me.

A little history …

I’ve been a singer and performer for most of my life.  Not star quality, but a solid choral singer who could do the occasional musical theater lead … except in Southern California, where I am an almost-middle-aged, fishy-smelling minnow in a vast ocean of Channel-No. 5-scented, mega-talented sharks.

My parents were not the stage parent type.  They were more like “exit door” parents, where every role I won was met with a lukewarm, “Oh. Are you sure you can pull that off?” (Thanks, Mom. Remind me to use you as a job reference. With your confidence in my abilities, I’m a shoo-in.)

I studied opera for a short time in college, but my baggage, lack of drive, and desire to lie on the couch and watch 21 Jumpstreet pointed me towards the less labor intensive English degree at UCSB. The baggage was bad: for those of you who don’t know, the man who molested me was my choral instructor … a total buzz-kill for any future career potential as a singer. Once bitten, twice shy.

So, I played around in community musical theater (still totally my love and where in Colorado and California I have met the most amazing people in my life), sang in a couple of choirs (this one, too, when it had a different name), and found a great teacher who has made me ten times the singer I thought I could be.

But this? This is a whole new kettle of wet fish face-slap reality.

W.C. Fields is looking at me and laughing. The program will include 17-year-olds with scholarships to Julliard, a couple of tweens who already have opera careers, and, knowing my luck, a standard poodle who can sing La donna e mobile in the style of Jose Carreras (You know, the “other guy” in The Three Tenors), and … me.

My teacher keeps telling me, “Joelle, you’re mature now. You can sing things that these kids can’t. They would just sound silly.  You have experience on your side.”

I smile and ask for a funeral dirge. She is not amused.

So, I’ll be singing a solo and a duet (with Robin, my teacher and very good friend). In the meantime I am looking for a doctor who will give me a prescription for horse tranquilizers.

I’m gonna need them.

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