Archive | July, 2009

Got Insecurity? So Does Maxwell.

10 Jul

“I’m a really, really insecure person at best…”

– Maxwell, Q&A at the BLACKsummers’night Listening Party & Press Conference on 4/28/09

A few years ago, I blogged about how John Mayer gets anxiety attacks.  And lately, with all the Michael Jackson coverage in the news, it’s been mentioned a lot that Michael Jackson was extremely shy.

OK, these are obstacles.  Big obstacles.  If you have “crippling anxiety attacks” as John Mayer’s were described in a September 2006 issue of Rolling Stone, one could assume that you might not be able to perform in front of huge crowds, have your albums go multi-platinum, and win Grammy Awards.  and if you are extremely shy, maybe you are just not meant to be the greatest pop star of all time.  Or maybe just maybe, you would be able to perform in front of thousands upon thousands of people, wow crowds, and maybe even become the King of Pop.  Maybe, despite all the obstacles that would seemingly make these things impossible, you can, and you do anyway.


In a recent Q&A at the BLACKsummers’night Listening Party & Press Conference, Maxwell confessed to being a “really, really insecure person at best,” and this is what he tweeted before his dress rehearsal for the BET Awards in June:  “on the STAGE gettin’ ready to do the dress rehearsals… so NERVOUS…”

I have long been fascinated by insecurity and fear, and how it can stop you.  Or not.  In my own life sometimes I will hit a wall of fear that is so scary it makes me want to stop, drop, and roll under my covers, question if it’s worth it, and be tempted to just give up altogther on that particular hope.  And it is easy to think that if you are at all insecure, shy, nervous, anxious, or fearful, well, maybe that big bold dream just isn’t for you anyway.  Maybe it’s for those totally secure, calm, fearless people, and you, well, you can stay hiding out, snuggled under those covers, and settle for a listless life devoid of meaning, in which your dreams are absent, having been chased away by your fears. 

But who are those supremely confident, ever-unflappable people?  Does anyone really not have to walk through some form of fear or insecurity on the path to their dreams?

Whenever I’ve performed or spoken in front of large groups, and even when I teach small groups, I often get very nervous (the heart-racing-difficulty-breathing-sick-to-my-stomach variety) beforehand.  A calm then sweeps over me once I get onstage or get started, but I’ve wondered if there are certain people who are extremely successful at what they do who just get to skip the fear step.  I’ve wondered if there is a way to override those nervous jitters and instead only embody complete confidence and calm at all times, in all situations, even in the most jitter-inducing of circumstances.  Seeing people who just SHINE, or ROCK, or do whatever they are doing to its fullest and most radiant expression, I’ve longed to know, what is their secret?

And the secret is this:  these people are often insecure, shy, nervous, anxious, or fearful.  But they do their thing anyway.

Maxwell describes himself as insecure.  Watch this video for “Pretty Wings” and see if it appears that he has anything at all to feel insecure about, or if “insecure” is one of the top five adjectives that comes to your mind to describe him.  Personally, I think, “dizzyingly beautiful, amazing voice, off-the-charts-talented, soulful, and sexy.”  Insecure doesn’t make it anywhere close to my list.  Or check out this performance for the CBS Early Show and see if you could guess that he ever gets nervous before performing.

In this recent Q&A Maxwell said, “I’m a really, really insecure person at best,” and he then continued with a laugh, “I mean, I know I front hard on that stage, let me tell you, it’s all fake.”  That’s the other piece of the secret:  sometimes you really do just have to fake it ’til you make it.

Fear, shyness, insecurity, anxiety, and nervousness can be obstacles that stop you in your tracks, propel you into hiding under your covers, and chase away your dreams.  But they don’t have to be.  John Mayer gets anxiety attacks.  Michael Jackson was shy.  Maxwell is insecure at best.  But they all stepped through their fears to share their incredible gifts with the world.  Don’t let those things stop you from sharing your gifts with the world.  Just take a deep breath, front if you have to, and step out into your spotlight to rock.

Maxwell Is Singing To My Soul…& Curing My Anxiety

9 Jul

This is how it started:  two weeks ago I was listening to as I was getting ready in the morning and Maxwell‘s song “Pretty Wings” popped up, reminding me how much I love Maxwell.  I didn’t realize it was a new song and thought maybe it was just one that I had missed in the past.  When I got to work, I told my co-worker, who sits behind me and gets to hear about all my musical loves, about my excitement over hearing that Maxwell song.

“You must be really excited for his new cd then!” my co-worker exclaimed.

“What??!?!”  I had had no idea that Maxwell had a new cd coming out after the 8 years since his last one.  I had been excited about creating a new Maxwell station on Pandora; now I was over-the-top about the news of his new cd.

This is how it really started:  In 1998, I graduated from college and moved to New York City to go to acting school full-time, and into an apartment on the Upper East Side with two of my best friends from high school.  One of my roommates had Maxwell’s cds “Urban Hang Suite” and “MTV Unplugged” and introduced me to the wonder that is his music.  She had been introduced to Maxwell’s music by her ex-boyfriend who had played his cds when they were still dating, while they were making out.  I imagine that that guy smartly put Maxwell’s cds on permanent rotation in his bedroom cd player.

In my first New York City apartment, Maxwell cds were often playing, for musical enjoyment purposes not making out purposes, although I did go on to follow in my roommate’s footsteps and make out with my own boyfriend circa 2000 to the live version “Whenever Wherever Whatever” on the unplugged cd.  I played Maxwell’s live version of “This Woman’s Work” off that same cd as emotional preparation when I was acting in plays where I had to be sad, crouched down backstage in the dark, or in a green room, listening to it repeatedly before going on.  I had a painful break-up with boyfriend circa 2000, wrote a play about him, and used the aforementioned version of “Whenever Wherever Whatever” in the play’s soundtrack.  Years later, I’ve happily divorced that beautiful song from the painful memories of the break-up and can deeply enjoy it once again. 

In August of 2001 Maxwell’s last cd “Now” came out.  I got it right away, and listening to the songs “Lifetime” and “Get to Know Ya” made me feel happy, and hopeful.

And I remember a mix of Maxwell songs on the soundtrack of my first few years living in New York City in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, woven in with the experiences of my 20’s when I was new to the city, everything was an adventure, and I was guided by my dreams.

This February, I was meeting my Dad and Stepmom for dinner at a French bistro in Manhattan.  I got there early and was waiting at the bar when “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” came on.  I felt flooded again with that same sense of happiness and thought, “I love this place!”  After dinner I stopped at Barnes & Noble on my way home to buy my very own copy of “Urban Hang Suite,” because I have not lived with that Maxwell cd-owning roommate since Maxwell’s last cd came out.

Back to Summer 2009, for the past two weeks, I have been so excited about Maxwell’s new cd coming out, and have been listening to his music practically non-stop.  And here’s the thing.  Sometimes music can bring you so much joy, and just make you feeeeeel soooooo goooooood.  And Maxwell’s music does exactly that.  Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve been walking down the street when I’ve noticed anxious thoughts creep into my mind, and I’d start down the path of worrying about some insignificant thing that is a waste of my time and energy, but a familiar and seductive pattern nonetheless.  And several times I’ve grabbed for my iPod Shuffle in those moments, shoved the headphones in my ears, and pressed play to “Pretty Wings.”  I’ve discovered that hearing it just melts away my anxiety, and makes it pretty much impossible to give any time or energy to a negative worried thought, because all my energy becomes captivated by the music instead.  And on a crowded subway, I will throw in those headphones again, and blast “Pretty Wings” or “Fortunate,” and suddenly I am literally bursting with energy and excitement (and sometimes dancing), oblivious to space-invading rush hour commuters, transported into a whole nother, more joyful, zone.

Maxwell Concert July092I got his much-anticipated new cd “BLACKsummers’night” yesterday, and today, I took what I called a “Maxwell Half-Day” at work, and went to see a free outdoor concert that he was doing for the CBS Early Show.  I had wanted to go to his concert at NJPAC in Newark which was the closest show to NYC listed on his tour schedule, but it had sold out the week before.  However, the same day I found out that that show was sold out, I learned about this free NYC one.  Walking from the subway to the outdoor plaza where the CBS concert would be this morning, I was so excited that I started having difficulty breathing and I had to pop a Tums.  It was an amazing, joyous show from an amazing, joyous performer, and it always inspires me how something so simple as a song, has the incredible power to transport, transform, uplift, and even, when needed, to cure anxiety.

Stay tuned, there is a good chance I will write more about Maxwell, and this just might turn into Maxwell Week on my blog…

Summer of Fun Mission ’09: All Revved Up & Raring To Go

6 Jul

Last week in my newsletter I wrote about my mission to have fun this summer.  When I wrote it, I had already started bringing fun to the forefront of my mind and therefore my life in some small ways, and I am happy to report that the Summer of Fun Mission ’09  is now officially in full swing.

I am realizing that you can’t just ignore fun or think about it like twice a year and assume it will just passively mosey on over in your general direction.  You really have to hold that intention to have fun front & center and let it inform your decisions as you move through your days.

This 4th of July weekend was evidence of the shift I’ve made towards embracing more fun.  Holidays are usually especially UN-fun for me.  I feel like there is so much pressure to do something fun and the expectations are so high, and as a result holidays have traditionally been disappointing/depressing for me.  Over the past several years, I’ve somewhat given up on holidays and often don’t even try to make any plans, and then the holiday rolls around and I find myself even more disappointed/depressed that I don’t have anything to do. 

This year, a friend invited me to her family friends’ home on the Jersey Shore for the 4th of July weekend, and whereas I would normally say no to anything out of my routine, this year, guided by my mission to have fun, I said YES instead, and I am so happy I did.  I treated myself to a new self-help book, bought a ticket on New Jersey Transit, and headed Down the Shore. 

The weekend was chock-ful of the quintessential summer fun I so miss from my childhood/college/20’s, like going to the beach, playing in a pool, hanging out on a patio in a lounge chair with my feet up, relaxing in a hammock (I have long had a theory that hammocks are the key to complete relaxation), and eating what felt like a never-ending procession of food coming off the grill.  The weekend culminated when another friend stopped by and drove us home, windows down, “Freefalling” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and various Steve Miller Band songs blasting on the radio, the wind whipping through my hair as the scenery whizzed by, totally college road-trip style. 

And the quintessential summer fun was supplemented by new experience fun, like riding on a motorcycle for the first time ever, another thing I said YES to (although, full-disclosure, I only said yes after extensive convincing).  Before I strapped my helmet on, I was instructed to lean into the turns instead of trying to stay upright, and every time the motorcycle turned a corner, I felt myself effortlessly leaning with it, acknowledging the metaphor that I wanted to lean into my life more and not sit up so rigidly, to just go with the flow and trust instead.

Another thing that has given a boost to my Summer Fun Mission is that I have been amping up my yoga practice and practicing more regularly which is fun in its own right, and also provides me with the energy and endorphins necessary to pursue fun like it’s my job.  And I have been listening to music I love pretty much non-stop.  Walking home from the subway tonight, my neighbor busted me as I was rocking out on the street to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five.  I had just taken a big breath in and was switching my bag to my other hand in preparation to launch out into full-out choreography mode, when he walked up behind me and said hi.  Feeling the need to explain I said, “Hi.  I’m rocking out,” and he responded, “Good for you!”  I love dance parties in any location – in my apartment, sitting in my chair at work, in the street, on the subway, and in my mind – and listening to a constant stream of energizing, uplifting music and rocking out wherever I feel so inspired provides an extra burst of fun to activities that are usually decidedly un-fun, like the rush hour subway commute.

Last week, one of my friends used the expression “all revved up” and it immediately became my new favorite expression.  How often do you feel “all revved up” about anything in your life, let alone your whole life?  How often do you leap out of bed in the morning “all revved up” to start your day, “all revved up” about the fun and excitement and adventure it will bring?  I have gone through long periods of time on auto-pilot where I couldn’t muster one single rev, even for things that once brought me joy.  That’s where I am coming to learn that fun is an active pursuit, a muscle you have to flex daily or else it will atrophy, an engine that you have to keep on revving or your vehicle will conk out on you.  And this requires constantly and deliberately placing people, places, and things in your life every single day that you are super-excited and all revved up about.

So how is your Fun Factor this summer?  Do you want to make fun your mission?  Or is it already in the forefront of your life?  Post a comment to share what fun you are infusing in your life, I’d love to hear from you!

OK Ladies & Gentlemen…start your engines!

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam