Saturday, March 26, 2011

Talent Show

Here is a little secret about me: I cry at every performance I see my kids in. EVERY performance. From the first preschool all-school sing-along to the middle school
jazz band performances. I weep like an Italian mother at a funeral. Big, bawling, red-faced crying usually reserved for a Barbara Walters interview. I guess maybe that is not such a secret to anyone who has ever seen me at one of these functions, but I don't see an end to it even if I am attending sell-out shows of my future 40-year-old son when he is the rock star he is sure to become.

My 12-year-old boy and eight-year-old girl sang a song together in a talent show this past week and I was simply thrilled. They were amazing, no doubt, but more importantly they did it - together. There were so many things to be proud of, and having both on stage was twice the impact. Wow. My eight-year-old also did a monologue that she crafted and rehearsed all on her own - just got up, balls to the wall, and did it. It was so great to see her, buckets full of confidence, so reassuring to see this girl use her off-the-scale strength for the purposes of good. All at once I was treasuring the little person she is and in awe of the person she will become. Of course I was crying like I was on Oprah.

There is something about that moment, their earnest little faces getting ready to take what they have learned and put it out there that just kills me. I am actually crying right now, conducting a little montage of school performances in my head, the moment is so pure and beautiful, and so far from where most of us are as adults. It is a precious moment in time and I am aware of it's oh-so fleeting nature.

How do we get so far away from that as we grow-up? Ask any kid under the age of 10 to draw a picture, and they just do it. They pick up some markers - or anything really - and draw a picture of what they are thinking. They don't balk with "I am not an artist" or exclaim "I can't draw" - they just do it. The same is true with singing. For some reason, as we get older we get all embarrassed about our singing voices and say "You wouldn't want to hear me sing, I won't torture you that way." Come on, what is the big deal? I am not into self deprecation, and really, torture? I'm pretty sure the last time I checked with Amnesty International, singing was not on the list. Why is it that as adults we need tequila and the irony of a karaoke bar to sing out loud? Singing is a part of being human, an instinct. How did we get to a place where we say "I can't sing"? Of course you can sing; but now something's stopping you. Adults develop deep fears about imagined humiliation, fears so deep they paralyze and keep us from doing all the fun stuff.

Grown-ups need more talent shows.

What is interesting about talent is that we tend to downplay our own. For some reason we don't seem to notice the talent we bring to the table. This was profoundly true for me. In the summer of 2007 I attended a leadership conference, and it turned out to be a real game-changer for me. This week-long conference was designed to allow you to get to know yourself and find your strengths, to best utilize them in an organization. As regular "Girl on Saturday" readers know, I am not a real line-it-up and organize it, tie-up-the-loose-ends kind of girl. In fact, I like loose ends - they leave you with something to grab quickly when crazy hits the fan. But because of this, I thought of myself as being essentially useless in an organization - the kind of person who could not hold down an office job. At this leadership conference I came in thinking I could only be of marginal benefit to an organization.

What I did not realize was I had another kind of talent entirely. I have vision and creativity, I have innovation and the ability to see the whole picture and all the different ways things can fit together in it. I have the flexibility to go with whatever comes up and the foresight to consider all possibilities - and I do it amazingly well, and have fun while doing it. What I didn't know at the time was that not everybody has this ability. Since it was second nature to me, I just assumed everyone else had it too, and instead I chose to think only about my weaknesses. Instead of recognizing my unique abilities, I was frozen by the pieces of the equation where I fell short. WHA??!? What is that? Why did I do that? Why do so many of us do that? Why are we so unable to see the ways in which we are incredible? Could we really be that afraid of rocking the world?

It is impossible for me to ponder this without thinking about this passage, written byMarianne Williamson, I know my little Atheist's will get all riled up about the mention of God, but unbunch your panties kids and consider the sentiment:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I love this so much. This was the quote I put in my baby girl's room eight years ago when she was born, as I think girls are a bit more at risk of hiding their light under a bushel than boys may be. As you can surmise from her unabashed performance in the talent show, my eight-year-old does not appear to be in any danger of this.

The genius of this quote is that it makes it our moral imperative to put our talent out there. Wow. How could that change the world? What if we instilled our children with the belief that it was their patriotic duty to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? What if instead of "No Child Left Behind" it was "Every Child Pushed Forward". What if we all took on that attitude? What if we were ALL meant to shine, that it was not just in some of us - but ALL of us? Shrinking, playing small, and living in fear suddenly become choices in the wrong direction; meanwhile the path of achieving your own greatness simply must be taken. Talk about a game changer.

Emotional outbursts are optional, but the most important thing you can learn at a talent show is to show your talent. Speaking of talent, here's some brilliant gorgeous talented fabulous for you:

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