Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Facing My Fears In Utah

I'm back home in L.A., and I am spending the morning nursing a headache (not too big, remember, the alcohol was sold to me in UTAH) and reflecting on my amazing experience at the Sundance Film Festival. It was amazing to see the Holllywood machine at work in a city far from Southern California. I was surprised to see friends from L.A. in Park City, performing and walking around. Saw a few random celebrities like Blake Lewis, and the guy who plays Ethan on "Lost" as well as the actress who played Ben's Daughter...) Got to go to a few private parties like the Fender party which featured the actresses from the film "The Manson Girls." They are all very talented singers!

The experience that was the best for me was cultivating courage. I was raised for most of my life in Tropical-Flat-Florida, and until about 6 years ago, one of my 3 biggest fears was driving on  mountain roads, so when my husband asked me to go skiing, I looked at him and said,
"You want me to strap 2 long sticks to my feet and slide down a steep, snow-covered mountain, with only 2 poles to help me along?" Then I remembered all those times I've told my students that performers must always face their fears. Fear is our true enemy, because it takes calm focus and courage to get on a stage and expose your soul to the world. Well, one of the things I can't stand is hypocrisy, so I told Chad I would try it.

I think I can! I think I can!
I almost had a panic attack just getting off the ski lift, but after my 3rd time down the mountain. I started breathing with more intention, and my mind began to calm the fear away. By the 5th time, I was actually beginning to look up and observe the town below as I breezed down the bunny slope. It was an incredible feeling! There is nothing more empowering than facing a fear, and creating accomplishment! It reminded me of performing. The same process took place within me:

This is a very big mountain.

At first there is fear in the mind, and soon it takes over my body. The chest becomes tight, and breathing becomes shallow. Heartbeat speeds up as panic tries to set in. What helped me was remembering my yoga practice. When a yoga pose becomes difficult, we are instructed to breathe slowly in and out of the nose, and to silently chant "sat" on the inhale, "nam" on the exhale. It only took a few seconds before my chest relaxed, the heartbeat slowed down, and my mind relaxed. Once that happened, I could actually feel the muscles in my legs that where in charge of the activity, and therefore, control them.  I started to enjoy the process! I can't believe how patient Chad was with me. He was even able to record it:

What I just described could also describe the kind of anxiety that comes over me when I perform on stage. Surely you can all relate to this. Everyone has had to give a speech at some point, and we all know how scary that can be. Skiing gave me another way to look at fear, and how much of an enemy it truly is in the face of any challenge.

The view from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

After Skiing, I was feeling very confident, so I decided to face another fear: My Mormon past. As I wrote those words, I cringed, and presently am fighting the urge to hit "delete." I don't talk about this part of my life with anyone but close friends. It's a part of my past that is filled with embarrassment and shame. However, the embarrassment is and has been keeping me from reaching my full potential. A good songwriter must be willing to bare her soul unapologetically. Vulnerability makes the best songwriting material, and embarrassment only gets in the way. You have to face your fears and own your past. "Non, Je ne Regrette Rein!," as Edith Piaf declared. So, I decided to go to Salt Lake City for the first time ever in my life, and face the past.

Drinking not 1, but 2 cups of coffee. Such a rebel.
I was only Mormon for a small part of my life, and I was very different from most Mormons. After my non-religious father became very sick, my Catholic mom had to work a lot to support us. Our Mormon neighbors took me to church so that we would have a place to go. They were very, very good to me, and I still think a lot of fond thoughts about the Mormon people who took care of me and helped me learn about important values like service and compassion. I credit them with a large part of who I am.

Offering Joseph Smith some coffee.  What?
But the dogma of the religion is very contradictory to the way I see the world. I don't feel like this is the proper place for me to discuss *why* I disagree so strongly with the religion, as this is a blog about peace and compassion, and I do not wish to offend any Mormon readers. An online stroll on Google will give you plenty of information on what other "Ex-Mormons" think of the faith. My feelings are very much the same as theirs.

Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Still drinking coffee.
After I strolled through the Temple Square Visitor center, and peacefully warded off the nice missionaries who tried to talk to us, I remembered that they are just doing their best with what they have. I felt compassion for the Mormon people, and I let the negative feelings about the dogma melt away from my psyche. I felt like I could let it go. Now, I don't feel embarrassed to tell you or anyone else that I was raised a Mormon. It served it's purpose, I grew up and developed a thinking mind of my own, and I left the church when I was legally old enough to begin making my own decisions. And that is that. No biggie.


  1. I really enjoyed your post. I wonder if that suprises you? I'm still Mormon :) But I think alot differently from most members. I know how to love and accept others that are not of my faith. It's kinda sad to see so many people, of all faiths, not show more compassion towards others. I really like your blog. It's uplifting and intelligent. I wouldn't expect anything less of you. It's so good to be in contact with you again. Much love sent your way sweetie.


    By the way, I thought offering JS the coffee was really funny. I did lol :)

  2. Hi Marti, it doesn't surprise me. You were always very open minded. Sending u love back!

  3. Way to face the fear! *thumbs-up*

    Nice vid on going down the slope. Sheer terror and excitement, isn't it?