Monday, January 30, 2012

FACING FEAR...

I have fears... big ones, little ones, medium sized ones... served up like different size fries you order at McD's... "hi, ummm... i'll take the x-small fears please".

I have always been one that has been excessively afraid of a lot of things, from canned tuna and mayo to roller coasters, small fingers getting slammed in doors, teenagers, traffic jams under overpasses, halloween music, throwing up, clowns, escalators on the way down, and trips to the OB/GYN. The dark was always frightening to me, which is why my sister Katie Boo and I always shared the top bunk of our twin bunk beds. Seriously, till I was 17, when I moved out and had to sleep in my own bed in California, it was a traumatic transition to not have the boo by my side. I am not sure if it was the dark I was afraid of, or more of what I couldn't see in the dark, or what I might see... a ghost? I was scared of those too. Still am...

Then there are the serious things, stuff I don't even like to speak of or talk about out loud, the thoughts that torment my mind, what if's, worst case scenarios... generally involving loved ones, actually always including loved ones. Even the slightest idea of loss, or them getting hurt, physically, emotionally, spiritually is enough to create insta-puddles in my eye balls.  These terrible inner torments can wake me just fifteen minutes into a mid-day Sunday nap. That is when it seems to strike, woken by the intense thud of my heartbeat beneath my chest, nearly to an audible level, like an internal fire alarm. The sound of anxiety... knowing that in life we are all vulnerable to such things.

Way back when, over the Christmas holiday, I came face to face with a fear, not the serious kind I spoke of before, but a medium sized-not so serious-but still quite scary kind of fear. My job requires me to do a  fairly daunting thing on the regular, something that most people avoid like the plague, and for good reason... singing, performing, speaking and entertaining people is a really freaky thing.

Yes, it is a job that pretty much causes anxiety to reside permanently in the pit of my tummy. The kind that makes you feel like you might need to run to the bathroom real quick. Sounds fun doesn't it? It is... sorta.

I've always believed that I would never be able to sing the National Anthem. Not because of a lack of patriotism, indeed I'm proud to be an American but quite frankly the song scared the crap out of me to sing, (as does "oh holy night").  I have always sincerely believed with all my heart, that my 4-note ranged rhaspy vocalizer lacked the chops and capability to sing the it in a way that is honorable and respectful to the tune in front of stadiums of people... acapella.

Not to mention, in this day in age, if you mess it up, it's on the YouTube forever. (Kinda like this video that David Cook showed to me when we were on Idol, I'm sorry, no disrespect, bless the  heart of Carl Lewis, I find it amazing, and it has cheered me up on many sad days)

I have been asked to sing the Star Spangle banner probably close to twenty times at some pretty legit sporting events that would allow me national television exposure and Dave Ray CPA to live his dream of enjoying floor seats, box suites, meet players and eat free hotdogs.... and up until now I have dashed those hopes and dreams and turned down the Anthem about twenty times. It was a contentious subject between us, I would explain "you're totally worth it, I just can't do it, basically it's the musical equivalent to jumping out of an airplane" Another fear I can confidently state that i will not be facing, ever, and I'm cool with that.

So short story turned long, I got a call from the Phoenix Suns the week before Christmas, they heard I was going to be in town, and was wondering if I could sing the National Anthem at the first game of the season the day after Christmas... My first instinct was to say no, like I had done the twenty times before, but then I had realized that I had yet to find Dave a gift for Christmas... I was struck with "crappy wife" guilt and starting thinking about how many times he missed out on cool games, and much it would mean to Dave if I took this opportunity in the face of fear so that he could see his Sun's play! It was SO the perfect present... so I told them, "maybe, let me think about it"... the thought made me feel sick inside. Fear does that...

I decided I had to sing it for someone, I needed and honest third party opinion. I had sang it for myself hundreds of times in the shower trying to convince my disbelieving heart that I could do it, only to be embarrassed for what the shampoo and conditioner heard. Jack happened to be at my house the day I got the call, we were finishing the EP. I told him, "Jack, you MUST tell me the truth", he said he would, after recording two records there's no BS going on in Jack and White. I sang it for him, it wasn't perfect, it was a bit shaky, but he said "Do it Brooke! You gotta do it!".

So I called back those Phoenix Suns and I told them YES. Aaahhhh! I wanted to throw-up (secondary fear). But then I thought about how stinkin' cool it was gonna be for Dave and my family to go sit in fancy seats at the game. So in secret I practiced, I told myself I could do it, I thought positive thoughts, and I imagined it going well. What was the worst that could happen? My voice would crack? I could forget the words? Then I remembered, Oh yeah, been there done that, in front of forty million people this one time on American Idol. I survived and the world kept turning, and VH1 turned it into a best week ever skit, sweet.

The day after Christmas came faster then I hoped, Dave could hardly believe that his dream was coming true! Ah that was a good feeling that fueled my fire and gave me a good reason to do something I was truly beyond scared of. Love does that...

Game time was upon us, with my whole family cheering me on we drove to the arena and were greeted by our host. I was surprised at how calm I felt, still scared, but calm. I had prayed a thousand prayers that day, sang it for my sister in the bathroom and now it was time to punch my fear in the face good and hard. They gave me an awesome Steve Nash t-shirt that stretched tight across my growing baby belly. Thankfully they also provided me with an awesome purple Sun's jacket to cover up my protruding belly button that demands to be acknowledged (i've tried everything to get this navel to calm down, band-aids, duct tape etc... no luck, so now I just dare people to push it, i'm weird). We stood underneath the tunnel and cheered as we watched the players run through, we saw Steve Nash, he is so cool.

They led me to the court, my family hugged me and took their seats, Dave gave me a quick kiss and told me "you got this", I could tell that even he was freakin' out a little for me. I was too. I had recorded my first note on my iPhone, this was crucial, if I started on the wrong note i'd be sure to have a Carl Lewis "Rockets red glare" moment. I listened quickly and handed it off to the gentleman who then gave me a microphone, I hummed it as I heard them call my name, the crowd was cheering, the room went dark as a spotlight beamed down on me, my heart was beating like a timpany drum, I was pretty sure you could hear it pulse through the microphone I was holding in my shaking hand. I took a breath, closed my eyes, my throat tightened and I started to sing "Oh say can you see!" I don't remember much after that, except for a humbling effect of the song, the high notes were high and the low notes were low... I remember nearing the big note, the one I had feared the most "for the land of the FREE!", and hearing someone cheer "yeah!" and then the home of the brave and it was all over, just like that! NO WAY, I did it! I had no idea if it was good, but I did it! Dave was proud, strangers gave me high fives, my family cheered! I admit, it felt victorious...

My brothers girlfriend had taken a video of it with her iPhone, against my usual will, my dad talked me into to watching it back... boy I was relieved! It wasn't anything fancy, quite simple, but on pitch and I had remembered the words 99 percent correctly.



A dear friend that knows me well asked me the next day on facebook how I've managed to do things I'm scared of, I don't really know... truth is I don't like facing my fears anymore then the next guy or gal. Believe me I  usually take all measures to resist the stuff I'm afraid of, But there may be something that I dislike even more, and that is being controlled by fear, letting it take the wheel that directs my course, cause it usually means that I stop progressing, that I miss out on opportunities, that I don't get to have the experience, that I don't become what I'm supposed to become...  I then live with the regret of knowing that I didn't do the thing I should of done because I was scared, and that is a feeling I fear more then fear itself. Sometimes it takes being forced to the edge, being faced with an ultimatum that shows you what you're made of, like jumping to safety from a burning building. Then there are times that we do it for the thrill. And Sometimes you don't do it for you, you do it for your sports nut husband, or you go to the OB/GYN for your scary invasive check-ups for that baby girl in your belly cause you'll do absolutely anything and everything you can to make sure she is healthy and ok, and you will labor through pain to hold her in your arms. Whatever the reason may be, we find one that is bigger then the fear, we find a little courage and we just do it, and somehow we survive...

I've discovered, Generally if an opportunity scares me a little bit, even a lot, then it's a good indicator that I need to take it... And there is nothing quite like doing the thing you thought you couldn't do. 

35 comments:

  1. This actually made me cry. Good for you! You were beautiful!

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  2. Woah Brooke!! Well done! I love it! And thanks for being an inspiration to all of us to conquer our fears :) xx

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  3. When you face your greatest fears and doubts, new worlds and opportunities will open up to you.
    Kudos for being brave, Brooke! :)

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  4. Aww. That's one of the sweetest, most heartfelt things I've ever read.

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  5. That was beautiful! Love your voice and hearing you sing the anthem made me shiver. This Canadian would recommend you to sing it whenever you are asked. And your blog is inspirational... you will be an awesome Mom... to one very lucky little girl.

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  6. Yes. Yes. Yes. I needed to read this.

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  7. That sounded awesome. For real. Kudos to you for facing your fear like that!

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  8. Aw, Brooke, you sounded great. I love this.

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  9. That was awesome! You have a beautiful voice and I love reading your blog. Congrats on your pregnancy! I have lots of the same anxiety fears that you do...you are right, sometimes you just have to face them. Love you!

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  10. “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. Christopher Robin to Pooh”

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  11. That was beautifully written. Thanks for sharing. I teared up reading it too!

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  12. Excellent blog and performance! I followed you although AI and after. You seem scared and timid but then this spit fire emerges. I love it!

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  13. Well said, Brooke! I agree, there is nothing quite as rewarding as doing something you didn't think you could do! Congrats on performing at the Suns game; I just watched the video and think you sounded great! :) Best, Michelle

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  14. Great blog post and performance! You were outstanding. I'm glad that, like Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music," you wound up telling yourself, "I have confidence in me."

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  15. Brooke, Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this with us. After watching you on AI,and singing "Your so vane" to the judges, I never thought of you having fears. This was so beautifully written and makes me to re-evaluate my life's fears. Thank you again Brook.

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  16. I love that realization- that the fear of being controlled by fear was stronger than fear itself. Very insightful, thanks for sharing! xoxo

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  17. Hey Brooke--I actually sought out your Nat.anthem performance on Youtube in December, after you posted on Twitter that you had sung it at the Suns game (I tweeted you I loved it) You really rocked it! Great job! Enjoyed it then and again today. Thanks for sharing. Loved your feelings on fear--you are so prolific with words. You will be a fantastic mommy! As a mom of two wonderful daughters and 2 adorable grandchildren, I can say it is the BEST, MOST AWESOME AND AMAZING thing in the whole wide world! Your parents must be over the moon!
    Hugs, Susie (Nantucketbreeze)

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  18. I love this! Your performance was great, but the story was even more inspiring. Thanks for reminding me to face my fears and become stronger. You're such a good person!

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  19. Oh Brooke, I love reading your blog. You're such a talented writer. Nice message too :)

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  20. Wonderful story! The harder something is to accomplish, the more feeling of accomplishment you deserve to have afterwards. You are so right, that if you don't embrace the challenges, you won't find out what you are, and sometimes are not, supposed to be or do. Lesson 583 learned (congrats! good one!); on to Lesson 584!

    I think that people follow you more for the earnest good feeling, personality and character that you channel through your singing, much more than for a technically perfect performance. In the end, technique should be in service to those things, and not the other way around, si?

    Such a gift for story-telling you have... You might consider.. .goin' into songwriting!! :-)

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  21. Way to go, Brooke! Totally how I would've done it (if I could, you know, sing and everything). And sorry about that bed thing. If we'd've known, we'd've stocked up on a boo or two in there...

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  22. Lovely lady Brooke, what a wonderful story! I'm so glad you decided to accept the offer to sing--and how selfless you are to want to do it for Dave and as a way to combat your fear. Good for you. You sounded incredible! That video gave me goosebumps :)

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  23. awesome post Brooke. I loved it. I love that you help us remember that everyone is human, and everyone has fears. I've looked up to your on-stage courage for a long time, so thank you for admitting that it isn't so easy for you. You have reminded me to keep trying to face my fears :)

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  24. we are two peas in a pod when it comes to excessive fears. i worry about everything. this was probably my favorite post of yours. so well written. and btw, you sounded awesome.

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  25. Brooke - girl you never seem to stop amazing me. Not only by your talents but by how capable you are as a person. I have lots of fears as well. But I think each of us are capable of facing those fears for someone we love or to reach an accomplishment. I love you and you did an amazing job.

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  26. Brooke.... you were amazing, per usual! We used to love watching you on idol, and now I can't wait to see what other great things are in store for you! Keep up the amazing work!

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  27. Hi Brooke! I couldn't find your email from Alt, so I figured this was the next best thing. I just wanted to tell you it was so nice meeting and talking with you! You're such a fun and genuine person to be around and I hope our paths cross again sometime soon. Have a great day! -Courtney Khail

    (Oh, and despite the fact this will probably make me sound completely clueless- I never put two and two together that you're Brooke White the singer before like 5 seconds ago. You have an amazing voice!)

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  28. WOW! I actually got chills reading this... haha I don't know why. SO proud that you faced your fear. you rock! Don't be afraid of your abilities =)
    Can't watch the video now because I'm at school, but I'll watch it as soon as I go home and I'm sure I will get chills all over again <3
    Bellesme

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  29. That sounded amazing! Not overdone... just perfect. I also have lots of fears and usually have to be forced to face them. You're totally right... it's the only way that you can keep growing!

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  30. Hey Brooke, just a quick note to say thanks for sharing this. I loved the truly honest portrayal of how you felt leading up to the performance, seeing the performance, and how you felt after it was over! Experiences like this are sometimes life-changing and I'm glad you documented it for all of us to see! I just graduated college with a music degree and I'm pursuing further education (a Masters in Music Performance--French Horn)! I can totally relate to how you felt on that day and the days leading up to it! I have had so many straight up FEARS when it comes to performing of any kind, and it's nice to see that in a totally different venue, performing a completely different song, all the way across the country, someone else is fearful of the same (but different) kind of work that I do too. Thanks for your honesty! It might be lame to say this(?) but it was really inspiring and encouraging. Keep on singin, girl!

    love, rachel

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  31. I loved your honesty in this post! You are so talented and it sounded beautiful! xoxo

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  32. love that i found your blog! oh, and nothing much terrifies me more than throwing up. how lame is that? blegh!!

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  33. Amazing performance! That song is hard and needs no extra embellishment and you did it proud! <3

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