I have a tendency to freeze. Sometimes, it hits me at completely inopportune times and it causes me to do ridiculous things, completely contrary to what should be done. There have been three occasions where is has occurred publicly.
When I was about twelve, I was serving as an acolyte at the Lutheran church I was attending. The job required two of us to wear robes that smelled of cedar and carry a flame on a gold-colored shepherd’s crook to light all of the candles on the altar before the service started. Then we had to sit on a little bench and sit still for the service, afterwhich, we would extinguish the candles with the little bell on the end of our crook.
In the middle of the service, however, we had to take the stack of gold-colored collection trays and hand them out to the ushers so that they could go collect the offering from the parishioners. As much as I appreciated the power to help facilitate the church’s well-being and actually enjoyed being on stage, I jumped the gun and took my place at center stage with the trays in my hand too early. I should have gone after the choir was singing, but instead, I went before.
So I stood there as the entire congregation watched me do absolutely nothing for what seems like forever, during which time the choir sang a song I couldn’t even hear. I watched the ushers lined up against the back wall of the church, waiting for the choir to finish, and although my tiny pew was only a few feet away, I could not get myself to go back to it and await my proper entry. Finally, I saw my mom motion with her hand, and it broke the spell, allowing me to go sit down for another minute before taking my place at center stage when I saw the ushers actually moving forward.
The second time was during improv class. I was living in Los Angeles and decided to take a class at ImprovOlympic. I was so excited about it that when they asked me if I’d like to take the 4 week course or the 8 week course, I jumped on the 8 week course. In the fourth week, the eight of us in the class were supposed to walk out into the center of the stage and tell a story.
There was no one in the audience, just the teacher and us students lined up against the back wall. I put my butt against the wall, leaned forward with my hands on my knees, and as the other students took their turns, my mind told me that I didn’t know any stories, and I froze. After all of the other students had told there stories, everyone looked at me for a minute or so as I sat there, frozen to the back wall, a silly smirk on my face.
I can’t remember getting unfrozen or getting out of there, but I was mortified, and although I’d considered the “yes, and…” philosophy to be my new religion only a few weeks before, I didn’t return for the other four classes.
The third time was at the premiere of No Real Than You Are. It was actually at the local short film showcase at the Sarasota Film Festival. I played William Whitaker, Sarasota’s first white settler in the film, and after all of the films had been screened, they invited all of the filmmakers and actors to come to the front.
I froze again. I was near the front row. I watched everybody else take their place. I watched them start to introduce themselves as they passed the microphone. I think they were about halfway down the line when something let me move. I took my place with the rest of the my cast, and the microphone came back to me.
These things could be attributed to stage fright, but I don’t really ever have stage fright. I’m usually more comfortable in front of an audience than I am in the midst of it. Besides, then it happened at improv class, there was no audience.
On each of these occasions, my ego was screwing with me, and I can’t really describe all of the mental noise that occurs when I have one of these spells, but it can often happen in my “normal” life as well. Sometimes, it’s during conversations and sometimes it’s when I’m trying to accomplish something or when I try to follow through on a vision. Too often, it’s enough to make me doubt my capability to be the person I actually want to be.
So I’m slowing down the mental noise by freezing more intentionally. While I’ve rallied behind the idea of meditation for a long time, I’ve frozen instead of becoming a regular practitioner. However, I’ve been setting chimes to give me ten minute meditation breaks every hour, and it is incredibly helpful.