A few weeks ago I opened my sixth of seven solo art shows in the past 18 months. You would think with that many openings that it gets easier, that I improve my process, that I am—if nothing else—less nervous about it.
But you would be wrong.
The week before I was so stressed. Working late hours to get ready, trying to get through my to do lists. Trying to remember the things I remembered and forgot to write down. My breath tends to be shallow. I’m nervous. Shaky. Intellectually, I know I will be fine—but my physical self is on high alert. It’s hard to unwind. Harder to sleep.
So I’m in that space and I’m driving late one evening. My phone is plugged in and randomly going through all my songs, which ends up with unusual juxtapositions like the Kelly Willis and Black Eyed Peas and Christmas Songs and Kendrick Lamar and Mozart. And then it landed.
Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
I turn it up. All the way up. The truck thumps as I drive through the dark and rainy night.
If you had
And one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it or just
Let it slip?”
He asks me. He is speaking to me. This show is a great opportunity. It’s a popular shop. My work will be up for at least a month—not just a one night art walk. It was the opportunity. But then his words come back. The reality sinks in. Yes, this opportunity and all of a sudden
“His palms are sweaty—
Arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already—Mom’s spaghetti—
But on the surface
He looks calm and ready
To drop bombs
But he keeps on forgetting what
He wrote down
The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth
But the words won’t come out
He choking how
Everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out
That’s me. That’s me with a Case of The Nanas. Getting ready to walk into a gallery. To meet other artists. To give a talk. The Nanas. It’s stage fright. It’s the most brilliant text I’ve read about stage fright. The lived experience of it. They way the mind can go blank as your body fails you, betrays you. The pressure overrides your mind. Few artists talk about it outside the performing arts. So many visual artists are introverts, which is partly why this medium has such an appeal. It’s a place for us to hide, to restore, to refresh with just the rhythm of the brush on the canvas, the feeling of joy that comes from seeing a work of art emerge from the layers of self expression.
Don’t get me wrong. I know Eminem is misogynist AF but this song. This song is incredible. It gave me a way out. A way to fight the stage fright. He told me exactly what I needed to do.
Lose yourself, in the music, the moment,
You own it
You better never
Let it go.
You only get one shot,
Do not miss your chance to blow
’Cause opportunity comes once in a lifetime
In the music
You only get one shot,
Miss your chance
Cause opportunity comes once in a life time
You can do anything you set our mind to, man [sic]”
The answer was right there. I needed to lose myself in the music, the moment. To get out of my head, out of my body, and into the zone—connect beyond myself—where the music is. And in that moment “Lose Yourself” became my walk up song.
What’s a walk up song? In professional baseball, there’s a tradition of batters getting a song played each time they walk up to bat. It helps set the mind, shake off nerves, gets them pumped, and ready to connect the bat to the ball. It was just the technique I needed.
Now when I feel the Nanas approaching, I put on my headset and turn up the volume and lose myself. Works like a charm.
“Lose Yourself” is written by Jeff Bass, Luis Resto, Marshall Mathers