There are people who have called me a dreamer. I guess they thought they were putting me down and making me feel bad. But the truth is just the opposite. I loved being called a dreamer....I still do. I consider it a compliment. It confirms for me that I have more bravery than I thought I had and that I have more courage than the person attempting to bring me down. I know when they call me that, they are implying that I'm lazy or that I don't live in the "real" world. But what they don't seem to be able to understand is that this is the real world for me. I am right where I want to be and have no desire to change. Everyone has to determine for themselves what their truth is....no one can tell them because no one else knows. Your truth is what comes from deep within you, and no matter how much you try to deny it, it will always be there. You can ignore it, you can make excuses, but it will always be there....always.
It's really an amazing experience to be on a stage singing for an audience. To speak into the microphone and have them respond. That sounds like a very simple and rather dull action, but you have to understand where I am coming from with this. You see, I have never been one of those people who stand out in a crowd. I was always the shy kid in the corner, the wallflower. I was the one who was always picked last for a team in gym class....one of those who went to school dances alone, and if I was lucky enough to get asked to dance, it was usually with one of the other misfits in the crowd who also came alone. Remember that Christmas story about Rudolph and how he went to the Island of Misfit Toys? Well, let's just say I would have fit right in on that island. But that's okay, I'm not complaining. I think I would have really enjoyed it there.
Not too many of the "popular" people paid a whole lot of attention to me as I was growing up. To be truthful, they still don't. I don't attract a lot of attention just by walking into a room. I have even had people ask me a question and then walk away and start a new conversation with other people while I was answering them. I will admit that this does miff me a little simply because it's rude, and I have never liked rudeness. But I still don't let it bother me too much, because now that I am older I am not as concerned about fitting into their world as I used to be.
Anyway, I have never attracted a lot of attention by just being present. Then one night a good friend handed me a microphone and I sang a song. All of a sudden people were coming up to me and complimenting me. They were making it a point to stop and say hello. They were actually asking me to sing and telling me that the only reason they came out was because they were hoping I would be there. They actually wanted to know me. Was it a boost to my ego? Um....yeah....but I still had a difficult time with it for a while. After a lifetime of blending into the woodwork, it was kind of hard to believe people really gave a damn whether I showed up or not. I was still the same person I had always been, just with one exception. They could hear me.
That was the difference. It didn't matter that I could carry a tune. After all, a lot of folks can sing, and many of them have much clearer, stronger voices than mine. The difference is that I let them hear me sing. I gave them a reason to pay attention....shook them up a little....you could even say that I "rocked their world". After a while, I started pulling out songs that no one would ever expect me to sing, let alone sing well. It was fun just to see if I could get a rise out of the crowd.
One of my favorite experiences is when I am at a place where they don't know me. I have a cousin who plays guitar in a local band and we went to see them play one night. During their set he invited me up on stage to sing a song with them. I was very nervous, but everyone encouraged me to do it so up on the stage I went. They began playing the song--"Your Cheatin' Heart"--and he began singing and after the first line I joined in. In the distance was a bar with some folks drinking and talking and generally not paying too much attention to our little crowd....at least they weren't at first. As I started singing, I saw several of the bar patrons stop in the middle of their conversations, put down their beers and turn around on their stools to look at the stage. Something there had caught their attention, and that's where their attention stayed until we were finished singing. Then they applauded (loudly), and just as easily turned back to their drinks and conversations as if nothing had happened. Now I could have seen that as rudeness, but instead I saw it for what it was. It's a little thing I like to call the "Gotcha Factor".
They may not have even noticed the band on the stage playing their hearts out for an hour before I sang, and they may not have cared much about them after I finished, but for that two and a half minutes, they were mine. It was as if when I started singing I was baiting their interest--like a fisherman baiting his hook--when they turned to see what was going on, they were hooked, just like the fish who couldn't resist the bait. When I saw them turn around and pay attention, I smiled and thought, "Gotcha!". That's the "Gotcha Factor"--when you look into someone's eyes and know you have captured their complete attention. You've managed to get past their ears and their brains....you've taken hold of something deep in them that they just can't ignore. Let me tell you, that's an ego boost!
There's another side of the "Gotcha Factor", too--something I like to call the "Oh, wow....". It's that moment when you realized that you have touched someone's heart--or even reached a part of their soul--with just the words of a song. I had this experience a few years back when I performed in a Mother's Day program at a friend's church. I had decided to sing a song called "Eagle When She Flies" by Dolly Parton, in honor of my Mom, who passed in 1992. I was extremely nervous, so I told my cousin and my husband to please sit up in one of the front rows of pews so if I started to freak out I could look over at them for moral support. I began singing my song and felt okay, but about halfway through my nerves started acting up. I looked over to my two-person cheering section for strength, only to find the two of them sitting there with tears streaming down their faces. My first thought was "Oh crap, they're crying!"....my second thought was "Oh wow, they're crying!" I managed to finish the song, but I have never forgotten how it felt to know that I had touched their hearts and helped them express their feelings.
There are always two sides to every coin. The first makes you feel larger than life....but the other humbles you to the core. I consider them both to be a blessing.