Setting Fire to the Imaginary Standard

I’ve gone through heaven and hell to be where I am now, to own my creativity,  my desire and ability to communicate as a feminine/queer musician/writer/singer/performer.  Age, social approval, conventional notions of success, none of that means anything to me.  I have always been the way I am now – restless, expressive, wakeful; driven to write, driven to give voice to my ideas and my emotional life through performance, through singing in particular, but sometimes it takes other forms, theatre, art, poetry.    I’ve earned my right to take up this space, to be here as an artist, to bring what I have and trust that someone will want to receive it.  That I can connect with someone, even if it’s just one person. I wasted so many years worrying what people would think of my writing, my playing, my appearance and apologising for all the ways I didn’t measure up to the imaginary standard . I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, so self-conscious I could hardly function.  In rehearsal, I was pretty good, live on stage I wasn’t’ a patch on what I knew it could be, and I was often terrible. I couldn’t connect. I was riddled with inner loathing and doubts. I did lots of things to try and free myself from the excruciating dilemma of wanting to perform and hating myself for it. I directed theatre, I performed in an all-female cabaret band, I wrote explicitly feminist songs, I performed on the stand-up comedy circuit, I worked for 20 years in arts education, but inside I was aching because while I enjoyed all these things, I am and have always been an emotional artist, someone who feels deeply and needs to communicate that vocally and through performance.  When I accepted that was my need and also my talent, everything fell into place.  I just had to learn to accept and use that innate vulnerability in my performance, to realise that is where I can truly connect. I still have the doubts, and on some days the loathing, but I use it in my performance, I use everything. And the weird and wonderful thing is, the thing they teach women to fear most  – aging – has become my most potent source of power. I could not have written, or dreamed of doing the things I’m doing now as a younger woman. Coming out as an artist, for me,  is as potent an act as coming out as Gay or Queer, liberating and terrifying, but ultimately it’s the difference between living and existing, or maybe even between living and dying, for me I think that may well be so.

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