What’s it like to be me right now? Right now I’m feeling called out.
Today, as I was working through some of my hangups about putting myself out there with my mentor, I realized I often have the hardest time in the world being direct. I’m sometimes a sideways communicator, a “beat-around-the-bush-er,” a P.P.S.er, especially when I’m talking to someone I really admire.
A P.P.S.er is someone who writes a whole message, complete with intro, outro, refrain and coda, and doesn’t suggest the real meaning of the message until after the double bar line. In civilian terms, a P.P.S.er can write five paragraphs without getting to the point, only squeezing it in after the signature in an “oh, by the way” fashion. When I find myself in that swirl, I can’t even say that I always know what I want to say before I get to the “oh by the way” line. I admit that it tickles me (in a hang my head sorta way) to notice this about myself…but I’m just now starting to get a sense of what a total drag this habit may be.
I know I’m not the only one who clams up around the cool kids, but I am taking notes on what some other options might be.
For example, I’m currently in a band with this legend of a band leader, a virtuoso musician so accomplished that I simply refer to him as “Maestro.” Well Maestro’s drummer is a younger woman I’ve worked with off and on for a few years. She’s creative, energetic, and her pocket is super tight. (Sorry, no time to explain what a pocket is right now. Ask the internet?) But she’s young, and we’re in a band full of seasoned cats (wow, that sounds gross out of context). If she were a P.P.S.er, she might adhere to propriety and be busy trying to prove that she belongs in the room with the other, more experienced folks. But she’s put in her time, and she knows she belongs there so instead, she just shows up as fearless…at least that’s what it looks like from the outside looking in.
Here’s what I mean. Last week after rehearsal, she says “I’m gonna write a song for Maestro.” I think and say that’s a great idea. I’ve written a couple of songs for Maestro. Maestro says he wants original material for the band and he wants input from us all… Why not? Well, she did write a piece. That very night. She sent it to me and to Maestro, she made sure we heard it, sent texts requesting input, brought it to rehearsal the next day and started teaching it to the horn players during our break. The horn players requested a chart. The next day she brought us a full score. She’d spent the entire day writing out the score and put it on each of our stands at the start of rehearsal. And even though Maestro had been direct and specific about what numbers were the priority for us to learn, we spent a good portion of that rehearsal learning her brand new composition.
The display was dazzling, quite frankly. She wasn’t pushy. Just direct. Innocent and joyful competence. Can you imagine?! It was exciting to watch, and her innocence made us all that much more interested in bringing the piece to life for her. But my favorite part actually came after rehearsal. While she was helping me pack up my keyboard she announced “I’ve gotta work on my confidence!”
Really?! I couldn’t process it. My lens was so different. Here I was, admiring her directness, knowing that when I had delivered my songs to Maestro, I’d sent them in a very respectful P.P.S.er email with some etched out lead sheets and some sketch level rehearsal demos. Whenever he’d mentioned the songs I’d avoided eye contact at all cost, and when he’d told me he hadn’t had a chance to work on them, my response had simply and repeatedly been “that’s ok Maestro.”
It’s clear to me now that I could have just come to rehearsal and started playing the songs during a warm-up or something. Everyone would have fallen in line because everyone involved is bringing that level of generosity and skill to the table. I could have been direct. I could have stood by my work with innocence and enthusiasm. It feels really cool to know that now, and equally so to realize how good it can feel to be on the other side of that approach.
I have no idea how many times I’ve been slowed down by my P.P.S.er ways. I’m trying to confront this in myself…maybe get a sense of where it comes from, get a sense of what anxieties need to be assuaged in order to feel more safe being honest and clean in my delivery, especially when nothing but innocent joy lives behind my tentative bush beating.
In the meantime, if for no better reason than curiosity’s sake, I’m going to see what I can do to start leading with the headline.