Just finished reading Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking. Besides being a fascinating story of someone who continually dares to think outside the box, containing a really fascinating philosophy of life based on trust, love, and human connection in a world where so many people are terrified of those very things, and having a lot of really good advice that's given in a natural, non-patronizing way, it made me realize just how complicated a relationship I have with the concept of asking. Asking people in various parts of the world to play various parts in recordings doesn't weird me out. I enjoy that part, even if I feel a little intimidated and out of my depth at times. I get to make music with people I've never met, but still feel like I've gained a friend. I enjoy asking people to play live with me. I've gotten tipsy and asked to join someone else's band. (They said yes. I performed with them for about 6 months after that and then continued to do shows with one of the other band members in artsy little hole in the wall bars for a few months after that)
But when it comes to personal, non musical things, asking terrifies me. I have a medical condition, and sometimes I've had attacks from it alone in my apartment, short of breath, dizzy, freaking out, trying to convince myself that this isn't the big one that's going to leave me dead at a ridiculously early age, knowing I have amazing friends who would help me in a heartbeat, who want to help me, but not being able to bring myself to send that text that says "please take me to the hospital" or even "please come and hold me until I can breathe again." I've been upset about weird little things and really wanted to talk them out with someone over a good glass of wine, but felt that the ensuing awkwardness just wouldn't be worth it. One of the points frequently made in the book is that often, people want to help. I realized just how uncomfortable I feel with people wanting to help me. If someone notices I need help, it means I'm weak. That I was making my problems too obvious. They know too much now. I'm not comfortable with that. I don't want to appear weak. That was what people bullied me over. My defining traumatic event (see my other blog on that) was being sick (and therefore weak)as a toddler and anything I did differently from other kids after that being used as evidence there was something "wrong" with me. Even though I grew up in a time when gender roles were quickly being redefined and even done away with, the idea that men and women are fundamentally different was still there. And the undertones I picked up on were that women were fundamentally inferior. We were weak. Fragile. Emotional. Irrational. Everything that decent, reasonable people didn't want to be. Throw that together in naive kid me's mind and you get a girl who feels she has to not only prove that she's not weak, but that her entire gender isn't. So she toughs it out. She hides it when she gets sick. She hates it when she's found out. She convinces herself she's a failure if someone sees her cry. She feels stupid if someone offers to help her because it means she wasn't smart enough or strong enough to do it herself. It's stupid, really. Incredibly stupid. Helping each other is part of how we connect as humans. How we show we care. How we get to be part of something. Asking musicians to perform with me is exhilarating because I can't wait to see what each person is going to come up with to add to my songs. Asking other composers if I can perform on their albums is really cool because if they say yes, it means I get to be part of something I think is amazing. Reading The Art of Asking made me realize I could extend that to other parts of my life. I was intrigued by Amanda's willingness to trust people so easily, and just how many really cool experiences she had because of it. Just how many lives she's touched. While you will probably never find me allowing a large group of strangers to draw on my naked body (I'm too ticklish), and I'm decidedly more introverted than she is, I can relate to a lot of what she said (particularly the bits about what she called the fraud police, which is another way to describe what psychologists call impostor syndrome), and I think I have a lot I could learn from her. She's so beautifully unafraid of being human. Of being who she is. Of connecting. I'm working on being that way in my own way. I'm excited to see what might happen.