Ministry

Performance Anxiety

This coming Sunday, #2 Son will play his clarinet at church. His friend, Hobbit Boy (so named for his thick, curly, unruly hair and propensity for going barefoot), will be playing the bass. The music is an arrangement of Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday; they’ve been rehearsing for a few weeks with my musician accompanying them on the piano.

I’ve known Hobbit Boy since before he was born. His mother and I met in a women’s study group in the fall of 1987, and I am very fond of her.

What this means is that Fond Friend and members of her family, as well as quite possibly The Father of My Children, will be in church this week. And that makes me exceedingly anxious. I can’t seem to get my act together on the sermon, and I know it’s partly because I’ve had a busy week (4.5 hours spent on Church and Ministry business yesterday, for instance), and the texts themselves don’t help (all about how rotten religious leaders can be, a great start to the Stewardship season!!), but mostly it’s that I so want to do well in front of these people who’ve know me a long time that I can hardly stand to write a word for fear of being imperfect.

Aha! you say. The Perfectionist Trap! Better to run away and do nothing, or do something slapdash so that you can look back and say, “Well, yeah. That sucked. But I didn’t really try, so it doesn’t count.”

I think the same principle can be applied to my apparent inability to write a Statement on Ministry for my Ministerial Profile. I have some ideas, but…have I written anything?

What’s the solution to this kind of self-defeating behavior?

Not a double mocha. I tried that yesterday and was jangling all the way to bedtime and beyond.

Not waiting for a phone call from my beloved, to discover if he is actually going off to North Muck later today. I’m not sure getting the call will help either, but the waiting just reinforces the uneasiness.

Not making a list of people I really ought to visit. Although much like this delaying, once I go I always feel good about it, relaxed and sort of clean, as if I just got out of the shower.

The only way through this is, well, through it. Start writing. Be prepared to throw out the stuff that’s no good. Write more than is needed. Start now.

Deep breath. Go.

10 thoughts on “Performance Anxiety”

  1. I’m in a place like that today, too. I really, really need to write today. A big sermon with big ideas is what I need to get put together–it is confirmation Sunday, in addition to All Saints and our little version of Reformation. The balcony of saints looking over us–that balcony which includes Martin and Martin, and Theresa, and Mahatma,and Delores and Elisabeth, and George, and now, sadly, Rosa. A very full balcony, cheering on Tyler and Taylor and Danny and Cody– a balcony of saints who spent their lives standing in the river on dry ground, holding the water back so we can all pass through to the other side.
    Sigh–big ideas, big Sunday. Bad time to feel the flu coming on.

  2. Good luck. Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird has a great essay on Perfectionism…don’t know if that’s anything you’d have lying around or could run to the library and check out.

  3. Oh, brilliant, Jane! We do have it. Pure Luck just read it, and I can borrow it from him.
    revmom, you gave me some inspiration! Thank you! While my lectionary group was discussing Joshua, I was out walking Molly in the rain, so I hadn’t seriously considered using it until your comment.

  4. God is good.
    thank Him for the Rev Gals ring 🙂
    pressure to perform because of friends and loved ones is really tough. I hate it and I have no answers but I’m glad Rev Mom helped with the ideas
    Lord let your river flow into our hearts and let us minister from the overflow of your abundance.
    Let these people be blessed by you, not impressed by our comparatively feeble stumblings ! Amen

  5. Oooo…I’m grimmacing. The big “P” is a problem for me too. My dissertation advisor once told me to , and here I quote, “Tell ‘Mr. Perfectionism’ to get the hell out of your way,” a statement made all the more funny coming from a sort of impish, never driven to cuss, tiny older man. It wasn’t all that effective but it sure did make me laugh.
    As for things that work for me…best thing I can do is just find some way to be playful with it.

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