Hi from Berlin!
I’m here for a series of masterclasses on English songwriting, communication and pronunciation. I love what I do so much and I’m so fortunate that I get to do it in different places. Berlin is my second favorite city in the world (NY is number 1) and I just love working here and seeing my friends who live here. *Mental note to self: eat more cake with friends.* (I keep forgetting to make time for that in the Netherlands. I really need to eat more cake with friends. More cake. More friends. More TIME to eat cake with friends. It’s a very good thing and I realise now, although I’m really out of practise, that I’m actually pretty damn good at it. Please, dear Buffi, remind me to do that when I get back.)
One of the women I was working with started with an apology “I’m sorry. My English is not so good.” And I replied “That’s excellent! That’s why I’m here to help you! How great that we are in the same place at the same time!” I gave her a huge smile which put a tiny, hesitant one on her face. She had to get up and sing for me on our second day of working together intensely. She was literally shaking. She had trouble breathing and apologised again for being so nervous. She said “Every time I get nervous I forget how to breathe and get even more nervous. And the fact that you are sitting here makes me feel like I have to do it perfectly. And I can’t. I just can’t. So I’m sorry. Should I sit down?”
I walked over to her and took her hands. I thanked her for her honesty and for being so vulnerable in public. I thanked her for giving me the opportunity to help her. We did a breathing exercise together. I asked her what was going on in her head when we were standing together. She said ‘I can’t do it; I’m going to fail. There’s no use in even trying.”
I knew that she was a mom to a young daughter. I asked her what she did when she saw her daughter trying to walk for the first time. She said ‘I told her to keep trying. I clapped for her. I hugged her with her first step. I told her she could do it.” I asked her how her daughter reacted to this. She said she saw her daughter’s face light up and heard her squeal with delight when she took her first steps into her mom’s patiently waiting arms.
I asked her why it felt so natural to say that to her daughter but so hard to say that to herself. She told me she had never thought of encouraging herself. She just assumed her English would never get better and she didn’t want to ‘waste my time’.
I asked her to try (only to try!) to talk to herself in her head the way she would talk to her daughter when she saw her struggling with something. To talk to herself with love. With patience. With encouragement.
She stood there for a moment and got very quiet. Then she exhaled slowly, And she sang. Oh, boy did she sing. She blew me away with her voice, her delivery, her soul-stinging performance. We both had tears at the end. I hugged her really, really hard.
And then we laughed. I asked her if she could remember this moment. How well she did, how powerfully she sang, how beautiful it was – not just for me, but for everyone in that room. I so wanted to create a positive memory for her which would replace all the bad ones.
She told me she would remember.
And so will I.
Oh, boy, will I ever.
Maybe this is something that could help you when things get bad. What would you say to a loved one in this situation? Say that to yourself.
Be your own best friend.
Now I’m going to eat some cake with 3 people I truly love.
Me, myself and I.