Wednesday, October 31, 2012
File this under the heading of "Things I Never Thought I'd Experience in My Lifetime."
On Monday, Chris and I went to the Barbra Streisand "Back to Brooklyn" concert.
For those of you who are HUGE Barbra fans, as Chris and I are, I'll let that resonate for a moment…
Think about it–a live Barbra Streisand concert. The one-and-only, having never performed in Vancouver before, standing on that stage a few short feet from us, her beautiful vocal instrument filling the air. As I type the words, I'm still shaking my head in disbelief.
To put this into perspective, Barbra's performed LIVE on eighty-eight occasions–not in the past year… but since 1964, when she performed live for the first time. She told the sold-out crowd at Rogers Arena on Monday evening that, as she performed in New York's Central Park on June 17, 1967 (later referred to as "A Happening in Central Park"), to a crowd of 135,000, in torrential rain, she forgot a few lyrics.
Ever the perfectionist (boy, do I understand that impulse), Barbra freaked out and didn't sing live again for twenty-seven years. (In other places, it's been reported there had been threats on her life prior to that concert, as well.) It wasn't until the early 1990s that she triumphantly returned to the concert stage.
I remember reading about that eighteen-city, 1994 concert tour in North America and Europe, which sold out in one hour. Chris and I were on a bus (this was long before we owned a car) on our way to Victoria, BC's provincial capital, for several days. We had only been together for about a year.
The Vanity Fair article went into detail about why Barbra hadn't performed in so long, and the preparations taking place for that first tour. At one point, I remember turning to Chris and saying, "She doesn't have a right to do that–to prevent people from experiencing her live. When you have a talent–a gift–like she does, you have an obligation to use it, to share it with the world, and nothing should stop you from doing that."
Of course, I've since moderated my opinion somewhat, having gone through anxiety and panic attacks, as well as agoraphobia, over the past two decades. On a personal level, I understand now more than ever how Barbra could have freaked because of everything that happened (or could have happened) during that live performance in Central Park, how fear overcame her life, and how it could overcome any of ours, at any time (even if we think it couldn't).
I wonder how many of our lives are run by fear now, how many of our gifts have been silenced because of it. Many gay and lesbian people, not yet out of the closet, live in fear constantly, of being found out, of loved ones discovering their secret, because they're just too damn frightened (notice the timely reference to Halloween) to be themselves in a world that's still not totally accepting of us. It scares me to think about it.
I know for a fact I held myself back many years ago from choosing the career I really wanted to pursue, because I was filled with fear, because I felt the necessity to downplay my sexual orientation. Through much of my young adult life, I attracted attention to myself for being gay, to the extent that I couldn't take it anymore, and I made the conscious choice not to be me. Who knows where I'd be today if I'd had the courage to embrace my gayness back then, how the decisions I made would have been different.
Don't let your voice be silenced. To use gay vernacular, don't allow your flame to burn lower than it's intended to, or, God forbid, to burn out altogether. Stop pretending to be something you're not. Stop holding yourself back from being everything you were meant to be.
Perhaps that's why Barbra Streisand is such an icon to the gay community–because she's an inspiration; because she's a survivor, having overcome fear, proving we can all do the same; because her star has shone brightly for over fifty years, and her gifts continue to spread joy and magic.
The world needs your gifts too. Don't be held back from offering them because you're too scared to be yourself.