On Saturday I went to a worship team awayday. The morning was spent having to engage my brain in a way I have become very unaccustomed to.
I actually had to use it.
Not just to work out what a sextant was, but to ascertain what would be closest to the top of my list of necessities were I stranded in a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: a shaving mirror or a 5 litre canister of water. Naturally, as per how my brain manifests wisdom I concluded that water would of course be at the top, and a shaving mirror utterly useless.
Keeping my little red face firmly pointing to the floor I allowed others around me to draw ALL the conclusions while I nodded and prayed that I wouldn't be asked any questions.
Before lunch we were asked to ponder the question 'what first got you into music'? with a view to then sharing with the crowd after lunch.
My face had only just returned to its original colour. Now the cold sweats were beginning to surface.
My left brain shuts down when spontaneous cognitive sharing is required. Quizzes, intellectual debates, spontaneous public speaking, team building exercises that require 'brain' make me want to find a small corner to withdraw into with a large kitchen knife. The rocking motion soothes me. #jokingnotjoking.
During these kinds of exercises I'm like that annoying kid at school who always put his hand up against the side of his paper to stop anyone copying his work. Not because I'm arrogant (like him), but because I'm slightly pooping myself at the prospect of being 'found out' - that people will see that my intelligence does not quite extend as far as common sense or general knowledge. I have learnt to be ok with that, that actually 'intelligence' covers a far wider spectrum.
This wasn't the case, however, when I was a child.
Emily Spanner (perfect piss-taking material. MC Spanner was probably up there with the best) was an easily-distracted little girl. She was blonde and freckly and would sit at her desk with her purple rimmed glasses, gazing out of the window at the cloud that looked like a bottom. If she felt nervous she would say that her tummy felt fizzy. She was rather like Mr Daydream, but less blue with longer legs. During parents' evenings her teachers, when chatting to the Reverend and his wife, would look at them with sympathy in their eyes, sigh, and say "so you are Emily's parents". This kind of sentence was often muttered by those involved with me in a teaching capacity and instead of encouraging me to wake up, would drive me closer to the bottom-shaped cloud, and deeper into my imagination.
I therefore grew up believing that intelligence was measured by knowledge, achievement and ability and so viewed this as something I lacked.
At secondary school I was introduced to drama. Something I hated to begin with as Mrs Gower insisted that we did something called 'spontaneous' most weeks, which involved being given a line, and asked to stand mid-stage and spontaneously create a scene that was both intentional and entertaining. No time to think, reliant 100% on your own capacity to 'dig deep' and self-direct. It was terrifyingly exposing and pushed all my panic buttons, but interestingly became something I found wonderfully liberating and instinctive. It tapped into a part of me that believed it 'didn't fit'. The drama class became life-giving for me; an island where I didn't have to strive. Where I could be myself.
I sat and tried to explain to the worship team that my love of music stems from school. That I landed only after I was given the opportunity to create. That music and drama made me feel alive in a way that nothing else did, or could. As I spoke I remembered why I prefer to write, as the words awkwardly tumbled out of my mouth in a nonsensical, slightly-devoid-of-any-meaning, kind of way; while I told myself to "Shut up. Shut up now".
I am not being self-deprecating and I'm absolutely not crying out to be validated....quite the opposite.
My intelligence lies in the intra-personal and Interpersonal. And that's why I love to write, I love to sing, and I love meaningful relationships. Because these things require a connection with somewhere that goes way beyond cognition. Thank goodness.
I spent years worrying about what I wasn't. Eyes on everyone else. Striving to be better. Only feeling as good as my last mistake. Feeling a fraud.
But that little girl (MC Spanner, captivated by the bottom-shaped cloud) grew up and did a degree followed by an MA. During that time she wrote two dissertations, one of which was awarded a distinction. She worked as a drama and movement therapist and bought and developed a music and play business, and now would love to be a writer.
When my point of focus takes me away from who I am it is like I'm kind of transient. Drifting in and out of people's lives, morphing into the perfect interpretation of their expectations. And it doesn't take long to drift so far away that I don't know how to get back.
I think I'm always going to have the tendency to drift. Maybe we all have. Because who we are can be so shaped by those around us. By our experiences of the world. And when we look around us and we see shapes to walk through, stumble over, dive into, shelter in, it's too bloody easy to lose sight of and forget ourselves.
I want to feel alive. To be able to free-wheel without falling off. And I think I can only do that by staying rooted in who I am.
Which is a discipline in itself.