Recently, I was standing on a stage behind a long table draped with a colorful tablecloth. The lights were so intense I could feel their heat. They glowed so brightly that I could only slightly make out the silhouettes of the people who sat on the first row. Beyond them, each row became less and less distinct as they graduated to the back of the theater, allowing the strong light to finally win the battle.
I have been in this same situation so many times in my life Ive lost count. In fact, I must say, Im very comfortable when Im there.
Since the audience was clearly out of focus, I relied on the things I could see in front of me on the table. They were things Im very familiar with -- things that I have worked with many, many times before. Directly in front of me was a brown grapevine wreath that was totally unadorned. On either side of it were various flowers that were grouped together by type and color.
It appeared to be the remains of an amazing garden thats foliage had just been carefully clipped to join forces with the plain, ordinary wreath form. By doing so, it was ready to become transformed into a gorgeous creation. All I had to do was make it happen.
Spools of various sizes, textures and colors of ribbon were neatly placed on the table in the center of the grapevine wreath. Next to it was a pair of scissors and several green pipe cleaners. Like a surgeon of sorts, I glanced around to make sure I had everything in front of me that I needed to create the wreath.
During my visual survey, I noticed my overly used glue gun was already oozing hot glue from its metal tip. I took a deep breath, addressed the audience and began to create.
This particular time, I looked at this process through different eyes. Although nothing about creating a wreath scared me in the least, I wondered to myself what if it did? After doing so many wreaths over the years, I feel that I could almost create one with my eyes closed.
Ive even referred to what I do as an easy task, wondering why some people have so much trouble successfully putting one together. For me, it has become second nature. To someone who has never created something like this before, I imagine standing in my shoes would be very scary.
We all have things we are blessed to be able to do with little or no effort -- talents weve been given that are special and precious gifts. While I can create, others can do things I couldnt even begin to do. As we live our lives, we tend to gravitate toward those things that come naturally to us.
But, the older I get, I have found that to grow, I have to do things that take me out of my comfort zone. And when I do, it can be very challenging. Fear has crippled many an attempt and it can creep in without notice. We mustnt yield.
When I was a young child, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons. It was not one of my favorite things to do. I loved art classes because they came easily to me, but piano lessons presented me with quite a challenge -- one I didnt even want to have. But my mother was very insistent.
Mark, you must at least try to play. Practice and you never know what will happen, she said so many times I began to hate the words.
For two or three years, with various teachers, I did try. Not with all my heart, but I did give it some effort. The problem was I couldnt read music. My teachers wanted me to play strictly by the notes, but I couldnt do it. I could hear the teacher play the song and then play it my way by ear.
That wasnt what was required, so I became very frustrated and my last teacher suggested I quit. She told me I was wasting her time and my parents money. I was thrilled until she gave back the balance of what my mother had already paid in advance in sheet music. Where was the cash? She, of all people, clearly knew I couldnt read the notes. But others I knew could sit down in front of a piano and play melodious pieces of music perfectly and without any doubts.
I remembered this as I stood on stage in front of my table filled with flowers. What if I was on the same stage right then sitting at a piano instead? Id be terrified!
I wouldnt take anything for my attempt at learning to play the piano. Although I dont play in public, I sometimes sit down at a piano and play just for my enjoyment. I dont read notes and hit many of the wrong keys, but I wouldnt be able to do even that had my mother not forced me out of my comfort zone.
As 2012 quickly slipped into 2013 and my thoughts entertained all the possibilities of a new year, I made a promise to myself. I promised to attempt more things this year that scare me. Whether I succeed isnt as important as the mere act of trying. And we all know what happens when we put something out there.
Immediately, something I feared came knocking on my door. I got a call from a dear friend this year asking me to participate in the Dancing Stars of Central Georgia fundraiser for Macons Alzheimers Association. My first reaction was to say no, but then my inner self reminded me of my promise to myself. Ive always been scared to dance even at a party, much less on a stage with an audience full of people.
So May 4 at the Macon City Auditorium, I wont be standing in front of that familiar table full of things I know well. Ill be dancing on a stage with my talented, professional dancing partner, Colby Marshall-Zampa. Who knows how it will turn out? But one thing is for sure, Ill definitely be doing something that truly scares me.
More with Mark
11:30 a.m. Saturday, Ebenezer United Methodist Church, 1681 Dames Ferry Road, Forsyth. Support the churchs Relay for Life team and enjoy a fabulous tea and a spring program with Mark at the same time. Reservations required. Call (478) 994-5832.
Its time to think pink! Tickets to all Cherry Blossom Festival events went on sale earlier this week. Go to www.cherryblossom.com for all the details, or call 751-7429.
Check out Marks website, www.markballard.com, for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff.
Mark is on www.macon.com 24 hours a day. Videos, columns and articles are featured.
Mark Ballards column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or become a subscriber to Marks Facebook page.