By Terri Hendrix
(LSM Jan/Feb 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 1)
“Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force.”
— James Allen from As You Think
Annnd we’re off to a new year …
As the gun goes off and the race begins, I’m reminded of my days running track in high school. I vividly recall the acrid scent of those track meets — a heady mix of sweat, Gatorade and a little bit of Icy Hot. Before the mile relay (my event), I would stand with my teammates at the side of the field, my heart pounding in my chest as I extended one leg, dipped my nose towards my kneecap, and streeetched one arm to touch my toes. Fear and dread would poke the corners of my confidence, digging in like the cleats on the soles of my track shoes. I kept to myself as my teammates joked amongst themselves. “Will I be the one to drop the baton?” I would ask myself nervously, shuffling from foot to foot in warm-up anxiety mode. “If I do, I’ll die. I’ll surely die!” Wiping my sweating palms on blue polyester bloomers, I’d size up the competition on the other teams out of the corner of my eyes and pray profusely: “God … God … God … help me.”
Always, every race, the same fear, the same prayer. And rituals? Whew! Did I ever have superstitious rituals to insure victory. Prior to race day, I’d eat one apple (one and only one — I hate fruit.), and I’d load up on carbs with a spaghetti dinner at Mrs. Martz’s across the street (only she could make the pre-race-day meal). And on race day, I’d always wear my lucky socks: white, with fluffy blue balls on the back — to match my bloomers.
Before those big meets, I would also scratch in ink (real tiny) on my desk the acronym “NTMO,” which stood for “next time meet over.” I know what you’re thinking: “Huh?” See, for me, the goal was to return from the track meet and look at that desk with pride on the race I had run. If I let fear ruin my game, then when I reached my desk come Monday morning, I had that “NTMO” to face with disappointment in myself. Odd, it’s true, but “NTMO” helped me get through that time in my life when I was 120 pounds of awkward girl on shaky, knobby knees with pimpled skin and braces — a time in my life when, even though I didn’t appreciate it then, I was fortunate to only have races to worry about. Well, races and passing geometry.
Aside from youth, though, not much has changed since those days. True, I’m not as limber as I once was — my joints creak even thinking about my old warm-up stretches; but I still use Icy Hot (more these days than back then), and I’m still with teammates on a field. Sure, the teams and jerseys have changed over the years — which is good, because you could not pay me to wear those bloomers they made us run in — but I’m still in the race. And I still enter each year (or race) with superstition and prayer. At the starting line, I make a point of eating at least one black-eyed pea, which I hate about as much as I hate fruit. And, just as I did in my youth, I try to down at least one apple on gig day (I’ll eat an apple, but NEVER kiwi — anything green that has hair long enough to shave, I ain’t eatin’). And I set goals (like … eat more fruit). But the truly bizarre thing is that, all these years after my high-school track days, I still find myself writing “NTMO.” I’ve grown out of scratching it on desks, but sure enough, before big shows, there I am scratching it out on a notepad in my music room.
It’s funny how those quirky things can stay with you, even when you’re supposedly “all grown up.” But then again, what’s “grown up” mean, anyway? Most folks I know that are “all grown up” have let the light go out in their soul. They have settled for existence.
I want there to be more to my life than just mere existence. It bothers me when I find myself glued to the Weather Channel or stuck in an autopilot loop of just flying and landing and driving from gig to gig and setting up and tearing down my equipment.
No matter what I do, where I go, or whatever trials this year might have in store for me, I want to remember my ability to laugh. I want to savor the moments that are worth remembering by jotting them down in my spiral-bound notebook. I want joy. And hope. And inspiration. And above all, a sense of purpose. Even if that sense of purpose is defined by coming home to my latest scribbled “NTMO” and knowing in my heart that I ran — and played — my best.
This installment of “Rock the Goat” is taken from Terri Hendrix’s new book, Cry Till You Laugh — The Part That Ain’t Art. The collection of essays, song lyrics, and “Own Your Own Universe” tips — including a music business how-to guide — is available at www.terrihendrix.com.