The other day at the swimming pool I watched a couple try to force a young child to jump into the deep end. The child, a girl with a single black braid and a pink suit, was clinging to her mother's leg and screaming while her father begged and cajoled and finally screamed back at her. We should just throw you in. That's what my mother did to me, and that's how I learned to swim. The teenage-lifeguard, who usually looks so bored, watched the scene with worry and interest.
I was reminded of my own childhood . . . of one of my earliest swimming memories. I was young enough that all five of my older siblings were at the pool, and my father was there as well. I could not have been much more than three or four, and my father was tossing me into the air and letting me splash into the water, then tossing me up again. He did it over and over, and as I rose up and splashed, rose up and splashed into the blue swimming pool, I remember the glittering sun and water all around and the feeling of giddiness mixed with pure terror. I could see that everyone watching me. Watching and laughing and cheering. I loved the attention, and I knew, even in my small child's mind, that if I cried or showed fear, the attention would vanish or turn sour. It was a test, and I wanted to pass. I wanted to be happy, or at least appear happy, and thus keep everyone else happy, too. And for a moment I remember watching myself from outside, rising and falling and splashing. It was easier not to be in my body.
It's that same feeling I sometimes get before performing. Stage fright, being out of my body, watching myself, watching my body, trying to make it smile and laugh and do what I want it to do, not what I feel like doing.