A wee bit of performance anxiety

I spent an undisclosed amount of time in front of the mirror the other morning, blowing on my finger. Like a fool.

You see, in the days prior, I was pushed to the edge in a minor candle fiasco, and–I have to believe–the involuntary training session in the mirror that morning was a direct result of said fiasco.

We all have our strengths. I, for one, am a decent writer. I can cook a few things. I am exceptionally good at reaching things on the highest shelf. And I will destroy you in any given game of Q-Bitz.

And we all have our weaknesses. I, for instance, am unable to indulge in the sport of people-watching for the wrath and judgment that ensues inside my head and heart. I cannot, for the life of me, be the person who remembers your birthday. I don’t do bathrooms. And if you must know, I am incapable of molding my lips into any formation that produces even a degree of accuracy in the shot of air that escapes them. You know, to say, blow out a candle from a distance greater than 3mm.

So when I found myself at church last Wednesday evening, strolling to the front after Vespers to offer up some assistance in the blowing out of the many burning tapers, I did so with the usual trepidation. I am aware of my inability to extinguish on the first puff, and who knows how many are out there watching me, snickering all the way home. People have nothing better to do, you know. *

* You may recall Philip Lopate’s lovely poem…
It’s back here…

Well, there are only six or seven of us who attend Vespers on any given Wednesday night, so the odds are in my favor on these evenings, that those other five people-watchers will be otherwise occupied, and not engaged in their near-constant fixation with me, so that I might blow out a few candles without ridicule. And so it is that there is a bit more swagger in my step when most of them are already dismissing themselves, and I am left alone in the nave to extinguish all those flames.

The beast illustrated

But last week, that beast of a priest was out of the altar blowing out his own battalion of beeswax, and he caught me in my struggle. As I blew on my first candle for the third time—twice without the flame even quivering—he crept closer to offer his moral support and mockery. He leaned in to get a better view. His beady little eyes drilled into me from inches away. I turned my poised head and gave him The Look, then repositioned and shot the final blow.

My final blow; not the candle’s.

The flame lay down promisingly and then rebounded, scoffing. All it’s fellow flames, standing guard nearby, tittered and jeered.

I closed my eyes and drew in a cleansing breath there at the candlestand. The fully-vested madman beside me did not move.

When I returned to the present moment, all rage and disharmony quelled, both of his lips were trapped firmly between his teeth and both eyelids plastered firmly up into his hairline. He stared at me with a sinister twinkle.

He didn’t laugh, because he is not dumb.

He did, however, release the lips and quench the candlelight in one minute and precise puff, without moving his head, or his devilish eyes. He smiled his cocky I-can-blow-a-candle-out smile and continued on his way.

He might be a little dumb.

I Will Have You Know that I managed to get those other four candles safely snuffed out without any assistance from the altar. All four of them in about the same time that it took my snarky 17-year-old to douse nine in one stand and seventeen in the other.

Apparently she capitalized on the recessive lip-control gene.

We, the Eastern Orthodox, traffic in many, many beeswax candles. We light them here, we light them there, we light them every, everywhere. I have been Orthodox for–lemme see, the 17-year old is less than a week from her 18th, so–18 years. Nearly Two Decades.

Between regular services and special services and prayers at home–not to mention just plain candles-for-the-sake-of-candles–I figure I’ve lit well-over five thousand candles. Blowing them out? A similar number. You’d think I’d have that one down pat by now.

But you see that I don’t.

And so it was that a few mornings hence, I caught myself blowing on my index finger, tweaking the purse of m’lips with each puff, trying in vain to deliver the blow directly to the crease of the second knuckle. **

** Why the second knuckle of the first digit?
I do not know.
I think there are more pressing questions to pose here.

I’m not sure how long I was there before consciousness kicked in, but I suspect it to be more time than the exercise really warrants, in the scheme of things.

I have not repeated the lip drill in the mirror. I have more self-control than that. And more self-respect. Arguably.

I have also noticed that my accuracy at my home icon corner–with m’own candle, on m’own turf–is far greater than that at church, when the masses are settling in for the show. Likely this has much to do with the fearless proximity in which I commence the at-home puffs for maximum efficacy–it being much less embarrassing to set oneself on fire at home–but I will concede that it is possible that I’m overthinking the quenching of the tiny flames in public to the point of impotence.

Either way, I think we can agree that my lips are not properly conditioned for any candle-sports beyond the broad-spectrum huffing that a birthday cake requires, stadium spectators or no. ***

*** Yes, if you must know, even the birthday cake attempts are embarrassing.

Given that the greatest potential pressure here is my godchildren being ashamed of my after-church performance, and now that I’ve identified and eradicated the creeping crazy–because I’m evolved–I think I’ll be OK.

Deep Breaths.

Deep, cleansing breaths with drifting and leisurely exhalations.

If you need me, I will NOT be in front of the mirror. At least not for the purposes of diagnosing the blatant malfunction of my lips.

If you need me, I’ll be playing Q-Bitz,

9 thoughts on “A wee bit of performance anxiety

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      1. There’s the pinching kind of snuffer that would keep the wick from bending over, and when that is unavailable we pinch with our fingers 🙂 My priest is such a purist about everything, I really must ask him about this question.

        I am not one of the people who does regular sacristy work, so am relatively ignorant. Our temple is lit almost entirely by candles including big ones in six chandeliers up high and they are lit and snuffed by means of long poles.

        Liked by 1 person

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