I am a closet singer.
Well – let’s say I’m an in the car with the radio turned up high singer. I’m a shower singer. I’m a singer on the beach with the wind blowing. I’m a singer in the garden when no one is around. And if my closet was big enough, I’d definitely be a closet singer.
My mother loved to sing. I learned show tunes from her, standing by the piano listening to her wash that man right out of her hair. My grandmother once admitted to me that the real reason she went to church every Sunday was so that she could sing. I have four sisters who sing. They have lovely voices, all of them. Christmas carols at our house were sung with sweet harmonies.
I was the one who couldn’t carry a tune. It became a joke. Every time I opened my mouth to join in the refrain, a comment would be made. As a young girl, I had a short stint in the church choir. I remember being asked to sing a little more quietly, please. I’m not sure if my voice was that bad or my enthusiasm so high that I wanted to belt those hymns out at the top of my voice. Even then, I was trying to channel Janice.
Yesterday, I set myself up with singing lessons.
I am thrilled and terrified with the idea of learning to sing or as my teacher put it “finding my voice”. I know where my voice is – it’s been cowering in the corners of my house behind the spiderwebs, coming out only when I’m alone. It stays tucked into the glove compartment of my car bursting into the light during my commute. It’s time to introduce it to my teacher and maybe later to my friends. It’s time to teach it some table manners so that it doesn’t embarrass me in public.
Yep – I’m nervous about introducing my voice around. It opens me up to the same teasing that I got as a girl when I sang in my family. It’s possible that someone might ask me to sing a little more quietly like they did in church that day.
I set myself up with singing lessons. It’s time to shake things up in my life; make some changes; take some risks and say yes to opportunities that arise. What’s the worst that can happen? I go back to singing alone?
What’s the best that can happen? I told a new friend my singing story the other day – he said “I like it when you sing.”
I have often felt awkward in social situations. Sit me down with a cup of tea or a glass of wine with a friend or a small group and I’m happy, comfortable, at ease. Put me in a room full of strangers at a party and all of a sudden I feel that prickle of fear run up the back of my neck. My eyes focus on items around the room or on my feet so that I don’t accidentally meet someone’s eyes and have to think of something to say. I fear that I won’t know how to start a conversation or how to keep one going. I fear that I will have nothing of value to say and no one will want to talk to me. I fear that I won’t be able to retrieve the words that I need when I need them.
Of course, only that last fear has any basis in reality. I do have trouble remembering names and often I have to describe the concept I’m trying to talk about rather than use the word created for it. It’s stored in my brain somewhere –it’s just that the card catalog doesn’t work all that well on demand. The rest of it, the fear of talking to strangers is just fear.
So – what’s the plan? I don’t want to live with this anymore. I want to be free to feel comfortable with new people and in groups.
The solution is to change my attitude. I want to take my fear and turn it into curiosity. Rather than dreading the beginning of a conversation with someone that I don’t know, I want to wonder who that person is, what are they interested in, what makes them uniquely them. Honestly, all this talk about the weather is boring. I want to know what makes people tick (or tok, or jump for joy) – I’ve just been too afraid to ask.
The same idea can be applied to my art and how I approach working. Do I walk into the studio nervous that I might not be able to work today or that what I do may not be any good? Do I walk into the studio with the expectation that it will be a great day and that I can do no wrong? Or, do I walk into the studio with an attitude of curiosity? Do I wonder – what will happen today? How do I feel? What does it look like when I try this color, this shape? No expectations; only curiosity and attention.
By using my curiosity in the studio, I allow myself to play with my ideas. I can try new combinations and techniques without giving that little homunculus named Critic the power over my day. I can float on the joy and power I have when I walk through the door feeling fabulous without the disappointment at the end of the day if it doesn’t go well. By paying attention to myself, I can use my curiosity to see how I am feeling. I can acknowledge that I am excited or bored or that I just need a glass of water.
I can take my fear and expectation and turn it around into wondering and inspiration. What a way to start the day! What a way to meet new people! And you know, if I forget a name, I can always ask…
A few days ago I wrote about changing the name of the room that I work in from “Sewing Room” to Studio”. It took a long time for the name change to stick, mostly because every time I referred to the room, I was in a rush or the middle of a conversation and I reverted back to what I remembered easily and called it once again, the Sewing Room. Everyone knew what I was talking about. To make the change real and permanent, I had to be very deliberate with my words. I had to say “Studio” when I thought “Sewing Room” and I had to do it over and over again until it became habit and the people I was talking to knew what I meant.
The way I refer to my work or myself can carry the same untidy remnants of the past. It’s taken years for me to be able to tell people that I am an artist without cringing inside at the audacity of giving myself that label. Now it comes more easily. I’ve said it over and over again and I no longer have to blush or stumble over the word like it had an embarrassing smell to it. It feels real.
I’m working on my dreams now. I have ideas about things that I want to do that seem out of my reach. I have lots of excuses; not enough money, not enough time, people won’t take me seriously, I have to think of others first; you know the drill here – I’m sure it goes on in all of our heads to some extent. So now – I decided to say some of the things that I was thinking about out loud. I decided to talk about them.
Talking about things as though they are real makes them feel real. It gives substance to the possibilities that might otherwise evaporate inside my brain. It makes me want to do something about them. Yesterday I talked about making my whole house into my studio. It might happen – it might not – but I did go home and start the process of making the house useful for me. Saying it out loud made it important and real.
Yesterday, I sent a proposal to someone I want to work with. The idea has been loitering in my frontal lobe for a few months now but I was ignoring the importance of it and letting everything else cut in line in front of it. Yesterday I realized it was time to ante up and talk out loud and guess what – she said…….yes…….she wants to talk about it – out loud.
This weekend I am hosting a graduation party for my son who will be going off to Colorado in 6 very short weeks. Here is what I am feeling:
Pride – I love to look at this boy/man and see the courage and determination that he has developed. I continue to marvel at his strength and to keep my mind open and learn from his enthusiasm, youth and honesty.
Sadness – There has been a lot of leaving in my life in the past year and this will be one more. It is a sweet one in that it is what we both want but I will miss him in my daily life.
Elation – I haven’t lived alone for over 30 years!
Fear – I haven’t lived alone for over 30 years!
Elation/Fear – This is the unknown. What will my evenings look like? Will I be inspired or lonely? Will I start eating dinner over the sink or serve myself candlelit dinners? Will the phone ever ring if I’m the only one home? Will I turn into the crazy cat lady or will I have (as my grandmother used to say) “beaus” lining up at the door?
Peace – This is what I feel when I stop and remember to breathe; remember that I can only live right now, right here. Remember that I want to enjoy this process and feel each step as I walk along. The rest will come.
Intention – As I start down this new road, I am setting this intention: I will pay attention to my life by noticing where I am and what it feels like. I will move my focus away from tomorrow and away from yesterday to experience today in the most aware way possible. I will pay attention to my art by respecting its power in my life and keeping it close. I will practice. I will practice. I will practice.
I will breathe.