Do something hard and watch yourself grow.
Just before the holiday break started, I was in the tub, where I do my best thinking. I was watching the steam rise from the surface of the water and thinking happy thoughts. A memory floated into my mind. I remembered my days in college and how much I enjoyed singing in the choir, for Sunday mass. I remembered the quietness of the church and the simplicity of feeling happy, doing an activity that seemed to come naturally to me. “Why did I stop doing that?” a voice asked from the inside.
“I don’t know.” Another voice answered.
“That’s a good question.” Another inside voice answered.
“Let’s think about that.” The second voice said. It demanded introspection without aggression, kind of like a therapist. I sat quietly in the tub and closed my eyes, going back to the point in time where I stopped singing. It was shortly after I got pregnant with my twins. I reminisced about a time before I was a mother, feeling like I had my own life, like an infinite amount of options were always right before me. I want to make it clear that I never felt trapped by having children. I always knew in my heart that I would make the decision to become a mother. I am saying that there is a definite demand on your time and energy, especially when you are a conscientious mother, trying to raise responsible, caring children. The emotional, physical, and mental labor that is involved in being a responsible mother, parent and human being doesn’t leave much room for hobbies. I didn’t begin to have hobbies again until my children were 5, 9, 10 and 10.
“Surely you could find a choir now. Maybe one of the catholic churches that are all around you? How about Cathedral?” the first voice asked. I reached from under the water, dried my hands off and grabbed my phone. I googled information about joining a choir near me. I saw pictures of the choir director online, and his information.
“But don’t you have to try out?” The second voice asked with trepidation.
“Probably, maybe. But just go ahead and look into it. You should try out. Nothing to lose, except hearing a yes.” The first voice reassured me.
“Nothing to lose except your dignity! B—ch, you haven’t sung in public in years!” The voice laughed, “What makes you think you could pull this sh-t off? You’re f-----g crazy.” The doubtful, nasty and negative voice said in a condescending tone. I could almost hear the voice rolling its eyes as it spoke doubt into my subconscious thoughts.
“What if you succeed? What if you fail? So what. The only thing he can say is no. Putting yourself out there gives you a chance, staying home ensures failure.” The confident voice said.
“Do you even have the time for this? You can barely get things done for yourself now.” The negative voice spoke again.
“You can make time for gifts, surely the 2 hours that you’d be there once a week, in the evening. If you don’t do it, no one will care, except you. You must make time for your happiness.” The voice reasoned.
I went ahead and e-mailed the choir director. He responded with a day and time to arrive at the church to try out. Butterflies everywhere. The phone click clacked as I shifted my weight and my thighs made small waves in the tub. I put the phone down on a dry washcloth and continued watching The Witcher.
The night before the tryout, I locked myself in a room upstairs with the dogs and practiced songs that we used to sing in choir. I put my headphones in and looked up soprano parts for songs I remembered. I was so nervous. My kids banged on the door, trying to get in, harassing me “Why are you singing the same song over and over again?! Why is it so loud?! Why are you singing that kind of music?!” They attempted to yell through the door and over my singing. Their bombardments intensified my nervousness, and the strength of the negative voice. Now there were loud voices on the inside and the outside. I really didn’t want to embarrass myself, especially in front of an accomplished person. I don’t know why the thought of embarrassing myself was the most pressing to me. I’m still trying to work that out, it’s still not fully unpacked.
The evening came for the tryout. I made dinner for everyone and left it on the stove. I left out the plates and silverware. I made sure that everyone’s homework was done and that they were showered. I planned everything in order to get there on time, except for the fact that the buses were sometimes unreliable. It seemed like the bus was army crawling across each intersection. I ended up being 15 minutes late, jogging up to the church and still not knowing exactly where I was going. The buildings were not clearly numbered or lit. It was winter, the sun went down before 5pm. I was late, and I was now sweaty and nervous. Great combo. I e-mailed the choir director, to politely let him know that I was running behind and lost. As I looked up from my phone, a woman walked up and kindly showed me where the practice was. “Thank God.” A voice said inside.
I walked through a labyrinth of hallways and staircases to see a group of people sitting down, according to their voice parts. I apologized and introduced myself to the choir director. He then escorted me downstairs to begin the tryout. The director informed me that some of the people in the choir travel for hours just to come and be a part of the choir, that the members are very committed. My body felt both chilled and overheated. The nervousness made my extremities feel cold, while the running to the church left me sweaty. I had wet stains on my t-shirt, by my armpits. Very sexy.
I apologized to the director again, who seemed understanding. Online, it said that part of the tryout was preparing a song to sing. I did. It was “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. But if anything, life has taught me to make a plan, then be prepared to tear up the plan. The tryout was totally different than described on the website. He then began playing notes and sequences for me to follow. I did okay in the beginning, but then I missed a few notes and began to feel deflated. The negative voice went in on me once more “Why did you come here? He’ll put you out of your misery soon. You just wasted this man’s time.”
“Shut the f—k up. You can do it. Don’t stumble and die. Get back up. Don’t be weak.” The strong voice countered. Then I heard a new voice. “You’re capable, you can do it girl. Yesss!” My mother and my aunt Bernie’s voice popped into my head. In that moment I needed someone else’s vote of confidence, so I used both of theirs. At the end, we discussed schedules, and I was invited upstairs to sit in on the rehearsal. I learned that these were songs that they had been practicing for a while. I only know how to read music to play with my fingers, like violin and piano, not sight read for singing.
They had a 15-minute break in the middle, and I was feeling disadvantaged. As if reading my thoughts, an older woman with my mother’s skin tone, and positive demeanor began talking to me. “Will you be joining us?” she asked through her mask.
“I hope so. I can’t sight sing.” I smiled. She fanned down my apprehensions and eased my inner tensions.
“Will you be singing at the Christmas Concert?” the fellow soprano asked.
“I’d like to, but it seems soon. It’s up to the director I suppose.” I answered.
“Okay. Well, either way, welcome!” she said with smiling eyes, her mask still covering her face.
“Thank you.” I smiled back. She continued off to the bathroom and I sat in my seat, just waiting for the break to end. I listened to and followed along with the songs, doing my best to hear the soprano pitch. Practice ended and I decided that I wanted to commit to being in the choir. The next practice would be in the new year. I thanked the choir director and then went to the bus stop to head home. I arrived home feeling accomplished, but terrified, not knowing what would happen next. Then, someone popped into my head. I saw the friendly woman from choir, in my head like a .gif. She fanned down my fears, and my performance anxiety lessened. I was present in the now again. I felt like a fuller person, more whole, from having my own teaching experience. I remembered how to not give up.
I hugged my children before getting into the bath to get ready for the next day.