I’m back! Or, at least I hope I am, lol. I have fallen into the “I’m too busy” trap for the past couple of months and I really don’t like it and, because it’s complicated, I’m breaking this one into 2 posts. Part 1 is part my personal “de-briefing” after finishing a semester of participation in a local university choir, the other part starts the discussion of the difference between being “busy” and just having a full life. They really are 2 different things with different consequences.
Have you ever worked out when you were already tired and it was painful and you couldn’t wait until it was done and just hated every moment of it? Or been through a workout that was so much fun and invigorating that you just can’t wait to do it again? Well, that, I believe is the difference between being “busy” and having a full life in a nutshell. My joining a choir ended up falling into the first category. Ugh.
My de-briefing (I hope you get some comic relief from this):
Earlier this year our church’s music director retired and I innocently said that I would like to “help” with music until a new person was hired, thinking it would be a matter of the summer months at most. I put our monthly gig on hold so I would only have one musical thing to deal with and figured we’d pick back up in the fall. Well, two months went by and no new director and lo and behold the choir was going to be starting back up and that meant they would be joining us, since we were the ones with the instruments! But, uh, I had/have no idea what do do with a choir. I haven’t been part of a choir since high school and I don’t know “parts” and can barely read music enough to dink out the melody on my guitar. I also couldn’t tell you what key a song is in by looking at the music or play it with out the chord names written out for me. I’m all about “cheat sheets.”
So when a friend of mine sent me an email about a local university choir she sings with that was looking for singers I thought that perhaps this was divine intervention (maybe it was although it seems more like a cruel joke right now…) that could help me lead the choir temporarily. I contacted the director, auditioned and was invited to sing with the choir. It was meant to be!
The first two weeks were a bit overwhelming trying to reacclimatize myself to “music speak” which is kind of like “medicalese” and can be delivered with just as much condescension and is just as baffling to the unschooled. It was/is much more confounding however, because unlike medical practitioners who have gone to school to learn the language, I am pretty sure that over half of the folks in this group throwing “music speak” around have never formally studied music or been professional musicians. They joined a choir, learned a language and proceeded to inflict it on others with decided contempt.
I sat next to a lovely woman the first 2 weeks who had some previous experience but was new to the area and was looking for a choir to join. She was quite normal but appeared frustrated with the choir (even more than me!) and didn’t come back on week 3 or ever. Every week after I pretty much sat next to a new person hoping for the best. The best never happened. I didn’t pick very well.
Each week a new adventure awaited me in dealing with “choir people.” One week I was scolded for using hand gel to sanitize my hands after blowing my nose. I was told I could not put perfumed lotion on my hands. They couldn’t quite grasp that I was using alcohol hand gel for sanitation purposes, and that no, Almay doesn’t make alcohol hand gel, fragranced or not. I’m positive my medical friends would completely understand. I got “looks” from the bitties (this is the kindest name I could come up with) in front of me when I came in too soon or was perhaps not hitting not quite the right note. I was scolded for checking my phone BEFORE practice began. I witnessed people asking questions that had just been answered if they had only been listening and then 5 people responding and an entire conversation about it in the middle of practice. I was told to shush and had my arm slapped because I wasn’t listening to someone’s pitch (again) for their charity cause of the week. On the day of our performance someone moved a chair and one of the bitties in front of me didn’t have a seat. The MAN next to her refused to give up his seat for her and she couldn’t get up to sing after perching on the edge of his chair. The same MAN later cut me off while we were exiting, because, of course, (as I exclaimed to him) MEN first! When I then politely asked the women in the row behind us, where there was an empty chair, to hand me an unused chair to give the poor old bitty, they refused. When I explained the need they continued to refuse and I may have used a bit of profanity. When we came back after the intermission there were TOO MANY chairs in her row. Even the old bitty laughed at that. I also was moved to employ (just enough) profanity to express my frustration with having to pay event parking fees when I was a member of the chorus performing for FREE. It worked and she only charged me what I would have paid if I used the parking meter. Not that I am proud of it. It was just one last thing in a string of annoyances.
Perhaps there should be a handbook you have to read before joining a choir. I don’t know. My church choir is nothing like this one though. Even though I was really hesitant to have them join us, it’s been much more fun that I thought it would ever be. Go figure.
I should say that 80% of the university choir is over 65 (maybe 70-I’m a bad judge of age) and likely somewhat hard of hearing and some could barely get up and down the steps. I kept repeating to myself, “respect your elders, respect your elders, respect your elders” but when week in and week out they are rude and seriously unfriendly it gets really tough to do so. I am not an unreasonable person, I am incredibly tolerant of of other people’s idiosyncrasies by fault of my occupation. I have enough of my own really, I can’t judge, but apparently en mass I am not good at dealing with them. What was supposed to be a fun learning experience turned into a nightmare of comic proportion. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that I spoke with someone yesterday who has sung with the same choir in the past and no longer does so for the same reasons. I don’t feel so bad. I just wish I left when that other woman did but I had made a commitment so I stuck it out, hoping against hope it would get better. It didn’t. I could have saved myself a lot of stress.
Ironically the last week of practice when we were assigned seats I was finally placed next to someone normal and nice and who could laugh with me over all the other stuff going on, including the chair incident. She and her husband even came to see my husband and I perform Thursday night and we are keeping in touch. So I guess ONE GOOD THING came out of it.
Well, now it’s over. Last night was the concert. My friends and family who came said they didn’t notice the mistakes we made and thought it sounded good. I can’t take credit for it. Apparently a large group of unfriendly people can still make music together. I just don’t have to be a part of it anymore. I can say I have performed Haydn and Bach and call it a day. One thing off my plate that didn’t add quality to my life.
And there is my point. It’s one thing to be “busy” with things to do, places to go, stuff to obtain and never seem to have anything to show for it. Then, there is a life full of experiences, people and memories to treasure. Travel rather than “vacations.” Conversations rather than texts. Pouring your heart and soul into creating or performing something heart moving rather than posting pics on Facebook. Making room for richness rather than busy-ness. That is what I want. And I think the whole minimalist movement, the people wanting to simplify are actually aiming at this. They don’t want “nothing” they want only the best things. The things that actually matter. By getting rid of all the other crap, we make room for those things that bring joy and beauty into our lives. We can all use more of that.
How do we do it? Where am I headed? Stay tuned for part 2. Just breathe until then…