All the Choir Ladies…

1997 wasn’t a good year for me.  I had too-short hair, glasses.  I was all hormones, and looking back now, I realize a good dose of depression and anxiety.  I couldn’t fit inside my skin.  I think most 12 year old’s understand that feeling.  That feeling of being out of place, uncomfortable, awkward.  1997 isn’t a year I look back on fondly.

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Me, at 12.

But one good  thing happened in 1997.  In 1997 I went to a choir.  A little group rehearsing in an old church in White Rock.  And there I met Sarona.

I think we all have those people if we are lucky.  Those few people who come into our lives and leave a mark. Leave us better than they found us.

Sarona was one of those people for me.

Sarona took us from being kids.  From being geeks, or loners, or losers, or invisible.  She took us and she made us into singers.

She taught us to work hard.  To do what we said we were going to do.  She taught us to stand up in a room full of people and sing our hearts out.

From Sarona I learned a work ethic.

From Sarona I learned how to fit into my  skin better – she always seemed to fit so well into hers.  

Several months ago I got an email that Sarona, my choir director,  was moving away and would no longer be directing the choir that I spent so much time in from about 1997-2003.  This woman who had taught me so so much was having a final concert and they were looking for alumni to sing.  I joined immediately.

And I found myself in a room with women I hadn’t seen since we were girls, teenagers.  Women who had been there at a critical moment in my life.  I found myself in a room with the women I had grown up with.  Women who were some of the first I told when I kissed a boy.  When I… more than kissed a boy.

And so we sang.  We sang for Sarona because we love her.  Each and every one of us talked about how this woman, this one woman, had taken us and given us a place to belong at an age when so few have that and so many need it.  She had given us a safe place.  Those words, “safe place”, came up again and again as we talked about her.

I sat in a coffee shop with two of these women on the afternoon of the concert.  Between us we had 3 marriages, 2 divorces, 6 children.  Our lives had taken us in directions that we could not have predicted.  And the mark that Sarona left hadn’t faded for any of us.  We all recognized the critical impact she had had on our lives.

So I sang.  I got up on a stage and I sang.  And we sang the old songs, songs I hadn’t sung in over a decade.  The songs came back as if there’d been no time.

It was like I was seventeen again.  Standing in my blue velvet dress, matching scrunchy in my hair, a single strand of pearls around my neck.  It was like I was on an adventure.  Like we’d just rushed out of some tour bus onto stage.  I thought about all of those moments and all of those children.  Young women, young men who had been given a safe place.  Who’d gotten to sing.

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Me, (and the blue dress), at 16.

Singing, music, is a powerful thing.  It bridges our differences.  It connects us.  It’s a beauty that is desperately needed in the world right now.

So I sang.

When the women’s choir said they were accepting new members I knew that that was the place for me.  I’ve been rehearsing with this group for a few months now.  Sarona’s mark is there even though she is gone.  It’s in some of the old songs people pick up.  It’s in the warm ups and the movement.  I’ve sung with other choirs in the past decade but none that have felt so much like home.

I look back and I see that 12 year old girl with the too-short hair and glasses.  The girl who couldn’t fit inside her skin.  A  girl whose hormones were spilling over.  A girl who was anxious, about everything and nothing.  A girl who felt so so alone, all day, everyday, at school.

I look back on that girl and I wonder who she would have become if she hadn’t found her spot.  If she hadn’t found her safe space to be, to exist.  To be seen and to be loved for who she was.  To be told that it was okay to be a little bit different.

That 12 year old girl has been trained away.  She has found a space and a voice and a way to fit in her skin.

But she’s always going to be under there.  And she’s always going to be grateful for Sarona.  Grateful that she came in and changed her life.

Happiness is a Habit…

Life isn’t something that we can control.  Sure we do our best.  Good little scouts we try to live by that motto “Be Prepared” and have all our ducks in a row for the unexpected.

And the unexpected happens and it turns out we prepared the wrong ducks.  Or we didn’t need ducks, we needed foxes.  Now we’ve got a fox killing off all our ducks and all our preparation is out the window.

Don’t lie.  You totally get what I’m talking about.

My life has felt like this for years.  Years.  You are driving down a particular road, thinking it’s all good, and, sinkhole ahead!, you have to take a detour.  Or a whole new route.  Sometimes a detour turns into a new route.  Sometimes a new route is simply a detour.

I’m getting pretty good at this drive.  At the quick turns necessary, about letting go as much as I can and understanding that this is simply the way life rolls out for most of us.

Too many metaphors?  Perhaps.

I am really starting to crave a routine.  A schedule.  Go to work, exercise, cook dinner, work some more, read, watch TV, meditate, bed.  I want to do this again and again and again until the ground that has been constantly shifting beneath my feet begins to feel solid once more.

I’ve been too busy for a long time.  Most days I rush from work to a social engagement and get home in time to go to sleep.  I don’t take time to look after my home, cook, or just be.  I frequently stay out until 1, 2, or 3am and get up for work the following day at 645.  I am constantly low on sleep, out of healthy food (because I haven’t grocery shopped in weeks), and unable to find clean clothes.  I live out of a suitcase.

It is interesting isn’t it?  Some of us crave routine, sameness.  Some of us crave adventure.  Some of us, the lucky ones I think, crave both.  I’d like a bit of both.

We are warned, and rightly so, against the lethargy of routine.

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But what of the success of carefully selected habit?  The person who practices yoga consistently, or runs marathons, or plays the piano?  These people did not succeed because of a lack of routine.  They succeeded because the did the thing they wanted to do consistently, until it became habit, until it became a skill.

What do I want to become a consistent habit?  Organization.  Exercise.  Happiness.

(And yes, I do believe that Happiness is a habit)

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I’m not certain how I am going to get there.  But I know it’s my goal.

 

The Raw Parts of Me…

I have been having a really difficult few months.  I am doing everything I can to get out of my funk (medication, exercise, meditation, spending time with friends, laughing, art, writing) but nothing has been really working.  This was going on before things ended with J, it isn’t simply a reaction to the break up.

Don’t get me wrong, there has been so much good lately, so many laughs, so much joy.

The problem is how easily I can sink low again.  How little it takes to trigger me.

I just sink back into it again and again.

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My mind can be a rather dark place at times.

This weekend was tough.  I’m not sure why.  It was sunny and warm and full of laughter and friends and adventure.  Yet I felt this weight, this physical weight, settle over me.  I wanted to curl up in bed and sleep for a month.

I wanted to shed my skin, tear off my fat, find myself underneath those rolls that feel like a placard screaming “mentally unwell” to the world, be somehow happy and whole.  I didn’t even know anymore if a person existed under all this flesh.

I am so bright all the time.  Though they are genuine I keep up my smiles like a shield until I cannot hold them for another moment.  And then I am left raw and bare and vulnerable.

I don’t think this piece of me is loveable.  I think it is scary and unappealing.  I would give anything to leave it behind, never to see it again.

But it is woven into the tapestry of who I am and pulling its threads would pull apart the rest.

So I will take medication.

Exercise.

Meditate.

Laugh.

Create.

I will forgive this dark little creature who sits at the back of my mind and I will accept it.  I will give it a day, or two, every now and then.

If it wants more I will fight.