March 29, 2011

Crying in Your Beer


I had a rather emotional voice lesson today.  I wasn’t at all sure how—or maybe I should say whether—it was going to go at all, and I briefly thought about cancelling.  The problem with a Monday appointment is that you don’t have twenty-four hours’ standard business lead time in which to cancel,* and you feel like such a jerk ringing up first thing Monday morning**.  Second . . . I did not in fact want to cancel, I just wanted not to make a complete dork of myself, and I wasn’t sure if singing without dorkification was an option.  What I have been finding over the weekend is just how rooted in your life your voice is.  I know:  duh.  I am someone for whom music is a very emotional experience—indeed I find it difficult to comprehend how anyone can not find music an emotional experience:  I feel that they must just not have found the right music yet.  And I have spent many many hours in my life playing recordings and crying, and more recently playing the piano and crying has been a not-unknown response to stress and sorrow.  But dear gods and gremlins, singing when you have lumps in your throat and knots in your stomach is eviscerating.  There was a moment on Saturday when I thought I might literally fall down.  So I sat down instead.  Hastily.  And waited for the world to stop spinning.  Nothing wrong with my breath control (such as it is).  No, this is about making contact with the lumps and knots.  I’m sharply aware of the physical herding-cats aspect of Yourself as Instrument but . . . dumb as this is, no, I wasn’t really expecting the instant sizzling zap to my emotional reality.***

            But I remembered Nadia saying that there’d been a rough stretch in her life when she’d go in to her voice lesson, take a deep breath, open her mouth . . . and start crying.  So I went.  And it was okay.  It was not great, but it was okay.

            But as I said:  I did not, in fact, want to cancel.  Life goes on, you know?  Which is chiefly what I wanted to say to you tonight.  Any of you—and that will be most if not all of you—who have lost someone† dear and important will know that the world changes irrevocably as a result, and that getting used to that change—which is to say grieving—takes a remarkably long time and, frankly, is never complete.  The person-shaped hole that your friend leaves is a unique shape and no one and nothing can fill it but them.††  The other thing that happens with every loss is that all your other incompletely-adjusted-to losses come back and sodding mob you.  Gah.  And the indispensible ones you’re thinking about every day anyway.†††  Sorry, but I think this life and death system sucks really, really big hairy tentacled Lovecraftian monsters, and first I want a refund and second I want to be in admin next time around because I’m sure this frelling system could be improved on.

          Meanwhile I’m going to try to return you to your regularly scheduled programme.            

          Tonight, for example, Peter was playing bridge and Penelope was out being a theatre critic, so I bought Niall a beer on the way home from tower practise at Glaciation.  I’ve been thinking, he said earnestly.  You said that Wild Robert was offering to bribe us with handbells.‡  Yes, I said warily:  there was a look in Niall’s eye that I know means trouble.  I’m sure, said Niall, blinking rapidly to prevent me from reading the secret agenda stamped on his retinas,  that the reason Wild Robert is trying to bribe us is because he really wants to ring Cambridge minor on handbells.  So do you suppose you could learn . . .

* * *

* Dentist from R’lyeh requires three days.  This totally freaked me out when my Nice Normal Dentist first sent me there saying that she could no longer cope with the disaster level, but to give Dentist from R’lyeh credit^, they have it on my record that I have ME, and if I ring up and say I’m wobbly and can’t risk dental anaesthesia today/tomorrow they say, now you take care of yourself, do you want to reschedule now or later?   It doesn’t really surprise me that a dentist that demands you deposit a gold ingot at the door every time you cross his threshold—and that’s before you get the bill—has to be a bit strict about compliance.  But is it only the state of the economy that has everyone who ever submits an invoice stamping it with large red letters pay this in the next thirteen and a half minutes or we’ll kidnap your dogs?  Peter says yes, it is, that small businesses are all suffering cash flow problems.  I keep thinking it’s also a plague of rudeness.   I’m feeling a bit testy about the bill I got from the electricians a few days ago:  these are the electricians who didn’t answer four phone calls in a fortnight, took another fortnight to do what they promised in a week, then took three weeks to send me a bill . . . which demands that I pay it within two weeks or they’ll sell me into slavery. 

^ much as this pains me+

+ ha ha ha ha ha

** Supposing you were awake first thing Monday morning 

*** I also have some fuzzy, inchoate thoughts about the linkage between talent and its practical manifestation.  However good or mediocre I am on an absolute artistic standard, I have a professional-level writing talent.  In practise this means that the strength of the talent itself will drag me through some pretty rough stuff, both stuff happening in my life and stuff happening in the story, which I have to try to make work, with whatever skills I have available, on the page.  While I’m beginning to feel rather cranky about the decades of amateur choir singing I’ve missed, I do not have a professional-level musical talent, and I wonder if this means my singing—or my piano playing—is more likely to be derailed by stuff just because it is itself weaker?   Does anyone else have a strong talent—it doesn’t have to be a standard ‘artistic’ one, just something that taps into what you know to be your own personal individual selfness, which is what usually gets called creativity—that will ride the big stuff, and some smaller talent/creative activity which is tapping into the same place in your self but isn’t as suited to who you are, which is to say you’re not as good at it (whatever good means), which goes to pieces when you do?  —Told you they were inchoate.  But if anyone follows any of the above, and has a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, I’d be interested to hear.

            I’m also very curious about how much more disintegrative singing is for me than piano playing.  Is it just the Yourself as Instrument aspect?  Or that I’ve been playing the piano for longer?  I know there are volatile, ardent, not to say temperamental, instrumentalists out there whose emotional reality, whatever it is, is heightened by musical expression.  But I was pretty shaken by just how directly the zap happened, singing:  like lightning striking a tree.  Smell of burning Robin.

† And of, I wish to add, whatever species.   Love and grief are not restricted to humans. 

†† Which is why getting a new puppy or a new rescue critter or a new horse is because you want to have dogs or cats or horses or guinea pigs or boa constrictors in your life, not because it’s a replacement for the one(s) you lost.  There are no replacements.  Loss is absolute. 

††† I want to die before Hannah.  It doesn’t have to be a lot before, and she can be in a coma in the next bed over at the old folks’ home.  Still.  I want to be first. 

‡ Have I told you this story?  I may not have told you this story.  Ask me tomorrow.  Or some time.


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