Perfectionist Tendencies

Perfectionism is just arrogance in disguise. Knock it off, Annie.

I screwed up in the concert Friday night.

I know the exact movement and measure where I came in two beats early, loud and clear, doubling the tenors an octave higher, when the sopranos weren’t supposed to come in at all yet. A mistake I had made so repeatedly in rehearsal that I had marked a huge dark circle around the rest – the rest that I nevertheless failed to observe, during the concert. Which will ruin the recording, no doubt.

Fortunately, I have another chance to get it right, tonight.

But that doesn’t make me feel any better.

I feel like I’m in over my head. There are voices in this choir that are as big as the ocean. I have sung in several really, really good choirs in my time, but I’ve never heard anything like this. I’m out of shape, out of practice, out of my league.

I’m wondering why they let me in.

And I keep “watering the weed,” going over and over my stupid mistake, magnifying its importance.

I have long been accused of perfectionist tendencies. I can put a lot of energy into beating myself up over the innumerable mistakes I have made, which continue to multiply, daily. Apparently, getting older doesn’t necessarily equate with getting wiser.

What a waste of energy.

Because perfectionism is really just badly disguised arrogance.

How could I be so arrogant as to think that anyone in the audience even noticed in that very live, echo-y chapel?

And who the hell do I think I am, that I could ever get anything perfect, anyway?

I’ve lived enough life now to realize that making mistakes is part of the deal. My improvisation teachers said that mistakes are discoveries. Go with ’em and see where they take you.

Perfectionism is the opposite of humility, and I’m trying to learn to be a more humble, accepting person – one who listens more than she talks.

(Stop laughing, you guys, I really am trying).

And one who doesn’t take herself so seriously, doesn’t always think she’s the center of everything, or anything, for that matter. Trying to focus on others and not be such a little-miss-know-it-all-smartypants-achiever.

Remember that sketch that Chris Farley used to do, on SNL? The interview show,  where he’d say something or ask a question and then start slapping himself in the head, “Oh, D’oh! How stupid! I’m such an idiot!”

He did that not out of arrogance, thinking that he could have been perfect, but out of humility and insecurity, feeling that he couldn’t possibly be good enough,  even though he was spectacularly, uniquely talented.

And I thought I was hard on myself.

So, I fell off the proverbial horse. Get back on and give it another go, Annie. “I’ll do better next time,” as my courageous, resilient, magnificent, magical daughter says, determined to show me she can muster a positive attitude after a setback.

I’ll do better next time, not for myself, but out of respect for the other members of the chorus.

Some of whom, it turns out, live with significant health and physical challenges, and sing joyfully, professionally and well, despite them.

Where do I get off making mountains out of my mistakes when these people carry on, with their quiet heroism, just being who they are and doing what they do, and doing it well?

So tonight I’ll watch more closely and concentrate more on counting than on the sound of my own voice. Although it is easy to space out a bit, lost in the majesty and consolation of Mendelssohn, I’ll keep my guard up and try to remember that it’s a gift just to have the chance to be a small part of it, and to follow the lead of voices far more magnificent, and musicianship far more honed than mine are at present. Working on it.

Tonight I’ll try to be OK with just being OK.

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Time to go put on the concert black, and stow the ego. I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, I remain,

Your striving, stumbling, struggling, but still singing,

Ridiculouswoman

“There Came a Still, Small Voice”

That buck stopped me in my tracks, and reminded me to be still….and grateful

“…and in that still voice, onward came the Lord…”

-from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”

I just wanted to grab a little fresh air on what, if the weather nerds were to be trusted, was to be the last sunny (or at least partly sunny) day of October.

I headed out on my usual route at the forest preserve savannah, but noticed a little yellow sign tacked to a post. “New Trail,” it said.

Cool, I’ll try a new path – it headed off in a direction I’d always wanted to explore, but couldn’t because of swampy patches and tall grass.

But now a path had been mowed that way, so off I went.

Within five strides I caught my left walking boot on a small stump sticking up right in the middle of this “new trail,” felt myself go horizontal, and WHUMP, fell face first on the damp grass.

Cut the meat of my left hand on the zipper tab of the little wallet-purse I was carrying (lock in the glove box next time, dumbass!), muddied my black jeans and jammed my wrist in a futile attempt to stop a hard face plant. Bruised my right hip which landed hard on the little lipstick compact I had in my coat pocket (even out here, the middle-aged woman rules apply.)

Up slow. Nothing broken, it seems. The cut, while ugly and bleeding, was small and not deep. The black jeans would survive.

Cursing, dropping “F” bombs loudly, out there where cyclists and joggers and other walkers were no doubt trying to grab their few remaining minutes of October glory (oh, nice) I stood up and kept going, bitching about how I had been lured onto a “new trail” that clearly wasn’t ready for use – more stumps and sticks and logs and branches all over the place. I didn’t want to have to walk looking down just to keep myself from falling again.  So I consciously began picking my feet up higher, in a silly-walk-looking kind of march, and pressed on. Came to a little bridge over the swampy part and took a photo of a stand of russet oaks:IMG_20181029_162322442.jpg

And just after I did, walking on a bit, still cursing, I saw him. A buck, with a small but impressive rack of antlers, looking right back at me. Can you find him in the photo at the top of this post? He’s there, just right of center.

“Oh!” I stopped. I stood still. I slowly drew my camera back out from my rear pocket (grateful that I keep in back there, instead of in the front pocket, where the already cracked face of it would no doubt have shattered for good from the impact of the fall.)

I slowly took a few pics, hoping that cropping or zooming might capture him.

As I put my phone away, it occurred to me that in all the times I had seen deer around here, I had never before seen a buck with antlers.

I tried to move closer, slowly and quietly, but the buck took a step toward me, as if to say, “Hey! I’m eating here! Pipe down and shove off!”

Though the deer near here are used to people, I figured it wouldn’t be totally out of the realm of possibility to get gored by a buck who was irritated that I’d interrupted his grazing.

So I turned around and slowly walked away.

And another, smaller buck with smaller antlers, but antlers just the same, came blasting across from my left, toward the buck I was now calling “Big Daddy.”

Wow.

I had only planned to walk for about half an hour anyway, because I had to get home to prep dinner, greet the companion/caregiver and head off to rehearsal. Cleaned and bandaged the hand, no time to change the jeans.

Before being admitted to the Chicago Master Singers, I had never sung “Elijah.” It has been challenging and wonderful to learn the it. Like all of Mendelssohn is to me, it is a beautiful, moving piece.

In the text, when the Lord at last responds to Elijah’s prayers, after a mighty wind (but the Lord was not in the tempest) after the sea was upheaved, after the fire (but the Lord was not in the fire) – “there came a “still, small voice.”

“And in that small voice, onward came the Lord.”

And above him were seraphim, begun with a soft soprano solo, “holy, holy, holy…”

And the heaven’s were filled with his glory.

I looked up Mendelssohn, to make sure I spelled it correctly, and found that it means, “son of Mendel,” and “Mendel” is probably derived from  “Menachem,” which, if Wikipedia is correct,  means, “one who consoles.”

I found consolation for my minor scrapes and bruises when I saw that buck, and when I sang that chorus at rehearsal, I was reminded that God’s amazing creative glory often comes in moments of stillness, like when that buck and I stood looking at each other, dissipating my little pain and my petty little frustration and my cursing and bringing me back to beauty and peace.

And reminding me of recent, seemingly daily reports of inexplicable tragedies and inconceivable losses of breathtaking magnitude. Feeling simultaneously ashamed (for being so upset about my minor, transitory physical scrapes) and grateful, for how lucky I am, to have another day to walk in the woods.

For those whose grief is fresh, whose pain feels insurmountable, for whom the senselessness of this vale of tears is relentless, may you hear that still, small voice, and be consoled.

I’ll be thinking of  you at this weekend’s performances.

Until then, trying to be still, listening for that small voice, hoping for consolation for all those who grieve,

I remain, your sore, humbled, grateful,

Ridiculouswoman