Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. That means I’ll be working all through the night and until the wee hours of the morning helping my mom prepare hundreds of arrangements to be delivered to happy couples, mothers, sons, and daughters all over the central coast. Growing up at Bloom’n’Grow florist definitely had its highs and lows. I learned creativity, resourcefulness, and the true meaning of hard work. I also learned that running a business is exhausting, stressful, and will take everything you have. However, at the end of the day, it’s lovely when someone sends you flowers…… well, most of the time. 😉
In honor of the “week of the foodie” I give you my favorite performance of all time….. Julia Child attempting to bake a cake in front of a live studio audience. ❤️
(Click on the blog title to view the video.)
This weekend I am heading on my annual pilgrimage to Disneyland to celebrate my birthday. The Little Mermaid was the first Disney movie I saw in theaters. I was only a few years old when it came out and it was such a big deal to sit in a large theatre, in my own big-girl chair, and find myself carried away by the story on the big screen. When The Little Mermaid came out on VHS, I watched the movie so many times that we wore out the tape. I would run around the house singing “Part of Your World” over and over again until my mom got sick of it. Hopefully she won’t get sick of this version. 😉
The music man was one of the first community theatre productions I was ever a part of. This song always makes me nostalgic as I look back on how much my life and voice have changed since I was a little 10-year-old running around on stage with jazz hands and rosy cheeks.
(Click the title of the blog post to see video link)
Growing up I wanted to be Judy Garland. That voice. That style. That passion. Her voice and her stage presence were mesmerizing. I wanted her life so badly. I wanted to be a star. I wanted to be important. I wanted everyone to instantly hush when I opened my mouth. As I grew older, I realized the cost such vocal and charismatic gifts can take on your body, life, and psyche. Poor Judy’s personal life and health were at the mercy of her stardom. The exhaustion of constant performances, guest appearances, roles, and rehearsals literally broke her. Her debilitating struggle towards the illusive perfection, first in her voice and later in her body, forced her to waste away. Depression and anxiety plagued her and she lived in a never-ending state of fear and worry.
During my college years, I followed in Judy’s footsteps. I spent hours upon hours in the practice rooms repeating note after note trying to force myself to “get it right” until I was hoarse. I ran from studying to class to practicing to work to the gym in an attempt to be everything and do everything. I spent countless nights sitting on the floor of the practice rooms or in my bed with tears falling down my cheeks because I wasn’t “good enough”. My health declined; I was constantly ill; and I always had a stomachache from my endless anxiety. And yet, I kept pushing. For many years, I lost the joy of singing. And still, I wanted to be a performer. I wanted to sing. I wanted to be adored and live a glamorous life.
When yoga entered my life, it was a true game changer: not only for my body and mind but also for my voice. I learned not to push so hard and to just let myself be. I learned to find joy again in my life and in my voice. I learned to be at peace with where I am and not play the comparison game. I learned that my identity is more than just my voice and my worth is more than how many “likes” I can get on my YouTube videos. My life has changed drastically; but, I often find myself reverting back. There are moments when I feel that I’m not living up to my potential–that I should be performing, practicing, and doing more. I see the number of likes on other singers videos or recordings; I see the amazing performances and opportunities others are getting and that evil little guy jealousy rears his ugly head. In those moments, I have to breathe deeply and remember that fame is not everything. I am making a difference in my tiny, yet musical, town. I am living a life filled with music, yoga, singing, and teaching amazing students the power of this combination daily. My life is so much happier now that I’ve found a balance. Yes, I’d love to perform more and to find more opportunities; but, for now, easing off and giving myself space to “play” with my voice again and recreate that childlike joy is where I need to be. Judy Garland, I love you and you were an amazing singer, actress, and perfectionist; but, I wouldn’t trade lives with you. I’m doing a pretty good job being me, imperfectly.
Tuneful Tuesday Week 26: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
“We can’t grow when we are only ever comfortable. We need the discomfort. We need the pebble in our shoe. We need the thorn in our side sometimes. We need to see what mental anguish is pacifying us to stay locked away. Just out of reach of our potential. Just shy of our greatness. Just comfortable enough not to ask questions. Sometimes we need to stretch ourselves. We have to feel the growing pains. But that’s also the signal that we are using muscles that are just aching to be of use.” -Chani Nicholas
It has been a rough week to say the least. Between a rainy 8 hour pilgrimage to Los Angeles for an intensive audition prep 2-hour lesson with my voice teacher, a crazy teaching schedule that had me in my voice studio until 9pm every night, and scrambling to carve out my own practice time, this week has left me mentally, emotionally, and physically worn out. To top it off, I have my first big audition of the season tomorrow with Opera Santa Barbara. The week leading up to any audition is always a roller coaster of excitement, anticipation, fear, and self-loathing. I start the week feeling ready to tackle anything. My voice feels powerful. I feel prepared. Everything is smiles and sunshine when I think about my upcoming audition.
But then, two days later, the negative self-talk kicks in. “I’ll never be good enough. Why am I wasting my time and money to audition? What if I make a fool of myself? Why should I even bother?” I become so worn out by all this crippling self-doubt that I try to come up with excuses as to why I shouldn’t go. My brain tells my body to start feeling sick to get out of the audition and my body listens. Suddenly, I’m feeling depressed, fearful, and, to top it all, sick. To make matters worse, I see all this coming. I know it’s going to happen. I know what to do to break the bad cycle I get myself into. But, my insecurities about auditioning are still stronger than the meditative, peaceful mind I have worked so hard to cultivate–old habits die hard, you know. This just leaves me feeling powerless and guilty that I couldn’t stop the negative sprial. I think become angry with myself for letting these insecurities affect me. Angry, confused, sad, and scared, my life is thrown into complete upheaval because of a few minutes of singing.
Even during those moments when I want to give up and stay at home hiding under my bed, I know deep down that I am going to that audition tomorrow. I will step into that room, smile at the nice people behind the table who mean me no harm, breath, and sing. As much as I hate auditions, I know that they can lead to performing-which is what I love. I know that the stress and trials that audition put me through are worth more than just the act of stepping out on that stage and singing. They teach me to deal with my own insecurities, to understand my own imperfections, to address my competitive nature, and to learn to love myself even when I fail. It’s a long, hard path we singers have to take; but, it is in the discomfort that we grow.
Anyone who has ever driven in Los Angeles knows that the number one thing you need to succeed in getting from point A to point B is confidence. With the 405 in shambles, cars cutting you off at every moment, and sudden stops and starts, if you don’t have the confidence to change lanes exactly when a spot opens up, you’ll never get where you are going. It takes confidence to simply leave the house each morning knowing that traffic might be bad, that it might be stressful, or that the vast expanse of freeway traffic is more dangerous that we’d like to admit. However, you leave the house each day knowing that where you need to go is important and is far more productive and beneficial than staying at home all day whining about how the traffic keeps you from living your life. (Yes, I’ve spent far too much time on the freeways these past few days.) Something my vocal coach, Rakefet Hak, said today sparked this idea of confidence and how it can either make or break us. We were rehearsing “Chi il bel sogno” from La Rondine and there is this beautiful reoccurring refrain consisting of pianissimo floating high G’s and A’s and even a C (for you non-music types, it’s high and quiet). On top of that technical difficulty, the orchestra/piano is barely playing anything at that point so you are vocally exposed and any mistake you make will definitely be noticed. Consequently, I tend to approach this melody tentatively with great caution and fear– often times with an inner monologue screaming at me “Don’t screw this up! Quiet… NOOOOO Quieter! That was too loud. Trying softening your breath. Well, that sucks but at least it’s quieter. Maybe you should sort of lightly tap the note then grow into it for support…… STOP! THAT WAS ALL WRONG!”
Something like that.
I love how sweet and gentle my mind is.
But, today Rakefet called me on it. She heard me scooping into the high notes like I was tip-toeing and trying not to be heard. And then it dawned on me: approaching these high notes is like driving in LA traffic or kicking up into a handstand… You’ll never get there if you are cautious about it. You’ll never get there if you are trying to protect yourself from what you fear might go wrong. If you don’t have faith, trust, and a little bit of pixi dust, either things will go terribly wrong or nothing will happen at all which can be even worse. You have to jump right into the high note with full belief that it will be exactly the way you want it to be. You have to change lanes with conviction, asserting your claim to that space. You have to kick up into a handstand like your life depended on it. You have to let go and just do without that nagging inner monologue holding you back.
So, the next time that inner monologue yelled “Don’t screw this up!” I calmly answered “Of course not” and then banished that voice to the far off recesses of my brain. And, you know what? It worked. I started the high note with courage, hit it right at the center of the pitch, and Rakefet said that was the best thing she ever heard out of me. Apparently I’m far more successful if I don’t set myself up for failure with the expectation that failure might happen. Who knew?