In a few weeks, I will be singing at Aunt Jane's wedding. I won't be singing by myself--my cousin Brad will sing with me. And I won't be singing without the words in front of me--I do not trust my memory to anything beyond the notes. Sydney heard me practicing the song the other day and said, "I've heard you sing in front of people before. When was that?"
I refreshed her memory. A funeral. Two funerals, in fact. October 2009.
"Oh yes. Well, this will be a lot happier."
Yes, indeed. Much happier.
Over the course of my life, I have sung in front of people hundreds of times. Most of those times I was not singing solo. I sang in a terrific choir in high school; I've done musical theatre. But in high school and college I regularly sang solos at weddings. Sang the national anthem a few times. And sang solos often in church, when solos during the offertory were standard fare.
I remember in fifth grade I had a solo during a choir performance of Go Tell It On the Mountain. We all sang the first verse together, and then verse two was up to me. And just as I opened my mouth to start singing, my mind went blank.
Nevermind those long ago shepherds fearing and trembling, it was me. A teacher fed me the lines, and I somehow suffered through it, no doubt without any measure of poise that is so often elusive for 5th graders.
Over the course of the next several years, I had many missteps in singing. I sang the wrong lyrics to the national anthem twice (and consequently never think it's odd or unprofessional for other singers to have the lyrics for that darn song in front of them). I had to make up words to a song that I sang at my wedding because I couldn't remember the original ones. And even though I had performances that weren't great, I kept at it because I loved singing.
"Sing for the joy of singing, not with the hope of glory. People get tired of glory but not of something they love."
And yet, even though I grew up singing in front of audiences--church congregations in particular--I eventually stopped because all I could think of were my embarrassing moments of forgetting the words. It was not stage fright exactly, but something like it.
Sometimes we can do something so many times, for so many years, so often that we can't imagine not doing it. And then little by little we just stop. Because for whatever reason all we remember are the failures, the times the words just won't come. And the fear becomes bigger than the joy that it once brought us.
Fear of fill-in-the-blank.
I decided last week that I'm going to see if I can get involved in the music program at my church. And I decided today that I'm going to see if I can get back in the habit of writing on this blog. I don't need to be great. I just need to do it. Because once upon a time it made me really happy.
So here's to taking a deep breath, finding the right words, and singing again.