So once again I find myself somewhere above the arctic circle. This time in Eau Claire, WI, where the sun comes up around midnight, and I am inexplicably… a morning person. Normally if I wake up and see a number smaller than 9 coming in first on the digital clock, I could just about have kittens. Really. But here I am. Up in the morning with you.
I have been specially selected, like some kind of USDA prime cut, out of millions, well, thousands… no, probably hundreds… okay, at least 13 applicants (there are 12 of us specially selected) from North America to receive an all expenses paid 10 day educational experience with other voice teachers where we teach, sing, workshop, observe, and listen all for the sake of honing our craft. We are pigs in mud. Freakishly happy, I tell you! Who knew formants, glyphages, and academia could be such fun?
Welcome to the NATS Internship!
Okay, the anagram is a little silly, I admit. But it’s the National Association of Teachers of Singing and WE get to teach people how to yell, cry, seduce, deceive, whine, cajole, chortle, fawn, shred, growl, and perhaps most importantly–fall in love… ON PITCH! What a lark!
Now, since I hated taking classes up through high school and wasn’t exactly a straight-A student when I picked my own majors in college, How could I possibly be so excited about staying in a concrete block dorm room with a vinyl twin bed, spending my summer days inside a windowless choir room on chairs specially designed to cause pain in muscles you’d forgotten about, crash-teaching people for only 4 lessons, and listening to other people teach?
Did I mention the pigs? In mud?
THIS is what continuing education is all about. Meeting amazing people in my beloved field and unashamedly stealing each other’s ideas, concepts, methods, and knowledge. Actually giving our best stuff away. Here, it’s free! Take it! Making connections between seemingly unrelated concepts that suddenly reach a confluence so powerful you know it will revolutionize the pesky recurring pattern that Student ABC has been having trouble releasing. So much fabulousness we have to actually stretch our brains bigger to hold it all, and guess what? We are stretching.
This is not a convention center pony show where they play “Who Let the Dogs Out” too many times thinking that it will motivate you to sell more widgets. Perhaps you like that sort of thing, so more power to you. But if you’ve ever had to suffer through a required “Continuing Ed” course that you would equate on a pain scale with listening to an endless loop of Christina Aguilera flub the lyrics to the National Anthem (or perhaps Christina Aguilera singing at all, but that’s a different blog), you need to discover the levitation of the soul that is education at its best: inspiration incarnate.
If your job isn’t your dream job, then do continuing education (or perhaps beginning) in a field that is. Maybe literally in a field taking a hiking class. Get your Betsy Ross on by learning to sew at a fabric store. Unleash your inner pugilist. Whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do, I promise you, someone is ready to teach you. Go get smarter, or fuller, or fitter, or whatever, but you need to learn. Sayin’ it again:
We all do or we get bored. Maybe even the job you don’t like could become far more interesting if you learned more about it.
So go stretch your brain today, and I don’t just mean playing with the latest doodle on the Google logo. Engage, connect, and do some revolutionizing of your own with the revolutionaries around you eager to share. You need to stretch. You need to be uncomfortable because you’re venturing beyond anything that even recognizes, let alone borders your comfort zone. Get crazy, get scared, and get learning.
Say what you will about “woo woo trippy energy hippies”, but I’m up at 5am listening to the songbirds laugh in Fort Collins Colorado.
Nnnno. You do _not_ understand. This does not happen to me. I love morning sleep. It loves me back. We have a wonderful and very close relationship, and I have never strayed. Until now. I am not the faithless type! Really! I honor my commitments and find this, quite frankly, disturbing. Except it’s … easy? Peaceful. Feels like breathing. So natural and part of me that I don’t notice it.
You know the difference: ”NO, I can’t be up this early, I need more sleep to make it through my HUGE day!” So you toss and turn and stay in bed longer, but it can’t possibly be considered rest. Or you roll over and finally fall back asleep only to spend too long in slumberland and rush headless through the rest of your morning to make up for lost time. Then there’s me… the snooze queen! I will offer sacrifices to the angry god of get-up-time: okay, I’ll shower, but I won’t wash my hair… not gonna shave my legs, just wear long pants… hair in a ponytail… skip breakfast… why feed the cats, they’re too fat anyway… just so I can snuggle in and snooze my morning away in 9 minute intervals until finally I no longer have any sacrifices left.
But at the end of the oh-so-relaxing 9 minute at a time flop-a-thon, perhaps I’ve sacrificed something else. The quiet rhythm listening to my heart beat time and my brain waves roll brings me to a place of restful wakefulness and subtle songs of energy surround me. I’ve always said I love being up in the morning but I just hate _getting_ up in the morning. Predicting that will change is premature, but more than that, this mindfulness seeps and sinks in to much more than morning reveille.
Embraced by loving hearts I’m finishing a voice teacher training certification course today by the legendary Dr. Meribeth Dayme. It’s called CoreSinging, and each of us six women attending has been finding our core, our heart in song again. Yesterday Meribeth worked with me as I did a song at the piano. I did it the first time. I most certainly did not _play_ it. I did it. I had no idea how disconnected I was from the piano until Meribeth had me make some micro adjustments to how I sat at the piano, and for the first time I felt a relationship with a magnificent instrument I had hitherto only engaged in battle. Touching the piano, feeling its gift, I began to play again and my hands felt truly relaxed and playful on the keys as I let go and let myself play. Ornamentation began to spontaneously flow, as I discovered what I practiced nearly all my life but never truly knew. Reviewing the video later that evening with the rest of the Awesome Eight, I clearly saw the difference between banging on the piano, and playing it. Harmonies and arrangements I never thought of before spontaneously occurred to me and I could _feel_ them in my hands as my heart — not my mind — knew how it could play its music for all the world to hear.
I said it yesterday, and I’ll say it again: GO PLAY!! Football, or crochet, or philately, it doesn’t matter! We long for those moments of electricity that runs its lightning circuit from skin to core and back so fast we hardly know where we begin or end and somehow connect to the beauty and grace and glory that is divine spirit. Go git it! And the best news is you don’t even have to stop reading. Your joy is accessable and available now. You can start by gently drawing the corners of your mouth toward your ears. See, you’re smiling already! Breathe and smile and repeat and live your brilliant life of joy because it’s available even when you hurt. Let your sweet love for what is dear to you soothe and honor you and give you rest.
Experiencing this workshop has been a gift beyond price and an honor I humbly and gratefully receive. Only my limitless heart and soul are big enough to spin the adoration and blessing I feel for these superlative healers, jesters, mothers, lovers, teachers. Each of these magnificent women has stepped up fearlessly willing to have her years of training in music music lovingly re-adjusted and partly thrown out the window to the universe, and we have found not just more of our authentic voices, but our authentic selves. Through a few tears and a lot of laughter (Meribeth is an a-MA-zing air-accordion player! we have gleefully welcomed revelation after revelation about how very easy it is to let the song sing us if only we get out of the way and let it. What I heard from each of these awe-inspiring voices was not just talent worthy of Broadway or the Met — and let me be clear, each one is — but it was that ineffable quality we so deeply long for in every day. I heard the reason we sing in the shower and the reason we go to see the Sistine Chapel. I heard magic. And now I get to live it.
How is it that so often we go to school to learn the things that we love only to find the joy of it beaten systematically out of us as if we’re entry rugs or musty parlor pillows. Like dust motes rising in the sunlight only to fall, I think of times during my academic path when seemingly inconsequential flecks of my spirit would fly from me following a blow and fall unremembered to the ground.
But I remember.
I know I do.
I remember singing on stage with my parents when I was 4 years old and thinking this was THE coolest thing in the world! I held my own microphone and I sang my heart out and I remember every single word to this day. So did Mom and Dad when they came to surprise me for my 40th birthday and they sang it at midnight on my porch to get me up and hug them. I will never forget either blessed memory, and I treasure every light, angle, sound, and scent from those times.
So why can’t I remember the freakin’ words to the song I’m supposed to sing on Sunday? Or Friday or pickaday? Where did the chords in my hands fly off to when I still needed them? Why does one song dig in for decades yet others dissipate like vapor when I need them most? Because the blame does not lie solely at the feet of my teachers; I beat them out of myself.
Hey, if you want to make it in the arts you have to make sacrifices, right? In search of the right note, the perfect sound, the powerful delivery I have sacrificed only a few things. Joy. Trust. Freedom. goose bumps among others. That’s okay, though, really, because I picked up a few things along the way, too. Well… there’s correct technique, performance posture, theory, history, and let’s not forget how often I use the International Phonetic Alphabet in my daily life.
No, clear that… Honestly, I’m not cranky, and I love and honor all the teachers in my life whether they know they are my teachers or not. I do value and appreciate what I gained in my formal music education, but it’s time to get it back in balance and let the 4 year old joy play in the stage wings again. The smell of the backstage curtains, the feel of my Mom’s hand holding mine as we walked out, the weight of the microphone that has fit my hand so perfectly ever since.
I’m giving notice that I no longer care if I get it right. ”Right” is only someone’s opinion anyway, so what do I care? I no longer need to have the longest phrases in town, and my high notes are now going to be officially effortless. They can get up there without my “support”. No longer will I do battle with the tinnitus ringing constantly in my ears; it’s free to leave, but if it wants to stay around, great, I’ll just let it ring my song while I sing it. Music makes my heart sing so I’ll sing from my heart, not my head. I won’t get the words wrong, I’ll just be making up my own, thankyouverymuch. And notes, schmotes, I’m going to play with my music like a kid on Christmas morning. This is going to be so much fun!
What was your 4 year old joy? What gave every cell in your body a yummy hug and opened your ears to the applause of Heaven? No matter if it was sailing leaves down the gutter, or building forts, or watching ladybugs you can have your joy back if you just step into it. Bless yourself with play time and honor whatever makes you happy instead of second guessing it. Other forces may have done their best to wash you clean the old fashioned way by beating you against river rocks, but you can choose to go swimming instead. Stop beating your own joy out of yourself and realize you are so resilient that no matter how many of those river rocks you may be intimately acquainted with, you have a limitless well of yippee! You really do! If you think you’re too tired to play and too stiff to swing, guess again. Perhaps you need to start just by thinking about what gives you joy because it’s been so long you can hardly remember. Then think about it some more. Give your celebrant spirit a free ride to frolic and see who comes out to play. The joyful company you keep will be your own and you’ll love it!
Honestly, there must have been a massive solar shift when my Mom died. Nothing is quite as bright without her shining in my world. Sometimes I can’t figure out how anything can grow any more without her warmth and nurturing, but inexplicably the world still turns. Seasons pass through me, but I feel like I’ve been knocked off my axis: everything is certainly spinning, but wobbly and out of whack.
I’m such an optimist that even my atoms run on protons alone, no electrons necessary. But this alternate universe I now traverse since Mom’s passing is confusing, scary, and far too large for a tiny little word like, “grief”. Ever expanding meets ever confusing in this world turned inside-out. Valiantly, I have tried explaining to myself that feeling like I just want to sleep all day and forget just doesn’t square with the bank’s feeling about the mortgage needing to be paid, or the animals’ feelings about breakfast. But, of course, it doesn’t change how I feel, just what I do. My solar system is inexorably altered while the neighboring systems in my galaxy just toddle off to Starbucks unaffected.
Mom’s parents, my Grandma and Grandpa, were pioneer missionaries in Africa just before World War 2, selflessly giving of themselves in a myriad of ways. Over and over when I was a child I asked Grandma to tell me the story of when Grandpa got lost in the jungle. Dozens upon dozens of times I asked for the same story; I never ever tired of it. Simply told, he had no idea how to get home and prayed God would guide him safely to his family again. No doubt Grandpa’s sky seemed slightly askew when all he wanted was something familiar to help him find his way. French West Africa was a long way from Iowa. When he realized he could follow the North Star, he steered his course accordingly back to the loving arms of his wife. Life was completely different but he found his point of reference.
So now, without a chart or GPS, I find myself lost, trying to navigate by stars unfamiliar now that my guiding star is gone. New constellations are now required and I have the creativity to draw them and the power to use them. Divine guidance may seem mute, and the jungle sounds alien and threatening, but I know I will find my New North Star once the storm clouds scud away and she will shine for me both when I know my course and when I think I am lost. I will find her in the legacy and memories of my Mom instead of her actual presence and I will not let her grow dull or dim.
With all my heart, I wish my universe hadn’t slipped sideways, that I felt more than quicksand under my feet, and ever shifting energies of sadness and duty and love and joy. But I’m trying to see new subtleties in the colors around me and not let my eyes grow dim or weary. Mom can only shine through me now, and so I must allow more divine light to radiate through me to make up for her absence. Perhaps the colors around me have not grown dim, but are simply waiting for me to set them free into a new spectrum.
My mom passed away on January 18, less than a month ago. When I think of how raw the grief still feels, I say my mom passed away “recently” or “Just passed” and then I calculate back mathematically in my mind, but there seems to me to be no satisfactory descriptor or method. Mentally I project to next year and think I’ll still be saying “just passed” … “It was only 5 years ago.” … “It seems like yesterday” when in fact decades will have flown past.
I had the honor of caring for mom during her time of hospice at home and one night she said she dreamed of her mom, my beloved grandma for whom I am named. When I asked her about the dream, mom told me her mom just told her that she loved her. Unable to let the moment go I asked mom if she missed her mom and was surprised when she said, “All the time.” Grandma has been gone from us almost 20 years. When pressed for more mom said she missed her mother’s care and love. Just her presence.
Is it true what they say, that when we’re sick, when we’re at the end of life, we all just want our moms? Years don’t matter, neither do our accomplishments or strengths, we just crave that selfless touch once more.
I haven’t lived in the same state or even the same country as my mom for most of my adult life, yet her presence and love has always seemed so tangible to me regardless of miles or time. Our seeming inability to understand time has always seemed to me an evidence of our greater spiritual nature — that our souls are created to be boundless, not even confined by almighty time in this human experience.
“Oh my gosh, have we really been talking for 4 hours?”
“Will this sermon ever end?”
We just don’t “get” time. It gets us. It rolls along, pulling at our bodies, making us sleep or wake, inexorably changing us as we age, ordering our societies. But our experience of it is so subjective in spite of its clearly dictatorial nature. We think we can’t stop or even affect its movements, and yet we continue to have these experiences within it that seem to be in a state of flux depending upon our perceptions. Is time flying or dragging? Well, it’s up to us, really.
Theoretical physics fascinates me and I have to wonder: Why would we travel in time just because we pass the speed of light? I know, I know, Einstein and Hawking and everyone else. Blahblah. But what if we already do? What if our boundless spirits are doing just that, effortlessly traveling at speeds even light doesn’t dream of and so we bend time? Both ways: forward & back, slow & fast? Do we have to put time in a blender just because we can move that quickly, or have we just not seen the implications? Perhaps the more we find our blessed spirit nature, the more we surrender to the divine, the less hold time has over us and the more we are in control. Because time isn’t infinite, even if it’s flexible, it’s still outside of our eternal nature and we are so much greater than this ticking clock we allow to rule us.
Business gurus everywhere will tell you to manage your time, organize your time, control your time, use your time. But instead of software and calendars and lists and helpful books, what if we just take a moment. Breathe. Tune in. Remember who we truly are: brilliant shining divine spirits of love, and instead of being the lion tamer of our schedules, or the victim of the relentless clock, time will be our playmate and helper. Swiftly passing at our whim, or expanding to infinity in a moment.
How blessed I was to be so present with my mom over the past 18 months of her valiant breathtaking spirit’s battle with the cancer that ultimately took her body from me. I miss my mom beyond the abilities of vocabulary to express, but now, I release my spirit, traveling through time to moments with her and while I still wish I had more, these memories expand to the infinite and hold me in their love.
I wish with all my heart I had more time with my mom. So I make it.
Welcome to the new blog for katypeterson.com! Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek.
For now, I’m not planning a theme for the blogs, just letting them evolve organically.
Huge thanks to Jonathan and Joan for recommending WordPress, and to my lovely webmistress, Donna, for making it happen.
Have a fabulous day, and then share how fabulous it is!