Give it Light

What is calling you?

What are you waiting for?

How many years will pass you by?

…Fifteen years ago, I was working in musical theatre, auditioning, performing, singing, dancing, and teaching.

And then I stopped.

I buckled down to pay the bills with an office job; I went back to school.

The years flew by, and one day I realized that my musical life was stored in a large heavy box, lodged behind stacks of other heavy boxes in the darkest corner of our basement.

And those Minimalists would tell me that, if I hadn’t opened the box in the last fifteen years, it was time to chuck that box into a dumpster.

Then, a few weeks ago, just beneath the duct tape stretched across the cardboard flaps labeled “my musical heart,” the box cracked open, beaming one small pinpoint of light.

A choir festival…

The invitation reminded me of my choir festivals from high school. There would be three days of intense rehearsal and then a concert on the fourth day.

A summer choir festival! It sounded like the perfect opportunity to see how I liked singing with a choir again—a short commitment, and, here was the key: no audition required.

I signed up.

And then I agonized over my decision.

My brain protested and thought of every reason why it was a bad idea: It was a full-weekend commitment, I wasn’t sure I remembered how to read music or harmonize, I wasn’t sure I even liked choir music, and, oh yeah—it had been fifteen long years since I had sung in public.

I had to talk myself through dread and anxiety right through the drive to the first rehearsal, walking into the building, and putting on my name tag.

I was barely coordinated enough to pry open the metal tab on my mustard-yellow packet of music—but whether or not I was ready, here I was.

The conductor got right down to business. We warmed up and quickly transitioned to learning our first piece of music.

…When I am nervous, my voice gets stuck in my throat and comes out as a muted squeak. I had to breathe deep and stay focused on the conductor and blending in with the people around me.

Luckily, my fellow altos were friendly and kind. Most of them had sung with the group before.

After the first rehearsal, I still wasn’t convinced that singing with a choir was the solution to my vocal nerves and distress. It was only my determination to meet my commitments that made me return for the second rehearsal.

And then…on the third day, my heart opened. I knew I had made the right decision.

It was the sound of rehearsal (my favorite sound!)—the sound of people singing, blending, and supporting each other—

It was the sound of the language of music—like traveling back to my homeland and reconnecting with family…familiar and heartwarming—

Pianissimo

Decrescendo

Eighth notes, quarter notes, and a sixteenth—

Breath

Phrasing

Rest

It took me three days to acknowledge that music is not only good for my soul, it is critical for my soul’s survival.

…The fourth day wasn’t any easier, though. It was Concert Day, and my hands were so sweaty, I spent most of my energy trying not to drop my binder…but I sang. I had learned the music better than I had expected. I harmonized, and I blended. For the first time in years, I felt part of something beautiful and transcendent.

***

…If there is something in your life that you want to try for the first time or try again, I encourage you to take the small step.

Push past the fear and dread—

Listen to the voice in your heart and give it light.

It is never too late.

Replenish

April was a busy time for me if you couldn’t tell. I wrote only one post—spending most of my days on lists of things that must be done.

It has all been positive vibes though, and sometimes, when you put your eyes to the sky and ask for help, the universe sends you exactly what you need: connection with friends, quality time with family, a walk somewhere familiar…and a walk somewhere new.

Instead of creating over the last few weeks, I’ve been feeding my soul and nourishing my heart.

—And I realized that this is all part of the process. We cannot create all the time. Sometimes we are only observing and learning…replenishing.

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5th Grade Makeup Project

I recently decided the corner of my office needed some color. The white walls were glaring at me, but I couldn’t hang an expensive piece of artwork there. I needed to paint something myself.

…And since we’ve determined that painting is not one of my fortes, I decided to try a stenciling project.

…However, in addition to my lack of painting skills, I should also admit that I’ve always had some anxiety related to stenciling. It is one of the few D’s I remember receiving in school.

I was in fifth grade, and I’d never received a D before, never mind in Art class. What’s up with that?! Apparently I didn’t follow instructions, and my work was messy. When I asked my teacher about it, she pointed to the paint I had brushed beyond the stencil borders.

Yes, well… I could see how that was a basic stenciling requirement.

35+ years later, I felt ready to try again, and I promised myself to be very patient with the process.

And even though I was feeling some pressure with such a structured craft, picking out the colors and paint still allowed me to be creative.

I used Martha Stewart Satin Craft Multi-Surface paints in a combination of blues:

  • Base: Deep Sea #32081
  • Light: Summer Haze #32023
  • Dark: Blue Sky #32021

The steps for stenciling are simple (Sure!):

  1. Paint the canvas with the base color. Allow it to dry completely.
  2. Place the clean stencil onto the dry canvas to plan the stencil location. If you are planning a symmetrical design, measure evenly between each stencil placement or use multiple stencils.
  3. Use masking tape to lightly secure the stencil to the painted canvas. Use as little tape as possible.
  4. Dab the stencil brush into the paint.
  5. Dab the stencil brush onto your palette (or a scrap piece of paper) until the excess paint is removed.
  6. Dab the paint onto the stencil, starting from the stencil border and brushing in towards the center. Do not brush outward.
  7. Take your time. Breathe.

Of course, you might want to search for more accurate instructions from a pro (Not someone who is permanently scarred from fifth grade art class!). I also recommend practicing your stencil technique beforehand on a piece of paper like I did.

This combination of blues turned out to be exactly what I wanted. The colors are calming, and the satin finish absorbs light instead of reflecting it. I am happy with how it turned out…and I’m crossing my fingers for a B this time around.

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Finding an Answer

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a resolution is defined as follows:

“the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.”

and

“the act or process of resolving: as

  • the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
  • the act of answering : solving
  • the act of determining…”

I bolded the words I just love in this definition: finding an answer, simpler, and solving.

This definition seems so much friendlier to me than the self-torture goals most of us set in the New Year. Nowhere in the definition does it mention deprivation, starvation, or rigorous workouts.

Yes, this is a good time of year to review what is important to us. It is the time of year to reset and take better care of ourselves. It is the time for long walks, journaling, and meditation.

I hope you will give yourself a resolution for more joy the answer of creativity.

If you need scientists to tell you how good creativity is for your brain and your health, read Study Says Making Art Reduces Stress, Even If You Kind Of Suck At It.

If you’re waiting for permission and validation to create your art, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast #204. (And let’s just revel for a moment in her conversation about immersion with Mark Nepo. I think immersion is my favorite word for the year ahead. What will you immerse yourself in this year?)

If you feel that you’re too old to start, read/watch Hollywood Reporter’s Creative Until You Die. (language warning on these clips!).

Instead of “no pain, no gain,” give yourself a resolution that will bring you joy. If one hour a day is too much of a commitment, start small. Try one hour a week or one hour a month. …One hour just for you, to let your brain wander, dream, and solve problems.

Sign up for a class or workshop, write in your journal, set up a creative space just for you.

It’s time to play and create.

Happy New Year.

Fall Festival

The weather has cooled, and it is finally starting to feel like fall. Being a New Englander, as soon as September hits, I am ready to put on heavy sweaters and watch football. It takes the southern weather a little longer to come around here, but the air is feeling crisp in the mornings, and the leaves are starting to turn.

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We went to an arts festival this past weekend. It was fun to see all the different projects: painting, mosaic, jewelry, wood carving, pottery, glass, metal—and then fusions of these mediums too. Many of the artists were local, so it was really cool to see what was going on in our own community.

I met a glass artist who mentioned that she was going to offer classes soon. I’ve always wanted to learn how to work with glass (making beads, stained glass, sun catchers!). I think I will add it to my list for 2017.

In the meantime, I am obsessed with these sweet little pieces of pottery I bought.

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Starting Again

I was a theatre major in college, and my main love was musical theatre. I had some success early in my career: summer stock, regional theatre, and a small East Coast tour. The full time jobs were a dream for me, and summer stock was the best training. We’d start rehearsal at 9 a.m. for one show, and we’d perform another show at night. With the children’s theatre or a matinee, we’d perform over eight shows a week. Performing on stage became second nature to me.

I got married in my late twenties, and as I settled down with a full time corporate job, my theatre career fizzled out. The years blurred by, and one day I realized that, not only had I not performed on stage in several years, but the idea filled my chest with dread.

My family used to ask me to sing for them at the holidays, but with my new stage fright, I couldn’t breathe. My knees would shake, and my voice would stick in my throat.

By my late thirties, I found I was mourning a career and a love I hadn’t planned to leave behind.

When I was a young, struggling actress, I had read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The quote that stuck with me was as follows:

“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”

Yes…the same age you will be if you don’t.

So let’s start.

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

 

This quote stayed with me fifteen years later. I needed to start again. I didn’t know what it meant, but even though it had been several years, I couldn’t give up that part of my life permanently. Continue reading