A Courage Exercise

Whether you’re a full-time homemaker, a dual-career parent or a single person working up the corporate ladder, we all get in a frenzied mode that doesn’t really stray outside of certain invisible boundaries that we’ve set for ourselves.  Sometimes these fences of our personal world are purposely set or involuntary done so in reaction to what our life ingredients are: marriage, children, married with no children, single and married to work, et cetera.

For those of you who know me well, I am married with a toddler son and I proclaim myself to be a CEO of the home with constant side projects like gardening, tending to my three egg-laying chickens and cooking for family.  I’m also an artist by nature, perhaps a bit disabled in the left portion in my brain so to speak.  I love to draw, paint, create crafts, cross-stitch and sing at church as a Byzantine chanter in the Greek Orthodox church.

One day a few months ago I felt that mundane feeling that seems to slowly suffocate us at times in our lives.  So I decided to jump on the cyberspace search for what was ailing me in my creative hunger.  By searching the arts in my local area I found out that we have an opera group.  As a fluke, I filled out the application in case there was ever a need for an alto, soprano 2 person like myself.  I forgot about it.

Two weeks ago, my inbox had a message inviting me to audition for the local opera house–particularly for their chorus.  I thought why not and ran to gather the two musical pieces I would need.  I remembered an old tune that I had sung before as well as the classic “Caro Mio Ben” in Italian.  I practiced as I could at night and with the help of a friend.  Still, when the audition came up yesterday, I knew I wasn’t fully ready (hadn’t quite memorized all the lyrics).  I called the opera house to tell them that I was unable to sing without sheet music.  Figured that was the end of it until the production assistant called me back and told me that the director still wanted me to attend and I could have the music before me.

Upon entering the opera house I immediately got butterflies.  I found the waiting room and was taken aback by what I heard on the other side of the door–a gentleman was belting his song in full opera fashion.  Frozen in my seat I realized that I was half-paralyzed by fear and the knowledge that I was way out of my league.  Do I run out of there? Do I excuse myself and make sure to scratch out my name? Again, do I just get the heck out of there?

The few people in the room were a diverse mix, men and women, various ethnic races and sexual orientations, you think it and that’s the motley crew waiting for the next person to go in.  I learned a lot from everyone’s nervous chatter about the opera and chorus industry in that twenty minutes that seemed to last forever.  Everyone else proclaimed themselves musically trained and most had already worked professionally in the music industry locally and abroad.  I felt completely inferior.

Unfortunately, sitting in the marinade of inferiority, I walked in when it was my turn and could hardly breathe as I handed my sheet music to the pianist.  Hardly looking at the director, I started to sing and could hear laughter on the other side of the door.  It’s not that I sang badly, it’s just that I’m not an opera singer by any means and I certainly knew that I probably sounded like a poor high school soloist.

Yet, as I started my second song, my old favorite “Caro Mio Ben”, I thought to myself, “Who cares? I will sing this like I mean it and no matter that it’s not a professional sounding Italian aria”.  I got into the song comfortably but then my breath suffered and so I started a line wrong while the pianist next to me most mercifully sung to me the right words so I could get back on track.  I closed my eyes and ran with my voice to the end of the song, collapsing at the ending as I jumped too soon and missed a musical rest in the last 5 beats.

“Thank you”, he said.  “I’m an amateur,” I quickly responded in an almost confessional-type of tone.  “Keep singing”, he said almost sarcastically and perhaps with a shred of pity for the homemaker who walked in and sang two songs off the street.

I wish I could tell you that I walked out of there with my head high.  Instead I looked at the ladies waiting in the room and told them, “See, you’ll do just fine in there, I’m an amateur” while I walked/ran out of there, entered my car in the little parking lot and rolled down my windows down with my tragic Greek music blaring.

This morning I awoke and thankfully that awkward, exposed emotion that overwhelmed me after the audition session last night had passed.  In its stead, I felt this strong sense of courage.  It’s as if I exercised a muscle last night that hadn’t been used in ages.  Perhaps it’s good to step out of our personal boundaries, even if it ends in what seems like a failure.  Success really can manifest in forms we don’t predict.  So I’m not an opera singer, but at least I tried something new and I have a bit more knowledge about another world and newfound respect for those folks who reside in it.


2 thoughts on “A Courage Exercise

  1. You have a pure, lovely voice.

    And such courage!

    Just like an athlete goes through training,
    you are still young enough to do the same if you really wanted to.

    I bet none of those others waiting there to try out can write like you do! What a gift you have!
    -Susan Fonger

  2. Good for you, Ramona. I am so proud of you. And do keep singing. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150.)

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