Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Freedom to fail

I am constantly learning. I don't think I'll ever reach a point where I stop and sigh and say to myself, "Well, I've arrived!" - at perfection, at total confidence, you name it. I am a work in progress.

So, I decided not too long ago, that I'm going to give myself the freedom to fail. I have done this on brief occasions in the past, which has given me some interesting experiences, including some spectacular failures, but also some really fantastic successes. I think the thing I've gained most from these leaps into the unknown is the courage to do it again. And again. And again. And, yes, if needs be, that one more time until I've achieved some measure of success, or at least experience in the area I'm pursuing. Many dead plants attest to this, my determination, in the area of gardening.

Thank heavens children are a little more hardy than some plants, because this determination is essential in the area of parenting, where you really can't just 'give up', decide it was all a bad idea, and put the kid back where it came from.

Singing has been another of these experiences for me. I was not a singer to begin with - although I've always loved music. My sister, however, was. And worse for me, she decided early on that she couldn't sing alone. So I became the hesitant counterpart to all her musical schemes. This involved weekly showcases in which she would sing with confidence, and I would hold her hand, shaking like a leaf, eeking out my part in the softest voice I could produce. Her ambition graduated from talent shows for our family, all the way to aspirations for a national-selling cd.

Through the years, I worked and worked to live up to her faith in me. I studied music theory, I sang and sang in public, hoping that someday I could do it with a little more of my natural verbrato, rather than the violent shaking that accompanied all of these attempts. Although I continued to sing, I almost gave up hope of ever having the poise that I saw in so many other performers.

Painfully clear are my memories of those moments when I took leaps of faith I found were beyond my power to clear. I remember one performance specifically when my part required a rather difficult vocal jump to a relatively high note. I had practiced so hard to get through that passage with ease, ah, but alas, in the moment, a note that I didn't recognize, and one that startled my sister enough to make her physically jump beside me, exited my mouth.

I could have died.

Unfortunately, I thought at the time, I didn't. Somehow I survived the experience and have even been asked since to sing in public. Shocking, I know.

Fast forward to this last weekend. A lifetime of effort paid off in a wonderful success. One I know I could never have had without all of the hills and valleys in my musical journey. I have noticed myself becoming more confident, mostly in the last, oh, I don't know, 4 years or so. It has been gradual. But I sing in a choir where this gradual confidence, and a desire to stretch myself, landed me in the higher, soprano section. This choir often sings music that requires the soprano section to split, some singing a higher, and some a lower note. I always have sung the lower note. This weekend, I was asked to fill in for another choir member who was ill and take the soprano 1 part instead. I agreed to try my best. The success? A high b (yes, above the staff!) was achieved without anyone jumping in surprise next to me. The point? If I can do that, anything is possible, for you and for me.

In the scriptures it talks about faith. It talks about having to wait "by and by" to see the results of faith. You can bet I was praying this last weekend, and every time I stood up to sing in the past. I feel that this has been a journey of faith. Not just faith in God and His goodness, but faith in the good things I could do with His help.

So, keep failing - I mean, trying! "Never give up, never surrender!" (Galaxy Quest - all in all, a good watch.)

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