I think I have over the past few days come to a finer understanding of just what it means to show up for your life. And, as usual, I’ve learned it the hard way.
If you’ve been reading anything that I’ve written here over the past year, you probably know by now that I have been struggling about issues like the relationship between faith and musical performance, and what that means in my life – opera, only sacred music, only singing at church, or quitting altogether. And you probably know that around the time I had my baptism in December, I realized that the call to a ministry through music included a call to continue to move among the secular music world as well as the sacred. And so for the past few days I’ve been in St. Petersburg, FL, doing what frankly should have been a slam-dunk audition for me. It was anything but. But I get ahead of myself.
This trip and audition followed on the heels of a kind-of-too-amazing weekend. Some fellow church ladies and I put together a birthday celebration for our beloved Pastor Amy (you can keep up with her by reading www.talkwiththepreacher.com or visiting us some Sunday at Calvary Baptist Church,), and then I was the soloist on deck for services on Sunday. Singing at this time of year is just about my favorite thing – it’s Lent, and it’s the celebration of Black History month, so I get the chance to pull out some of the really mournful spirituals that so suit my voice (and frankly, my personality), but that just aren’t right for so many Sunday’s of the church year. Therefore, for Sunday: a Moses Hogan arrangement of Give Me Jesus, and another arrangement of Wayfaring Stranger.
So, on too little sleep and with too many “to-do’s” running through my brain, I stood on Sunday to sing Give Me Jesus, and I learned for the first time what it really means to show up, or at least I thought I did. I truly was aware of it while I was singing – I was focusing on the message. Delivering the simplest ones is easiest and often the most powerful:
Oh, when I comes to die,
Give me Jesus,
nobody by Jesus,
You can have all this world,
Give me Jesus.
And when the song ended, there was something I had never quite heard before: a murmur. A murmur in the choir behind me, in the congregation in front of me. And I felt the silent Amen at the end. I knew that maybe for the first time, I had really managed to communicate through my singing the depth of so many things that I always feel in side. And I thought, well, if I never sing another note in my life I would die a happy woman today – I did my job.
Then, I rushed home, grabbed my suitcase and flew off to St. Petersburg, hoping to myself that I could find just a little bit of Give Me Jesus to put in my performances of Berta’s aria and the Old Lady’s Lament the next day. Well, that was a hope unfilled.
And why? Because I didn’t show up.
Oh yes, I got on the airplane, I flew and I drove and I slept in a hotel and I got dressed and I went to the audition, but I didn’t show up. And this particular manifestation of “not-showing-up” took the form of being totally unable to correctly sing the lyrics of ANY of these pieces, music I have known and sung for years, and performed frequently in front of both large and small audiences.
Yes, I forgot the words. Well, technically, that’s not correct. I started on the second verse, restarted the aria, and then forgot the words. And then, on the second aria, I started fine, but lost the trail towards the end.
And then, I went to my rental car and sat there, and laughed. I’ve had bad auditions before, but usually because something techincally, vocally, didn’t work right. But there I was, with a voice that has finally come into it’s own, and I couldn’t perform the simple task of remembering the text.
I had it all in the hotel room, when I practiced, walked through each aria on my list. But once I stepped out on that stage, the text was gone. Because I wasn’t there.
I don’t really know where I was — was I still back at church on Sunday? Maybe. Was I already on the plane to Mexico for my vacation at the end of the week? Maybe. Or, was I just afraid to show up, my whole self, on that stage, in that place, without the comfort of my faith community around me? Most likely.
So, I don’t have any grand solution to this event. But having the two events to compare, I really know that, well, there just wasn’t any there there, to quote Gerturde Stein. Oh, joy, more work to do, figuring this one out!