Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Singing

How I would love to have a really beautiful singing voice.  Unfortunately that is just not going to happen.  I have however decided to settle for good enough and I have joined a choir.



At school I loved singing but I was never good enough for our really quite serious school choir.  I could hold a tune just about but couldn't get all the high notes with the sopranos and couldn't manage all the lower ones when I was sent to sit with the altos instead.  I could read music just about but I couldn't play any instrument (still can't) and struggled with sight reading.  So at around about seventeen years old I gently slipped out of the choir, following my teenage theory of "if you can't do it really well, don't do it at all".

What a totally stupid philosophy of life.  Yes it meant I held onto the things I could already do well and got better and better at them (writing about English Literature, cooking, baking, walking, writing poetry) but all sorts of things that I did not do very well or did positively badly (ice skating, drawing, understanding physics and yes, singing) just got put away and in the rush of life with the demands of work and children they somehow got put away for good.

So one of the things I want to do at this stage of my life is to look at whether there are things which I set aside which I would like to come back to.   I came back a couple of years ago to knitting which I abandoned as a teenager when my jumpers were always disappointingly not quite the right fit.  I have got quite good at it.  I might not be an artist or even a highly talented craftsperson but I can produce garments for children and covers for cushions and lap rugs in both knitting and crochet which give me both pleasure in the making and satisfaction in the finished piece.  So there we are, I don't have to design my own patterns and spin and dye my own wool to regard myself as a knitter.  I can be good enough by being average, by being OK.

Where does it come from, this urge to be the best or to be nothing at all?  Not from my childhood, I don't think.  I remember encouragement to try things and a strong sense of being loved for being myself, not for what I did.  Possibly from my education which was fiercely academic and competitive.  Is it widespread?  I don't know.  I am not sure I have talked about it much with friends.   I have just lived a life where I do the things I can do and don't do the things for which I don't seem to have any existing talent or ability.

But slowly as I have grown older I have come to wonder if this urge for perfection is a destructive thing and if it kept me from messing about, paddling at the edges of things I would have enjoyed.  So back to singing.  I know I like to sing, that I have spent years singing in the car, especially with my children when they were young and my voice and theirs was the nearest we got to in-car entertainment.  When I started to learn Welsh I found I loved learning Welsh songs and singing, even in a group which was quite small.  So I have joined our parish choir, Cor y Llan Ysceifiog, and I like it very much indeed.  I still can't get the highest notes but I find just opening my mouth and making sure that no horrible noise comes out seems to be enough.  I love the focus and the energy.  I love it when the choir mistress, having let us sit down for a few minutes singing something in a scanty, inadequate way says laughingly "Let's stand up then" and makes us do some scales, and blow our breath out and shake our shoulders.  I love the harmonies and the mens' voices anchoring the sopranos and the soaring beauty of the voice of the young soloist.  I love the songs, both in English and in Welsh, and the sense when I get home of my body having been blown through by the winds of breath.

To be good enough is enough.  Is it just me or have you been caught by the perils of perfectionism?   I wonder if I should have another go at ice skating?

42 comments:

  1. Shw mae! I hope you have a wonderful time in the choir! (A choir full of Welsh angels!)

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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    1. There certainly are some Welsh people with angelic voices Rob, and then there's me!

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  2. I'm a reformed perfectionist. When I taught quilting I saw how the need to be perfect paralysed some people, and I decided it was unhealthy. Life is about enjoying what you do, not being the best at it. My Dad loved to sing, and had a huge voice, but he couldn't hold a tune at all. I still treasure the memory of the days when he woke us up by singing O What A Beautiful Morning. He loved singing, and we loved him, so what did it matter. My voice is only adequate, but I've always been grateful that at least I can sing in key and on the right notes, because my darling dad never had the pleasure of doing that. His singing was a joyful noise, not a tuneful one.

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    1. I suspect my singing might, like your father's, be more a joyful noise, but what a lovely phraase for it!

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  3. Oh, there is so much in this post that I relate to! It's the attitude that finally let me begin sketching and playing with water colours a few years ago, after a lifetime of saying "I'm not artistic" . . . and what enjoyment I've got from it! Similarly, I've never been athletic, and yet somehow I now love running, just one slow foot after another. . . The wasteful silliness of thinking we have to be good, even great. at something to be entitled to it -- good enough is good enough! Go You! Sing On!

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    1. I also have a bit of an urge to have a go at painting for just the same reason. I might have a better chance with that than with ice skating now I come to think about it.

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  4. Singing is good for the lungs, and for other things thereabouts.

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  5. Oh how important this message is and how slow we are to learn. Funnily enough, since I started exhibiting some of my stitch stuff, one of the comments I've quite frequently had has been people telling me how much they like to stitch too, but are 'no good' at it - as if the result is the most important thing, whereas, for me it's much more about the enjoyment I get from 'doing' it, from the process - if perfectionism grips us, perhaps we need to remember that we grow from action, the results are a by-product.

    A fabulous post - thank you.

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    1. I love your phrase "we grow from action". That is perfect. I shall remember it.

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  6. Oh goodness - one of those uncanny posts! I could have written this post almost word for word - although you've proved yourself more flexible than me in that you're picking up some of the dropped balls. All best to you and yours. Cx (And here's to meeting up in 2015!)

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    1. Would love to meet up. I have it on my list for the summer when we are in West Wales!

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  7. GO SKATING. SING YOUR HEART OUT.
    With many thanks for a great post. I may just get out my abandoned drawing pencils...

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    1. So many of us with these things put away in the drawer! Go for it!

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  8. I have long term thoughts of joining a choir when I have more time. It is nice to have a few things tucked away for later. I read about the perfectionism thing with interest because I think you're right- lots of people let it put them off. Is it about confidence and contentment I wonder? Everyone is good at something and as long as you enjoy yourself and are having fun I don't think it matters much.

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    1. I think it is a confidence thing and that might be why it starts for so many of when we are in our teens and not at the most confident stage of life!

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  9. Elizabeth, oh yes, I also recognize much of what you have written.

    It was my mom who told me early on that I couldn't carry a tune.

    Funny, that nowadays several folks have told me they like my singing voice...even if I do have a tough climb towards any high notes.

    Merry Christmas! xo

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    1. Isn't it funny how comments like that from your mother are still with you a lifetime later? Your voice sounds rather like mine, I too have a tough climb towards the high notes!

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  10. Fear of failure - sometimes it holds us back, sometimes it keeps us safer than we might have been. I believe it's a fundamental personality trait, very hard to change. Or am I thinking of risk-taking? And how different is that?

    I am not cursed with perfectionism, but I'm still not a risk taker and I have a deep fear of failure. I just tend not to notice till later if I'm not good at something. That's the price for sticking your neck out, looking back and feeling embarrassed or destructive. But singing shouldn't come into that I suppose, though I would be mostly miming. It's a fine line because you do have to select what will give you enough rewards, endless failure would undermine anyone. Probably good to pick something you like, because then you're likely to be able to become good at it, or is that a myth? There, what an imperfect comment, muddling everything up. Good to think about though and an interesting post. I can imagine how good you were at all the writing.

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    1. I agree that you need to avoid endless failure but also perhaps that I have needed to change my idea about what constitutes failure, hence the "good enough" perhaps rather than the good!

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  11. What an interesting post, Elizabeth! It made me think because I am still one of "do it well, or not at all", but I think my definition of perfection may not be so exacting these days. I do get frustrated at not being able to draw or sing what is in my head, so I have abandoned them and concentrated instead of those things where I think I am "good enough" (knitting, cooking, growing plants) and thus give me more pleasure in the execution. Thank you for your post :-).

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    1. As Anny from dreaming in stitches says earlier, there is a pleasure in the process and you seem to have found the activities that give you that.

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  12. A lovely story! Singing should be for pleasure, especially in a group. I applaud your initiative. I'm learning to let go of perfectionism too.

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    1. The group is totally necessary as somewhere to hide Sarah!

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  13. As I've got older I've come to the conclusion that perfectionism is not good, it does hold you back, so less perfectionism with yourself and try it. I could never do anything with yarn, but you know what at 59 I have taught myself to crochet, You Tube is great. Now I need the time.

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    1. Good for you! Crochet is a great thing because you can pick it up and put it down so you don't need vast acres of time. Go for it!

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  14. The choir sounds really good Elizabeth, not just for the singing but for the social interaction that it brings. I love to try out new things as I get older. If only I can contain the impatience that has dogged me in recent years and give myself the time to learn.

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    1. I find that with some things I do just have to enjoy the process. Impatience is for me to do with wanting results quickly so I am trying to focus on the doing of the thing and not the end result!

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  15. Oh what a lovely post! Well, I can´t sing...that´s for sure!
    Have a great weekend, take care...
    Warmly,
    Titti

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    1. Thanks titti, and you never know, maybe you can!

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  16. for me good enough is good enough.
    But I am guilty of singing the jam in the sandwich, and will enjoy listening to the choir since we've moved.
    I will revel in the St George's Singers on Christmas day, and, quite frankly, envy you singing in a Welsh Choir!

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    1. It is a very interesting thing that the whole idea that the welsh can and do song is not some sort of myth but the truth. Welsh people sing unaffectedly and easily and expect to be able to. There is very little of the self consciousness about singing that is so common in England. Fascinating. Can't be that the Welsh sinply have better voices, more likely that the culture simply sees singing as an important part of life and thus people are comfortable with it.

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  17. Oh, I used to be caught up in perfectionism too, but now in my 50s I have so happily let the illusion go! Life is so much more fun when one is not so caught up in all the minutia. :) I taught myself to knit (also with online lessons) and knit just well enough to provide a fine hat! Maybe I'll get along to mittens and socks...maybe not. My hats are enjoyed. This next year I hope to take violin lessons again...I'll need to totally relearn....so I'm thinking a switch to fiddling is in order....and a few old timey Christmas tunes to be sure. Good enough will bring me plenty of pleasure. Merry Christmas! Happy Solstice!

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    1. Having a go at the violin sounds interesting! Good luck. I hope you enjoy it. And yes, good enough brings me pleasure too.

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  18. Perfectionism is highly overrated. Dabble, have fun, and enjoy life! We only go 'round once (I think) so make it a good one. Happy Christmas and a Peaceful Yuletide to you and yours from your blogfriend in NY!

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    1. And the same to you, and a happy and peaceful 2015 too.

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  19. The only thing I can do perfectly is refuse to listen to criticism !
    You can already do so much that both painting and skating sound perfectly within reach .... and hugely enjoyable .

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    1. Now that's interesting S because I suppose the criticism is an internal voice! I shall try to sit on it.

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  20. Sing, Dear Elizabeth - sing as much and as often as you can - and then do those other things. It's good you've discovered this new willingness to embrace those nearly-forgotten pleasures. Grab them and enjoy! Life is just too short to settle for small perfections. Good for you!

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    1. I hope you too will get your chance to sing Pondside, with whatever 2015 brings to you.

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  21. I am definitely a perfectionist, not doing things I enjoy I because I am not good enough (measured by my own standard of course). I used to sing in a choir and used to love it but I don't think I would find the energy to sing in a choir just now. Enjoy your singing, it is good for the soul. Thanks for visiting my blog today, it is lovely to see new visitors!

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    1. Good to see you here too Christina! I do love to make new blog links and friends.

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