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?