Thursday, March 29, 2012

You've Got Your Health

Where do I start this?

This week, my student who is 16 told me that she was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She actually stopped studying with me two weeks ago, under the weight of her parents' financial issues and their divorce. She explained how her stepfather finally got caught cheating. I told her I wished she didn't know any of it. When you're a kid, and your parents have problems, ignorance is bliss. Don't tell your kids about your husband's affair. Just don't.

So cancer. She is a rare case--one of few teens to get diagnosed. She is on experimental drugs and they have been working. If they get small enough, they can remove the tumors and call her "cured", she says. If not, she gets a total hysterectomy. She doesn't die--but a hysterectomy means always knowing you can't have a child (if you wanted) and you take hormone pills. Forever.

You know--I used to have no idea what health meant. I took everything for granted and found myself young and powerful. Though I was overweight, I have been very active for years. I climbed a 5th floor walkup every day. I ran. I climbed mountains. And isn't that health?

I think at this point in my life I think health is two things: 1. Not to be taken for granted and 2. A life with way less to worry about. Right now, I have to worry about pills, about sugars, about what I eat specifically and if I get an infection what to do....I worry about my husband, and his various issues, and somehow after all this you feel a little bit "less than". And significantly poorer.

It's nothing compared to the fear you must feel when you're 16 and getting weekly scans of your ovaries. It's nothing compared to people whose diabetes has become uncontrollable. And yet it feels like everything just to worry.

Recently, Baby S is very pushy about saying the prayer before we eat. (or "Frayer" as she says). She prays, "Dear God, thank you for mommy feel better, thank you for daddy feel better." It's left over from when we were sick, but I kind of like it. After all, I now consider it an important thing--to pray for our health.

Since the audition, I feel crazily better, and I am singing like an angel--prompting me to sing in pretty much all of my students' lessons (must be driving them crazy!) but I am in a spiral right now--of feeling craptastic about the direction of my singing dreams. Do people dream after 38? I really don't know.

My student presented her whole situation with a smile and a casual attitude. But on facebook her statuses are often, "I wish I could stop crying" or something to the like. What's most amazing is that she didn't come in to tell me she had the big C. She didn't come to see me because of her "health issues". She came to tell me that the teacher said she might get into Chamber Choir. No matter how much you get bogged down by that health stuff, a little bit of encouragement makes it all go fuzzy.

Dear God, thank you mommy feel better.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pickin' and Choosin'

Today hubby was home. It is so much easier to parent when there are two of us around. Hubby is definitely not perfect at this....he doesn't think "if I am gardening, and my wife is teaching lessons, who is watching the baby?" so several times, while teaching, I had to get up, go to the garden and sweetly say, "do you think you could hang out with Baby S while I teach???" wanting to just look at him disapprovingly and tap my feet.

We did fun family things for the first half of the day. My students did not start coming until 3:30pm, so it's actually almost like having a whole day. I got gym time in (I love exercising) and ate well today. We got money in the bank that will ALMOST pay our bills :) and we didn't fight. Much. But since vacationing, feeling sad about the audition, I am just dying to get in a car with my family and drive and drive until I can't even think anymore! Couldn't we take a year long vacation?

I am sinking quite a bit into my students. I do like teaching, and sometimes, when you see students take a leap, you feel like you're important to someone. The most frequent compliment I get is that I have increased their confidence, and I do love that.

Hubby asked me today, would I be happier if I lost 40 pounds this summer or got a great role? I said I wasn't sure, but either one sounded fantastic. I'd take 10 and a little funny part right now, for sure.

I'll just let this be short. Baby S just fell asleep, it's 10pm, and we need some mommy and daddy time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Plan

Baby S is 2 1/2. Most people say, "wow, that's amazing, time has just flown" but really it feels like at least 2 and a half years. I also think that I don't miss at all her "babyness". I don't miss the drool, or the breastfeeding, or the cuddly little round bodies they have. Maybe in 5 years I will eat my words. But right now, as I sit in the living room typing and listening to her talk to herself while she pretends her cars are talking to each other, I'm happy.

She seems incredibly clever. She knows most of her alphabet. She goes to the potty like a pro. She makes other kids look like idiots :) She's just ....impressive. She likes detail, and having her hands clean, and picking out her own clothes. Actually, she's square in the middle of the LET ME DO IT stage. That's probably the toughest part of her. You peel a banana for her, and she doesn't want it. Not unless SHE gets to peel it. And since you can't re-peel a banana, um, that is now a wasted piece of fruit.

She sings a lot. She talks to people confidently. This child is rarely shy, and announces, "mom, your student is here."

I want to have another kid because I am walking around in a cloud of sadness. One day in my life, I had a bad audition. I have had dozens of others, but this one, well, why couldn't I sing? Why am I having such a hard time pulling out the voice lately? I feel like there is no longer a plan for me.

And if you're like me, you get through life with an idea that there is a plan. God's plan. And I'm not sure what exactly that is, except it's bigger than me. Over the last few years, it seems all I can think of is that there is no plan. Sometimes this doesn't bother me. After all, I'm a happy person with a happy life. I have tons to be grateful for.

But gratitude doesn't seem to compare with this fear that there is no plan for me. That my gift was pointless, and growing in me is this anxiety that there is nothing for me to do--that the very idea that I would find something that made me feel, um, worthwhile? when I did it, is a sin itself. Maybe God's plans have nothing to do with my esteem, maybe there was just whether I served him or not. And the rest, this pointless drivel of whether I was going to be an amazing singer or whatever....maybe that's just the stuff that annoys him.

Is that possible?

Because I seriously have no idea. And one stupid day, in a whole life of auditions, is obviously not enough to make me feel like this. So...there must be a lot of days.

I want to give up, and I want to sing the next audition I find. And I don't know which is the right "want". I really don't. I just don't.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sometimes it Sucks to be a Singer

I am waiting for hubby to get home--shortly after midnight. This day seems endless, and started early. A few months ago I got excited at the prospect of singing with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. You know--I miss opera, I am not sure if I can pin down the part I miss the most, but just making some money being part of it seemed like a great idea. Being in the city is alluring, and of course, just opening my mouth and singing loudly always sounds fun.

I prayed for the audition, and I got it. I was so excited, and I knew that the new chorusmaster was someone within a "circle" of people I knew. I couldn't remember if I'd spoken to him, met him, and I searched for a link, but I didn't know.

THen I got sick. SO SICK. I got 3 weeks of a cold that rattled around in my chest, a fever that came and went, exhaustion, a complete loss of my voice, and then after that, an ear infection. Antibiotics, more soreness, swollen glands. Through all of that, I longed to practice and could do nothing. I knew no matter what happened, I'd be, at least, out of shape to sing.

Again, I questioned if cancelling was right, and decided I'd let the final last week be the decider. I had numerous people, hopefully praying to God that I would get an answer, to go or not to go. And the last few days seemed amazingly promising. The trip came together easily, and it felt like a red light. My voice was better each day in the days preceding the audition, AND I had fewer students than normal (i.e., more vocal rest).

I made a reservation in a cheap (awful) hotel---must remember next time to spend the extra $10 on the nicer one. I drove after a day of teaching, on the 1st day of a period (added just because swollen body means swollen chords and elusive high notes). The night before the audition, I sat in a hotel room, trying to figure out why my throat hurt. I drank about a gallon of water and it seemed better.

I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed. My throat felt great. I drove into downtown Chicago on St. Patrick's day (ugh, that was awful) GREEN EVERYwhere. Highlights included hearing a young drunk girl describe to her friend on the phone what she was wearing "Um, a green t-shirt and shorts" as a way to find her, hearing a group of young guys and girls discuss who was the most drunk at 11:40 in the morning, and the drunk,homeless, pretty obviously insane guy outside the opera house yelling, "VOTE FOR MITT ROMNEY".

I warmed up in a small room and my two arias sounded great. I was ready.

THen I went into the room and the chorusmaster recognized me. He was personable and sweet and I felt confused by that. I was off already. I noticed I was sweating. I sang the piece, and the whole time I was thinking in my head "this is too heavy. You are singing this too heavily." and when I went for the high note it SCREECHED out. I felt like crawling into a hole. I imagined him phoning my old teacher to ask what had happened to me. He said thanks and I smiled and crawled away.

I drove home, dejected, wishing I had a hug and chocolate. I was feeling depressed when the car gauge stopped working, and suddenly, in the middle of NOWHERE, ILLINOIS. I had run out of gas. I wanted to cry so badly, but I didn't want to cry. And $65 later I was back in my car, at the gas station across from the tow truck guy, in a town with 2 gas stations.

I was so glad to see my baby, but bummed to have to deal with her instead of lay on the couch and lose myself in a sci fi movie or something.

Sometimes it sucks to be a singer.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I haven't written a blog post in weeks. I think this is a record amount of time since I started writing these. I am not sure why, but if I were to hazard a guess, I got very sick right after writing the last post. And soon after, I found myself going to sleep very early, feeling unbelievably bad, feverish, etc, and missing my "blog time". So guess what today is? Health day!

I am dreading the lost 2-3 weeks of practice time. How am I going to audition in mid-March having barely practiced? I am still coughing up phlegm. And this is the problem with being a singer. Biology. Germs. Life.

I was just thinking tonight about how much of my life is numbers. Weight, dress sizes, calories, time measured by pauses in between singing, budgets, student money, savings. Numbers reward and punish, and remind.

This has been a strange week for death. I suppose that sounds callous at first, but I received a call a few nights ago from my lifelong best friend, telling me her father was dying. It was one of those expected unexpected phone calls. And the next day he was gone. My husband told me Davy Jones had died, young, and since then I have seen 3 more posts about people dying on leap day (or right around it). But you know, at the end of the day, the only person who matters is the one in your own life. The person you needed, loved, and who seems connected to everything else that happens.

I know only a little bit about grieving. I grieved when my dog died. I was surprised my heart hurt that much. I missed her. I wanted to see her so much. I grieved watching my friend unconscious, knowing she was dying, but it seemed by the time she was gone, the grief was replaced by memories, by peace. I grieve for my relationship with my sister, 3 years gone. But in terms of grief, I feel speechless, stupid, when standing near someone who misses someone they relied on every single day. I look at hubby and have no clue what I would do without him. I would keep living, I suppose, but it would really suck.

So I always find myself a little speechless. I long to sound wise and wonderful, and instead I feel numb. I know that the worst part about death is that you long to just know someone is still around--still might call you or come over, or even criticize your housekeeping. You long for that possibility that you might get a text message from them, and it's not the pain that stays around, so much as that little wish that you could tell them something funny, or roll your eyes at them.

So in some ways I have lost my first parent. After all, I have known him since I was 3. He sat by my bed when I was scared and told me stories until I fell asleep. He was the kookiest of all the parents, and that's pretty impressive, given mine. It seems surreal that he's not around. The last thing he did in my life was send me a piece of silver for my new baby girl, and praise me for breastfeeding. "Good for you" I can hear him saying, unable to move his head to look at me due to arthritis.

He never ate. He was my physical Bizarro. Couldn't keep the weight on him if you tried. He had several versions of his past, depending on who he told the stories to, and sorting through them was hard. He taught me how to use some spices, ironically.

All I kept thinking after the call was how my best friend had informed me twice of the death of someone who had been key to our lives, and how unfortunately someday I would have to make that call to her.