SINGING AND DANCING. AT THE SAME TIME. SORT OF.
As I've mentioned here, two classmates and I have been working on "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" in addition to our regular songs. When we presented it in class a few weeks ago, we felt pretty good about it. We were no threat to Patty, Maxine, Laverne or Bette, but (in contrast to the first time we brought it in) were basically in tune and in time with each other, and I managed to stay on my own line at least 75 percent of the time, rather than repeatedly being pulled up to the soprano part.
"Great," our teacher, Martha, said when we had caught our breath. "Now you need to add choreography!"
A year ago, I would have responded, "You have got to be kidding!" Well, okay, I did say that. But I didn't resist when our soprano, Beth, who is a professional performer, offered to teach Antonietta and me some "simple" dance moves & have us cooking by the following week.
So, last Monday, we brought it back in to class. I wouldn't say we were cooking, or even simmering--more like pureed. I lagged about half a step behind the other two on every move; stumbled arthritically when they shimmied; and panted, rather than sang, about half the song.
But that wasn't what struck me most forcibly when I thought about it later. The amazing thing was that I enjoyed every second of it, and look foward to doing it again.
You may recall that I'm the woman who, last April, when asked to formulate a goal for the earlier version of this class, stammered that she only hoped to get through a song without passing out from embarrassment. On Monday, as we left the class, Beth suggested that we "polish it up" and then audition for a cabaret night sponsored by our school. I didn't dismiss the idea. I didn't dismiss the idea.
Thinking about this experience, I'm grateful for several things:
- I'm "really" a writer. I don't have to do everything at once, with everyone watching. I don't have to coordinate with anyone else. If I make a mistake, or think of a better way, I can just go back and fix it. I don't think I appreciated that fully before.
- I'm increasingly comfortable with performing at a less than optimal level. Not everyone would see this as an asset. Of course, not everyone would see my Boogie Woogie performance as something to encourage. But harsh self-judgment can be crippling to creativity, and I've been working to overcome this for most of my adult life. Sometimes things are worth doing even if you don't do them 100% right.
- 58 means what I say it means. Okay, maybe I'll never perfect a "cramp roll" now (I'd never even heard of one until our first rehearsal). But I'm learning, growing, and having fun in ways I never allowed myself to do in my twenties. And I think this new freedom is reflected in my writing, too.
Susan O'Doherty, Ph.D.,is a clinical psychologist with a New York City-based practice. A fiction writer herself,she specializes in issues affecting writers and other creative artists. She is the author of Getting Unstuck without Coming Unglued: A Woman's Guide to Unblocking Creativity(Seal, 2007). Her Career Coach column appears every Monday on Inside Higher Ed's Mama, Ph.D. blog, and she is a regular monthly panelist on Litopia After Dark. Send your questions to her at Dr.Sue at mindspring dot com.