Blogging, I'm Going To Chop My Ear Off Any Day Now, Music

Hitting the Right Note

I woke up at 8am this past Christmas Eve. Late, for me. I’d been up ’til midnight, doing something I’d never done before. Something mortifying. I stared down the clock. My family was coming over at 2pm and my To Do list was more ominous than a week without vodka.

I headed straight for my lap top. For the first time in 5 months, I skipped my morning writing. This was more important. Far more important. The reason I wrote a journal to begin with.

My heart pounded.

I can’t do this. I know I promised myself all year I would finally do this, but I can’t. I just can’t.

I stalled. Checked email. Facebook. My mouth felt dry.

I have to. I have to do it.

Let me back up.

I was 7 years old when The Little Mermaid was released. It was November 1989. I sat on the living room floor of our little Cape Cod, wearing out my VHS copy by rewinding “Part of Your World” over and over again. I paused it every five seconds, and wrote out the lyrics, line by line.

When I was sure no one could hear, I sang along.

What would I give to live where you are…

I sang with longing. I felt like Ariel. Dreaming. Wanting the impossible. In the end, her voice earned her just that.

When I was in 4th grade, my music teacher asked for volunteers for one-line solos during the holiday concert. I raised my hand, heart racing. She plunked out the tune on the piano as I sang, “Up on the housetop reindeer pause…”

“Let’s try again,” she said. By the third time, she not-so-subtlely moved on, leaving me to wonder what I’d done wrong. My classmates said nothing.

Could I really not sing? One simple line? Even with the notes played for me on the piano? This was bad.

All lies.
All lies.

When I stood in front of all the parents the day of the concert, I tried not to fidget, even though I felt faint. I sang my one-line solo as best I could, and afterwards, my mother praised, “You sounded like an angel.” No one else complimented me.

“You have to say that,” I grumbled, afraid to believe her.

By 12, I’d taught myself how to play the piano, barely, and when no one was home, I sat at my great-grandmother’s ancient upright and played the songs my parents listened to. John Denver. James Taylor. Carole King.

I was terrified someone would find out. Not only were the songs I secretly adored lame, old fogey music, I heard my voice. How weak and flawed and uninteresting it was. How bad my timing was.

At 15, I bought a karaoke machine, took guitar lessons and even tried writing songs. I toyed with the idea of sharing them. I didn’t.

“I thought that was the radio,” my sister said, when she heard me in the shower one day. She was never long on compliments, and I kept that gem tucked away with “You sing like an angel,” hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually do this.

In college, I studied writing, believing it was my true passion, and then landed a well-paying corporate job. I married a musician. Time passed. 25. 26. 27. 28. My life felt off, like I was trying to break in a pair of shoes that would never fit.

I obsessively watched singing competitions, comparing myself to the contestants, always coming up short. I subscribed to an online karaoke service, and heard only off notes and lackluster tone. I thought about how I couldn’t sing and play an instrument at the same time. About my crippling stage fright.

It’s hopeless. Laughable. Not even worth admitting. Move on.

In February 2011, I started this blog, and in July 2012, I began doing creative unblocking exercises I’d learned long ago, courtesy of The Artist’s Way. Pretty soon it was impossible to hide from myself.

Fast-forward to Christmas Eve morning. I sat at my lap top, frantically sorting through the dozens of clips my first husband, Peppermeister, and I recorded the night before, battling 30 years of “I can’t.”

But you can. Do it. NOW.

At 9am, I hit Publish. And then something miraculous happened. My heart immediately lightened. The hardest part was over:

I had posted a video clip of me. Singing. On my blog.

Jules singing
I call this one, “This is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done so please don’t judge me.”

I made light of it. Like I hadn’t been steeling myself for an entire year lifetime.

I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable by sharing just how monumental that was. Though Peppermeister’s a musician, we’d never tried this before (I know. Ridiculous). We tried for nearly 3 hours to get it right (I really, really hate admitting that), but even in the published clip, I hit a bad note, missed a cue, sounded tired.

It didn’t matter.

I had finally admitted what I wanted. I’d taken the first breath of my new life, wondering when I got so melodramatic how I’d survived before.

P.S. – We’ve been practicing. So watch out.

Have you had any big “Ah hah” moments? What do you want to be when you grow up?