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?

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96 responses to “Hitting the Right Note

  1. This is a perfect example of why I need to entertain less during the holidays – I missed the singing post entirely, thanks to kitchen/gift-wrapping/putting-extra-leaves-in-the-table duties.
    Great job (on both posts)

    • I was just telling Katy how disappointed I was that she got into a situation where she couldn’t access my blog. *shakes head* What is this WordPress world coming to?

      On the other hand, adding leaves to tables is no joke. You’re forgiven.

      BTW a little birdie told me you were Freshly Pressed recently – talk about shameful absence [on my part]. CONGRATS!!!!

      • Yes, the FP Gods smiled upon me at last. Coincidentally (?) it happened shortly after I ranted about WP messoing up the FP page with their latest “upgrade”. They soon changed it back, somewhat, and then FP’ed me. There are those who believe there are no coincidences in the world.

        In any case, I got that damned monkey off my back – it’s time to move on with my blogging life and not worry about that anymore.

  2. I was at my son’s house without internet. I can’t believe I missed this – it was spectacular. I am very proud of you – not just for singing on your blog, but for the courage it took to find and follow your dream, and declare it out loud. There are many entertainers out there with less talent than you’ve exhibited here…

    • 20 lashes, Katy! You must never get yourself in a situation where you cannot access Go Jules Go.

      Thank you so much – there was one thing I was NOT scared of – and that was how my bloggy friends would react. I knew they would be kind and generous and supportive, like they always are. And that is HUGE. Really. It’s been life-changing.

  3. And just think, the more you do it, the more the anxiety goes away. Keep on singing, girl! Can’t WAIT to hear more from both of you and your gorgeous voice. I knew you could sing when I first heard your speaking voice, it’s so melodious.

    Reading about your childhood experiences sounded so similar to my own. Singing and playing piano has always been my secret passion. My motto is: if it makes you happy, DO IT. Let yourself shine.

    • I think you’re right, DP, but I am still struggling big time with confidence. I’m trying to take myself/my ego out of the process as much as possible, but it’s like fighting every instinct (or bad habit, rather) I have!

      THANK YOU! I can’t wait to hear you play!! 🙂

  4. That was awesome!

    I got the mock up for a new children’s book that I finished writing last week, and I am almost excited enough to seek an agent.

  5. I can’t believe I missed this the first time. This is a testament to how good you are. Usually when I’m watching a video clip, my son gets annoyed and acts like the two-year-old he is to get me to turn it off. This time, he danced.

  6. That’s lovely. Thank you for sharing your process because it looked like you were having FUN, not pulling metaphorical teeth.

    • Thanks, Lily! I’m glad you think we pulled it off on the ‘looks like we’re having fun!’ front (we were…at least for the first hour…). I wasn’t sure if I should publish THIS post, either, since I try to keep the behind-the-scenes angst to myself!

      • Personally, I respect you more. I previously shared with you how my defunct vlog was extremely painful to get READY to do. It was amazing, the change.

  7. My heart did a cheerleading jump when your sister complimented you. I know first hand those sibling praises are hard to come by 🙂 Glad you shared your voice with us. We ought to write that music teacher a note to tell her what’s what.

  8. Boy, you are a good faker, my friend. You really did look like you were having fun. And your in going brought me so much joy. I hope you sing on Valentine’s Day. 😀

  9. Since you’ve overcome your fear, I’m expecting a mini-concert at lunch today. And Peppermeister has to wear a sombrero.

    Glad you hit the publish button, because I LOVED that video. 🙂

    • Omgggg Rache I’m counting the minutes! I am all for the sombrero, too, so long as it’s the kind that we can fill with tortilla chips, and guac in the center. He will have to kneel next to the table during lunch. Not that I’ve ever thought about this before.

      And thank you!! 🙂

      • Is it sad that I woke up really early this morning because I was too excited to sleep?

        See you SOON!

        • Dude, I bought a new outfit! LOL BTW I’m bringing an extra What Would Sexy Stalin Do bracelet (do you have one?), because I feel we must collectively dominate any future photo contests B Man has.

          • No freaking way did you just say that. I was going to text you and ask if you could bring one for me, because he sent me two but they are missing from the kitchen island–the cats must have hid them somewhere! They vanished. So yes, please!

            (I am wearing a new sweater. ha!)

  10. To paraphrase what I said in response to that Christmas Eve post, you sing like an angel.

    And I’m not just saying that because Babs and I are on the road to being besties.

    • Debbie! You were the first person to comment, too! I will never forget that feeling of relief from seeing your incredibly kind comment come in. THANK YOU 🙂

      I’ll put in (another) good word with Babs.

  11. Thanks for this honesty, Jules. You sang divinely! And whoop, whoop, whoop for having the nerve to do it through the nerves.

    Interesting timing for me (in a someone-walked-on-your-grave kind of way). Yesterday I started writing a post about singing- how I love to sing, I wanted to sing, but I’m not that person.

    • Thank YOU, Peggles! And I suspected as much from your recent post about turning everything into a song. I say sing it loud and proud, my friend! I never thought I could be “that person” either.

  12. I have every song from The Little Mermaid memorized, and I, too, love “old fogey” music. Thanks for sharing! I’m impressed with your bravery.

    • Thanks so much, Emily! I’m definitely still struggling with confidence, but this was a HUGE breakthrough.

      The reprise of “Part of Your World” is just one of the best songs. Ever.

  13. Wow! Awesome job. Not sure how I missed it originally. Oh wait, I know how – WordPress Reader Ughs. Congrats on doing it!

  14. Way to go, Jules! So excited for you and really hoping that we’ll get to hear more. Plus if you’re getting to record with your hubs that just sounds like a fun time. 🙂

    • Thanks, Audrey! It really, really is fun. I’m kicking myself now, of course, for taking so long to get to ‘this’ place with music, but I have faith in the big picture!

      My second blogoversary is at the end of Feb, so I’m trying to figure out something cool…

  15. Loved the video! My only Christmas wish would be if you could sing with a Jamaican accent. People accidentally stumbling into your reggae Rudolph on Youtube may become disappointed upon discovering you were not the mythical albino Jamaican musician they had hoped you would be.

  16. It is the sign of a true professional that despite incredible fear and trepidation, you made that performance look natural and seemless. But thank you for sharing this behind the scenes glimpse at the inner workings of Jules. I love hearing how you tick.

    And I think you have a glorious singing voice. And just remember . . . I am your future adopted sister (as soon as those papers get signed!), so give that the weight of a sibling that it would deserve. 😉

    Oh, and as to what I want to be when I grow up . . . no idea. Still trying to figure that one out. Writer? Maybe. Lawyer? No. Something else . . . possibly? Definitely NOT a singer. Even the shower can’t make me sound like an angel. More demon-like if you ask the hubs. 😉

    Hope you are having a lovely lunch with Rachel. And I can’t wait to hear your next performance!!

    • Misty, your comments go straight to my head. I don’t think anyone’s ever said they want to know how I tick. I think I’m so transparent / non-mysterious. Thank you!

      And if you want to be a writer when you grow up, I got news for ya! You’re already there, Misty Laws, Esq.!

  17. Ah, I had missed it! Go you for conquering your fear. This post was one of the most honest posts I’ve ever read. I always wished I could sing. *Sigh* I think you are both very talented. 😀

  18. I didn’t miss that post of you and the “pep’s” ( that’s my cute nickname for him fyi),,,and I loved it,,your WAY better than me when it comes to singing!

    I wanted to be a Dental Assistant,,and I did it not once,,but TWICE friend!! I just got my finals today and I passed,,so I can now call myself a Dental Assistant again,,,yaayyyy go us on being Big Gurls!
    Wait. That came out wrong we aren’t “big” gurls persay,,I meant like grown ups,,,that accomplish there trivial dreams,,wait. not trivial,,,
    I’m going back to my spot now.

  19. I enjoy people who sing who just sound like they’re having fun. Don’t worry about perfection, just roll with it! That takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there, I love singing too but I’m a big chicken! I guess ill stick to shower concerts

    • That’s EXACTLY what I’m working on – just SINGING. I’ve had a couple of breakthroughs (“Wow! I just got LOUD! Was that ME?”), which is a real trip.

      And I hope you KEEP singing and work up the nerve to let people hear you! 🙂 It’s unbelievably liberating.

  20. You’re awesome! I can’t believe I missed the Christmas Eve post. It must be because I was cleaning up vomit from Twin B in Bathroom B at 3:15 a.m. and then from Twin A in Bathroom A at 3:30 a.m.

    Here’s to facing our fears and nailing them like you did!

  21. See? That’s what’s great about blogs. “Just publish the damn thing.” And if it was terrible (which it wasn’t – it was excellent), well, everyone forgets about in a day. Hopefully.

    I’ve never seen Little Mermaid. Nor Lion King.

    • The part I left out of this post (because let’s face it, is it fair to mention The Byronic Man in EVERY post?) is that seeing your Christmas Eve vlog is what pushed me over the edge. It was like you were taunting, “If you’re ready for it…” I was like, “*I* AM DOING A CHRISTMAS EVE VLOG. ME! AS PLANNED.” So thank you!

      Can we work out some sort of deal that if I have to watch Citizen Kane again, you have to watch The Little Mermaid? Make sure you buy it for K-Bean, at least! She deserves a life of longing and stifling her singing dreams, just like me.

  22. Just wait, Byronic Man…How old’s your baby? You’ll be singing the lyrics to all these Disney tunes, soon. And buying princess dresses. And doing all the voices of “Princess Bride”. Oh. No. Wait. That’s our family. “Maaah wich”…

  23. I can relate sooo much. As a little girl I always wanted to sing. Sang all the time, wrote sounds, started a girl group with my friends before the Spice Girls ever existed and then one day someone decided to let me know that I was totally tone deaf and completely off key. Since then I even mouth the words to happy birthday and save singing for when I’m alone in the car or too intoxicated to care.

    Congrats on pursuing your dream. You should keep doing it!! (You, unlike me, actually can sing.)

    • Marta, I bet you have a great voice! Whoever said that was probably jealous or tone deaf themselves!

      And THANK YOU – I think it’ll be a constant struggle with confidence, but I’ve definitely seen some progress already, as far as getting more comfortable with my ‘real’ singing voice! (It’s a trip.)

  24. I remember seeing this video! You looked like you were both really enjoying yourselves- no hint of any inner turmoil. So will you be singing again? Can we hope for a pretty acoustic version of The Chipmunks Christmas Song next year?

  25. Well done – My singing in the shower never attracted such praise! – keep going.

  26. You should do more videos with Pep-dog. I write about ah-ha moments all the time– but mostly in verse– that way no one is tempted to actually engage me in dialogue about them…

  27. I thought you sounded fabulous. I didn’t notice a missed cue or off note!

  28. When I grow up I want to be a forester and run through the moss on high heels.

  29. OK. For the record, after watching you sing, I was even more jealous of you. (WHAT??!) First of all, you have an awesome blog that I love. You are g.o.r.g.e.o.u.s., dahling. Holy crap, I do not have the cajones to sing in front of anyone, let alone actually video the darn thing and let the world see it. #3 And, you do sing like an angel. 🙂

  30. You totally rock! Congratulations!

    • Thank you so much, Linda! I have to say we have really been “rocking” lately, ha! We’ve got a few songs we’re working on, and it’s SO MUCH FUN. I’m just sad I wasted so much time being too scared to sing!

  31. Oh how I love this post! I really, really love it. I missed your original post because, as you know, I’ve been under another rock with CC being gone, but he’s home now and I went and listened to you sing and you’re awesome! (and I know from singing!). I’ve had a lot of trepidation getting my blog rolling again, just writing at all again, and it’s easy to talk myself out of it, believing it’s no good and all of that. But I don’t like who I am when I don’t write, plain and simple. I’m finishing my novel this year. I also just had a moment like this with parenting yesterday- realizing that these kids ARE better off because of me, and that believing I suck at all of it really doesn’t serve anybody anymore. The only way to get better at any of this stuff- parenting, writing, singing- is to do it, and enjoy the journey. Lots of love & I hope to hear you sing again soon.

    • JM! Thank you! This means so much to me, coming from you. Truly. I can’t tell you what a mind-blowing experience this has been. One of the songs we’re working on now is “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. I feel like you’d approve of that.

      And you’re one of my favorite writers! Yours is one of the only blogs Jenn follows (and she is a phenomenal writer herself). I will read anything you write. Anything. (The thought of a novel has be frothing at the mouth.) And you’re no “half-assed” step parent, either. The respect those kids have for you makes that clear!

      You said it – taking ACTION, ANY action, is the only way to combat the negative thoughts. I’ve learned recently that I HAVE to take baby steps. Day to day to day, maybe month by month. And whatever goal I have for the day has to be something I know I’ll really do – even if some days it’s just: walk the dog and answer comments.

      P.S. – Maybe I should write a novel. I can just publish this comment. ;o)

  32. Dude this comment is so late but I had to reply. I felt the same way growing up except i never got the solos. I always told people i thought i was awful and yet when i sang by myself i secretly thought i was good. After i didn’t get into two different choirs I gave up. Then, a couple of years ago I put myself out there (well as much as you can really do that online with a fake name) and took part in a very amateurish (we’re talking bad here) singing competition and got 3rd place! It wasn’t anything big because barely anyone participated but it made me think that at least i can sing on key. It’s hard to have a passion and be too afraid to share it with people. I think it is so awesome that you went ahead and did this. You sounded great! I can’t wait for the next video 🙂

    • Erin, thank you so much! I think that’s AWESOME that you entered the singing contest, and congrats! Peppermeister and I have been practicing regularly for the past 2-3 weeks, and it’s been just, well, life-changing! I love it so much. Just need to keep working on my timing, LOL

  33. So glad you shared what a big deal this was for you. I clicked over to listen (don’t know where I’ve been by the way . . . caught up on a lot of your posts in the mean time). Anyway, you have such a beautiful voice! I’d be showing if off all the time if I were you! (I can’t sing AT ALL.)

    • Nina, thank you so much – that really means a lot to me coming from you! And I know I’ve said this already, but I just love your new gravatar! That color is amazing on you.

  34. Pingback: Wordless One & Done | JM Randolph, accidentalstepmom

  35. I’m so glad you wrote about this! I’ve just been talking to some other bloggers about fear – and facing your fears. And how much stronger it makes us when we just go for it. My personal opinion is that each time we face down our fears, it helps us see them in the proper perspective. When we shy away from them, they get so big and daunting in our imaginations. Good for you!! And I liked your singing, by the way.

    • Thank you so much, Michelle! You are so right. The relief I felt after I JUST DID IT really changed my perspective – suddenly ‘the big bad scary’ became ‘totally doable.’ We’re practicing a lot, and I’m still struggling with confidence, but I feel like I’ve come so far in just a few weeks. I know it’s not life or death, but it is one of the biggest personal hurdles I’ve ever overcome. Ever. Evereverever. Did I say ever?

      • Let’s just say it’s not death. I think it is most definitely life, though. It’s your enjoyment of your life. It’s stretching yourself in a way that allows you to fit more “Life!” in your life. It’s a step toward not just acknowledging or understanding or even believing, but KNOWING that you can do so, so much! That you can step up to the scary and face it down. That you can do and have the things you want for your life.

        I am very excited and encouraged and inspired by you 🙂

  36. I saw that video and loved it. I think I even wrote that you sounded like an angel? Didn’t I write that? That doesn’t even sound like something I have ever said to anyone. But you do! I love that you put yourself out there. I had no idea how “out there” it was until reading this. I figured it was all in a day’s work for you. Thank you for sharing the “behind the scenes” 🙂

    P.S. I can sing on key but am scared to death to sing. I even mouth the words of hymns in church. I don’t want baby Jesus to laugh at me.

    • Oh Nnng. I bet you have a voice that would make angels weep tears of joy.

      Thank you so much – really! I do feel slightly totally smug that I managed to convince everyone it was no big deal.

  37. I did The Artist’s Way 7 years ago to unblock my theatre performing passion, and I just did it again for the same help with my writing ambitions; it’s an amazing tool, and REALLY works somehow! Congrats on your singing, enjoy all this positive feedback, and use it to keep going! Who knows where you’ll get to? I love your energy in your writing too, great job, very inspiring. I’m new round here, but I’m glad I found this entry 🙂

    • Nice to ‘meet’ ya, Gabrielle! Thanks so much for coming by and your kind words. Let me know if you ever have any bloggy questions – I was brand-y new two years ago (actually, this month is my 2-year blogoversary! Woooot!)

      The Artist’s Way is amazing, isn’t it? Between it and blogging, my life has changed drastically, for the better. At least in terms of my creative life. And friendships!

  38. Good morning, Darling. I have started “Artist’s Way” and I cannot believe the stuff that landed on the first page of the first “morning pages” Wow. I have had a feeling for a long time that there is a lot that needs to come out – lots and lots. I just couldn’t seem to get started. I am hoping this process starts the journey.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts about creativity and moving toward goals. You. Rock. I. Heart. You.

    • Katy! I got the alert for this comment this morning while I was -I’m not kidding- working on an Artist’s Way exercise from the third book in the series, and I got misty-eyed.

      I’m so, so happy to hear about your experience already with the morning pages! I had a major revelation on day 1 of this go ’round with the pages, back in mid-July. I can promise you many more eye-opening experiences if you stick with it, and ANY time you want/need an ear, let me know! You. Rule.

  39. This post makes me so happy, Jules! I *just* came to a similar, heart-in-throat place with my own passions and interests (NUTRITION, YES!!), and it’s so inspiring to see people moving beyond fear and doubt to claim their own destinies. (Cheesy? Yes. Motivating all the same? Obviously.)

    By the way: The Little Mermaid will go down in my history books as the movie I’ve watched the most times ever. I watched it every single day for around a year… or two… okay, maybe three. It’s been a while now, but I’m sure I could quote the entire movie if given a little refresher. I was totally in love with Eric. IN LOVE.

    • Dana, that’s awesome (re: nutrition)! Congrats! And your ongoing support really means a lot to me; I know I wouldn’t have come this far in the past two years, creatively (especially in terms of putting myself out there), without such a welcoming bloggy community.

      Oh. Eric. I just rewatched The Little Mermaid over the Christmas break and I’m pretty sure my love of him/that movie explains every major life decision I’ve ever made.

  40. Pingback: A Birthday Serenade | Go Jules Go

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