View from Inside: Portlandia the Musical

I’ve decided that I’ll periodically give you a view from inside (my brain). Not because I’m unusual… just the opposite…because my brain works the same way yours does. It’s kind of convenient that I can observe what’s going on inside there, because then I can share it.

I’m a choral singer. I’m pretty decent. I’m in several groups of varying styles and skill sets. I love to sing, and I love to sing in ensembles, because I really love how it sounds and feels when a group clicks, and how lost you can get in the music- together.

I noticed recently that I was spending a lot of time in this one group, during rehearsals, complaining inside my head. Here comes the toddler voice, right?  I hate this song. Why can’t we get this? I hate this piece. Didn’t anyone else practice? I do not like this style of music. Who wrote this? Why do we have to do this piece? It’s hard.

Wow! That’s a lot of whining and misery for something I love, right? Thinking those thoughts, I was feeling pretty crappy: resentful, obstinate, resistant.  Did I want to stop singing? Oh hell no. So how could I make this better? Uh, duh. Stop thinking those crappy thoughts. Right? Because they’re totally optional. I can actually think whatever I want.

I decided to do an experiment. There was one piece I really did hate. No way I was going to change my mind on that. And I wouldn’t believe it if I told myself differently. But that wasn’t my only option. I needed a better feeling thought that I actually believed…hmm, what could that be?

The first thing I tried was humor. I started making fun of the piece in my head, and envisioning it as a scene from Portlandia, if it were a musical (hence the title of this blog). Nope, that didn’t work. While I was amused, I still resented having to work on it. Try again.

I landed on I don’t need to love a piece to be able to sing it well, because I’m that good. Yes, I can believe that. Yes, it feels very different to think that thought – capable and challenged (in a good way).

Voila! I got through that concert season without any more resentment, and actually improved my own skills in the process. BTW, I did not learn to love the piece. I did not even learn to like it. But I was still able to bring my best to the challenge, and to love the concert experience in spite of that one piece. I look forward to the opportunity to try the exercise again – but only occasionally!


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