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November 25, 2010 / Jenny Ann Fraser

Black Friday: Anyone Know Where I Can Buy Some Courage?

Anyone Know Where I Can Buy Some Courage?

The past few weeks have been somewhat tumultuous.  Nothing huge, serious or even all that unpleasant, but crazy and unusual enough that I thought I would allow my writing to temporarily take a back seat.

I thought it would be for a few days, then possibly a week, then…

Time sure does fly sometimes whether you’re having fun or not.

I wrote back in September, about my fear of singing, my lessons and the new choir that I had joined, and how my intent for this year was to be fearless and enjoy the gift of singing without worry about being perfect.

So far, my new commitment to letting go and giving my all is paying off beautifully.  I am very pleased with my progress so far and I feel secure in the knowledge that I am growing.

Maybe I got a little too comfortable and the Universe is trying to teach me some sort of ill-humored lesson, but I’ve decided to call what is happening right now an opportunity.

In case you’re wondering, this is how that sounds in my head.

”This is an opportunity. This is an opportunity. This is an opportunity. This is an opportunity. This is an opportunity.”

The choir that I joined is a large community choir that was started 10 years ago by some fabulously dedicated people who were really determined to create a wonderful place where anyone could go and feel safe and comfortable singing.  No experience or skill necessary.  Just make a joyful noise.

It was the perfect place for someone like me since joining any kind of group is sure to mean a trip  or two down Anxiety Lane.

Despite a few years of training and the fact that I read music quite well, I didn’t yet have the confidence for a group of more serious singers.

It is a bit complicated and boring, so I won’t go into too much detail, but I ended up singing in the Soprano section where my girlfriend, the one person I knew in the choir, is the section leader.

The music is not all that difficult and in the beginning was not a problem for me even though I am a Mezzo Soprano. I can hit the high notes, but it’s best for all if I don’t stay there too long.

Then, our incredibly ambitious choir director gave us a piece that forced me to stretch.

At first I was quite proud of what I was able to do.

However, about a week ago, I realized that I was straining my voice, which can really do damage so, I decided to shift down to second Soprano, which eliminated the need to sing the notes that were causing me stress.  It also meant that 3 weeks before our concert I have to learn new parts to several of the pieces so I got to work, confident that I could learn these relatively simple parts without difficulty and I was almost right.

I worked so hard that I have practically memorized every piece only there is one problem.

It turns out that the section that I am singing in now does not have a lot of really strong, confident singers. In fact, after two rehearsals I’m still not sure if there is one.  And other singers are asking me to sing out so that I can lead them.

And I have discovered that I cannot find the harmony notes without someone to follow, even after hours of practice.

I’ve never sung in a group without someone to follow before, though I didn’t know that I was following at all.  Nor did I know that I am not able to find the notes myself without that guide.

So, here I am, two and a half weeks before my first ever choir concert unable to sing along, and at the same time, fighting that old foe of mine.  Fear.

So far, I’m winning the battle with logic. There are two things that I need to solve this problem; practice, and courage.

Obviously, the practice part is completely within my control.

Fortunately, the piece that is giving me the most trouble, is available on YouTube both as a choir and with the individual parts.  I’ve been working all week at learning to sing my part, in harmony with the first soprano. I’m slowly getting parts of it at home, but everything changes when I am in a room with 60 other voices.

So, this weekend, I will try to find out when my neighbors will be out so that I can plug my laptop into my stereo system crank it up, and sing full voice until I finally figure out how to hit the right notes.

After that, I must be brave enough to do it where others can hear me, letting go of the fear that I’ll fail and screw up my entire section.

I’ll do it.

I truly believe that these things happen for a reason and it is so that we can grow, not so that the Universe can laugh at us when we fall on our faces. Besides which, I have accomplished too much in these past few months to have my ass kicked by a choir that is supposed to be fun.

And this is where I would like to buy some courage.

Unfortunately, what I have learned so far is that courage cannot be bought, borrowed or given.  I’m not sure that it can be created so much as it has to be found.

And so, as I write this, I realize that the most likely place to find it is to look, as always within, and trust in my own drive and determination to succeed. I remind myself that courage is not the absence of fear, but the decision to push forward, and I notice, that despite my discomfort over this situation, there is no inner-critic here telling me to give it up, because I’ll never learn…

It is the same with this as it is with anything that can be learned, every battle that must be won, every goal that must be reached.

Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.

~Mary Anne Radmacher

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23 Comments

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  1. Emily Jane / Nov 25 2010 8:18 am

    “I truly believe that these things happen for a reason and it is so that we can grow, not so that the Universe can laugh at us when we fall on our faces.” Remind yourself of that when you are up there, about to take this enormous step of personal growth. Logic is a fine teacher, and I’m happy to hear you’re paying attention to it. Last night I had a Moment where I allowed fear to consume me for a little bit, and had to take a deep breath and listen to logic for a second. Always look at how far you’ve come – in every situation of late, where you’ve felt nervous or anxious, look back at recent victories over fear. You’ve come an awfully long way, and recognise that you’ve succeeded before, and you’ll succeed again. I have every faith in you – when you choose to forbid fear from ruling your life, there’s no stopping you!!

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 26 2010 9:20 am

      Hello Emily!
      Everything you say is so true! Especially the part about forbidding fear from ruling your life. Besides… I can’t quit! 🙂
      It is also true that we can take a step back when we find ourselves feeling fearful and throw some logic into the mix. I’m so relieved that the days where I was unable to do that are over!
      Thanks so much for the support!

  2. broadsideblog / Nov 25 2010 8:57 am

    I’m glad no one can buy courage. Those who find and develop it inspire others. That is much more valuable than anything available for commercial purchase.

    You’ll get there! Leaders are created when others look to them. Enjoy that and figure out what to do with that honor.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 26 2010 9:23 am

      What a wonderful comment! Thank you!
      You are so right about buying courage. I had never thought about it your way before and I am always happy when I find new perspective.
      Besides, I wouldn’t want some run-of-the-mill, mass-produced fashion conscious courage would I? 😛
      thank you for stopping by!

  3. Viv / Nov 26 2010 6:26 am

    Good luck with this; I have a terrible singing voice and would never dream of even trying so you are miles ahead of me to start with(and have a good voice too)
    xx

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 26 2010 9:28 am

      Well thanks Viv!
      The issue is just believing that I can solve this problem in time. If I had discovered it in September it would have been fun to fix!
      Thanks for stopping by. I hope you are feeling better.

  4. lisa@notesfromafrica / Nov 26 2010 6:55 am

    Sounds like you’ve already got some courage there!

    And in the words of the esteemed Dr Zuess:

    “You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
    You’re on your own.
    And you know what you know.
    You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

    Or as we like to say here in South Africa: Go for it!

    • lisa@notesfromafrica / Nov 26 2010 6:57 am

      Sorry, that should have been “Dr. Seuss”! Not a good day . . .

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 26 2010 9:25 am

      Hi Lisa!
      I’m not sure that anything can put a smile on my face quite like Dr. Suess/Zuess! What words of wisdom.
      And as my guitar teacher used to remind me, “no one ever died because someone else played a wrong note!”

      • nrhatch / Nov 26 2010 9:53 am

        That’s along the lines of what I was going to say . . . even if the concert is not picture perfect (or pitch perfect), it’s still apt to put smiles on the faces of those in attendance.

        “There is no such thing as “zero risk”” ~ William Driver

        “We fail far more often by timidity than by over-daring.” ~ David Grayson

        “The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.” ~ Jawaharial Nehru

        Make your own kind of music . . . ENJOY!

        • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 26 2010 12:17 pm

          Thank you NR
          “We fail far more often by timidity than by over-daring.” David Grayson
          That is the point exactly. All I have to do is get a note in my head so that I can make some sort of sound. LOL.

  5. Ollin / Nov 26 2010 11:25 pm

    Love that quote, and I think you already know what I’m going to say. You are already very brave for trying. You’ve already won in my book. I’m proud of you. Good luck! 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 28 2010 5:55 pm

      Thanks Ollin. Your words are very inspiring.
      The try, try again approach seems to be helping. We’re not there yet, but as of this afternoon, we are so much closer that I am no longer worried that it won’t be possible. 🙂

  6. Patricia / Nov 27 2010 7:53 pm

    I love to sing and truly miss it this time of the year. I just am not able to sing much after I had a growth removed from my esophagus a number of years ago. I work hard at learning parts too, my ear is not so strong, especially when I have learned the high soprano part and then must learn something new – that is truly a challenge.

    I hope it went well and you are able to sing freely and with strength. I will be thinking about you – a good goal.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Nov 28 2010 5:56 pm

      Thank you so much Patricia. So sorry to hear about your voice. You have reminded me to focus on gratitude for having this opportunity which is probably much more important than hitting the notes!

  7. tobeme / Nov 29 2010 4:16 pm

    Jenny Ann,
    Sounds like you are doing great!! You have answered your own question. As the lion in the Wizard of Oz discovered he had courage all along, it is always within. You have courage, otherwise you would not have made it this far. Trust in you and simply be. Raise up to your highest image of your self! Love to you!

  8. jonathanfigaro / Dec 1 2010 7:44 am

    Courage is just another form of persistence. When we are so engaged into a dream that it takes up our time, sleep and energy, we realize one thing. We have been courageous from the get go. Once we started to take our dream seriously, and made it a full time venture, we became courageous.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Dec 2 2010 4:03 pm

      Thank you Jonathon and welcome!
      I have no desire to ever turn singing into a full time venture, but I do have to remember that I can still take it seriously and give it my all.
      Thanks again for stopping by.

  9. rob white / Dec 1 2010 2:31 pm

    Hi Jenny Ann,
    If there is one thing I know for sure about you it is that you are a VERY courageous soul! Please consider using this as a reference in your moments of doubt and fear. I have personally witnessed you express yourself fully and freely.You already know that the answer lies within (and with practice, of course). I believe you have a surplus of courage and see no reason to “buy” more … direct your naturally soaring courageous spirit into your singing and I am sure you will nail it.

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Dec 2 2010 4:04 pm

      Hello Rob,
      How I love your wise words. They have steered my thoughts (yet again) into a new direction, just when I needed it!

  10. brittany220 / Feb 25 2011 2:08 pm

    Awesome post Jenny! How did the singing go? Did you end up leading the others?

    Sounds nerve-wracking! I like your determination though! It inspires me! 🙂

    • Jenny Ann Fraser / Feb 27 2011 10:40 am

      Hi Brittany,
      Would you believe that after all of my work, I came down with a cold the weekend of the concert and missed it!
      Sadly, I had to give up choir this term because of my new job, but I am really hoping that I can join again next fall!
      I am very touched that you are reading my blog. Sadly, at the moment, I have no time for writing or visiting other’s blogs, but I am very excited to get back to all of this in the coming weeks as I settle into my new position!

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