Happy to Be Tired

Had to take a night off this week.  Just too worn out to continue – dizzy, slightly yucky stomach, low-grade fever . . . the works.  Nice long nap, crash in the recliner reading a book and I felt slightly more capable of functioning.

Why so worn out?

Simple.  I tend to book myself REALLY busy.  And I’m also fighting off a cold or something respiratory.  I’m an empty nester who loves working with kiddos in the performing arts.  Which means that my schedule doesn’t follow “normal” working hours.  I tend to have a chunk of time off in the afternoon and work lots of later afternoons/evenings.

Currently, I find myself with the following performance events in my near future –

– State colorguard competition this Friday in Des Moines (it’s my first year as head coach and I keep triple checking my to do list to make sure everything is ready)

– Community theater production onstage next week – a kiddos Christmas musical!

– Choir concert to accompany (LOVE this part of the year!!)

– Violin recital to accompany

– Christmas Eve service to play for.

And this doesn’t include Christmas shopping or other tasks not related to work.

And I love absolutely all of the chaos.  Yes, I sometimes run myself a little too hard and need to stop for a moment (this week being an example!) but I prefer to think about what I’ve watched happen.

A group of 19 individuals came together as a team, learned two new shows – one for marching season and one for indoor season.  They’ve grown so much since the season started and I love every minute I get to spend with them.  6 of those individuals also choreographed solo pieces and competed at state solo contest.

I’ve watched kiddos step into their first theatrical production ever and work alongside more experienced young performers.  That’s probably my favorite thing about theater – age sometimes doesn’t matter a lick!

I’ve once again had the privilege of accompanying four talented ensembles at the local senior high as they prepare for the Yuletide concert (my favorite concert of the year).  Yeah, high schoolers can get squirrely from time to time but the artistry they create . . . it’s such a joy to be a part of it.

Accompanying violinists is new.  But I’m loving it.  Always had a soft spot for string instruments.  Even played the violin for a short stretch in my childhood.  But the best part is some of the soloists I’m playing for are young.  I mean, elementary school age young.  And it’s going to be such an honor to share that performance moment with them.

Large group speech rehearsals have started and I’m thrilled to once again be working with the musical theater groups as they prepare.
So yeah.  I’m happy to be tired.  It’s the result of hours spent working with young people in the performing arts and I can’t imagine spending my time doing anything else.

Blurting Out the Truth

From The Power of Uniqueness by Arthur F. Miller – “. . . gifted goes beyond a mere inventory of talents. It’s the lifeblood of a person , the song that his heart longs to sing, the race his legs long to run. It’s the fire in his belly. It’s his reason for being. So any time you tap into giftedness, you hit a nerve that runs right to the core of the individual.”

When you grow up loving the performing arts, it is mistakenly communicated to you that what you love is nice for a hobby, but is only a true calling for a select few.  Everyone loves to tell you how many wannabe pop stars or actresses there are that never make it as a big star.  And they would be right.  As the old saying goes, “there is a broken heart for every bright light on Broadway.”  Somewhere along the line, I got the distinct, unspoken message from many well-meaning adults that I should find something “real” to do with my life.  Loving the performing arts is still allowed as you get older, but you become a spectator.  Or someone who plays piano or provides special music at church.  And going into a classroom and teaching what you love to others is okay too.  Just as long as you . . . “grow up”.

So what does an impressionable teenager prone to people pleasing do?  She starts lying.  First to herself about what she wants to be when she grows up.  About her purpose.  About what really digs down deep and connects with the core of who she is.  Then she lies to others about what she LOVES.  When people ask her why she entered the career field she did, she makes up stories about loving some part of the job.  Something to prove that she has done what she was supposed to and has made a responsible, safe choice.

Let me stop right here and say that no one – not one single soul I ever encountered – set out with the express purpose of squashing my dreams, my drive, or my passions.  None of them wanted to dissuade me from being me.   They wanted me to have a plan and goals and work hard.  The interpretation of “grow up and be sensible” was more of a miscommunication or a misunderstanding than a sinister plot.

Fast forward to today – in my mid-40’s, I work multiple part-time/seasonal jobs.  It can be exhausting and I’ve gotten really good at “schedule juggling.”  Seriously, you would be impressed.  I teach part-time at the local community college, serve as the accompanist for the choirs at the local high school, work as the pit pianist and rehearsal accompanist (and sometimes vocal coach) for the Spring musical at the college, handle the theatrical directing and most of the choreography for the spring musical at the local high school, oversee two productions every summer as a part of a youth theater program (directing, producing, music directing, whatever!), help out on marching band staff at the local high school, and serve as the artistic director for Stage Door Productions which manages the aforementioned youth theater program and also stages small cast musicals.  You may have noticed that, with the exception of the college teaching gig, most of my work life revolves around the performing arts.  And nearly all of it involves working with young people from Kindergarten (summer youth theater kiddos) through college (theatrically, in the classroom, and with the theater company).  There are times my schedule is insane – trust me, people point it out to me repeatedly! – and I have, for the past few years, gone from January to August without a break between shows.  I love it.  I cannot imagine having any more fun doing anything else.

The other day, a friend asked if I’d be willing to help her with a dance team she coaches.  They have a big competition to get ready for (it’s in early December) and she’d like an extra pair of eyes, and extra adult to help supervise . . . maybe even someone to help her maintain her sanity, I don’t know!  But she asked me.  I was thrilled!  Details haven’t all been worked out yet, but I’m a little excited.  That’s not true.  I’m REALLY excited.  I was telling hubby about it and my excitement started to show.  As I gave him the information I DID know, I knew he would start asking questions I didn’t yet have the answer to so I tried to head a few of those off before he asked them.  As I wound up the conversation, I heard myself say “I don’t care if I get paid or not because the simple fact is that working with young people in the performing arts – believing in them, pushing them to be amazing – is my purpose on this planet so I’m going to take the opportunities available as often as I can to do just that.”  In the seconds after I blurted out that “my purpose on this planet” thing, I realized that I had never, not in my 46+ years of existence, uttered a more accurate statement.  In my heart, I knew my purpose; I’ve known it for awhile now.  In my work life, I am living it out.  But I finally allowed myself to say it.  Out loud.  Without apologizing or feeling like I had let anyone down.

And you know what?  It felt WONDERFUL.

An End . . . And a Beginning

Shows end.  It’s a fact.  Kind of a “duh” statement.  And to be brutally honest, every once in awhile you run into that show that . . . . well, . . . is more of a toil than a treasure.  When that sort of show ends, it’s almost a relief!  But for most of them – for me, anyway – the end of a show is rather sad.  It’s the knowledge that this specific group of people will never be assembled for this exact purpose again.  Oh, you may work with some of those same performers again.  But not on this specific show in this specific time and space.

Such is the story for me right now.  The last performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone” is over and done.  It was my fourth show with Iowa Central Community College.  I’ve loved all four experiences and there have a been a few tears shed as it came to an end tonight.

But I can’t mope for long.  Music rehearsals for “Damn Yankees” have already begun and Saturday morning gave me my first chance to run a rehearsal with some of the cast – choreography, to be specific.  I will miss “my” kids from “Drowsy” – some of them I’ve worked with before, some will be moving on to other experiences next year, and for others it was my first time working with them.  But as much as I will miss the cast, the production team, my spot in the pit . . . it’s time to move on!

“Damn Yankees” rehearsal will start to occupy my time and I couldn’t be more excited!!  It’s my sixth show with Fort Dodge Senior High and it’s the largest cast I’ve worked with at FDSH.  Choreo is underway, music rehearsals have been held, the parent volunteer meeting is set for Monday . . . while I say goodbye to one show, it’s time to turn my focus and energy to another.  Not much down time really . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!

Do You REALLY Mean It?!

“You really should learn to say no occasionally.”

I hear this ALL the time.  

That comment usually comes after a discussion of my current theatrical involvement and the person making the statement almost always means that I should say no to the theater “stuff” I do.

But what if I took them at their word?  What if I learned to say no to those things that really don’t hit my God-given designs and passions?

Would the person offering advice be okay with it if I said no to playing for the kid’s Christmas program at church?  Or what if I declined to plan/run an elementary school program for the holiday’s?

In the church, there is a tendency to have expectations of others based on what we think they should be doing with their skills and their time.  If they don’t live up to our expectations we shake our heads and talk about “wasting God-given talent.”  As a Pastor’s wife, I have had people refuse to speak to me if they feel I am not doing what I should be.  Apparently, the fact that my husband is on the payroll leads them to believe that they should have some say over how I spend my discretionary time.

Time to speak out clearly – if I HAVE to learn to say no to things, I will NOT be choosing to say no to theatrical involvements.  It is when I am in the throes of a theater production – rehearsing, directing, whatever – that I am the most truly myself.  I get that over-committing can be dangerous to one’s sanity and even one’s physical health.

But never saying yes to the things one is truly passionate about is just as dangerous.  Maybe more so.

So if you tell me that I should learn to say no, I will thank you for your concern and take a look at my schedule to reevaluate the allocation of my time.  Just be ready for me to say “yes” to those things that are right for me, even if you don’t understand!