Singing like a crow

Taking a musical improv class was an interesting experience. My singing ability is non-existent in general and making the songs up on the fly didn’t help. This is not me being overly modest or critical of myself- objectively singing is not a skill or talent I possess at this stage in my life. I’m one of those people who if I went on American Idol everyone at home would go, “Why did she audition? What made her think she had any chance at all?” Yes, I could take lessons (and I’d like to) but until then I don’t see things improving.

Anyway, this one night in particular was unusually bad and I was annoyed at myself and frustrated on the way home. Then it occurred me- I am upset that I am singing badly in class. I am singing. In public.

I doubt anyone understands the amount of work I’ve done to get to this point. I’m not trying to be melodramatic here, it’s the truth. I can tell you that until a year ago I didn’t even sing when I was completely alone, I was so ashamed of my voice that I hated to hear it. Hated it.

If I sang anything out loud enough to hear I would be washed over with a sense of humiliation and would immediately stop and do something else. I have always used the automated voice mail on phones because I couldn’t bear the thought of having my voice recorded and making people listen to it. When an improv teacher wanted me to name two singers to do a duo together as part of a character building exercise (not that we were going to be them, it was just going to influence the scene) I completely panicked and he had to come back to me, I froze up even thinking about singing to the point that I couldn’t name anyone.

A few weeks later that same improv teacher made me sing in class and I wanted to cry, and he knew it, and when I panicked and said I didn’t know any songs he told me to sing Happy Birthday and kept my attention while I did it, probably so I wouldn’t run off. When someone told me singing was going to be in an audition I had signed-up for I literally slept an hour or two a night for the days leading up to it because I was so terrified at the thought that I couldn’t calm my mind down.

That carried over into other areas of my life as well. I didn’t realize until this summer that I don’t do accents and voices in improv for the same reason- I’m ashamed of my voice. To the point that we were learning an accent in class and I was so scared and tangled up and frantic that our teacher, a different one from before, finally got on stage with me and had me breath and worked through it with me one word at a time. Awkward, yes. It did help though.

There is no one defining moment in my life that made me feel this way. No dramatic scene where someone cut me down or humiliated me. I think was just a lifetime of being told I couldn’t sing and being teased when I tried, of being laughed at because my voice is deeper and lower than most women, and of a lot of that coming during a time where I had other stuff on my plate I was trying to deal with. Plus, there was a feeling like nothing I had to say mattered or made a difference. I felt very unheard in my teens and I came to despise my voice. As if that were it’s fault.

Improv did not, can not, fix this issue. It has taken a lot of prayer and effort and reading and talking it through with a friend and work and crying and frustration and sweat and nausea to get to this point. What improv did was force me to face the issue. I had to confront this or I had to quit doing improv. Status quo was unsustainable.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be able to sing (even terribly), or do an accent, or hear my voice on tape, without having to shove a tentacle of shame back into my brain’s basement. Then I catch myself being frustrated, rather than ashamed, over the quality of something I’m doing and I see hope. Shame is a powerless state but frustration, frustration leads to growth because it implies I can do better.

Frustration with myself is a hopeful sign.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rachel B
    May 05, 2013 @ 22:37:15

    Anna, can I say what you may not hold in natural talent in this area, you make up for with perseverance, stick-to-it-tive-ness, risk taking, and a motivation from within that amazes, blesses, and encourages me in this area and so many more. It is because of your encouragement and example, I have been encouraged to take on my dreams including “climbing a mountain” this summer.

    I ask that God may grant you wisdom and truth to overcome this fear and use your voice for its intended purpose to transform people and nations and not let anything get in the way of that. Love you, girl!


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