Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just Roll With It

Yesterday I forgot to change the clock in my office to reflect the time change. As a result, I showed up for my personal trainer appointment an hour early. I didn't figure out my mistake until my trainer arrived and asked me what I was doing there so early. He thought the whole thing was quite funny, but he very kindly offered to let me join the workout class that meets just before my regular appointment instead of making me wait around.

"Do I get to tell everyone why you're joining our class today?" he asked.

I felt a little stupid about my mistake, but I just laughed. "Sure," I replied. "I can work on my humility today."

I am an intelligent, organized, and capable adult with a degree from a prestigious college, but I'm not immune from stupid mistakes. People at work are used to me being very reliable, but sometimes I drop the ball. I'm very organized, but occasionally I misplace something or miss an appointment. I even do silly things like forgetting to change my clock at work. But when these things happen, I've learned that the best thing I can do is just roll with it.

I have been singing in public since I was in the fourth grade. I had sung before a crowd of more than 1,000 people before I even entered middle school. I made my first mistake in a public performance when I was a freshman in college. I had joined a women's choir that performed pieces that were more technically advanced than any music I'd sung before. Our most challenging selection, a 12-minute marathon of a piece, featured a trio section in the middle. I auditioned for the top part, but it went to a good friend of mine instead. Another friend got the bottom part, so I used to sing the middle part with them when we were just fooling around outside of choir practice. The girl who was supposed to sing the middle part quit the choir a week or two before the performance. The director gave her part to me because I was the only one who'd been practicing it and felt comfortable stepping up at such a late date. In the concert, the director gave an ambiguous cue and the trio came in early. In the panic of that moment when things went wrong, I unwittingly hopped up to the top part because it was the musical line I had auditioned for and therefore knew better. I couldn't find my way back to the middle part, and I ended up doubling the top part the rest of the way through. The crowd didn't really notice what we had done, but I was devastated. After the concert, I didn't want to talk about what happened because the other two girls also felt bad about our botched entrance. I was all freaked out and jittery, and I spent the rest of the night stress-eating. (This was the night I met the man whom I eventually married—it's a good thing he was able to get over this unflattering first impression!)

Luckily my first mistake was rather mild. The more spectacular mess-ups didn't happen until later in my singing career when I was better able to handle them. The year I joined the church that I attend now, I sang "The Lord's Prayer" (a signature piece for me) at services one Sunday. Midway through the piece, the accompanist (a tried and true veteran organist) accidentally turned two pages instead of one and started playing something completely different from what I was singing. I shakily finished the phrase as best I could, and by the next phrase she had figured out what had happened and was back in the right place. We managed to finish with a flourish, and after the service, both the organist and I were nonchalant about the whole thing. I had grown enough as an artist that I realized that these things just happen sometimes. I'm glad I learned that lesson. It helped me get through an experience this year when I was singing a new piece in church and ended up starting it in the wrong key because I was mentally stuck in the key of the song we had just sung. The accompanist had to go through the introduction two more times (adding in the notes I was supposed to sing) before I could get it right. After I got started, I was able to give a beautiful performance. A few years ago, that kind of mistake might have paralyzed me.

So what does coping with mistakes have to do with love? I think that my ability to adapt after things go wrong prevents me from making more mistakes. If I had let my pride get hurt yesterday, I probably would have gotten angry with my personal trainer for laughing about my clock mistake. If I had gotten worked up when my accompanist made a mistake, I probably would have said some things to her that weren't very nice. I don't need to beat myself or others up over mistakes. They're just mistakes. This year when I completely blew the entrance to my piece, I didn't go home and gorge myself or punish myself emotionally like I did when I was 18. I know better now. I don't want to let mistakes (or fear of them) stop me from using the talents that God has given me. Things are going to go wrong sometimes, but that's OK. I can just roll with it.

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