Monday, December 19, 2016

Choices Change Us and Faking It Until Making It

Life chugs along pretty quickly. As it's zooming by, I keep learning that I don't know much. There's so much to know! But here's what I do know: everything is a choice. Some choices are much more difficult than others, but most are negotiable. Some may be out of our hands, but how we react to them is not. Consequences, however, may not always be controlled, and so we need to think about our big choices carefully.

*I have chosen to keep Christmas small, this year. We didn't mail out cards/newsletters (we emailed them, instead), every child will receive about 6 (modest) gifts (plus stockings), and we're not traveling anywhere (distant).

*I have chosen, over the last several weeks, to make my bed every morning (except this morning. Because apparently I work well with irony). It tends to start the snowball of tidying up when I do!

*I have chosen to keep eating sugar (and way too many cookies), even though it's hurting my body. This is a choice I do not like and feel like I can't change without a major overhaul (detox, anyone?). I mean, it's going to take some incredible will-power, goal-making, and focus. And outside support. The sad (and great?) part is that I want to do this really, really badly. But I don't feel strong, yet. I have the current disconnect between what I want and what I have to do to get what I want. Sugar addiction is real, it's frustrating, and my food addictions have more to do with my environment and how I deal with hard feelings than with hunger or self-worth.

*I'm getting older, and so my monthly cycle is getting wonky. It makes for some nervous days when I wonder if I might be pregnant (I'm not). Sure, we could do things to make it less ambiguous, but that's personal and none yo' bizness, so it is what it is. That is also choice.

*I've chosen to work on my mental health and get serious professional help for it. I'm spending money on it. I know that if I don't work on this aspect of my health, it will have disastrous consequences not only for me, but for my family. That's just reality. My choices, the ones where I react to my feelings, respond to the wrong synapses in my brain, and can't see the truth right in front of me --those choices influence everyone around me and can truly hurt my husband and kids. Yeah, yeah --I know they are agents unto themselves and I have zero control over their own choices. But I have a profound influence. I can't pretend that I don't. So, to therapy I go! (Besides the fact that it helps me be a better person and makes me happier!)

*I've chosen to focus on my home, more. I don't like the clutter. Instead of choosing to be okay with it, I've decided I will do what I can, and then let the rest go. It may take me a long time to get my house into a smooth, working order, but I'm okay with that because goals take time. And this goal is about the process, not the end result.

*I have also chosen to nurse my toddler and co-sleep. This is a choice I made, and I own it. But because of it, the consequences are that I'm not getting enough sleep and my body is holding onto weight (yeah, yeah, it's mostly the sugar, but stay with me, here) that I could lose if I wasn't in milk-making mode. I have chosen to only nurse at night. I have chosen to put her in her bed, but then allow her to come upstairs and get into bed with us in the middle of the night. I have chosen not to train her to sleep down there, again, because I'm really tired. Some would argue that's a self-fulfilling cycle, and I would tell them, "um, duh. I know." *insert winky emoji here*

*I've chosen to be a wife and mother. I chose my husband (luckily, he chose me, too!) and I chose to have many children (and luckily, I had them!). I chose to do this when I was young-ish and while I could. I know some choices (like the ability to conceive or the ability to marry) are out of our hands, but I'm grateful I didn't wait too long to make these choices. (Or to at least try.) In a few years, I will no longer be able to biologically have children, nor will I have the energy to raise them in my home. The choice to have children right out of college was the right one for me. Times and seasons really mean something when you're talking about fertility and youth. The time to bear and raise children are between the ages of 20 and 45. The easiest time is between 20 and 30. This isn't an opinion --it's biological fact. So, I chose to have all the kids before I was 40 (toddler girl came just before my 36th birthday), and I started at 22. I like this choice. I feel it was very wise on my part. (I know others didn't have this choice. I don't fault or judge them for this.)

*I've chosen to go back to teaching piano and to aggressively advertise this fact. Because of my efforts, it looks like I may have 10 students in January. I'm actually hoping to have 15-20 (20 will be my limit while I've got kids in my home). I've had zero calls on accompanist jobs, but that makes sense, as the semester just ended. I'm anticipating I may have some calls come January! Choosing to dive back into teaching is the right choice. It feels good and I am excited to get a studio going, again!

*The piano teaching choice is the precursor to another big choice: my Master's degree. I am seriously going to pursue applying to graduate school in a few years (probably 3, when baby girl starts Kindergarten). It may have to be part time, but I'm okay with this. I don't want to run faster than I have strength, and I want to do all things in wisdom and order. I'm open to all possibilities and changes, right now, but I've gone to the local university's website and saved the application requirements for the Master of Music History program. I have some things to brush up on (mostly theory and some history), and I'll need then-current recordings of me teaching or performing. This means practice and experience; being in a teaching groove by then will be invaluable. As will performing! I'm not satisfied with my level of ability right now. I have chosen to start practicing more often, and like any good student, I've started with scales, chord progressions, arpeggios, and interval training (thank you, Royal Conservatory of Toronto and your old repertoire that still resides in my music library!). I'm feeling some level of confidence that I'll be ready. (It will be memorization of pieces that may kill me! My memory is being used up by all my kiddos, currently.)

I'm trying to keep the fear out of the Masters choice, but, honestly, it scares me out of my mind. Why? Well, it's like this:

I've written about this before (so you don't need to read anymore, as it may be old news to you, dear reader), but for so long (so, so long --like 18 years?) I thought I was a total poser (fake, hack, loser) when it came to music. BYU had rejected me (three times --how pathetic is that? Granted only one was a piano audition and two were vocal auditions, but still...), so I must have been really, really bad. I knew I was capable; I knew I had skill. But I didn't think I could ever claim the professional title, nor did I think my skills would go beyond Relief Society pianist (an insult an old high school friend attributed to me and my "wasted" skills). [I am, however, positive, that had I been given the chance, I would have done well. My last audition was for secondary choral education. I would have rocked that! But it wasn't meant to be, and hindsight has given me my answers as to why (another long story).] So, even when I had a large piano studio, I didn't take it very seriously. I was the neighborhood piano teacher (which is valuable and very much needed and respectable, in my opinion!). I wasn't involved in any community group and my students' abilities only went as far as my twice-a-year recitals.

While living in Pennsylvania, I realized I could do more. I still didn't feel as confident, but I was able to do some things that helped me see I was certainly capable, and that maybe --just maybe --I wasn't a hack, after all.

After moving to Manhattan, I spoke with some ward members and friends who are professional musicians. He is an organ professor and the keyboard chair at KState. She just graduated (this month!) with her Masters in piano performance/pedagogy (and they have six kids!). They both are well known and respected in our community. They also both did the music major program at BYU, and while talking with them one night, she turned to me and said: "you could do a Masters in music! You should! You'd do great." I had never, ever, heard someone say something like this to me. As soon as people find out I was rejected by BYU for music, they assume the worst. But she didn't. She assumed I could do it! This changed everything for me. It started me on a new path, with a new direction and goal in mind. I started teaching again. I started practicing. I've joined the music teacher's associations on the national, state, and local levels. I've got my kids involved and in lessons, again. I made a piano studio in my home. I'm being interviewed by parents who are cold-calling me from teaching lists in the community, as well as from parents who were given my name by our ward member friends. My friend who sincerely said I should do a master's wants me to teach her children (she'll teach mine!). Now, that is definitely a vote of confidence, wouldn't you agree?

So, here I am, excited to learn more, do more, be more, and then attain an education that will combine my love of writing, history, and music, will increase my value as a teacher, and also bring me great, great joy. But it still scares me! In fact, if I think too hard it scares me a lot. Like... a lot, a lot. Why? Because part of me wonders if I'll fail again. Will I be laughed at? Will I be rejected? Again? Sometimes it really is easier to refuse to try, because when you don't try, you won't be rejected. But I've realized that believing the lies that I'm not capable enough hurts more than the fear of trying again, because the lies hide the truth that I have potential.

Remember this quote?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
~Marianne Williamson 
I will admit I never liked it. I pretty much hated it and thought it was kind of stupid. I'd read the first three or four lines and I would get so upset, I'd just ignore the rest. I felt I had a great sense of self-worth (how I deceived myself in this is beyond me) and I thought it was ridiculous that she would claim my greatest fear is that I'm more powerful and wonderful than I think I am. My greatest fear wasn't this! It was failure! Not being enough! Well, dear reader, I'm starting to understand what she meant. I'm starting to see where fear of my abilities is bubbling to the surface, and I'm learning to understand why. What she says taps into a lot of truth.

I actually approached Brandon a few weeks ago and asked,
"Have you ever felt like a fake?"
"Have you ever felt like you were totally faking it? A hack? A phony? That you were expected to be this gloriously talented person, but you were really just pretending?"
"For sure!"
"How did you over come it?"
"I just faked it until I made it."
"That's it?"
"Yeah, pretty much. You just keep going until you get it figured out."
"And did you make it?"
"Yeah, I think so."

He didn't say anything I hadn't heard before, but it made me stop an wonder: isn't that what life is, anyway? We're all just faking it. We learn all these glorious things, and then we practice them. And we fail pretty miserably at it, sometimes. But we keep trying. We keep learning, failing, trying, practicing, failing, trying, learning, etc. and so forth for our entire lives. It's not just about careers, or mothering, or talents, or hobbies. It's about life, and we're all just faking it, really! When older couples, who've been married for 60 years talk about never arguing with their spouses --they aren't lying. They are, currently, no longer arguing. I bet they did 50 years earlier, though! They just kept pushing through the hard times because they knew if they kept practicing, they'd get to that stage where conflict no longer exists. The same goes for people with patience, people with charity, people with ambition --they just kept trying! Even when we're born with talents, we have to work on them and keep trying.

*Last choice of the post: I'm choosing to fake it until I make it.

So, dear reader, what choices have you made, lately, that have brought you great joy or great fear? What choice could you make that might change your life for the better if you were only 1. brave enough or 2. strong enough? What goals have you made? 


Sus said...

You've given me some great food for thought, Cheryl. You should be proud of yourself for the way you're pushing forward. I'm envious you have the energy to make it happen!

Lately I feel so broken and unable to motivate myself that even considering the questions you ask here has given me pause. I've spent so much of my life being an accommodator that I hardly know what my own wants and desires are. ;) I know I have talents and abilities. I know I can choose to work on improving them. I just have to make the choice and do it!

Perhaps I'll come back and share it with you when I figure it out. :)

Katrina said...

I had no idea about your BYU experience. The same thing happened to me. 3 times. Being a music teacher had been my dream (beyond being a mother), and when it didnt happen, I didn't know what to do. I had no real back up plan. I made one up, but it's not where my heart lies. Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to become more involved in the music community here at the high school. I accompany the choir, and when the director can't be there, I step in and direct. I am the ward choir director, and am often involved in putting together youth choirs and such for our stake. It has reminded me that besides my family and the gospel, music is my greatest passion, and I am going to do something about it. My baby is in school, so I can start taking classes online until I can be hear an actual campus that offers a music degree. Just the though makes me happy. Thanks for seconding my thoughts in that area! Love you!

Handsfullmom said...

Your music goals sound wonderful. I think you will do great. And i am right there with you with the sugar addiction. I know i need to lick it, but mustering the energy when i am still not sleeping through the night... meh, maybe i will just eat another cookie instead. ;)

Handsfullmom said...

Your music goals sound wonderful. I think you will do great. And i am right there with you with the sugar addiction. I know i need to lick it, but mustering the energy when i am still not sleeping through the night... meh, maybe i will just eat another cookie instead. ;)