What could Meryl Streep and I possibly have in common? Here she is singing ‘I’m Checking Out’ from the 1990 movie, ‘Postcards from the Edge’. Hear the joy in her voice? The slow build? The honky-tonk, toe-tapping rhythm? Yeehaa! Remember my fun challenge last week? Thanks to Meryl, I’m singing again!
My challenge to do one, spontaneous, fun thing every day was initially hard work, which pretty much defeats the purpose!
On SUNDAY I went for a long walk with a friend along the clifftop path beside our bay. We talked a lot, laughed a lot. But my friend and I often explore different parts of our city on long walks. Surely I was cheating to call it my fun thing for the day?
Then we came across a briefcase chained to a picnic table. Inside was a wad of poems that we stopped and read. Some were good, some were terrible, some were from overseas visitors walking the same track who scribbled a poem in passing. Some were written in Chinese!
Just thinking of the person—surely a poet—who chained the briefcase to the table, and who laminated the poems to protect them from the weather–and sharing the experience with a friend–lifted my heart in the way that only friendship and poetry can.
Tick, fun. Day one.
On MONDAY I opened up my Winnie the Pooh music box that I bought at a local market (for a one-day, future grandchild) from a friend. She has the naughtiest laugh and the cheekiest tongue. She would never have to work at having fun. Just thinking about her (and playing the Pooh song) was a small and special moment of fun.
Tick fun. Day two.
Due to unforeseen circumstances—as those burly policemen like to say on the TV news—sounding like they’ve learned the book of police-speak by heart—TUESDAY did not work out as planned. It was not until nine o’clock at night, with the fun potential for the day dwindling rapidly away, that I suddenly thought of my song book.
Years ago, when I was travelling in France, I heard a concert choir rehearsing in Reims Cathedral. As those incredible voices soared through the cloisters, my heart soared with them and I wanted desperately to sing, to know that joy. But sing? Me? I’d spent my whole life afraid to open my mouth.
Arriving home, my musician son, said: ‘Mum, anyone can learn to sing.’ (How do our children know these things?) He was right, of course, anyone can. And so I did.
After a few lessons, I joined a local singing group and entered a new world. Singing opened my heart. It took me out of my comfort zone. It helped me let go. It made me take risks. I discovered that singing is a lot like writing. Both are about finding a voice, daring to speak out, being brave, being truthful. And as I discovered my singing voice, my writing voice grew stronger.
At the end of year concert. I sang with the choir. I sang solo. And the song that I chose was ‘I’m Checking Out’. So on Tuesday night, I pulled out my old song book, found Meryl on YouTube and sang for the first time in many years. I’d forgotten how singing releases endorphins. I went to bed happy.
Tick fun. Day three.
On WEDNESDAY I re-learned the words of ‘I’m Checking Out’ by heart and sang some more. I also booked tickets for a Masquerade Ball on Saturday night. A Ball? How long was it since I’d been to a Ball? Had a ball? This singing was certainly taking me out of my comfort zone!
Tick fun. Day four.
On THURSDAY, I sang some more. I sang with Meryl and I sang alone. I sang in the kitchen. I sang in the shower. I sang on the beach. I sang in the car. I sang in the street (more of a hum). I went to bed with a song in my head. I can’t say I dreamed of singing but when I woke up, the song was still there.
Tick fun. Day five.
On FRIDAY, I added some other songs to my repertoire. I sang ‘On Top of Old Smokey’ and ‘K-K-K-Katie’ and ‘Mockingbird Hill’. Where did these old songs come from? How did I know the words? They must have been buried deep in my soul from hearing my mother sing them when I was a child. My parents’ generation sang and whistled all the time; now we listen to other people sing; we think singing is a professional thing that other people do, and mostly we deny ourselves the joy
On SATURDAY night, I went to the Ball. I can’t say I danced all night, or that we stayed until dawn, but it was definitely fun.
So what did I learn from my challenge?
I discovered that fun needs to be a regular and natural part of my everyday life, and until it becomes spontaneous, I might have to work at making it so. But mostly I rediscovered Meryl. I learned to sing again.
Move over Bette Midler, next I’m taking on ‘The Rose’!