Saturday, February 4, 2012
Singing A New Song
Growing up, I loved music, and to sing. But my parents, though they don't remember this and I don't believe they meant to be cruel, pointed out to me every time I sang that I wasn't very good at it. My sister Monica was an excellent and trained singer, and I should stick to debate because that was more my thing. So I did, and here I am, a lawyer -- depending on the day of the week -- and it would seem sticking to debate, mock trial, mock congressional hearings and the like worked out for me.
Except I feel like a failure, a little more every day. I'm a lawyer who can't find a job in an office. For a while, I didn't mind not having a full-time law job. The flexibility of practicing only when I want to was enjoyable; it still is, really. Besides, I wanted to be a mom more than I wanted to be a lawyer, and I wanted to stay home with my children. One failed pregnancy, one fatal defect, zero job offers, two unruly dogs, and a crumbling marriage later, the flexibility I once enjoyed sometimes seems more of a reminder of my failings than a privilege. I can't even grow a fucking herb garden. My self-esteem is on a steady decline, as my self-pity grows, and every time I've traveled this kind of emotional path in the past it has led to disaster.
So I decided to do my best to cut it off at the past. I started taking a creative writing class to get my brain geared up for the book that I have every intention of writing. I joined the team for the Res Ipsa Loquitor, the Kern County Bar Association's monthly magazine; after our first meeting I discovered that not only had I found kindred spirits (I'm still disheartened that more people don't care about the rules governing when to use a colon), but this team could help me make the connections I need to really use my license to practice for something positive, like to coach my high school's mock trial team, or be added to the list of court appointed minor's counsel, a newly developed goal of mine.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my ventures in self-improvement. Gideon and I are enrolled in a basic obedience course. Gid is by far the largest dog there, 91 pounds of stubborn, restless, and unguided doggy energy. I knew that Gideon and I were likely to be the only pair who didn't practice throughout the week -- with three dogs to wrestle with and little help in distracting the other two, finding an opportunity to practice was challenging. Though Gideon can perform basic commands when he is focused, walking on a leash has always been a struggle for us. Naturally he fought and pulled in class while we were walking in a circle today, the other dogs obediently following their owners' lead. His six foot leash wrapped around my hand tightly, squeezing off the circulation as I fought my naughty dog to keep him from embarassing us. It got to be too much for me, and I started to cry. "Don't cry. Your emotions will travel right down that lead, he'll feel it to and you won't get him to do anything. He's just a dog." For a moment, I thought, "Exactly. He's just a dog. And I can't even do this right. I can't do anything right." But none of that was really the point in the moment. The point is, Gideon and I need help, and we'd taken an affirmative step in reaching out for that help. We were there to improve our lives. Gideon deserves an owner who knows how to handle him, so we can have fun, go on walks and other outings, and I was just going to have to suck it up. Gideon still might be the worst-behaved dog in the class, but today he got a little bit better.
In another effort to improve myself, I also took a voice lesson. One night after more than a few cocktails, I admitted to my friend Lindsey that I liked to sing but had been told I wasn't good at it. I told her that I really enjoyed singing to Gabriel, and want to sing with confidence to my children in the future. We agreed that I would take a few voice lessons with her.
On Thursday we had our first session together. Lindsey, much like my sister, is a trained vocalist, and now in possession of a degree in music. Singing in front of her, and sometimes along with her, was intimidating, but exciting. And confidence-building. And at moments, even exhilirating. And the most fun I've had in a while. And the most challenged I've felt, aside from working with Gideon, in a while.
The curve balls life has thrown at me, and my on-again/off-again marriage, have me realizing that I don't really know what direction my life is headed. But life never stops throwing curves, at any of us. And we have control over very little. Just about the only thing we DO control is ourselves. I've decided to fix what I can and trust that the rest will work itself out.