Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that January is choir holiday, and that I hate choir holiday. It makes me miserable, and I count down the days on my calendar until I get to the one coloured in yellow highlighter, which has written on it in big letters: Choir famine ends! I hate January, and the only good thing about it is that there’s still eleven whole months to go until the next month-long choir holiday is imposed on me once more.
This choir holiday, I have to admit, has been less difficult than previously. Partly because I have friends who promised in my Christmas card: “We’ll help you through the choir famine!”, and they did (I have good friends. I am very lucky). Partly, though, it was because the Christmas singing was so intolerably difficult.
Here is part of a draft of a blog post that I wrote at the beginning of December, but never published:
I can’t sing anymore.
It’s not that I can’t. I open my mouth and noise comes out; most of the time it’s a fairly reasonable sound. There’s nothing wrong with me: my vocal cords still work, I don’t have a cold, no one’s had me in a chokehold. But I can’t sing.
Singing’s always the thing that I (almost) never compromised. It kept me alive. Now though, singing is the one time that I can’t control the flow of emotion or my body’s response to it. Sometimes I’ll be fine, it will be easy, I’ll feel that I’m getting through it. Other times it won’t, and my hands will shake and my stomach will churn with a fear I don’t understand, and the music will open a wellspring of emotion I can’t even begin to name, let alone control: ten years’ worth of fear, of sadness, of shame. If I’m lucky I’ll be able to stick it out, get through a service with nothing but trembling music in my hands to show for the turmoil going on inside. If I’m not lucky – or not rigid enough in the self-control I no longer take for granted – then my composure shatters and all I can do is escape to seek solitude until the worst of it passes. Which is fairly disruptive and inconvenient when it happens in the middle of a rehearsal, or a service.
I understand why it’s happening: I denied this emotion, this fear, this shame, for ten years. Even after I escaped my ex, I remained until quite recently in survival mode. It was important, it kept me alive. But now I’ve got a debt of emotion to pay and by God, I’m paying it now. With interest.
This is why part of me – that craven part that doesn’t have the courage to face what I have to – was shamefully relieved at the idea of a month’s holiday from it all. And this is why part of me – a large part, if I’m honest – is a little bit nervous at the end of choir holiday, even though the rest of me celebrates it and is counting the hours – or would be, if my maths was good enough.
It’s Wednesday tonight. And on Friday I’m going back to the thing that kept me alive, around which my weeks revolve, which gives me life, and which will bring healing – but which just may be the most difficult thing I can do.