So What If I Look Ridiculous?

In my newsletter last month, I announced my new creative project for this year: learning to sing! In the weeks since then, my daily assignments in the Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program have gotten me doing a lot of things I definitely wouldn’t have done otherwise: Breaking down the musical theory behind “The Happy Birthday Song.” Leaping up and down in front of my computer, an invisible mic held to my mouth, as I mimic YouTube videos of David Byrne (“Life During Wartime”) and Blondie “One Way or Another.” Singing arpeggios while sounding them out on the piano. Driving down I-280 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz while belting out “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma.

Each of these assignments has chipped away at a limiting self-image—some variation on “I’m not good at…” or “I’m not the sort of person who…” or (especially potent) “I’ll look ridiculous if I…” Buddhist teacher Tara Brach tells a story about a tiger, caged in a zoo for most of its life, who was released into the relative freedom of a wildlife sanctuary. Instead of roaming free, the tiger spent the rest of its life pacing back and forth within the confines of an invisible cage. When it comes to singing, I’ve been like that tiger, trapped inside fake bars formed by beliefs about what I couldn’t do. Now I’m starting to explore the wilderness outside that imaginary zoo. Maybe I look—or sound—a little eccentric from time to time. But do I have the time to waste worrying about that?

I have to admit: I’ve sung less —and written less about it–than I’d hoped. But I’m on my way, focusing on progress, not perfection: Trying to sing just a little bit every day. Jotting notes about my experiences in my journal. Not beating myself up when I miss a few days, but just returning back to the practice without judgment—the way I bring my mind back to my breath when my attention wanders in meditation. I’ve posted a couple of blog posts about what I’ve discovered, which you can read here if you’ve missed them.

I’m about to leave town to teach a meditation retreat in Germany. But when I get back, I’m planning to join a choir. I’ll let you know how that goes! In the meantime, I hope we all keep breaking out of the zoos we’ve let ourselves be trapped in.


By | 2018-03-06T01:55:16+00:00 March 6th, 2018|Spirit of Creativity|5 Comments

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  1. Kathleen Cushman March 6, 2018 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Singing is what gets me through the day, Anne—I’m so happy that you’ve taken it up! It’s not about talent at all — it’s about joy! And you’ve had it in you since early childhood. It makes me so happy that you’re joining a choir, and you’re also in mine!

    • Anne Cushman May 26, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Let’s sing together sometime!

  2. Gayathri March 6, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    How fun, Anne! “Leaping up and down in front of my computer”.. Hmm.. Wonder what kind of singing exercise that is, but it sounds fun! :)> I too love to sing and my daughter hates it when I do, especially if it’s one of the songs she likes. I probably sound terrible.. but hey, like you said “Do I have time to waste worrying about that?!” Choirs are great. I recently heard an interview with Daniel Pink on NPR where he was speaking about the benefits of choral singing. Here’s an article about it –

    Enjoy your new singing life and your time in Germany :). xo

    • Anne Cushman May 26, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for the link, Gayathri! The article looks great.

  3. Anonymous March 6, 2018 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Hello Anne, i’m thrilled that you are continuing on your singing journey. I went on that journey about 25 years ago. Terrifying to go to that first voice lesson but I’ve been in the choir for over 20 years now and singing is one of the most joyful things that I do in my life. I hope you feel the same way. Love muff

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