“What is the worst thing that could happen?” asked my therapist, Beth, when I called her in a panic. “I don’t know, but something tells me that today is the day I’m going to be exposed,” I said, nearly an octave higher than I usually speak.
“What do you mean by exposed?” she asked.
“You know, exposed as a fraud, a phony, a hack! I can’t do this. I can’t DO this!”
Despite more than ten years experience as a singing teacher, my confidence was tightrope thin and being thrown into a pit of seven- and eight-year-olds for an afternoon workshop threatened to snap it. I’d spent my career avoiding teaching kids, because I have no idea what to do with all the wiggling, (Would it be so hard to sit still for a second?), snotty noses, (Seriously, using a tissue is not that difficult!), and most of all, the questions (Why this? Why that? Why, why, why?!?) What if I didn’t have all the answers? The parents were going to be watching me too. The whole time.
Somehow, Beth convinced me that my fears were probably unfounded and I needed to honor my commitment. Unfortunately, by the time we hung up I had only 10 minutes to get dressed and out the door. I raced down to the laundry room to grab a bra to wear under my favorite white silk blouse, only to discover that I forgot to transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer the night before. I was forced to strap my 38Cs (AKA Lucy and Ethel) into a raggedy front-hooking 36B I found at the back of my underwear drawer.
I got there just in time to toss my jacket on a chair at the back and take my place at the front of the class. It was hot in there because there was a skylight and the sun was baring down, but it was kind of like a spotlight, so it made the performer in me come alive.
For the first five minutes, we did some deep breathing techniques, which helped us all to relax. Within 10 minutes, everyone was singing “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music and sounding surprisingly good. At the 20-minute mark, I was finally in “the zone.” The kids were listening intently and the parents were beaming with pride at the sounds of their children’s voices singing in harmony.
Soon, class was nearly over and the time had flown by without bringing any of my worst-case scenarios to bear.
It was time to review what we learned.
“Alright, pay close attention boys and girls. I’m going to give you two examples of how to breathe for singing. Raise your hand when you see me do the wrong one.”
The first example I showed them was a quiet, low breath, expanding my rib cage and tummy.
No one raised a hand.
The second inhalation was noisy as I sucked in my abdomen, forcing my chest toward the ceiling.
SNAP! went my front-fastening bra, sending shards of the broken plastic clasp into the waistband of my skirt and the bra into my armpits.
A dozen tiny hands shot up into the air.
“Correct, boys and girls. Very good!!!” I said with way too many exclamation points. As I tried to find a natural looking way to cover Lucy and Ethel with my forearms, I could feel my nipples shrinking and pointing simultaneously.
I had to get out of there fast.
“OK! We’ve come to the end of our class, everyone. It’s been terrific being your teacher this afternoon. Thank you so much for having–”
“Miss Lisa! I know why the second example was wrong,” said a girl from the back row.
“Um. Ok.” Why did I leave my jacket at the back of the room? I thought.
“Because it was loud and you are supposed to breathe quietly for singing, right?”
“That’s right! Very good!” I said in the same high-pitched voice I had when I spoke to Beth earlier.
“–And your belly sucked in, not out,” said another without being called on.
Three more hands shot up.
“OK. I have time for just one more person,” I said. While keeping my hands clasped under my chin, I pointed one finger at a cherubic little boy who was dying to contribute.
“And, and, and,” he stammered, “your boobs got HUGE!”
Despite being exposed in a way I could never have imagined, I lived to teach another day. And, anytime my mind starts to wander into worst-case-scenario land, I remind myself of the time Lucy and Ethel tried to point out how unpredictable life really is and I think If I can survive that kind of exposure, I can survive anything.