This is going to be the mad one. So I’ll start it off by saying that at the moment my life is actually going rawthah swimmingly, and I look very forward to talking about that in an upcoming post. Or three or four or ten. I mean, really, things are going very much better than I imagined, so well in fact that I am in that weird “when will the next shoe” drop feeling, you know? Like, it can’t be this smooth right now and things can’t be looking this positive. But things are going well.
But this post, this is the mad one. Because up until my recent trip, the one that led to the hiatus on here, things were not feeling so great. And as I’m looking back on 2011 with a view to collecting all of my paperwork and meeting with my accountant early next week, I can see why.
Back in August, I stopped being paid for a job I was doing. I had felt emotionally as well as financially committed to the work; and so I let the head of the organization know that I’d finish out one more series of concerts (I was the conductor) and then be done. Great disappointment was expressed by one and all.
In the meantime, I continued to juggle childcare, evenings out, program planning, rehearsals, and the cantankerous working relationships that were most challenging when I was at my best (and being paid) – and really impossible once I was not.
So January came, and my other place of part time work offered me more – enough to get benefits through the workplace. Then a week before those benefits were to start, they removed exactly enough hours of work so that I would be exactly below the amount needed to get benefits.
At the same time, I was finishing up with the concerts, which went into the first week of February. So I was working more at the part time job that had been going to pay benefits but now was not; and I was working more at the place where I was finishing up and (finally) getting a small amount of money at the time of the last concert.
Once all the smoke cleared, I ended up with insurance that works for me right now. I ended up with work that provides satisfaction and leads me in the direction I want to go – more solo singing, less (as in exactly no) conducting. And I ended up really ragged. REALLY ragged.
I felt I should be grateful to the organizations that hired me for hiring me at all, in an economy where who the hell hires a soprano for ANYTHING? And I felt that I should be able to bounce back from the emotional whiplash of it all. But I knew that wouldn’t really happen until I got to travel, spend time with friends and family, and sing sing sing. The best thing about the trip (our second in a year) was that it was even better than the first trip. And the second best thing was that I got to sing, accompanied by a woman who’s been an out lesbian for almost 30 years, and we got to talk – a lot. It was like suddenly having a really cool lesbian aunt.
When I got back from the trip, I felt pretty sure about where I was headed, and part of that involved clearing out the remnants of the past year. Digging through paperwork I found that anything I did that had to do with my divorce or my move or any associated actions simply left me feeling peaceful. But any time I would come across something related to this group I conducted, I felt just plain awful. I was really really glad to see it all be done with, and I felt as if I had sort of slipped on a banana peel back in August and tried to act like it didn’t hurt. But it did. They didn’t pay me, they wanted a show, and they gave no budget for it. It was appalling.
Then, as I was collecting my things for taxes, reorganization, and things to return to the group, I got an email in which I learned that a prominent (female) member of the organization is saying, apparently to anyone who will listen, that it was a problem that a woman was conducting the group, and the style of that woman conductor kept audiences from coming.
I’ve been a conductor for over ten years, have conducted to small houses and to nearly sold out houses, and I’ve never heard anything remotely like this before. I was speechless.
Today, as I was doing a final tally for my accountant on my self-employment income (from which this conducting clusterfuck of a gig came), I realized that by sticking with them I lost out on thousands of dollars that, in looking over my schedule, I could easily have replaced by teaching voice lessons, had I not been essentially volunteering with this group.
Financially I came out fine, so again, all is well. A sale of property left me with a cushion to help me make it through the year and plot a course for the future.
But I paid a price in the size and reputation of my voice studio; the quality of my singing voice, which always goes down when I conduct instead of sing; my family life, which suffered as the evenings out lengthened and the time spent away from family increased; and in my respect for an entire community.
I can’t believe I let myself do all of that for a group that would, months later, put out there for all to see that any problems they had were because of my presence there. It’s appalling. If I were talking to someone who wasn’t me, who was going through this, I’d say something like “Well, isn’t it nice to have affirmed that you did the right thing by leaving!” I’d also say “Wow those fuckers. How dare they.” And I’d say “It’s not OK that you were treated like that. You need to know that. It wasn’t OK for them to treat you that way.”
What I say to myself, besides all of that, is to take a lesson from this experience. Now when I look at a possible opportunity, I step back and ask if this will truly enhance my life, or if it will just drain me dry and then leave me scapegoated. If I suspect for even a second that the answer is the latter, I’m outa there.
In fact, one thing I’m doing is looking to move the location of my private studio so that I’m not tied to anyone but myself. I have space, I just need to examine how best to use it.
Truly, all is well. This month of March has been highly emotional for me in a very positive way. But I’ve hesitated to write about these things – the internet is far from private and there are folks who read here, either regularly or occasionally, who have some knowledge of the situations I’m describing. But I’ve decided that I’m stuck right now and I need to say this, here, in a semi-public place, in order to get it out and to move forward. I guess I figure, once someone puts out in public that there was something wrong with me being the conductor (even as a volunteer) because of being a woman, then I can put out in public how I feel.
In a corollary, it’s been a year since my mother moved here to stalk me and try to alter me. She has, finally, moved back to her home. I have confirmation of this from packages she sends my children (which I intercept so that I can extract anything inappropriate – and most of the things are, in my view, completely inappropriate). She writes them long letters about her life and asks them lots of questions about their lives, just as she used to do to me by email. So I’m keeping documentation of all of that. I’m glad she’s gone, and I’m sad that I have no relationship with my mother, and this past year of her stalking me (and continuing to try to reach me through letters and packages to my children) still gives me nightmares.
The thing is, right now I’m sitting in my cozy cottage with my cozy dog, my children are having a wonderful time at their dad’s house, I’m reading Harry Potter book 4, and I’m singing high notes better than I did twenty years ago.
And as part of all of this upheaval, I’ve decided to make myself – my life, my body, my feelings, my singing, etc – a special priority over the next year. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, surely the road to purgatory is paved with refusing to take care of oneself. So then perhaps the road to flower-filled meadows is paved with honoring myself.
That felt good to get off my chest. I don’t really want to talk more about it. I’m ready to sing high notes some more – got to sing some this afternoon with a former student and it was awesome.
Who knows. Maybe by engaging in a year of self-indulgence I’ll reset my brain and live what I believe, that deep peaceful happiness is possible. Yeah.