How Can I Keep From Singing?

Last night I attended my first Sweet Adelines rehearsal.  I was nervous going in.  It had been a crappy day on the Bipolar Scale—the depression and distorted thinking causing all sorts of mental funk and warped perceptions.  I worried about being “good enough,” about exposing myself in a new social setting, even about finding my way to the small auditorium in the dark and freezing rain.  But, I kept breathing and running my mantra through my mind.  It’s just the illness.  It’s just the illness.  It’s just the illness.  My desire to sing helped me push through the bipolar muck.

I was completely unprepared for the warm welcome I received.  The director sat with me for some time, explaining barbershop music in comparison to other choral scores, asking about my range and experience, and outlining the process.  Guests come to rehearsals for three or four weeks, then must audition with a quartet of the members to join the group.  For the audition, another  member will sing my part (Lead) with me, and we sing a number that we’ve all rehearsed together the previous weeks.

When she introduced me to the whole group, they seemed downright giddy when I said I was looking for a place to sing. Their open-armed acceptance stunned me.  And then, the director plunked me in the middle of the front row and started.

Oh, my.  That close, barbershop harmony felt delicious standing in the middle of it, and even more tasty creating it.  I was surprised as how fast I picked up the songs, even more surprised that I could still read music and make my voice do what the music said.  I hadn’t tested those skills since undergoing ECT, so wondered if they would be a casualty.  They weren’t.

The women around me were encouraging and fun.  They worked hard, preparing for a competition next month.  Sweet Adelines is a serious business, like Show Choir for adults (Glee for Grannies), with choreography and constant reminders to “bring the face.”  I was exempt from all that emoting, but I could feel myself getting into it.  A little corny, but hey, that’s show biz.

The downside is the cost.  There are monthly dues, costumes to buy, and travel expenses.  I told the director the dues alone would be a severe stretch for me.  She told me not to worry (which made me wonder if there might be financial assistance available), and also said I could join without being required to perform.  That was a shock and a relief.

I left tired (standing for two hours straight), thrilled, and cautious.  Since my experience at the Animal Rescue League, I understand myself a little better.  I can’t trust my first impulses when it comes to reentering the wider world.  I reach for what I used to be, which is often beyond my bipolar limits.  It will take time and more exposure to see if I can navigate the pressure this group will create—the anxiety, social phobia, and agitation.  A weekly commitment feels like a lot when I have so much difficulty with consistency.  I’ll just hold all this lightly and observe.

In the meantime, I get to SING!

Here are my friends Carol Singer and Rochelle Bayers, singing with me on my last day as a Ministerial Guide at Lake Harriet Spiritual Community.

How Can I Keep From Singing

20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. carlarenee45
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 17:20:37

    that is so great! Good for you for stepping out and doing something that bipolar has made you think you could no longer do. Singing! If I could only sing! Talk about release of emotion. No matter what the words are, it’s the passion bellowing from the gut that brings pent up feelings with it as you sing out! I’m so glad when I see someone that finds a way around that mental wall that bipolar puts us in. I hope it works out good for you and that you get the part. Keep me informed!


    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 21, 2012 @ 20:51:31

      Bellowing from the gut. That’s exactly it. And you can sing, if only in the privacy of your shower or car. Crank up the music and let ‘er rip!


  2. Sheryl Mae
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 17:50:47

    OK, I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Your voice in song, as with your voice in writing, has always been a gift. I loved hearing your rich tones come through in that clip. Singing has a real history with us and I’m so glad that you are experimenting with using your talent again. Well done sissy!


    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 21, 2012 @ 20:49:44

      I couldn’t listen to that track for long. Self-conscious, embarrassed, I’m not sure exactly. So I appreciate you letting me know it didn’t sound too sucky.


  3. strugglingwithbipolar
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 18:34:44

    I sang in a chapter of the sweet adelines. I got in after my audition but I never joined the chapter officially because I moved. Singing barbershop is amazing. I am glad you did it despite being symptomatic.


  4. ManicMuses
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 02:34:01

    How cool is that!?!?!? Such a sweet voice – I know you’ll just nail that final audition.


  5. Kathryn McCullough
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 05:50:09

    This is great news, Sandy. I couldn’t be happier for you. This is a marvelous way to give back to the community, by sharing your voice.


  6. JAPLM
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 08:41:02

    How wonderful! Good for you! Music is so good for the soul. This year I re-joined a community symphonic band I had enjoyed much, but left several years ago when it go to be too much with the rest of life. Even though I’m last chair and struggle with the challenging music at times I am loving it. Even when I’m not feeling well and am depressed or agitated I still go and then get lost in the music. There is something about having to concentrate hard on the music that gets me out of my own head. I’m lifted to another place and the worrys of the world go away for a couple of hours. I always return home lighter. I hope you find the same with the Sweet Adelines!


  7. littlesundog
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 08:45:16

    My goodness!! Are there any more hidden treasures of talent you possess? I simply marvel at your talent, creativeness, and wisdom. Your passion in life is simply amazing. You inspire me each and every day!


  8. pegoleg
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 09:09:02

    You all sound great! Congrats and good luck with the new singing group – I would be absolutely terrified.


  9. Jinjer Stanton
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:44:26

    So wonderful to hear this again! Beautiful!


  10. Carol Singer
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 14:06:37

    Sandy, I’m so glad you have this recording! I often think of singing this song with you. We made some great music together in those years, but this is the piece that sings in my memory. I spent the summer before starting college singing with the Sweet Adelines. Back then, everyone in the group was old enough to be my grandma, LOL! But I had a blast.
    Armloads of love,


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