Also catching up on a woefully long to-do list, but who wants to write about that? The singing, however, is awesome.
Earlier this year I started going to a weekly singing group, encouraged by mr tog because it was happening where he does his band practice, and he was sure that getting back into singing regularly again would make me happier. He was right – in fact I’m certain that being able to sing regularly helped me cope with the awful months this year where Mum found out about the return of her cancer and then her death and then placing Dad in care and then packing up their house – singing gave me something totally unrelated to any of that where I just had to turn up and take part in something technically challenging yet done just for the joy of it, which was such a relief from mourning and rage and denial and misery.
Then there’s the documented therapeutic benefits of singing (especially in groups), which no doubt helped me “keep my strength up” during the many months in which I wasn’t eating a properly balanced diet and was numbing my grief with too much alcohol, and is now providing me with measurable improvements in my physical fitness. Making a bunch of new friends and the fascination of those getting-to-know-you social interactions (and their sympathy, patience and generosity during my grief-stages moods (especially the gabbling overcompensating vivacity ones which make me cringe in retrospect)) has also been invaluable, and having a performance date to work towards as a goal helped with motivation for going every possible week.
I haven’t written much about my singing history here (I don’t even have an archive tag for it!), because I’d already pretty much given it up apart from special invitation performances by the time I started HaT, and I missed it too much to write about it even though I wasn’t taking any steps to get back into it (because depression). My experience is quite extensive – I had classical song training as a child, did a lot of choral/ensemble and stage-musical extracurricular activities in high school, then inexplicably self-sabotaged myself by not joining any singing/musical group when I first went to uni (probably partly because I was experiencing my first (undiagnosed) bout of depression due to isolation from my support systems and depression closes one off from life-enhancing pursuits because depression is deeply perverse, and definitely partly because my first very pushy singing teacher left me deeply ambivalent about letting new people know the full range and power of my voice). Over the years I’ve been in a few garage bands, a few amateur-dramatic societies specialising in musicals, a few choirs (obMessiah count = 1) and thoroughly enjoyed floating coloratura descants over carols every Yuletide, but when I had my two bouts of Post Natal Depression my motivation for music seemed to take a very long migration elsewhere, and that has very much not been good for me.
For the first winter in many years I don’t seem to be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder this – maybe all that grief earlier this year meant my brain simply isn’t capable of another downswing yet (and of course I’m still grieving even though the intensity has lessened, so maybe that’s different neurochemicals?), or maybe it’s the singing that is keeping me on a more even keel. I like to think it’s the singing, but since I’m enjoying it so much now that’s enough justification to keep on doing it even if it’s not directly preventing SAD. I’ve also signed up for a School of Rock program which is pushing me to use my voice in very different ways than I use it for choral singing, yet still with a group effect like choir because it’s collaborative music-making even if I’m the only one vocalising (and then of course there’s backing vocals for the rock program, which is a different flavour again of technical challenge), so that’s Even More Singing to do me Even More Good.
I know a few other Hoydenizens also enjoy their group/choral singing sessions, and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a new hobby to get you out of the house with other people. There are singing groups out there for all levels of vocal skill and musical knowledge, and if you’re a bit shy at least there’s only a few times in the session where actual conversation tends to happen (and if you’re not at all shy there’s usually a few folks keen to go to the pub and socialise afterwards).
Now I need to go practise for this week’s sessions 🙂