The walls lead somewhere good (Celestun, 2020)

We’re hooked on being perfect. We filter our photos (especially our selfies). We pay big money for all kinds of “beauty” interventions–eyelash extensions, fake eyebrows (guilty!), peels, botox (just a little “freshening”!), fillers (what are we filling, exactly?)…you name it. And that’s not all. Even in, for example, our yoga practice–if we happen to do that–we can become obsessed with “doing it best”, the “full expression of the posture”, or simply trying to keep up with (or worse: be better than) our neighbour on the mat.

In our singing practice and performance, this manifests as a constant berating and browbeating. We are dissatisfied because we aren’t as good as we were yesterday or last week, or, when you get to my age, when we were young and fresh. I disrespect myself, the art form, the accumulated wisdom I have gleaned from so many years in the practice room, rehearsal hall and performing space. I cease to be present in the moment, either longing for what I’ve done before, or anticipating how it’s not going to be up to standard in the future. I’m not living in the breath, not willing to be inspired by thought or feeling in the moment, not trusting the music or my own voice to lead me. We’re boxed in, seeing the blue sky somewhere in the imagined future but failing to see the magic of the present moment. The quality of light, the play of light and shadow, the stillness in the moment before the next sound.

I’m not there yet, but in the next few weeks I’m going to be spending some time ruminating on the imperfections and their lessons. I’m reading a book by William Westney called The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self, and in it, he talks about upending our concept of perfection in our musical (and personal) lives and embracing our spontaneity, vitality and joy. If we are willing to investigate our imperfections, however small or large, we can discover and UNcover the most delightful things. Because it’s in the discovery where the magic lies.