Concert Attire–Suitable for Whom?

I’ve had the pleasure of singing in the chorus of Verdi’s Requiem with two different orchestras this spring. Both of them have had performance dress codes. The first one was nothing more specific than “all black, from ankles to wrists,” across the board for men and women, given as a verbal statement by the choir director during rehearsal.

When I asked this director if my cap-sleeved choir gown from old college choir days would be acceptable (does it literally need to go to my wrists, or is that an expression?), he explained that, in his words, “As a boy teacher, I have very limited capacity to answer this question–in fact, I had to google ‘cap sleeve’. You’re probably fine, especially if you’d have to scramble for another option. The idea is that if everyone is in all black, there aren’t one pair of arms or legs to draw attention. My guess is that some of the college students won’t be entirely strict on this, so I think it wouldn’t be just you.”

 

As it turned out, plenty of the college singers and others among us had widely varying sleeve lengths, including some just like mine, so it wasn’t anything to be concerned about–and I very much appreciated the director’s attitude to the whole affair. 🙂


 

Now, contrast that with the written instructions received from the director of the second chorus I’m singing with. This is word-for-word:

CONCERT ATTIRE

Men’s Guidelines: White long sleeve tux shirt, black tux pants, black tux jacket, black tie, black socks, black polished shoes.

NOT ACCEPTABLE: Plain white shirt, brown socks, brown shoes. No perfume or heavy hairspray or deodorant scents.

Women’s Guidelines: Please wear black concert attire made of dressy fabrics such as chiffon, velvet, or rayon. Wear a dress or skirt floor length or mid-calf. Dress pants are ok (polazzos). Black suits ok. Sleeve length should be three-quarter length or long sleeve. Please wear loose fitting outfits that are flowing and drape freely. Make sure outfit is black. Keep it formal! Keep it modest! Undergarments should be black if there is a chance of showing. Wear black shoes and black stockings. Peep toe is ok.

The following things are NOT ACCEPTABLE: Garments made of heavy cotton, denim, corduroy, twill, leather, or chino. Low cut gowns or tight fitting slacks. Anything that is “see-through” in nature. Purple, brown, or dark blue outfits. Heavy black belts with big buckles, jewelry made of twine, rope, or beads, extra large earrings. Sandals or clogs. Tan or beige stockings. Sleeveless or shortsleeved tops, tank tops, spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, bare shoulders, skirts above the knee. Plunging necklines. Long slits in the skirts front or sides. Long dangling earrings or excessively shiny rhinestones in either earrings or necklaces. Perfume or heavy hairspray or deodorant scents.


 

…You might suppose, given the level of detail this director supplies with regard to the women, that perhaps there are many youthful, body-image-confident college-aged women populating our numbers.

In fact, no such thing could hardly be further from the truth. I’d be extremely surprised if he actually believes any of the grandmas among this obviously very conservative group of ladies (judging from conversational snippets in between singing) have any inclination whatsoever to wear midriffs and spaghetti straps to the concert.

I do, however, have a bit of wardrobe advice for the author of this handout, as he seems to be in need of it:

misogyny is showing

At least this fellow didn’t think to google “cap sleeve”… well, not that it would have mattered, really. It’s been an extraordinarily tiring last few weeks, and I have already given all the bothers–including any that might have gone toward finding a second performance outfit that checks ALL the copious boxes.

But even if I had any bothers left to give, I probably wouldn’t, anyway, on principle.

I’d much rather stand on mine than his. 🙂

Keep it gritty, lovelies!

–GM

 

I always believe the ideal is waiting just over the horizon.

Escape From the Ideal

I always believe the ideal is waiting just over the horizon.

 

All the places you ever wanted to escape to

are always

Here

in the end.


 

I published this poem on my “professional” blog a week or two back just to demonstrate that, yes, I actually am a writer… in the unlikely event any of my “serious” work is ever accepted for publication by any (established) journal. But I also wanted to talk about it here on this blog, which is much more interactive/conversational.

First off, a shout-out to valdelo of Silently Screaming for the simple encouragement to keep writing. That little nudge prompted me to see if I had anything in me tonight… and voila. (More about the power of nudges in a future post!)

Anyhow. This poem popped into my head as I was contemplating my pronounced tendency to look to the horizon for salvation. I have the *worst* time practicing mindfulness–i.e., focus and attention fixed on the present, experiencing and appreciating all it has to offer, not lingering in the past or endlessly planning out the future. The Yercoviches refer to this tendency as “reviewing and rehearsing,” a behavior practiced by vacillators (such as myself) who tend to devalue or idealize events (this is just the link to a summary of the “core pattern” handout where they describe these tendencies, which you can also find available for purchase on their site). I.e., I tend to feel that the past could have always played out better, so I rehash it endlessly trying to “troubleshoot” for future improvement–or I believe that a future event can be perfectly managed if I only plan it out carefully enough, so I overthink constantly (and heavily).

This leads to endless annoyance or discontent or discomfort with a new place or relationship or experience or accomplishment once I’ve finally arrived at it and it has become familiar. All of a sudden, my daydream of freedom and hope and life and possibility has been replaced by obstinate reality grounded in simple, uncomfortable, less-than-ideal facts. It’s not even that reality is really that bad–it just doesn’t match up completely with my daydream. For a vacilator, this loss of the ideal is crushing.

So I have to learn not to value the ideal so darn much.

This is made easier when I realize how many downright stupid, unimportant things I idealize (like not having crumbs on the floor, or having clean bathrooms [honestly, isn’t it far more significant to realize the incredible blessing of HAVING a fully functional bathroom–or even more than one?!], or keeping runny toddler noses off all the furniture)?

It’s harder when I’ve idealized things that *seem* more important, though–like having firm, stable, relationships with loved ones. But firmness and stability don’t look or feel exactly like my imagination tells me (since I don’t have a lot of experience in those areas compared to some, idealized imagination sets my hopes and expectations–not reality). Letting go of these imaginings and finding the courage instead to emotionally experience the reality I’m in–good, bad, and everything in between–is a huge challenge.

It’s deeply intimidating particularly because the reality I experienced for so long taught me *not* to trust, feel, or seek communion with others when relationships have even a whiff of going south about them–in large part because it was never demonstrated to me that doing so *could work*. I also had basically no idea where to start: what does trusting, feeling, and seeking communion look like in a relationship that’s actually worth it–where it’s safe, advisable, and even necessary from a mental health perspective?

However, finding myself in truly worthwhile, long-term relationships has shown me that the old way of relating isn’t going to work here; I need to develop a new skill set.

Fixing all my hopes for happiness and security on the imaginary ideal place, situation, or companion will only leave me despondent when I finally reach my destination–and realize it’s not *everything* I made it out to be.

It will always end up being the experience I’m left to engage with in the present–the current, immediate moment–the one place I’ve had small confidence and found little comfort in for so long.

I will continue to do just that–as long as my expectations are that my ideal *should be* the reality.

The truth, however, is that I can’t change the reality in front of me–but I can, gradually, change my perspective on it and how I interact with it.

The details of this elude me constantly, but I’ve found one mantra from the How We Love website quite helpful. To paraphrase:

“It’s not as bad as I think it is, and it’s not as good as I want it to be.”

Accepting this as unchangeable truth helps me to regulate my expectations and, thus, avoid getting too working up one way or the other. It requires me to let go of my own demands upon reality and exchange them for trust, instead, that my needs will be met–perhaps not how I’d like them to be, but they will be met–by the people who really *do* love me, as they have tangibly and consistently demonstrated over an extended period of time, through the providence of a God who has demonstrated enormous care and love for me over a much longer time frame.

This is the proper way to reflect upon the past: to search it for all the good and love I’ve received, practicing a new, unnatural approach to reflection–rather than picking through it for the parts that didn’t match my original skewed ideals and ruminating over the uncomfortable bits.

And it’s the proper way to envision the future: with calm, simple confidence that my idealized plans will not come to fruition, and are not worth the time I spend on them, but that whatever else happens instead will still be manageable and even full of blessing from a divine agent I can’t possibly anticipate or control–which terrifies me, which reminds me that I need to sink deep into reflections of his steadfast, unshakeable love once more. Because “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, NKJV).


 

Lord, well over a decade ago I wrote about this, seeking to experience the unfathomable love you have for me, because I needed to be free from fear. I still do. I fear constantly–big things, little things, imaginary things that feel too much like the actual reality of times past to be ignored. Lord, please–free me from torment. Free me from fear. Cast me into perfect love: love based in reality and well-founded expectations, that it may cast out every fear caused by unmet, idealized expectations. Exchange my broken mindset for your healing way of thinking. Help me to be patient with the process (avoiding unrealistic expectations yet again!); lead me to all the tools I need, and bless them with your presence. Thank you for loving me, even when I can’t fully sense it. Especially then. Amen.

 

It’s been a long week

Hi, friends. I’ve had a gritty week.

Hardship #1: Mr. Eyes is in his (likely) final sleep regression at 22 months; what this looks like is a night of great sleep, followed by a night of crying and wakefulness every hour or so, followed by a night or two of great sleep, followed by a sleepless night… you get the picture. We’re finishing week 2 of this, so hopefully we’ll be through it soon. In the meantime, I never know if I’m going to have all my marbles the next morning or not… and if not, I have much less brain capacity for Internetz. Hence you haven’t heard much from me.

Hardship #2: The marriage has taken a few hits this week, too, thanks to a handful of somewhat-more-drastic-than-usual mistakes being made, some arduous late-night conversations (which allowed us to make good relational/behavior progress with one another but were still grueling to get through, especially given hardship #1 above), and a pretty dramatic relapse on my part back into vacillating attachment behavior. I hadn’t had a flair-up in awhile and didn’t expect one, but I should have: a few weeks of escalating frustrations coupled with a particular triggering incident dumped me down the elevator shaft of old, broken ways of thinking, and I had built myself a mud castle at the bottom before I realized it. Shew. It was bad. Thank God, I have a compassionate, attentive mentor in my pastor’s wife, and a phone call with her allowed me to blow off a lot of steam in a healthy, safe context; and, thankfully, my counselor has equipped me with some state-of-the-art resources that allow me to identify my broken, unhealthy thought patterns and respond to my triggers with wisdom and compassion and, thus, humility. Also, thankfully, I have a very long-suffering husband who is working hard to understand the layers of problems I’m continually sorting through and help me cope with them.

Hardship #3: My mother is going in for major surgery on Tuesday, and while I’ve tried hard not to think about it, this is really troubling for me. She’s going to have 90 staples in her stomach when all is said and done, and the recovery will take at least a month if not more time. She’ll be on a liquid diet and stuck at the hospital for days. She’s worried, and I’m worried for her. I’m worried for my sister, too, who lives with my mom and depends on her greatly for all kinds of support. They are coming up to celebrate Easter with us and my husband’s family tomorrow, and I’ve been worried how that all will go, too…. partly because of #4 below:

Hardship #4: This is my own fault, but I took on some cooking tasks for tomorrow. While I enjoy cooking, after the other stressors of the week, this has introduced a lot of extra nervous tension into my moment-by-moment existence. I actually spent the majority of today with a horrible stomachache, apparently caused by *eating*, of all things (both breakfast and dinner induced horrible pangs; aside from those meals I grazed lightly the rest of the day, and while that didn’t hurt so much, it didn’t seem to help so much either)… since the pain has seemingly finally gone away after a liberal application of antacid tabs, and since there were no other symptoms, my best guess is that I have a build-up of stomach acid caused by stress. Because this isn’t the first time similar things have happened to me, I’m very inclined to hang my head and throw up my hands. Shoot, I screwed myself over *again*. That’s all I can think. …But, at least I can be super grateful that whatever it is seems to have passed. I’m just praying it doesn’t flair up again tomorrow (and if you’re the praying sort… I really wouldn’t mind prayers toward that end <3).


 

So, after all that, I kind of just wanted to fill in those of you who might be wondering where I’ve been this week… to keep it real, keep it honest… keep it gritty. I especially wanted to get this out before tomorrow, because, well, Easter:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for usWho shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or swordAs it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to comenor height nor depth, nor any other created thing,

shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:31-39

 

…Nor tummy aches nor sleeplessness nor toddlers nor family gatherings nor anxiety nor depression nor self-destruction nor over-commitment nor idealization nor devaluing nor history nor triggers nor any other brokenness

can separate me from the love of God.

He is risen.

Jesus has risen from the grave, warming us as the dawn.