Sunday, December 19, 2010

rock star therapy

Here's my Reverb for today. Barely made the deadline.

Prompt: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Thanks, Leoni Allan).

This year, I will be healed by the awesome power of karaoke. No, I’m not joking. Well, not totally joking.

This morning began with an emotional, accusatory email from a student who was unhappy with her final grade. Though the complaint was expected, it was no less upsetting. It seems that, while I have become progressively more insightful and intuitive in my teaching practice, eleven years of dealing with students has done very little to increase the thickness of my skin.

Often, when I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I go for the M&Ms. If I have none on hand, I settle for the nearest chocolate remedy.

Today, after replying to said email, I headed for my mom’s kitchen, where a bowl of holiday candy (M&Ms included) waited on the counter. I took a handful and then did the grown-up equivalent of crying on mom’s shoulder: I unleashed my tirade of frustration while Mom listened patiently, nodded, shook her head, or said, “That’s ridiculous,” depending on which response was most appropriate.

Meanwhile, Bryan and Dylan were singing a duet—“Here Comes the Sun”—on the karaoke machine my mom bought the kids for Christmas. When the song ended, Bryan handed me his mike. “Dylan,” he said, “I think it’s mom’s turn. She needs a little music.”

The machine played the first few rockin’ notes of “Sgt. Pepper’s.” I put the M&M’s down and reached for the mike. It was twenty years ago today that Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play. . . .

I was Paul McCartney, circa 1968. I shouted and shrugged. Dylan, inspired, moved in closer and leaned against my shoulder, Keith Richards style, while he stumbled through the words (that screen can be so distracting).

And then I was myself. I could almost see the negative energy conjured up by the email riding out on the lyrics. Bryan joined in on his guitar. Mom looked on in amusement.

Someone who derives as much pleasure from singing as I do should really have been blessed with a better voice. But, hey, Bob Dylan proved to the world that carrying a tune doesn’t have to be a requirement of the job. And with a little adjustment of the “echo” knob, I could make it sound like I was nearly on-key.

But karaoke isn’t about making something beautiful. It isn’t about perfecting a craft. It’s about letting go. It’s about giving yourself permission to be ridiculous for a few minutes. It’s about tapping yourself on the shoulder and saying, hey, self, you’re taking yourself a bit seriously at the moment. Here’s a microphone and a campy reproduction of a popular song—you can go ahead and unclench your fists.

It’s rock star therapy. Once you have gotten in touch with your inner Mick Jagger, you can wag your finger at the world, preen a little bit, and say, “Uh huh. Shedoobie.”

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