This Small Room

 

When I was growing up, I lived in a small 3 bedroom ranch house. We had one bathroom, two good sized bedrooms (although neither was particularly large) and a third bedroom which we called the small room.

Until I went to college, I had one of the bigger bedrooms and my sister (who was 8 years younger) had the small room. I commuted to college the first year and then moved to the dorms for my second and third year, coming home most weekends to work, since school was only five miles down the road.

One day during summer break, I came home from going to the Wisconsin State Fair with my friends to find that my sister had moved into my room and that all my things had been put into the small room. I wasn’t informed this would be happening, even though I still had three more weeks before school started, and as much as I protested, I was relegated to the small room for the remainder of the time I would be a resident of that house. Even when I moved back home for my senior year of college. With my stuff crammed into a small dresser that wasn’t mine, my clothes crammed into a too-small closet, and my body up against a wall in a too-small bed.

And for much of my life, I felt contained by my surroundings. I felt that I was too much for my space, for those I grew up with, and even for my family.

Once, long after I’d moved out, I had learned a new aria and was eager to sing it for my mother. After I finished it, she said, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s too loud for this small room.

She didn’t like opera. But I don’t think any room would have been big enough for her to enjoy my singing.

So many of us feel or have felt constrained by rooms that have been too small, whether it’s the actual physical space or the room in our heads, whether it’s through our own perception or that of another person. I haven’t felt that way for a long time now, thank goodness. And if you feel that way ….

Blow off the doors. Knock down the walls.

Mind the Gap


This morning’s meditation again asked me to draw attention to the momentary gap between inhalation and exhalation (and vice versa). Although I reject the concept of suspension when it comes to teaching breath management, as I have discussed before, I do understand the value of taking a moment to reflect.

In England, there is an announcement at the underground (subway) for travelers to “mind the gap.” This pertains to the space between the edge of the platform and the train.

In the phrase shown above, the late composer Truman Fisher says that “the pause is as important as the note.” This goes along with the concept that I teach – the high note is only as good as the note before it. You have to be grounded on that note in order for the one after it to be successful – and if there is no note, you have to be grounded in the rest. A musical rest can be significant for expression’s sake (much can be said when nothing is said), for grammatical purposes, or for preparation.

Sometimes I am so busy, particularly at the end of the semester (which always seems to involve academic, musical and personal commitments), that I don’t take any time to breathe. I’m hoping that my newfound commitment to daily meditation will help me identify when I can find those moments, no matter how insignificant an amount of time they may be, and use them accordingly to find the time to reflect, to refresh, and to re-engage.

This semester, I’m going to try to