I’ve never been great with surprises.
I’ve never been great with surprises, because I don’t like the feeling the thought of a surprise brings.
It’s wrought with anxiety, is it not? True, some call it excitement. But, whichever way you look at it, it remains to be that when you’re told a surprise is soon to come, your mind starts banging on at lightning speed, no less, wondering what the surprise might be.
Frankly, sometimes (not always) but definitely sometimes, the imagined surprise isn’t quite what we hoped for, now is it. That trip to Disneyland becomes piano lessons. That personal swimming pool turns into a birthday cake shaped round like a pool with chocolate finger sides and blue jelly crystals for water.
Good job we didn't hope for our parents' divorces to be annulled (if that’s possible) because we may have ended up with a Barbie and Ken play-set and a lifetime of happy-family pretension. All jokes aside, I want to tell you how I did become the recipient of a fantastic, full-bodied, ripe-with-age surprise; however, it only came as a surprise after I’d received the experience of it, which is, from now on, how I think all surprises should be presented.
See, I booked myself into a Saturday afternoon writing workshop—a poetry workshop where I would learn how to use my voice, my performance poet’s voice, that is. But, I didn’t turn up. I was nowhere to be found because I couldn’t find the venue.
I did look. I drove around and around and asked people, who also didn’t know the location very well, where the venue was. And, having done my best looking, I then went to read the paper at a nearby café. Except, after a while, I began to think how disappointed I was at not making the workshop (I am a time-keeping perfectionist, after all).
So, I decided to check the event website to see if any other workshops were on late afternoon. By now, I’d received clearer directions on how to find the venue, and by golly if I wasn’t determined as salt to make it there on time for something!
To my surprise, the very singing workshop I’d longed to book into but didn’t, due to some stonewall excuse, was beginning in 15 minutes. This time, I found the venue too easily.
Without a hitch, I slipped into that gathering crowd of woman also there to learn about their voice. The instructor explained that part of the workshop was to encourage women (who loved to sing in the shower or the car) to step out of those familiar places, and to be confident to use their voices out in the world.
After the warm-up sessions, we were guided to find the place where we best felt our voices sat--either in the low, mid, or high range. I clumped myself in with the mid-rangers, as usual, but after a while, realised I was singing too high. So, with fear and a mild to fast heartbeat, I travelled the gritty space over the theatre floor where the high singers stood.
Seeing my trepidation, the instructor took me by the shoulders and slotted me next to the singing teacher in the high group. I listened to the voices around me, and realised I was in the right place. My voice seemed to fit in, and I began to harmonise.
I’m not sure if it was the spiritual rhythms of the indigenous songs we learnt, or if the unity in the circle of woman was so strong that made me trust, but, I sung as part of that high group as if I’d always been able to. I believed that I belonged there. And, to my complete surprise, I found more voice than I knew was within me.
That workshop is the reason I'm writing this post. Because even though I didn't get to my writing workshop, I left the singing one fully empowered to use my writing voice in the world. Now, that was a fabulous surprise.
Photography by Paul Harris