“The best way out of a difficulty is through it.” Will Rogers
What do you do, when YOU are falling apart, or someone you love is, during this most busy of times for our profession? Do you take extra vitamins or sip tea or soup? Catch a nap or sleep or few extra minutes in the morning if you are able? Do you try to get around your challenges or do you embrace them, making adjustments as you go? Do you plow through, or go around? How do you handle adversity when you don’t have time for adversity?
December is a tough month for choral directors. Whether we serve as church choir director, teach in an academic setting or conduct a community group, we are busy. There are extra services, extra rehearsals and concerts we’ve been planning for months. Sometimes, we have extra challenges we must get through in order to fulfill the obligations of our positions. We rehearse when we are sick, or our own children are, knowing we can collapse when the choral marathon is over. The music of the season helps us persevere because we love it. There are times when it’s rough, not of our own making, and still we must get through.
Ginny* has back issues. She pulled something when she was playing tennis a few years ago and has had problems ever since. Her physician referred her to a physical therapist and that helped. She was given a series of exercises and stretches she needs to do regularly (at least five times a week) or her back acts up. And during December, with her crazy schedule between her church job and community chorus, her back acts up.
Ginny tells me she realized last year, she MUST take the time to do her exercises and stretches EVERY DAY. A few days before she conducted her community chorus’s holiday concert, she had one of the worse back spasms of her life. She had to take a muscle relaxant; her husband needed to drive her to several rehearsals and a concert and she had to be literally led on stage before she finally knew what she had to do. The ten minutes it takes every morning to do the stretches and exercises is worth it because her back is fine and she can count on being okay. Occasionally, she’ll have a back twinge or two but nothing like that concert she barely remembers because of the pain. Taking time to do what she needs to is pushing through her difficulty.
Today is the first Thursday in December. Since mid-November, every store—whether grocery, hardware or department—I go into has live poinsettias somewhere. I know they are there because, as soon as I walk in the door, my nose starts running. The longer I stay in the store, the more my nose runs and irritates my throat. And if I stay too long, my asthma flares up. I have taken to mapping out the most basic of shopping trips to avoid the poinsettias groves in the aisles.
I developed this allergy from the years and years and years I was director of choirs at several middle-sized churches. During my last position, I discovered my slight head cold, irritated throat and occasional bouts of asthma every December were due to an “unusual” allergy to poinsettias. It’s not so unusual when you realize I was exposed to about 80-plus poinsettias in choir lofts every year for more years than I am willing to admit to here.
Every December, the secretary at the church would call me the day the poinsettias were delivered so I could take preventive measures before I got to work. The clergy would physically clear a path for me to my seat in the choir loft. I returned the favor during Easter because she had the same problem with Easter lilies.
Nowadays I do what I can to avoid poinsettias or go medicated if I cannot, such as the DIY Messiahs I conducted for years. I push through and make it to the other side, a little worse for wear but okay for the most part. I’m not always as busy in December as in years past but if I have a gig, singing or conducting, I make strategies to push through my poinsettia difficulty.
For the rest of December, Choral Ethics will re-run several of its most requested Blogs. See you next year!