“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
Last week, we introduced our September theme of happiness and shared two ChoralNetters stories with you. We will continue Serena’s story and her explanation of WHY she is happy.
Serena’s* story was simple; she works with great and supportive people. Sounds simple but she assures me, it isn’t. When she began her present job, Serena was primed to “watch her back” and “stay in her lane” as she needed to in her previous positions. It had been exhausting; one of the reasons she left. After their first all-district concert in December, her department chair took her aside and told her to relax. Serena didn’t quite understand what he meant until he explained; everyone respects everyone else in the department and is expected to contribute to the good of the whole. He explained, instead of working against each other, he expects each person in his department to work with each other.
At first, she was hesitant and shy but gradually understood; each teacher is equally important to the whole of the music department. Each has their own strengths and is equally valued. The students are nurtured and taught by kind people. No one is above anyone else in “pecking order” other than their department chair who leads them simply.
Serena tells me she has learned, both from her former positions and her present one; NO ONE can make another person happy. But others CAN contribute to someone else’s unhappiness. The working atmosphere, as well as the learning atmosphere, in her district is conducive to comradery and she looks forward to going to work every single day. And, most importantly, the students benefit from their shared goals. She is very happy.
Thalia’s* nickname was “Sunshine” in her college choir. She was cheery and genuinely happy every day she entered the choir room. Her director loved having her sing in his ensembles because, not only was she a good musician, but her happiness rubbed off on everyone else.
When Thalia’s baby brother was diagnosed with Leukemia she just couldn’t be happy. But she began to feel responsible for everyone’s happiness, she tells me, until it became too much. She wasn’t morose but she did NOT smile very often. Her classmates and choirmates began to ask their “Sunshine” to be happy again or would cajole her to smile with “nothing could be bad enough not to smile.” She tried to be happy and perky and bubbly but…she just couldn’t. Finally her choir director asked what was wrong. And she told him.
Things changed after she spoke with her director. He told her to be herself and that she was NOT responsible for anyone else’s happiness. He asked her to tell the choir about her brother’s illness and she did. Her choirmates were supportive, kind and helped her get through her worry about her brother when she was not able to be with him.
Thalia’s brother is healthy now and in college himself. She conducts choirs near his university and they often meet for dinner or a football game. She has always been a happy person but his illness taught her she doesn’t have to be if she’s NOT happy.
Deidre* tells me she has learned her mood and behavior directly affect how her choirs behave. After teaching for ten years, she knows if she feels stressed or disorganized or crabby, her choirs will be unsettled, won’t listen to instructions and are crabby too. She has learned to calm herself, no matter what, before she walks into rehearsal and it has paid off. There are times she must take deep breaths, say a prayer or two and put on her happy face but it is worth it. Happiness rubs off. Deidre tells me she is happiest when working with happy people and does everything to make it so.
No one should be responsible for anyone else’s happiness but you can be responsible for someone else’s UNHAPPINESS. Something to think about during the week.