Life is filled with so many hard ‘little and big’ lessons. Some we learn through watching and others we learn by living. Today was a busy day which had me again rushing out the door coffee cup and papers in hand. After a crazy morning followed by a solid lunch hour of choir practices, I was out the school door with daughters in tow for the West Prince Music Festival. I had devoted my own dinner hour to the four school choirs, so I had little time to eat, clean up, do hair and practice with my own two girls before we were on our way to O’Leary. I had not allowed myself TOO much time (as that wouldn’t be like me AT ALL!), but I hadn’t left myself entirely to the last minute either. When we arrived, I was only 5 minutes behind schedule according to my calculations.
So you can imagine my surprise when, as we walked in the door, I heard my youngest daughter’s name being called from the front. I had barely stepped inside the facility, and was still wrestling with a stack of papers, my purse, a dripping wet coat and swinging water bottle when I saw my two daughters rushing to the front of the auditorium, with one of them making her way to the grand piano on stage, front and center.
I was myself in a daze, wondering how things had moved so quickly along that we were already at the time the youngest was to play. How could I have miscalculated the times so poorly? Then again…
To make matters worse- all manner of things was running through my head. I realized that the daughter that had been rushed on stage was also the one performing on stage for the first time. She was the one who gets embarrassed more easily of the two and she is the one most likely to be rattled by such an incident. So, with all these thoughts bouncing around in my head, I started up the aisle toward my daughter, who was now sitting at the piano so as to play her piece. You can imagine both our surprise when it was announced that actually, she WASN’T to play right then: that they had only called her name because they were just checking to see if she was there.
It was a courtesy call, so to speak.
This might be a minor incident in any other child’s life, but for the One of whom I write, it was horrifying. We sat down in our seat to wait the half an hour until she would officially play, but the damage was already done. She was mortified and began quietly sobbing into her sweater. I could think of nothing else to say but to murmur over and over again that is was okay, it was okay. And to hold her tight as I wracked my brain for the ‘right’ words to say.
For her, quite honestly, it wasn’t okay. She had been publicly embarrassed and this was not something she could easily overcome.
We eventually left the sanctuary and found a quiet place to talk about the experience. She shared her feelings and I tried to console her. Eventually, another mother came along and tried to convey the insignificance of such a minor mistake (that is, getting up on stage when it wasn’t your turn) while I nodded my head in affirming ways. My daughter wasn’t really buying it.
Eventually, we returned to the festivities. Only to find two other girls crying: one who had made a few mistakes in her piece and another quite possibly fraught with nerves. It was an interesting place to be for a while, and as a bystander, my heart went out to all the performers who are so very brave and valiant to take their music to the stage in such a public arena. It takes courage to perform in front of an audience.
All in all, my daughter was able to learn the protocols for performance on stage (unfortunately, through trial and error) but also she was able to see that she was not the only one going through a ‘moment’ this afternoon. These learning experiences are just part of discovery and growth, and they need not make us feel inadequate, incompetent or lacking in any way. Life goes on, as does the show- and we live and learn both through our mistakes as well as through our triumphs.
She ended up performing amazingly well. I was so proud of her and she was proud of herself. We worked through the awkwardness of the preliminaries and when we got to the performance, she was feeling relaxed and ready to go. When I asked her tonight if she would ever do this again, she responded with a yes.
Even if she doesn’t, I am glad that she was able to learn/confirm something about herself today that might not have been completely clear in her mind: that she is one resilient little gal. Made her mama proud.
And a pretty darn good piano player to boot! Did I mention…TWO GOLD STARS!!!!

We might be Littles

I have the awesome privilege and responsibility of teaching the Littles of the world. Well, a small number of which I teach, but year by year about whom I feel I have more and more that occupy my heart. What I mean by Littles, of course, is precious kindergartners. They are the youngest in the school system, and sometimes can be the youngest in their families as well- making this unique position of theirs’ at times a double whammy of an annoyance. Double blessing or double curse, depending on the day.

Case in point. The other day, I was just getting everyone settled for lunch when a little face came to me crumpled in emotion. I crouched down at eye level and asked what was wrong. “A. said I was a baby because I was in kindergarten,” his big blue eyes welling up with tears as he recounted to me the story.

I assured him that he was most certainly NOT a baby- he was in school just like all the other kids and that school was for big boys (big girls) just like him. But it took confronting the bully to help this wound to start to heal. Took explaining that being in kindergarten- although the beginning of the educational journey for all in our school- still means officially being a student just like any other student in an educational system the world over. So we went down the hall together taking a purposeful trip  together immediately following our conversation.  And we did it. We put the smack down- ending the debacle. (Okay, not really smacking…you know what I mean) And by the end of the whole ordeal, I think both he and the other little guy began to see that they were both full-fledged members of the school set. Just like all the other little and big kids in our schools who find themselves inside a classroom.

It’s hard being little. And although I am an adult, I know sometimes how it feels to feel small. To feel little and insignificant. Inconsequential. Because sometimes we look at our lives and all we see is the mundane- the ho-hum regularity to which we rhythmically go about our business. Same routines, same actions. Same small, boring life. It’s like we are such a tiny blip that we feel our actions and responses don’t even make a ripple on the sea of humanity.  It’s like in comparison to the rest of the world that what we’re doing and being is juvenile.  Somehow less worthy.

And sometimes, it’s like we aren’t even there at all.

But this is of course a fallacy. It’s a lie. For each and every thing we do in this life has a purpose and a place- has meaning. If for no one else but us, but usually for something greater than us. Each decision we make and every circumstance we find ourselves in was meant for us to find meaning so that we could understand why we were there in the first place, why it happened and what that all means.  So that we could discover how to use our little offering to make a big difference in someone’s life.  Even in our own life.

You see, our lives are only little if we see them that way.  And little is only a negative word if we choose to define it that way. So in thinking about the benefits of embracing our little-ness and celebrating feeling small but mighty, here are 10 little thoughts that might lead to actions that can help us to live our lives with a big impact:

  1. Smiling. So little, so contagious.
  2. Kind words. Spoken lavishly and demonstrated richly, these can make or break a day.
  3. Gratitude. Saying thank you can change the way a conversation was headed.
  4. Three little words spoken freely are often the most powerful in any relationship: I love you.
  5. And two more little words can keep that relationship intact: I’m sorry.
  6. Courtesy. Holding a door, stepping aside, taking a secondary place- all super-easy ways to show others common everyday courtesy.  Making a difference.
  7. Thinking first, speaking second.
  8. Eye contact. It just matters sometimes.
  9. Authenticity in word and deed- being true to who you are.
  10. Living your one life in the present with one foot in the ‘here and now and one foot stepping into the future: May all your footsteps be taken wildly, freely, passionately and honestly.

So there you have it. We might be Littles but ‘we be mighty Littles. Mighty in impact and mighty in influence. Mighty in effect when we combine our little acts of music together in a chorus of sound to create a symphony. One note has never written a song, but without that single, solitary note, the song could not be sung.

Don’t ever let anyone look down on you because you’re little.

The Pursuit of Joy

Hey!  Welcome all!!!  Glad you are here…at this time and at this place.   With me.  Sharing my writing and this space called Pursuit of a Joyful Life!  I am humbled by your presence.

A few words about my writing, my blog and the name of this group.  I named my blog  “Pursuit of a Joyful Life” because joy is what I chase each and every day that I have breath.  Each and every day that I have energy and life within my soul.  Within my heart.  And it’s called a ‘pursuit’… because I am still working at it.  Joy does not come easy.

And I think sometimes we confuse joy with happiness.  We think joy is when life is pleasant.  That joy is peace and easy-going and bliss.  But joy is hard, my friends.  It is hard.  And it is a trail I follow like a dog tracking game.  Like a child chases after rainbows for that prized pot of gold.  And so do I, chase after joy each and every day hoping to find it in unexpected places.  And when it eludes me, I vow to never rest until I find it again.  And I always do.

I want to share a story.  A very recent, humiliating, humbling story.  But first, permit me to give you a little background information.

A few years ago, I was doing a short-term contract with a local school.  It was a music contract, teaching Grade 1-6.  I loved my task and its musical focus, particularly because I had been given freedom to do a variety of music appreciation activities with the older students during class and recess times.  The students were engaged, and so was I.  This was teaching at its easiest and at its best, as far as I was concerned.

For the Grade 6 closing that year, we had planned a sort of Flash Mob dance which would take place during the ceremony.  It was a lot of work pulling everything together, and I had no previous understanding on which to build.  Everything was a learning experience.  But that dance was my primary focus.  It was my baby!  And I was pumped to deliver to the awaiting crowd of family and friends the resulting product coming from the students hard work and effort.

Finally the big night came.  And I thought everything was set and ready to go.  We had checked the sound system, and it worked (actually, it later crashed and totally failed us, but that’s another story all together…).  The students were dressed to the Nine’s.  And I was on my game.

The time came for the proceedings to get underway, and I took my seat in the front row.  I waited expectantly for the Principal or some other dignitary to get up and introduce the program.  A few seconds ticked by.  I waited some more.  Finally, I looked up, only to hear the undertone of the Principal’s voice- who was leaning across the stomachs of the dignitaries in the front row.

“Aren’t you going to lead ‘O Canada’?” she whispered loudly.

“O Canada…,” I curiously thought to myself.    And then, as I realized this part of the program had been overlooked by Your’s Truly- the acting music instructor and concert co-ordinator, I then quietly hissed under my breath, “Oh! CANADA.”

I turned and looked.  There were five hundred people behind me.  I looked below my feet…no hole in which to descend.   It was sink or swim.  So, I started up towards the stage, and the awaiting mic.  Hoping not to trip on the seemingly mile-long walk towards the steps leading up.   After I had started out,  my Principal- sensing my lethargy, wisely decided to follow me up.  Whether or not she knew I was in fight or flight mode, I do not know.   I will admit the thought of running did occur to me momentarily.  But nevertheless, we both arrived.  Together.  And one of us was a little jittery.  I won’t say whom.

Needless to say, we both looked at each other.  And we both knew: there was to be no music with which to cue our start.  No piano player had been selected.  There was not even a canned music tract to be found in the place.  I looked at the Principal.  She looked at me.  A showdown of sorts.  Neither one of us in any hurry to initiate vocal take-off.

And finally.  As there were five hundred sets of eyes boring down on me, and about twenty Grade 6 student’s standing behind the stage- raring to get on with the show.  I let ‘er rip.

“O Canada…our home and native land.”

Well.  About part way in, I started to get a little more nervy than I already was, the adrenaline wearing off and all.  And my mind took a blank spell.  I started to panic.  I started to sweat.  I looked over at the Principal, and she seemed to be doing a fine job.  So, I stepped back from the mic, and took a breather.  Not a long break…just a pause, so as to catch my breath and consider, “What in the heck is the next line again?”  And as those five hundred voices sang out, I remembered.  And just in time.  As the song was nearing a close.

PHEW.  Not my most stellar performance moment of all time.  But time has healed my wounded pride.

Fast-forward.  To present day…actually, yesterday to be precise.

So, I have again been invited to sing ‘O Canada’ with a choir of five-hundred.  Only this time, they aren’t strangers.  They are my peers- teachers and colleagues with whom I teach and converse.  You can imagine my anxiety.  I have of course sung this patriotic piece in public numerous times before- indeed, I sing it every day with my Kindergarten students.  But, to sing it in front of an audience of one’s peers.  Now that is intimidating.

But I love a challenge, and I have decided to face my fear- that is, the fear of forgetting the words to my national anthem while singing on stage- and I take on the assignment.

I had one week to prepare.  In which, I was also to present at two literacy work-shops and sing at three other benefits or assemblies.  To say that I put ‘O Canada’ on the back burner is a bit of an understatement.

But.  I did remember the angst of that long-ago Grade 6 closing.  So with that propelling me, I decided to look up the words on Google.  And I don’t know what happened.  Maybe I got distracted.  Maybe the kiddos called for me.  Maybe my mind was on other more pressing concerns.  But I never did write down the words to the song on paper.  And when morning broke on the day of the meeting at which I was to sing, I decided to go with my memory.  My poor, poor memory.

Well, I must have practiced the song close to ten times.  And then later, as we were about to walk on stage, I decided in a last-ditch effort, to finally get smart and write down the words.  FROM MEMORY.  And feeling confident, I walked out on stage.  And sang my heart out.  With gusto.

And it was only much later, after I had replaced the mic on its stand, walked back to my seat and sat my relieved butt down in a folding chair- breathing a huge sigh of relief, that my Hubbie leaned over and told me…I had sung the wrong words.  Again.  To my absolute and utter horror.

And I tell you all this to say the following: joy is a decision.  A decision reached at not because the circumstances are right and the feelings are perfect.  But because.  Sometimes it is the only way to view life that keeps us from giving up.  And throwing in the towel.  Joy is taking difficulty, frustration, sorrow, sadness, humiliation, anxiety, pain and trouble and using them as a springboard to find the best there is in life.

Pursue joy.  It is the path that leads both forward and back.   Leading toward reflection on both life’s greatest and worst moments.  Moments we would forget or bury if not for joy reminding us to go back. And yet.  Leading us forward to moments of absolute wonder and awe at what it means to be truly human.  And truly alive.