Wednesday, August 06, 2008

PRINCIPLE TWO: Give honest and sincere appreciation.

"I shall pass this way but once: any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." - Old saying referenced in HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE


Trying to think up a more interesting way to blog about this than just "I tried this principle this week, and this happened ...," I tried to think of something that I'm randomly grateful for. And, for some reason that hit me when I singing along with my car stereo, I realized that I am grateful that I never got to perform a solo number in my high school's choral variety show. The people I suppose that I can thank for this are Mr. Fowler, my high school choral director, and my late Grandpa Carr.

The reason that I am grateful that I didn't perform a solo isn't because I'm scared to sing in public. I like my singing voice, actually. I'm not great, but I'm not bad. Since I grew up singing with my mother the formal choral teacher-turned-mortgage banker and two aunts who also taught high school chorus, it was sorta expected that I'd be singing my whole life - even if I never showed the sheer talent for it that my elders did. (Seriously, Aunt Carol is a very, very accomplished soprano.)

Still, because I was one of those theater kids (or would've been if I'd been at a school with a functional drama department) and because I was a former member of the Atlanta Boy Choir, I wanted to be center stage at every concert and, after it was created my junior year, the song-and-dance variety show, which is a spectacular program in Buford even now. But my moment in the high school spotlight never happened.

And I am fucking grateful. Because now I have no embarrassing "song-and-dance" moments to live down.

It's all about song choice. You'll see what I mean.

My junior year, I heard this '40s tune on television because it was the theme song from my favorite show, "Homefront," which was this really, really good post-WWII soap opera. The song was "Accentuate the Positive" by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, and my mother - ever resourceful when it came to music - bought the sheet music herself so that I could try out for Mr. Fowler. It's a great song about spreading joy and being really, really happy in the face of adversity. But, when I tried out, I'd only heard the hook of it. I didn't know about the deep, deep bass, gospel-churchy "Come to Jesus" part that opened the song, and I didn't rehearse it enough. So I ended up sounding like a fool during the tryout, which made me angry and made me throw a stupid fit where I cried in front of the teacher. (I cried a lot in my younger days before testosterone kicked in and made my voice drop. I can sing that song's deep, deep bass parts now. Not so much when I was 16.)

So when junior year didn't work out, I thought I would try extra, extra hard my senior year to really get a solo and really give a performance that would amaze people. So I picked Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman," which is a great song that I can really sing and did decently well with during first tryouts. And I was supposed to sing it, everything was set. And my grandfather died the week before the show, so my brother and I had to leave rehearsals to go to Florida. And coming back from Grandpa Carr's funeral, I really didn't feel like polishing a song-and-dance routine wherein I sang of my love for beautiful ladies to a group of dancing, dolled-up teenaged girls. The number was cut. Now, at 32, I can honestly say, "Thank you for dying, Grandpa. Your timing is excellent."

If you're reading this blog, you probably know my attitudes and preferences really, really well. Now, if I'd mentioned to you that I'd performed song-and-dance numbers to "Accentuate the Positive" and "Oh, Pretty Woman" in high school, what are the chances that my melancholy, homosexual ass would ever be able to live that down? (And you know I would have already told you this story if it had actually happened.)

I honestly and sincerely appreciate that I didn't get to perform those songs, even though I was really, really upset about losing both opportunities at the time.

Hindsight can be sweet.

Tonight, after an excellent improv class where my confidence and attitude is improving, I met my friend Scott (yes, that Scott - the ex-almost-boyfriend Scott) for dinner at Steak 'n' Shake. And I tried listening to him. I tried not bringing up all the baggage and bad memories that I usually bring up. I didn't dwell on bad things. I didn't bitch at him. I was happy to see him, for - because we are comfortable with one another - I have fun with him and relax with him. And I must say that it was one of the best evenings that we've had together in a while because I tried to pay attention to him and concentrate on what he wanted. I really, really tried to apply the principles of the book, and he said he noticed a change in me.

Yes, I'm typing this from Scott's. Yes, it's his webcam. Yes, it's 5 a.m. No, we did not. Thank you.

My improv teacher Jim does read this blog. I found that out last week after he e-mailed me to ask why I blogged about him not replying to my e-mails. That entry last week was me trying to reason out what I was doing wrong and how I could improve my approach with him. I applied those principles stronger this week, and I think I'm in a much better place with him and with my performances in class. Jim's an exceedingly positive, encouraging and supportive guy. As I read in this book about "recognizing and satisfying other people's wants," I'm reminded of performance lessons that he already taught my class.

As I continue to work on these things, now that he knows what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, I'm very happy to say that I have his support.

This week, I went back to my bookstore because Kurt wanted to see the new Tori Amos comic, and I got to see Daniel the Violin Guy, my friend Cheryl the Chef and James the Future Roommate. It was a really good day. I miss the bookstore and miss those people. I need to move back to town, but these things will all happen in time. I expected it to happen quickly, but patience will allow me the chance to work through some financial problems that come when you face the amount of change that I have this year.

I just keep reminding myself that the changes were positive.

Kurt's become a good friend to have around.

I really like this book. Thank you, Dale Carnegie.

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