I don’t like feeling out of control. I like the ground under my feet to be terra firma, with the emphasis on firma. Childhood birthday parties at roller rinks were an ordeal to be endured. On one family vacation when I was a kid, we visited a go-cart track; I made it once around the oval before bailing. Downhill skiing, the main sporting attraction here in Girdwood, is something I cannot imagine myself ever enjoying.
I have, however, tried cross-country skiing, most recently last week while family was in town. Even that is a bit much for me. The point of cross-country skiing is to go with the glide. The glide is exactly the part of skiing that makes my heart sink into my stomach, and my arms frantically stab my poles into the snow.
Life experiences have only reinforced this innate tendency to grab for control. During my last year in seminary, I went around a gentle curve, just a little too fast on a barely-slick road, and the car flipped. I can still feel in my body that moment of losing control.
A friend who went skiing with us last week took the above photo. If you haven’t guessed, I’m not the happy, goofy one, or the laid-back one chilling in the middle. I’m the over-focused, uber-serious one in red.
I happened to be thinking about the way UUs sing recently, and for some reason my cross-c0untry skiing experience flashed through my mind. I remembered my cautious shuffle through the snow, my tentative putter that left me a good fifty yards behind the other four skiers. I remembered anxiously scanning the path ahead, looking for anything unusual, a slide pitch downward, a patch of high snow between my skis. Sometimes the ruts my skis were traveling in would gradually widen, or one rut would be higher than the other. All of these things caused mild anxiety.
I think that if you’re going to enjoy cross-country skiing, you have to give yourself over to it, abandon yourself to the glide, let go.
And the same with singing. But for me (and I suspect other UUs), that’s hard to do. We’re focused on the lyrics ahead, scanning for words we cannot sing with abandon, giving ourselves over to the music and words for brief moments until (whoops!) one gets by us and we come to a screeching halt. Once in a while we catch a glimpse of the possibility that things could be different (we briefly imagine ourselves gliding gracefully through a snowy meadow). But for the most part, our discomfort with singing keeps us from building the very proficiency we need to really enjoy the experience.