We visited Plymouth (the one with the Rock) last summer.

We saw the Mayflower

and the Moo-flower. Here are the boys and Gram.

We learned how the Wampanoag grew food and hollowed canoes.

We found out only rich pilgrims had floors, and Noah stumped one of docents with a 17th Century dental hygiene question. (Though her dialect and character commitment were impressive.)

The boys went deep on colonist cosplay,

and while Noah continued world building, Jude and I set up pins and a leather ball for a bowling game outside. Short-lived. (As was the knock-the-hoop-down-the-lane-with-a-stick game. Though Jude was impressed by my make-the-hula-hoop-come-back-to-you trick.)

Then, I managed a dispute over who would gallop on the one stick-horse to rule them all.

I finally sat my sweaty self down for a rest when a family festooned in LA Dodger gear rolled into the medicinal herb garden.

Two boys belonging to this gaggle picked up the bowling pins and the leather-bound ball.

And played baseball.

They pitched the ball and thwacked line drives that nearly decapitated the lavender shrubs.

Those implements were meant for King James era BOWLING!

Where was their parent????

Oh. There.

Snapping iPhone pics and chortling as if she were about to exclaim, “Now that’s what I call outside-the-bowl thinking!

I gulped water from Jude’s Elmo cup and seethed in the mid-afternoon humidity. (New England was NOT coming through on my 85-degrees-tops summer dreams.)

But, seriously, what was my problem with these kids?

In our own house, we’ve tried to make the rules simple — “It’s okay unless it hurts people or property.”

These Blue-Crew-capped preteens were damaging neither. Not yet, anyway.

But, it felt disrespectful. Someone hand-made those pins and ball so kids could old-times bowl in the designated area, and these knuckle-noggins were rolling in like they owned the reproduction settlement.

Reminded me of bartending in London. I could hear a fellow American two streets away swaggering like the corrupt sheriff in a B-Western.

Oblivious to the culture they were visiting and barking questions like“Hey, where’s the ice and my free refill? You don’t have to tip here, right? That’s cool.”

In both instances — bowling baseball and bothered British bartending — there was a common experience: stress, anxiety, and contraction.

These folks weren’t following my rules. And my rules rest on objective fact and acute observation, of course.

Those are bowling pins in Plymouth, therefore bowl.

This is London. Ice in your drink isn’t a given; you dry your clothes on a rack in the kitchen; and the time I saw the woman on the Tube silently mouthing the recipe for her Yorkshire pudding to the man opposite her gave me the hint to turn down the voice volume in most public spaces.

Ah! People!

Look behind you and hold the door if someone’s coming. If someone holds the door for you, say thank you. If someone lets you in front of them in traffic, throw up a hand. And for God’s sake, stop talking on your phone on the train! No one wants to hear you yammer all the way through Wellesley!

Here’s the ouchy part, though. 

The ways I yell at these clue-free ingrates in my brain? Ever so clandestinely, those are the grumpy royal decrees I hand down to me.

To escape this tyranny, I just wanna find the nearest Mayflower. Only I can’t take a miserable, stormy voyage on a cramped ship away from myself. 

That’s why there’s night cereal, YouTube, and podcasts. 

When it comes to our singing, the rules get real mean. 

That’s not the right sound.

I’m not breathing right. 

My break is terrible.

I’m stuck! I’ll never stop thinking about my technique! 


We stop ourselves from making a sound before we can even let one rough-draft through our body. 

RULES!

Stuff needs to sound a certain way, and we need to make sure it’s gonna sound that way before it leaves our face.

Or else?

Embarrassment, feeling rejected, calling ourselves a failure, believing we’ll never get it. Telling ourselves we won’t gain the skills to express what we want when the adrenaline’s pulsing; therefore, we won’t be able to do the thing we dream about (and don’t reveal to anyone because they’ll think we’re crazy.)

It’s a self-perpetuating game of torture thought pinball.

How about this, though? What if you set the rule page aside?

What if you scrawled out that title with your favorite crayon and wrote, “Choices”?

Hmmmmm.

If I could make any sound here, what kind of sound would I choose?

What kind of breath would I take if I realized, “Well, if that’s love, it comes at much too high a coooooost?”

What if I could try different paths through the tricky pitches?  And let myself fall and get up? 

I wonder if there’s a way to think about technique AND the story in a both-and kind of situation.


When you ask questions like this, things lighten up, and you see places you can step. Before you know it, you’ve walked a few paces, and something that feels like fun and satisfaction bubbles up.

Me likey!

(And if you need specific help, email me for a lesson. I’m end-of-semester busy, but we’ll figure out a time. Just reply and ask.)

So, I invite you to notice this week.

When does your rule committee rear its many heads? Notice how it feels inside when you say things like “I would never….,” “Why would they do that?….” and “What’s WRONG with them?”

If you sit and watch for 9 seconds, you’ll prolly see where you berate you in similar fashion. 

I’m realizing that 45% of my letters to you end up asking, “How are you talking to you?” 

And it’s because it’s that important. The environment you cultivate in your own garden is everything when it comes to what kind of medicinal herbs you grow. 
Just look out for bowling ball line drives. 

But yeah, just notice. Slow your breath. Soften your face. Melt your shoulders. And watch. Who do you like to slam the rules on? And where are you slamming them on yourself?

What if you wrote CHOICES in Sea Green at the top of your page and asked again?

Try it. And as my father-in-law says in his deep, Rhode Island baritone, “Enjoy. God bless.”

Because it’s true. There’s just one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing. And you’ll sing it with joy if you give your voice a chance to try a thing or three.

Love much, 
dan

ps I’ve been enjoying these vintage playlists on YouTube — good for your holiday mixes in case Mariah’s invading your brain already. 

pps Did I tell you I’m thankful for you? I am. 💙

ppps Check out the Voice Collective on the IG — two terrific MFAs from the BoCo Cassi and Will laying out terrific tools, tips, and voicey love.