Regret is an awful thing to live with.
That feeling of should have… would have… could have… but didn’t. Thankfully, I don’t have those moments too often. I feel good about the fact that most of the time I am a “go for it” type of gal. I’ve jumped off cliffs, traveled alone, zip-lined, danced a little too crazy at the wedding reception, eaten exotic foods, heck I’ve even dared to go to the store without makeup on. But last night – I had one of those moments that I have a feeling I will be regretting for years to come… I missed my ever so slight chance to sing with Kristin Chenoweth.
I don’t know when I started singing. I think my earliest memory of really feeling like a singer is when my mom took me to try out for the regional tour of “Annie” when I was about 10 years old. I sang Maybe and got a callback. Ultimately I wasn’t chosen, but it was the first glimmer that singing was more than a fun pastime for me, it was in my bones. During high school, I took voice lessons, sang at church and was in many musicals. The decision to major in voice was a natural decision – what else would I choose? I had wonderful teachers in college and abroad that helped shape not only my voice but also who I was. I felt most ‘me’ when singing. And yet, I also became my most vulnerable. Every recital, performance, mass, I was self-conscious. Afraid of not living up to the “singer” title. A particularly embarrassing moment during a high school recital made all my fears come true. I was singing two songs; one aria – one musical theatre tune. My mom made me a beautiful red dress that, with the flip of a headband to reveal a bow, transformed the ensemble from a classical dress for the aria to a prairie girl dress for my rendition of I’m just a girl who can’t say no. Unfortunately, my voice did not transition as well as my outfit. I hadn’t mastered going from classical aria voice to musical theatre head voice. And therefore, I butchered the song and instead of sounding like a country girl from Oklahoma, I sounded like a two-horned, busty operatic singer named Brunhilde singing with a twang every so often. It was horrible. Seriously horrible. From then on, singing impromptu in public has struck fear inside me that burns all the way to my gut.
So here I was, the first days of November 2017 – looking forward to an evening away with my husband that he had secretly planned back in May. (he knows I love surprises) I had no idea where we were going, just excited to be getting away and reconnecting with the man who had upheld me during these particularly challenging recent days.
To say that life has been a bit overwhelming over the past six months would be a gross understatement, (in a first-world, middle-America sort of way.) Back in May, the school year was winding down, I was finishing my junior high musical directing debut of The Wizard of Oz Junior, my middle son was graduating from 8th grade, our daughter was graduating from pre-school and our eldest was finishing his first year at the University Laboratory High School. Amidst this, we had sold our home, purchased a new home in the country and were beginning plans of moving our life to a new town 30 miles away; leaving the city I had called home for over 40 years.
May soon turned to June which led to packing boxes upon boxes to move our life. The week before the big day, we skipped town for a family vacation in Mexico. We enjoyed a week away in the sun and sand where my 6-year-old ashamedly boasted that her favorite part was “the swim up bar.” (they made great chocolate milkshakes). We returned on Saturday night and had Sunday to finish prepping before the moving vans arrived Monday morning. Monday we moved everything out, Tuesday we moved everything in, Wednesday my oldest had his 4 wisdom teeth removed, Thursday my middle child had an emergency appendectomy and Friday we thanked God the appendix didn’t burst in Mexico and that we were all alive and well in our new home, even though we were missing four teeth and one useless appendage.
July marked the diagnosis of my Dad’s cancer and the beginning of a beautiful yet heart-wrenching two-month goodbye. Needless to say, October was a haze of emotion and details that seemed never-ending. And then suddenly, it was November 3rd and we were leaving for this get-away that had been planned during a time when all appendices and teeth were intact and my Dad was the steadfast, strong, always-present rock of faith in my life that he always had been.
Thanks to the care of family, we got up early Saturday morning and waved goodbye to the kids and headed towards the windy city. That’s all I knew – we were Chicago bound. The day started with a trip to Art Institute where we saw timeless classics from Rodin, Mary Cassatt, Degas, Monet and many more. After a glorious lunch and a hotel nap (uninterrupted by children), we readied ourselves for the evening out. I knew we were to get dressed up. He wore his best suit; I donned my new black dress accompanied by my first pair of Michael Kors heels. (fabulous, if I do say so myself) The dinner was at a fantastic seafood restaurant that prepared the most beautiful fillet of Chilean Sea Bass and surrounded me with all the right lighting and shadows and mood music creating the perfect ambiance to set the tone for the night.
Then we hopped in the car to shuttle to our ultimate destination – the one that had been kept secret for over six months. I had made several incorrect guesses at where we were going. Loving the blind anticipation, I gave up and sat back to enjoy the ride. I had my playlist hooked up to the Bluetooth in the car. We skipped over several songs that just didn’t seem to fit the mood and our last song was one of my favorites from “Wicked” – Popular. I belted out every word – just as I had when I sang with my friend Andrea a few years prior in a benefit for needy kids at Christmastime. Chris’ grin was bigger than big. You would have thought I would have noticed. But I didn’t – I was just enjoying the moment. And as we walked toward the Paramount theatre with the lights glimmering in the coolness of the fall evening, I saw it – the words that made my jaw drop – black letters backlit on the marquee that read; “An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth.”
Oh. My. Gooooodness. Are you kidding me?
I have described all the emotion that has been welling up inside of me, ebbing and flowing through the days of grief and change – as an emotional zit. (I know it’s not pretty – but it’s how I feel). Like at any moment, if it gets poked in a certain way – it will explode. And this is exactly what happened. My emotions came bursting out of me in every which way. This was a woman who I had watched on YouTube in every setting imaginable; in front of orchestras, in front of pianos, on talk shows, on Broadway- was going to be singing – for me. As we sat in our seats (only 10 rows back from the front) waiting for her to come on stage – I could hardly speak. I wanted to tell Chris how excited I was but I was afraid if I began to talk, I would start to cry. And then, there she was, in a beautiful, black sequined dress that tastefully complimented her ever so petite frame. And my friend Kristin ( I say “my friend” because that’s how she spoke to all of us, as though we were her friends, in her living room, just listening to her sing and tell stories after a wonderful family meal) began to sing. The poor man next to me probably had a hard time hearing over the sobs. The first half flew by. She sang all the songs I have ever dreamed of singing or hearing her sing. Her rendition of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables sent me over the edge as I too spent hours rewinding that song on my cassette tape of the musical that my mother took me to see on my 16th birthday.
I spent intermission just trying to collect myself. And all the while beneath my sobbing exterior I was wondering … I wonder if she will do it…
As the second half started, she came out in head to toe glitter – an outfit only she could pull off and not look like a disco ball. Then it started happening; she sang “Popular” – just like I had done in the car (only better because – you know – it’s HER song). And then she did it – she announced she would be inviting a person up on stage to sing the duet “For Good” with her. And there it was – that burning feeling in my gut – nerves and fear combined with my emotional zit paralyzed me. Chris tried to pull my arm up when she asked for volunteers and I couldn’t move – I couldn’t do it. I sat there and missed it… I missed my opportunity to sing with and for Kristin Chenoweth. She asked her volunteer what her name was, and what she did for a living. I wondered if that were me, what I would have said? “I’m Katherine, and I am a marketer, a mother, a grieving daughter, a sister, a wife, a writer, and sometimes a singer… ” But it was now just a bunch of ‘what ifs’ going through my mind. The woman who braved the stage sang with honesty and humility. It was perfect for the moment.
So now, I have to admit, I am living with regret.
But it doesn’t taint the beauty of the evening; the perfect songs that were sung and the power they had to help me release so much pent-up emotion. No amount of regret can take away from the wonderful evening with my husband, that he could have never known in May that I would have needed so badly in November.
I’ve resolved to the fact that it wasn’t my time. But I also know… that the ache of this starstruck regret will fuel me to sing more, take more chances, face fear and that next time, if I could be so lucky to have a next time, I will raise my hand. I may or may not get picked – but I won’t have regret.