The songs we have set aside have really stretched my capacity in this area but even with the medication I’m using to reduce inflammation, last week my voice seemed less strong than the week prior, so Carey suggested we switch it up and try a couple of songs in my easy-to-sing zone. So, this week James Taylor and I are getting to know each other. I’ve also heard Queen Latifa would like me to try I know Where I’ve Been from Hairspray.
Since these aren’t on Carey’s regular roster of tunes, I’ve looked up the lyrics online and then found a karaoke version in the key of the original recording to accompany me. Once I’ve memorized the lyrics, what I find most difficult is listening to the backing music as I sing and joining in at the exact right moment. Sometimes my timing is off and I’m a note or two early or late. Once in a while I’m a whole line early and that throws everything off. As I sing along, I can hear something is wrong. This sends my mind to a place of thinking instead of singing and it takes great concentration to figure out how to get back on track. There are times, especially in the early stages of learning a piece I simply have to stop and start again.
Timing, they say, is everything. And when it is off, nothing feels quite right. When timing is on, life feels good. It’s smooth and easy.
When I was a little girl, a popular recess activity was skipping. I remember standing, getting ready to jump in as two other girls would turn the rope. As a beginner, I’d rock back and forth as the rope passed in front of my face and then swung around to the other side, waiting for the exact right moment to make my move. Once I figured out the timing, I could effortlessly enter the skipping zone and jump with reckless abandon, singing out the little rhyming songs we used.
Some people have incredible timing. When they enter a room, they ‘read’ it, listen for a minute, and then use their perfect timing to seemingly effortlessly join a conversation. Others are not so smooth. They jump into ongoing conversations at the wrong moment, and inevitably get all tangled up in the ropes.
That first group of people are not just blessed with good timing. Timing is a skill. It takes awareness, practice and sometimes even a bit of luck. It can be learned. It always has an impact. Those who have great timing, have it because they have worked on it.
In these pandemic times, Zoom makes timing more difficult. Timing here is not quite so easy to learn. Whereas in real life, a quick quip delivered with good timing guarantees success, on Zoom, the minuscule delay in the signal throws the timing all off. We have to think really hard about how to enter.
This week I had a lovely moment of timing. Baby Andy celebrated his one-month birthday and gave his parents his first smile. The next morning, I dropped in to pick up Ben for our regular outdoor time together. Knowing about the previous days smile, I hoped for a repeat but knew the odds weren’t great. Often after that first smile, it takes a few days for the next ones to appear.
Luckily, I know something important about timing: You have to be present for it to work. You have to be tuned in – to the music, the skipping rope, the conversation, the Zoom call, the baby. I caught Andy at a wakeful time and leaned over to talk to him. Even though I was able to still notice and respond to Ben, I didn’t take my eyes off Andy as I smiled and talked to him. And then it came; that precious, precious, fleeting, early smile.
I might have just been lucky but I like to think my timing was good too.
Each of us can have good timing. It’s a skill, and like all skills it improves with practice. First, we need to understand it is a skill that can be mastered. Then we need to listen to our intuition and follow through. How many times have we found ourself thinking about a friend (the intuition), and then called them only to hear them say, ‘Oh, your timing is perfect. Talking to you is just what I needed.’ And then other times when we do not follow our intuition, we eventually catch up with them only to find out they could have stood to hear our voice earlier.
I’ve been trying to notice timing this past week. I’m listening to hunches, paying attention and trying to jump in right after the rope passes in front of my eyes. I’m getting out of my head and into the music. James Taylor hasn’t called yet to invite me to do a duet, but who knows, with the right timing….
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How is my timing?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to master the skill of timing.