Friday, 24 January 2014

What makes people....

....behave the way they do?

I hope that by simply recording the incident, I will start to understand the situation. Or maybe not. Maybe the dark alleys of my understanding are closed for renovation.

The question is: What happens when you dither over a decision, then make it, only to find you have massive, wild, irrational opposition?

Picture this. I've been running (and directing) choruses for 22 years. For about 19 of these I've had a woman singing with me who has a pretty voice and a good ear. When she started, she was 21 years old, starting out on a career that isn't really a career, but a job, a way of earning money, nothing more, nothing less - working somewhere at the desk of an insurance company, probably an insignificant cog in that particular wheel because she lacks the personality and ambition to improve her lot. About 4 years ago the greatest stabilizing influence on her life died, a dictatorial, bossy mother who at the end ruled everyone from her sickbed. Yes, of course, she was sick, but she had her daughter to fuss round her. This young chorus member - let's call her Magda - who rather resented her mother's control, nevertheless grieved terribly for her loss. At about the same time, Magda's job was on the line. Firms were being amalgamated and it was not clear whether she would find herself without a job. That also hit her hard. However, she did not lose her job, but was only obliged to move to a different city that is fortunately easy to access from where she lives. There followed a long period of upheaval in her life. Remember that Magda stays put in mind and body whenever possible. She is one of those clerk-type individuals who do a good job somewhere in the background, but never get on their hind legs and ask for more. I've watched Magda turn from a rather frumpy, boring young lady to a prematurely middle-aged, disenchanted individual,  unhappy with herself in particular and the world in general. It didn't have to be like that, but Magda chose the route she wanted to go down - security and stability being highest priorities even at an age when others are exploring life. I suspect that she saw other colleagues being promoted, as she should have been, but wasn't.

Magda turned 40 recently, and that hit her extremely hard, for now she was at an age where life either blossoms - with an old or new partner (I never saw her in the company of anyone!) or ends, the end in her case being routine, boredom and, not least, discontentment - unless she does something about it soon! All those elements are now reflected in Magda's physical and psychological being. She has been suffering from pains in back and legs for at least 18 months. She is overweight, depressed, and moves sluggishly - pain or weight? Hard to tell.
What is not hard to tell is her willingness to share her suffering with whoever will listen. She wants people to feel sorry for her. A natural instinct. Pain maikes us all susceptible. But basing one's life, relationships and philosophy on being indisposed is not a good idea. Magda's whole condition, physical and phsychological, is going down a slippery path.

But....and here's where the crunch really starts - I (and the whole chorus) have tried to help her, not least in my case by turning a blind eye to her merely sporadic attendance of chorus rehearsals and performances, and to her increasing rudeness towards me and lack of cooperation (I won't go into tedious details) within the chorus.

The only thing she has invariably managed to do is to write me a text to excuse herself from the rehearsal - I have received many texts from her. So when she didn't turn up to our first rehearsal after the Xmas break, I thought - logically - that she must be ill, or - due to her conduct of recent months - that she had left the chorus. I wrote to her asking relevant questions, but not in an aggressive way. The answer I received from Magda was vindictive and aggressive, resentful and petty. I wrote to her advising her to take 3 months off to decided where her priorities are.
Then, a day later I reread her text, and was so disgusted (not least that I had let myself in for this escalating situation) that I chucked her out of the chorus - No not inelegantly: I requested her not to come again since she obviously felt such apathy towards me (later I realized that it was resentment and hatred). That may have been a rash decision, but it was not merely based on her text, but on months and months of non-appearance at rehearsals, general lack of enthusiasm and failure to cooperate.

But at the rehearsal following this interchange of texts, she turned up uninvited. She and a fellow chorus
member had obviously cooked that up  - the other member having received my correspondence for good measure. They both laid into me in front of the other chorus ladies in a way that really shocked and horrified me because there was simply no justification. The now unified chorus (the mechanism had worked) having fought for Magda's retention in the chorus - I eventually apologized (though I had nothing to be sorry for!) and said she could of course continue to sing with us. It seemed then that justice had been done, though eventually members of the chorus had managed to come out in my defence and confirm what I had said all along and written in my texts.

We then salvaged the final half hour or so of the rehearsal, during which Magda sat and scowled, huddled in her outdoor jacket,  presumably waiting for further consolation from members of the chorus, who of course complied. She wasn't going to leave without a further demonstration of indignation (did she really belive I would be conned by that?) I did not approach Magda again. There was no point and I would have said something I might later have regretted. Her behaviour - however much she thought I had provoked her 'self-defence' - was inexcusable, and I think she realized that.

So she didn't turn up to the next rehearsal (last night). I asked her 'champion' what the point of the row had been if Magda was not going to want to come, anyway. She had, after all, achieved a peace treaty which I think she took as my capitulation, though in fact it was a mechanism to end the unseemly dispute! Revelation: Aha, she didn't want to sing with us any more. She belongs to two other singing groups and it was all too much. She just hadn't been able to let one go! Well, well!

Had I done her the ultimate favour of showing her how???? Wow... then the row she had caused was worth something to her and with any luck could have provoked the chorus to get rid of me. But of course, they wouldn't have wanted that. Magda had struck a chord with them, but she had not managed to get them to play that tune.

After the rehearsal the woman who had championed Magda's cause and been almost as rude, wanted to know if things would be OK between us. I could not give her an answer. She has passed her sell-by date for me. Sad, but that's what happens when you stand up for someone like Magda, who is not able to stand up for herself, but is patently capable of stating her case when she has to. Her tirade exhibited more energy than her singing had ever done. And her colleague demonstrated that you can make a big mistake when you put blind trust in someone. Magda is not a particularly truthful person.

And where does that leave me? I'm not in the best of health and am seriously considering ending my own work with that group.

Magda's idea that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander did not work, did it? It was OK for Magda to excuse herself from at least every other rehearsal and nearly all performances. But my writing a text to ask her where she had been and if she still wanted to sing with us (knowing that she had been dithering for months, if not years) was not acceptable to her.

Typical of this saga is that at the end Magda has not chosen to tell me that she has left the chorus. That might be typical of Magda, too. But I'm not going to enter into any more discussions about her or with her! there's a proverb for everything. This one goes: Ships that pass in the night...