I’ve stopped singing. I hope it’s temporary… I think it’s temporary. I WANT it to be temporary.
I have been singing since I can remember. I sang along with my mom’s original cast recordings on LP from birth practically. Listening to and impersonating Julie Andrews in Camelot and My Fair Lady, Barbara Cook in The Music Man, Ethel Merman in Anything Goes and even Alfred Drake in Kiss Me, Kate, was my idea of an afternoon of fun. And without realizing it, I was getting a free education in not just fabulous vocal production, but phrasing, musicality, diction, nuance, color, emotion, drama, and heart. And then there were the glorious technicolor movie musicals to watch and sing along to- Doris Day in Calamity Jane, Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis, Gordon MacRae in Oklahoma!… the list goes on and on. The joy was endless.
But now, not only do I not sing, ever, I don’t listen to anything either. Silence reigns. Except in my head, where there is a whole lot of screaming going on.
So what happened? Life intervened… interfered. Serious, grown up issues took over. Worry, sadness, grief, fear. Fear, fear, fear, and fear sneaked in and infiltrated my psyche, knocking my love of singing, of music, of making art through music to the bottom rung; off the bottom rung.
And now I feel the lack of it keenly. Like I’ve lost a limb. I now live in a musical desert of my own making with no compass to find my way out.
And it’s been just long enough- going on over two years- that I’m afraid to start again. What am I afraid of? Failure. That I can’t do it. That my voice just won’t do it. Won’t be the same, or worse, won’t work at all. Maybe I’ve forgotten how. Maybe no one will want to hear me. Maybe…
And maybe I should just stop all this nonsense, stop letting fear be my guide and just sing, for Heaven’s sake! That’s what I would tell my students. That’s what I DO tell them. That it is never too late, to never say never, to always follow your heart, your passion… TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE NO MATTER WHAT. To find a way, start SOMEWHERE, anywhere. What are you waiting for? And I believe those things. Physician, heal thyself!
Which brings me to all of THE SIGNS that have been popping up lately to knock some sense into this muddled head of mine.
First there was a line from a book I had never read from one of my favorite authors, Annie Dillard- I don’t even remember where I saw it now. I read the whole book (An American Childhood, which was excellent, by the way), just to find that ONE LINE. The one line that shone out at me like a flashing neon bulb: “…you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself.”
And then there was another favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert (naturally, cause she’s always a fount of wisdom for me) who wrote in an article, “So the trick to happiness, then, is to find something that absorbs you and become that thing by pursuing it with devoted attention. In order for this this trick to work, however, your only motive for the pursuit must be pure love.”
And then Mary Oliver chimed in with “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” And then a new inspirational author, Tama Kieves dealt the final blow: “Remember what you knew when you were on fire, not when you were tired. Stay faithful to what you knew when you were most alive. Those are your diamonds.”
I didn’t have to think too hard to remember when I was last “on fire.” It was in April 2016 when I did Marry Me a Little with wonderful friends and colleagues in Salem, Oregon. From that January when I started learning the music to well after the show ended in April, I was inspired and excited 24/7. The music, the lyrics, the practicing, the performing- the act of creating art fired me up and filled me with a joy I can still remember two years later.
I’ve been tired for too long. I’ve allowed myself to be tired, beaten down and defeated for far, far too long. As Kahlil Gibran said, “And God said ‘Love your Enemy,’ and I obeyed him and loved myself.”
I am certainly my own worst enemy and therefore I must start loving myself by doing what I love: singing.
I love it. I always have. I loved it as a child, I loved it as an adult. I loved it even when I hated the circumstances in which I was doing it. I love it now. Still. Through the fear, I love it. The few times recently I have had the inspiration and temerity to listen to something- Bernadette Peters singing “No One Is Alone” at Carnegie Hall, “Lost in the Stars” by Kurt Weill- I ended up in tears and turned it off before the song was over. And once last month I felt moved to actually sing myself and ended up singing “Warm All Over” from The Most Happy Fella through my tears. MORE SIGNS.
Singing, music- they are my diamonds, my lifelong passions, both public and private.
I love it. I NEED to do it. For MY SELF.
And so, I will.
Wish me luck.