There is something about waking in the night that is either darkly unnerving or . . . dark and comforting, like a womb. Maybe it’s that I’m sipping a cup of jasmine tea with honey, cradled by the recliner, and writing longhand, not at the computer, taking me back to earlier days. A “journal-er” since 14, scratches of pen on paper are old, familiar sounds that inspire more revealing processes to me than sitting at the computer, where clicks, flashing banners or popping posts signal the entire world is awake and watching. Although I express myself through performing, I am by nature an introvert.
But, I’m about to leap into recording my first solo CD, hoping for more visibility and broader opportunities. And now, I’m experiencing vocal issues I've never had. Some hoarseness, vocal tiredness and strain – and even a nasty cold? Yeah sure, they could be just physical manifestations . . . but the uncanny timing makes me dig deeper. "Why now?" I ask myself. Hmm-mm. What part of me might prefer staying right where I am? What part is in hiding? What in me might faint back and look for an exit? Ah, the “me” that says what I consider my best may not be enough? Or something I hold most precious may find no place in the world? What if no one even listens to me, or sees me?
And suddenly I am three, maybe four years old, sitting in a big rocking chair next to the oil-burning stove, humming comforting tunes to myself while ice forms on storm windows that block a biting north wind, frigid cold, blinding snow. Music calmed many a childhood fright. My earliest memories of singing are those of finding solace and nurture for my soul, and vocal expression has mapped many an inner landscape over the past 25 years. I have shared my voice with others, perhaps to their comfort, pleasure or interest. Yet, seeking the limelight never felt like it was my aim, as much as I have enjoyed a few accolades and very modest acclaim. Singing is intensely personal, and the gift in it for me is feeling close to my own essence, and to whatever God might be.
During a recent lunch, an acquaintance of mine leaned over the table and said pointedly "I can't believe you're not famous!" which seemed to translate to "where did you go wrong?!" We laughed because it was a compliment, but not without a wet-towel-to-face sting prompting self-reflection. I think the 4-yr-old me has always resisted broader openings for work, while the adult has struggled to move reluctantly forward. A shift from the beauty of true soul expression to pandering for marketability, promotion and popularity sends the private me scurrying into hiding, perhaps behind vocal strain and tea? It isn't a huge leap of the imagination to see this recliner as a rocking chair. It also isn't a huge leap to see a larger audience and more opportunities from recording and promoting a new CD. But it feels as though the adult me always has to coax and cajole "little Sandy" forward. She does not respond well to yanking, bullying, and harshness.
So why do this, push ahead, face the discomfort? Because . . . I like to think our souls are meant to expand, grow, and express the Divine. According to Stephen Hawkings, it's an ever-expanding universe, and well, humans are part of that. We're meant to grow. That's what we do. To roughly paraphrase Anais Nin, eventually the pain of not growing is greater than the fear of growing. We need to move, expand, change, go to new places – or what we do eventually becomes "what we used to do," or worse yet, "how we've always done it."
The glaring lights of the music industry certainly don’t offer secrecy. And we can never walk the cliff of personal edges in perfect comfort. There’s no guarantee that I, and my 4-yr-old “Sandy,” will meet with certainty, kindness, decency or even success on the path. I try to remind myself that I’m a fairly smart, capable and loving adult, as well as one who knows how to fend, field, thrust and parry, if necessary. I listen, care, protect, defend . . . and pray. I guess she and I can share laughs, “butterflies,” a few bumps that, like a good carny ride, make the stomach jump . . . all with a broader view and more candy for the soul. After all, 4-yr-olds don’t really like tea . . . and the recliner will always be there.
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