Friday, January 13, 2017

Best Grief Is Tongueless (Nov. 2011)

I have never been a quiet girl, but I have been forced into such a space. I have acute laryngitis. I am healing, I've been to the best doctors, there is nothing damaged, but 13 days ago I woke up and nothing came out. My singing voice is definitely healing and I've done a few shows successfully, I'm just lowering keys and being very gentle on my voice as I sing myself back to health. Its the talking voice that's ragged, so I'm just not doing much of it. I'm not a quiet girl. I'm also not a patient girl. And the healing involves patience. Because my vocal chords are swollen and, along with a few things I can do and some medicine and avoiding certain foods and drinking a lot of water, really, the one thing I need right now is patience. Because it will come back. I just need to let go. Letting go is not easy. Let go of results, let go of timing, let go of all expectations and allow that as long as I do the things I'm supposed to do, my voice will come back. When it is ready.

I've been toying with this as metaphor. Like Saul/Paul the apostle struck blind. I once was blind but now I see? Maybe in the quiet hours I will find my voice, a truer voice? And I'm not talking about singing here. I feel like I've been on the path of truth-seeking for a while. "Who isn't?", you might add, but I've been like a warrior on this quest. Stumbling and tripping over myself and others, doing my best to stay directed like a flashlight at the hope for clarity. Or something in the near vicinity.

The throat chakra is Vishudda and when it is opened it is said to transform negative experience into wisdom and creativity. When it is closed, it is grief and death.

I've been writing a lot lately. Songs, stories, letters I won't send. Grieving things I'm letting go, grieving the road not taken. I remember loving that Frost poem. My grandmother would read Frost to me and I'd think of myself as a warrior child: that I'd be the one to take the road less travelled by. I knew I would. My grandmother lived long enough to see me not only take it but to earn enough success on it so that she could rest easy, knowing that I would eat and pay rent by it. I never thought that the other road, the road of stability and family and children and a mortgage and routine, might also live in the 'less travelled' by stanza. Mostly, I can with confidence say that I wouldn't change a thing. And yet, there are times when the grass might seem greener and I regret things, missed turns, lost friends. I spend my life driving and flying to shows, mostly alone, sometimes with others. And I am passionate about what I do and I am blessed to earn a living from my 'bliss'. But, there are days when it is too quiet and after the gig and the silence in my hotel room is hard to take and, at least for right now in my self-imposed solace, that there's not someone calling to check in and say goodnight is my reminder of my aloneness: the shadow of loss like a bedtime prayer. When I sometimes long for weekends of playing with children in leaves, shopping for a family dinner...I can even mythologize the water cooler conversations at office jobs. The grass isn't really greener over there. It's just a different plot of grass.

In the midst of this silence and solace, and an admitted financial crisis that kicked my knees out from under me for about a week, came the death of an old friend, Michal Friedman. A sudden, shocking, completely tragic death. Which, just as my legs were getting a bit stable and I was healing the voice, kicked it all out again.

I say old friend. My friend died in childbirth, leaving twins (healthy) and a husband I never met, didn't know existed. You see, this was a woman who was a friend of mine in a particular time of my life. Her sister was my better friend, but when she moved to NYC, she was also a musician, we were the same age, we played the same clubs, we temped, we'd go out and I seem to recall drink wine and talk about boys and music and clothes and Buddhism and she was sharp and smart and intimidating and tiny and stunningly beautiful like a cartoon character and seemed stronger than I. My then-husband was smitten by her and loved her music and we were all part of this loose gang. My best friends at the time were my fellow Expanded Arts Theater Company actors and her sister was a fellow actress. I was just beginning my journey into music and was starting out in the clubs in NYC. So was Michal. We were broke and idealistic and loud and competitive and she was single and I was married (but not rooted and clearly unhappy) and we spent time together. Not a lot. She wasn't a 'good' friend, nor a 'close' friend, but she was a friend and she was most certainly an integral part of that time for me. I realized, upon hearing of her death, that I hadn't talked to her or seen her play in over 6 years. I started touring full time in 2005 and once that happened, I saw my theater friends once in a while. My day-to-day friends became my band, the fellow troubadours on this winding road. My theater friends kept at it, plugging away, some kept with it, some left to do other things. And eventually, they got married too and most had babies and I lost track of if they were even acting anymore. Michal kept at music and though I didn't talk to her or keep up with her, I'd see her on Facebook or I'd hear about her show from my now Ex husband, who loved her music. Or I'd get curious as to what she was doing and I'd go searching. I knew she was acting and doing voiceovers. I didn't know she was married. I didn't know that she was pregnant.

This happens. Life moves forward. One path goes one way, the other the other. Just different shades of green. At some point, I looked around at with whom and by what I was surrounding myself, felt increasingly like I was on a train bound for a brick wall, and, growing weary and feeling older, I lit a match and burned it all down. Moved out. Got a divorce. Left a band. Left a label. Left management. Meditated. Started yoga. Felt the right thing come into my life on many levels and followed those winds. Moved south. Started over at 41. Lost track. Let go. Grieving the old. Wrote an album about all of it. Was proud and happy of that birth-giving, and have watched its stuttering journey through the world as it lingers, well received but not necessarily changing anything. I have watched that halting movement with pride and grief. Questioning...

And then, silenced by a swollen throat, still channeling the warrior, this time gently singing myself back, I hear of this untimely death of a girl who should not have died. A girl who was part of my world for a brief but very very important part of my life. I feel like I should not even be writing this, as it is her husband, her sister, her family, her real friends that remained, that grew with her, that ate Sunday dinners together and struggled to make ends meet 10 years later -- those are the real grievers. Maybe my grieving isn't for a loss that's mine, but for their loss. For the loss of this water sprite with a big howler of a voice who laughed easily.

But its also the loss of time and choices and I recognized with a deep kick of a growing pain that life is short and as I'd say, "Oh, I'll see them all next time I'm in town" there is sometimes not a next time. I'm reminded of my father and his twin, my beloved uncle, their 70th birthday dinner a few years back. I was offered a very important show during the Sundance Film Festival and instead of joining my entire family at the birthday dinner celebration, I took the show. Which ended up being far from important. It yielded nothing but a dent in my credit card. I said, though, "Oh, I'll make the 75th dinner. THAT will be something." My uncle passed away a year later, suddenly, of a heart attack.

One of my deepest regrets in life is that I missed that dinner.

And I do my best to not miss important dinners anymore. I learned the hard way that No Gig is that important.

So to the quiet. And the solace. It gives me the opportunity to see the connections. To accept and acknowledge the connections from my uncle to my friend to my financial woes to my voice to what I love and what I put time and energy into and this long road I keep running up and down, rock heavy up the mountain each time, falling back upon me, still lifting it wearier yet fighting the negative to the light and hope. I'm not getting off the wheel. That's not what this is. But perhaps the mute is like a flag waving: pay attention.

So I will. I will pay attention to whatever this is supposed to mean if anything. And I will make some very long overdue phone calls to people I love. And I will not regret that I stood on a high peak and spoke of a true love, regardless of the outcome. And I will meditate on all of this and let it sift through grieving and doubt and fear and lonely and pride and anger and loss and love.

And I will wish Michal a safe journey to wherever she is going and hope that her husband and her twins and her entire family and current community will grieve and mourn and then grow and find light and love again and have a beautiful life.

Excuse me, I'm going to go call some people, voice or no voice.

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall

For a friendly visit.
A Time To Talk (Robert Frost)

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