Using your voice again: a plan of actionOp-ed
This is a cross-post original published on Quill Creative.
I wrote the piece below as an archive of what my body has to go through when I get back in touch with a part of myself that I’ve long neglected. In these times where we are opening our ears and hearts to the cries of the oppressed, both external to ourselves and within ourselves, so many people in my circles are also finding a renewed sense of urgency to use the gifts, talents, and skills they may have abandoned.
This can be a vulnerable process, and in sharing this writing with you, I do feel quite vulnerable. Who knows how and where I will be compelled to sing more frequently again, but I do know that my voice has power and I can likely use it to improve the situation of my friends, family, communities, fellow humans, and of the earth.
Hear other people sing. Feel it in your gut. Hear their voices rise from their guts. Be moved to tears. Know that you can do that, too; that you have already done it in your life, once; that your life depends on doing it again.
Deprecate yourself for thinking self-deprecating thoughts. Doubt that anyone would ever want to hear you. Know that you’ll never be the best. Compare yourself to everyone else. Live in your head for a while, and feel your throat close up. Realize that the thoughts you have had are not contributing to your healing or well-being, and are preventing you from actually singing.
Clear your throat roughly and open your mouth and let some air escape. Let things vibrate. Get a rush of adrenaline – simultaneously joy and anger. Let yourself rage against all the reasons you stopped using your voice. Rage against money, capitalism, the lie of meritocracy, the optimism of youth, the institutions that lulled you into passivity, the warnings you did not heed, misogyny. Shame, emotional abuse, trauma, microagressions. Sore throats, lies. Shed your tears for all those moments of connection you lost because you did not sing. Sing out grief and anger. Sing it in public. Use it to find your voice again. Get called “too much”, make everyone worry about your darkness.
Try to expand the definition of voice for yourself. Settle for mezzo-piano, for a whisper – a loud one! Comment on Facebook statuses you don’t agree with but don’t write any of your own. Disavow the structures that brought your voice to the stage, like white people, universities, and men. Vow to build new ones. Vow to write a book. Vow to stay true to your inner child. Write poetry that imitates Mary Oliver and Nayyirah Waheed and wonder why you can’t seem to set it to music.
Close the apartment door, close the bedroom door, close all your hearts’ doors and cover your body with a big, warm blanket. Let the tears and your running nose soak your pillow and your body shake to release all the energy that is not yours to hold. Let the phone go to voicemail and the texts go unread. Order pizza and poutine delivery with the last $25 left in your bank account. Tell your cat she is the only one who ever loved you the way you needed to be loved.
The next morning, meditate for ten minutes. After the bell dings in your meditation app, slowly open your eyes and let the slanted rays of the sun warm your cheeks and your open hands. Stand up and walk over to the piano. Strike an A and inhale. Start to sing.