How Can I Keep from Singing?

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I have always loved to sing.

One of my favorite childhood memories is dressing up with an old curtain as a veil, belting out “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar playing on vinyl on my Shaun Cassidy record player.

Appropriate? Probably not.

But I loved to sing.

Oklahoma, West Side Story, The Music Man, The Sound of Music– these were some of my favorites as a child. In high school I moved onto Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and, I am ashamed to say, Starlight Express.

I took voice lessons and auditioned for shows. I entered competitions and won and became a music major.

And through it all, I loved to sing.

After college, I continued with lessons and theater. I began a graduate school course in early childhood education and taught preschool. I became a Kindermusik instructor and loved every minute of it. And when I gave birth to my own sweet children, I sang.

One of the things I love about Waldorf is its connection to music, to rhythm. A few summers ago when I got to travel to Santa Fe to meet my fellow mod sisters from Mothering, I remember being very self-conscious of the fact that I sing all the time– to my children, with my children, for my children. In the end, I was OK with it. It’s just who I am. It’s how I communicate.

And then I went into heart failure. In the ICU with a tube down my throat, I said many prayers. One of the more vain prayers was that my voice wouldn’t be destroyed by the harsh treatment of having a ventilator tube shoved past my vocal cords.

First I whispered and then I spoke. And then one night when I had been moved to cardiology and both my babies were snuggled up in my lap on the hospital bed and my husband was at my side, we watched The Wizard of Oz together.

And very, very softly, I sang.

But you see, it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t my voice that had been compromised by my illness, but my breath. Somehow, being in congestive heart failure wrecked my ability to support my voice. And little by little I stopped trying, because it made me so very sad.

At church, I could no longer sing through the line of a hymn without needing to stop for a breath.

At home, I no longer burst into spontaneous song.

Recently, I’ve had several occasions to meet with friends I haven’t seen in a long time. And on all of these occasions, I was asked if I still sang. Embarrassed, I tried to explain.

You should try, they said. You should keep working on it and try.

Retrain yourself.

Practice.

And, in my recent consult with Melisa from Waldorf Essentials, we talked about the need to strengthen my will.

So you know what? I’m doing it. I’m sitting down at the piano. I’m pounding out Raffi and singing it to the delight of my five-year-old who things that beans, beans, trying on some jeans is just about the funniest thing he ever heard. I’m singing Carlisle Floyd and Handel and Sondheim to the babies. And in church, I’m praising God by practicing my breath support, letting the oxygen he’s given me fill my lungs as I sing out my thanks for the blessing of my very life.

Sometimes, things that used to come easily no longer do.

Sometimes, unfair things happen.

And sometimes, we’re pulled up out of the pit and our prayers are answered in ways that are very real and very unexpected.

And in the face of that, how can I keep from singing?

2 Comments


  1. //

    Wow. As someone who ALSO belted Jesus Christ Superstar as a 10-year-old, became a music major, and later a voice teacher, this really hit home for me! Bravo you for continuing to put one foot in front of the other. At this point, it’s just a matter of overcoming inertia.


  2. //

    Thanks! I really really have missed music. It’s one thing I regret letting go as I’ve had children. But now that we’re done with babies, I am trying to get that back.

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