That opening quote is true, but it still seems like a more than harsh reality. The Creation Story that dwells inside each of us begins here: in this moment. Stop for a minute, and simply think. What are you willing to sacrifice to gain that story? Because that Story dwells in only one place: inside of you. How can you share that story unless you take the time to explore it. That can only happen if you take the time to learn it. And however long it might take, are you willing to sacrifice those minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and yes, even years to learn it?
It took me a long time, many years in fact, before I only recently put all of the pieces together. And many of them came while I was engaged in coloring (that form of active meditation). It all started when I was about five years old. I really liked music and began to sing. And was very surprised when others would stop what they were doing to lean in and listen. I was far too young to know what they were noticing. To be able to sing a song, I had to memorize the words. But, I didn’t know that I was also pretty close to pitch perfect. Singing wasn’t something I had to work at, it was just something I could do, and did.
I had no idea that I was training my memory muscles. I had to listen to a song about three or four times, but then knew it all the way through. I was always singing something. I would wake up in the morning with a song in my head, and would be singing it for most of the day. But then several things happened. It was winter, and we lived across the street from a City Park, that created an ice rink every winter. My brother, four years older, was going to go skate. Saw me looking wistfully at his skates, and asked me if I’d like to go with him. I was about eight or nine and rushed to say yes and gather up an old set of skates. When we got to the rink, he took off with his friends and I was on my own.
Those physical muscles did not work as easily as the memory ones. None of us were aware that I had a spinal condition that worked against smooth, let alone, elegant physical movement. That came much later. So, my brother was off goofing around with his friends, while I struggled into the skates and then tried to stand up and yes, glide. Wasn’t working, and I was getting pretty tired just trying to stay upright. But then my brother and a few of his friends skated up next to me. Paul, my brother, asked if I needed help. I just nodded, so he grabbed my hand and began towing me around the rink, his friends on either side of us, skating right along with us. I need to correct that. They were skating, I was just hanging on trying to keep my feet under me, being pulled around the rink.
But then one of Paul’s older friends, asked, “Aren’t you the one who sings?” I nodded my head, and he asked, “Can you sing us something?” I was just a bit confused so asked, “What do you want to hear?” And he said, “Do you know any popular songs?” To which, my brother replied, “She knows most of them.” He named something on the top ten list and I began singing. Here I was, in the center of some of the toughest guys in the neighborhood, being pulled around the ice rink, singing. All the guys joined hands and we were strung out across half that rink. And there were more requests. I felt like I was in a movie. Some way to learn how to skate, and before they all left for wherever, the original guy who asked if I was the one who sang, handed me a nickel and said, “Thank you.”
Later that year, near the end of summer, the Park had a Talent Contest. My younger sister, who often sang harmony with me, and I entered the Contest. Many of those same guys were in the audience and when we finished singing, they whooped and hollered and clapped loudly. We won first place. After that, whenever we attended a function with a live band, my Dad would go up to the band and insist they call me up to sing. It scared me to death, but I did it for my Dad. I knew nothing about music, couldn’t read it, let alone tell the band which key I needed, but somehow it worked itself out. My brother and older sister took music lessons, she on the piano, and he on the accordion and later the piano. When I asked my Dad if I could do the same, he told me, “Honey, you don’t need to play an instrument, you are the instrument.” It took me years to understand what he meant and just what those words came to mean to me.
Deep within me, I realized that Dad meant the singing, but it sort of hurt that he turned down my request. But that little girl lived deep within me. My thirtieth birthday was coming up. For the first time, I bought myself a gift, a brand new guitar. I belonged to a prayer group, at the time and two of our members played. One of them agreed to come to my home, once a week, to teach me how to play it. His price? A home cooked meal. And I learned how to strum along to many of my favorite songs. Eventually, I had to stop because of the tendinitis in my fingers. I gave the guitar to my oldest daughter. She has a powerful singing voice, but also suffers from MS. I believe the guitar, as well as most of her possessions were thrown out or simply given away after her fiance broke their engagement because she had become a long-term patient in a nursing facility.
But, that brings me back to what my father said to me about “being the instrument”. Each of us is an instrument. It doesn’t make any difference how we learn the story, but we are the instrument that is always playing in the background. Making decisions, choices, about who we want, or think, we need to be. Some of those choices and decisions might not be the best ones possible. But we learn as we go. And how and why we learned whatever we know, is an extremely important part of becoming whatever instrument is playing in the background. I started keeping a daily journal and did so for almost forty years. That also really stretched those memory muscles. I still grab a notebook, on occasion and simply write down whatever is going through my head. I find that it really helps to see what I am saying.
Until the next time: What instrument are you becoming?