Some time ago I’d taken myself out of the game. I’d stopped performing, sstopped singing altogether. After spending the past 25+ years pursuing a career in music, after all those years of practice, weekly voice lessons, coaching sessions, auditioning, the roles studied and performed, the professional years of operas, recitals, and concerts, …one day, I simply walked away.
It was a few years ago now that I sidelined myself, for many well-remembered reasons. For a long time, though, it was ok. Stepping out, away from the constant engaging, always needing to be on, ready to entertain. I was performing my life away in an endless pursuit of one right connection always just out of reach. Walking away from all of that has been a relief.
I needed to be silent and stand still. To separate, climb out from under all that pressure, that constant, never ending pressure that was mostly self-imposed. I needed to lick my wounds for awhile and figure things out. Who was I if I didn’t sing anymore? Who stood in place of the girl with the beautiful voice when she stepped away? Was anyone left there once she was gone?
I didn’t have the answers. So, I sat still and waited, contemplating a life I now watched quietly move on without me. The world seemed to drift, slowly passing me by while I watched in silence waiting for an answer. Until one day something did answer and a new way forward emerge.
It was just a slight shift at first, somewhere silently within me. These fledgling attempts at writing started tumbling out. Despite having probably nothing important or even interesting to say, I felt compelled suddenly to voice my opinion and with growing enthusiasm rejoin the conversation.
One day while I was reading some WordPress posts on music and listening to what their musical pieces inspired, the beautiful poems and stories created in their wake, I was struck by two thoughts that cut me quick and left me reeling, buckling my knees and devastating me to the floor. Unabated, wild streaming tears poured out, shook me of my energy like a ragdoll splayed on the pavement, abandoned, forgotten in a careless toss. These two thoughts, simultaneously:
I am only a witness. I am the silent witness of my own life. Removing myself from the world, I also removed me from myself.
Then the realization that this notion I could somehow divorce myself from music, as though it were a foreign thing, something separate from me I’d only borrowed for awhile, not really a part of who I am.
This idea was utter nonsense.
There was no separation between artist and art. There’s only an incompleteness when one part is stripped away. My soul sings out, even when it’s stifled silently within. I’m always moved from the center and the deep. And when I finally connect and feel those precious moments so moved by the music I am home.
Bereft, now, I was filled with longing and such a love and oh so much pain, all at once, as though I’d suddenly discovered I’d abandoned my child. What I had abandoned was an integral part of myself. Separating from something so much at the core of me was like cutting myself in half and walking around like I’m still whole, still an entire person, not this missing person who’s not even half a person, but a nonperson obliviously walking invisibly towards the truth.
The burden carrying my whole self around feels so unbearable at times I just want to shuck off all the hard parts, shed them from my skin and forget they exist. But when I stumble back on those same abandoned parts, I always find I’ve missed them just as much that I know that can’t really be true.
I don’t want to be the witness anymore. I don’t want to be the silent, nonperson who abandons herself on the side of the road. I want all tmy abandoned parts back.
The time has come to stop worrying and being afraid, dreading other people and how they might make me feel. There really are worse things in life than someone else’s opinion of me. Walking around without myself, for example, is definitely worse.
I’ve decided I’m letting it all back in and not redefining myself anymore as anything other than who I am. Just me, Tisha the musician, the artist, the singer, the mother, the activist, the alcoholic, manic depressive, the daughter, the writer, the teacher, the student, the lover of life, the good friend…
All these parts make up who I am. There’s no way to push one part out without losing myself.
So, no more being a witness to my life. No abandoning myself in silent exile, self-imposed. Pointlessly, gut-wrenchingly alone is that place, and oh, so lonely. There’s nothing but the abyss and the cliff, that tempts and pulls and coaxes, convincing it doesn’t matter, all is meaningless, pointless nonsense, nothing here worthwhile after all.
That terrible voice creeps its way out, in place of the beautiful voice full of music and love, the voice with all the passion and feelings who even after it all stops still manages to care, the part that tries, and fails and tries again, that can devastate and hurt and let everyone down then pick them all up with the sheer force of her will, my will, and the insistence in my heart.
This mixed bag of jumbled flaws and sharp edges, strangely odd disconnects, and a wildness that sometimes scares even me.
It’s beautiful anyway, all the parts of me.