When I listen to music, music that really moves me, I connect with and feel my life, my emotions, my experiences. When I listen to music, when I write music, when I play music, I feel. Emotions do not always feel safe. They can be intense, sometimes overwhelming. They are often unpleasant and frightening. I’ve gone to great lengths to escape them, but they are a part of me. No matter what I’ve tried, I have not been successful in escaping my experiences and the emotions that accompany them.
When I discovered music, I connected with a force that enabled me to feel everything without feeling like I was going to die. I first experienced this connection with music in a most notable way when I was 13. It was when I heard the music of one particular musician. She shattered me but in a good way. Her music broke me open, and when I listened to her sing, when I listened to her voice and words and to the instrument she played, and when every piece and part of each song came together as one whole sound, I, too, became whole for the time I was listening. A massage to my soul. I was seen and heard. I was saved. And I kept listening because this was the only experience that ever made me feel safe. I could cry, scream, and grieve. I could be angry and full of rage. I could hate and love and desire, and it was all okay. This music validated me. I could feel it in my skin and deep, deep down in my heart.
It took me nearly ten years to begin playing my own music on stage. I had been consumed with terror at the thought of getting on stage, opening my mouth, and letting myself out. I don’t know why this happened. Perhaps my anxiety was due to the nature of my relationship with music; it is not an escape – it is the force through which I connect with and fully feel my life, so the words and the voice that come out of me reflect my experience in the world. To publicly reveal the deepest most personal parts of myself through my singing voice – an actual part of me, literally connected to my body and soul such that it reflects my very self – was terrifying and intensely emotionally difficult for me. When I sing my heart and soul come out of my mouth. I cannot help this. It feels like the sounds coming out of me are creating a physical portal through which everyone in sight can see straight into me. That is scary.
But I reached a point where continuing to sing and play in secret became more painful than walking through the fear and walking up the steps to the stage. And now I am able to say honestly that feeling the frightening feelings and being so afraid but going on anyway is worth the release, the emptying out and filling up that comes when I allow others to witness me open my mouth, let go and let myself out. And as I sing my songs and try to get more and more free, I hope I can touch people’s hearts and give someone else that feeling of connection and validation my musical mother gave me.