Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Always Be in Vogue

I have been studying a great deal of different kinds of music of late.  It has ranged from popera to country to rock to jazz to classical and more.  In one of my study sessions I began reading up on the King of Rock and Roll, the almighty Elvis Presley.  And what I found struck me with a great deal of power. 

Firstly, before he became a performer someone asked him who he sang like.  He responded that he "didn't sing like nobody."  In other words, he sang like himself without comparing himself to anyone else or trying to fit any kind of preset image or tone.  Secondly, what comes to mind as one of his defining characteristics?  Besides the lips, I mean.  The dancing generally presents itself as an exquisite constituent of his performances, right?  Well strangely enough, the story goes that during his first performace he didn't know what on earth to do with himself as he sang so he started wriggling to keep time to the music.  The crowd of course went wild.  He admitted later that he thought they were laughing at him and it wasn't until after he finished a set and was kicked back onstage for an encore that he realized he hadn't made a fool of himself.  He was an instant sensation from that point, which eventually transpired into the incredible musical icon he is today. 

So here's my point.  Sing like no one is listening and dance to the beat of your heart.  It's people like that who do not merely follow the trend but set the standard.  And of course I do not mean this only in terms of musical performance.  Listen to who you are, be the best person you can honestly be, walk with personal strength.  You may not become an international superstar but you will exude confidence, which people always notice and which never goes out of style. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Word on Post Traumatic Stress

What do you think when you hear the term “post traumatic stress”?  I used to think very little of it.  It was something that veterans had, or something that “those kinds of people” get.  You know, the kind of people who just live rough lives.  It was for those kinds of people who live overseas in slavery.  Whatever else, I thought it was something that would never effect the world immediately around me.   God had a different idea.  
I won’t go into all the details of how I acquired this compound trauma.  Very few people know the full history, and I don’t bother telling it because I have found that when I begin people stiffen and look terribly uncomfortable.  So I usually stick to the one aspect that on Valentine’s Day 2007 I was hit by a gravel truck and a semi whilst on the freeway, and it pacifies most inquiries.  But let me answer a few ideas that tend to raise themselves in people’s minds when they come face to face with me, who am now “one of those people.”
If I could help people understand one thing about post traumatic stress, I would make clear the fact that trauma to this level is not something people can just “get over.”  People repeatedly tell me to let go, forgive, forget, and just stop being so proud, holding onto past injury.  My dear friends, when the gravel truck hit me I immediately spoke to the owner of the company, asking that the driver, who was fully penitent, keep his job.  I knew from the beginning it was an accident.  When post traumatic stress sets in, it is unlike anything else a person can experience.  It takes your mind and squeezes it into a vice.  Your mind is completely locked down and you become incapable of feeling any emotion at all.   The only emotion I retained was compassion.  Everything else I had to relearn over months and even years, and I have not finished relearning all the emotions I lost.  There is a very marked difference between someone who is voluntarily holding on to a grudge and the exquisite agony of living with post traumatic stress.  When this illness, and it is an illness, sets in, your soul feels ripped away from you and no amount of forgiveness or humility on your own part can remove the condition.  Forgiveness, however, will help you to emotionally heal to a great extent and it is a powerful tool against further mental damage. 
We all have varied experiences.  I am grateful to have experienced this, because by it I have learned so much.  I enjoy listening to experiences of others and I strive to learn from them.  I am grateful not only that God blessed me with this trauma but also that He made it that no medication would adequately effect me.  Terrible as it sounds, it afforded me the opportunity to rebuild my mind solidly, piece by piece and understand the workings of the brain in an incredible manner, which I could not have done had I been leaning on the narcotics prescribed.  I still believe that God is kind and understanding and that all things happen for a wise purpose in Him. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

All the World's A Musical Stage

Leaving the local music shop the other day, the salesman Toby gave me a look and a grin of respect that clearly said "You really are one of us musicians."  It's taken some time for the crew there to get to know me.  I was there purchasing a book of guitar music - a new challenge and pleasure I'm taking upon my shoulders.  I have sung in opera halls, brought home the gold in California and Northern Arizona  and the like, but starting a new instrument I realize that I'm a novice again and despite my musical prowess, in guitar I'm still sucking proverbial Gerber. I know a great many fellows, on the other hand, who can rock anyone, anytime, anywhere, into full surrender.  But how are they at singing "Largo al Factum" from Rossini's opera?

A wonderful lady of my acquaintance has a masters in music.  Surely she can do anything, right?  She caresses the violin something amazing, composes, plays piano, knows classical music like the back of her hand and has an angelic singing voice.  Perhaps she is the final authority on music?  But hand her a six string Martin guitar and tell her to astonish an audience with music by Eric Clapton.  I don't know but I am pretty certain she might level you a fairly blank stare. 

So what is my point?  We are all different.  Not one person in this world ever has to compare him or herself to anyone else.  Our talents are different and even though they may be in some way connected, it is always better to simply focus on being the best person you can be, rather than being upset that someone else seems higher or stronger than you.   I know what competition is like.  I failed a few rather important ones.  But does that make me less of a person?  No.  It makes me myself.  While I was losing a few vocal competitions in high school I was taking some bows for work in the literary realm.  No one is so one sided that they have to let any one talent or personal aspect define them completely.  So take joy in who you are, where you are, at the level at which you find yourself.  After all, even the greatest violinist in the world can't play Mozart's Requiem perfectly all by himself.  It takes an orchestra. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Love's Labors Lost

*Have you ever seen someone in trouble and attempted to help them only to have them push you away and fall into the abyss?  I've seen a great many loved ones crumble like that.  And though I know that there is always hope, I thought to capture the anguish of that moment as I have so often seen it.

Beneath the starlit sky I walk -
My breath a plume of white -
And ponder on a love I lost
Upon a sacred night.

He stumbled; fast I held his hand.
My grip was firm and strong
But 'neath him lay a barren waste
Masked by a merry throng.

He pined and thought, still looking up
And then with downcast eyes
He chose the wasteland, barren, cold
And learned to me despise.

He chose his fate and spurned my touch,
Fell to the gawking crowd
Pretending now that this was bliss,
His heart and spirit proud.

I look below and watch him now
And view repentant tears
But not enough to turn him back
Or face his shallow fears.

And so I wait and watch and pray
That he return to me,
That heaven may redeem him and
His spirit be set free.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Unexpected Results

When I was in junior high, I was anything but popular.  I regularly found myself pushed into walls, slammed against lockers, punched, kicked, thoroughly insulted and the like.  In seventh grade the music teacher decided to stage Disney's Beauty and the Beast, my least favorite Disney flick at the time, and my best friend blackmailed me into auditioning for the main role of Belle.  I desperately wanted to avoid this whole production and merely hum in the choir.  Life was difficult enough as it was.  But the instant the teacher heard me sing it was over.  I was crowned Belle almost immediately and she kicked my little rear up on stage to begin rehearsals. 

Life took a toll for the worse.  Many of the other students dislike the idea of someone so unpopular carrying the title roll.  No boy would play beast across from me, so a girl had to take on that role.  I remember pleading with the teacher to release me from the spot to no avail.  Other students cornered me and threatened to break my legs if I didn't explain how I got that role.  I began to sing and immediately the crowd softened a little and began to disperse.  I spent my time trying to keep a low profile in spite of the pedestal upon which I found myself raised.  Then the big night came. And the nightmare intensified.

The tech who was in charge of testing the microphones apparently missed checking mine.  I found it not working whilst on stage and right before I began singing the opening number.  I informed the instructor who told me to stand behind the choir microphones, where I had never practiced before and project, which I also had never been taught to do before.  I obeyed and before the first half of the song was over, tripped on a wire and sent a narrator stand toppling, sending papers flying across the stage.  I kept going, finished the scene, and exited at the appropriate time and silently burst into tears.  The actress playing Beast told me to stop because the mascara would run.  Somehow I plastered a smile to my face and stepped back onstage to finish the night.  I was so thankful when finally the whole thing was over.  True to my training I waited behind the curtain while the minor characters took their bows.  I was the last and when I stepped back onstage something happened that I never in a million years had expected.  The roar of the audience rose to a deafening pitch.  I remember wondering for a moment why they were clapping until reality broke upon me.  Never once during all this misery had I once remembered or considered that there might be some appreciation involved.  I had only been trying to do what I was chosen and expected to do.

My friends, I know that sometimes when we walk through life we think that it is just a constant battle against naysayers, trials, unexpected trouble and the like.  But remember that in the end, when all is said and done and the frustrations of this world is over, there will be for those who did the best they could, an overwhelming ovation.  In the end, those who do the best they can to fulfill their responsibilities no matter the opposition will find themselves swept away by the glorious applause of heaven.