When I was in junior high school I sang in a folk group. I loved it. There were two girls, me and my friend Bets, and 3 guys. Doug, Tom and I think the third guy was Graham. I think Georgina sometimes sang with us too, but I’m not sure about that — but it would make sense because she went on to become a professional singer.
We were all ‘Military Brats’. All attending school in Metz, France. All displaced Canadians on foreign soil.
We were ‘a gang’. Connected through song. Connected through the folk music that was popular in the day. Gordon Lightfoot. Joni Mitchell. Donovan. Bob Dylan.
In High School, I kept singing. Sang in talent shows, plays the school produced, in the kitchen doing dishes, in the shower, on walks into the hills that surrounded our house in Southern Germany where we’d moved after Metz.
I dreamed of being a singer, songwriter, writer. Of standing on stage and moving audiences with my song. Of standing in front of an audience moving people with my words. I wrote poetry. Short stories. Newspaper articles. I took on the job of editor of the school newspaper and the yearbook. I wrote and I wrote. A lot.
And then I stopped.
To this day, I don’t know why I stopped. When I moved back to Canada I lived in Toronto and still held fast to my dreams. I just never told anybody. They were my little secret though sometimes, I tentatively took steps to fulfill on them. Once, I connected with a musician who was looking for a female vocalist. He gave me a chance. I turned up once and then I quit going back. Not sure why. Possibly it was that I was entangled in an inner dialogue about who I was, what I was doing, why and how I was not being the human being I wanted to be. Possibly I got scared.
It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I finally ventured out into the world of writing again. My first feature-length article was published in the Calgary Herald for Remembrance Day the same year I turned 35. It was a watershed mark for me. The mother of two daughters, I wanted to ensure they knew they had the power to believe in their dreams and make them come true.
But still, I didn’t sing. At least not publicly. The story in my head went something like, “You can’t sing.” “You’re not good enough.” “Nobody wants to hear you.”
The story came from my youth. From those days of singing when my family laughed at me for my dream. At least, that’s the story I remember. That’s the story I’ve told myself. It’s possibly not true, but it sure makes a good excuse for not doing something I love.
In fact, even getting published was a threat to the story I told myself about why I wasn’t a writer. Why I wasn’t doing what I dreamed of. Believing in myself was self-conceited. Wanting to be published was an act of self-aggrandizement.
Children’s minds convert what’s happening into a story they can remember. They take what’s happening and frame it in a mirror of their world that makes sense to them. Children need to make sense of their world and when the world is crazy all around, the sense they make is crazy too.
For me, the stories my child’s mind created included not putting me ‘out there’ outside the box of my comfort zone where I might get hurt. They wrapped themselves around the belief that to live my dreams was an act of defiance that would only lead to my being disappointed, ridiculed, mocked and excluded from the box labelled Family, Friendship, Kinship. The box where I so desperately wanted to fit in and belong.
Sometimes, the only way out of the box is to acknowledge, there is no box.
Never was. Never had to be. Never has to be, A box.
Boxes are for squares. Boxes are for packing up dreams and aspirations.
Boxes don’t set me free. They keep me on the ground, my arms tethered to my sides, my dreams locked down to the earth, tied up in bonds of steel to keep them from flying free, out into the world where they just might come true.
Boxes are designed to keep me safe. To keep me from getting hurt.
And that’s the conundrum of living in a box of my own creation.
The confines of the box hurt. I’m always rubbing up against my desire to fly free, to soar above the fray of my limiting belief that I am not meant to fly.
We are all meant to fly. We are all meant to soar free upon the clear, sparkling air of our dreams expanding out into the world of wonder all around us.
It’s just the stories we tell ourselves that keep us tied up in knots of fear and hesitation. It’s just the past, masquerading as the present that keeps us holding on to the fear that living this one wild, precious life might hurt us.
Living life for all we’re worth outside the comfort zone of our limiting beliefs doesn’t hurt. Not living it does.
When I was young I loved to sing. Today, I cry my song of freedom knowing that in my voice I have the power to touch hearts, open minds and set spirits free.
What song is your voice singing today?