The sunshine has been pulling me outdoors recently, and I’ve been exploring unfamiliar areas close to my new home. This afternoon I went down to the water’s edge—it’s my first spring here and I want to know how the river is when her ice breaks up. This path meant a lot of stairs, down and then up. When I got home I thought to myself: “There’s a big difference between a long walk and a long walk with stairs.”
So that’s my insight for you today. Give yourself credit for the stairs, and rest a little more. Inner work, creative work, spiritual work, and emotional transformation: these activities take a lot of energy, use different muscles, and require a special kind of focus. Just like stairs. Whatever it is in your life that you realize takes something more of you than you have been acknowledging, honour it. Honour yourself and the work you do with the stairs.
Expected things about moving: staying up late, feeling exhausted & cranky, gusts of anxiety and visits to the land of overwhelm. But the surprises: coming back to the living room after all the furniture is gone, the wood floor glowing warm from the cool window light and so spacious! I think to myself, How beautiful it is. My glance is a lover’s glance when he suddenly sees the face of the girl in the face of the old woman he loves and remembers why he fell in love in the first place….
I have been going to Teresa Doyle’s weekly sound yoga classes off and on for several years. We sing some Latin rounds at times, but mostly we sing and chant in Sanskrit. I have learned a great deal in these wonderful classes and have become more at home with my voice. Most of all, I have learned to let the song come through me. I have received some compliments on my singing from people in this group, and frankly, at first this puzzled me very much. I have sung most of my life, but apart from the odd comment here and there, based on the feedback from the outside world, I concluded there was nothing special about my voice or my singing, at least, nothing that could be detected by others. Of course—in my own world, singing along to music in the car—I sometimes felt I was a superstar!
On Christmas, I took my mother to church, and the first hymn was “Joy to the World”. I noticed (for the first time) that it started on an irritatingly high note—rather hard to hit if you haven’t even warmed up yet. Nevertheless, I enjoyed singing all the Christmas carols though I noticed that it was a strain on my voice and felt somewhat forced. I also noticed that my right shoulder began to ache.
The next night, I got out the old Christmas music books and started playing my parents’ new electronic piano. Unfortunately, the beloved Heintzman on which I learned to play did not come with my parents when they moved back to town about a year ago. I picked out the chords for some favourite Christmas songs and as I sang along, I noticed again how high the high notes were and how tight it felt in my body to hit them. (I must say here that for decades, I have NOT been a fan of electronic pianos. For me, it was only the old pianos that had life and character in them. But, after adjusting the key touch on this piano, I began to like the sound and feel of it.) There were a number of buttons above the keyboard and one of them said transpose. I thought to myself, what if…? And I yanked out the manual to figure out how to use this function. I then transposed “Joy to the World” down 3 keys and lo and behold, it felt wonderful to sing it! Other songs I transposed 4 or even 5 keys down. All this time, singing these songs, I’d been singing in a range that was unnatural to me and a strain on my voice. In high school choir I’d been put into second soprano, but was that really where my voice belonged?
It was a revelation to sing these familiar songs with comfort—to let the tunes really come through the natural instrument of my voice. Singing within my range, I finally felt in tune.
Then I started to think about all the other things that I do because I’ve gone along with where I’ve been slotted, not knowing any better, trying to conform to a shape that others made, when in fact, growing and flourishing means finding my own range, where my song and my efforts become magnified, like a resonant wave structure, in which the power is many times beyond what at first seemed possible. And I thought about other people struggling with the very same thing in many areas of their lives.
So that is my guiding wish for myself for 2012: to find more ways in my life that I can become in tune with the talents and natural range of this particular being that I am, to notice and to seek resonance. And I wish the same for all of you too.
I arrive the long way around having taken the first exit for Montmagny I see on the highway. I get to see the exuberant displays of Christmas lights on the front lawns of locals as I come into town. I am exhausted having left my parents’ house in Guelph 12 hours earlier, driving with a fever and a sore throat. With windchill, it is minus 30 now and the fire in the lobby is welcoming. I attempt some rusty French with the friendly young woman at the desk and ask for a chambre tranquil. She thinks I am asking for 2 queens but we sort it out. She will give me a quiet room on the second floor. I go out the car and gather up knapsack, food bag, laptop, pillows, and one or two other things I don’t want to freeze in the car. The clerk is at the door to open it for me. She asks in French if I need help with my things to get to my room and I laugh and say Non! I go up and down the corridor twice looking for my room, which is out of sequence and tucked in at the end of the hall. Quiet indeed. The room has a comfortable bed with elegant bolsters, 2 leather chairs, a TV in a cabinet, a desk and a small fridge. I feel blessed when I lie down on the bed. The driving was not hard but I am grateful to be here. I call my boyfriend and we talk for a short while and then I go to bed. The room is blissfully quiet, friendly, peaceful. In the morning I shower and write 3 pages and go down for breakfast. My fever has broken and my head has cleared. My throat is sore, but I have rested. I eat cereal and whole wheat toast with peanut butter. I drink a big glass of orange juice. I exchange a few words in French with some other guests. I admire with astonishment the hibiscus in the corner, which has two luscious blooms. A television plays a sitcom or a movie that features Carla from Cheers and a Saint Bernard, which is being given a bath. The show is dubbed in French. Suddenly a song bursts out in English: I’m walking on sunshine…. I smile. I hear the birds singing out from the lobby. On the way back to the room I say hello. There are two in the wrought-iron cage — they are green and yellow. They groom each other and touch their bills together. I gather all of my things from the room and stow them in the car. I return my key cheerfully. It is a brilliant morning, very cold, very fresh. I scrape a little frost from the windows and look at the solid ice in my water bottle, which I left in the car. At 8:30, I pull out of the parking lot with the song in my head — I’m walking on sunshine….