For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to sing.
My mom has pictures of me, dressed in a white lace dress, my hair curled in ringlets. I was grinning nervously at the camera, moments before my first choir concert. I was five, maybe six years old.
I’m fortunate in that I was exposed to a wide variety of music throughout my childhood. Chicago, Boston, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffet, Reba, Newsboys, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Def Leppard, DC Talk, Fleetwood Mac. They all got play time in my parents’ houses. When I visited my grandparents, it was Buck Owens, Elvis, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, Hank (Sr and Jr), and show tunes.
As a result, I’ve always had a wide bank of songs and artists to pull inspiration from when I was in the mood to sing. Which was most of the time. I have vivid memories of me holed away in my room, headphones plugged in, singing along at the top of my lungs to Mariah Carey’s Vision of Love.
My grandest dream was to be just like her. Well, ya know, before she got skanky.
I sang all through school. Right up to my high school graduation, where I sang a solo of Sarah McLachlan’s I Will Remember You. Singing was my dream, my passion.
And my coping mechanism.
When life became too much, when my heart had been broken once again, when I was angry or hurt, music was there to heal me.
As a teenager, I adopted a few other coping mechanisms. Smoking and drinking and late nights did my voice no favors. Where I could once hit those high notes with Whitney and rasp through the bottom end with Stevie, my voice now croaked and cracked, leaving me gasping for breath or triggering a coughing fit.
Even if I had not graduated high school already pregnant with my son, I doubt I would have gone on to pursue music. I had done too much damage.
And I wasn’t the only one.
Years of being told I wasn’t good enough, that my voice was like nails on a chalkboard, of being teased for wanting to sing along at every turn had eaten away at my self confidence. I developed horrible stagefright, able to sing in front of people only with my eyes squeezed shut and someone at my back.
I didn’t completely abandon music however.
As I rocked my infant son to sleep, I would sing the songs I grew up with. When he was a toddler, we listened to rock as we cleaned up our toys, singing along to Linkin Park, Staind, and Green Day. My little man knew how to headbang before he could completely stand on his own. I was determined to share music with him.
When I met the boyfriend, music was what we talked about as we got to know each other. He told me he played guitar and I told him I used to sing. It was months before he heard my voice, and only then because he caught me unaware.
I’ve braved karaoke a few times but really? I’m still uneasy letting others hear me.
But today? Today I didn’t care.
See, music is still my coping mechanism. I no longer smoke and I only drink once in a while, and certainly not before noon. Today I woke up in the throes of one of my worst flares since my initial diagnosis.
I’m in the middle of a big project and could not justify laying in bed all day. I dragged myself to my trusty recliner and gritted my teeth. As usual, I turned on trashy TV in the background and opened my email to begin my work day. It was quickly clear the TV would not be enough to distract my mind from the pain.
In an lifelong habit, I reached for my headphones, plugged them into my iPhone, opened Pandora and turned the volume up.
I didn’t care if the neighbors heard me, I didn’t care that my sinuses are stuffy and I probably sound horrible, I didn’t care.
I was filled with hurt and looking for my tried and true release.