Music: A Spiritual Shift
I grew up appreciating music. It was impossible not to. My dad was and still is a musician. The biggest feature of our living room was the stereo system. Giant speakers, CD changer, double cassette player for easy mix tapes, and massive tower racks of albums. I took my first dance class at age 3 (although I didn't come back to it until I turned 8), and I took choral music lessons recreationally and through school at almost every age. As you probably already know if you've been reading the blogs sporadically since the beginning, I've been on a journey to better, more technical singing since I hired a first-rate vocal coach last fall.
I know how to read sheet music--at a glacial pace, but still--and I can plunk out a tune on a piano after a few hours of practice.
The thing is: I've never really tackled a musical instrument with the focused will to learn, and until very recently, I hadn't tackled my singing voice either. I've been trotting along with the flow of things, mostly caught up in the fear of sounding bad, and the typical excuse: no regular access to an instrument (even though I've been carrying around my Dad's guitar for years). Guitar just seemed so intimidating: the finger calluses, the speed and coordination and weird wrist placement. And where to even start with strumming?!
I knew the answer the whole time was to just start. You can't get anywhere in your chosen field without starting. But comparative mind manipulates our concept of what it takes to be good at something, and weaves a thin mirage of 'efficiency' excuses that provide resistance at every turn.
But actual music devotion has a defense mechanism for that part of your brain that's too scared to start. 'Happy chemicals' like dopamine and serotonin drip through your bloodstream, both when you listen to music you like and when you play an instrument, and it actually doesn't take a ton of practice to release that stuff. When you're by yourself or with people you trust not to judge the crap out of your initial phase, the speechless joy you channel by creating your own delicious frequencies is palpable. It's been happening to me in my daily ukulele devotions.
Our friend Simon is a kickass singer/songwriter and someone we consider family after 6 years of touring, working, and hanging together. He's an incredibly motivated, creative human being, with a patience and kind spirit that comes from a stellar upbringing and a lot teaching younger kiddos. Yesterday, him and Shane worked a film shoot together and wanted to celebrate with pizza and cannabis. We cleaned and sanitized, and yes, we let ourselves connect with our friend--he is actually going to be our roommate next month anyway, so we trust each other to be safe in these tricky times.
2 pizza slices in, Simon handed me the ukulele. Him and Shane have been jamming out together on the guitar for ages. They are wizards. They are musical gangsters. I've been content to listen in to their sessions, offering an occasional vocal note or fist pump. I did not expect to get thrown in to one of their magical rounds. The weed kicked in, and I froze with fear. It's easy to avoid comparative mind when you practice in rooms with no one to compare yourself to. They ambushed me, barely heard my excuses, and waited on my rhythm and chord choice with stoic patience. They offered advice: "go with the natural flow and rhythm of your body," "Daphne taught me to listen to your mind's ear," "keep it super simple," and off we went. It was my first time playing high. My fret hand was sloppy. My strums were nervous. My focus wanted to shift from brave musician to comfortable spectator. But I summoned my brain and finger power and we did a few rounds with some basic tunes. I still can't believe what I took part in. It was a spiritually fulfilling moment with some very generous friends. As simple as my chord choices were, I could have cried. We got into a discussion about songs from childhood television faves, polished off the pizza, and plunged into the first few episodes of Midnight Gospel--the new Pendleton Ward animated Netflix series. Midnight Gospel opened my heart and mind even further, and the evening as a whole charged me UP.
I feel the resonance today. I felt a little more ease of chord transition and confidence on the uke this morning after a good sleep. Actually, throughout the day I've been feeling bits of my spirit gently collapse into place like a fold-out couch. I'm in a delightful spiritual shift. :)
Thanks to Simon and Shane, and so many musician friends who have sent words of encouragement and helpful tips via Instagram dm's and texts. I'll keep you posted on my serendipitous journey. :)