Saturday, February 12, 2005

Blogging for Books - Risks

b4b.jpgRisk is an inherent part of life. We take our lives in our hands each day just by getting out of bed. Risk is responsible for much of our pain in this world, but it's also the source of all of our pleasures.

For this Blogging for Books, write a blog entry about a time when you took a risk in your life on someone or something - a new romance, a new career, a new home, etc. Were you successful beyond your wildest dreams - or did you crash and burn?

In 1993 it happened again. This time it was at twelve weeks --– twice as long as the previous attempt --– but no less heartbreaking, despite an undeniably improved record on my part. Six hours in the emergency room brought me some of the worst bedside manner ever, two ultrasounds with a light saber (“You want me to put THAT WHERE?”) and the foreboding comment, "“Well, they don't consider this abnormal until you are habitual, and you aren't considered habitual until you have had three in a row." I left the hospital with an overwhelming sense of failure and a slip of paper shoved into my pocket reminding me of my newly scheduled routine surgical procedure.

When it was over, I was spent, both physically and emotionally. I didn't have the energy to rage at the moon, and I lost all capacity for optimism. Forget the Lord. The couch was my refuge, and I had no strength. All I did was lay there and wait for something to happen. The only problem was, I didn't have the slightest idea what that something might be. Healing? Acceptance? Greater Understanding? I didn't know.

I got a somewhat tentative phone call early that week reminding me that the church choir was doing their big musical presentation on Sunday. Knowing what I had just been through, they wondered, would I be able to sing?

In all honesty I had forgotten about it, but having failed the "Just Say No" class a thousand times over, I said sure; I should be able to make it.

Was I still planning to do the solo work?

Now THIS was a different story. My mind raced through the potential difficulties involving muscles and breathing and stamina and oh yeah, there was that little matter of my life, not to mention my guts being turned inside-out only a few days ago.

The problem with risks is that they never present themselves as such. In drama, they prefer to masquerade as "duty" or "honor" or "responsibility". If we ever stepped back and recognized risks for what they are, maybe we'd think twice. Maybe we'd say no. Maybe we'd stay safe.

Without elaboration, or as some might argue, much rational thinking on my part, I said yes. I would do it.

Walking into church a scant seven days after this nightmare began I kept one thought in mind: I needed to be professional. Perhaps the only thing that hadn't changed in my life was the fact that I was a singer. Singers sing, and that was what I was there to do. I was there to provide a service, and I knew it was critical that I remain focused on the task at hand.

"How are you feeling?" Someone asked.
"OK," I said quietly. "Tired, but OK."

They knew. That much was obvious.

"I was so sorry to hear what happened," another one offered.
"Thanks," I mumbled.
"I just wish it had been my son's girlfriend instead of you," she continued.

They didn't know WHAT to say. That much was painfully obvious.

The service began and I threw myself into survival mode. I couldn't think about the music. I couldn't think about the text. I couldn't express the meanings and emotions of the piece as they were so eloquently defined in sweeping melodies, lush harmonies and soothing rhythms. I reminded myself to concentrate on the mechanics of breathing, support, diction, phrases, dynamics and the like. These things were safe and dependable. These things never change.

I made it through my first solo with no problem. Technically it was accurate. Artistically, it was an empty shell. I, of course, had done this on purpose, emptying out my feelings as I marched into church; tiny bread crumbs of emotion that I could gather up again, if the birds didn't eat them first. Either way I didn't care. That was a problem for later.

The last movement came and I was almost done. Knowing I was so close to success, I could feel my emotions welling up inside me, and I was not going to allow that to happen. As the minister gave his flock The Good News, I gave myself a silent hellfire and damnation sermon from the book of You Had Better Pull Yourself Together Now.

And it worked. And I sang.

I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, “Blessed.”
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

For they rest from their labors.

Once my last solo was finished, there were only three pages to go, and it was all choral singing. I had made it. Without thinking and really assessing the ramifications of my decision, I took a big risk: I gave myself over to the music. I stopped focusing on the technical, I opened up, and I finally relaxed.

Requiem aeternam

In an instant I was swept away by the soothing melodies and rich harmonies.

Dona eis, Domine

I thought about the words, and something finally happened.

Et lux perpetua luceat eis

I felt again.

In every note I acknowledged the sorrow and pain I had been so desperate to deny. With tears running down my face, I sang of eternal light and hope in the face of darkness and despair.

Rest eternal
grant them, Lord.

And let perpetual light shine upon them

And for the first time, I believed it.


Angel said...

Wow....just, wow. I was really moved by your post. I'm sorry for your loss.

Melissa said...

This is perhaps the most amazing piece of yours I've ever read, poignant and powerful.

mensch71 said...

Tearings streaming down face? Check.
Damp PJ sleeve from wiping eyes? Check.
Wishing like HELL I could get on a plane, come home now and realign the shui? Check.

Cops said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Tuna. Beautifully written and quite moving. Now, I'm off to find some Kleenex...


Mrs. Wonderful said...

Tears. And chills. Tears and chills. Because I've been there done that, in a disjointed way.

My mother died as I was playing the Requiem Aeternum for her (some men's choir in the hospice CD library). (And Willie Nelson, John Denver, Antonio Carlos Jobim and the soundtrack from O Brother Where Art Thou too.)

Music is a force of nature. God bless GreenTuna.

Tiger said...

I had to read that first part over a few time before I got the gist of it, but after that ... well, shucks ...

Lilly said...

Isn't that just the way, the biggest risks are inside us and often completely invisible to everyone else. Great story.

Goldie said...


Elisson said...

Congratulations on winning B4B. I just read your post, and I am speechless...just speechless.

Brava. And thank you.

Suzanne said...

Congrats on winning blogging for books! Just a lovely lovely arrangements of words, telling a very inspiring story! Brava!