Reading time is precious and scarce in my world. A week at the beach always gives me my best shot at blasting through several books without falling into a coma on page iv and having to reread the Introduction and Dedication pages forty-seven times until I give up in disgust. This June my favorite beach chair read was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
It was a book about one woman's journey through her own changing and often unsure emotional, physical and spiritual landscape. It was one of those eye-opening books where I found myself devouring page after page. I read with great sympathy as she described her seemingly overwhelming need cling to people, things or ideals already lost. I read with great interest as she discovered new lands, new spiritualities, and new ways to focus her life. Mostly I read each chapter somewhat nervously, as I wondered if anyone other readers would recognized my own muddy footprints that seemed to trample alongside so many of her personal, emotional and spiritual quagmires. It was a bit unnerving.
A few weeks ago I ventured into a small art gallery in northern Michigan. I fell in love with the artwork of Kristin Jongen through bin after bin of her works. I wished I had a bucket of money to bring them all home, but I settled on her book instead, since so many of her pieces were pictured there.
What I didn't realize at the time was that this wasn't just an art book. It was the chronicle of a woman who was thrust into a journey not by choice, but by circumstances both unexpected and unwanted. Stumbling through her days as her life seemed to spiral out of her control, she chose a word -- TRUTH -- that became her imperceptibly tiny pinprick of light at the end of what seemed to be a forever tunnel. When despair and uncertainty overwhelmed her, TRUTH was her focal point and helped her take that next step, however uncertain.
How I've come to rely on the wisdom of these two women.
For the past three weeks I have been stumbling in a forever tunnel, on a journey taken not by choice, but by circumstances both unexpected and unwanted. In those moments when I feel strong enough to joke, I tell people I am The Universe's voodoo doll. But the joking moments are few and far between, and most of the time it takes all my energy to even attempt to take that next step which, at best, is completely uncertain.
I needed a word. I needed something to hold on to when it was too dark and I was so uncertain of which way to walk, it was much better to do nothing at all. But the answer for me wasn't TRUTH. For me, truth is all the answers already on the plate, and honestly, right about now, I wouldn't believe anything presented to me as truth if it came gift-wrapped with a shiny red ribbon. I needed to discover the truth for myself. What I really needed was CLARITY.
I understand the need for clarity. It's a concept I use in singing. A clear sound isn't bogged down by noise, like excessive rasp or breathiness. To work towards a clear sound is to work to rid oneself of bad habits that weigh down and obscure the true, pure, vocal sound. Clarity allows the sound to ring. Clarity allows the voice to soar. Clarity allows the singer to be free.
When the path on this unwanted journey becomes so dark and murkey and unsure that I'm paralyzed to take another step, Clarity has become my mantra. I need clarity to think. I need clarity to breathe. I need clarity to shine just enough light to give me the courage I need to keep walking and the truth I need to discover for myself to believe that this isn't a forever tunnel.
Luckily for me -- and yes, despite it all, there is a luckily -- I have help. I have been surrounded by family and friends who, no doubt, didn't ask to go on this journey either. But they've held me up, loved me, and walked alongside me every step of the way, and I couldn't have come this far without every single one of them. TeenTuna, in particular has shown more love and maturity at 13 years old than some people have managed throughout their entire life. Because of this unwanted and unexpected journey -- my journey, not hers -- she's been forced to grow up and learn some tough lessons about the people in her life, and about relationships, life, trust and disappointment. I'm prouder of her than I could ever say. And I know with her help, and the help of so many others, this isn't a forever tunnel. But for today, all I need to do is breathe, ask for clarity, and take one more step. I don't know where the end is, but if there's one thing I know, when I'm back in the light again, I'll be singing.
And I'll be free.