Ships in the Night

Today is just one of those days where the grief that runs under the surface of my emotions has bubbled up and is at the forefront of my mind. The friend I lost is a musician, and nearly every piece of music that my current conductor has pulled for Advent is something that we’ve done together at some point or another. Music stays in my memory longer than anything else in my life, so for me, a choir folder is not a choir folder. It’s a scrap book from the time I was a teenager, reaching into my future with its blank slots in the back.

I often don’t know what to do with this type of grief, because it affects my technical ability. If you’ve ever felt like you were going to cry while you were singing, you know what I mean. The tears don’t even have to flow before your throat starts to close and your “mask” gets congested. I tell myself something that James, one of my former choir directors, always said; “when you are performing, it is not your emotion to have. Your presentation is for the audience to have emotions.” He’s right, and using that as a mantra helps me when I think I’m going to lose it.

When that doesn’t work, I switch into “fake it til you make it” mode, which generally means that I pretend that everything is fine and that there is no conflict. She was at the earlier service and I just got there after she left. It’s not that there’s been a fight, it’s that today we’re just ships in the night. It seems ridiculous that I put myself through such a charade, but at the same time, I really don’t have another option… and I’m not talking about years from now, when the wound of loss has faded into a barely noticeable scar. I’m talking about right here and right now. In this time and place, I am not capable of singing the music we sang together without completely breaking down. I pretend that there was no fight, there is no grief, and then I can stay present and focus on the technique of the piece instead of how earth-shatteringly terrible it is that she will never sing it with me again… that she will never again sit beside me and put her elbow on my shoulder so she can hold her head with her hand. There won’t ever be another time when I get to walk her out to her car after choir practice, so we can have five or ten minutes alone. There won’t ever be another time in my life where singing for her brings tears to her eyes and she looks at me the way she’s looked at me since I was a teen and said, “it’s like watching my little girl grow up.”

There are reasons, good ones, that these simple things are gone. But that doesn’t make me hurt any less. I had a chance to get away from our relationship and it was a good move. I started to heal, started to write about healing, started to think that I could take the Band-aid off and just let the wound breathe, and then she sent me the equivalent of a “U Still Mad, Bro?

And yes. Yes, I was.

It set me back emotionally because I’d put so much faith in the fact that we were done. So much faith in the fact that she couldn’t rattle me anymore… which was true right up until it wasn’t. I try to be so strong, and then Joseph (current conductor) pulls out something by John Rutter and all of the sudden, I’m 13 again, and she is 24. We’re writing notes back and forth, teasing each other while my dad preaches. My chest tightens a bit at the memory and my breathing gets shallow.

I have a friend that’s been talking me through this, and she says that my abuser doesn’t deserve anything. Not my heart, not my mind, not my soul, not my guts. I think that, too.

Just don’t ask me how I feel, because that is a totally different matter.



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