My Friend on the Wall

At my voice lesson, I was really tight in my back and shoulders, so I started thinking of all the exercises I’d done through the years to stretch and sing at the same time. I looked at Joseph and said, “I know this sounds crazy, but can I pitch a baseball?” I realize now that I should have put that in air quotes, because for a moment, he looked shocked, like maybe this is some sort of weird lesbian euphemism.

When I pantomime throwing a ball, the tension drops in recognition and he says, “do whatever you need to do to move.”

We do arpeggios, hitting the high notes as I release the ball into the air. As my musculature changes, so does my tone, for the better and brighter. I am literally starting to sweat as if I am in labor, because I’m using the same abdominal muscles to control my breathing. After half an hour, they’re starting to burn in a very familiar way… which is why I’m starting to carry myself differently. I’m trying to make it where those muscles are constantly stretched all day long so that it doesn’t hurt anymore. Singing is literally reshaping me from the ground up, and at this point, I feel a bit like a chrysalis.

In the past, I’ve had to think about all these things while singing, and by all these things, I mean everything – from breath control to counting. It was too much to keep track of all at once. The advantage of having been a singer my whole life is having a foundation so that I’m not starting at the beginning. I’ve just developed habits over the years that make it harder to get the sound out of me. Correcting them has been physically very demanding, because I have monocular vision, and I tend to move my body in all sorts of ways to make it line up with what I see visually. It particularly affects where I place my head, which is a lot of singing musculature to misplace at once.

I’m also extraordinarily proud of the work that Joseph and I are doing, because Joseph and I don’t do all this so that people will think we are talented. We do this to make the church service more beautiful aurally. He’s turning me into a better choir member and soloist all at the same time, but whether I’m singing by myself or with a group, I am participating in music that encourages people to feel closer to the divine. If you are not a God person, you can extrapolate that to mean I like music that encourages people to meditate and reflect… encourages people to think about beautiful things so that they themselves feel beautiful, for that is also divinity on a cracker. Everything fits when it sits on a Ritz.

Singing is also a way to reach out to people that aren’t there in the room with you. They can’t talk back, but you can certainly talk to them. You can hear the emotions running between your mind and your voice with amazing clarity. That is because your mind calls, and your voice answers. Whatever you think will come out in your tone a nanosecond later. It’s as religious a conversation as I’ve ever had.

The piano in the music room is  in the front, and I was singing next to it. After I finished pitching, Joseph said he wanted everything to sound like I was singing to my friend on the wall, which was odd until I realized that there were pictures of old choir members and such in the very back of the room… a signal that I am hiding behind my stand as if it is some sort of shield. However, I make the connection in that moment that I don’t have to sing to people I don’t know. I can sing to people I do. I chose my abuser first, because I’ve noticed over time that when I’m thinking about her as I’m singing, the abuser doesn’t come out. The voice teacher does. It’s like I can compartmentalize her behavior into boxes and during voice lessons, I can’t open any box except singer and conductor. I have many, many years under my belt of her direction from being in choir with her, and then singing for her when she got a choir of her own. It’s kind of amazing, actually, because even when I’m with Joseph, I still have a private teacher in my head. It’s like Xzibit pimped my vocal studio. “I gave you a private teacher in your head, so you could take voice lessons WHILE YOU TAKE VOICE LESSONS!”

I love that guy.

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