How Can I Keep from Singing?

I went to choir tonight because I needed music and friends, in that order. Ingrid and Leslie #1 are closest to me, and we cracked each other up the entire time…. Well, not the entire time. I made it all the way to 8:50 before I cried so hard that I was shaking uncontrollably, and Leslie (who lost her mother when her mother was only 52) and Ingrid just wrapped their arms around me and held me close until the piece was over.

Everything just collapsed inside me, because I’d sung that piece before at Epiphany with Joseph Painter, and between losing him as a voice teacher and losing my mother as my accompanist (a truly special relationship in addition to just being my mom), I was a total mess. There were about ten full seconds that I thought I was going to go into a full-blown panic attack and I didn’t have any Klonopin in my backpack and I hadn’t taken it earlier… but at the same time, I do not regret it in the slightest. If I had, it would not have been the same choir practice, one in which I needed to sob uncontrollably at God working through music, #prayingontherests (See what I did there? I thought it was clever, too). Sam, the interim choir director now that Nae has left, just lost her mother last year, and we talked for about 30 minutes afterward. I told her about the intense feelings I had about my grief not being for the past, but for the lost future. We all think we have more time, but again, “here today, gone tomorrow” is a thing- in Toby Ziegler’s voice every time.

Sam and Leslie #1 were both Leo McGarry- “I’ve been in this hole before, and I know the way out.”

I needed to go to choir because I found this blog entry from 2003:

I know I am not alone when I say that at 13, I mentally, physically, and spiritually lost touch with my mother. Though I would like to say that it was all due to normal teenage angst, it was actually a mutual blessing and releasing process. She had made it clear through thought, word, and deed that she did not want to raise a lesbian daughter. I made it clear that should she treat me as if lesbian were my only adjective, I was going to need more than she could give.

It was not without incident. I could see the pain behind my mother’s eyes as she watched my clean, pure mother-love transfer away to the woman who would guide me through adolescence. I could sense that she felt powerless to stop it- and at times, wanted to reach across the divide. It was in those moments that I felt equally impotent, unable in my 13-year-old mind to divide loyalties and regain ground that had been lost.

It was a time of deep, impenetrable fog, and the piano was our only lighthouse. Hearing her fingers fly over the keys would rescue me, if only for a moment, from the dark weather moving across my mind. Occasionally, I would sit next to her, turning the pages in her music when she was involved in a difficult passage. It was the closest that we could come to being in communion with each other.

Last year, after living in Washington, DC for several months, I went back to Houston and visited with my mother. Though the conversation was light and easy, it was as if we were two friends… simply “ladies who lunch.” Then she suggested she show me the music she had planned for her church choir on Sunday. I sat down next to her, intent on doing “my job.”

As she started to play, I could feel a lump starting to invade my throat, and my eyes welled in a familiar stinging sensation. The connection that we had felt all those years ago had returned, bringing with it a different kind of peace, one that transcended both of our past transgressions.

No, our relationship would not, could not be the same as it was… but new emotions were starting to wash over me. We were now free to make a new covenant, mindful of the road on which we had walked… but diverging sharply into unfamiliar territory.

From 2003 to 2016, we had a very different relationship than the one we had when I was a teen, because as a teen, you just don’t get the concept that your mother is irreplaceable and to try as hard as you can to love her despite your differences. I also have a different perspective on what I have done, what I have left undone, and what wasn’t my fault. The only thing that’s left is regretting that our relationship didn’t continue to move past my teenage years and all the processing power it took out of me, because I allowed myself to spend so much more time thinking about her, because as a kid I didn’t want to be close to anyone who didn’t want to be close to me. I am probably wrong that she didn’t want to be close to me, and it is more accurate that she didn’t know how. When you are so conflicted about the ideas of sin and nature, how is it possible to bridge that gap?


And it ran out.


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