Flat Honest

This Sunday is the celebration of All Saints Day, so every hymn tonight was what you sing when someone dies (except weirdly, Sine Nomine). I made it through just fine, which I define as “my throat closed up so bad I couldn’t sing anymore.” Tears rolled down my face at Abide with Me. I was amazed that I got through God Be in My Head by John Rutter, because it’s the piece that generally makes me turn toward the smallest, most childlike version of myself… the one that just misses her mommy. I asked Leslie #1 to sit with me and just be my person. I know myself well enough that I will need her. Church has the power to absolutely undo me, because it is where I see the divine dance before my eyes. She immediately said yes, and with love in her eyes, said, how are you doing?

I said, well, if I’m flat fucking honest, I got dressed today. She started to tear up and said it was the same way for her when her mother died, and congratulated me on making it to choir. I was telling her that the lost future leads me to the intense, shooting pains of grief. Of course, there is always a dull ache, but at least daily, there’s a pang so intense that I cannot concentrate on anything else. For that moment, I completely fall apart. Sometimes it shows outwardly and sometimes I cover it up… actually, that can’t be true. It’s amazing how good I think I am at covering it up. I try to compartmentalize, and spillage occurs.

Measures from The Rutter Requiem run through my mind, Pam Taylor rocking me to sleep with Lux aeterna. She was the other soprano soloist when Diane conducted a community choir in Portland specifically for that work. I did the Pie Jesu, and though I don’t often remember my own work, I do picture my mom crying all the way through the recording. I will also never forget handing Karen Miller my phone and telling her to call my mom during my dress rehearsal, because I wanted her to hear just me with the full orchestra. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more rock star than that moment. I wish I still had the recording for my SoundCloud account, but it’s a video, and I don’t think I could watch it…. or even should. Before I got up to sing, Diane told the entire room that watching me sing that solo was like watching her little girl grow up before her eyes. In the moment, it was everything, and now I choke on those words, both because I have such a different perspective on being “her little girl,” and because Susan launched an RPG into my heart when she said that Diane didn’t mean it. I now believe it… just another instance of show mode that I was foolish enough to swallow. So in thinking of that memory, I am glad that my actual mom was listening… and when she said it was fantastic, I could take those words to the bank and cash them.

My mom had her own church job, so she wasn’t able to be there for either performance when I did The Lord is My Shepherd with Grace and Joseph. I don’t think she’s ever gotten to hear me live because of it… or because it’s hard to listen to someone performing and play for them at the same time. So, I would say that she HAS heard me, and I had her complete divided attention. 😛

She has heard me preach live, though, and if I had to pick one, that’d be it.

She was so proud of me and the serious work I took on to get a voice like this. It did not come easily to me. I had a lot of bad habits from being a trumpet player, and it took me years to overcome them and really soar over the mountains. It’s gone now, but I wrote about this very thing, it feeling like flying over the mountains when my high notes float off, and Wil Wheaton left me a comment saying “that’s how I feel about nailing an acting audition.”

As an aside, when Wil came to Powell’s Books for a reading of Just a Geek, I met him afterwards and told him I was Leslie from Clever Title Goes Here. He autographed my book with Dear Leslie, Clever Inscription Goes Here. Love, Wil. With the thousands of bloggers he runs with, I doubt he’d remember me, but knowing that Wil was at one time a Fanagan is one of my favorite facts in life.

That was supposed to be an aside, but I think that’s where we’ll close and pick it back up tomorrow. I am a bit overwhelmed with memories right now, because I’m listening to a Rutter playlist on Spotify. I may need to listen to Finnish dinosaur metal again. So nice to have music that pulls my anger out and away, but the lyrics are actually about milk and cookies and homework and shit. I thought I’d just give them a listen to see what it was all about, and it’s turned out to be cleansing in a way I didn’t know I needed.



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