Shame has a way of silencing the soul. This is what makes vulnerability so beautiful: it is the act of standing up in the face of everything that would tell you to be silent, that you’re not good enough- and still baring it all.
I’ve had nearly every avenue of expression shut down. My literal voice, and my body, both shamed into silence. Music has been my only refuge. There’s a piece of piano music I’ve been working on that feels like it tells my whole life’s story: the pain, beauty, shame, and loss- and what’s still yet to come. The shadows in my soul that hide from the poetry of speech and of dance, find a home in the rhythm of my fingers dancing on the keys, telling all I’ve been told to never speak of. Piano is my primary instrument, but guitar and singing have spoken for my soul as well.
—–The opus of my life.—–
The first movement took my breath away. Literally. When I was two, my body was used, violated, repeatedly. The freedom of my container exploited. The exodus from my body began here.
The second movement was repetitive and slow; there was no beauty, just monotony: chronic neglect, my parents ignoring my emotional needs. My voice was taken. I couldn’t display any emotions on my face. Another layer, stripped from my possession.
At age seven, the third movement began. These next two years were brutal, sadistic. I lost everything except music. I lost my connection to God. I was abused and tortured in every way. In a few ritualistic incidents, I was forced to dance, naked, in front of those who abused me, amidst other children also being abused. I haven’t been able to enjoy the poetry of movement since. Few things terrify me more, to this day, than dance. A move across town disrupted this violent symphony.
The piano gently stirs up waves in my soul that have been in slumber for so long. I find my body spontaneously moving to it, giving in where it hasn’t felt safe to surrender. I wouldn’t call it dance, but anything besides rigidity feels like freedom. The undulating triplet motion in my left hand cradles me like a mother calming a frightened child. The melody in my right hand sings and yells in both agony and joy. With a steady base, I’m able to be vulnerable. I know I can show myself, to myself.
When performing, I’ve been able to speak my truth to strangers and friends alike, without anybody knowing the content of my message. Art is wonderful in its subjectivity like that. There were no hovering, moralistic parents to tell me to ‘shush’ when I performed that ffff section in a Bartok piece. There were no cruel peers to laugh at me and stifle my joy when I reveled in the playful ecstasy of a Haydn sonata. I had a captive, rapt audience when I whispered a solemn second movement to a Prokofiev concerto. I made love, in public, naked, on stage, sitting at the piano, and nobody took pictures to distribute to sadists, nobody forced me to do anything against my will, nobody violated my physical or psychological boundaries, nobody gawked at the dance of my soul for some sort of sick pleasure. They listened to the subtleties, the crescendos and decrescendos, the pauses in between, the silence, the noise, the movement and stillness, the transitions and the holds. They sat in this cherished, holy space with me, and heard and held my voice.
Music taught me- and is still teaching me- how to speak, how to be vulnerable, and not be obliterated in the process. The care with which I tend to every single note, I’m learning to give to every word I speak. The resonance of the music within my body gives it new life and heals the wounded spaces. Music has the power to reach inside me and hold up the strongest, most courageous parts of my soul, the little girl that wants to believe she is enough, that needs to be heard, that demands to be cherished. It moves with me, never controlling or over-powering me, but always right in sync with my true self. It has space for my brokenness and strength, alike. Finding my voice has been a labor of love, and I’ve found that love makes vulnerability and connection possible. Love is the breath upon which my voice soars.