Friday, August 7, 2009

Singng when we don't feel like singing

Friday musings after a suggestion by a facebook friend...and I thank you for this!

How do we sing when we are in emotional turmoil or pain?  Should we? Should we stop?  Can we? 

Whether you are dealing with a death, a break-up, a crisis, a terminal disease close to you, a job loss, a major change of ANY kind that causes deep emotional stress,  this can and will affect your singing.  

Often when dealing with any major life issue, it isn't just the singing we don't feel like doing or feel we cannot do;  it isn't much of anything.  We do what we need to survive and often that is exhausting enough because our energy has been tapped elsewhere.

Why do we feel that we cannot sing?  Each answer will be different.  I believe it often has to do with the physical energy we need to focus to sing.  Also, the accessibility of emotional and spiritual energy we need to discover to create an openness and vulnerability to find the sound, the quality, the character, the life in a piece of music.  The sheer VIBRATION of sound can move us - literally and figuratively - and if we are tender already emotionally, that movement can shift us uncontrollably.  We may not be ready for that.  

Ultimately, whatever we can or cannot do in times like this - IT IS OKAY.  There are no pat answers; there are no definitives;  a moment at a time, doing the best you can in ENOUGH.

As an artist, we access energy on every level of consciousness when we create and perform and rehearse.  We aren't always aware of that consciousness but we do it!  Energy and vibration by nature is in motion, and it CHANGES us and the place we stand.  It shifts, it reconstructs, it creates.  Often, when we are dealing with strong emotional anxiety, we need to find stillness - and the slight shift of energy can be very disconcerting as our sensitivities are so ultra-heightened.

When I look around me at artists who are singers, who can get up there and perform during a crisis - loss of a loved one, personal trauma, whatever - I am amazed and wide-eyed.  But knowing some of them well, I can tell you this:  singing for the SAKE of singing is very different than performing for survival, when others are relying on you for work.  Sometimes, the reason that is more tangible - work/survival/others' survival - can allow you to find that extra something that makes you get up and DO.  You MAKE it work.  Do you pay for it? Of course you do.  The process often can take more time because you have find a way through it when you don't want to do it.

And then, some artists find that the raw vulnerability and the vibration of their beings begins to heal them through a tough emotional time.  It doesn't need to be pretty or "right" - it just needs to be real.  It needs to be truthful.  Isn't that what voice should be anyway? Truth? If it hurts, it hurts. If it's pain, it's pain.  It's through the acknowledgement of what is THERE that the healing begins to take place.

Your LIFE will take residence in your SOUND.  This is what makes you UNIQUE.  You should sound like no one else because your path, your experiences, your joys, your sorrows, your RESPONSES are simply - YOURS.  All of this is reflected in the mystery we call voice: That uniquely individual vibration that defines your voice.

Sometimes we HAVE to sing.  Sometimes we do not.  Only YOU will know when it's time to explore it while going through the experiences that only you can experience.

Is it okay to not feel like singing? Of course it is.  At some point, you will awake, and say, "today, I sing! I sing because I want to; I sing because I MUST; I sing because this is who I am and what I do."

Claim that knowledge in those moments of exhaustion and confusion.  Know it will come as it is supposed to.

In the meantime, look after you.  Give yourself permission to be where you are.  If you are where you are, you continue to walk your path.  If you don't - you remain stuck in a place you don't belong.

just BE.  Wherever that is today.

I will share a profoundly personal moment with you, dear reader.  The writing of this blog has been therapeutic for me as it has allowed me to verbalize my journey over the last few months.  I lost my wonderful Dad to cancer in March - my father, my friend, my mentor - and today is the day of his birth.  I celebrate him today - and I SING! I sing because he loved to hear me sing; I sing because he would want me to sing and it would make him smile! And, I believe it DOES make him smile - and THAT is enough to make me WANT to sing.

  The day belongs to you! BE IN IT!  However it makes sense to you - BE.


  1. Susan, Thanks for sharing the info about your father, and about how you are using song as part your healing/grieving process. I'm so sorry for your loss. Doing something that you know made him happy is a wonderfully therapeutic way to celebrate his life. :)

  2. Again, thank you but I didn't want this blog to be about me - but rather that through any grieving process or life change, as a singer, it's okay to not be able to "do" as we normally would. All feelings are normal. We will find out way.

  3. Susan-

    I have been a bit of a lurker on your blog and NFCS, never really asking questions... because everyone either answers it or I do a search ;)

    As an singer who has been going through some stresses and life changes of her own, I cannot tell you how much of a comfort your post was. I had talked about these very things with my own teacher today before seeing your blog. Giving myself permission... What a wonderful idea!!! :)

    Thank you so very much!

  4. Amy - thank you for taking the time to come out of the lurking mode and say something! I am sorry you are going through your stresses, but am so glad you are giving yourself permission!!! THANK YOU!

  5. Susan.

    I empathize with this blog more than the others I've read of yours....although they are all very profound, as I lost my mother to cancer several years ago and remember one of her last comments to me being "sing and do what you not worry about me because this is what you were supposed to do and what I want you to do"

    Thank you for reminding me.

  6. Misty -
    thank you for sharing this!! A wonderful legacy from you mom!