She was asking about some friends I was planning to hang out with, people I knew from school.
I mentioned that one of them said that I could play the guitar pretty well, and that I had a good voice . . .
(As I recall, the compliments were somewhat more flattering than that, but, as my worst critic, I didn't want to repeat what I remembered my friend really saying.)
Saying that my faithful helper had said . . .
Had said . . .
He had said that my voice was "nasally", . . .
And, as she interpreted it, something about my breath support wasn't right.
I knew that my breath support was not as good as it used to be, . . .
As good as it should be,
I knew if he said it, it must have been true.
I wondered if it was because I was trying to be more expressive when I was recording vocals recently, or if it is just part of the way my voice is.
I looked out the window and wondered what those words meant,
What those words meant for me.
I have never thought my voice was good. In fact, I think it sounds horrible when I listen to recordings.
I'm told that's how everyone feels, though, that even those who have incredible voices hate listening to recordings of themselves singing.
Then others told me that my voice sounded good, at least a couple using the word "beautiful".
As my worst critic, I didn't really believe it myself, but I thought that someone must like my voice, even if I didn't.
What if no one likes my voice?
What if everyone thinks I sound awful?
What if I never get to sing again?
That's what really hit me:
What would I do if I couldn't sing?
What would I do if I couldn't play?
What would I do if I couldn't write?
What would I do if I couldn't make music in this way anymore?
I felt those questions eating away at my heart.
I know He doesn't want me to stop writing,
I know everything that's been happening has been pushing me more and more in this direction,
But what if this isn't the direction He wants me to go in?
I knew that if I truly wasn't supposed to pursue singing and songwriting in the way I have been, I would find a way to live with it because I would trust that He had a bigger, better plan that I couldn't even imagine, . . .
But would I stop singing and writing altogether?
I realized that it hurt.
It wasn't that the words about my voice hurt my feelings.
As I said, I don't think my voice sounds that good, so I didn't take the comment personally.
What hurt was the thought that maybe I wouldn't be able to make music this way for much longer,
Maybe I wouldn't be able to keep doing this . . .
And I love doing this.
I love doing this.
I really do.
I love doing this.
I guess I hadn't really realized it before.
I mean, I like writing - a lot - after all, it helps me express myself, process my life and the world around me, but it keeps me up late at night, takes time away from homework, takes time . . .
But what would I do if I couldn't write?
Could I really live like that now?
I like playing, I really like playing. It feels so good to let everything out in the notes, to pour my soul out into key-pressing, to let go while strumming, but playing couldn't really be that important to me, . . .
What would I do if I couldn't play?
How would I let it all out?
I just can't help but sing. I couldn't imagine a day without humming down the stairs, singing in the kitchen, adding my voice to those coming from the radio and CD player speakers. I so enjoy lifting my voice, even when I miss the notes or invent horrible-sounding harmonies, . . . even though I think the recordings sound horrible.
What would I do if I couldn't sing?
I can't possibly live without singing,
No more than I could live without playing . . .
I love this.
For the rest of the day, I couldn't stop thinking, thinking that I couldn't really be happy anymore living without the playing, the singing, the writing.
It's too important to me now.
It's too much a part of me.
Getting rid of it would be like cutting out a piece of my heart.
I felt like this, too, pointed me even more in the direction I've been going.
I care about doing this.
It means a lot to me to be able to do this.
Why shouldn't I continue to pursue singing and songwriting?
Still, I don't think I can stop.
I grabbed my things, headed for the shower.
Instead of turning on my CD player to finish the second half of All Right Here, I let myself think even more.
My mind was twisting words, making rhymes . . .
Like I often do when I am confronted with something that impacts me, that changes me, I wrote.
By the time I finished, I had an entire song.
I rushed to scribble it into the book.
It wasn't amazing, but it was what I needed to say,
What I had to say.
I can't stop.
No matter what anyone says, I can't stop . . .
Because I don't know how to stop.
I love this.
I know I'm not perfect, I know I'm not some incredible singer-songwriter, but I can't stop.
I know I need to do better, . . .
I want to do better, but I can't do it on my own.
Who can help me?
He helped me pull just-washed sheets over my loft bed's mattress.
He seemed preocupied, in a hurry.
I didn't want to ask then, in that moment, when he seemed so rushed.
I tried to go to sleep,
But I just couldn't stop thinking.
I pulled my socks back on and walked down to the basement, feeling like the littlest one who always climbs down steps to say "I can't sleep", . . .
But I couldn't.
I had to ask.
It was my only hope to stop thinking about what would happen if I couldn't . . .
He was looking through the CD cabinet, trying to find a disc or put one back, I don't know which.
He asked what he could do for me.
I said I hated to ask . . .
But I couldn't sleep if I didn't . . .
Would he help me work on my breath support . . .
And my voice?
It seemed like such a simple question to him,
It probably seems like a simple question to everyone -
Everyone except me, that is,
But I had to know.
He said "yes" in the most ordinary voice I could imagine,
Then he asked "why" . . .
Why would such a simple question be so important to me that I couldn't sleep?
I looked away, tried to think of how to say it . . .
"Mom said something earlier.",
For how could I tell him that it was his words she was quoting,
His words that kept me awake, wondering.
He rose from his half-kneeling position, walked around the boxes, and pulled me into a hug more precious that I have felt in a long time, even though it was from someone I hug every single night . . .
And I started to cry.
I still cry to remember . . .
How he wrapped me into his arms,
Told me that sometimes it takes time,
That his voice didn't sound good until he was in his thirties,
Maybe didn't even sound that good now.
I, ever the impatient one, thought of how I didn't want to wait until my thirties . . .
How I wanted to sing now,
How I couldn't stop.
Still, it's nice to know I don't have to be perfect.
When we finally let go, he got me a tissue, which I used as he continued to talk,
He said he always tries to encourage me and help me.
I know it's true.
He has never said the words to me that he has said to Mom about me.
He talked about hurting my feelings.
I said it didn't hurt my feelings,
I know I'm not as good as I'd like to be.
I know my breath support's gotten worse since I stopped singing in choirs.
I know I can't make my voice more expressive without making it sound worse than it normally does.
I just want to do better.
I told him this,
That I love to sing.
Another tissue later, I returned to my room,
Tried to sleep.
I still couldn't stop thinking.
After that hug, that talk, I was probably thinking more than before.
More than that, I couldn't stop crying.
Not that that's unusual at a single-digit hour of the morning, when it's still dark out and I haven't gone to sleep . . .
And I'm frustrated.
Every time I thought of that hug, I only cried more.
My parents love me so much.
Especially with him, I don't always see it very much.
He's so busy so often, and she is the one who takes me anywhere I need to go.
Still, that hug . . .
Crying, thinking of it, I realize that God has blessed me with exactly the two parents He knew I needed.
Mom doesn't really understand my music -
In fact, I think she thinks it's a rather stupid thing to pursue and that it will interfere too much with my schoolwork -
But Mom understands the other things I need.
She's the one I share my books with.
She's the only one to go shopping with.
She's the one that takes time out of her day to drive me wherever I need to go.
Dad doesn't really understand those things,
But he's the only one who understands my music,
The only one in our family who encourages me in my music-making,
The only one who takes the time to listen to my recordings and separate the good from the bad,
The only one who helps me mix.
He's the one that didn't think it was stupid when I wanted to buy myself a keyboard,
In fact, he helped me pick one out and even paid for it for me.
(Technically, Mom helped pay for it, too, but I think she was somewhat opposed to the idea.)
He's the one that found and bought a guitar for me when I said I needed one.
(Technically, Mom got me one first, but she thought it would be something for multiple people - not just me - to play with and bought a cheap one that didn't stay in tune.)
He spends so much of his free time helping me with my music, especially this time of year when I'm doing a project.
God has blessed me with so much:
The ability to write,
And sing (however badly).
And a guitar
A Mom who understands me
And a Dad who understands music,
Two people I would be lost without.
Yes, God has even blessed me through this,
He has blessed me even in this hurt,
For now I know how important my music is to me,
How big a role it plays in my life.
I am so blessed.
You can say that I am not good enough,
You can say I'm not doing things right.
You can say that I should just give up,
You can tell me it's not worth the fight,
But I'm afraid I don't know how to stop,
I'm afraid that I just cannot stop,
I'm afraid I've no clue how to stop,
'Cause this is what I love.
The words in the pictures, along with the italicized, bolded words are lyrics to the song "What I Love" by Mary Schieferstein - ©2011 Mary Schieferstein.
All Right Here is an album by Sara Groves. Many thanks to this artist for her incredible music.