Whenever I was asked as a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I had an immediate answer, straight from the heart, at the ready: “I want to be a singer on a stage and a book editor.”
That part was easy.
Reading was my first escape – a sacred place in which I could crack open the bound cover and unlock a new world; to lose myself inside of each delicious page. I was rapt, immersed in the fascinating stories, plots that twisted and turned, in love with words which taught me meaning and bled color into feelings and painted pictures for me of a life that I didn’t understand. I was thrilled to meet new characters, friends and foes, along the way – but each adventure always resolved safely and neatly (even if unjustly, dammit!) in the ending. Absorbing the trials, tribulations, triumphs and lives of others felt like a comfortable garment – one that I still like to don and embrace today.
Music quickly followed and became my second escape. Embracing it required no effort – no physical prop – no sacred space.
Leslie in her natural habitat, practicing "Witchy Woman" (Eagles, naturally)
I was always surrounded by song, at home, in the car and the dance studio…every lonely molecule in my being has always loved music and singing along to it. From my earliest memories, I was swaying and singing along to my dad’s beloved soulful (think Bob Segar) and Motown favorites. My mom played a wider variety of music, pop hits and emotive songs, and always commented on the beautiful turn of phrase in certain lyrics. Don Henley solo and with the Eagles were two of her all-time favorites (and mine, too, to this day).
So, I loved music and the written word on a soul-deep, cellular level.
But how to meld dreams and reality?
After expressing my childhood earnest desires for my life’s aspirations, what came next were the inevitable follow-up questions: “But how can you do these two very different things at once?” “Do singers actually make any money?” “Book editors live in London and New York…do you plan on living there?” It was all so overwhelming.
I dream big…but the practicalities! Ugh. The very adult nature of that kind of thinking felt like too much. So as time between my childhood dreams and my evolving reality grew, I abandoned these dreams and cast aside my comfortable garment of fantasy, music and words. I discarded the fragile impracticalities and strapped on my heavy, stifling mental and emotional armor to face the world. I sought to find a profession that felt enough like me to be true, but that was also marketable.
Well, dear reader, it worked!
I was gainfully employed, built a “career” (whatever the hell that is) and was seemingly happy that I was productive, providing for my partner and children, making my family and friends proud…I was like a poster child for “SUCCESS!!!” in screaming neon letters. And eventually, after the external validation of making money, approval-seeking from others and living this “great life” wore thin, I was miserable. Emotionally barren.
And I couldn’t figure out why.
I was surrounded by the trappings of success, but I was drinking myself to death in private (and eventually, in public) as the hideous disease of addiction did what it does – it consumed me in greedy gulps. Always goading me to find MORE. Even if that “more” cost me relationships, my health and any feelings of self-worth and true joy I ever had.
Finding that sense of self-worth, that once-elusive feeling of joy that I attempted to nurture until I gave up on myself, rediscovering my human needs and my own desires, has been an integral part of my recovery and sobriety. I’m trying so hard to return to my earnest little self whom I almost forgot existed until addiction brought me to my knees. 24/7. One, sometimes agonizing, day at a freaking time.
As part of these efforts, I had the opportunity to join an adult band at the Ballantyne School of Music where my husband and children take lessons. It has played a huge role in bringing me back to life. Bringing me home to myself. The child inside of me, that curious old soul, who loves to sing and prefers a soundtrack running in the background of her daily life. Who finds and feels a home in music that she wished she never lost sight of in the distractions of pursuing a “successful” life in the eyes of the world.
Copyright: Inspiring Quotes, February 2022
That ever-growing, smallish part of me who remembers that the only way to live life is to truly LIVE it. Filling it to the brim (because I still like a good alcoholic pour) with people who understand and love me, just as I am, not because of what I do. Seeding and tending to the activities that make my heart swell with incandescent happiness. And I feel all of that when I join my bandmates every Sunday at practice and I get to sing, like a frolicsome bird, my joy out loud, while feeling the music vibrate inside my bones, connecting me to my bandmates and the universal sound.
Joining the band felt like a risk. It still does sometimes. But it also feels right. I still have a hard time identifying myself as a “singer” or a “vocalist” – titles that feel like they are meant for people who do this for a living and do it much better. And then, I try to remind myself that it’s not how I do it that matters. It’s that I do it. Because I love it.
It feels like magic to me. Magic I’m making inside of me. And as I avidly pursue this sober life and my own personal recovery, I recognize that taking those emotional risks, staying curious and open-minded and following my heart are what helps me continue to grow and heal.
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