Hang on to your dreams

When I was young and in school, I was labelled as a 'day dreamer'. I saw the world in my own way. I thought about that tonight as I watched a movie about a child who could not read due to dyslexia. He engaged with the world differently than others but if someone had cared to look beyond what is considered “normal” they might have seen his intelligence, which was clearly demonstrated in his interests. 

As a child I needed glasses, and later I had hearing problems, and on top of that I was terribly shy. Yet I would sit on the swings looking at the blue of the sky and be struck to the heart at how beautiful that color was. I’d look out my window at night at see a canopy of stars and be filled with wonder that I, insignificant and small, could see only a portion of the vastness of space... and ask the age-old question, "Why am I here?"

As I grew up and entered the world, I tried to do ‘normal’ things, always feeling out of touch and like a misfit. I believed the messages I received, that told me I was lazy, stupid, and worthless. I lost my dreams in my struggle to live as I was told I should live. I made choices I regret now but looking back I can see why, for I was fractured and full of self-doubt.

After many years, I managed to find my way back to dreaming. I began to sing. I found a profession in which being extra-sensitive actually makes sense – helping others like me to find their voices. And I began to write, write the music of my dreams, words, notes and sounds. Still after some success I lost my way... a few years ago, after losing my father, I don’t know why, but I stopped dreaming. The stars did not call to me, the sky was cloudy and I went through the motions of living without engaging in creative things. 

But then I received a gift. I found a partner and best friend who is also a dreamer, whose heart is as soft as my own, whose eyes move to tears when his heart aches with joy or sadness or hope. I share my perspective with him and he listens. He has urged me over and over again to live my dreams. Finally I listened. I have awoken. Somehow music flows again. Words spill from my fingers. 

I paint my days with sound.



Finding the words...

During a recent session with a student we began to talk about what it was like to engage with the world as someone who is shy. Our voices are often so quiet that others may ask us to speak up. Our voices are so soft that others may talk over us. Often we have a ton of things to say but can't formulate them effectively.

Sometimes this fast paced world doesn't seem to have time for a shy speaker. Our opinions and thoughts seem discounted because we can't express them rapidly enough. Our intelligence and sensitivity may, on occasion, not be apparent because we cannot communicate in ways others readily accept or expect.

Even after twenty years of working with shy singers to find their voices, I have moments when I experience an inability to communicate verbally.

Occasionally it's when I'm asked a question that seems like it should have a clear easy 'yes' or 'no' answer, at least in the mind of the questioner.   But to me there might be many aspects to the issue and I cannot find a simple way to respond. This moment will also be full of tension, as in the past I had a bully of a boss who demanded a reply immediately upon asking a question, he was also a side-swiper and would ask questions in a certain way in order to manipulate the answer. So now, on occasions when the answer to a question requires more thought, I will feel stymied and unable to respond in any intelligent way. I've had to work on identifying those moments, encouraging myself to say: 'just a sec, I need a minute to think about this'.

But I truly get speechless when something really matters to me. I've talked to some of my students about this and found that they have a similar experience. It's almost like being a child before language is learned. It's visceral. It's a moment when I feel rather than think. I almost wish I could choose a colour of paint to throw on the wall. There's too much emotional sensation, too much tension. It rises up and chokes the throat.

If one has an understanding listener, they may help identify the moment by gently saying 'relax, take your time'. If not, I will sometimes give a pat answer that makes little sense or even is not always true, because I felt inwardly that the safest option was to respond with something other than silence. It's hard to look at this and know that somewhere along the line, listening to your own internal voice and making choices for yourself became too dangerous. That's why even as an adult, a shy person may not be able to instantly respond to what appears to be a simple question. Logically, they may understand they are safe, that they have the right to speak their truth and be heard. But emotionally, they may still struggle to speak.

For me I think the way to work on this issue is to become aware of the programmed response, identifying it when possible and asking, with dignity, for time to reply. Sometimes the realization will not occur until after the event, but I can look back and see what happened, and check in with myself in future when I start to feel that first sense of uncomfortableness, asking myself, 'do I need more time or a little space right now'. I want to respect the desire of the other person to communicate. I want to open to them and show them who I am. I don't want to shy away from that connection. But I have to build that bridge through awareness and positive self-talk.

I thank those who are patient and loving enough to wait for me to find the words x