“Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
Six years ago, I came across a line from an old poem that punctured my present moment so profoundly it seemed to stop time.
On an average Tuesday, there I was, sitting at my desk, ignoring the stack of papers I was responsible for inputting into a spreadsheet and procrastinating as usual on the Internet instead.
At this particular time, Pinterest was my drug of choice—anyone else?
As I was aimlessly scrolling through wacky theme party ideas and spicy margarita recipes, suddenly, here came this old-school poet Oliver Wendell Holmes with these words that leapt off of my laptop screen and stung me like fourteen different bee stings to the heart:
“Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them!”
I was floored. It was as if Oliver’s invisible hand had reached into my day and popped the protective bubble of my well-established comfort zone, sending me crashing down to the ground of an uncertain reality that I had so expertly managed to hover above for years.
When I landed inside of the truth of my life for the first time in a long time, here’s what I saw:
A recent college grad whose dad had died in the first few weeks of her “adulthood,” who took a job in the marketing department of a reputable company because it “looked good,” who spent her time outrunning looming fears of growing up and grief by seeking refuge in extraneous purchases, greasy slices of pizza, late nights under laser lights, and the bottoms of bottles of wine.
A numb, phony zombie in red lipstick who had forgotten her own song.
As a little girl, effortless music oozed from my pores. I could laugh, cry, dream, question, create, and believe in magic, and other people, and myself, with such abandon; it was like I was a tiny conductor leading a spontaneous orchestra of full self-expression, always unrehearsed and totally freestyle.
And I didn’t just speak, I SANG! And I didn’t just walk, I DANCED!
Had I put no soundproof walls up around my being then? I could recall what it was like to feel that free. But the memory of my smaller, wilder self marching proudly to the beat of her own drum felt so distant from where and how I was living.
So instead of continuing on with the endless spreadsheet that I was responsible for completing that afternoon, I decided to take a break. A long break. I found a sunny bench outside of my building where I could go to sit and think.
Then suddenly, The Little Mermaid swam right into my stream of thought. I closed my eyes and saw the scene where Ariel trades in her powerful voice to the evil sea witch, Ursula, for a pair of legs. She is so certain that becoming a part of the human world is more important to her than speaking her own truth and singing her own song. And I wondered…
In what ways am I living at the expense of my own inner music?
I began to examine the situations in my life where I found myself exchanging an authentic piece of who I was out of fear, in order to achieve a particular outcome in the world. Here are just a few places in my life where I discovered this was so:
I’d sacrificed my passion, by accepting a job I merely tolerated, because I was afraid of failing and wanted to give the appearance of being successful.
I’d pushed down my grief, numbing it with shopping, food, and alcohol, because I was afraid of breaking down and wanted to give the appearance of being “fine.”
I’d sacrificed authentic connection for toxic friendships because I was afraid of being lonely while I found the right friends and wanted to give the appearance of being liked.
I’d sacrificed my authenticity and ended up living a small life because I was afraid of vulnerability and wanted to give the appearance of being in control.
That was the moment when I decided I was ready to ditch the legs—everything that was just about appearances—and dive deeply into my own true passion, grief, and longings for connection and authenticity.
I quit my job and enrolled in a spiritual studies certification and celebrant ordination program.
I hired a therapist to help me heal and a coach to help me dream; these two women would become some of the fiercest advocates for me and my inner music that I’d ever meet.
I started taking courses in personal development, joined a business mastermind, and got myself into as many meditation circles and yoga classes as I could.
I began to play around with my expression again, belting my favorite songs from my childhood, wearing colors that sparked aliveness in me, scribbling lines of poetry till I fell in love with my own heart’s language again, and dipping my fingers in rainbows of paint without a plan.
It felt so good to seek for the sake of seeking, and to create for the sake of creating!
I finally started to let some of the people that I loved and trusted in enough to really see, hear, and hold me.
And I got present, like really, really present, slowing down for long enough to fully inhabit whatever moment I was in. From that place, it became so natural to tap into the very real magic that had always existed within and around me.
I recognized the miraculousness of my two feet on the ground, the blessing of my breath, and the rhythm of my heartbeat. I started to notice the sound and sensation of my full-body NO and YES. This new level of awareness polished my lens of perception, allowing me to see my life through my child self’s eyes once again—from a place of curiosity, excitement, imagination, and hope!
My dive has brought me to terrifying places where I’ve wanted to sell myself out to the sea-witch over and over again, but still, I keep on swimming.
For my song cannot be silenced, and neither can yours, though both of us will spend months, if not years living in fear of what it will take to truly sing.
There is so much music inside of you and me. And to be the highest expression of who we are here to be, we’ve gotta sing our songs and sing em’ loud! But to live like that, we’re going to have to give ourselves permission to feel, say, and do what’s true.
So, maybe owning your truth doesn’t look like finally quitting a job or grieving the loss of a loved one. But I challenge you to really take some time to stop and scan through your life with no judgment, just wide-open eyes and a loving heart, and ask yourself:
What do I desire? What fear arises in the face of my desire? Where am I selling myself out to run/hide from my fear? And what must I do to express the full potential and possibility of achieving my desire?
Do you remember the fierce and fearless drive that you had as a child to learn and grow? Can you imagine how many times the little you tried and failed and tried again at mastering the skills you needed to really engage with life—walking, reading, writing, using your words to ask for what you want, feeding yourself, tying your shoes, wiping your own bum, etc.? Where does that invincible tenacity go?
The answer is: YOU’VE STILL GOT IT!
It has been and always will be within you. You and I have the capacity to thrive in any and all areas of our lives. How? By becoming brave enough to stop and listen to our own music, then allowing ourselves to be truly guided by it as we go!
Belt out your song like your life and the lives of future generations depend on it, because they do. And if you miss a beat or sing a note or two out of tune, don’t be afraid to own it. It’s all just a part of the dance.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be here, diving deep into the depths of my being, tuning into my own music, swimming through fear, and daring myself to sing. Over and over and over again until my very last breath.
And you? It is my hope that you will have the courage and the willingness to go deep and begin unleashing the divine music that only you were born to sing.