I sing when I do yoga. Not demure incantations in Sanskrit, I crank CCR and wail along. Death Cab for Cutie makes me bounce through sun salutations, The National helps me delve into the depths of my hips. With Simon and Garfunkel I spill into the sweet ache of a forward bend. Yoga is supposed to be all about linking breath with movement and at home I’m terrible at this. Probably because I’m yodeling the whole time.
I have never been one to sing around the house or really belt it out in the shower. I loved singing, and as a kid I think I had a nice voice. But I was shy. Shy and convinced of my own inadequacy. I established that I would sing in front of others when I was certain that it would sound amazing and they would heap praise on me.
Once in awhile I would tentatively sing along with the radio in the car. No response. I sang a little louder. No heads turned, no eyes widened. My breathtaking talent remained insufficiently developed.
Like most adolescent emotions, my thoughts on song were confusing. I waited with bated breath for recognition of my natural talent, but when I was asked to sing something or praised by my meager fan base (read: parents) I revolted. Don’t say anything! I’m great, I am (or could be?), but I’m not ready to burst onto the musical scene quite yet.
One night, heading to the room I shared with my little sister, I heard a melody. My mom, singing Raquel to sleep. She sang softly. The low notes faded into whisper, her voice cracked ever so slightly at the higher notes. It was so beautiful! And so sweet. Why couldn’t it be like that for me? Gently singing something as simple as a lullaby. Why couldn’t I just raise my pretty little voice to the sky and tenderly, unselfconsciously, tease out a tune?
With the melodramatic mind of the pre-teen girl I bemoaned the burden that made me unable to participate in such small pleasures. Tender lullabies could never be for me; I would have to hit every note perfectly or resign myself to silence! I nursed this strange, paralytic need to be sensational. I was so isolated in my powerful expectations for myself.
What I missed out on over those high-strung years was the joy of singing. These days my husband faintly rolls his eyes as he maneuvers around his wife, singing and contorting herself in the middle of the living room. I am perfectly OK with this. It matters very little to me that I sometimes make up words or can’t actually harmonize. I’m having fun! What a novel idea! Life is not a performance, the preparation for a test. It just is. And hell, I’m going to caterwaul to my little heart’s content.