On Singing The Song That Only You Can Sing

i originally posted this on a private facebook page for folks that attended Patti Digh's DESIGN YOUR LIFE CAMP.  

But i thought that maybe some of you would like to read it as well...

 


when i was 37 years old, a therapist told me that if i didn't find something outside my crappy marriage that made me happy, i was going to die. not spiritually die. or emotionally, but physically keel over one day, and she told me she was afraid it was going to be soon. 

i was so stunned by her words that i knew i needed to pay attention. but i felt empty and so far away from the core of who i was that i didn't even know where to begin looking. 

a friend invited me about a week into my "search of self" to a house concert. i thought it sounded like the weirdest thing i'd ever heard of. i even asked her if she was sure it wasn't a cult.  she assured me that it was just music and that she thought i'd like it. so i went. i cried through the whole thing and knew as surely as if i'd been struck by lightening that THIS is what i needed to be doing. 
i went home and wrote three songs that week. i attempted to teach myself to play 3 chords on an old beat up guitar that had been hiding in the back of my closet that my brother inherited from my sister's college roommate.

i was empowered. i began to find my voice. 
i told my THEN husband that i was on a new path. that there was room for him on it if he wanted to support me. but if he didn't, i was going it alone. he told me he was happy where he was and good luck. a week later i found out i was pregnant with hannah, my youngest daughter. it was a dark time. 

thankfully, a year before that, i had started to meet with a group of five women that wanted to build community with other women. we wanted to be there for each other through thick and thin. through births and deaths and weddings of our children and hard times and figure out how to remain present and committed to each other. they rallied around me and told me not to give up on my path. that they would support me. they rallied around me and helped me go to a songwriting school when i was nine months pregnant (with a birthing kit, the name of three midwives and books about divorce in my car). thankfully i didn't give birth at the camp, but a week later, with three of the women from my group in the room when hannah came into the world. 

when hannah was six weeks old, i found myself at another music festival, with more books on divorce in the backseat trying to outrun my fear that i wasn't strong enough to do this on my own. my way. my family thought i was crazy. leaving the security of my huge house and all it's trappings to run off and be a folk singer. everyone thought i was crazy except my community group and my therapist. 

the last night at the festival, as i stood holding hannah to the side of the audience behind where the dancers liked to dance, i saw a man on the stage singing a song. his name was tom prasada-rao. with tears streaming down my face with my newborn in my arms, his song became my mantra:

little prince charming wouldn't play
he picked up all his toys and walked away
no happy endings no goodnight kiss
bet you never thought that you'd end up like this

now you wait in disbelief 
till someone sweeps you off your feet

you can walk a million miles
fake a million smiles in the line of duty
but you don't have to make believe 
cause every one can see you're a sleeping beauty

beautiful dreamer awake
you've been dancing round your dreams at heaven's gate
all the right steps and all the right moves
so what you want and what you got to prove

all those demons in the dark 
will scatter when you wake your heart

you can walk a million miles
fake a million smiles in the line of duty
but you don't have to make believe 
cause every one can see you're a sleeping beauty

no sugar daddies
no calvary rides
no tossing and turning 
till loves in your sight

you can walk a million miles
fake a million smiles in the line of duty
but you don't have to make believe 
cause every one can see you're a sleeping beauty

i was introduced to tom later that same night. 
he helped me with a song i was working on.
two years later he produced my first cd.
we worked sporadically a week at a time when he would find himself in dallas (as he lived in d.c.). 
it took a year to complete. 
by the end of the year, all our friends told us we were in love. 
i thought we were just good friends, so did he. 
as it turns out, good friends are easy to love. 
four years later he was the man on his knee putting rings on the tiny fingers of my little girls. 

i had to learn how to stand on my own two feet before love found me. but the one thing love didn't wait for was for me to learn to play the guitar or become my own performer. when tom and i fell in love, we formed a duo and performed together for 8 years. i wrote songs and sang them, (as did he) but i never learned to play an instrument. i didn't need to. he was so good at it. at least that was my excuse. 

when the economy tanked, and as the girls got older, it didn't make sense for us to do music together anymore. that was fine for him, but it left me in a big bind. if i was going to continue to have a career in music, i was going to have to learn to play. it was the scariest thing i ever did. harder than leaving my marriage. 

i was full of self doubt. full of crippling perfectionistic thoughts. i thought about quitting. then i remembered the voice of my therapist. and i kept trying. in the middle of one of my biggest moments of darkness, a wise friend, Mary Gauthier, told me, "you weren't put on this planet to play the guitar like tom prasada-rao, or have the best voice, or win all the prestigious contests...you were put on this planet to SING THE SONG THAT ONLY YOU CAN SING and to let it touch whoever is supposed to hear it. 

my new mantra. it's tattooed in the crook of my left arm so i'll never forget it and so i'll see it when i play. 

that was three years ago. 
and slowly but surely i'm making my way as a solo performer. 

fast forward to getting the invitation to come to "design your life camp". before i even got to the end of the email, i hit reply to say yes. and then i panicked. all the old negative messages and self doubt filled my head. "what if you get there and patti digh doesn't think you're good enough? what if she's only heard your recordings and when you play she thinks, god i thought she was supposed to be more professional than this?" what if what if what if... 

SING THE SONG THAT ONLY YOU CAN SING

so i stood up in a room full of strangers with my heart leaping out of my chest, with my trembly fingers and my shaky voice trying to find itself in front of all of you. and i sang. 
and each time i searched the audience for a set of eyes that were bright and shining back at me with love, i would sing a little louder and my heart would beat a little less fierce. by the third song, i was no longer afraid and felt surrounded with love. 

being with all of you this weekend was the biggest gift. i came looking for personal answers. and i found them in your hugs, your warmth, your own stories. thank you, thank you. a million times, thank you. 

i know some of you read the following on my personal page earlier, but i wanted to repost it here, because THIS is the change i want to make coming out of camp:

so i had a bit of a revelation this weekend. 
i love writing songs. i love singing the songs i write. 
but nothing thrills me more or does more for me on a soul level than to sing them and to tell "my story" to people who are hungry to hear it beyond just the need to be entertained. hungry to improve themselves. hungry to make a difference in the world. the music world at times reduces you to very selfish thoughts. the world of comparisons. the world of all about me. last summer on my way to a songwriting competition in telluride, i had the opportunity to sing for a group of women in a rehab facility in oakland. women who were down and out. women who wanted life to be different than it was. in terns of "success" in the music world, singing to a room of thirty addicts does not make you a rockstar. but i KNOW with every fiber of my being that i made a difference in their lives. THAT matters to me. much more gratifying than winning any contest.  i am happiest when i feel like i'm in service. this weekend i was. i want to do MORE of that.

thank you Patti Digh, for providing a safe enough place for all of us to find what we needed to find this weekend. i am forever grateful.

 

 

Comments

Brianles January 24, 2017 @03:39 pm
Hello. And Bye.
Garry November 25, 2013 @02:11 pm
I need, I need CD'd, CD'd it's been, it's been Too long in the wind
Irene November 17, 2013 @08:56 am
- I would like to express some tkhnas to you for bailing me out of such a challenge. As a result of searching through the world-wide-web and obtaining techniques which are not pleasant, I was thinking my entire life was well over. Being alive without the solutions to the issues you have solved as a result of your guide is a critical case, as well as those which could have badly affected my career if I hadn't encountered your web page. Your primary capability and kindness in playing with a lot of stuff was useful. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't come across such a step like this. It's possible to at this time look ahead to my future. Thanks so much for this impressive and sensible help. I won't be reluctant to recommend your web sites to anybody who should get guidelines about this subject.November 4, 2012 10:49 pm
Iria November 15, 2013 @04:27 pm
- I would like to express some thnaks to you for bailing me out of such a challenge. As a result of searching through the world-wide-web and obtaining techniques which are not pleasant, I was thinking my entire life was well over. Being alive without the solutions to the issues you have solved as a result of your guide is a critical case, as well as those which could have badly affected my career if I hadn't encountered your web page. Your primary capability and kindness in playing with a lot of stuff was useful. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't come across such a step like this. It's possible to at this time look ahead to my future. Thanks so much for this impressive and sensible help. I won't be reluctant to recommend your web sites to anybody who should get guidelines about this subject.November 4, 2012 10:49 pm
Penny A November 11, 2013 @04:53 pm
BRAVA, my beautiful friend! You are SO singing the song(s) that only you can sing, and they are striking the chords of so many hearts. I am so happy to have met you at DYLC '13, and so looking forward to seeing you again *and the 'keeping in touch' in the interim!* All the best to you as you continue to grow, to lean into the wonder that is YOU and all your mad skill at rendering vivid pictures with your words, voice, and music! Much love and appreciation for all that you are and all that you do, - penny
Maria (DYLC13!) October 12, 2013 @02:10 pm
You were the best way to start camp, Cary, and I'm so happy that you stayed with us. I'm hooked on your Pink Umbrella CD, by the way. Keep singing your song!
alla October 09, 2013 @07:50 am
Thank you for sharing, Cary dear. This is beautiful.
Sarah October 08, 2013 @10:21 am
Cary freakin Cooper ladies and gentlemen <3

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