Singing in My Skin

Tonight I sang for 2 hours with a group of women.  It was a workshop with my feminist choir, and focused almost exclusively on vocal technique.  It was a kind of focus on the body as instrument that I haven't done in a long while, and it felt safe to do it there, with these women surrounding me.

Now, I have 2 Masters level degrees: the first in Vocal Performance and the second in Speech Language Pathology.  I have spent years studying how bodies make sound, and particularly how my own body produces sound.  

I have also spent every year of my post-adolescent life at war with my body.  Not intermittent battles.  Every single day I have woken up and said to myself: "Today I am going to accept my body as it is and use it to live my life." and every single morning I hear it say back to me: "Ha! You will never inhabit this body.  It is nowhere near being good enough.  It is disgusting.  Try again tomorrow, or maybe next year." So I turn away from my own body, disconnecting from my physical self entirely, while tomorrow never comes.

I am 40.  I have 2 daughters.  I desperately want to shield them from this battle, and I know the best way is for me to make peace within myself.  I use talk-therapy, medication and even found a nutritionist who is also a psychologist with a specialty in eating disorders.  I have tried it all.  And while I know a lot more about this battle, and a lot more about myself, I don't feel any closer to peace.  I am much more the person I want to be, but I am no closer to my own skin.  

Tonight I thought about a question my therapist asked me this week: what makes you feel beautiful?  When was the last time you felt beautiful?

Never.  I have never felt that my body was a beautiful thing.  I have thought that it could be.  If I lost weight, if my hair was less frizzy, if I didn't have stretch marks, if I was less hairy, if my belly was flatter, if I were taller, if lots and lots of parts of me were not as they are.   

Why would I want to inhabit this body?  This not-ok thing?  So I don't.  I use it to do what I want to have done, never actually enjoying the process.  It's a curse of being blessed with a talent, that this can ever work at all.  Everything is done quickly at the end: practicing music just enough to get by, memorizing at the last minute, knowing that my last minute work is better than most people expect.  It's good enough for them.  But never for me.

For a long time my goal was always just to remember the words and not sing the wrong notes.  Can you imagine?  A singer who spends years honing her craft, with the bar set so low that only the words and notes must be correct?  Yet, that's my goal.  

That's my goal because anything else requires me to sit in my skin and listen to my body as an instrument.  And that I cannot do.  

I am terrified of inhabiting my own skin.  I sing because I know it brings others pleasure.  But I do not let myself enjoy it.  I don't bring that pleasure into my own body.  

Now I can see how it holds me back.  If I cannot inhabit my body, how can I sing?  How can I improve?  How can I enjoy both the learning and the sharing? How can I let that pleasure into my skin?  

What would that be like, to let pleasure into my skin?  In singing, but also in rising, in dressing, in listening, in speaking, in loving?  I don't know. 

But maybe I can start with singing. 

Emily GoldbergComment