My love affair with the guitar began when I was sixteen years old. It progressed to a point in college where I studied classical guitar. Although I avidly practiced, the technical requirements of a classical guitarist were far beyond my abilities. I reached my pinnacle at the age of 21 with mastery of the tremolo. Then I stopped playing and devoted myself to becoming an illustrator.
From the time I started playing my guitar until my wedding, I wrote approximately, thirty songs including several instrumental pieces. The last song I composed was for my own wedding. Perhaps since my 29th anniversary is in five days, I’ve recalled a flurry of hysterical memories from that time.
Currently, I have found my voice. For a very long time, I stuffed my feelings in order to please everyone around me. On rare occasions I spoke up.
One of those rare times when I spoke up was when I got married. I decided I wanted to compose a song to sing for my husband at our wedding. My mother was very, very upset about it. She couldn’t stand the idea. Because I was very close with my mom, it wasn’t easy to overrule her.
She said, “The bride does not play guitar at her wedding! What will all my friends all say?”
I was determined! I wrote a song that incorporated the translated, Jewish wedding blessings in order to please her. The name of my song was entitled, “Song of Joy.”
When I played the guitar at my wedding, it was actually quite painful. I grimaced while I was playing, and hit one huge, wrong note on a higher fret. I covered it up and sang my song with abandon.
There was a reason for my pain! The night before our wedding there certainly was a lot of drama. It began with the rehearsal dinner. We were on our way to a restaurant, and I met my husband’s brother for the first time. He has often reminded me of this memory, because it was quite traumatic for him also.
I was getting out of the car to go into the restaurant, and he closed the car door on my middle finger.
I yelled as the exquisite pain flooded me. I sat though the rehearsal dinner with my throbbing, finger in a cup of ice. My future brother-in-law told me he wanted to crawl under the table!
After the rehearsal dinner I came home, and I continued to soak my finger. It had already developed an ugly, black fingernail. All I could think about was whether I could manage to play my guitar. Of course, my mother was hoping I’d change my mind.
Suddenly, Michael and I heard horrible screams coming from the living room. Things were getting worse by the moment! We raced to the living room and my mother was screaming, “My breast! My breast!” Needless to say, you could only imagine what my future husband was thinking.
It turned out that while my mother was ironing her dress for the next day’s wedding, she had burned through her dress with the iron! She held it up to show us a four-inch hole on the breast.
Michael tried to calm her down. He suggested she could just pin her corsage over the area. My mother was still yelling hysterically. Her reason was that she had borrowed this dress, and she didn’t know what she was going to do about returning it to her friend with a hole.
She ended up pinning a corsage over the area. She had the dress repaired later on.
I played my song on our wedding day with a bandaged finger. One of my friends recently shared with me her memory of my performance. She said:
“I remember your beautiful song of love for your husband that you performed at the altar, the way old ladies sitting next to me clucked their tongues at the audacity of the song until they started bopping along with you by the third verse!”
One day, I’ll share that particular song. I hope to record all of my songs, as I improve and practice each and every one of them.
Truly, my life is a musical!
“My journey is still unfolding”
I hope my parents live long enough to see me become successful in my new endeavors, wherever they might lead me. However, I’ve already given them a gift that is beyond anything they or I ever expected.
They lived long enough to see me joyful again!
I have children and understand what that means. I would think that any parent wants their child to enjoy life and have happiness. My parents have shared in my suffering. They’ve cried alongside of me. They watched their talented, little girl reduced to a sad shell for countless years. I had hollow smiles and infrequent laughter. I was empty inside.
Everything changed for me beginning in mid-February when I started writing and sharing. Currently, I’m filled with excitement, joy, and mostly, peace.
My journey has led me to the realization that I’ve found my voice. My new voice is connected to my heart, and even sounds different to me. I easily express honesty, and now I have a powerful sense of humor. When I’ve encountered stressful situations, sometimes I have to hold back my laughter!
When I began writing my blog, my mom had just been released from the hospital. I started playing my guitar again. I hadn’t played it seriously for thirty years.
After thirty years of not playing, it felt wonderful to pick up my guitar. A few years after I stopped playing, I invested in an expensive, steel-string guitar. I thought a new guitar would inspire me to rediscover playing again. Unfortunately, I hardly played it. It was very difficult to simply pick it up and play, since steel strings were painful to hold down without calluses. In these past few months, I have developed thick calluses once again.
When I began singing again with my guitar, I cringed at my voice!
I’ve never had an outstanding voice, even though I’ve loved expressing myself vocally. When I started playing again, I hated my “fifty-year-old voice.” I shared some songs from a thirty-year-old, cassette tape thinking that it was my younger, “better voice.”
Fortunately, I had a tape of most of my songs, which helped me rediscover how to play them. Of my thirty songs, I lost at least five of them because they were not recorded.
My younger son encouraged me to take voice lessons. His voice teacher at a public park was incredibly patient with him. I decided it might not be a bad idea and it was very affordable.
I began taking those voice lessons and quickly started learning. The day finally came where I could see that my new voice was considerably better than when I was twenty-years-old. The biggest change occurred two weeks ago when I finally lowered the keys for all my songs so I could sing them in a lower register.
I’m fairly embarrassed about my singing ability, and some of the recordings that I’ve shared on this blog. As an artist, I’ve always been a perfectionist. I have an excellent ear for music, and whenever I hear notes that are “pitchy” or shrill it kills me!
I’ve thought about deleting those old recordings. However, I’ve decided that my blog is a testament to the power of honesty and opening up. It’s also about taking chances. My songs may never go anywhere, however, if I weren’t sharing them I’d never find out.
I want my blog to document an honest journey. My journey of releasing trauma has unfolded in “real time” and is still unfolding for me.
My story is also a fairytale. It is about how my life completely turned around within a few months.
“I am a bereaved parent”
I was courageous this past Monday. I played a new, lower version of my song, “Beside Me Always.” I had only created the acoustic, instrumental accompaniment two days earlier.
I originally wrote this song after breaking up with a boyfriend when I was 17. However, I rewrote the lyrics after my 5-year-old son died. The song’s meaning completely changed for me after that.
Many years ago, I was a leader and very involved with the Compassionate Friends; an organization for bereaved parents and siblings. I performed my song at the annual, candle-lighting ceremony until I made the decision to focus on my living children. It was always very meaningful for me. I can picture our group of bereaved parents gathered in a tightly, embraced circle outside under the stars. Their candles flickered in the darkness, while I sang and poured my heart out.
I sang this song at a good friend’s funeral also.
I have sung this song for such a long time in the higher key. When I transposed it so I could sing it in a lower voice, the character of the chords changed. The song musically and lyrically joined, and became a sincere expression of loss and heartache for me.
While playing the introduction in my bathroom a few days ago, I began heaving with sobs as I was moved by the beautiful, haunting chords.
When I arrived at Kulak’s to play, my heart warmed with delight at seeing my childhood friend, Joni. She had come there to see me play! Joni was my neighbor while growing up and we’ve known each other since we were toddlers. Her teenage daughter accompanied her. Looking at her daughter, I remembered how Joni looked similarly when she was that age.
I savored the experience of having my good friend there. The time arrived for the show to begin. The room became hushed as names were called.
My name was the first one called!
As I walked up to play, I was told that one of the hostesses would go first. I fumbled with my cell phone and quickly sent off five, prepared text messages to forty of my friends; my message would alert them that I was due to play soon.
The hostess began the show. She was beautiful and had a fabulous voice; I hoped I could do justice to my song with my limited, vocal ability.
I decided to sit and play this time, rather than perform standing as I had the week before. I didn’t want to make any mistakes playing the chords, so I even brought along my classical guitar footstool to have a better sitting position.
I’ve attended Kulak’s performance workshop twice, and was told never to introduce a song by talking about it. The song should always speak for itself. Any statements are supposed to allow the audience to connect and remember only the performer.
I was introduced, and my heart was pounding. The host asked me if I had any “upcoming gigs.” I quickly replied with, “Someday, I’m hoping!” I also mentioned how I was “loving life.” I carefully positioned my hands to begin the song.
I softly said, “I am a bereaved parent, but this song could be for anybody that has lost someone.” Instantly, the room became hushed.
As usual, I was shaky at first but smoothed out as the song progressed. I savored the experience as I played for an audience of perhaps thirty other songwriters.
I left Kulak’s early and walked toward my car in the beautiful, cool night air. A young man stopped me. He wanted to tell me something. I thanked him for his kind compliments. I sat in my car for a few moments allowing the impact of his words to sink in.
He had said, “Your song was the most beautiful song I have ever heard played at Kulak’s.”
I drove home lost in my musical reverie.
AUDIO FILES TO SHARE:
I received a DVD of my very first web-cast performance at Kulak’s Woodshed. I sang Beside Me Always in the higher key. I’ve had so much criticism of my higher singing voice that I’ve decided not to share it.
The following week, I performed another song, You Are My Wings. I love the infectious, joyful melody and feeling of that song. I looked very happy while playing; however, my performance was also too high and pitchy. I might still share it someday.
I’ll receive a DVD of this past week’s performance next week. If I perform this Monday, I was told how much better it would be to have more makeup on. Okay, okay! I’ll do it!
This past Monday, I brought a digital recorder along and recorded audio of my performance. I could have definitely sounded better. Only hours earlier I had a wonderful, voice lesson. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember all the melodic enhancements that my teacher, Peaches, had suggested.
Below are excerpts from my voice lesson with Peaches:
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.