THE MUSIC FROM MY HEART
Copyright 2015 by Judy Unger
I am sharing my story because I want to inspire other people to know happiness is truly possible, despite grief and challenges in life. I realize that I was blessed with the wonderful outlets of writing, art, and music.
My wish is that every human can find something in their life that brings them joy!
I have known about my creative gifts throughout my life. For me, “gifts” is a perfect word – I truly feel as though something lovely was given to me.
Before I begin my story, I would like to give a little background about myself.
I was born in 1959, and when I turned fifty in 2009 – it was definitely a big moment for me. Subconsciously, I believe it was the beginning of finding meaning from my life.
I have been a successful commercial illustrator since 1981. With the digital age, my workload gradually diminished. I eventually embraced the digital process even though it wasn’t easy for me to re-invent my technique. Working as a freelance illustrator had many advantages as a mother. I was able to work at home and be available to my children.
I worked at establishing my career for seven years before having my first child. His name was Jason. He was born with a congenital heart abnormality called “Transposition of the Great Vessels.” He had a first surgery when he was 2 ½ months old. He had another surgery when he was 5 ½ years old, but never woke up after that surgery.
In February of 2010, I began writing a blog where I slowly expressed my unresolved grief. The sharing of my trauma and sadness, allowed me to heal and become joyful. At that time, I chose to rediscover my love for my guitar, which I had hardly played for the past thirty years. As I healed, music came back into my soul.=
I have three wonderful children. Initially, when I began my blog I wrote a lot about them. Later on, I regretted it and deleted most of what I wrote in order to maintain their privacy. In 2014, I divorced after 31 years of marriage. I turned my life around. There were many reasons I ended my marriage but as a result, I was able to pursue my dreams to create the music that I loved.
Although my artistic and writing abilities were apparent from the very beginning of my life, I was always a songwriter.
I didn’t realize it until the moment I sang for my mother when she was in the hospital. I softly sang to her and the memory of a song I made up at the age of six came back to me!
I learned to play the guitar at the age of fifteen. It was a particularly joyous time in my life, and as natural for me as breathing to channel my emotions into songwriting. Between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one, I composed song after song as my unblemished heart experienced heartbreak and love. My identity was heavily tied into music. I composed 30 songs with both the music and lyrics. I enjoyed singing with my friends and in my high school choir.
Songwriting filled a need for me. It was a perfect place to express my intense emotions around love, loss and disappointment. The music from that time period fueled me, as I played many songs by Bread, Simon and Garfunkel, John Denver and Judy Collins.
I compiled an extensive songbook of all of the songs I learned how to play. I also created song sheets with chords and lyrics of the songs I had. Although I did study classical guitar in college, I found it very demanding and did not have the stamina for it.
My innocence lasted longer than many people because I had a protected and unscathed childhood. My maturity began when I was married at the young age of twenty. I composed my very last song to play for my husband at our wedding.
Suddenly, the emotional music felt so empty as I embarked upon a time of responsibility and isolation. My deep friendships ended. I was now married, and my art career became my focus. All of the emotions that had fueled my songwriting were gone. It seemed more and more awkward to play music, and eventually my guitar became dusty and unused. In 1980, a few years before I put away my guitar, I recorded twenty of my thirty song compositions on a cassette tape.
When I rediscovered my music in 2010, my voice teacher at that time was Peaches Chrenko. Peaches suggested that my songs were “musical seeds.” It was a beautiful concept, as she said that perhaps it was only at this time in my life that I was able to truly “grow and develop” them.
I loved that analogy! It made perfect sense for me. I viewed my songs very much as something that could be adapted and adjusted to fit my life.
Seven years after my music stopped, I began the odyssey of bearing my children. I experienced deep grief with the loss of my first-born son. It was only when I began writing about my bereavement that I remembered how I first adapted my “musical seeds” to help me bear the loss.
The day before my five-year-old son’s funeral, I rewrote the lyrics to three of my songs to express my anguish. I read those words at his funeral, and recorded those songs to play at his graveside a year later.
The rediscovery of all my songs was an amazing experience for me. My heart was healed, and I was transformed in the process.
My musical journey unfolded in an interesting fashion for me. I chose certain songs to rediscover in a particular order. In the beginning, I chose the songs that were easiest for me to remember; they were the songs that spoke closest to my emotions.
Gradually, I was able to rediscover easily all of my songs that were recorded on a cassette tape. However, I decided to also try to “rediscover” any other ones for which I had no memory of their melody. I ended up adapting many of them.
Even the ones that I played a certain way for thirty years required “reinventing.” I began to write new lyrics, verses and choruses for many of the “song seeds” in my musical garden.
My improvement was startling for me. Since I never considered myself an outstanding singer, I decided to take voice lessons. Because I did not want to forget my songs again, I decided I wanted to make better recordings of them. I had an ad in my drawer from two years earlier. It mentioned a man that could “make any songwriter sound good.” His name was George.
I want to share stories about my life in chronological order because many of my revelations and insights were revealed to me as my journey “unfolded.” Addressing my “unresolved grief” by writing is what truly let to my transformation.
Sharing was what made it all possible from the very beginning. Sharing allowed me to reconnect with many people from my past. All of my reconnecting served a purpose for me, as my journey unfolded.
My writing and sharing began when my mother was on a respirator. In November of 2009, my mother almost died. She fell, broke her shoulder, had surgery to fix it, and ended up on a respirator for two months. I visited her daily and even more than that.
I was bereft, afraid, and very lonely as I tried desperately to carry on while my mother was ill. For so many years, I had been coping with the care of my children and then my parents. I was exhausted.
I began to write messages updating family members and then friends who were all concerned about me. I found that expressing my feelings that way was very helpful. In a short amount of time, my messages became less about updates of my mother’s condition to more about sharing my soul.
I also gained considerable support during my mother’s illness from seeing a hypnotherapist regularly. After my mother recovered, she suggested that I continue writing since it was very therapeutic for me. In February, I began my blog, which I first named “I’m Taking Off!” A month after that, I decided to name my blog “My Journey’s Insight.”
I liked that name because it meant three things for me. My Journey was in sight and within view. My journey was filled with the knowledge I had gained from my experiences. And lastly, my journey was in site – in a computer website!
I was closed up for many years and had withdrawn from most of my friends.
When I began my blog, I completely opened up and shared my life. It was definitely a process that began slowly. It took time for me to work up to writing about the experience of Jason, short life and death. The anticipation of writing Jason’s story weighed on me for the first month.
Once I expressed my sadness, I felt lighter. My entire being was transformed!
I truly believed that my eyes saw the world quite differently; my voice seemed different and even the way I walked was different. I was “reborn.” My recent journey this year was not of innocence to maturity. When my maturity turned into grief and anguish, I was certain that my scars would never allow for true joy in my life ever again.
I went from being a “zombie” to living again with joy.
It was completely a result of sharing, that I began to play my guitar again. I mentioned on an email message that I used to be a songwriter before I was married. My childhood friend, Joni, Joni offered to make a connection with a producer she knew, and it was very exciting for me.
With painful fingers I practiced for our appointment, which was scheduled a few weeks later. I shared the experience early on when I began writing.
So, my story began when I started to share my soul with some very, special friends from my past.