I will always sing.
I grew up in a big house in Queens built by my grandfather, who immigrated from Poland and became a contractor in New York City. In the corner of our giant living room was a grand piano. My mother taught piano lessons, took care of foster children along with the five of us, and loved my father and Tchaikovsky, in that order. I remember watching a musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, with my mother. I must have only been around 8 or 9 years old at the time, but I was swept away by the music, the rags to riches story line, and the sheer joy that I witnessed with my young heart.
That movie made me feel like I could do anything. It made me believe that I would always sing. But here’s the thing: I can’t.
Now when I say I can’t sing, it doesn’t mean I am physically incapable of singing. Well, maybe, it does. I can open my mouth. I can make words come out one after another. And I can string those words together to keep up with music. That’s singing. But just as everyone can pick up a pencil and form letters and words, not everyone can write.
I have a vague memory of being at my mother’s church not too long before she died. We were standing and singing and she turned to me and asked me if I could sing a little softer. My mother was never mean and I know it was coming from a place where cancer allows you to say whatever you want to say, but, ouch. I was praising God. I knew he didn’t care how loud I was singing (pretty loud) or how off-key I may have been (I was). I think Mom wanted everyone around me to love me as much as she did. And she knew my singing wouldn’t help with that.
Come to think of it, when my three children were little, I have a similar memory. Only we were in the car and they asked me to stop singing all together.
So now that I’ve established that singing is not one of my gifts, I have decided to keep singing anyway. I really love music and I really like to sing. In fact, according to a few studies I read, singing is good for us. Not only does it release endorphins and oxytocin, two hormones in our brains that make us feel happy, but singing also lowers stress and anxiety. And the good news is that you don’t have to sing like Adele for those benefits to kick in.
Singing is one way to do that, too. More often than not, singing makes me feel better. And it’s no coincidence that singing along with Hillsong’s Cornerstone or Matthew West’s Forgiveness makes me feel great. Singing doesn’t change the reality that my son has not left the house in three weeks because of his anxiety and depression. Singing doesn’t take away his feelings of hopelessness or change the fact that my daughter’s anxiety is paralyzing and overwhelming. But singing brings me joy. And that tiny bit of joy helps me remember how big my God is.
It makes me feel unsinkable.
Did I say that none of the studies I read said being a good singer is important? In order to reap the benefits, you just have to sing. That’s good news for me, because I wasn’t planning to stop.
Life is hard.