Wednesday, June 20, 2012


While holidaying at the beach, on a mildly warm day, I went swimming. In spite of my being an absolute water-baby and being prepared to swim at any temperature, when I entered the water I was struck with how freezing it was. Even though I was initially paralyzed by the cold, thoughts didn’t even enter my mind to leave the water. I knew that it would warm up and become pleasant if I just kept moving and got into the deep.

I saw a parallel in this of when we try new things that aren’t known, comfortable territory. In the past two years I have been challenged to try many ‘new’ things. I had completely forgotten how I had done these things due to my memory loss after each lot of neurosurgery and I was not at all sure I could still do them.

After one of my specialists, who is a musician himself, heard my clip on YouTube he strongly encouraged me to start singing again. But the thing was that I couldn’t remember how to sing, or even produce a note. Even though I had sung at weddings for my holiday job during my university years, that was 10 years ago and a lot of memory loss had occurred in that time. I had absolutely no idea how to produce musical sound vocally. But this doctor encouraged me with such enthusiasm, that I started to consider trying again.

At first I was very tentative and quiet, only taking very small ‘steps’ in my singing. I was having to have two skin treatment baths a day and initially I very timidly sang out prayers for people while I was in the bath using an old Gregorian chant that I knew, as my musical backing. When I would hit a ‘bum note’ I would abruptly stop singing and it would take a few moments before I would feel the courage to try again. What I found encouraging was that the more I sang the fewer of those notes there were, and when they did occur I could just take a breath and restart.

Over the course of a couple of months my confidence grew and I started to want to sing more than just in the bath, and more than just Gregorian chants. I started to listen to jazz music again, after a 10 year break. As I started to try and sing jazz with very tentative little steps, those steps became confident, excited strides. I had completely forgotten the amount of joy it filled me with when I sang! With my singing, I went from cautiously paddling in the shallows to rolling in the deep.

What had initially been an absolute challenge started to feel natural. Now, 18 months into singing, part of me can’t understand why I hadn’t tried sooner as it brings me so much pleasure. I had assumed that because I hadn’t done it in such a long time, and couldn’t remember how to, that it was no longer within me. Most of all I had completely forgotten how much pleasure it brings me to sing.

However, if I had stopped moving forward with my singing and had remained ‘frozen’ when I hit those ‘bum notes’, and if I had let the weakness in my voice when I had first started deter me, I would never have moved into finding the fullness in my voice again.

This whole experience has made me wonder what else there is still lying latent in my brain that I could rediscover?

In all of our lives there are things we did and enjoyed when we were young and have since stopped doing. Our lives have changed. Careers, children, complex issues have entered the scene and we feel we are no longer who we were. However, what we don’t realize is that those abilities are still within us and can be brought back to the surface if we are willing to try. But we have to be prepared to enter the cold, unfamiliar water and push through those first freezing, paralyzing steps.

So much potential lies within us but we have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone, push past the initial freeze and just keep moving towards what may well end up bringing us incredible satisfaction and even delight.

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