On Saturday morning I played my guitar and sang at the Western Wake Farmers’ Market for two solid hours. This was my first gig at the farmers’ market and I have four more already scheduled. It was a blast and next time I’ll even make sure the battery in my guitar works. On Sunday afternoon, during the musical interlude of my Irish dance school’s performance at the Knights of Columbus picnic, I sang/played the Irish song, “Black Velvet Band,” and later the band, Ewes Tree, invited me to sing my old favorite, “The Fields of Athenry.” It was pure awesomeness and I felt so alive after singing impromptu with these guys. Yeah!
While I was getting my set list together for the farmers’ market gig last week (24 songs—mostly memorized!) I remembered I sang “Sunny Came Home” at a farmers’ market in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, a few days after Hurricane Dennis hit the coast in the summer of 1999. I lived in Myrtle Beach at the time (two hours north) and I was visiting my parents. While my folks were excited about the tomatoes, I said “hi” to the woman singing and must have asked her if she knew that famous Shawn Colvin song. She said “yes” and invited me to sing as she played guitar; very much like how I got behind the mic with Ewes Tree. “Sunny Came Home” was my favorite song to sing at my weekly karaoke night and of course I knew it by heart. I did the song and felt I did a good job—the farmer’s market lady had a big smile on her face. What a generous soul. But my folks did not. They couldn’t believe I sang in public and within two seconds they ushered me out of that venue like I was a two-year-old who had pooped my pants. Sheeesh. I was 26 at the time.
A few years later, when Daniel was a baby, and I was now estranged from my parents, my brother’s first wife was chatting with me on the phone and brought up the farmers’ market “incident.” Although she wasn’t there, she told me how my parents had told her how embarrassed they were with me and basically what an idiot I was for getting up on a stage and singing. That conversation taught me several things:
- My parents and I are from different planets
- My former sister-in-law was trying hard to curry favor with my parents and I knew it wouldn’t end well for her (it didn’t—they estranged themselves from her after she did a minor slight to them)
- My parents shun authenticity—it scares the hell out of them
That day I sang from my heart without an agenda—now, maybe I was really flat and really sharp in places, but the point was I did it and I wanted to share my voice. I didn’t know if it was going to hit or miss, but I did it anyway. At that moment I remember feeling free and totally in the right place.
The trick to being authentic is to be true to yourself even though others may not like it. The thing that will always hurt me is that when I became more authentic to myself, I lost my parents—I couldn’t have both them and my authenticity. In my twenties my subconscious protected me by telling me to hide anything deep from my parents. I wanted to be a mother and have a career, but I couldn’t tell my parents this. I just felt I would get yelled at or called stupid. I wanted to write professionally, but I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I wanted to sing or do some kind of art, but I didn’t know how to approach them with these ideas. As a result, my subconscious protected me so much that I numbed myself because I was SO FEARFUL of losing my parents’ love. My creative side and risk-taking side went dark except for finding a new job in another state and for occasionally singing at a karaoke bar.
Then a wonderful thing happened that forced my authenticity. I became pregnant with Daniel at age 29. Keith and I married 14 years ago (Happy Anniversary to us May 22nd!) My parents broke up with me (ostensibly) because they felt I had no class and (truthfully) because I stepped into who I wanted to be. They only wanted to see me as the child they could control and not the authentic woman I was on the way to becoming. They saw a glimpse of her at the farmers’ market and it scared them shitless. Like I said above, it does still hurt that I lost my parents by being authentic, but there’s nowhere else for me to be. I continue to be estranged from them, and yet I forgive them. They gave me a great gift.
What are you doing to be as authentic as possible?
How are you singing from your heart? Are you taking risks? Expressing yourself? Owning your feelings—even the ugly ones? Please share with me below!