It's winter, a time of reflection and hibernation. After the death of my second partner just before my former husband's birthday in early November, I was lost in thought and wondered when I would find my way back out. I let myself go on that journey and learned a lot about myself. In looking through my stash of journals waiting to be written in, I stumbled across this quote today by Edith Sitwell (September 7, 1887 - December 9, 1964). "Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a table by the fire. It is the time for home."
I had never heard of Edith Sitwell until today, so when I found this quote, which resonated so deeply in me, I looked her up and found that I resonated with her as well. She felt unloved by her parents and, as a result of that and their abuse, had a stormy relationship with them, as did I with my own parents. She was encased in a metal back brace due to a diagnosed deformity. I have Kyphoscoliosis and spent four years in a brand new High School, knowing no one, encased in a steel and leather brace, taunted and bullied by many of my classmates and ostracized by most of the rest. Although, my experience was difficult at best, hers was far worse. Frida Kahlo, another woman that I admire and feel a connection to, also wore a back brace after a trolley accident and lived the rest of her life in pain. Like her, I have had to deal with pain of varying degrees for my entire adult life. These things have a profound effect on who we become.
Both of these women were emotionally guarded and thought to be stuck-up. Both were in the public eye and often criticized. I'm sure that part of that was due to the fact that they were very strong women, and that often scares people, but a lot of it was due to their eccentricity. They both had a public life and very different private life. I spent most of my life being brutally shy because I was afraid. However, my performing self is not at all shy. I have always been able to sing with much feeling and with little awareness of my surroundings while I sing. I get completely lost in my music. This makes a lot of sense when you realize that, growing up, music was my shield. No one ever bothered me when I was making music. I was safe and could be in touch with all of the raging emotions held locked inside. I think that music making may be my superpower.
I've been wondering lately how many of us keep our early lives hidden away. I've kept mine mostly hidden except for a handful of close friends. But, even those friends don't know the extent of the abuse I dealt with in my earlier life. And, my life continued to be hard in too many varied ways up until just a few years ago. A couple of times, in very specific circumstances, I shared a few of the disasters that befell me and noticed the listener's eyes start to glaze over. I realized that, as hard as it was to survive those things, it's also hard for people who have not experienced great difficulty to listen to the recap. So, I resigned myself to keeping my secrets to myself. But lately, I've been questioning the wisdom of that decision. I don't have many close friends but a multitude of acquaintances. I wonder if that's because people don't really know me or if I'm still wearing my "suit of armor." This past summer, at Summersongs East, I took a class on "Shadow Songs" led by a songwriter who makes his living as a psychologist. I wasn't sure I wanted to do it but decided to give it a try. In psychology “shadow” is a Jungian term referring to unknown, unsaid or unwanted aspects of the self. (Dr. Steven Prasinos) The song I wrote was "My Suit of Armor." I have never played in public, and probably never will, but it certainly gave me food for thought. What are your secrets, and who do you share them with?