It is a little hard to get spiritual about a karaoke experience.
And yet, here I am.
Admittedly, I am the anti-socialite. I never go out. As an introvert extending my limits all week long in an extroverted public relations job, by Friday night I want home. I want a trail to walk on. I want to hear Jon Stewart’s warm sarcastic chuckle.
Yet even the desert blooms occasionally, and after a particularly hard workweek, I recently met up with a few friends for dinner at a corner restaurant in my small northern California town.
After food, laughter and a drink, the idea of karaoke came up. It was the exact moment that I would typically demure; graciously bowing out from the rest of the evening. Instead I heard the tiny voice that had lately been chatting me up. The voice that had encouraged me to quit my job the year before and fly off for a month and a half to Bali; the one that said, sure, you should definitely take up rock climbing at age 40.
And this time, the voice kind of whispered Yes.
Despite having zero karaoke experience. And let’s face it, an extremely highly strung nervous system…I breezed into our next venue, an historic old bar, walked up to the karaoke DJ, and asked how this was done. A moment later, a small piece of paper with my name and song choice sat in his jar.
The breezy cool version of me vanished instantly. I felt my neck muscles tighten. I tried to hum along with other songs, and wondered if my voice would leave me altogether. I focused on my breath. I took sips of water. My sweet friend seeing my distress said, “Look around. No one here cares. If you hate it, drop the mic, and I’ll be right behind you walking out the door.”
This helped a little, but cortisol had hijacked my body and was gamely running my show.
Two songs later, our tired, or perhaps bored, DJ called my name. As soon as I reached the microphone, I wrapped one arm across my body as if it were the old worn out blue security sweater from pre-school.
If I could have hidden behind myself, I would have.
The first few bars of “Here I am,” began to play—a classic country love ballad by Patty Loveless and the only song I know entirely by heart.
Don’t do it darlin’
Don’t you dare look in there
You said you didn’t want to see me
But you’ve been lookin’ for me everywhere
I think I can safely share that I was a little awful. Perhaps even a lot awful. My voice cracked more than once.
And you know that you’re gonna find me
If you keep on drinkin’ fast
‘Cause honey, I’m right there waitin’ on you
At the bottom of your glass
Here I am, here I am…
I believe I actually saw the DJ give a shrug to the audience as if to say, sorry, I have no control over this.
When the song finally ended, I walked back to our table and felt overwhelmed by the desire to cry. I wasn’t glorious.
I was very likely the worst singer of the night.
And yet, it was okay…it was strangely wonderful.
Hours later, I was at home swimming in leftover adrenalin—and was only able to feel utterly delighted with myself for doing something I was so deeply afraid of. Like traveling alone. Like making good but hard decisions. Like letting go of someone for the right reasons.
I sang only for myself and for the simple reason that I have always wondered how it would feel.
How amazing to find a place within your heart that allows for failure for the sheer purpose of gaining a foothold over fear.
All I have ever hoped for was to love without fear—to live without fear.
And here I am.
Recently I met a woman dying of cancer at too young an age. Her words continue to change the way I experience each day:
“Don’t talk about it, don’t write about it, don’t think about it. Live it. Live in grace. Life is short. Be grateful.”
And so I honor those words of a brave and amazing woman. I honor all those who push their comfort zones—and I honor the part of me that is just beginning to try and fail.
To try and succeed.
To try. And try.
And try again.
Here I am.
Author: Brandy Kolmer
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Daniel Stockman at Flickr