Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Attitude of Singing

It was a small thing- a direct result of too much talking, yelling, projecting, singing, etc. I was losing my voice at the end of each week, but surely it would come back once I stopped talking to an entire bus-load of students.
 It hasn't. 

"Severe muscle strain" were the words from the doctor with the white coat and credentials. "Months" was the projected time for recovery to settle in. Until then, this singer would need to be on vocal rest. No projecting, no whispering, and no singing.

Singing is part of who I am. It's been part of my daily routine in ways I never realized until it was taken from me. No more singing along to the car radio, rocking out in the shower, and no breaking out into song randomly because I feel like it. It's funny because I find myself compensating in other ways. I sing along in my head simply mouthing the words. I rock my foot, tap my thumb on the steering wheel, and bob my shoulders back and forth to the music. My whole body sings without any sound at all.

I can live with that in the privacy of my car, but not being able to sing is nigh unbearable when it comes to church. I turn away invitations for solos and participation in choir, but that is nothing compared to not singing the hymns. "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me" (D&C 25:12) It feels so wrong not singing them. I feel like people are looking at me and thinking, "why isn't she singing? Maybe she chooses not to sing the hymns, or perhaps she isn't a very good singer." I'm neither of those things, but how could they know that I am sitting there desperately yearning to open my mouth and sing?

I was reading in the Book of Mormon the other night and came across a scripture that describes angels in the "attitude of singing and praising God; yea and my soul did long to be there." What exactly is an attitude of singing? I don't know, but I love it. My soul longs to be singing, but at least for the next few months the "attitude of singing"  will have to do. Here's hoping that my singing career isn't over just yet, but even if my voice never comes back...I surely will always yearn to sing the prayer of my heart and be grateful for the way singing made me who I am.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Oxytocin: The Bonding Drug

Can you be addicted to bonding?  

Oxytocin has been labeled as the "bonding" drug. It is what naturally occurs during childbirth, nursing, and intimacy.  However, it is also wrapped up in eye contact, holding hands, putting your arm around someone, a hand on your knee, hugs, kisses, etc. It's that warm bonding that happens from physical touch. 

Believe it or not, but people believe it has a specific use in healing wounds. Perhaps there's something to the phrase "Will you kiss it better?" Mothers have kissed their child's scraped knees for ages, but has anyone ever thought it might help the healing? I've certainly found that a hug, a lingering squeeze of my hand, and a kiss on my forehead heal a wounded heart. Love heals. 

In fact it was the topic of healing that first brought the bonding drug to my attention. I attended a Social Science / Human Development Conference with my roommate once during College. The topic of the conference was Pornography and I found myself in a few presentations specifically dealing with what to do when your loved one has an addiction to pornography. 

The presenter specifically mentioned the two "Love" drugs: Dopamine and Oxytocin. He suggested that both are present during sexual intimacy, but only Dopamine appears to be present during the viewing of pornography. This Psychologist's study focused on the benefits of the increasing of intimate touch when talking with a loved one, even when talking with a loved one about his or her addiction. It is as simple as touching someone's arm, knee, or hand. Oxytocin separates the fantasy from the reality. It's the "bonding" drug that says, "I love you," "I'm here for you even when things get hard," and "I want to stay with you." It's real. I'm real.     

 I realize there are people out there that love to be alone, but I believe no one truly loves being lonely. We are relational beings.We like bonding. This is why we seek relationships in our significant others, friends, family, co-workers, strangers even, and of course in the cyber world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even this blog. We are meant to be in relationships.We want to give our lives to someone who will trust and understand. In fact, besides being a major contributor to romantic attraction and maternal bonding, Oxytocin also appears to heavily increase trust and empathy. What a drug! 

It feels good. I, perhaps more than most people, tend to crave that bonding and long for it when it is not around. It speaks to me more than words sometimes. I found bits of it when my Grandma would simply hold onto my hand at the table, when I would cuddle up with my mother while we watched a show, and in the silent snuggle listening for a beautiful heartbeat. It is in my two people "just being" moments. But, what happens when you are just one person being? You simply crave. 

Can you be addicted to bonding? Well, I sure am. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Happy Girl's Bout With Sadness

I consider myself a happy girl. 
In fact, I pride myself on my positive, optimistic, hopeful attitude. 
But, sometimes even happy girls feel sad. 

Though dealt with in different ways by different types of people, grief is something to which we are simply not immune. Some run through it, some sleep through it. Some talk it out among safe relations, some cry it out privately in the dark softness of wet sheets. And some, do a combination that is all their own. But this is not about the "some," it is about the "one." Specifically, it is about me, the happy girl, and my turn with sadness.

"There lives the dearest freshness deep down things" 

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote those words. Our "deep down things" are perhaps some of our most precious and sacred. They make us who we are and shape who we become. Recently, I discovered a sadness aching deep down inside of me. As a happy girl, I tried to fight it off with the thought that I shouldn't be sad. But, there lives the dearest freshness in those deep down things and sometimes it's ok to be sad. There is beauty in sadness.

Still, I didn't want this sadness. I tried to sweat it off with exercise, wash it out with expensive shampoo, mask it with fancy makeup, cover it with a new dress, or simply push it aside with constant activity, but somehow it persisted. It sat by the door of my heart like an obedient puppy, a pain demanding to be felt. So, I felt it. I felt it singing in the car, finishing my book on the patio, falling asleep, waking up, showering, or sometimes simply gazing at the clouds. These were the days when tears streaked down cheeks like rain on car windows, and I wondered if perhaps tomorrow they'd finally stay dry. For a week they didn't, but there was beauty in that sadness. 

However, let me clarify...there is beauty in some sadness. The moments of sad/mad-ness, the screaming out, sinking into a ball, hitting the dashboard, illogical refusal of hope or help moments are not pretty. Not only physically does it leave you with eyes stinging and forbidding to stay dry (or open), but emotionally it puts you in a dark hole where no one can calm you and where "this hopeful stuff really just isn't helpful anymore." I don't like this kind of sadness and am glad it didn't stick around long. It just wasn't me and it wasn't beautiful. It's just horrible.

I'm the happy girl. I didn't want to be sad, I shouldn't be sad. I had so much to be happy about. I knew I was surrounded by loving family and friends, I knew i'd made the right choice, I knew God loved me, I knew I had so much going for me, and I knew so many other people had better reasons for sorrow. And still, I ached. And still, I cried. "Don't be Sad" was the whisper that entered my ear as my mother's arms enveloped my body. I really wanted to be happy, I did, but it was my time with sadness.

"Grief is not a force and has no power to hold. You only bear it. Love is what carries you, it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery" - Wendell Berry

You can't quit living because the world deals you a tragic twist of fate. Life calls us forward. It calls us into our bodies, our homes, our work, and the ones we most cherish. It bathes us in the passing of time and the taste of healing. It is in the people who offer us love and beckon love from us. It is in the ordinary pleasures of each separate day. It is my realization that I am laughing and smiling again, and that days have passed without the taste of tear soup. It is my acceptance that it is ok if tomorrow tears kiss my cheeks, nose, and lips. For there is beauty in sadness, and this girl is happy for it.