I am waiting in the doctor surgery with Michael. I should be in my driving lesson right now but I am far too ill. Too far into this months money to pay for another lesson. Take That is playing, I am singing, Michael is shushing. ‘Rest your voice.’ He says. I sing along to everything. Except now I can’t because I feel claws in my throat. Bubbles in my chest. I am laughing between the few words I can squeeze out and I think I’m cute. I think it is funny. I go into the doctors office. A few days ago I was singing ‘last night I had a bad dream’ with J Cole at the 02 Arena. The following morning I wake up and I can’t speak. I come here because I could not stop coughing. ‘Open wide’ he says. ‘Take two of these tablets four times a day’ he says, ‘we will treat it as Laryngitis‘. The doctor is sweet and unfamiliar, but something doesn’t feel right about taking a drug I can’t pronounce, a drug he didn’t even say what it comprised. So I scrunch up the prescription and put it in my pocket. Give me a week, I tell myself.
I spend the next five days at home, healing. Tucked in early and speaking little, singing even less. I remember visiting my aunty on her 56th birthday a few months ago. We drank Martini, ate carrot cake and turnt up. Just a touch. She’s not a fan of the ‘soft’ music I listen to. So we listen to Migos, K-Michelle, she shows me the rappers Swagg Dinero and Jojo. I’m more of a Sabrina Claudio, Amel Larrieux kind of girl. But Créole music intertwines us like vines running through our blood, it wraps itself around our hearts. So we sing. And when we sing fantasies tear like velcro from my chest. When we sing the moment stretches so wide I melt into it, I am free in it. ‘You have a lovely voice’ she says. ‘I can’t believe you are wasting your talent like that. If you have a voice you should sing.’ I was silent and tense but touched. It felt like an invitation.
I have been reading the book A Mind of Your Own and I am bewitched. I am learning that the body is a delicate web of intricacies that has an intelligence stunningly deeper than our minds can comprehend. I have been alone since I was 16 and in some ways I have felt the intuitive pull of my body. It knows what it needs. I know that making tea with fresh mint leaves relieves me of headaches. I know that when I make hot water with lemon everyday for a fortnight my skin begins to glow. I have learned that raw ginger boiled with honey, bay leaves and lemon (or lime) washes away colds and leaves me feeling strong- solar plexus on fire strong. Ever since I began my period I would be in crippling pain. On my first day I would vomit (sometimes even vomit blood) I would get back ache and feel weak and severe pain. Perhaps because like so many women, my womb is riddled with secrets. In 2016 I began to meditate fervently and my periods got significantly better. Now I rarely feel pain and I am endlessly grateful.
After days spent cleansing my lungs in the sauna and steam room, chewing garlic, and home made herbal teas I am well enough to attend Lemn Sissay’s Happiness Workshop. I arrive late to an echoey chamber to a soft spoken group who’s words whisper off the walls. I go straight in and within moments I am so deep inside the experience I can barely remember what was said. Moreso what I felt. All the feelings I have no words for come up for me. The words I do speak hang in the air like ribbons. ‘I resent the people I love.’ ‘I have felt that too.’ They say. Here I am not being hushed. I am not being told what I feel is wrong. Here what I feel is valid. Here I am reminded of the legitimacy of my voice. I would like to tell you so much more about this, but I know I am just not there yet.
At times I am awful at being honest. I am terribly good at justifying my not saying how I feel. How important it seems to wait for the right time. I’ll call them later, instead of telling them now because I want my words to set in a particular way. My silence is my suffering. Especially on matters that affect me deeply. And no matter how many times I pull myself out of this pattern, I find myself dragged back into this torrent of self slaying. One would think that sea monsters had me by the throat. Communication is probably the weightiest gift of the universe and I still find myself failing at it miserably.
But then I look and I see that over the years I have become much better. Now I choke on words that would have had me suffocate. And since here is one of the few places I feel safe enough to use my voice, I want to say, though it cringes me, that I love to sing. Since I was a girl I have had an endless desire to express myself, and I have always been enchanted by music. By the time I could use words I’d declared to the world that I would be a singer. And then I grew.
I took the things people said and I buried them. ‘It is very difficult to be a singer’, ‘stop singing’ or ‘you can’t sing.’ I became embarrassed of the thing I loved the most and became ashamed of myself for even wanting it. But desire is a wicked thing that does not die. It tiptoes into trails into footprints that leave signatures on everything you do. Though I tell myself that my voice isn’t good enough and while I have no idea how I will create music that is beautiful, I still find myself yearning to do it. And the universe is relentless in presenting me with opportunities to do so.
Laryngitis, in a twisted way may have been my greatest gift this year. A lesson in healing, a reminder that when I am not watering I am wilting. I want to find my voice, and I hope the Dream Giver, if she still waits for me, will create a space for it.
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While writing this blog I found out that a friend from my childhood passed away. I would like to share with the world a tribute I wrote in her memory…
Jessica, you were one of the first friends I made when I was 11, when Birmingham was new to me and I knew no one my age. You were beautiful and open and at a time I felt very alone, it meant so much to me to call someone a friend. How we used to sing together in JJ’s choir and how I dreamed I had a voice as gorgeous and powerful as yours. Though we haven’t seen or spoken in years and though it saddens me to know that the world has lost your voice I am so grateful that you sang your song. The hole you have left is tremendous.
Rest in sweet, sweet peace Jessica Rose Salkeld xxx