In the early eighties, I went through a period of discouragement much as I am going through now. There were two things I did to try to strengthen myself. I started going to church and I started going for walks. The first two things led to a third thing–I started to sing.
It wasn’t planned. There was a dirt path off the country road I lived on that led into a private woods. There was a hunting cabin back there. And behind the hunting cabin, there was the loveliest piece of pristine nature one could find anywhere. I would go back there and sit on a tree stump and listen to the birds calling. If I sat there long enough, I began to understand what the birds were singing about. They were expressing their joy. They were jamming with the other birds and the crickets and tree frogs. Their song would slowly hush my noisy mind until I become like a whisper and blended into the woods. And then one day, after listening to the birds, I just opened up my heart and started singing, “The Lord bless you and ke-ep you. The Lord make his face to shine up-o-on you. And be gracious…unto you…”
The most amazing thing about this singing was that I couldn’t sing. Never could. I never sang in school and not much in church. I never had enough confidence in my voice. But the song that rose up out of my self and reached into the treetops was crystal clear and on-key. It surprised me. I thought I might be hearing my real singing voice for the first time. Encouraged, I sang the benediction again and again, and with each repetition, my voice grew stronger and surer until, I think, even the birds were listening. They sang a little quieter and came a little closer. They didn’t light on my shoulders as they did for Snow White, but I felt we were friends.
I sang in the woods every day that summer. And the problems that had seemed so insurmountable in my life began to fade.
I was reminded of that summer this morning as I was driving my car into the heat of the city. I’d been to church on Sunday and the choir had sung John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Suddenly, I opened my mouth and started singing, “You may sa-ay I’m a dreamer…but I’m not the only…one. I hope someday you will join us. And the wo-orld will be as one.”
I hadn’t sung in years. Again, the voice was better than I know my voice to be. And the more I repeated the refrain, the surer and stronger my voice became. Because I now have Empty Nose Syndrome, this unexpected gift of a singing voice was an even bigger surprise than it was in the early eighties. I didn’t sing in church last Sunday. It felt like too much of an effort as I was out of breath just from the exertion of standing. I tried to push out a few syllables and it sort of sounded like “anh.”
As I wove through the traffic, belting out “Imagine,” I entertained thoughts about the effect of singing on the physiological condition of Empty Nose Syndrome. It occurred to me that I was exercising my lungs and diaphragm, and parts of my nose, throat and face, which have all been adversely affected by this condition. Surely, I was bringing more circulation into these areas . And I was definitely giving my heart a lift. I don’t know where the strength came from to belt out a song like that when sometimes, I am too winded to speak. Or maybe I do.
I highly recommend it—sing.