Whether you believe you have a soul, a personality, or that you are a random blip in a succession of universes, within your person is the very you of you. I’m describing the you that is only you and no one else on the planet. You know you’re not me or your sister or brother. You are you. You have a mind and emotions that feel, think, and imagine. You have a body that has mobility and senses. You have a gender. You’re able to communicate in a number of ways — non-verbally through expressions, with language, with your whole body, and of course with music. Creativity, and specifically songwriting, ought to be the natural outworking of the whole person simply being what he or she is, human.
In that first class all I could think about were Madonna’s biceps. It was the late 1990s, and Madonna had recently become as famous for her toned physique (attributed to her recent interest in yoga) as for her music. As I looked at myself in the mirror of the studio, awkwardly trying to follow the instructor’s gentle guidelines, I wondered if Madge’s muscle tone would be a happy by-product of my journey into health. “Bring your attention to the breath,” the instructor said, while gently lifting my hips, which were already trembling from exertion. Madonna, her biceps, and my own body scampered away from my attention, as I shifted that attention to my breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. On my way home on the subway, faced with the mild anxiety that always seemed to accompany me into cramped spaces, I tried to do the same. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.
It all seemed almost like my own, that was true. But as early romance gave way to marriage, I realized that it is one thing to be from somewhere, to know it by heart, and another to adopt a place or have it chosen for you. My marriage chose Atlanta for me, and I was then adopted by my husband’s many circles of friends. Yet until our last year or so there, though, I had an indistinct feeling of being on the outside looking in — someone who belonged more by association than creed.
By sheer will, I managed to remain horizontal, feet obediently planted firmly on the wall of rock. While gaining a small victory over the battle waging within, I remembered the young girl who was dangling on a rope beside me. Surely, she must be terrified. To be helpless, at the mercy of another, and to be unable to see seemed unimaginable. She was completely vulnerable.
Yet she was smiling. And laughing.