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iii. COVID anecdotes

At the end of December 2023, about five days before I caught COVID, I had prayed a specific prayer to the Universe. Out loud, I pleaded, if I were going to get sick with something, then may it pleeeeeease be after the month of January.

I uttered this same prayer out loud to my parents, whom I was visiting, and we all knocked on wood, a classic superstitious tradition. 

I was in the midst of a year-long stint of having not caught any viruses, despite the many going around, and was working hard to prepare a challenging piece of music for an upcoming performance in the third week of January for which I felt I needed all the dedicated practice time I could get, and had felt that my practicing was going the best it could have at my current level of skill.

I was motivated and excited to remain on the trajectory on which I found myself. 

I was very fortunate in the year 2023, through the work with a great teacher, a lot of personal research, trying and searching and finding, and a handful of eye-opening and door-opening experiences to begin to make the type of progress with my voice I had hoped to make for a long time. Many important experiences took place throughout the year; some of them happening in fairly rapid succession. 

...Then life hit, as life does. 

Such things are never planned and most often very inconvenient. 

As the virus hit and took over my upper respiratory system, I began to cough and the easy, free, and effortless head voice function of my voice disappeared along with about two octaves of my range. 

When realizing the performance wouldn't be possible, I reckoned with all of the feelings that tend to accompany such things: sadness, disappointment, and frustration with the situation which I directed at the Universe, whom I immediately accused of simply not liking me because I had only asked for one thing, and that request was denied. 

Of course, I get that we cannot ask whatever greater power may or may not exist for things we want and expect all of our requests to be immediately granted simply because we want them to be true. I have lived enough life to learn that it doesn’t work that way, nor should we expect it to, nor would it be good for us if it did...

Yet, the "it isn’t fair" feeling we often have in such situations is legitimate and valid and okay, even if it doesn't change the reality of things.

When reality hits and reality hurts, allowing space for the accompanying frustration, sadness, and disappointment is a valuable part of the process. 

Frustration, sadness, and disappointment can be doors to our souls in a certain way. 

They can be indicators of what matters to us, of what our priorities are.

I had been looking forward to continuing with the progress I had made and having the chance to present my hard work on stage as a means of both sharing that work and sharing a part of my soul with others. This desire to connect to myself through my art and connect to others through sharing it with them has not disappeared in the face of the illness; rather, it has had to take a different form. In this case, it has to follow a different timeline than I had originally wanted and planned. However, after many years of feeling quite disconnected from my art and struggling to believe that I deserve to share my art on stage, these feelings indicated something really important to me: they indicated my growth as an artist and my growth in my humanity. 

Sitting with these feelings and this reality has been challenging, but it has also been softening:

softening into the acceptance that things happened differently than I wanted them to, softening into the uncertainty of what is to come, softening into the inability to change the things that are. 

Accepting difficulty without desperately clinging to the desire to change often takes the form of a difficult lesson, but if we are willing to look for it, can also allow for space and for a different type of coming home to ourselves as who we truly are. 

Now, 11 days after being infected, still coughing some and not yet feeling completely healthy, I am doing my best to practice softening into the acceptance of the way things have gone and also the uncertainty of how the timing of my recovery will play out.

I am still sad about it, still disappointed and unsure.

If I am honest, I would have loved to enter into my last semester of school as a sort of “singing superhero”, improving each day until my final performance, having the chance to exhibit these improvements onstage, finishing school, graduating, and then continuing to improve every day for the rest of my career… sounds idyllic, right? 

Today, doing a small amount of light singing and hearing the work I have ahead of me to gain back what was lost in the last 12 days feels daunting. 

However, the feelings I experienced over the last week have taught me some important things:

  1. Feelings can serve as a reminder of the depth of our care. In this case, my passion for this work existed long before COVID and will continue to exist long after it, too. This is an alternate route on my journey that I wouldn’t have chosen, but happened anyway. The journey might be somewhat bumpier than I had envisioned or take longer than planned, but I am still on the path.

  2. Acknowledging feelings and letting them be allows us a less painful way through things. Accepting the reality of something without resisting it and still leaving space for the feelings around it allows us to connect with ourselves empathetically. If I cannot change what happened, I can still choose to allow my sadness about it to be present: I accept, I am sad, I comfort myself. 

  3. When I accept my current situation, I can grow into something else. Through my years of singing, I have experienced resistance in many phases. Many times I didn’t like what I heard while singing, feeling dissatisfied with the process, my sound, and myself, and this resistance made practicing more difficult and often painful. As I attempted to hum several days ago and felt my voice completely stop phonating when reaching my head voice register, there was nothing to do but accept it. In the past, I likely would have pushed my voice so as to be able to cling to my understanding of reality, of the sound I would have expected to be available to me. Though I no longer push myself or voice the way I would have then, the sadness and frustration are present nonetheless. I am learning, though, that this acceptance is what allows us to move on and ultimately improve in the ways we desire. First I accept what I hear/see/feel/experience, then what I hear/see/feel/experience can heal and blossom into something new.

So, as I work on building my voice back up again after this illness, I start each practice session practicing the acceptance of what currently is and isn’t available to me, even when grappling with feeling the weight of the loss of what was.

It is valuable to allow ourselves to sit with the frustration of setbacks.

They can throw us off track, but like all detours,

can show us new landscapes and provide us new chances.


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