Thursday, November 27, 2008

Singing Goodbye

So much of my life is about this gradual loss, this slow dying. So much is out of my control. So little of what happens to me is chosen by me. I think I am going to choose to quit singing now. I know many will try to talk me out of it. I know none of us want to believe that what will happen to me is going to happen. But I believe it. I feel the changes every day and I can't ignore them. That's why I want to walk away from singing with the memory of a good gig and on my own terms. i want my last show to have been with David Rokeach, Jon Evans and John R Burr. There can be no substitutes for them and I've been on a lucky roll having them available, that has to end sometime.

I kept saying to myself at Yoshi's "just be here, Carla" and I was. I basked in it. I felt the warm golden glow of the lights, I thrilled when the band locked into a groove, I was moved by how many former students - some going back more than ten years - were in the audience. I gobbled up Jon's virtuosity and utter commitment on Big Yellow Taxi and I was moved by his songlike solo on I'll be seeing you, I was in awe of David's amazing groove and his passion in executing it and the way his kick drum lands in the perfect spot every fucking time and how it sounds so rich, powerful and resonant. I was grateful for his smile when we did our little duet . John R.'s remarkable versatility was killing me. From his chop-laden solo on The Way You Look Tonight to his bouncy stride on Smile to his unabashedly beautiful solo on Circle Game, he slayed me. I basked in it. The love from the audience poured over me. At one point i thought I couldn't go on and I saw Jay in the audience - someone I only just met from this blog - and I knew I would be okay. I felt bathed in love and I was right there and it was all so beautiful I could barely muster up a good joke all night.

As John R. carried me off stage I realized it was probably the last time and I lost it. It was a momentous night in my life.

It is a rare privilege to get to perform for people - to make them laugh and cry. Except for friends, family and my beautiful boy, nothing has made me happier. I didn't have a choice when I had to quit performing Wedding Singer Blues and I truly thought "dying can't be half as bad as this". If I choose when to stop singing, at least I'll have some control.

My voice used to soar. I felt like I was taking flight when I sang. Now it's all I can do to get the notes out. I know I sound okay but it breaks my heart to remember how I used to sound and know that's no longer possible. It's hard to explain.

It's so hard for us to let go of who we were, what we had and what we dreamt we would be. I wanted to "make it" as a performer, to find "the one" and live happily ever after and of course to watch my son get married and have kids that I could swear in front of. None of that is going to happen for me and yet I feel like a success. Go figure.

I will of course sing now and then - a tune here or there while I can- but I pray I can have the strength to be like those Buddhist Monks destroying the elaborate sand mandalas they just completed. I imagine them hiking up their robes, joyfully kicking up sand and laughing.


Megan Lynch said...

I can understand wanting to choose when you stop singing publicly. However, there might be a reason why you should make sure you sing as much as you can offstage.

I don't know enough about how ALS works to know if this is an issue for you, but: When I got my various RSIs, I kept playing instruments (I'm primarily a vocalist and no great loss to the instrumentalist world, but playing allows me to be independent) for a couple years. But then I began to wonder whether I was making myself worse by doing that. Was my pain greater because I was still playing guitar, banjo, ukulele? So I stopped playing. I didn't get better. But the next time I picked up a guitar again, it was much more painful to play. I hadn't kept the muscles in shape to do it. And to get back in playing shape again would take some pretty painful physical therapy.

I don't know if ALS would work in the way the RSI did, but if there's a chance it does, I'd say you should sing some everyday. Just enjoy that gift as long as you possibly can. If you're anything like me, you enjoy singing for its own sake. As long as it's not physically painful to sing, you might still want to do it for yourself.

bdaul said...

Each note played, each word sung was a gem (IS a gem), a beauty unto itself. Just as you are a gem in humanity. Every life is a gift, some treat the gift well, you certainly do. Those that know you seem to treat YOUR life as a gift to them too. I wish I had a chance to go back further in time with you, but the richness of your life comes through your words and you voice.

Your voice doesn't have to roar to be heard and loved. You have touched me. Thanks for you blog.


Yuri B. said...

It was a beautiful performance and the last song was -- like, seriously, if there was a man in the audience that didn't feel like a teary-eyed girl after it, than that man was Hitler (did you know Hitler was there? He even bought a CD!)

Carla, where can people go to buy your CDs? Is there an online location? I want to post it on the Break a Leg blog and hopefully get you some sales.

Thank you for the great show. And for everything else you've done for me.


Anonymous said...

keep singing your heart out
keep singing
please don't stop
it does not have to be in public
privately will do fine
for you not to sing
would be like a bird on its last legs not to fly. birds on their last legs fly. they do. sing. like a bird. do.

Anonymous said...

a heart never stops singing.....



Anonymous said...

Your voice is great, whether you sing publicly or not. We are all lucky we have your CD's. I played yours for friends at Thanksgiving and they marveled at your talent. Then I told them of your journey and they marveled at you. That makes you marvelous, singing, speaking, sitting, doesn't matter. Your very existence is a thing of beauty to behold.

bdaul said...

I was thinking about how as one passes through time one has to give things up...whether playing on the monkey bars or giving up a favorite food. Those stops along the way happen to us all.

I read your sweet words about giving up singing. I also read someone's comments about keep singing and that sweetened my feelings. Just thinking that you might be at home singing to yourself would be a joy to know. Even if you are the only one in your view...all of us can hear it whether we know it or not.

I had to give something up that meant a lot to me. I was a white water rafting guide for 25 years until a child on one of our trips in my boat drowned. I just couldn't keep taking friends or customers. It was hard...I miss it a lot. For fun during the summer I splash water in my face... :-) ... the simple things.

If you can't sing then hummmmmm.


Anonymous said...

I read the last comment about giving something up you care about. I had to do that this weekend, a ten year project of creating a theatre dept. And I decided I would give it up 100% after reading your blog. Not have anything to do with the whole messy hiring process. And you know what? It feels great. Why struggle..merely look back and enjoy the accomplishments and find new ways to shine in your life. Thanks for once again sharing your insights. They really do help others. J

Anonymous said...

My wife and I saw (and heard) your show on Wednesday and enjoyed hearing you sing and the playing of your band. We are very impressed with the way that you sang and the humor that you gave so quickly. We both hope that it wasn't your last, but if it was, we will always remember your charm and strength

Anonymous said...

What Maggie said.....

Anonymous said...

It was amazing to see you on Wednesday, Carla. It was a fluke I was there. I saw Robin and she told me of your performance. I'm so glad I was able to be there. I brought a dear friend of mine, Melinda. We both choked up on the last song. Thank you for your courage. I'd love to drop by and see you. I hope you keep singing. I love your voice.

Anonymous said...

It is a difficult thing to let something go that means so much to you. The fact that someday you may no longer be able to physically sing will be a great hardship, but remember, for all of us you have made your life sing, and that is truly a blessing.

Anonymous said...

The Singers I Prefer

The singers I prefer are the ones
who have to struggle.

Famously,there is Bob Dylan, and Robert Plant who might have sung lower but didn't. And now there is this Beth Orton who seems to be singing through a wall. Through a wall?

I would really like to get this
right. Granted, the perfect voices on the radio today singing the "Ode to Joy" made me cry but I was thinking — in between the floating, the deep hunger of dream-memories — of deaf Beethoven locked in his smelly room,
Beethoven who probably never had a woman groan his name in the clutch, scribbling each note at an audience of clefs and inkwells.

It was after her face had been scarred in the accident, when her mouth would only open on one side, when it tasted of acrid medicines and something deathlike that I saw for the first time how beautiful M was, how damn funny.

If not through a wall, then through some almost crippling pain, the kind that threatens to blot out all the sweetness, even the bursting through of a hundred ecstatic voices in a pickup truck in Bangor, Maine, in a snowstorm, after a long sadness.

Christian Barter
The Singers I Prefer
CavanKerry Press

Blessings, Carla. You are the singer we all prefer.


Anonymous said...

We should have a funeral for all you've lost so far. So, you can have a proper grieving of freedoms and skills that have passed, followed by a rousing wake at which we raise our glasses and choke on laughter as we remember the good times.

That seems to be the thing about living with/dying of ALS, you are alone for so many mini-deaths. Why shouldn't the death of "singing a concert" have the same pomp and circumstance as any other death? Why should you have to grieve alone?

Anonymous said...

Sweet Carla,

You will always sing in our hearts.


Pat H.