Taking Up Space

Dancing at Village Harmony Camp in Vermont, 2014

Dancing at Village Harmony Camp in Vermont, 2014

Today has been one big reflection on the past year. For me, this brings nostalgia and some regrets too. It started with me looking through my photo files on my computer, which I was only doing because I found a was running out of space on my phone, due to the 400 photos I was storing on it! When I finally have time to myself, one thing always leads to another and before I knew it, I was feeling tearful about all that has occurred in my life during the past, oh. . . say. . . 35 years!

In August of 2014 I was in Quebec, Canada¬†with someone I hardly knew, meeting new French-speaking friends at a week-long singing class (in French! I don’t speak French). We continued on to Vermont, to meet up with friends I had made earlier that summer at a singing camp in Oregon. Singing is what we had in common and it was this that brought us all freedom. In Quebec, our small class took instruction from Frank Kane, vocal teacher extraordinaire.

During the week in Quebec, I learned a surprising amount, despite my lack of French and probably because I am surprisingly good at reading body language. I found that by watching, I could pick up the main idea of what was going on. All of us sang in the Georgian language, which was unfamiliar to us all, and which is easy to pronounce because it is phonetic. Frank Kane worked with all of us as individuals and as small groups. He gently encouraged us to participate in the various activities–some of which required quite a bit of bravery for this introvert! We sang with heads next to others’ heads to feel vibrations, to sing with one leg in the air behind us and one arm stretched out in front to create asymmetry.

At one point, late in the week, I sang with a group of two others: the three of us creating close harmony and feeling the sound waves vibrating between us as we stood in the center of the circle. Frank’s comment to me was this: “Jaqui, your voice is lovely. People would come to hear it–they might pay to hear it even. But I’m wondering when we might hear the other 85% of your energy come through.” I remember this striking an immediate cord with me because it is exactly how I had come to view the way of living I’d been participating in for the past 15 years.

Before taking this class with Frank Kane, I’d decided I was only taking up a very small corner of the dance floor of my life; I was determined to change that. And this is what took me to Quebec with someone I hardly knew, in order to take a class in a language I didn’t know before¬†traveling on to Vermont to reunite with new friends. Frank’s observation seemed like an further epiphany to me and an apt metaphor for how I wanted to spend the rest of my life: using up all 100% of my energy to express what I think and feel to those around me.

What I’m learning is that when one expresses oneself in this way (100%), one is going to have to learn to deal with conflict, which is not something this introvert, Mennonite-raised girl knows much about because I’ve become good at skirting around conflict for most of my life. So regrets? Yes, quite a few. Nostalgia? Yes for those times when I felt free and welcome even to be myself. I’m not sure I’m taking up any more space on the dance floor, but I think so. How’s that for starters?

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