“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Our experiences shape and make us into the people we are today. But that does not clarify who we really are or for that matter what we are passionate about or what we want from life or what our purpose is.
We develop beliefs and values albeit good and not so good from our environment. The pressure from society to conform plays the biggest role in how these virtues are developed.
When I was younger, I thought academic achievement and fitting in defined my self-worth.
The sunrise cast a warm glow through my picture window early on that early Monday morning in February, 1965. Dad is sitting at the piano in our living room making last-minute notations on the songs for rehearsal later today. He is my five a.m. wake up call. I would hear dulcet tones sending a breath of notes across my mind to the beat of my existence. It was a series of riffs and changes with a syncopated harmonic intent. It had a rhythm that majestically brought a sense of devotion to each note. The sound of him hitting each piano key gave the house a mystery, transforming life and setting our house apart from the rest of the houses on Wilton Place….
…Growing up, I was the “native” daughter of a 60s Jazz arranger/conductor where the reining tradition was parents (‘rents) had the final word. I slump down in my seat staring out the window trying to recover. I feel betrayed. Deep down inside I always felt like I was a visitor especially when it came to expressing my feelings and even more so in the world. To me being mixed race or checking the “Other” box is a perfect witness to my life. My father was a very complicated man of contradictions. So reading and writing poems became my escape. It liberated me from the labyrinths of insuperable gender and race biases that tend to dissipate little girls like me.
I would hole up in my room for hours overhearing myself admit difficult truths that I could not hide from. It welcomed creative inspirations into my sensory consciousness. It gave me the chance to explore and discover the province of sound and words. I found my rhythm. Mom taught me how to read when I was 3. I was eleven years old when I had fallen in love with sound, art and most of all words. Dad throughout all the civil rights Tsunami did not faze him because he was driven to do the best on all levels for the upcoming Festival. I followed suit in my own little way. I survived by living in disguise. Since I was very young, the sanctity of my bedroom provided a canvas where I hoped, dreamed, set my own values and aspirations. When I left my room I had to leave them behind like my books and other treasures tucked away on a shelf nestled in the opposite corner of the room. I knew that Dad loved me, not without surrendering and bartering my own thoughts and feelings when he told me what I was supposed to want. Dad repeatedly drummed into me that …being a doctor is where it’s at. My foray into the jazz world began when I could feel my father’s intensity and determination given to each note; I mirrored that sensation into words at my desk. I discovered and accepted the gifts and talents that Grandpa used to tell me… were gifts God gave me. I let go of my family “persona” free to let my imagination come alive and tap into my personal sense of purpose and who I really am. Early mornings I would lie in bed hearing the music climb the stairs, it had a purpose, it had an intent – it was harmonic, it had a rhythm that grabbed my heart and rendered the beats to prepare me to go to my desk open my curtains and let the burst of the morning gently touch my face. Jazz was transformative. I was paralyzed by the feeling of losing my father’s love if I chose to follow my star. I needed for him to tell me things would be okay. That he would help me, encourage me, teach me the way things are in the world I was living. How did he do it? Every time I tried to step out of the role he created in the song he wrote for me, he would resist. So I would withdraw and try to convince myself that he knows what’s best for me. I was so conflicted when he would teach me how to sight sing from sheet music, take me to his rehearsals and ask what instrument I wanted to learn how to play? There were definitely rules of conduct and engagement with others in the Jazz world. There were two distinct behaviors, one associated with our home and private life and the one associated with our public life. I spent most of the time in my room. There the only rule was to be myself.
So here are suggested secret habits of Jazz Living that I learned that have helped me to find myself:
- You do not have to prove or define your worth.
It is not up for debate. You cannot change your circumstance by saying If I do everything my parents or loved one wants then I will be accepted or loved. Not only is that self-deprecating and destructive it places your value outside of who you really are…worthy of love, respect, and compassion.
- Take 5 to explore different things to find the things you enjoy.
Begin by having a mindfulness meditation on what things you would do if you were stranded on an island or in the country or even a big city and see what you would like to do and need. Would you need a guitar, books, art supplies, a camera or would you run or dance in place or create a movie? Explore what makes you feel comforted, and what comes naturally to you. You can sign up for classes in dance, guitar lessons, listen to a different music to find out what resonates with you.
- Let go of expectations. Be yourself!
Stop worrying about what the outcome will be. Others have always tried to help me to find myself and granted that was wonderful but what I learned from the musicians when I went to their rehearsals was you have to discovers what makes you tick. What gives you joy and what gives you pause. Let your inner soul free to fly or sail to where ever it may lead you.
- Take care of yourself.
Follow your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to yourself. Give yourself a break at least, well in my case, a hundred times a day. If something isn’t going the way I want it to, step back and see what it is you really want from the situation.
- Fitting in is not the name of the game.
“The real treasure is not reaching your destination; it’s getting the most out of the journey.”
When you are living in the moment and being yourself you will attract authentic and lasting friendships into your life. People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
Your life is not set in stone. You are the creator of your life and the choices you make. You are Awesome and if someone tells you otherwise, tell them Haters Not Allowed. Peace and Love Out! JBC 😎 & ❤
© Copyright 2011-2016 by Jazzybeatchick/JazZenista/Jannat Marie. All Rights Reserved.
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