For the past month, I have been struggling with tendinitis in both of my arms. Needless to say, my ukulele playing time went from daily to nonexistent. I’ve injured myself in the past and know far too well that the healing process will take longer if I don’t listen to my body and take care in the beginning.
But the time away from songwriting has cost me. Not financially (it is not like I have the CD or thousands of fans and performances to tend to) but psychologically. I started learning how to compose music just over a year ago, and my confidence in the songwriting realm still leaves something to be desired. It is like each new melody that comes out of me as a surprise to my inner critic.
Me: Wow, this sure feels good to sing. I love singing, and I am feeling happy just to be creating something.
Inner critic: well, just don’t get too comfortable. This melody might feel good, but it also may be the last creative breath that comes out of your body.
While I would love to say that my response is an emphatic “screw you,” this would not be entirely honest. Truth be told, the meaning of the above dialogue haunts me in between each creative endeavor. Sometimes, song ideas and melodies come easily, and this is both exciting and a relief. other times, a song reveals itself slowly and with more tedium and effort. With each new song, it is as though I am proving to myself that I really am a songwriter, musician, an artist.
In the absence of visiting with my ukulele each day, I have kept busy. I’m a doctoral candidate in the Sustainability Education program at Prescott College, so time for writing is a precious commodity. The irony, of course, is that the focus of my dissertation is sustainability at the individual level and the path that I have followed to become more sustainable, which greatly involves becoming a musician in my adult life and learning to write songs from spoken stories.
So, can I be sustainable without the use of my arms?
One of my all – time favorite songs is “rise up singing” by Daisy Mae. I sing the song to lift my spirits when I’m feeling down or hopeless. The verse that means the most to me goes like this:
And when you’re left standing with no hope inside
Cause at the end of the tunnel someone’s been dimming the lights
Well you can lose your way and end up far from home,
Till the day you lose your voice you can not lose your song
So, I guess the lesson here is that even without my beloved ukulele, I can be a sustainable human being. I have only to tilt my head back, raise my chin, and let whatever is inside out and whatever arc of notes my inner voice needs or wants to share with the world.