If you’re a product of this culture, you’ve probably had the experience of explicitly or implicitly being asked, “Who do you think you are to… (fill in the blank)? Perhaps you’ve internalized that question and have let it stop you from doing/being the best you can do or be.
This came up for me years ago when I decided to start writing songs. I have no formal training in music, play “survival” piano mostly for my own therapeutic enjoyment, have a good ear thanks to genetics, and am a believer in, and happy recipient of, magic in my life. I figured that qualified me to write music.
Like most things in my life, I learn by doing—sometimes by doing poorly and making many adjustments as I take in new information. I’m not good at reading how-to books or studying manuals, then applying the knowledge as are a lot of my friends. Yes, I’m envious, but I’ve learned to make friends with my own learning style which has become the key to unlocking the stranglehold of “who do you think you are” in my life, and has allowed me to at least try things that call to me.
About five years ago I was driving along the highway to the coast, through acres of rolling vineyards spotted with redwood groves--the best Northern California has to offer—when my eye was caught by a raven cavorting around in the sky, glistening black against a blue so pure and bright it made my eyes water. The way this large bird caught the air currents, coasted, dipped, dove, and sailed entranced me. I pulled off the road on a gravel turn-around.
The moment I turned off the ignition, a tune began drifting through my mind, a beautiful, haunting tune that I couldn’t place. As I watched the raven sail over the vineyard words started appearing somewhere just behind my eyes. It was the strangest phenomenon. I truly felt this music was being channeled from some place other than the moment, right through my mind and body, and it was imperative that I write it down. Write it down? On what? I read music, but I don’t write it (or so I thought).
I fished around in the back seat of my car for some table paper, found a pen under the front seat where I vaguely remember it falling several weeks ago, and began madly jotting down symbols to indicate where the melody went up or down, where there were pauses, what the feeling tone of the music was, and the lyrics as best as I could capture them. I was a woman possessed. Totally focused, totally in the moment. I have no idea how much time passed. Now that I think of it, it was similar to giving birth--same all-absorbing event that takes over your life completely as it passes through you and leaves you altered forever after.
Unlike giving birth (for me anyway), that experience was to be the first of a series of song-catching events that has led me to a collection of over forty-eight songs to date. Sometimes they spring on me in the shower, sometimes in the middle of a conversation, or while sitting in the hot tub, or stopped at a red light. If we’re in conversation and you notice that glazed look come over my eyes, I’m not bored, I’m probably hearing a new melody. If I start tapping my foot, it’s a dead give-away.
I didn’t make it all the way to the ocean that day. I turned around, came home with my sheet of notebook paper in hand, and sat down at my daughter’s little Casio keyboard. I figured out which notes went best with the scratch marks I’d made, drew five lines of a music staff, and placed the notes in their proper place. I struggled some with the math—how do you get the right number of beats per measure, where do the rests need to go? And what the heck key is this in? It was a feeble attempt at manifesting a miracle, but I did it.
What I want you to know is that there is nothing special about me. You could do this too, whether you catch a song or create it from your innermost self that wants expression. You don’t have to know HOW to do it already. I’ve taken my raw material to “the experts” who’ve smiled lovingly, praised my efforts, and told me that music actually has a form. A form? Yes—there is a particular way in which you structure how the verses, chorus, and bridge appear. And there needs to be congruency with the lyrics. Well, I’ll be darned. Who knew?? So, now I’m learning that. Someday, I will have my music available so that anyone could sit down and play it. I may even figure out how to transfer it from my music file onto a blog page. Who knows, I might even try a CD, or a music video. The sky’s the limit.
Who do I think I am? I’m just me, doing the best I can at allowing creation to express itself through me. Who do you think you are? Please let me know. And, know that I already believe you are a miracle expressing.