I was working with a singer, let’s call her Jill, and I could see as she singing she was holding her body rigid and her chest was tight so that the air couldn’t work with the sound of her voice. She was bracing against her self. I asked her to allow herself to bend over and let her air to come out in a relief exhale, still nothing, no release, no relief. Then I said, “allow the collapse to happen” and boom her body finally let go. It was as if she finally got the permission she needed to collapse and let go of being strong, together, competent, brave, and, whatever it means to be a woman in this day and age. Bullet proof. Stand up straight, shoulders back, suck in your stomach, posture ladies!
As I have been working with singers these days I have been noticing this rigidity more than ever, this stoic strength and the ‘I can do it all’ posturing in the body. Jill shared with me that day that there was a collapse in her body that had not been felt through and that in fact she needed to let it happen. As she shared you could see the tears starting to come and the much needed collapsing coming to soften her and release her from the need to be strong and braced against these tidal waves of unexpressed emotions.
A posturing of strength when it’s not authentic strength is a heartbeat away from defense and armoring. The singing voice always will tell us the truth about our posturing, whether or not it is authentic, or, a bullet proof front. This collapse I speak of here is usually thought of as a weakness, a failure of sorts. Working with a group of women in my Express Yourself class I shared this experience of the collapse and you could feel the collective agreement of this unfelt collapse in the room and see the nodding of heads, somewhat tentative for sure, but it was there. The acknowledgment of something that didn’t happen fully inside, a grieving that wasn’t allowed all in the name of the necessary need to suck it up and carry on like a brave soldier, a bullet proof one.
Women are amazing, courageous, multifaceted, complex beings able to leap tall billings in a single bound! Yes, but what is the cost of leaving our vulnerability and softness behind? Our singing voice reflects this hardening and so do our lives and our bodies. Our accomplishments and our hurdles become the benchmarks of success instead of our capacity to feel, which is a wondrous and magical gift. We know when we are cut off emotionally and feeling empty. Our society applauds this strength and others want to be like you, strong and brave, but you know the cost inside, somewhere you know that the cost outweighs the benefit by far.
True strength is not in spite of vulnerability but a balance of both, a spectrum where strength is on one side and vulnerability is on the other, and they both see each other, they are a team.
Strength in the absence of vulnerability is defensiveness, and vulnerability without strength can quickly turn to victim mentality and feeling alone. To return to this balance can sometimes require a collapse, a white flag, a crumbling and falling down. Yes you will dust yourself off and pick yourself up but on your terms this time, in your time and on no one else’s watch. When you are good and ready thank you very much.
To be a witness and a guide to voices waking up, beginning to feel and to express themselves and all range of messiness that comes with the territory is indeed a beautiful thing. I am included and benefited in this always and as I give you permission to collapse, or not, to sing and to feel or to scream and be who you are in all your living colour, you give me the permission to do the same. I am in awe of this process and extremely grateful indeed.