Friday, July 11, 2008

Mules & Singing My Heart

My email to Terry Hershey after reading his piece, “Rested Mules:”*
Dear Terry,
Just read - all the way to the end, because I didn't have TIME before - the piece which said so much about mules.
I suppose it's just god-incidence that I have been thinking about mules so much lately. I'd like to have one, but that's a dream - no place to keep a mule here at Casa Tuel, no pasture, and besides, not enough money to support a mule in style. But I have this idea that I could find a mule strong enough to carry me. I'm large, you know, and heavy.
When I was growing up on the farm, I had a donkey that I rode, and taught tricks: lie down, sit, shake. He taught himself the trick of going under a low apple tree branch when he was tired of me riding him. Later I had a horse but the horse was not so much fun as the donkey.
Well, anyway - I don't know if you read my column in the Loop, so I'll give you the background - last September I was feeling poorly and went to the doctor and discovered that I had bronchitis (which I expected), AND sinusitis AND pneumonia AND mononucleosis (none of which I expected). And I've been recovering ever since. Spent so much of the winter on the couch, knitting. Kept trying to get up and do things - and realized that no, this was not my time for doing things. I felt frustrated that it took so long to get better.
Somehow the last couple of weeks I've been getting this perspective: I'm still not fit enough to go out and get a job or anything serious like that, but I feel better than I had felt in about four years. Leading up to the mono I thought I must have heart disease - I got tired out so easily; I couldn't do the house work anymore.
Now, suddenly, the picture is coming into focus: my heart is, strangely enough when you consider my family history, not in bad shape. Two angiograms confirmed that. I'm starting to think that maybe I was just...tired?
I was raising a grandchild and being a newspaper editor (which meant also reporting and photography) and doing the rest of life - the house, the shopping, household book keeping, writing my column, singing in the church choir - I expected all that of myself. When people asked me to do something I invariably said, "Sure!" And I was in my late 50s.
Now, after all these months of being sick, of being FORCED to rest, the picture is clearing up. I can't do all of everything, can I? I've rested for about ten months now, and I'm starting to feel better, starting to be able to do a few things, and am taking time to rest intentionally instead of going flat out until I keel over, which I see now has always been my pattern.
I'm starting to sing again. Singing and songwriting was my first career - paid little, but meant so much, to me and to other people, and now I'm back to my first holy call.
Daunting to pick it up at age 60. I don't expect to make a lot of money, or if I'll even be able to support this "career," but I'm feeling called to do it again - in a slow, intermittent, as-I-can fashion. Can't push myself too far or too hard. It is interesting to me that after years of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, life, God, is bringing me back to my first calling - singing and songwriting - and that I feel affirmation everywhere for the importance of human hearts singing to one another and singing together. I keep remembering that if one song touches one person and makes them laugh and gives them courage to keep going or even to hope, then I have "done" enough "doing" to make my life worthwhile in the "doing" category. I know that God loves me because I am, but it feeds my soul to know that my work feeds other souls. Know what I mean?
Your sabbath pieces have been with me through these long months of illness and recovery, and have meant so much, and I thank you. They have made me laugh and given me courage to keep going and to hope - and have reminded me that I will "go" and "hope" in better harmony (harmony is important to a singer) with my spirit if I rest and recover. Amazing to me how long it takes for this lesson to sink in, how every time it comes around it sinks, oh, maybe another sixteenth of an inch into my heart and brain. Well, whatever it takes.
So that's my story as of this morning.
*Dear Readers: I am on an emailing list from Terry Hershey. Once a week he sends out “Sabbath Moments.” The latest one, “Rested Mules,” struck a lot of chords with me, and I wrote an email to Terry with my story, which is what I've published here. To read the “Rested Mules” piece which kicked this off, go to Terry’s web page at: and click on “Rested Mules.”
For further inspiration regarding the importance of singing, see the movie, “Amandla,” a documentary about the music that was part of the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa.
I charge you today to sing your heart.

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