That Year That I Couldn’t Sing

Last week marked a year since I was last able to sing properly.

It has been far and away the most frustrating year of my life.

I am still yet to finish my Masters; I have been unable to lead worship for ages; and, perhaps most gallingly of all, I can’t break into Destiny’s Child – ‘Independent Women’ whenever anyone says ‘question.’

When life aims its burning arrows and flings its monkey poo at me in this manner, singing would usually be my default response. Which rather puts me in an awkward position.

Sure, I have perspective – in and of itself there are far worse afflictions than the loss of one’s singing voice. But being prevented from doing the things you love – stuff that you feel, at least to some extent, you were put on earth to do – is infuriating to a degree far beyond that which my own eloquence allows me to convey.

I feel like R2-D2 without C-3PO. Like Ant without Dec. Like a Christian guitarist without a delay pedal. A multinational company without tax to avoid. A Man United fan without a smug sense of self-satisfaction. A B7 without an E minor to resolve to.

(See? I told you about the eloquence thing.)

The strong desire to punch a wall is a familiar one.

And I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be doing about it. I worry that what I am doing is horribly wrong. That if I had approached it all differently then I wouldn’t still be stuck here. Maybe it’s all in my head.

Every so often it feels like it’s starting to get better. My hopes rise, and I think maybe this is finally the beginning of the end. Only for the all-too-familiar yet oh-so-unwelcome tensions, aches, pains and restrictions to return and bring me tumbling to earth again like a turtle that wandered into a pile of discuses.

To quote the marvellous, moustachioed maestro Foy Vance, sometimes hope deals the hardest blows.

But I don’t want to be melodramatic; I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’ve been depressed this whole time. Far from it! And I’m not writing this to try and extract some sympathy from you. I’m so aware that there are so many others on whom your sympathy would be much better spent. Indeed, many of yourselves included.

Besides, I’m a bit sick of sympathy. Tired of disappointing people when they ask if it’s better. Fed up of the irony of my voice hurting as I explain the situation.

So why am I writing this then? Well, it’s cathartic for one. Honesty is important and relieving. We don’t just strain our facial muscles when we try to constantly force out a smile.

And perhaps my honesty can help someone else. And if not, I’m sure it’s helped me.

I’ve never been one to blame God in these situations – it doesn’t appeal to my logic whatsoever. But I have had my fair share of questions and doubts for Him in this time. I’m not afraid of that. His shoulders are big enough.

But I have voiced my complaints and been met with silence. I have struggled to understand. Why my voice? Why now? Why has it gone on for so long? Have I not been healed because I don’t have enough faith? Or are there other reasons? Things that I have to learn first? Does it even work like that? I don’t think so somehow.

I just don’t know though. And that is one of the few conclusions I’ve drawn so far: that actually I don’t know a lot. And that’s ok. I don’t think life is as simple as just the answers to a few questions.

I can often think that the goal is to be gliding through life like a possum on ice skates, knowing all the answers and understanding everything – even when times are difficult.

But maybe that was never meant to be the goal. Perhaps we all bumble our way through life somewhat, more like a hedgehog on stilts, never knowing everything. Sometimes falling down; sometimes making massive strides. But learning as we go. Maybe.

I have learnt that in all of this, there is only one thing that I control. And that is my reaction. Life will throw stuff at me. Sometimes things that I didn’t even think were able to get airborne. Washing machines, monster trucks and the such-like. But whatever projectiles it can muster, only I can decide how I react.

Will I mope around feeling sorry for myself? Or will I try to learn everything I can from adversity? Try not to waste the pain? Choose to praise God in the midst of the storm.

It would be nice to end this with a reassurance that every little thing’s gonna be all right. Possibly with Martin Smith singing and everyone holding up their iPhones with the flashes on.

But I’m not going to do that. Because I haven’t reached that place yet. It’s not the end of the story.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in happy endings. That things will get better. I just think that they often don’t look like we expect them to.

All too often the stories we hear are all finished and wrapped up nicely with a little bow. No loose ends to be seen. And I’m a little suspicious of them. We’ve gotten used to the Hollywood ending, when everyone ends up with the right person and lives happily ever after. We can end up feeling discouraged by these stories because it seems like we have so many loose ends in comparison.

But I want to hear more unfinished, messy stories. Where the end is unknown. Where the tears have not yet dried. Because life is an unfinished, messy story. It has rough edges and loose ends. It is tragic and it is beautiful.

Maybe that’s just me. But I doubt it.

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