Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In Praise of Karaoke

Hi all, I have been missing you and missing posting lately.  And today I just have one thing on my mind, Karaoke.

If you haven't done Karaoke, and you are one of the people who sit on your urge to join in, but over and over just don't, please do it.  Just find a way to get yourself to do it.

For all my life I sat on the Karaoke sidelines, watching others have the fun.  Yearning to try, but red in the face with that shy shame feeling that haunts those of us who look at other people's singing and dancing with a strange combination of longing and embarrassment, I sat and sat.  And about three years ago, I decided that I would stand up. That someday I would do Karaoke.

Time passed.  I did not do it.  And I did not do it.  And then finally this summer I did.  I had to fly out of state and sing with safe people, but I finally did it.

Between channeling my inner Pat Benatar in We Belong Together, or convincing Graham to join me in a dramatic Don't You Want Me Human League duet (remember that one?!) I learned that I need more of whatever it is that happens in Karaoke in my life. 

It's hard to pin down exactly, but it has to do with music and the way music hits me in my body.  Whether I'm dancing or singing, songs land in my chest and make their way through me, somehow they bypass a part of my brain that desperately needs to be taken off line.  When a song really takes me, it can feel like I'm all body and soul, my thinking brain gets sidelined.  And I so need that.

I was reminded of Karaoke this weekend, when my friend Laurel and I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert talk about her new book Big Magic.  She was speaking in an auditorium that held a few hundred people.  At the end of the reading, she told an interesting story.

"At one of my last readings, a woman asked me, 'When you are not writing, what do you do for yourself?  You write so much you must do something else for yourself' and I thought about it for a minute and realized that the other thing I did for myself was Karaoke."

I was floored.

"It started out that a few of us got together on a Wednesday night to do Karaoke.  We loved it so much we went again.  And now it's a thing.  On Wednesday night I do Karaoke now.  I just do."

After this story, she explained that because she was on such an ambitious book tour, she was not signing books, but instead, asked us if we would be up for singing with her.  

"If you don't go to church, chances are that you are not singing.  And that is a sad thing.  We must be the first humans in all of humanity to go long stretches without singing."

The audience was clearly game.  She had us look up Take Me Home Country Road by John Denver on our phones and then we were off, singing all together.  It was that simple.  

As I sang the song I'd learned on a hundred road trips in the back seat of my mother's car, there were tears in my eyes, the kinds that are the river of your life calling you, asking you to do your very best to go all in.  And you are shy and embarrassed and maybe terrible singer, but you do it in any way.  You allow yourself to disappear into the crowd, to let loose and let the song be in charge.  And the music rises, past your ears above your head, filling the room up to the very rafters.  Its hum is thick and deep and it lifts you along, and you are not alone, for one singing minute you are a part of it.  No longer watching or listening or trying to decide, you are a part of the flow, a note in the song, a tiny speck carried along in the current.

Singing does this for me.  I want more of it in my life and want it for you too.  Karaoke, of all unholy things, strangely can help.

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