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What's the Story Of Your Voice?

Dear Katie

What's the Story Of Your Voice?
It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head.
Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are.
We build ourselves out of that story. - Patrick Rothfuss

There is so much power, joy and magic in our voices, yet so often we carry inhibiting, limiting stories about them.  As children we often had no choice about the stories we were told about our voices, but as adults we can become the storyteller and choose new, empowering narratives.  I'm enjoying learning more about the magic of storytelling from amazing speaker Elaine Powell, and wanted to share some reflections on the power of reclaiming our vocal stories, personally and collectively.

The Never Ending Cycle of Stories
Story is a yearning meeting an obstacle - Robert Olen Butler
As we see daily in the media hustle bustle, everyone loves a story.  They tap into our deepest longings and our deepest experiences of challenge in life.  Many of the world's most powerful myths work through the 3 part cycle of Life, Death and Rebirth - which can be seen as Beginning, Middle, End or Initiation, Departure and Return, the three overarching sections of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Nature is constantly moving through these cycles and we are part of nature - we seed, plant and grow new life then experience cleansing challenges, heartbreaking losses and tough lessons which then become the compost for new life.  Our voice as an innate instrument on our journey through life, has it's own story which, when explored lovingly, yields hidden treasure.

Once upon a time there was what there was, and if nothing had happened there would be nothing to tell. - Charles de Lint

When we are born we yell, naturally and instinctively accessing a powerful range of vocal expression - our baby cries can hit up to 120dB - well above the pain threshold of hearing.  We gurgle, giggle, burble our way into early life, full of playful curiosity and innocent exploration.  Just as we can easily put our feet above our heads, we can stretch our voices in all directions.  In childhood we are enchanted by the magic of life and have easy access to the worlds of imagination, dreaming up words, songs and stories with ease.   This natural vocal freedom, I believe is the true foundation of our voice, which we can access at any age and stage of life.

Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity. - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

At some point in life, however, we encounter a significant challenge around our vocal expression.  Many men tell me they stopped singing when their voice broke, because they were not given the tools to understand their changing voices.  I hear so many stories of people who were told to mime or were excluded from the school choir, and never dared sing publicly again.  Funnily enough, I was told off for swaying whilst singing and left the school choir, not returning again until I started leading choirs years later.
Somewhere along the way, something breaks in the process of socialisation, we lose connection to our natural, innate vocal freedom.  We learn to be seen and not heard, to be meek and mild, to dampen our yells, cries, shouts, screams, to smother our songs and stories.  Someone or something in our vocal story has written us off so we write off our voices, closing the book at a formative early chapter.  So many times, the first thing anyone says when I mention singing is 'oh I can't sing... you wouldn't want to be in earshot when I do.'  But 'I can't sing' does not need to be the end of the story and the very point that breaks us in our story can become a new beginning.

I'll tell you a secret. Old storytellers never die.
They disappear into their own story.  - Vera Nazarian

The voice within us, even if it has gone deep underground, still wants to be heard and will find a way out - maybe we meet a wizard, or a magic singing bird flies into our house or a fairy whispers in our dreams - but somehow it happens.  A friend asks us to go to their choir or we spontaneously end up doing drunken karaoke on holiday or finally find the voice to stand up to the scary Dragon(s) in our life.  We breakthrough the breakdown - recovered addicts tell me that singing gave them better highs and helped them get off drugs and family members express wonder that their formerly muted mother is now singing around the house and joining conversations.  I am so honoured to witness so many people going through this amazing process - those who, after wandering through dark forests and rocky mountains, finally find their way into the magical glade of a choir or singing lesson. The dream that kept them singing secretly when no one was listening, finally comes true, as they learn to reclaim the magic and joy of their true voices in a safe space.

The Treasure of our Vocal Story
The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection there is no story to tell - Ben Okri

With love, care and support, we can restore a sense of wholeness that embraces all the ups and downs of our vocal story.   All the breaks, wobbles, squeaks, wails, moans, crackly bits that we said we didn't like about our voices and all our trials and tribulations can be alchemised into treasure troves of creative expression.  The scary Dragon that kept fierce, condemning guard over our voice turns out to be hopelessly lovable, just like the Dragon who starts out as a fierce adversary later becomes a friend to Shrek and the adoring wife of Donkey.  We are free to play and enjoy our voices again, informed and guided by the wisdom we have gained on our journey.

Stories in Service
Stories are our primary tools of learning and teaching, the repositories of our lore and legends. They bring order into our confusing world. Think about how many times a day you use stories to pass along data, insights, memories or common-sense advice. - Edward Miller
We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling. - Jimmy Neil Smith

Our vocal story can offer pearls of wisdom and inspiring messengers to others. We love hearing that Elvis didn't quit, despite being told by a concert hall manager to become a truck driver and that Fred Astaire kept a note from a director on his fireplace saying “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.”  These stories bring us closer to our shared humanity, of the imperfect experience of life which acts as a crucible for our growth.  During this time when we are all experiencing loss and challenge, singing and telling our stories can help us stay connected - whether that's Skyping a bedtime story with the little people in our lives, singing in a virtual choir or swapping tales about Zooming with our work jacket in view and our pyjama bottoms out of sight.

Mapping your Vocal Story
The most important places on a map are the places we haven't been yet - Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

The story of your voice contains hidden treasure in it that will bring joy, power and magic to you and to many others.
The simple practice of taking a fresh piece of paper and drawing, mapping or writing your vocal story can yield insight, bestow gratitude for the journey so far and discover new pathways in the story of your voice.

If you'd like to explore more about your vocal story in a one to one session do contact me for a free 20 minute consultation.

Thank you so much for staying tuned during these difficult times.

Be well, be safe, breathe deep, sing loudly 
Lots of love, virtual hugs and good singing vibes