collective voices

In the mornings at Baltimore School for the Arts, all the music students (150? 200?) gather in one of the recital rooms and sing. When my daughter shadowed there, this morning exercise was the standout part of the day. Though the word is overused, awesome describes the power of so many voices, whether in unison or in delicious harmony.

The collective voice is why I put it out there.

Not all of it, mind you. But I believe that you don’t get what you want by blowing a dandelion clock toward the heavens. (And you don’t get anything you’d be proud of by blowing someone behind the shed.)

So when I want—or need—something, I just say it. A lot. That covers anything from broken plates to words for a poem to collective prayers. And I believe a collective prayer is as tangible a thing as the broken dishes that compose my mosaics and the words that compose my poems. It’s why when my dad is in the hospital and not getting better, like now, I tell the universe.

My universe comprises, at least, 672 Facebook friends. It’s not a lot of people by any measure (a close friend of mine who is on top of every trend decades before anyone else has 3,406 friends). But I know almost all of them. And I make an effort to engage them in some kind of meaningful discussion or to puff up some small talk and make it personal; you won’t find a mere “happy birthday” from me on your special day.

It’s deliberate, but it’s not calculating. I engage people I like and respect, and my reward is another beautiful voice in the chorus of people pulling for me to get my book published, my dad to get well, my husband to keep playing guitar, my daughter to grow with poise and grace, and my best dogs to go in peace.

I don’t believe in a capital-g god, but I do believe in synchronicity (and most of the Police’s body of work—worth a listen if they’ve been long neglected by you). Sometimes you get messages from the darnedest places: your iPod on shuffle—in a Police song, in an email from a long lost friend, in a dream, in the sound the wind makes when you leave your window down a crack. I listen to these.

Maybe this is an apology to the people who think I over-share. If it’s a sign of strength and independence to ignore what others think, it’s a sign of stubbornness and arrogance, too. We should be respectful of others’ opinions, and our minds should be open enough that we can change them when we have new information. We should be changing every day. You never step in the same stream twice.

But there’s a solution to the annoying over-sharer that doesn’t include unfriending (or defacing, as some call it). Because I have already learned that asking for what I want brings favorable results most of the time. Putting it out there brings sandwiches to my dad in the hospital. It brings my family hot meals after my back surgery. It brings me poetry. And, best of all, it brings a chorus of hope and love and strength, and I can feel it—even without 100 likes and 58 comments.

Last week was the much-anticipated, sleepless high-school acceptance week. I wanted my daughter to be accepted to Baltimore School for the Arts. I know she will thrive there, because I know how driven and how focused she is. I remember being at Goucher and hearing the grad students in my program read. I thought: They are all so good! They can’t have made the one mistake with me! I want her to feel that kind of self-respect. So I share the things about my daughter that amaze me, and I say out loud every day that she is a prize. I tell any of the 672 friends on Facebook who are listening so they can charge the air.

Do I believe that all those voices had a part in my daughter’s acceptance (one of 125 out of 1,200+ applicants)? Her talent and brilliance clinched it. But yes! Those voices found a way to imbue her performance with a little bit of magic.

And when those judges drove home from work, they cracked their windows, and the wind said, “Serena.”

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6 Comments

  1. Anonymous February 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

    Leslie,
    Your last line just smacked me right in the heart. Beautiful article. I have been following all of your posts on FB and usually read all of the articles on your blog when you link to it. As a mother, I relate to you so strongly as you watch (and support) Serena move into her future. I love how proud you are of her. I love the message of hope this brings. Congratulations to Serena…and to you. ~Maya

  2. Belinda February 19, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Beautiful piece of writing, and performance by your daughter. ( wow, sax AND guitar AND a voice!), Congratulations again to her and you all for finding such a perfect school-Home. And I agree with your belief in SAY-It , though I am still a bit reticent about it, only to a few folks…But the Collective Voice is a wonderful thing to embrace, and be embraced by.

  3. Lysandra Cook Photography February 20, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    Hot damn, congratulations to Serena!

  4. Anonymous February 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    We all have friends that only put out the pretty parts of their life here, hoping to make you want their life a little (you already know I want your life…at least the part with Marty's beard). Everyone crafts an image of themselves to some extent. You seem to be more of a raw nerve, but it's more than that. It's not over-sharing. You're an antenna. There's all this input in all our lives. You seem to be able to take it in and process and output your feelings pretty quickly. And by And because it's all there, there seems to be something there for any reader. Or maybe it's just that many of us are at somewhat the same points in our lives and that makes it easier to relate, but it draws me in. I was having a similar conversation with my 9 year old daughter the other day. She was telling me that she was able to express all these feelings she was having through her drawing. We talked about how healthy it is to be able to do that. I don't know, maybe we all have that when we're young and learn to forget it as we get older. But it's a gift when you can hold on to it…

  5. Belinda February 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    Beautiful piece of writing, and performance by your daughter. ( wow, sax AND guitar AND a voice!), Congratulations again to her and you all for finding such a perfect school-Home. And I agree with your belief in SAY-It , though I am still a bit reticent about it, only to a few folks…But the Collective Voice is a wonderful thing to embrace, and be embraced by.

  6. Richard Gilbert March 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    What a lovely performance—by you both.