From the age of five or six I have been a musician. I had an exceptional primary music education, with two passionate teachers leading choirs, recorder groups and more. From the age of seven I have been a pianist, and from the age of ten a wind player. At the age of eleven I became part of a wind band and thus found my place in ensemble performance. Now, I listen.
I cannot listen to a Wagner Opera, I don’t enjoy the experience as a whole. Yet playing my French Horn in a production of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman is a highlight of my life. I cannot relax into a classical piano recital, but I often would relax with the scores on my stand and the notes beneath my fingertips. I cannot listen to choral music without my mind wandering into thoughts about privilege and class. Yet I had many a spiritual moment as part of a robed church choir, not something I ever expected to do.
To me, musiking is something I do. Something my whole physicality engages in. Even if I am listening, I cannot stay still. To attend while others perform is a challenging experience for me, even more so now. I yearn to be in their seats.
You see, I have come to realise it was always about more than the music. Quite a revelation for me. I have always been on the margin, a bit different, something I understand anew in light of my neurodivergence. Being within a musical ensemble gave me a place. It gave me a role. Sometimes the solo, most often the supporting texture or interest. But the place and role would be clear. 1st Horn. Solo Soprano Saxophone. Even once Celeste!
Now? Am I still a musician? Am I a medically-retired musician? Am I a musician on a hiatus? Am I a musician for the hour every other day I can manage to play a little bit with gaps inbetween?
We tie our identities so closely to what we do. I learned that lesson the hard way when I was no longer a musical worship leader, then became involved with The Ordinary Office. Was I still a worship leader? A Pastor? Preacher? Imposter? Heretic? Leader? Facilitator?
Being a musician gave me a place in a world I felt placeless within. It gave me community in a world I struggled to build and sustain relationships. My best and oldest friends are people I have made music with. Losing my ability to make music as I did, through long covid, hit me so hard. Now, I understand a little more of why.
In this world, this life, I don’t know how to find my place anymore. I don’t know what my role is. Yes, I am a mother, a wife, a writer. But those are things I am to other people, or things I do. What is my role, as me, Rebecca. What is my place? As a beloved daughter of God, I believe my place is with them in eternal resonance as my spirit joins theirs. One day, that will be my only existence. For now, I guess I need to do more prayerful reflection.
Or suddenly learn how to DJ …
Peace be with you.
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