TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains images of me on a ventilator, among others displaying the gravity of the situation I faced in an attempt to make a point of the splendor of a very special moment and the power of a really tender, loving God. They are not graphic in nature, but hard to look at for close family and friends and those who have experienced medical trauma. I’m so grateful you are here and want to read my words, but please tread lightly. -B
I sat in the wings for most of the showcase, watching the other students perform from behind. At one point I sat down and looked up at the light rack above the stage. I stared at it for a long time, silent. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. And I told myself “Soak it up Beth, soak it up. It’s been a long time.” I wish I had taken a picture of that very moment or that someone around me would have captured that moment because I never want to forget it. I sat on the stage floor draped in a royal blue evening gown and felt every feeling. I was confident and calm and happy. I was nervous. I was a little sad. I was excited. I was all of the things. My mind flashed to a picture I have of myself on the ventilator and as I caught a glimpse of myself backstage in a dimly lit mirror, it all seemed surreal. “How did I get here?” I thought.
My cue came, and I made my way to the opposite side of the stage. Soaking it up turned into “suck in a big breath and let’s go” as I made my way out from the heavy black curtains and took centerstage. The music started and I began to sing. And as I took in the lights and the audience and the gaze of my director in the corner, my confidence grew and I started to actually sing. Like I do at home. Alone. I hadn’t done that in a really long time. Looking over to the wings I met the gaze of my new friends. And they welcomed me with kind words and genuine embraces as I exited. I’ll never forget their sweet faces and big smiles.
I signed up for the masterclass earlier in the year. I wrestled for weeks whether or not to just offer my payment as a “scholarship” to someone else and not go. After I felt it was too late to backout completely, I determined before the first class that likely every person in the room would think I was pathetic. To say the least. I was 28. I hadn’t ever done a professional production. I hadn’t sung in 10 years. And I was the one that “didn’t make it” in the theatrical world. Another story of “coulda been”. I had three kids, was a stay-at-home-mom and was showing up for a class with a bunch of high school kids. I felt like a total loser on day one. But after singing my heart out at the showcase Sunday night, I walked to meet the embrace of (literally) almost every kid in the room (and one other super wonderful adult student, Elizabeth), and the word pathetic felt foreign and wrong. I was far, far from that.
Pathetic hides from the light. I had just sat in its splendor. I was not pathetic. And the weight of the word fell right off of me. It’s a word with a nagging weight that I carried for a long time without even realizing it.
Sitting here tonight, I go to a lot of places mentally when I think about that word. I think of the rejection from the boy I thought I “loved” in high school. I think of the forever friendships that have faded with time. I think of the sting of the words from girls, and boys, in middle school. I think of walking away from a toxic situation in the course of my career. I think of the car ride to confirm that I had in fact lost my first baby. I think of sitting in the clinic at work sobbing as I was handed a depression questionnaire and asking the nurse “what is wrong with me?”. I think of not being able to roll myself over in bed after my surgery with Banks and having to get Jon to help me use a potty chair. (Real life. It was terrible.) I think of the hot tears that ran down my face when I pulled the bandage off my stomach for the first time. What was once a flat, ideal abdomen was swollen. Bruised. And forever scarred. Pathetic is a nasty word, and one with massive weight, but one that I had felt a little too deeply in my life. And it’s one that stuck.
Until Sunday night.
It’s funny, throughout the course of preparation for this masterclass I would attend counseling and voice lessons following because they were both located close together and it just made sense. I would attend counseling first most days and remember joking with my voice teacher that it felt like a lecture and a lab because oftentimes the work paralleled. Apparently Sunday night was the final exam so to speak. Maybe not of “never feeling insecure again”-that’s just part of being human, right?- but of feeling “pathetic”. Of feeling lower than low. Of feeling of very little worth. Because Sunday night, under the lights, my worth showed. Not just to the audience. Not just as an artist, to my director or as a worthwhile competitor to others in my class. But right back to me. When I looked in the mirror before I made my way to the “x” taped centerstage, I did not see pathetic. I did not see someone scarred or bruised or trying to prove anything. I saw a really pretty woman. In a really pretty dress. Who had overcome really hard things. Doing a really hard thing. And I was so stinking proud of the reflection that gazed back at me.
And right then, perhaps I saw myself, maybe for the very first time, through the eyes of Christ.
Broken but beautiful. Scarred but whole. Chaotic and yet complete. Barely alive and yet, really living.
One thing I’ve found out this past year is that bad things will continue to happen, even after the worst case scenario passes. Unfortunately, we don’t get “excused” or “immune” to hardships. Life, in some seasons, feels like we are simply rolling with the punches. And truth be told, we are. But that’s the thing about living. Life can be irreparably broken at times. And unbearably beautiful. It can be missing pieces and cut down the middle, yet fused together and held together-totally okay, and totally whole. It can be total chaos. But right as it should be. It can have a heart barely beating one minute, in a body loudly singing the next.
It can stare into operating room lights one winters night, and stage lights the following spring. And perhaps we only see realize it if we take the time to linger in the light of both.