For the last two weeks, however, my most recent blogs, ‘Four Part Harmony’ and ‘On the Edge’ have continued to rattle around in my head. From the sounds of it, they have also been paying rent in other peoples’ minds too.
The feedback I’ve received about these blogs have inspired me to do some extra thinking. I recognize that I have more to say. So, in a rare departure from my regular blog, this week I offer two addendums.
Addendum: that which is added; an item of additional material, typically omissions, added at the end of a publication.
Addendum 1: Four Part Harmony
If you didn’t get a chance to read this one, you can do so here. To quickly refresh, this blog featured Jim’s mom and her three sisters, Leila, Joyce and Joanie. These sisters had been taught to sing in harmony by their mother, Jim’s grandmother, at a very young age.
When Jim’s mom was visiting us last week, she hadn’t yet had the chance to read this blog so I printed it off for her so she could read it from the comfort of the couch. She really enjoyed it, thanked me, and said she wanted to take it with her when she went home so she could show her sisters. Again, I thought this was lovely and then I put it out of my mind.
This week, the phone rang early one morning while I was out and Jim answered, delighted to hear the voice of his Aunt Joan (Joanie, the youngest of the singing sisters) on the other end of the line. To give a sense of the rarity of this, we’ve been married thirty-eight years and I believe this is the second time Aunt Joan has called.
She wanted to talk about the blog. When Jim’s mom returned home from her trip to see us, she took the printed blog to Joyce, who scanned it and sent it to Joan. I’m not sure how Leila’s copy was delivered but I do know she has seen it too. It turns out this blog evoked a barrage of memories for Joanie, the youngest of the four sisters. She was thinking about the days when her mother had taught her to sing. She told Jim that when her mother would teach her a song she would take her aside and say, “Now Joanie, I am going to teach you a song. What I am teaching you is your song. This is the one you are going to sing with your sisters. But when they start to sing, you’ll hear that they are singing different songs. You are not to sing their song. You need to sing this one; the one I am teaching you. This song is special for you.”
Upon my arrival home, Jim recounted this part of the conversation to me. I felt that old familiar sting of tears; the one I feel when something strikes just the perfect chord in my heart. I knew that in the original blog I had written about the importance of each person knowing when to step up and take the lead and when to play a supportive role. I also knew I had written that there were parallels for this in daily life and that I thought that Grandma Ryckman, their mom, had wisely gifted these girls with more than the ability to sing together; she had taught them how to take the lead in their lives and how to support each other.
However, Joanie’s memory of how she was taught by her mother made me realize that I had missed such a crucial part of the teaching. These girls’ mother taught them to be uniquely themselves. To know and to sing their own song. To not get pulled into someone else’s melody. To not be influenced by others to the point where their own voice was lost. To recognize that they had a song to sing in this world that cannot be sung by anyone else. To understand that only when we each sing our own song, and not try to be like others, that the most beautiful music is made.
I have been in the presence of these four sisters many times over the past forty years. From my perspective, these girls have lived the wisdom of their mother. They each know their song. They sing it beautifully. They do not try to sing each others song. In doing so, they have become the best versions of themselves.
What a gift for a mother to give her children; the gift of permission to become only yourself. To not worry about trying to become more like someone else. To understand that the best offering you can make to the world is to fully embrace your own song.
Addendum 2: On the Edge
When Jim’s mom arrived home, she read the blog, ‘On the Edge’. Again, if you didn’t get the chance to read it you can do so here. The short version is that it was about being brave enough to expand the comfortable edges of our life. For me this is a continuous work in progress.
She sent me an email last Sunday. I’m printing it below in it’s entirety.
Dear Elizabeth, thank you for this; I am so pleased to see a picture with Ben. How lovely! I also like your blog about the edges. I think I am growing closer all the time to one edge of my life, so I am daring to take the chance to enjoy all the chances that life offers me. I had the chance at your place to do several things I had never done before. You and Jim and Kaitlyn offered that to me and so it was worth a little weariness to have dared it. Thank you! Love you!
I don’t think I need to add a word.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Am I singing my song?'?’
Elizabeth is a life and leadership coach in Calgary, AB. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups and she creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you or your organization to figure out how to dare to sing your song.