I have an unabashed love for Regina Spektor's music. She might not be quite your style . . . and she has a unique way of dealing with poetry. Her music? It is legitimate. It is no I IV V I deal. It has substance. There's a song on her latest album called "Open." I remember the first time I heard it.
I heard it not long after my second panic attack.
Have you ever had a panic attack? You can't breathe. You can't move. You are pinned to the ground where you stand (well, you might be laying down at this point).
So when I heard the song for the first time, I was driving in my car. I had to pull over. It's not safe to drive when you're crying like a baby.
Go on - take a quick listen. Listen all the way through.
What induces a panic attack?
It's different for different people. I have friends whose experiences are much like mine . . . and other friends who have none of my own triggers or feelings.
For me, it's fear. It could be fear of anything.
The first time I ever had a bad panic attack I was lying in bed . . . afraid because I'd been having a horrible time kicking a case of bronchitis. My voice was out (that's bad for the business I'm in) and my asthma was absolutely winning the battle. Every breath sounded like a death rattle and felt like a knife.
I had the sudden thought, "What if I stop breathing in the middle of the night while I'm sleeping and never wake up again?"
I could see my 4 year old self standing by my parents' bed, holding onto my throat because I couldn't breathe (a bad case of the croup that I dearly wish I could forget).
And that was it - I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move. I finally made it into the bathroom and sat down, gasping and wheezing . . . Robbie found me several minutes later, asking, "What's wrong? What's happening?"
The second panic attack came months and months later toward the end of my recording project - the weight of the question, "Did I do this right?" took away my ability to breathe, move, or think. That one ended with heart palpitations and hyperventilation . . . on the floor of the home office.
Hey, friend - it's ok to be a person who has experienced panic attacks. It's ok to be a person who still deals with that. There is no shame in this human experience.
Why am I thinking about this today? My panic attacks cause me to feel closed up, walled in, and small. I want so much to be open.
I got a phone call this morning about a chance to mentor somebody else. My initial response was, "Nope. My plate is too full. I am not experienced enough. And why would you ask me to do this, anyway?"
Then it hit me - How do I know?
What if it will actually be a big help to me? What if it keeps me thinking? What if it gives me creative energy? What if it restores my enthusiasm? . . . what if this person is a gift and a kindness?
How can I know the answers to these questions without remaining open to possibility?
I put that question away - tucked it back into my head. I had places to be. I could think about that later.
In the afternoon I came to the church to do some prep work for choir rehearsal tonight. I walked in thinking I'd just do some organizing and go on home.
Who did I run into? The leader of the church band (he's actually the director of worship & media arts). And he had some ideas about a song I wrote for the band's newest album.
We went into the office and he grabbed his guitar to work through some possible changes.
This is really delicate territory. Some songwriters will not write in groups because they are unable to deal with the fear of sharing the creative process. Some of them don't write in groups because they've been hurt by the experience. Some songwriters ONLY write in groups because they don't think they can come up with ideas on their own.
I'm the former rather than the latter. I have restrained myself from doing much group writing because I'm afraid that someone will railroad my idea and tell me I'm awful at it.
That's about as honest as I can be . . . that, right there? That's brutal honesty about myself. You're welcome.
So when the band decided to do another album I said to myself, "Ok, Sarah. You need to branch out there and write a song for someone else. Write a song for somebody else to sing. Write it for people that you love. And then tell those people that they can change it around however they want."
I don't know why I said that to myself. It was a crazy idea, right?
I am so glad that I got a wild notion to let someone else work with one of my songs.
When he started playing through sections of the song on his guitar and suggesting extensions and rearrangements, I got new ideas! And you know what? We were on the same page.
This was the moment I'd been fearing all along, and it wasn't scary at all. In fact, it was affirming. Here was a song I'd written, and it was getting a whole new chance at life - somebody liked it enough to work with it so that it could be heard . . . . not just heard, but sung by regular folks in a church service.
It is a gift to be able to stay open - to let other people in . . . to let God in. It is also a gift to be in process - to be growing and changing . . . to be working through things.
I wrote the song, "Be Still" when I was struggling with my own sense of direction. The song was a huge gift to me. I spent months not playing it for anybody but myself - keeping it for my own encouragement.
Over the past few years I've worked hard to maintain a sense of openness about life.
I have not always been successful. Just yesterday I shared with you about depression and the obstacle of deep disappointment. This stuff is part of life.
This stuff is part of a Christian life, too. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't believe in God or love Jesus and still struggle with these things. They are lying. Jesus understood broken people. God has created people who God already knows will be broken. It's ok. You're ok. You're acceptable. You're human enough to be loved by God in whatever condition, at whatever point in time.
This is all open ended. I'm afraid I don't have a perfectly crafted "take away" for you today. I have only the truth that it's alright to be broken . . . and that if we can be open and honest even in our fear and brokenness, we can know the blessing of discovery.
Peace and Goodness.