The other night Greg and I performed a duet again, after a very long time. Back under lights, him with his guitar, me sitting next to him on a stool, holding a microphone, singing to an audience I couldn’t see with my eyes but I could feel with my heart.
We sang Blackbird by Paul McCartney. I know McCartney wrote the song in response to the 1960s Civil rights movement. But ‘Broken wings’? ‘Sunken eyes’? I’ve got my own story behind this song! Oh yes, I think we all do.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly,
All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arrive
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see,
All your life you were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly into the light of the dark black night.
About three years ago, birds started appearing in my paintings. Greg’s mother had just passed away and she loved birds. I spent a lot of time thinking about her as I painted and dedicated an entire exhibition to her … Since then, those birds have stayed. One my most recent works, Breaking Free, is pictured above. Yep, I’m now a bird lady. The bird is an image rich with metaphor, and I’m thankful to Kathleen, my beautiful mother-in-law for this gift.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.”– M. Scott Peck.
The mystery of suffering is one of the greatest mysteries of all. Every single human being suffers. Each of us, at one time or another, is a ‘bird with broken wings’. My dear friend and mentor, Marjorie Rose, has just published a truly beautiful book, Sifting the Dust, where she explores these ideas through the lens of her own extraordinary life. I’m not surprised that it’s already a bestseller.
Throughout the fiery challenges of the past decade, there has been a thread of wisdom that has held all the pieces of my not-so-extraordinary, but rather complex life together. It comes from my deeply held spiritual beliefs, where the Divine offers this intriguing guidance, “My calamity is My providence. Outwardly it is fire and vengeance, inwardly it is light and mercy.”
Calamity and providence. Inextricably linked. A paradoxical partnership.
So here’s the thing I’m learning. Life offers us difficulties. They seem calamitous. But the reality is, it’s just life happening. And it’s in navigating those difficult times that we learn the most profound lessons and receive the greatest gifts. We break free. Of ourselves.
The choir was well received and the evening held a beautiful vibe, but from a personal standpoint, it had been a long time since I’d sung on stage. As Greg has often observed, my voice is not quite what it used to be 🙂 I truly had no idea how it went down.
In the aftermath of every performance, Greg’s first urge is to mingle with the audience. Mine is to disappear as fast as I can. This night, I took the middle road, and stood at the back of the auditorium, chatting with an old friend. Just as I found myself relaxing into the safety of our friendship, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a member of the audience approaching me; I recognised her – she was a lecturer in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Curtin University… and also one of my lovely art students.
My worlds were colliding.
We hugged and chatted. I had no idea what she thought of the evening, which was filled with lofty ideals delivered in song by an entire choir. My part was tiny and inconsequential, but along with each performance I have ever given, comes a battle with the ego which proffers a lesson in detachment. So I wondered: Had I made a difference?
Suddenly she said, “Malini, I have a confession to make.”
I quipped (only half-joking), “Did you perhaps leave the room just before I sang?!”
She quickly replied, “Oh no! I wanted to tell you that I had tears running down my face the whole time you and Greg were singing.”
I was surprised and touched. There I was, this black bird with broken wings and sunken eyes. Singing of my secret longing to break free of a lifetime of fear and struggle and to somehow be of service. And someone was weeping in the darkness as they listened.
“Think of yourself as a piece of wood,” I explain, “destined to become a divine flute. You must be hollowed out, at first coarsely, then sanded down and refined. Holes must be drilled with great precision. It may seem these invasions are random, as if some crazed God up there has chosen you for an extra dose of suffering. But if you open yourself, let the grief whittle away at your blockages, soon enough you’ll start to feel a truly Divine Wind blowing through you. You will start to hear a few clear notes.” – Robin Rice
**I’m honoured that this post is a part of the Summit Blog Tour, which leads up to the Soul*Full Summit hosted by Catherine Just, an event that empowers creatives to take action toward their dreams while helping to make more opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. You can join the movement by signing up for the Summit HERE.
** If you would like to be first to know about my new online workshop, Paint Something Beautiful: A Beginners E-course, click here.