Last night I watched an interview on our national indigenous channel here in Australia NITV between aboriginal journalist, Stan Grant and former lead singer of the Australian band Midnight Oil, Peter Garrett. For those of you who may not be aware of their music Midnight Oil did much to champion the land rights of aboriginal people at a critical time in Australia when aboriginal people were seeking this recognition. Their music resonated deeply with me in the years 1980 to 1990. They had a strong voice that spoke up for many issues dear to my own heart, most particularly aboriginal land rights as well as concern over American involvement in Australia through use of the site Maralinga for nuclear testing.
One thing that Peter said during the interview spoke to me very deeply.
We are all born to dance, to tell our stories and to sing!
But what happens when our song is squashed or we learn to fear our own voice or don’t trust it? It seems to me a large part of healing if we suffered repression or lost trust in our intrinsic selves rests in finding our own voice and singing our own song.
There is a strong pressure for conformity within our collective world. As children we are conditioned by a number of sources. Some of us buckle under to this conditioning, some of us go along willingly and others rebel and move outside the mainstream in an attempt to find their voice, perhaps looking to others for guidance. Others just push on trusting themselves.
The best guidance I believe can come from those around you who encourage you to find your own voice, sing your own song, tell your own story and dance to the rhythm that moves you from deep within.
Pete Garrett is a very tall guy. On stage he had a unique style and presence and moved about the stage energetically using jerky and some would say spasmodic movements. He spoke about what happened for him on stage, how he learned to just let his body take over and move to the unique rhythm of the songs The Oils composed. I found this inspiring.
As a tall person I was often shamed for being tall. The boys used to tease me and call me names like ‘Federal’ meaning matchstick legs. It was hard to get clothes to fit and shoes either. It was only when I finally visited my father’s home in the Netherlands in my early 20s that I felt like I belonged being tall.
Over time and after my car accident I learned to stoop. I went through very painful orthodontic treatment having four teeth removed, braces for just under two years and had to wear a horrible headbrace contraption to bed each night supposedly designed to pull the teeth back. What it did was leave me with an aching jaw. Lately I at night I get into bed and my head is screaming out in pain. It feels all twisted around the wrong way. I know this is also due to the traumatic imprint of crashing on my bike 11 years ago in the UK. slowly, oh so slowly, I am unwinding from this trauma. I wake up with blood over the sheets and on the tissues I have to keep near.
Thinking about Pete Garrett led me to wonder what may have happened had I not been so bent out of shape by my conditioning. It all happened to my body and the backlash was that within months of the braces coming off in 1979 I had a massive motor car crash which landed me in hospital for 101 days in skeletal traction and I lost my front teeth.
I was a young woman bent out of shape. I need to bear this in mind because I woke up with the Inner Critic giving me a bit of a hammering today. It was telling me I should have been a lot more independent and further along by now. But when I look to the trauma I carried that is not really possible. I am doing my best. I needed so much support following that crash, support that was denied me when even more trauma hit my family. I do wish I could have moved away sooner from the destructive influence but it has taken some time to wake up.
Blogging has given me a voice, finally. At times it a bit of a tortured one, but that is a symptom of the traumas I have known.
I draw great encouragement from Pete Garrett’s words and also from the biography of Sting, lead singer of the Police, Broken Music that I am currently reading.
Sting speaks of how when he first began to sing lead in his earliest bands he found a source of power within him. His own traumas from childhood stemmed more from the deception and betrayal he witnessed as a young boy when he discovered his mother in the midst of an affair in the middle of the day, an affair that went on for years and he kept pretending he did not know about. His father was broken by it.
Music for him provided an outlet, something outside the mess of his parent’s marriage that was just for him. He still carried his trauma but being able to have a form of music expression as well as learning about who he was, how he was formed by early experiences and how they impacted on him in his later life helped him in some way. He still suffered but he was, through his art, able to make sense of that suffering. Reading his biography has made sense to me of many of his songs most particularly the one’s he wrote in the midst of therapy in the 1980s.
It seems so essential that we are able to in some way give a voice to who we are and what we go through. It is the witness within us which can help us in this process. That part of us that watches and waits and gives a voice to the deeper experiences we go through. That is a gift of supreme value.
Along the way out there are those who can inspire us. Those who have had the courage to brave the critics and find their own voice, tell their own truth, blow the whistle on other lies, deceptions and evasions and be honest no matter what the price. These too are gifts of great value. We have to keep owning our power to tell our own story and be our own champion and through this process keep working to birth wisdom, insight, healing and compassion.