I am loving that I can stand and sing for the people.
Stand and deliver.
It's all I ever wanted to do all my life.
I lost my confidence for a long time and felt I couldn't trust myself.
I felt for a long while that I wasn't in control of myself enough to know I could deliver.
Being able to perform in the moment, live, before an audience, is something I never take for granted now.
Every time I do it now I'm proving to myself that I am sane, that I have command of my mind, my body, and all my faculties.
This is something I do not take for granted, not in my family, not with my background.
Once when I was in high school, the winter before I ran away from home, I had a personal crisis as a singer and performer.
I had struggled with asthma since I was around eleven.
I didn't know if it was asthma, I just knew that sometimes I wheezed or couldn't take deep breaths and sometimes had to talk fast to get words out before I had to take another breath.
And sometimes I couldn't sing because I felt like I couldn't get enough air.
These feelings plague me still, although as I get more fulfilled in life and less afraid they are lessening.
I know now that the asthma was my own fear choking me.
Your asthma may not be that but mine was.
My mother would yell at me when I couldn't breathe.
"You're faking it for attention! It's all in your mind!"
Good old Mom.
But she was right in a way.
It was in my subconscious mind and it had become a part of my body, and I didn't understand it and I didn't have control over it, but it has always been something to overcome with my Faith and my Strength.
Not to get all Christian Scientist on it.
I have no idea whether we can cure our bodies with our own minds, but I am guessing we can.
Well, I knew nothing about how to do that in 1977.
I was given a Primatene inhaler.
I was told to use this before I sing when I had symptoms.
I was a freaked out nervous neurotic kid by the time I was a Junior in High School.
Subtle and not so subtle trauma was following me everywhere I went in my family life.
I was scared to death.
And I was angry as hell.
Singing in the church choir was still one of my salvations, never mind that the Lutheran Pastor's only son had taken an obsessive liking to me a while back and was trying to get me to marry him when I graduated next year.
Okay, I'll just throw this in right now and get it over with.
A story I've never told.
The Pastor's son was a Senior in High School when I was in eighth grade.
I was fourteen and he was eighteen.
He broke up with his longtime girlfriend who was his own age because he told her he was in love with me.
I was the singer at his Dad's church who wrote her own songs and played them on her guitar at the hip acoustic services.
Who could blame him?
My Dad's best friend who was a psychiatrist with a Woody Allen-ish sense of humor was always saying that I had the body and the brains of a twenty-five year old, and the heart of a child, and that this was a very dangerous combination and that men found this combination irresistible and that I should be very careful around all men including him....haha...thanks a lot Dad's best friend.
When my Dad's psychiatrist best friend would call the house phone and I would happen to answer, saying "Hello who is this please?" he would launch in with, "Courtney darling, is it you? How am I so lucky to have you on the phone? What are you wearing my dearest?"
I'm not kidding.
And I actually liked this guy. I thought he was funny.
Okay, so the Pastor's son gets an unwholesome obsession with me going.
He starts hanging around the church and offering me rides home after choir practice.
I often had to walk all the way across Park Ridge to go home after choir because my Mom would forget and not be answering the phone for some ungodly reason...she was another story..let's not go there right now.
So I accepted his rides.
Eventually he wore me down with his romantic gestures.
I was a virgin until I was in College, so he never wore me down that much, but he would tell me that his other girlfriend did this and that for him, and I would just say "forget it, I'm fourteen". I just would kiss him. But even that was ridiculous.
When I went to High School he went into the Marines.
Shaved head and uniform.
I got handwritten letters, pages and pages, with the official Marines seal on them, in our family mailbox every week, sometimes every day.
I barely read them and then I didn't read them.
I decided he was nuts.
He came to visit me, stood on our front porch in his uniform and shaved head and military cap.
He wanted me to promise to marry him when I graduated from High School.
I didn't even let him come in.
I was like, "You're too old for me. You're in the military. I'm not doing this."
Okay, so by the time I was a Junior in High School, my parents were losing their house and their marriage and their minds.
My brother had lost his mind somewhat already and was backpacking in Europe.
I was supposed to sing a big important part in a massive Requiem style classical production at the church with a full adult and teen choir and a full orchestra.
It was a very large church.
I had a solo part somewhere in the middle of the beautiful long production.
I knew it by heart.
It was an easy no brainer thing for me to sing like that.
I'd been doing solos in that sanctuary since I was eight years old.
But everything had become too much and I was too weird and freaked out.
I brought that inhaler with me that day.
I kept taking hits off it and acting like it was cool, like I was doing drugs or something.
It was a weird attention getting gesture.
As if I needed more attention, being the soloist.
But nothing made sense by then anyway.
That Primatene stuff has caffeine in it.
That's one of the things that "opens your airways" if that's even real.
I got out there, at the great alter, in my choir robe, everyone in the orchestra, both choirs, the pews jam packed and the balcony packed.
And when my part came and the brilliant choir director who I loved and revered so much gestured to me with great confidence and respect on her face.....
I opened my mouth but nothing came out.
My mind was blank.
I was jittery.
I was frozen.
I couldn't remember how to begin.
My voice was fine but I felt that it was frozen.
The female director stared at me in HORROR.
She began to sing the part herself, facing us all.
I snapped out of it and sang the rest.
No one died.
The massive old church did not crumble.
The performance was completed.
But I had let everyone down, I had let her down, I had marred the perfection and beauty of the music I respected and loved so much.
I didn't speak to anyone.
I left my robe on a chair and slipped out.
I walked all the way home.
I spoke to no one about it ever.
I never explained or apologized.
And I never went back to that church.
And by the next Spring I was stealing the car and escaping to the Northwoods.
It's been a long road back.
It's been a very long road back for me.
I've taken these forty years to heal my body and my mind.
I've finally proven to myself that I can stand and deliver.
And no one and nothing can stop me now.
If there's an audience who wants to hear me, I will not let them down.
I will never let them down again.
I will never let myself down again.