November 25, 2002

Singing My Song of the Self

Filed under: Art and About Me — admin @ 2:33 pm

I entered the Real World on June 2, 1997. Not the real world where I had to make a living, pay the bills and do my own laundry, but the Real World of facing who I was and who I was meant to be.

June 2 was the day I returned from my honeymoon. Three weeks earlier I had been the blushing bride. A week before that, I was given a sparkling, new graduate degree. Three years before that I was graduating from college. Four years before that, finishing high school. And the series of activities and achievements goes back to almost the womb. I was a Lamorinda gal, through and through — goal oriented, achievement oriented and more interested in how the world saw me rather than discovering who I really was.

But there I was, newly married with no job, and worse, no goal. There was no societal box for me to reside in, no easy label to slap on myself. Peeling back the labels, I had been Christina-the-bride-to-be, Christina-the-film-student, Christina-the-Stanford-student, Christina-the-singer, Christina-the-straight-A-student, Christina-the-gymnast, and, most ironically, going all the way back to first, second and third grade, Christina-the-writer.

Lost and confused at age 25, my mom encouraged me to become Christina-the-writer again. Using my tried and true goal-and-achievement model of success, I set out to sell my writing which eventually landed me in a job with Contra Costa Newspapers. Little did I know that through my writing, I was about to embark on a path of self discovery that doesn’t have a specific goal or achievement attached to it, but for four years has led me on a most satisfying, though difficult, journey of self awareness, security and spiritual growth. Through my writing, I am composing my Song of the Self.

Marie Elena Gaspari and Andrea Gaspari of Pleasant Hill introduced me to the term Song of the Self. These sisters espouse that by de-emphasizing what we do, what we wear, what music we listen to, and all the other external clutter our cultural lauds, we all can search our souls to discover the people we were put on this earth to become. Marie Elena explained that the Song of the Self is a song or poem in the oral tradition which is composed of a person’s matriarchal and patriarchal lineage; all the many unique gifts and abilities a person has been born with; as well as the knowledge, wisdom and power one has accumulated on one’s conscious journey through life.

Marie Elena and Andrea believe that a person who knows their Song of the Self is a happy and healthy person, and a community of Song-of-Self singers is the foundation to a happy, healthy society. In January, they are bringing a workshop to the Lafayette Community Center to guide pre-teen girls through the process of composing their own songs, dances, poems and artwork of the Self. Marie Elena and Andrea both have many years of social work, teaching and exploration of the arts under their belts. As Andrea puts it, through her social work she was working with people where the damage had already been done. Now she is focusing on giving young people the tools to express themselves with truth and confidence before the downward spiral of focusing on the superficial and material. Marie Elena has taught Song of the Self workshops to adults, but she and Andrea feel that launching a class for pre-teen girls is crucial to reach a particularly vulnerable segment of society before they hit those treacherous teen years.

The class entitled “Dance of the Self” uses the seven intelligences — verbal, visual, physical, musical, mathematical/logical, introspective and interpersonal — as a foundation for a fun and creative series of mornings for girls to explore their true selves culminating in a performance and exhibit of works of art, dance, songs and poetry for their families and loved ones. The class uses the example of other world cultures who value and accept expressions of dance, movement, poetry and song in daily life by everyday people celebrating their uniqueness. Andrea points out that in her travels around there world, social gatherings always included a place for the people to express themselves through music, dance and song. In the United States, unless you go to a place labeled a club or a dance or a karaoke bar, rarely do people feel free to be you and me. Part of that may be because most of us represent a mishmash of cultures and our personal history could have a complicated, twist path. It is far easier for Americans to revel in the here and now, the monetary and the material, to throw money at a few celebrities in entertainment or sports rather than do the hard work ourselves to reach star-status in our own eyes.

I have to wonder how my life path may have changed if I wrote my Song of the Self when I was nine or ten. My resume may not look that different, but I might have gotten more meaning out of my youthful experiences while I was experiencing them. The Gaspari sisters may be saving a room full of girls from having to start their often painful journey of self discovery at age 25, and to teach them to truly relish those teen years instead of endure them.

While talking to Marie Elena and Andrea, I thought of how my 23-month-old son sings with wild abandon in the middle of Safeway, blithely ignoring the “Geez, that child is loud” glare that is sometimes shot in our direction. Perhaps some day his Song of the Self will be set to music. I plan to help him internalize that song. Perhaps some of our Lamorinda girls can take advantage of the opportunity to rediscover their songs before they forget the tune.