Dear singing friends, I hope you are okay and fairing well enough during these deeply challenging times and the impacts of Omicron in NS and beyond. I recognize the struggles that so many are experiencing and my heart truly goes out to everyone. It seems fitting that I write to you on Groundhog Day. Nine months ago, John reached out to our community with news of my concussion and we were met with incredible waves of love and compassion and support. Thank you!! For those of you who've been following my healing journey and my work, thank you for being here. On this day, I am humbled to reach out for help again with this update on my recovery and my work. I remember thinking that the recovery time for a concussion would be about 9 weeks. Here I am at 9 months and still needing to make major modifications to my work life. Thankfully, with care and consistent effort, my personal life is pretty much back to full functioning. I am different from before, to be sure, however I'm able to be fully present as a mom, partner, drive a car, look after day to day life admin, enjoy the moments of this new life with gratitude. There have been considerable gifts of healing, growth and inspiration in this time of slowing down. Poetry has been a surprising consolation and potent, spacious way to engage life and language, sound and silence. My return to work has been much more complex than I expected, made even more challenging by the ups and downs of trying to sing in-person during this pandemic. I'm pretty good about resting for small pockets of time and then my passion for my work has me bounding along trying to find a path in these current, uncertain times. In response to the latest shut down of in-person singing in NS, I planned to return to lead singing online, after 9 months of not being able to do so. Our first Singing from the Well zoom session was so very beautiful! I prepared and multitasked and connected with the circle much as I 'normally' would and I was so pleased and relieved that I could resume work online (a necessity in these times). We said goodbye, I stood up, and was positively walloped with concussion symptoms. They returned with a vengeance. This is called a 'setback' in concussion healing, and is normal and to be expected, though this one felt particularly heartbreaking and soul crushing. I took to my bed, turned on CBC radio, and was amazed to hear Shelagh Rogers, a fellow concussion survivor, speaking with 2 women writers about concussion and the surprising, largely unknown impacts of this injury. These women talked about the dramatic changes that took place for them, the surprising length of recovery time, and the major losses and beautiful gifts of surviving concussion. This new anthology is called Impact: Women Writing After Concussion by E.D. Morine and Jane Cawthorne. I recognized myself in these women's voices. They helped me feel seen and heard and helped me admit to myself that my brain has changed and full stop, I need to modify my work again. They also helped me come to terms with my changed music brain. This is a tough one! I am known for multitasking in my work. In the 'before' days, I could accompany singing on piano or harp and conduct and visually connect with a multitude of singers and teach complex harmony parts and then interact socially with singers before and after rehearsals. My brain is spinning thinking back to that way of working. I made modifications this fall when I returned to group singing with Sing in JOY, and was met with the love, kindness, and compassion of our singing community. Still, even with those modifications, every hour of group singing required at least 24-48 hours of recovery time. This was a hard truth. Full stop. They say that if you're lost in the woods, the best thing to do is to sit down, take stock and call for help. For a moment, turning off CBC, I felt a familiar 'lost in the woods' feeling. What now? I sat down, took stock of where I was, and called a friend. An empathetic, fellow concussion survivor, she gently suggested that I create even more modifications for my return to work. Basics like: Ask for help with technical aspects, return more gradually and gently, focus purely on the singing and let the accompaniment be much simpler. Keep going. It's okay to be different from before. After a good cry, I slowly felt the acceptance of my now different brain. I settled and softened into these new possibilities to modify my work and keep recovering in gentle motion. In many ways, my body has been asking me to slow down, go gently, focus in on the healing potential of voice for years. And gradually, I've been listening and respecting my body's requests for a gentler, deeper, refilling of my well and to answer the call to offer this healing singing space to others. The door-opening event of concussion has brought me completely, fully, to my work moving forward. It is called Singing from the Well. I'll write more on this later, dear friends. Indeed I could write for a lifetime about this space of working, singing, and being in community together. In the meantime, I will keep going. I'll share more about my modified work plan in the coming days, once I'm further along in recovering from this current setback. If you're curious, you could check out new dates and details on my website. As you can imagine, my concussion healing has compounded a very difficult 2 years on my business with the impacts of covid, as it has for so many others. I remain hopeful, determined, and incredibly thankful for the support of you all. When we reached out for help 9 months ago, several people asked us to let you know if we ever needed help again. Thank you for offering this! I'm humbled to say, that with the latest shut-downs and my continued recovery, we're at the point of needing to ask for your help in this "keep going" phase of my return to work. If you would like to offer support at this time, the following things would be ever so helpful and gratefully received and appreciated, dear friends:
You can simply send out some good thoughts to me as you read this and I will feel your love and support!
Email messages are lovely as well, though patience is required as it still takes me quite some time to read and respond to your messages.
If you are in a position to do so, you can contribute any amount of financial support to aid in my personal and professional recovery moving forward, by sending an e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org or contributing to the Donate button on my website: www.singingfromthewell.ca (top right-hand corner of every page).
Please label your gift of support: VANESSA'S RECOVERY FUND
I will not be returning to Sing in JOY rehearsals this spring as I had planned. The format of 3 times a week classes are simply not feasible for my health and the continued uncertainty around covid. For those few individuals who had signed up for Sing in JOY in April, my apologies to you! Please let me know if you would like a to receive a credit to any Singing from the Well sessions (eventually we'll be able to meet in person again!), to donate your fees to my Recovery Fund, or to receive a full refund. I'm happy to take care of this for you!
Your cushion of support, in any of these ways, will help me to keep going in
health, hope, and resilience for my modified return to work. Thank you so much! In closing, I'd like to share these words of reflection by one of the Singing from the Well retreat singers in 2018. We stood in a circle, arms at each other's backs, breathing together, eyes smiling around the circle, and resonating with all the gentle, joyful singing of our weekend together. We each offered a word or phrase on what Singing from the Well meant to us that weekend. Heather White's words landed deep in my heart and have stayed with me ever since (shared with permission), "The thing about a well is you can dig a well by yourself but it's really, really hard. And so much easier with community." Yes, I feel this. Yes. Love and singing from the well, Vanessa P.S. The Keep Going Song (by the Bengsons) feels like an anthem for these times. Perhaps it will offer you some cheer or solace to you as it does me. A warning for sensitive ears for one use of strong language at 0:49 seconds. I hope you sing along!