Open Love Letter to Mary Lambert

image credit: Laura Fedele

image credit: Laura Fedele

When I first heard Mary Lambert sing, I only knew her as as “that woman with the amazing voice” on the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis single Same Love. I couldn’t get her out of my head, so I searched until I found out who she was, Googling something just like that — “woman singing on Same Love.” It’s much the same way I found Dido, hearing her sing first on Eminem’s track Stan, and not being able to stop hearing her voice, needing to find more of her music, and when I did being completely amazed. One of the very first videos I watched of Mary was her performing She Keeps Me Warm live in the KEXP studio, a Seattle radio station. I was gobsmacked.

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you know I’m on a path, in the midst of a life-rehab. It began in earnest the year I made my last New Year’s resolution: to be a better friend to myself. In the context of that effort, I realized I’d been in a long term abusive relationship … with myself. I also realized I was a dis-ordered eater, and that my relationship with my physical body needed some serious help, healing.

My internal struggle is mighty and I generate a lot of suffering for myself, but just as powerful as that is the effort it takes to go against cultural norms and expectations. When you decide to stop being at war with your body, to put down the knife you’ve been holding to your own throat, to love yourself exactly as you are — you will find yourself having to live outside, against norms, as an outcast even. We live with a quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) violence against women, so imbedded in every facet of our experience that we’ve gone numb to it, internalized it, become our own bully in order to fit in, be worthy of love and acceptance. It’s a difficult process to untangle yourself from years of such intense judgment and criticism, so many rules and deeply imbedded beliefs.

The culture does not teach girls to own it. From early on, a girl receives messages that her body, her sexuality, her dreams and ambitions, her opinions must be shaped to please other people. If her inner voice threatens to speak out too loudly, or passionately, or take up too much airtime; if it threatens to rock the boat in any way, she learns to switch it off.

If she feels a rise of anger, she learns to disconnect it – good girls don’t get angry – even if it signals that her boundaries have been violated.

Over and over again, she learns to look outside of herself for approval and validation, for the magical authority figure who will give her the A, the prize, the promotion, the compliment, the diamond ring. ~Justine Musk, you are your own damn permission slip

You ultimately have to save yourself. Whether it’s through sheer will or pure desperation, you know something has to shift, and as Mary Lambert writes in her song Sum of Our Parts, “Don’t go looking for some kind of rescue / You are the only one who can save you.”

And yet, you don’t have to be alone. I am here because I found a tribe, wise beings who have walked this path before me, have made maps, lit fires so I could find my way. They have guided me, healed me, kept me company. They are committed to living and telling the truth, they practice the hardest of all things — showing up just as they are and keeping their hearts open.

Mary Lambert is one of those women. I got to see her in concert last week, and it reminded me how important it is that we keep showing up. She does, and it’s beautiful to see. She’s “a shiny ball of glitter and magic” who cries and feels angry and laughs and struggles and makes noise and takes up space and is done apologizing for herself. She told a story of how she was asked to do two songs, one political and one religious, and she had the realization that it wasn’t what she wanted to do, that what she wanted was to sing about love, that she was committed to that message. Her concert wasn’t so much a performance as it was a conversation with someone who adores you, wants the best for you, tells you jokes, sings you battle cries and lullabies — encouraging and comforting you.

There were a few times the force of her voice gave me goosebumps, and other times she made me laugh or cry, (a couple of times I did both at the same time). When she was singing Body Love, which is part spoken poetry and part song, there were lines that caught me off guard. I’d heard it so many times before, but for some reason that night these stood out as if I was listening for the very first time. Then this morning, I pulled a tarot card and almost laughed when I saw the connection to those lines.

concentriccircles

Your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood / It is wisdom / You are a goddamn tree stump with leaves sprouting out / Reborn. ~Mary Lambert, Body Love

What would I say to Mary Lambert if I could talk to her? You are amazing. I adore you. You make me laugh. I want to hang out and bake you cookies. Your voice is so powerful, so tender that sometimes it hurts to listen to it. I had to save myself, but you helped. You talked about how you didn’t become a teacher because you didn’t go to graduate school and earn a teaching degree, but you are a teacher, you have been my teacher. I needed to hear what you have to say, need to hear it again and again, feel so grateful that you are brave enough to say what you have to say, to offer it. Your lyrics, your honesty helped heal me. Because you are willing to go the way your heart is telling you to go, I can go there too, be all the way true to the call of my brilliant heart. Thank you. May you be peaceful. May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be free.

10 thoughts on “Open Love Letter to Mary Lambert

  1. Joyce

    I love you. Thank you for being open about your struggles. And your description of her “performance” was spot on. It felt like she was just a friend doing what friends do best – providing the words her friends need to hear to help them in their journey to save themselves. That is one of your gifts, too, dear friend…helping your readers realize we aren’t alone in the world. And its so amazing that is the card you pulled when that was the exact line you mentioned that night!

    Reply
    1. jillsalahub Post author

      I love you too! It’s so good to hear that what I think I’m doing here is actually what you see me doing — you never are completely sure. And thank you for corroborating that line. When I pulled that card this morning, it felt like no one would believe the coincidence, but you were THERE! ♥

      Reply
  2. Rita Ott Ramstad

    I am nearly 50 years old, and I am still struggling with body issues. Since adolescence, I have always struggled with them, even though mine naturally fit the cultural ideal. It is amazing to me how none of us, regardless of our physical condition, seem to get an easy hand with this issue–which tells me that it’s not about our bodies, at all. Glad you got to have such an uplifting experience. They keep us going, don’t they?

    Reply
    1. jillsalahub Post author

      For so long, the true nature of the issue was invisible to me. I was simply convinced something was (or many things were) wrong with me. I’m so thankful for my current awareness, the understanding that I can choose a altogether different perspective, the potential for the radical act of making up my own mind about what matters. ♥

      Reply
  3. Jen

    I saw Mary in concert last May opening up for Matt Nathenson and Gavin DeGraw.. She was amazing .. She was so Real. It felt very personal and raw. It’s funny that not everyone is comfortable with that. I was with a few people that didn’t understand her. I love her and find my self drawn to people who are real and vulnerable. Jill thank you again for sharing your heart. You matter 💗. At 43 I’m still working on accepting myself and feeling comfortable in my own skin. You sharing your heart helps others. 💗. Sending you love
    ~Jen

    Reply
    1. jillsalahub Post author

      Thank you so much for this, Jen. I just wrote in my journal this morning: It doesn’t matter what you do with your body or your life, somebody is going to feel they have the right to judge or criticize your choices. You can’t escape it, so why attempt pleasing anybody other than yourself? It’s the one relationship where you have a shot at actually making someone happy. So stop trying to please others, stop caring what they think, be who you are, completely open — like you said, “real and vulnerable.” Of course, it’s easier said than done, but I’m more and more convinced it’s totally worth the effort. 💗 P.S. I’m turning 47 on the 18th, proof that it is never to late to start.

      Reply
  4. Rebecca Lovell

    Thank you for this post! I only recently became a huge fan of Mary myself. And her music is SO meaningful!!! I’m so happy for you that you got to see her in concert! I would love to do that myself someday. Awesome!

    Reply
  5. Dana

    This is an absolutely lovely post, written with love from the heart. I first heard Mary Lambert’s song, Secrets, on the radio and it was one of those songs that stands out, makes you pay attention. The words moved me as did her gorgeous voice. Your post is such a wonderful tribute to her and to yourself. I can’t wait to check out her other songs. I love hearing powerful women on the radio (and in real life, and online!).

    Reply

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