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.
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.