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the path back is the path forward


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1980. no balloons. [k.s. friday]

no balloons

1980.  it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it.  i was a mere 20.  listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag:  this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.

it is shocking to hear the innocence.  it is shocking to hear the pain.  if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well.  this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process.  it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s.  it’s the story of sexual assault any time.  it changes everything.  every trajectory.  it’s my story.

NO BALLOONS is a song of the times.  especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus.  simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.

i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss.  it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger.  instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.”  only it’s not.  it’s about no air.  no breath.

“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…”  and that was a product of the times as well.  i closed my eyes and silenced my voice.  i stopped feeling it.  or did i?  “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?

until this week i really never thought i would share this song again.  after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore.  but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.

we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life.  things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget.  things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence.  the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.

i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.  i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them.  i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction.  i have searched for answers.

but i also know that my heart was blown open.  i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.

i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen.  i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.

 

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

 

 


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i am alive. [k.s. friday]

 

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the sun was shining in central park the first time i sang this song in public.  we were on stage and it was the conclusion of the “I AM” NYC revlon run/walk for women, an event where all the proceeds are used to help fight cancer, specifically women’s cancers.  it was stunning – tens of thousands of people gathered, unified by a yearning, to make a difference, to help women live healthier lives, longer lives, to help fight the fight.

every time i hear or sing my own song, i quietly dedicate it to a woman i know who is a survivor in the middle of this battle, in the middle of her path back to health.  my own sweet momma tops my list of women who have bravely and stalwartly walked this journey.  but i think of dear friends, relatives, acquaintances…devastatingly, too many to list.  all “bonded by the power of this dream that is i am.”

I’m different than you.

I am the same.

We are strong. We are courageous.

We are more than this disease; we are bigger than this fight.

United, we celebrate life.

it is raining here today as i write this.  the power and fortitude of the mantra ‘i am’ seems a little weaker.  it’s pervasive, this grayness.  for survivorship of disease is not limited to the blunt force blow of cancer.  survivorship spans the spectrum.  women, like me, who are survivors of sexual assault.  women who are survivors of marginalization.  women who are survivors of silencing.  women who are survivors of domestic, workplace, governmental limitations or abuse.

i listen to my own lyrics and i wonder…are we unified by a yearning?  are we truly trying to make a difference to help women live healthier lives, longer lives, fight the fight – whatever that fight might be?

download I AM ALIVE on iTUNES  or CDBaby  or purchase the album AS SURE AS THE SUN

read DAVID’S thoughts on this K.S. FRIDAY

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I AM ALIVE ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood