Sing Your Own Melody - Daily Love with Mastin Kipp

Sing Your Own Melody

Jim Lafferty & Melina Hammer PhotographyMy friend Melody died this past February of acute myelocytic leukemia. She wasn’t necessarily a close friend—we went to a small private girls’ school together in Maryland, and our relationship was like that of sisters: we weren’t always “friendly” but we were extremely close. You can’t spend that much time with someone and not feel close. In fact, I can’t think of a single memory from high school that doesn’t include Melody. I still can’t believe she’s gone; her death shook me to my core and brought about a deep acknowledgement of how much she influenced my life.

Melody was a force of nature. I still remember the day she transferred to our school. The cool girls had just started the “Reinforcer Club,” acceptance into which was sealed by wearing a reinforcer (those little white circles designed to fix a broken hole punch) on your forehead. The club’s membership was thriving until Melody arrived; she marched right up to the founders, rolled her eyes, and then told them exactly where they could put their reinforcers. We all watched in awe. That was the end of the Reinforcer Club and the beginning of a new era at our school.

Melody was captivating. To this day, I don’t think I’ve met anyone with that much presence. She possessed the self-confidence of someone who had spent an entire lifetime trying to figure out who they were. She always told it like it was (usually to your face) and had a zero tolerance policy for bullshit. There wasn’t one word that came out of her mouth that wasn’t a reflection of her own truth; she was incapable of inauthenticity. Her beauty was unparalleled and like her name suggests, she was a gifted singer . . . she had the voice of an angel. Melody was the star of every musical – really, the star of the whole school, and everyone wanted to bask in her presence. To be loved by Melody was to feel celebrated for exactly who you were.

Melody didn’t seem to love me. I annoyed her and she let me know it on a daily basis. I was used to the abuse – I had been made fun of by the girls in school well before she came along. While the braces, perm, and (emotionally scarring) acne didn’t help, the truth was, I was an easy target – I did not believe in myself. I placed my self-worth in the hands of 10-year-old girls, most of whom were probably as insecure and lost as I was. Instead of receiving the approval I so desperately craved, I was picked apart and kicked to the curb. I told myself it was because I wasn’t good enough, or pretty enough, or cool enough to be worthy of love. I convinced myself that I would never be accepted for who I was, and decided that my only choice was to become someone else. Sadly, I spent most of my school years trying to be the person I thought people wanted me to be.

This plan got me nowhere, of course.

The more I tried to get people to love me, the more I was bullied. The more I was bullied the more I craved love and acceptance, and this vicious cycle took me so far away from the real me that I lost touch with myself completely. Melody arrived and instantly saw through my hopeless plan. She was the only person to call me out on my crap; any word, action, or behavior that reflected my attempt to be who I thought I “should be” was shot down and ridiculed. She literally didn’t let me get away with anything and she was not afraid to tell me exactly what she thought of my antics. I hated her for it – I worshiped her and yet I hated her.

We went off to college (where I continued to employ many of the same futile strategies) and reconnected after graduation when we both moved to New York City. We built a small friendship. I remember asking her one night over dinner why she had given me such a hard time at school. Her response marked a turning point in my life. “I just felt like you weren’t your own person. You were trying to be someone else and I couldn’t stand it.” I don’t think she knew how much of an impact her words had on me. I realized in that moment that my path—my life’s work—was paved by the desire to find, accept, and love myself. I remember feeling, for the first time, connected to my own purpose. It wasn’t until Melody’s death that I fully understood that it was her light that had lit the way.

Of all the girls who bullied me, I was the biggest bully of them all. I inflicted so much pain by telling myself that I was simply not worthy of love. I suffered at the hand of my own belief that I was somehow fundamentally unlikeable. I’ve worked so hard to eradicate this belief from my life, but it’s not always easy. Am I right? We are often our own worst enemies, convinced that something is “missing”—that we are defective in some way—and that love and happiness will only come if we can “find” or “fix” who we are. How many of us have been tempted to change some part of ourselves in the hopes of fitting in, getting ahead, or finding love? When we do this we are, in essence, apologizing for who we are.

The truth is that there is nothing missing; you are perfectly perfect just as you are. You can only be YOU. Anything else is just a tap dance. When I feel like I have to hustle to be accepted, I know my work is to sit and accept myself. The Uni-verse is always holding up a mirror – how we see our lives is a reflection of how we see ourselves. If we can’t love and accept ourselves, we are not going find love and acceptance anywhere else.

Eventually Melody moved back to Baltimore, went to law school, got married, became a successful lawyer, and had a beautiful son. We saw each other at weddings, reunions, and my 30th birthday party. I was so grateful for the genuine connection we shared as adults and always saw it as a mark of my own evolution—that somehow, after accepting myself, I had finally been accepted by Melody.

We never kept in touch. When I learned that she was in the hospital with leukemia, I sent her a mala necklace and told her how to use it to meditate. She texted me to let me know how much it was helping her. That was the only contact we had. I wish I had thanked her for being a teacher to me, but I hope she’s listening now so I can express my gratitude for everything she taught me.

Mel, you were a light in my life. I was a lost soul and you inspired me to find myself. You were one of my first teachers—an example of a strong, self-assured woman who knew what she wanted, spoke her truth, and embodied her beliefs. There was nothing I wanted more than to connect to the real me and abide in myself, as myself, so that my light could maybe one day shine as brightly as yours. You are alive in my heart every time I teach – when I stand at the front of the classroom, vulnerable and brave, and encourage others to cut the crap and keep it real. I hear your voice when I try to inspire others to stand in their own truth, walk their own path . . . sing their own melody. What I learned from you is as important to me today as it was the day I met you: to feel love, you first have to love yourself.

Thank you, missy.

Love,

Chrissy

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Chrissy Carter is a passionate yoga teacher and domestic enthusiast. You can take class with her in New York at YogaWorks, online at GaiamTV.com, or with her Gaiam DVD, Beginning Yoga. Learn more at chrissycarter.com, Facebook, and Twitter.