I live life on one volume. Loud. Loud pulses through every fiber of my being and every beat of my heart. I talk loud, I laugh loud, I love loud and my presence is loud. I’m loud when I walk, talk, teach, cry, type, and cheer. I dream on full blast, have a concert in my car each morning and dance to the music as it reverberates below my feet. For heavens sake, I’ve even been told I smile loud and whisper loud. Loud is the soundtrack that my world turns to. For 27 years, living alive is living loud. My truest self, my most sincere me has always danced through the world this way. No one needs to worry when I’m loud. No, nothing is wrong, no, I’m not yelling, no, I’m not angry, it’s quite the opposite. Everything is just right! I’m loving life so much it bursts at my seams in loud squeals of excitement and delight. It’s the absence of loud when the warning siren is the loudest.
This year has been the silent suffering of not being able to live loud. Something that has never served to be a hardship for me before, is now something I fight to see glimpses of everyday. Since March I’ve been struggling with intense and at times unbearable back pain. What once was just pain sitting in my lower spine has now poisoned its way down my legs, knees, ankles and feet. To the point where pushing on a gas pedal sends a crushing pain through my feet. My natural state of energizer bunny status now needs a nap and recharge by 8:00 A.M. I have found more revival in scorching, hot baths to alleviate pain and curling up in bed, than a happy hour drink with the dearest friends, dancing around my room and Friday night shenanigans. I’ve been a piece in the game of medical/ health care Jumanji, where each level is just as frustrating as the first. I am thrown from “Congrats! you have a disc disease! Move up two spaces”, to the wild card of “nope, not Sciatica, nope not a kidney disease” to a “oh no! The doctors scanned the wrong part of your body in your MRI, go back to start”. To only circle my way back to beginning all over again at level one with a round about session of how-many-departments-can-I-get-transferred-to-on-my-lunch-break- to-book-an-appointment…ready, set, go! What an adrenaline rush these days.
One by one, branches of what living loud means to me have been stripped away. Infamous surprise trips cancelled, bachelorette parties missed, dancing days dwindling to none, absent from weddings, and empty bleachers and sidelines of cheering on friends and students. I miss my loud, people-filled days while bouncing around from one passion to the next. I yearn for it with all of me. I ache for it everyday. Surprisingly enough, I’m not here to write a complaint letter, nor detailed play-by-play of my current standing with my health issues. I’m here with the testimony of who loved me…loves me loud through the silence.
I’m lucky enough to have been invited into the most welcoming, small group of humans at work to sister through life with. We are a collection of beauty, talents, walks of life, Jericho’s and the perfect blend of adventure seekers, life navigators through our 20s, birthday celebrators, loud life livers (ME) and quiet, graceful wisdom givers (NOT ME). They have been the best love-filled gift since moving back to San Diego.
I recall sitting at a happy hour in a booth at our home away from home, Slater’s 50/50 this past May cheersing over the last weeks of the 2020-2021 school year, while giggling over our students and dating. As the conversation shifted we went around the table and shared what our stone was.
CONTEXT PAUSE: What this meant for us was referring to when something is wrong, really, really wrong, how can us as friends identify this behavior when all we feel like doing is hiding.
I shared that my stone is isolation and quietness. They’ll know something is wrong, if my classroom door is closed during the day and I fall silent. I was the type of teacher who kept her classroom door open to shout “HI”, “HAVE A GREAT DAY”, HAPPY FRIYAY“ at anything passing by my door that breathed . So, for my door to be shut was a red flag. Soaking in that present moment, and sitting in gratitude of these ordained friendships, I assumed those days would be far and few between, and certainly far down the road from that May evening.
As the Summer took off, I busied myself with my loud life by tutoring, teaching summer school, vacationing to Chicago and two more jobs for the year, while my pain accompanied me without an invite. My symptoms grew more severe, more frequent and urgent care and ER trips were part of the routine some weeks. I tried living loud and loving loud to have that serve as my constant. My never-changing joy that made me feel well, me in a time I physically didn’t and don’t feel like me. By August, my loud living, was a crumbling skeleton I was grasping to by every disintegrating bone. I refused to let this be seen. I denied this part of my reality for as long as possible out of the sheer love I had for this part of me and what it brings to the table of life and relationships. Instead, I started closing my door.
I started closing my door more, then locking it, then turning off my lights inside as the the chaos of the year picked up. I went to work and like Cinderella bolted when the clock struck 3:00 PM to the next job or to-do, or doctor’s appointment, or bed. There was no more dancing, but there were many more “no, I’m sorry I can’t make it” e-mails and texts and last minute “no” RSVPs sent in. It was easier to pretend ride out the volume of last year’s loud living behind a door, than going to confession of this year’s struggle to find it at all. It was easier to bury myself in work than to walk down the hall to my sister fam and confess “I’m throwing my stone. The blend I brought to our friendship, the loudness within me, pain robbed me of it and I don’t know how get it back.” It felt like a significant piece of me was missing, it still does. However, serendipitously, as the loud always takes note of the quiet, the quiet notices the loud. More importantly, the absence. That’s when Mollee’s music played.
Amidst this beautiful group of friends I hold dear, you’ll find the sister of my soul, Mollee. The most radiant being who is keeper of the gentlest soul, yet touches the world with the most profound power. The softest heart with the strongest back to hold herself up tall against all. The epitome of carrying heavy loads with graciousness, living lightly, and makes it look like loving others is the most effortless thing she’s been doing her whole, dang life. Bearing witness to her move through the world with this power she harnesses is an honor that leaves me in awe. She quietly kicks serious ass, before anyone even has the chance to notice or blink and runs through walls for her tribe in the stillness of darkness. Her love is in the details- simply, purely, and drenched with humility and intentionality. She makes a big splash in this world, and doesn’t need to “turn up” the volume to do it. It’s the most captivating view to watch this play out and to marvel in as her friend. When it’s absent from our friend group, or my day, my heart is the first to take note. I notice something important is missing. Something that matters is lacking. I’ve internally labeled this greatness within her as “Mollee’s Music”. A song in my life I treasure so deeply, that when it’s not playing I’m searching for it. Parallel to my loudness, her quiet beauty is a sound I miss when I can’t hear it.
Mollee’s music is the gentle knock on my door on a random Monday morning dropping in to say “hello” and “I love you”. You’ll know it by the sounds of our much needed giggles on our classic date at Wings n Things. It sounds like after school quiet conversations about all of life’s greatest secrets we’re still trying to crack. It’s handing me a coffee on a Friday morning where I haphazardly burst through her door after a tough week, when the punchline is she doesn’t even like coffee to begin with. It’s planning my surprise birthday celebration, when hours earlier she welcomed me collapsing to my knees in her classroom and holding me through tears after a horrible teacher moment. Her music sounds like leaving post-it notes on my desk just because, and continuously inviting me to church despite the fact that 90% of the time I can’t tag along. Her melody sounds like being a life witness and safe haven on an impossible anniversary of conquering fears and days of laying on my classroom floor in crippling pain. Her chorus is a smile in the hallway and instructing her firsties to wish me to “have a great day Ms. Barnes”. Her lyrics are found in all of what she does, but the instrumentals are found in all of who she is. The lingering note is heard in her quietness that commands the world’s attention. Each hum of her harmony is found in her patience that never hurries or rushes. Nothing is an inconvenience, but everything yields at the convince of loving others well. Her tenderness is loud, but the delivery is soft. It’s the sweet sound of all of this compiled and mixed into the quietness and stillness of life. In the middle of the mundane, behind closed doors, on a random weekday, when there’s nothing to celebrate and no special occasion. When there is nothing to cheer about, no season of winning, merriment or triumphant milestone that calls for celebration. It’s in the lack of noise, I hear Mollee’s music the loudest. It’s her music that I find comfort and even peace in my absence of loudness. It’s her music that reminds me I’m not forgotten even though there’s a piece of me that still feels like a phantom pain of forgotten. Her presence is the sound that miracles are everywhere. I turn up Mollee’s music louder these days, and I’m just grateful she just keeps inviting me to hear her song.
I’m devastated to not being living loud (for now), and am still a little lost trying to navigate what loud looks like for me these days. Nevertheless, what I know is this:
I’m not sure if I wasn’t forced to stop living so loud, I would have been able to soak in and live out the bridge of Mollee’s music. The song she just calls her life, and maybe her own cover of living alive, but the album that I would title “love”. I’m not physically dancing much anymore, or at all, but I continue to twirl round and round to Mollee’s music, and the volume is up as loud as can be. Mollee heard me the loudest when I stopped being loud.
Keep singing your song Mols okay? I’ll keep playing it loud. I love you the loudest of all.