Confessions of a Surprised Prophet

It happens over and over again.

I write something – a song or a poem – about how I’d like something to be. The entire time I’m making it, I hear my inner critic hissing its usual transmission of doom. The general gist of those vile mutterings are variations on “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Years pass. I revisit the song or poem from time to time. Then one day I realize that the prophecy that seemed so far-fetched back then has come to pass. What I foretold in my creation has become real.

Here’s as example. Years ago, I wrote a cheeky song called “Britches.” It has its origins in the statement I heard again and again as a child whenever I was asserting my prodigious will: “You’re getting too big for your britches.” (These words are particularly ironic when I consider how quickly I outgrew my pants in those days. I’ve always been taller than the clothes designers think possible. I was one of those girls in the 70’s who was adding length to her too-short jeans by sewing a few inches of calico around the bottom.)

I started the song with these lines: “I’m getting too big for my britches; I guess I’ll just have to go nude.” From there I made bold assertions about standing tall, walking proud and tooting my own horn. None of which I believed at the time.

These days when I sing the song, it rings true. I’ve grown into the parameters set out by the song.

Around this same time in my life, I wrote a poem about my voice. At the time, I was just starting out on my vocal journey and was terrified of singing in front of anyone. I could imagine how it would feel to sing freely, but hadn’t a clue about how to find my way there.

My Voice

My voice is streams of silk
flying from my mouth–catching the light.

A potent tonic brewed in the cauldron of my belly
with generous doses of all I’ve known to spike the potion.

I pour it out with love to those who would drink deep.

My voice is a bird–a phoenix
rising from ash to incandescence
fierce-eyed–hot breath
with fine plumage:
orange, scarlet, iridescent
stretching its wings after long captivity.

Short flights grow longer and god-I-hope higher.

If I sing that soaring high note the top of my head
just might blow off!

So—what have I to offer?

Nothing—but the voice of a goddess
comin’ down from the sky
with feathers in her hair and a twinkle in her eye.

Just a touch of her fine hand
gave me the chance to understand
that her voice and mine are truly one
And that I was given this song
in love and fun.

© Barbara McAfee

Nowadays this is exactly how it feels to sing. My voice has become “streams of silk flying out of my mouth.”

Not every single thing I write comes true. Or at least they haven’t yet.  Just in case, I’ll keep creating songs and poems that call forth the kind of person I most aspire to be…and the kind of world in which everyone’s most cherished dreams can come true.

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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2 Responses to Confessions of a Surprised Prophet

  1. Stacy Warner says:

    Last night I had a wonderful voice lesson with my teacher and friend, Kim. This poem speaks the swirl of feelings I had after we finished making music together. Thank you!

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