The first time Sadie had a real sunburn, she was eight. (She’s actually still eight.) We spent the day at the beach WEARING SUNSCREEN, but apparently some of us gave our poor children the genes of a tomato. Oops! So sorry, guys.
Anyway, on Day Two of Sadie-the-Lobster, she asked me to take her picture so she could always remember the way it looked to have bathing suit straps temporarily tattooed onto her shoulders.
“You might actually want to forget!” I suggested, helpfully.
She did not want to forget.
She wanted to rest in a bath of aloe for a week, but she did not want to forget. She thought that idea was a little bit nutso. She may have been on to something.
Why would she want to forget? The sunburn was just as much a part of the story as the sandcastle and the pile of scavenged shells and the lemonade in those little juice boxes with straws. Our lives are big old art projects, and art can be made up of darkness and light, color and movement and negative space and everything else besides. You can use it all.
I always mean to remember that.
Instead I usually just see the raw materials (sunburn, wet towels, sand in everyone’s shorts) and think, Okay, well, this is a mess; not, Oh, right, this life is a creative work in progress.
A few months ago I heard the musician Heatherlyn talk about finding your soul song. Your soul song is the voice that points you toward your truest self.
It’s not the megaphone-voice from outside yelling about what you should do and who you should be. It’s not the voice that sounds like try harder, run faster, do better, and fake-smile while you’re at it. It’s not the voice that says not enough.
Your soul song doesn’t sound like judgment.
It sounds like an invitation.
I think there’s your soul song—the voice calling you forward, leading you on. And there’s your life song—the art you’re actually making out of your everyday life. When you’re tuned in to the song of your soul, your life song harmonizes with it. Your melody soars.
And when the world is pushy and loud, when you can’t hear the whispers of your soul, or when you have fallen out of the practice of listening, your life song starts to feel a little out of tune. Maybe it sounds like every other song out there. Maybe it’s off key.
I’ve been thinking about this. Is my life singing the song of my heart? Or am I too quick to cut out all the parts that are less-than-glorious? That doesn’t make a song, that just makes a note.
We all want to make meaning and find beauty in our lives.
We all want to sing out the messages that resonate in our souls.
That means taking in all the pieces—the pieces we’re most proud of and also the pieces we never quite meant to include—and bringing them together to make up the art, the life song, that you are living.
My soul song says You are beloved, even if you did not reapply the sunscreen often enough. It says, The compassion you show yourself is the compassion that will overflow to others, so practice here and now. My soul song says, This music has room for imperfection. You were never supposed to be perfect anyway.
I took a picture of the sunburn, but I let it fade a little first.
Same song, next verse. Truth and beauty, and living music.
What are you singing today?