“i believe that we need every ounce of energy that we have to try to create a positive change in this world. and to work together. that energy is precious.”—Ani DiFranco, Righteous Retreat Cancelled, 12/29/13
Like a siren luring me to discover new depths of myself, and even eventually to move to Buffalo, Ani DiFranco’s music could be the soundtrack to my hero’s journey. I desired the love of another woman with a force that left no room for doubt or fear. That I might one day love my own sex never crossed my mind, but in a matter of a moment I made up my mind—and took a leap of faith. We were newly acquainted through her yoga studio and Elizabeth sought my services as a creative consultant. A fan of Ani DiFranco, she brought me a copy of Knuckle Down, insisting I would like it. I didn’t. Ani sang with an anger and passion unfamiliar to me and uncomfortable; I couldn’t relate.
The night our relationship began, I invited Elizabeth over with a decisive determination; the hour was late, my intention was clear. She had been to my home for dinner a few days before and at the end of an exhilarating evening, still unresolved, I politely declined her advances. Then later, re-listening to Knuckle Down and the song Callous, the line, “you can’t will yourself happy,” made my choice clear. What I didn’t know then, but understand now: we were to be each other’s Modulation. Saucy, sexy and self aware—a righteous babe—I willing followed Elizabeth down the rabbit hole, jumping in with both feet; Ani DiFranco playing in the background.
Hero’s journey; dark night of the soul; kundalini awakening; the seductress’ path; consciousness evolving; self actualization: there are as many names for my experience as there are philosophies and sacred traditions. The search for soul and unity is ancient and innate, and while there are examples and helpful teachings, there is no roadmap and the work is far from easy. Any fear I experienced over being queer felt trite compared to the true horror and shame that came with my unfolding psychic experiences. Queer might be controversial, but witch is worse. Quantum physics and society’s love affair with Harry Potter aside, everyone knows that magic is only make believe, and believers are unsound. Wary of everyone and afraid for my own mind, I turned inward and turned up Ani.
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”—Napoleon Hill
Lost, alone and afraid, I made a study of Ani’s music. An empath, I tried imagining over and over again how it would feel to stand on stage in her shoes; to channel that kind of fire; to be comfortable being that visible—that vulnerable. Inspired by her poetry and awed by her passion, I committed to finding and claiming my own voice; to living unfettered and unafraid.
In 2012, I published Babe Effect, the first half of my story; my song of myself. Still inspired by Ani’s courageous example of self expression and her obvious integrity to personal truth, I sought to add my light to the beacon of hope she’d been for me.
I don’t know why I didn’t write this acknowledgement sooner, but I am proud to write it today and stand beside a woman I admire and am indebted to in her hour of trial. To quote Ani: “but I don’t think there’s a one of us leads a life free of mistakes.” I was raised to believe that only a closed mind is certain and that learning and growing is messy work; that mistakes are essential to a life worth living. No mistakes, no experience; no experience, no wisdom.
In July 2013, I wrote a tribute to another woman who instantly earned my respect and gratitude—Niki Henderson, Executive Director of People’s Grocery. A keynote speaker at the Business Alliance of Living Local Economies (BALLE) annual conference, Niki talked about our individual and collective need to be with the breakdown until it breaks us down and we breakthrough. She called for each of us to take responsibility without shame; and she emphasized the importance and healing potential in music, dance and celebration.
Harmony includes many voices and healing our past requires each of us to heal ourselves. I am grateful to Niki for giving me the piece and peace I needed to transcend the shame I inherited by virtue of my birth, as I am grateful to Ani for her siren call, music which guided and accompanied me through my breakdown until I broke through.
We are all broken. Let us sing our songs for one another until each one of us breaks through. Bright lights illuminating a new energy for a new era full of joy and fulfillment; stretched with new potential. Elizabeth taught me that yoga, like life, is not about perfection, but practice; that in the end, the journey is what matters. Thank you Ani DiFranco for sharing your journey and inspiring my own.