I’m starting to think that the secrets to understanding- and coping- with life’s disappointments are found in two concepts: “perspective” and “attitude”. For highly sensitive people like myself this can be a Herculean undertaking. Everything is acute. Sadness feels like sadness, and it consumes you. Rage feels like rage, and it consumes you. Without the mitigating effect of a broader, healthier perspective, you fall into a hopeless state of emotional pain and self-pity, which is an utterly pointless and unproductive state to be in.
Fortitude is a magnificent quality, is it not? Sometimes I wonder if I possess it at all. The people who know me well understand that I am alternately strong and weak. They are familiar with two Claudias; the Claudia who can tough things out, like I tough out “the beast”, and the Claudia who crushes like a shell, exposing her jelly-like insides for the whole world to see. And then I read about the life story of jazz singer Melody Gardot, and I am in awe of how some people overcome adversity.
In 2003, Melody Gardot was struck by a Jeep Cherokee while riding her bike in Philadelphia. The accident was severe. She suffered head and spinal injuries and her pelvis was shattered in two places. Melody spent an entire year in the hospital, on her back, in a full body cast. Reminds me a lot of what Frida Kahlo endured as a result of her trolley car accident.
In the face of physical incapacitation, extreme pain, memory loss, difficulty speaking, and damage to the neural pathways in the brain cortexes, Melody launched a showdown of wills with her disabilities. It began with simple humming into a tape recorder. That led to eventually playing the guitar and writing songs. Then came a strict macrobiotic diet. Finally, Melody’s spiritual recovery was achieved when she became a practicing Buddhist. She is now recording and performing and is a vocal advocate for music therapy.
Melody Gardot’s miraculous rehabilitation and poignant artistic expression are brilliant proof of the old saying, “Attitude is everything”. Specifically, a positive attitude. Norman Vincent Peale was right. So the next time I find myself brooding and crying and feeling despondent over J or whatever, I will listen to Melody Gardot. She is an inspiration in the truest sense of the word. I knew it the first moment I heard her jazzy inflections coming across the radio waves on the Jonathan Schwartz NPR show. I thought to myself, “Wow. This woman has a story to tell”. And boy does she.
This is Melody Gardot singing “Who Will Comfort Me”: