Imagine the best voice you’ve ever heard.
Now throw it away because it’s garbage.
Now imagine a voice you can’t imagine because it’s even more amazing than your imagination can handle.
When the smoking ruins of your blown mind regroup, allow me to introduce you to Audra McDonald.
Some may call her a singer
She is a vocal magician, a song sorceress, a wizard of sound and feels.
She is an opera house and Broadway legend- more Tony awards across more categories than anyone else, ever.
Poised, beautiful, charismatic… and the reason black girls around the world dared to do elect opera vocal training in the land of reggae and dancehall. And by ‘around the world’, I mean Jamaica. And by ‘black girls’, I mean me.
Audra is legend.
I admire her so hard, even though I’m all shy about sharing just HOW MUCH I LOVE HER!
Now, Audra, who as we established is a bit of alright, was the recipient of a record-breaking SIXTH Tony award the other day and in her gracious thank you speech, she chose to thank her parents for actively not choosing the medication route to deal with her ADHD, but instead channeling her diagnosis into the theatre life her a theatre Great. It was a beautiful, personal message of shining gratitude from one specific child to her specific parents.
Yet the Mighty Internets rose up in indignation that she would DARE make mention of one ADHD treatment that was not ALL the ADHD treatments in the world. How DARE she honour her own experience at risk of alienating and making feel judged all others. Who were not her.
And after my fan-girl fury died down, I found a simmering rage lingered still, because too often this is the way we choose to view things. Somehow the internet has blurred things so dramatically that we can’t even seem to realize or honour the very real and valid distinction between ourselves and everyone else. No longer can we recognize that someone has done something FOR themselves without the net-fed narcissism translating that act into something AGAINST us.
Somehow, we’ve come to this place where we’ve begun to see everything that does not 100% line up with how we would think or say or do something as being a direct attack against us and our villages and our ENTIRE WAY OF LIFE. We go on the froth mouthed offensive with blog posts and comments that blister the speaker into recognizing that by disagreeing with us, they have DAMAGED the very core of who we are and…and…and how very dare they?!?!?
Stop it, world. Just stop it.
retaliation response to all the parents who felt that by acknowledging HER own specific and very personal ADHD experience, Audra had judged them and called them out for their own choices to medicate their own ADHD children, I wrote several furious messages in my own mind, and would have written them all down if I had addresses beyond ‘Dear Terrible People of the World.’
Then Audra spoke to Them. And I was humbled and won over all over again by the depths of her own graciousness. She could have ignored them. She could have let the furor roll over her flawless back until it faded into the distance, but she chose to answer them with such warmth and grace, referencing our shared estate as Parents Just Trying To Do Right.
One particularly vocal ADHD mom and writer, whose Time piece was entitled Sorry, Audra McDonald — My Kid Needs His ADHD Meds actually said, “I’m sure that you were not personally judging me and other concerned parents when you thanked your parents for not putting you on Ritalin.But damn it, you’re not making it any easier to live with our hard decisions.” She also went on to suggest that Audra ‘should’ have used her thank you speech to thank her mom for feeding her theatre career via the practical aspects, without mentioning that her mom chose to not medicate her.
Can you imagine? Prescribing HOW a specific person should voice her specific journey? But this is where we’ve arrived: at MyWay Highway, where we can now decree that anyone who takes any other route is lost, is wrong, and must be guided; where we can feel it our right to tell people how they should live their truths (why, as if it were OUR truth, of course!), and can take umbrage to their divergence from our ways.
While I, when facing this in my own life on much more meager scales, am filled with rage that people want to edit me into a version of themselves, and discredit the validity of individuality, as if some kind of Stepford Internet is how we should all live, Audra handled it with much more poise that I could have ever scrounged up (and I have tried to scrounge for poise. No luck.)
“The decision of whether or not to medicate a child is a very personal, difficult and subjective one. What works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for another. But in the end, as a parent, all that matters is that you do everything within your power to help your child. I was able publicly, from [the Tony] stage, to look into my mother’s tear-filled eyes and acknowledge her struggle, and thank her for making that decision. Not for driving me to rehearsals, helping me with my lines or keeping me calm, as you suggest I should have said to her, [<– still ticks me off!] but for the actual decision she made. That is exactly what I wanted to thank her for, and I did.”
She continues, “Every parent, when faced with a decision like that, makes it on the basis of real, personal and specific circumstances relating to their child…”
Boom goes that dynamite.
What I deem vital to my life, what I consider essential to my history and key to my future won’t always echo what another mom or teacher or diabetic or human might…even with several shared basic elements. And that’s okay. It HAS to be okay, or we’re caving to the idea that we must think as one, robotic brain.
So forgive the times that I will post things that you violently disagree with. Or don’t. Either way, I have fought too hard to reach even this far in my incomplete journey, to figure out how I think and feel about things. And you know what? So have YOU. We HAVE to give each other the space to be our own versions of flawed-but-fabulous. Even if my ‘fabulous’ is a hot mess. Or yours is. [<–I like this one better]
So the next time you find yourself bothered by the fact that someone has shared THEIR truth in a way that for some reason doesn’t work with the way you would have shared yours, just take a breath and remind yourself to GET OVER IT.
Write about it, rant about it, petition about it, sure. That’s your right, and no one’s trying to take away your right to be heard.
So stop trying to take away mine.
Everyone on the outside of your head is going to tick you off at some point. Heck, everyone on the INSIDE of your head is going to do that too. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
And when it does, just grab another cookie. Or some cake.
I have my thing, you have yours.
At the end of the day, we’re all just hoping for some courage.