TGIF: “Polished-Practiced-Perfect” Me vs “Raw-Ragged-Rough-Take” Me

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On Bonnie Raitt, bullfrogs and getting lost in the supermarket of life.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” -Dr. Suess

“You’re just so … exposed!” she said. Her elbows on the table. Her hands open emphatically in front of her.

I was out for lunch with my cousin-sister visiting from San Fran at the Salt Tasting Room. Exposed brick, concrete floors, communal tables and a chalkboard wall with the specials. Very Gastown. Very Vancouver.

We had the “Wine Flight” (a wine tasting selection). FYI, I’m no Carrie Bradshaw. I don’t always drink wine on my lunch break but this was a special occasion.  My cousin was moving to Hong Kong for work.

Each wine was perfectly paired with an assortment of meat and cheeses.



Mmmmmm … 

Where were we? Ah yes! My cousin. She told me she had been reading TGIF and couldn’t get over how much of my real life I put out there. I laughed and brushed it off saying my honesty (word-vomit) was a default setting I couldn’t control.

Then she said some really nice things that (awesome) cousins say when they visit and finished up by asking, “So, what’s going on with your singing?”

The Sound of Music

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” -Maya Angelou

Many many moons ago, I used to sing. Back in 2003, I recorded a little demo album in Dubai. Some of the songs from that album even played on the radio in Dubai. Late-late-late night radio shows.

My life has moved on since then.

For reasons that are far too sensitive and nuanced to get into (that’s saying something, coming from me) I will say this: almost overnight I lost the joy of singing. What was meant to be a break for a couple of days, turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months, months snowballed into years. Six years to be exact. Six quiet years.

The fact that I suffered a pretty serious quarter-life crisis didn’t help. The crazier life got, the quieter I got.

When I first started singing again after my six-year hiatus, my voice sounded strange and unfamiliar. I cringed when I heard it out loud. It wasn’t as strong as it used to be.

Yet, I continued to sing at home, in the shower, in my car, in my bed. I had no plans to revisit my life as an singer-songwriter but I did want to know my voice. Who is this person? What does she care about? What does she want?

Turns out she had dreams, hopes and passions. Who knew? She had been such a Debbie Downer for so long.

The more I sang, the more insight I got into who I was and who I was meant to be. I was hard-wired to sing. It was irrelevant whether I was singing for an actual audience or just in the shower between a lather-rinse-repeat shampoo cycle. Singing was the auditory treasure map to my shipwrecked soul.

Slowly my thoughts got louder. So loud. I couldn’t contain them any more.  They pushed and shoved their way out of my mouth. They got bolder. Soon I was saying the things that “we-all-think-but-don’t-say.”

This surround-sound version of me bore a striking resemblance to the crazed six-year-old who ran around laughing, singing and screaming.

I can’t afford to lose her again in the supermarket of life.

Six years was too long. Six years felt final.

So now, I put my shiz out there. For everyone to see, read and hear. If I get lost again? They (family, friends and colleagues) can come find me.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  – E.E. Cummings

The Right Now

Given my crazy schedule and an effort to make TGIF more sustainable, Idelette and I discussed doing a vlog (video blog) once a month.

Except l thought, why stop there?! Why not take it one step further and record a little song to shake things up?

*insert buzzer*

First mistake.

Turns out:
- I can’t remember anything from my “Digital Recording 101″ class in university.
- There is a reason why people get paid boatloads of money to record music.
- It’s impossible to “throw together a song” in one evening. Even a karaoke song.

Still I thought, “Leap, Tina. Leap.” Actually, a bunch of Facebook friends (you know who you are) reminded me to leap this week.

I was tempted to leave you with one of the songs from the album that was professionally recorded back in 2003, instead of the crazy-audio-karaoke-disaster I was able to throw together. And then I thought … where’s the fun in that? I’d be missing the whole point of this exercise.

The point of life is not to be “Polished-practiced-perfect” Me, but to show up and sing like an out-of-tune bullfrog amidst life’s chaos.

I hope that exposing the raw unfinished version of me gives you the courage to do the same.

Come on, fellow bullfrog!

I can’t hear you.

Louder! Louder!

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” -Dolly Parton

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‘Polished-Practiced-Perfect’ Me (Studio, August 2003)

Download track here.

‘Raw-Ragged-Rough-Take’ Me (Bedroom, October 2011)

If you want an audio reminder to be ‘Raw-ragged-rough-take’ YOU, you can download the song here.
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So my SheLoves peeps, I have two thoughts this week:

1. I’m curious. What is the area of your life that you are terrified to expose? Note: I didn’t say “Is there an area…” I know we all have areas of our life where we silence ourselves.

2. What is the worst-case scenario that keeps you from exposing/sharing that part of yourself with the world?

3. Dream with me for a minute. What could be the best-case scenario (pay-off) in exposing/sharing yourself?

Love you more than an uber pretty Crispy Potato and Apple Roast with Shallots, Rosemary and Thyme,(<- Recipe)
xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.
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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis

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Tina Francis
  • Kim Manzey

    Thanks for being so vulnerable Tina….I loved both of your songs!

    “This surround-sound version of me bore a striking resemblance to the crazed six-year-old who ran around laughing, singing and screaming.”

    Interestingly enough my 16 year old daughter was just asking me yesterday about why when you grow up you loose the little girl inside of you and how free and innocent you feel. Sounds like you have found your “little girl” again and the voice she had and who she was meant to be when she grew up! I think I will get her to read your blog and encourage her to not …”loose herself in the supermarket of life!” Thanks Tina! :0)

    • Kim Manzey

      ok….lose not loose! Lol…. :0)

  • jenn c.

    omg, teen, i LOVE salt tasting room!
    definitely one of my top 5 places to go in vancouver ;D

  • http://confessionsofanenglishwoman.wordpress.com Katherine

    Love this post Tina! You are amazing!! I relate to what you are saying so much here. I have always loved raw, ragged, rough in ‘others’. I find it makes them so much more beautiful but for some reason I often show the ‘perfect polished’ self. As an actor that is one of the biggest struggles so many of us face. We …actually I should just say I, want to act well and tell the story well but then I try to control my performance by self directing and just trying to be ‘perfect’ when in actual fact the best work comes out of being completely raw, fallen apart, organic and vulnerable…vulnerable, that’s the hardest part especially as a strong woman. What I have learned (and am yet to still put into practice) is that showing vulnerability is being strong.

    I absolutely LOVE your raw version of song. I feel the emotion, strength, vulnerability and in doing that you allow other people in. Lots for me to learn from this post. Thank you. Keep being raw. Love it! And please, please KEEP singing. Stunning voice. Wow. You are beautiful in every way. Thanks for inspiring. xox

  • Kelley Johnson Nikondeha

    Tea~ how I love your voice – both in writing and in song.I love hearing a new part of your voice this morning – like being show another facet of a diamond. You shine, oh, you shine! I will be humming ‘the centre’ all day, my friend. Love that you are singing again! Love that you are finding sustainable ways to share your full voice with us!

  • http://www.rachelpickphotographyblog.com Rachel

    Tina – great post, keep it up! Love hearing your voice too – it’s been a while :) Keep up the inspiring posts, taking risks and in it all being kind to yourself.

  • Anila (Achi)

    Dear Tina,
    Can I just say I love your raw voice. I was strangely thinking about the first time I heard you sing and how you blew me and Mia away with the power of your voice. ( you sang “At Last” at the Marthoma conference talent night a few years ago).
    You always hit a powerful note deep in me with your post’s as they are so relevant in my life. Cibu and I were just having a conversation about how I have been too scared to expose my true self since moving down. I guess I got too caught up in trying to be the perfect wife and lost me. So my amazing husband bought me flowers and reminded me about the person he fell in love with.
    Today I have a much stronger sense of self and your post just reminded me that I’m not alone, and it’s okay to feel lost sometimes.
    Thank you for being vulnerable because it’s teaching me to be vulnerable too.
    Love
    Achi

  • Sandhya

    oh teen… my heart… is stuck in your “Raw-Ragged-Rough-Take”… thanks for being you… leap leap teen, cause it gives all of us courage to leap with you… love u my dahling tiny ummmaaaa

  • Jessi

    Six-years-ago you has nothing on Raw-Ragged-Rough you, which sounds like honesty, growth, and beauty-from-ashes from the first two notes.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.englishbydsouza.wordpress.com Shereen D’Souza

    wow Teen, takes me back to those amazing performances you did in school but for some reason your voice has only become more soulful. Downloaded and on loop in Itunes. Its great to hear your singing voice again, raw ragged and full. You sing it girl!

  • Lindsay Jangalee

    Girlfriend!!! I love you! You are amazing!
    Beautiful voice, beautiful person. You have so much to offer this world Teen, keep it up…
    The Christian Carrie Bradshaw. ;)
    xo

  • Amy Englemark

    Oooo, Tina!! I’m excited to post this. FABULOUS…you sing FABULOUSLY!!!!
    DO IT! Sing again. Sing more. Sing the words that are raw and real to you. DO IT! I’m scared of making REALLY good money coaching people in an area I am passionate about. I’ll share the best case scenario if I continue to move forward in this area…I function amazingly well in a profession that brings me much fulfillment and provides great ability for me to bless others. Go Tina! xo Amy

    • Amy Englemark

      I meant that my best scenario if I faced what I was scared of was: continuing to move forward in my career and yada yada…sometimes punctuation makes a whole lot of difference when you re-read something!

  • Raji

    I love your voice. I could listen to you sing over and over.

  • http://www.leafbyjana.blogspot.com Jana

    echoing others…I love your raw take. so real and so much soul. Your voice reflects your story.

  • Rajani

    OMG Tina! I love both versions of you but I gotta say the ‘‘Raw-Ragged-Rough-Take’ Me’ version blows me away. So awesome to hear you singing again. Thank you so much for sharing!
    I’m working on trying to overcome my deep seeded fear of public performance. In that spirit, I’ve signed up to do a flash mob to MJ’s Thriller at Halloween. I mean, come on, it’s dancing thriller and it’s a flash mob! Two things on my bucket list combined! The worst thing that could happen is that I could freeze and forget the whole routine and I would be that idiot standing in a the middle of a crowd of perfectly synchronized dancers with a panicked oh-god-kill-me-now look on my face.

  • http://www.clairejdeboer.com Claire J De Boer

    Beautiful songs – beautiful voice Tina!

  • Karli

    love, love, love, love, LOVE!

  • Michele

    Tina, if that is your voice weak & wobbly, I can’t wait to hear you sing strong & pure. To be honest, I preferred the rough, raw you to the studio you, maybe because there is so much more life & maturity coming through.
    To quote a famous singer, “Sing, my sister Sing!”. You have much to share my friend, both in your writing & in your singing, keep using your voice, it is definitely a gift you have been given.

    Much luv,
    Chele

  • Njoki

    Wow Teen!!! You my friend are like an onion–I feel like with every TGIF I get to peel off a layer and find something new about you! You sing it gal–Your voice is absolutely beautiful!! I love both songs–but I have to say, I LOVE the “Raw-Ragged-Rough-Take”. So tahnkful you found your voice again–I learn so much from you! Thank you for sharing, xoxo!!!

  • alie

    ummmmm …. you are one heck of woman! – drop dead gorgeous from the inside -out. love your “raw” ! love reading, and now, hearing your voice.
    wow(a) !! xxoo

  • Daniela

    I love all your voices. Never change, but always evolve. (okay, no sense, it’s late, I’m tired) Love you girl.

  • Christiana

    Sheesh, I wish my voice sounded anything close to that good when it’s rough and ragged! In the immortal words of Joey Russo, ‘whoa!” Love it, love both songs very, very much and yay! Bonnie Raitt!

  • http://www.tararobinson.com Tara Rodden Robinson

    Dear God in Heaven, child! I had NO IDEA. Angel voice!!!! Better than what’s on X-Factor right now. Seriously. You. Are. Incredible. Heart, heart, heart!!! Love! Like! Starred! Faved.

    I have to say that when I started listening, I burst into tears with joy and then sadness that your voice had been silenced for so long. Please promise us that you’ll keep singing and writing and being the fabulous you. You are so brave and I love you so much!!!

    I’m committing to using your questions at the end of the post as writing prompts for blog posts. I’ll keep ya in the loop.

    with lots of love!!
    Tara

  • Cara

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this! I’m so glad that you’re finding the courage to be who you are, and I hope you know your honesty is inspiring other people. You have a beautiful voice; both your singing voice (for real!!) and your metaphorical “voice” that we get to hear through your writing. Thanks for sharing both of them. :)

  • Usha

    Girl, I dont know what to say, I’m thrilled you’re still singing, you sound amazing, and raw is definitely better. Till next time, another great restaurant and conversation to look forward to. Love you lots. xoxo

  • http://kikiorchestra.wordpress.com/ Kiki

    I’m listening to this over and over, Teen. This is just about the best thing I’ve heard in who knows how long. Straight from the heart. Thank you for your courage. xoxoxo