" In my family there were many musicians and singers and so the voice is something. I feel it was passed down to me or that I should use my voice for good and for telling stories. There is a connection to the cycle, I am intrigued by how the voice or my voice changes with the menstrual rhythm and have done some experiments, but there is a lot more to unfold.
I was on the pill from the age of 16 until 25, nine years of not having a cycle or having a synthetic cycle. I really always had the sense it wasn’t right, but I was too scared to come off of the pill; I was so comfortable on it, once I found the right one I was happy, I had control over when I would bleed and had protection. Underneath all that however, there was a deep feeling that ‘this is not how it should be, it is not natural’. Of course it is different for everyone, but I really wanted to get back to my natural rhythm and I tried a few years ago. I just stopped taking the pill, I didn’t wait until the end of a pack of anything, just ‘today I will stop’. It set off a whole chain of anger in my body. I felt it was anger. That went on for a long time, and then I went back on the pill to sort it out, by advice from the doctors.
Then 2020 came around, it was lockdown, and it seemed ‘if there was a time to do this, here it is now’. It felt like a big upheaval. I wasn’t travelling, I felt I could deal with whatever comes in my body, so that’s what I did. I was nervous, ‘will I get my period back? will it be heavy, light, painful?’. So, I called my doctor and said, ‘I am thinking about stopping the pill, is there any advice?’ and she sort of said, ‘no, why are you are calling me? Just stop taking it, there is nothing else to do’. I thought ‘really? there is nothing else? I shouldn’t change my diet or lifestyle in any way?’.
I found a book, called post-birth control syndrome and it offered loads of things to help with the transition and with lots of information about coming off of the pill and the transition afterwards. For example less alcohol, sugar, gluten, more or different exercise; all of these things, staying calm, meditation; all of the good things that we know. So, I did them for a month and my period came back and it was beautiful, I was so happy to see it there, after that month it has been a bit of a rollercoaster, I haven’t been able to have that completely relaxing month again and now, this month is the first time I really haven’t listened to my body in my winter phase, while it wanted me to rest, I was social, I was busy and I was out.
I am really interested in my female ancestors, I feel a real connection to several of them, based on what I have learnt and read. I have a strong urge to tell their story, to not forget them basically. It could be connected, with all of the, (it seems like a negative thing), but the ‘things that went wrong in my body’ in quotation marks; that anger that came up for example, present and experienced through different medical issues. The ones I struggle to understand, the ones western medicine cannot give me answers for. The answer that I seem to come to is that there is something in my family line that needs to come up and out and potentially it needs to be heard through me.
I really can’t fully understand it yet, but I think there is a deep learning there and a lot of learning ahead. I want to engage with traditional Chinese medicine, or a naturopath for these issues, because I think it runs so much deeper than what my GP can tell me. So, I am meeting my ancestors on this, a very physical level, of my body and psyche, and their presence is with me in that way but also I am meeting them in a creative way. Their creativity has reached me and I really want to tell their story through songs, film and art and I have the capacity to do that, using my skills to tell their stories. I made a short film about my female ancestors.
My great aunt compiled a book of her memoirs, called 'Oma, Mu and Me' - her mothers and her grandmothers, so three generations of women, I read that and learnt a lot. I then discovered that my great, great grandmother’s cousin was a painter called Julia Wolfthorn and there are a lot of people in Germany who are very interested in her and are trying to put on exhibitions and revive her work. She had an amazing story to tell; she wasn’t able to join the Art Academy in Germany, because she was a woman, so she petitioned them, along with 200 other women. She founded her own group for female painters. She was Jewish by descent, so she was kicked out of the 'Secession' movement, which she was a founder and director of! She was then taken to a concentration camp and when she was being rounded up, she knew where she was going, she wrote a post card to a friend saying ‘don’t forget us’, In the camp she continued to paint, and she died there. The postcard was found many decades later and the woman who found the postcard felt she had to do something about it, to display her artwork and there are now books written about her and I am very inspired by her, her hutzpah.
Wow! I have gone through years and years of vocal training, in institutions, different countries, different vocal styles, experimental and not once has someone said your voice might be different because you are menstruating, or your voice may be different because you are ovulating.
This is my practice, it is my life; singing is now the main part of my creative practice, so to learn that was mind blowing, of course I am still learning because each voice is different. How is it on day one of my cycle or how is it on day fifteen? and what songs do I want to sing? In the winter phase I found that I want to sing songs about being peaceful or in the present moment, as opposed to my spring or summer when I want to go out and (sings a song about boldness and power), compared to winter is more like (sings a song about peace), it is more quiet.
I am trying to give a voice, particularly in my podcast to potentially unheard voices, in this case are female Georgian singers, which if you were in the UK could easily just think of Georgian singing as male voices because any feature on the television or radio will use the recordings of men’s voices. Men are in the public sphere, men’s repertoire let’s say, are work songs, in fields, table songs when guests are there; they are the songs for other people to hear. Whereas women’s songs are more like healing songs, or lullabies, heard in private or behind the doors of a house. So, when it comes to being on a stage and showing off folklore or Georgian folklore, it has been men’s songs which are shown, but I am interested in what we are not hearing. I love men’s voices, and there is a time and a place for that, but what else is there? what is going on in the kitchen? And indeed, the stories that we have covered are very beautiful and I also feel that in my own family I want to hear the women’s voices. This is not to say that the men are not important because they are, and maybe some of the answers I am looking for come from the male line, I don’t know. But the way I feel my ancestors physically, I feel the women, I don’t feel the men in my body.
Now that I am leading and teaching and singing, I think there can be something to learn about the cycle; how do we lead and facilitate space when we are cycling and other people in the room are cycling? For me as a singing teacher, a choir leader or workshop leader, I want to have a deep listening to all the bodies in the space and I think that in my future there is a role to be played, in holding space, ceremonies, circles, I hope for that in my future, or now? maybe it is not the future, maybe it is now! In the present.
Learning about the seasons of the cycle really resonated with me. I experience such a change with the weather and seasons in my body anyway, there was an ‘of course, this makes sense’.
Our cycle is an amazing thing, and I was reminded of the knowledge inside of me via your course. Like I did know and we do know that this happens inside of us, but we put this knowledge aside. And wow! our body goes through this cycle of creation and destruction each month, it is life creating beauty and what are we doing to our bodies when we stop that process with medication? When my first period came back, I felt that ‘this is something real, something that is part of this wider cycle, of women, of the earth, yeah’.
Even I forget, I think about my ancestors as the people who are dead, but my grandmother is still alive, my mother is still alive, and I see them every day. They are still giving me information, passing things down and something that really touched me in your course is this idea that the egg that made me came into being when my mother was a foetus in my grandmother's body. That really blew my mind, it is incredible. We all came from a womb and it is easy to forget.
In my family there were many musicians and singers and so the voice is something. I feel it was passed down to me or that I should use my voice for good and for telling stories.
There is a connection to the cycle, I am intrigued by how the voice or my voice changes with the menstrual rhythm and have done some experiments, but there is a lot more to unfold. I did some research and people have written some papers about how the voice changes through the cycle.
Yeah, I found this information in my charting; before I was using an app to understand my cycle and mainly the length. But making it on paper and having more room for ‘how do I feel today?’ is lovely, something about putting pen to paper is a nice practice.