Right now, I am taking steps to create a life that’s Big. In the past I nurtured a fantasy of the post-bestseller lifestyle, on some Greek island, sipping champagne as I drafted the next big blockbuster.
Fantasies may help you endure the tedium of writing, the endless search for just the right meaning, the long lonely chapters. But at some point you grow out of them. You say damn, that’s not gonna happen. You may decide it’s more satisfying to figure out what becoming Big really means for you. On your terms.
My big dream is to create a new shape for my life. To bring all my loves together: songs, art, stories, and to fan the spark of transformation. It’s exciting. And terrifying.
One aspect of my new shape looks a bit like performance art. I was in a jazz-pop band before having kids, and I sang with an amazing gospel choir, but only sporadically since. My performance muscles need a workout. So I’ve been singing. Several times lately, the flow of energy through my voice has carried me – and others – to very real emotional heights. This inspired me take risks, to sing in non-traditional places, to bust it out whenever song moved in me. To feel free enough to sing when the muse speaks is a gift… and it felt good to stretch my wings.
Until the other night, when I. totally. bombed.
It was a fire circle of old friends, an important occasion marking the anniversary of a dear one’s passing. These moments call for big emotions, when music can lift and carry us to higher planes of feeling. One could imagine a strong voice with heartfelt emotion being of service. If the intention and timing is right.
I’d missed a similar opportunity, and didn’t want fear to hold me back. So, even though the circle had organically begun to disperse, and our lovely host had moved on, I went for it. Called to her, offered the gift, sang my song. I saw a look on her face that I didn’t expect: Confusion. Disappointment. Irritation? I saw that … and promptly forgot several lines of Latin. Recovered, shaken.
I hadn’t listened to my deeper knowing… of timing… of sensitivity. When we are off our game, people know. Music is perhaps the least forgiving, because when it’s not so great, it’s obvious.
She graciously hugged me, and a few others thanked me. Still, I felt bruised and vulnerable. I seriously wanted to get the hell out of there. But I stayed, breathing, working with my emotions. The desire for flight persisted until I was home in bed. Truly, I wanted to escape my shame and embarrassment, that I had forgotten to listen deeply to what was needed. That my desire to give, to share my voice and build my experience took over.
Next morning, upon waking, I got the “Aha.” At a fire circle, people need Kum-ba-yah, group experiences where everyone can join in, to strengthen the mutuality of the experience. My song, while well-intentioned, didn’t fit. It was too much of a performance.
One of the greatest joys is to learn to be gentle with one’s self. To acknowledge the voice that says “You may as well quit now,” and then jump off that groove and hop into another pathway.
I actively turned to the voice that said: “You are learning and growing. It’s okay. You probably won’t do THAT again.”
Grace is simply this: shame and fear transformed into a nurturing willingness to move through it.
This probably never happens to you! But if it did, how would you move through it?