At the beginning of this year, I was about to give up on a dream that has since come true. The same miracle happened at the end of the summer. Two miracles in one year. I am a lucky star.
Readers and fans, you may recall that I downsized my businesses in mid-2016 to open time to explore a deep passion of mine – music ministry. After six or seven months of research and wonderful chats with fabulous people all over the country, 2017 rolled around with nothing for me to hold on to – no degree program to begin, no certificate to secure, no clear path of any kind.
Determined not to give up, I chose my word of the year carefully. I settled on STAY. That word changed everything.
I found it unnervingly uncomfortable to be in a constant state of floating. As I stayed with that icky feeling, a host of secondary judgments came with it. You’re not doing anything productive. You’re wasting time. You’re too old to start anything now. You don’t have the credentials. You’re a drain on the family.
Guess what. Staying with it was the best way through it.
I’d learned about this Buddhist practice of complete equanimity, first at a meditation class nearly fifteen years back, and in various readings and podcasts since then. Now I was applying it. All these feelings and judgments, all this was just part of the moment, part of my actual life experience. At the core of it all, my true essence, my Buddha nature, my God-goo, my shiny little nugget, was there – the ocean beneath the waves.
I began singing in church more than thirty years ago at age 16, joining the folk group at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Monroe, New York, primarily because I had a crush on the kid who played drums. That’s where I learned to play guitar, completely informally. I started leading services before I could legally drink. Here’s proof. This is me leading a Saturday night Mass, circa 1991.
At the time, I was led away from music as a career. My grades were too impressive to waste them going into music. I had no role models, aside from Janet Jackson, showing me how to be a professional musician. It took until age 35 for that little voice inside me to eek out. Today, finally, music, my original true north, is guiding my life.
Through teaching, songwriting, performing, and recording, I’m living the dream, which, this year, circled back to those youthful days of leading music at Mass.
In mid-May, I was offered a one-year internship doing exactly the work I was longing for – music ministry. My internship at Jefferson Unitarian Church, my church home since 2006, began in August. I’ve been on cloud nine ever since. I am part of a heartfelt team, co-creating meaningful worship experiences. Like coming home from a fun but tiring trip, I’m living more authentically than ever before in my life.
One miracle down, one to go.
The very week that I began my internship, an incident occurred that made STAY seem almost impossible. It involves my child, so no details to share here, but it resulted in my having unofficial full custody since August. Next year, we’ll make it official. In the meantime, the incident, the fallout, the processing – it was a lot to stay with. My family was overwhelmed for many weeks, resulting in putting my recording project on hold.
Eight years ago, when I faced the choice of ending my marriage – and along with it, losing full-time parenting of my only child – I did the only thing I could do to preserve my self-respect. Those first nights when my sweet then-six-year-old was not under my roof, were agonizing. I felt as though my heart had split and the wound unmendable. My song “Away” captures that devastating emotion. The agony never quite dissipated completely. Even as she got older, I never quite lost the longing in my heart when she was at her father’s for the night.
Now, my 14-year old has made her own empowered decision to be with me full time. She has become an amazingly strong girl, a wonder girl, and in so many ways, has given me more conviction to stay than I knew I had.
Our relationship, already powerful, has strengthened in ways I only dreamed could occur. That crack in my heart is not only healed, but beautified, like new flowers growing in the concrete.
Unconditional love? Stay.
What if I hadn’t stayed? What if, after researching, my open heart just gave up and decided, since no path was clear, I should find another one? I almost did that. I briefly sought another passion of mine, compassionate communication, and took a weekend workshop to test the waters. Miraculously, the music ministry internship was offered the exact day that the workshop began.
What if, when the chaos hit, I ran for cover? When faced with harsh hurts, what if my tried and true avoidance schemes took over? I wonder if I could have been the iron my daughter needed if I hadn’t first realized I could withstand the fire.
In 2017, I stayed. I stayed the uncharted course. I stayed true to invisible targets. After a full year of staying, I’m hooked. STAY is way easier than all the alternatives. I’m finding the balance and equanimity that Pema Chodron promised. Do you remember? She advised, staying “results in someone who is flexible and confident, who doesn’t become upset when situations are unpredictable and insecure.”
And really, what in life isn’t unpredictable and insecure? Learning to stay, tapping into my true essence, there is nothing from which I need to hide and nothing I need to prove. The only thing to do is stay.
Comment! What have you stayed with this year that has
made all the difference? What longing needs you to stay?
Or just comment with your love and support!