Beginnings & Boldness
Boldness to begin – that’s what I need and what I want. Yet, I hardly know where to begin. In every way, that is how I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve experienced many endings, most of them painful. Many new beginnings, most of them filled with gulps. Life is an adventure. And I keep telling myself exactly that when my faith gets put to the test.
Starting over. Not for the faint of heart, and yet it was. Heavy workload and the balancing act of life. Not for the weak, and yet it was. The death of my mom and little time to breathe. Not for the already traumatized, and yet it was. Offspring growing up and moving away. Not for the protective mama bear, and yet it was. Achieving a career goal that had eluded me for many years. Not for the fearful, and yet it was. So much of what I didn’t want actually became part of my every day. Working through common and yet traumatic life events made every step feel like an enormous one. I remember an incident that I was just telling my friend about this past week.
A couple of years ago in the fall, I had traveled to North Carolina for an arts conference and I had simply to choose which rental car I would drive. Not a big deal. Unless you are in the midst of distress, broken and broken hearted. I stood there in the hot, smelly airport parkade looking at a dozen, boring vehicles. I tried one and then the other, afraid to make a mistake. And then, I literally stood in the middle and cried. I couldn’t decide. How could I even get to the conference if I couldn’t choose a car? Anxious and alone, I cried out to God for peace and a good choice, and gulped. I chose a car and left. I didn’t have GPS and was only using a map. Normally, not a big deal. But as I drove to Asheville, tears flowed.
I could barely see the gorgeous trees surrounding me, and the stunning beauty of the Appalachian mountains. The two hour drive felt desolate and desperate. Then, as it started to get dark, I got lost in the city and had to ask for help. This shouldn’t generally be a big deal. However, when loss looms and the future appears to be a blank canvas, there’s this place where fear and faith fight each other in the middle of a new experience when all you want is simply peace on the journey. On a new road in a foreign country (albeit North American) with no familiar landmarks, the angst storm of my thoughts and feelings threatened my ability to see the beauty in the view. Alone and anxious I remained until love and truth showed up.
How often do we allow anxiety or trauma to rob the beauty and the adventure before us? This is the fight I have faced so often. Quite honestly, I’m getting fired up typing about it. In fact, I think this is the fight I am more than willing to put my armour on for. This is the fight I have been fighting for many, many years and will continue to do so.
My last blog was the tale of my new home studio, which in every way was a definitive step, and though a small renovation, to me, it was a massive restoration. And I’ve been thinking that for the masses, my experience is not so different. Questions that pop up challenge boldness and wisdom. Why not take a huge step if you’re going to take one at all? Who says a small step can’t be huge? If you know who you are and whose you are, this, my friends, is not irrational talk, it’s confident boldness. But it certainly doesn’t mean that new roads don’t require some driving experience or GPS.
Being the new kid at the front of the class. I’m skilled at that from childhood. Moving umpteen times and starting over, building community and friendships. Cutting a record on a mat leave with no experience and no funds. These adventures from my past are valuable parts of my story because they built strength and resilience. At the same time, fear crept into a few places and hid out waiting for a time to wreak havoc. Frankly, or Jeffly or Sandraly, I think it’s silly to identify true adventurers as devoid of struggling with anxious thoughts. Who on earth looks at major life events and thinks ‘woohoo, let the wildness begin’?
For me, I have come to look at major life events in an entirely different way. I’m not going guns blazing into my trauma or your pain either. But I will say, from experience, that my thankfulness for the hard times is of deep significance. Empathy and courage are great friends, for they ensure moving forward well. I have come to see very clearly that there’s both gentleness and a stepping on the gas required for new roads, even ones you never thought you’d be on or dreaded being on.
Forgiveness, thankfulness, rest, resilience are all a part of the adventure on a new road. It’s probably a good idea to drive a reliable car as well. That beat up jalopy of a mindset with lumpy seats, intermittent sour smells, powerless engine, and negativity treads is probably not the vehicle you want to drive. It’s best to leave that thing in the junkyard and invest in an auto that will get you where you need and want to go. The past is the past and new roads are full of the present and presents for the future. New roads aren’t going to be new roads if they look like every road you’ve ever taken before. Right?
No Familiar Landmarks
New beginnings for me have often meant that almost everything looks or feels new.
When I moved to Edmonton to go to university, not one person from my high school came with me. I was on my own, at a campus five times the size of my hometown. I had no friends, no knowledge of budgeting, and no support system. Well, that’s how I saw it at the time. What I see now, looking back, is that realistically, I just had a lack of familiar landmarks. So, that meant I had to drive first. Discovering my new city, learning how to take the bus, being single, going broke and eating cream cheese on crackers, crying on the phone to my mom all were a significant part of this driving thing. Oh, and there was that course that I had to drop because I knew I was going to fail it. Adulting at its worst and finest.
Thankfully, eagerness to learn and the need for growth overcame my anxiety. I eventually stopped beating myself up for quitting that course, and determined it was wisdom. Mostly, because it was indeed wise. I had no interest or business being in an engineering computer course. That was naivety and bad course choices. It didn’t mean I was incapable or a quitter. Pursuing that course would have really affected my further studies and delayed movement into the career path that ultimately has brought me great joy. A rocky year or two and soon I was in a program that I loved, despite holding tightly to another even bigger dream hidden deep in my heart. But, we’ll get to that soon enough.
Over the years, I came to love Edmonton (and still do). The other day, I saw a server wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Still in Edmonton’. I laughed and thought – I need that shirt. Except it should also say ‘and loving it’. I love the river valley, the downtown, the surrounding areas, the people, the farmland and the pavement. Did I know I would? Nope. But I do. And as a twenty year old, I assumed that I wouldn’t know beforehand and so I chose to drive anyway. That’s the part of youth that we as older adults need to grasp once more.
It’s more than okay that there are no familiar landmarks, or not enough to make us feel at ease. Someday, we will know these roads well. In the meantime, we are developing really great stories to tell someday. Not when we stop having adventure, but when we stop in the midst of the current voyage to have a coffee and share a timely tale before we head back out on the road.
To soak in the sunshine of this new road and bask in the beauty of the unfamiliar is the joy of the new road perspective. If you only travel on the familiar, it’s like perpetually eating porridge. It’s healthy, good for you, but after awhile, don’t you want at least to add some pecans or peaches to it? Likewise, if you only travel on new roads, your palette longs for something that feels like home. So, somewhere in the messy middle of life, one gets to make an important decision. Am I willing to delve into the daring and to also appreciate the well known?
The internal storms of life are often as formidable or more than the external ones.
I had a good chat with my sis. I told her I wasn’t sure if the reason why I organize my spaces so often with such tenacity was for reasons of beauty or to appease anxiety. We laughed at the story I’ve told before and will tell again quickly about the tri-fold towel issue.
For years, I was determined to fold all towels in thirds and then again in half to create the aesthetically pleasing stack of linen. I railed that my mom did it that way and therefore we must as well. Then, one mind-blowing day, my mom came over and defied her own rule. She actually folded them wrong.
I stood there in shock and quickly questioned her as to what on earth she was doing. She had no clue why I was so indignant that she did the dreaded double fold. It wasn’t long until we discovered that there was only one home out of the many that she chose the tri-fold. This decision was made simply because the only linen closet was too narrow to fit the double fold. So, she adjusted her technique. And unbeknownst to her, I was imprinted to believe that there was one and only one way to fold towels.
I still tri-fold to this day. But I do it because I like it. It is prettier. To me. And, it’s my house, so I get to fold my towels in threes. (If you visit, please honour the tri-fold, because I’m just going to have to come behind you and fix it if you don’t.:))
The other day, my friend and I discovered that we both have to organize our spaces in order to feel ready to create. That we find mess and piles of disarray to be both discouraging and deeply distracting. The heaviness of a home without beauty is too much for artistic types like us. And yet for others, it’s not a big deal.
What do these two stories have to do with storms on new roads?
Weather is unpredictable and internal storms so confusing. Feelings thunder and thoughts light up the looming skies. Will there be torrential rain or just a small pitter-patter? How will I drive through these storms? Past failures may threaten to darken the blue but really, they are old weather reports. In the same way that a forecast isn’t a certainty, neither is a past storm guaranteed to happen. I am not the exactly the same person I was and I’m not entirely the person I’m going to be either. I am me, but wiser. At least I hope I am, because that would be highly annoying to not have progressed.
What am I talking about? The fear of success. Starting something new means that you have to leave old things behind. Old thought patterns aren’t useful on a new path. Emotional scars and trauma don’t get to detract from the joy of the journey. Yet so often, they are allowed to do so. Too often, I have allowed lies and worries to be formed into patterns of expectation. It’s time to move into foreign territory. To expect the unexpected with hope and a smile.
What if I started to stare at the scenery around these new roads in the same way that I gaze lovingly at the Rockies on my way to and from BC?
Yes, the mountains are formidable and they are all around me. But I’m not driving on them, for crying out loud. Yes, the weather patterns change unpredictably and it’s probably not smart to drive those roads in the dead of winter, but I have before and I made it. I’m ok. I really am. I made it through. I’m not sitting in the ditch with a dead battery. I’m driving in a reliable vehicle realizing my dreams. ‘Be still and know’ sometimes translates into ‘calm down already, you’re just fine’.
And there it is. Realizing my dreams. I’ve weighted them pretty heavily, since I’ve carried them around for so long. I have wanted to become the musician/artist I had hoped I could be for more years than I will admit. In the months prior to my mom’s passing, she listened to my music every day. It brought her comfort and it brought me tears as I saw the impact of the previous new roads I boldly embarked on. Every one of those records was a new beginning with new challenges, new fears, new heights. Foreign territory. Every single time, I had hopes and faith and no clue how it would really turn out.
This record is no different. Except that I’ve not recorded for nine years. I’ve written, performed, and dreamed for this record for a lot longer than that. Dedicated to my mom, my beloved mom, this record is the best work I’ve done to date. In that way, each previous record was, too. However, this one required a depth of surrender that I haven’t experienced before. To sing songs from a very deep and solitudinal place of vulnerability, to play with extremely experienced and gifted colleagues while putting aside my worries about my own musicianship, to address identity questions that each person asks him/herself was full of gulps, a couple of gasps, and a whole lot of deep sighs. I shed a lot of tears prior to and during the cutting of this record, and each one of them was worth it.
I’m now solidly in foreign territory with a fistful of dreams, and the armour to fight for them. Because when I fight to move forward for my dreams (not just pipe dreams, but the lifelong, calling sort of dreams), every step I take is a testament not to my strength but to my weakness and reliance on God’s strength. For if I can move forward, maybe you can, too. That’s how I’ve looked at other faith filled friends around me. So-and-so chose to move forward. So, I guess I can, too.
This is what legacies are made of. Choosing to move forward no matter what. At the expense of looking foolish, and paying the cost, whatever that is. Having the audacity to put into words and walk the belief that when you know that you know that you know that you are being asked to move forward, you not only can but you will. Boldness in the face of angst. Weeding out those deep-seeded fears and planting confident hope.
The secret is not to say ‘ I can do anything’. That’s simply not true. I can’t do anything I want nor can I do everything I want to do. I can do what I can do with God’s help. My favourite quote on this is from Helen Keller. “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
‘Beloved’, my seventh recording, will make its appearance this fall. It’s part of the something that I can do.
The songs are from my heart, for that’s both all I know to do and the something I can do. I’m living a creative life, one that I am privileged to live. The components of that have changed over time, because life has a way of introducing all sorts of changes and challenges.
My deepest hope remains that listeners will hear everything – the lyrics and delivery, the musicianship, the heart, and the passion for living life well. My desire is that this collection will offer love and laughter in tender places, healing amidst trauma. I’m not sure how this will play out or where, but I do know that this is the record I’ve dreamed of making for a lot longer than nine years. I’ve wrestled with my artistry and come to a new place. I’ve struggled with difficulty and challenge and sung and played from this space. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next. So while you are listening, I, too, am listening. I’ll share what I can when I can. I hope you do, too.
So how are you facing the internal storms and whom are you facing them with? Is there a new road in a foreign territory that is beckoning you? Are you resting on the familiar until you’re restored enough and it’s time to drive on a new road? Are you truly viewing the beauty on your road? My hope for you and for me, is that we each get behind the wheel and drive, as love and truth show up on these new roads.
Hope to meet you on the way,