At the risk of indulging in drama, have you ever had an experience where you think, that’s it, my life is over, everything is ruined?
Maybe you blew an audition and didn’t get the part you were sure was a key turning point in your career. Or maybe you had a performance that got panned by the critics, or got your heart broken, or didn’t get into conservatory or lost a beloved pet.
Life rarely goes how we think it will. Sometimes you just feel like you are covered in mud, stuck at the bottom and struggling.
Time passes, wounds heal, other opportunities arise. You find yourself at another audition that goes well and you get the part, you have a performance that is reviewed well, you meet someone new, find the school you go to is actually a better place for you and you adopt a new dog.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a saying, “No Mud. No Lotus.” The lotus flower only grows in watery environments where the roots dwell in mud and the water is murky at best. The flower is gorgeous and considered sacred in many cultures, but it couldn’t exist if the mud weren’t also there.
My path into singing wasn’t a traditional one. Though I sang in high school I didn’t pursue music much in college. It wasn’t until after I’d graduated and was working at a University that I began to think what if ? I took classes in song literature and other music related areas to explore and loved every minute of them. I took voice lessons in earnest, gave recitals, and even did a few auditions here and there. But, the reality was, I still wasn’t ready to pursue singing. I thought my path was different.
The path I thought I was supposed to take involved, moving south for my then boyfriend who I thought was going to become my husband, for him to pursue his passion and get a doctorate, and start a family. I sorta thought I’d figure me out later and willingly put myself and my interests on the back burner.
That was all well and good until he abruptly ended our relationship and said he was moving on his own. Huh. I was 24 and seriously heartbroken and lost. If you were around me then you would agree it was a dark time.
But, it was that breakup that opened the door for me to pursue singing. I got serious about what I wanted and in time was willing to admit to myself that I hadn’t been all that happy in the relationship either. By a stroke of grace from the Universe and my wonderful Uncle Dick, I was granted the opportunity to study at Chautauqua just a few months after the breakup. The time spent there immersed in music and singing healed my soul and gave me the chance to see what I could do vocally when I put my mind to it. What I discovered was it was okay to put my passion first. I came home from the summer, decided where to apply to graduate schools for singing and set off.
It is easy to look back at that time with the hindsight of nearly 20 years and know there was a lotus growing amidst the mud. I pursued my passion and actually got two master’s degrees related to singing, sang as much as I could before marrying someone who is a far better match than my boyfriend at 24 would ever have been and now have 2 wonderful children. At the time I would never have believed you if you’d told me that was all going to happen.
It has taken time and practice for me to be able to remind myself that even when the situation seems darkest, all is not lost. That, in fact, my only job when things are feeling muddy is to continue on with life and stay open to the possibilities of what will be.
For, in those moments, when you aren’t looking, a lotus bud just might appear and bloom right before your eyes.