I recently reached out to friends on social media for blogging prompts. What follows in the coming weeks will be responses to all of those amazing suggestions & questions. THANK YOU!!! I plan to release a blog every Monday or Tuesday. Fingers crossed for consistency! Here goes nothing / everything! Please enjoy with an angsty rock soundtrack 🙂
“I find you to be inspired and self motivated to just walk through life and take on new challenges. How do you do that? I’d love to know your inner process because I’m sure it takes courage to be you. Share the courage with the world!”
I’d first like to respond to this delightful and — dare I say — flattering question with a quote by Brené Brown:
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”
I often don’t feel very courageous … or even strong. For much of my youth / young adult life I felt vulnerable, swayed by peer pressures and the insecure desire to be liked. However, looking back, above all I have followed my heart and its yearnings, sometimes to my detriment.
A privileged, middle class white girl growing up in small town midwestern America to parents who are still alive and together, my childhood was somewhat provincial, safe, and supported. We never moved when I was growing up. I think that this stable background really did set me up for feeling safe to act out my heart’s desires. I would say that part of my urge to go out and get it came from boredom from small town livin’ and a deep curiosity to see the big world out there.
In 11th grade I was urged by my German teacher, Frau Siewert, to become an exchange student in Germany. She all but signed the papers for me, I feel like she organized it so well. I think her wise eyes could see that I was falling into some troubles. I loved raves and would often drive with my friends an hour into the city (my hometown had 4,000 people in the middle of forests and cornfields) to go to parties. I think my teacher could see the path I was heading down and I hand it to her for helping me away from it. Not that raves or clubbing is bad, but I was getting pretty wild with it! So when I was 16, I flew to Tübingen in the state of Baden Württemburg with just a few years of high school Deutsch under my belt. It was terrifying. Thankfully my exchange partner was incredible and became a dear friend. But I was very shy and a perfectionist and could barely speak German without turning beet red. And yet, thus began the desire to travel, which truly has been a guiding light in my life.
Fast forward many years later. I got a bachelor’s in Psychology. Studied and taught yoga intensely for 10+ years and got my 500 hours of teacher trainings. I’ve moved to the east coast, the west coast, a 9 month stint in England and some time in New Mexico, Duluth 4x’s, and Minneapolis twice. I only had a “straight job” once – a clinical research assistant at Rhode Island Hospital and prison – and realized that while I was rapt & interested to interview inmates about their substance abuse and sex lives, I surely didn’t like data entry. So I quit and booked my first month long music tour from Rhode Island to Austin, Texas and back (this was 2004, before google and smart phones). Many small music tours followed, and 7 albums have been independently released since 2000. In my recent past I also opened, and closed, a small yoga studio in Minneapolis.
I question if all of this moving around and changing my focus has been courageous, or driven by fear of that early boredom, or fear of intimacy, or fear of planting roots, fear of becoming “normal.” Every time I moved, it seemed like my music career was JUST getting a foothold and some recognition and then I had to start ALL over. Same with yoga – starting to teach in Seattle, then Duluth, now Minneapolis and with each new move starting from scratch. I wonder if there weren’t some threads of self-sabotage or fear of success in there … or fear of failure might be more like it. My motivations were cloudy, sometimes impulsive and whimsical, or driven by crushes and relationships, but truly above all, there has been a deep desire to see more of this world, and meet more of the world’s people.
These words by Chani Nicholas ring SO true: “Being afraid is no excuse for not trying. Being inexperienced is no reason not to go to the lengths we must to get a little time in the saddle. Being green and growing is far more powerful than sitting on the sidelines, choking with envy.”
I’ve always been uninterested in committing to a stable job or going to grad school because I want to keep space open for music and art to take its course. Opening and running the yoga studio was about the most rooted thing I’ve done since my bachelor’s degree (and I even would leave the studio to travel as much as I could). And so, it didn’t work – probably because it wasn’t my full time passion like some people who open yoga studios have — and I leave it to them, with gratitude!
The space I leave for the songs to come is a wily thing. I want to allow room and time for inspiration to come, without forcing it. Financially, I am not at an awesome point when compared to many people my age. So part of this courage to do what I desire has to do with being okay with not having a ton of money. And also trying to find ways to make money that won’t hurt the love of my passions. When I have relied on music as my sole money maker (which I did full time for a few years), I would be playing background music in restaurants for hours and over time my soul was sucked and the love for the music would start to dissipate. I am grateful now to have a manager who controls my booking, although we have pulled back from performing so much, so I feel a little isolated these days as I’m allowing the new norm to unfold.
All of this personal life story aside, I’d like to say that all who wander are not lost. Everyone I’ve met and every place I’ve been has a part in my life story and has altered my reality. Some in harsh ways, some in gentle unfolding ways, some in big beautiful loving ways … and sometimes a little of all of these things. I was listening to an Oprah Super Soul podcast featuring Marianne Williamson who said she prefers to think that she is a wave amongst many waves all in one big ocean, rather than a wave alone in the ocean that can be dissolved and crushed by the others. Our actions, our paths, our unfoldings all intersect and ring out into distant edges unknown.
I used to be frozen by indecision and anxiety. Never knowing what my true life purpose was, what my calling was, what I am meant to do on this earth. I sunk into deep depressions that therapy helped to even out eventually with some SSRI’s and talking. Now I’m trying things and seeing what works, and if it feels too hard and starts to create pain and suffering and anguish like the pursuit of a successful career in music (aka fame) sometimes has, I back off and follow a path that feels healing, like how yoga has been to me. When the yoga studio started to kill my love for teaching, and was draining my savings and I was in the red, I let it go and went back to just teaching for other studios. I will sit in discomfort for awhile as I know that often is what makes us grow, but I have no tolerance to hang out there for too long as the angst and sorrow from perceived failures has a negative ripple effect on all aspects – health, community, cosmos. And so, I let go.
To wrap up, I’d like to leave a few things that have worked for me in being self motivated and feeling like I can pursue new things:
- having support to talk things through: family, therapist, lover, friends
- a spiritual practice that involves witnessing the mind (meditation, mantra, asana, pranayama, journaling/morning pages)
- researching before leaping into something new – i am a book junkie and google is my friend
- talking with others in the field i’m interested in (i always offer to pay to pick people’s brains because their time and history is valuable)
- solitude to reflect
- gratitude for all that has brought me to this moment, good and bad
Thank you for this beautiful question – I love you! And thanks for reading, friends. I wish all of you the heart to follow your passions and let go of that which is causing you anguish. I wish you beautiful, fulfilling lives! Big love, Mary
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