This month I am reaching a couple of really big milestones in my life. One is turnng 40. How did that happen, anyway? It’s so surprisingly soon… :-)
The other is starting work at the Metropolitan Opera.
I sort of like thinking about them together – the latter makes the former seem much more palatible… Somehow, turning 40 isn’t as scary once you have something to show for the first forty years of your life… And, I guess for an opera singer, singing at the Met seems “significant” enough!
I have long had thoughts about this whole concept of “significance” though. (And I mean since long before I saw any end to the catering business!!) I think we all grow up thinking that somehow, at some point in our lives, we will arrive at this place where we feel significant. Where we rise up out of obscurity. Magically we will feel that we have had some impact, some purpose. I believe we all secretly suspect we ought to be up to something big, something that in the most idealistic sense could be classified as “good”.
And unfortunately, I think most of us are attached to the idea that we need a serious number of “witnesses” to our deeds…
Over the past two years, as I have been living my dream life of traveling, singing, meeting people, working and making a living doing what I love, I have been surprised time and time again by re-encountering the lessons I thought I had learned years ago. Remembering agonizing over some particular aspect of human being, while waitressing or doing that office job, or just wondering what I was thinking when dating that one…
Clearly, we re-visit old territory to learn more deeply, or to refresh our humility, and maybe most of all, gain clear insight into our magical, mystical and blessed state of “not-knowing”. It is after all then, and only then, that we can learn and grow at all!
There are two things that have come up recently for me that I know I even wrote to my friends about years ago – and they seem ever more impactful to me now:
One is, obscurity is important! Being small, feeling humbled, falling to one’s knees in desperation, asking for higher guidance, receiving it with childlike glee and absorbing it like it will, in fact, save your life – is important! Because it is close to the truth, scope and proportion of things – and, because great things cannot be accomplished by arrogant people!
And I don’t know about you, but I would much rather be at the service of great accomplishment than think myself great.
The other thing has to do with gifts. What are yours? I have always been told what mine were. A voice, a friendly disposition, tenacity, a strong will. A few years back it occurred to me that maybe gifts are not what we have at our disposal for our own purposes. Maybe they are what we have to give to others? And if that is true, maybe we are not in charge of choosing how, when and to whom we give them. Maybe the need for our particular gifts has to make itself known to us, in its own time, by the recipient of them… Which is not what a Type A personality wants to hear, trust me.
What I have learnt over the past few years of both obscurity and of this expanding area of influence in which I find myself is this – All you can do is give it. Whatever “it” seems to be in the moment. Sometimes it is what I think I have to give, and sometimes it is simply what someone else might need.
What feeds the heart is the uncompromising desire to be of value to another being – and when that happens, when you are seen and your gifts are received by even one, singular other – then obscurity is remarkably, magically and most fulfillingly gone!
Here’s to another year of giving, not some, but all of our gifts – as they are needed!