Words to Live By

The Power of the Mind

When I was a college freshman, as a voice major, my voice coach assessed my vocal abilities and informed me that I was a soprano. (For those of you who don’t know, that is the highest vocal range.) I quickly thought and said, “No. I’m not”. He said, “Yes, you are”. I could not comprehend that I had that capability.

You see, I grew up singing in church and school choirs and singing solos, but never as a soprano. Choir directors throughout my life had placed me with mezzo sopranos, altos, and even with tenors (typically a male voice range). I know now this was because there was perpetually a shortage of strong voice parts to balance out all the sopranos. (There were/are typically an abundance of self-proclaimed sopranos simply because that part usually gets to sing the melody.) I was never ever placed in the soprano section and rarely ever even in the second soprano section. How could I go my whole life as anything but a first soprano and now be expected to accept and perform the role of a first soprano?! It just wasn’t possible…I thought. There is no way this guy knew what he was talking about…I thought. I knew I could NOT sing those extremely high notes.

For a whole year, I worked with my voice coach, doing vocal exercises, singing songs, building my repertoire of recital pieces. The whole year, I didn’t sing the really high notes, unless you count squeaking them out in a quick burst as singing. For a whole year, my coach patiently told me I was a first soprano and trained me as such. (At the same university, even my choral director had not placed me with the sopranos.) Harry Wayne, patiently and faithfully, drilled into my head and into my vocalizations that I was a first soprano.

One day, during my warm-up vocalizations, my eyes popped open wide, I caught my breath, and I squealed with delight and

astonishment, “I did it!”. I made it to the top of my arpeggio with a clear, bell-like, beautiful tone, and I sustained it! I was completely amazed and in a state of awe and wonder, which accompanied the thought ” I AM A SOPRANO! Wow! How cool is that?!”.

That moment remains vivid in my memory because that moment was the beginning of a beautiful transformation. I didn’t just believe I was a soprano; I WAS a soprano.

Mr. Wayne patiently led me to believe in my true self and capabilities. He saw in me what I didn’t yet see in myself. Through repetition, breaking through my old habits of beliefs, he led me through exercises that formed a new belief: I am a soprano. Once I believed, I became.

From there, it all began to flow beautifully and elegantly. I’m not talking about just my voice. I am mostly talking about my self-awareness, my confidence and my belief in myself as a person. I stepped over the threshold into a world where I began to discover and embrace my true self; what a wonder to behold. I’m so much more than I thought I was. I wonder what else I can do that I wasn’t aware of…? I was so much more at ease. (By the way, I spent all those years singing other vocal parts because I could. I had and still have a 3 1/2 octave vocal range that allows me to perform most any part. But, my true natural voice is in the first soprano range where singing is easy and free, no performance/acting necessary.)

I learned that I could discover and enjoy new aspects of myself if I just examined my beliefs, questioned them, and assessed whether or not I wanted to continue to embrace them. If I found I didn’t feel the belief was true for me, I knew that I could change that belief by creating another to replace it. I could do that with repetition.

You can do the same thing for yourself.

To assess whether or not a belief is true for you or not, think about that belief and notice how it makes you feel. If it feels good thinking about it, then odds are it is true for you, or, at the least, is currently serving you well. If it doesn’t feel good to think about, then ponder why it might not be a belief that fits well in your repertoire of motivators in life. Once you figure out why it feels ‘bad’, you can use that knowledge to figure out what would feel good. From my example, believing that I was NOT a soprano was not feeling good because it was getting in the way of my progress as a voice major and because it just didn’t feel right to me anymore. It felt ‘off’. I then discovered that the opposing belief ‘I am a soprano’ felt good and seemed true to me. I built that belief into a reality by acting and thinking as a first soprano and surrounding myself with people that supported that belief. Voila! I became a soprano! And, a lovely one as well!

What did I do? I identified the belief that was holding me back, allowed it to point me to the belief that moved me forward, and then I began acting and thinking as if I already believed it. I did this over and over and over until I no longer had to ‘fake it’. I could actually ‘make it’. I was and am a soprano. 35+ years later I still use this technique daily to make all aspects of my life feel better and better.

Living by Design 

Most of my life, I’ve been known as the ‘bubbly’ girl, the ‘happy’ girl, or the girl that’s always smiling or laughing. 

A couple weeks ago, someone asked me if my happiness is real/authentic. In that exact moment, I remember feeling extremely happy, satisfied, honored, and awed to have the privilege of responding. I also felt the weight and responsibility of this monumental moment. My answer was sincere and brought joy and gratitude to my heart. 

I am truly and deeply happy. Not the happiness that comes from the euphoria of dancing with a talented dance partner, or from looking great in a new dress, or from waking up to the ocean from your front window and deck, but that deep-down, always-present, peace-inducing kind that is joy. 

I shared with my friend that I am blessed to have begun my life in the shadow of two amazing women: my mom and my mom’s mom. These beautiful women demonstrated and shared how to find good in anything. I can remember Grandma’s response to me when I was having a trying day. She said, “Just look at it as a break from the dull routine. Think of it as an adventure like those found in The Boxcar Children, The Bobbsey Twins, or Nancy Drew.” Then she gave me a generous serving of banana pudding with Nilla Wafers, and we set about our day with smiles and laughter. 

That beautiful thread is woven throughout the tapestry of my life. Even now the thread is present, twenty years after Grandma’s passing. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I still have my momma to continue showing me how to weave light and joy into my life. 

My entire life I have been empowered with the foundational tools for living by design. I learned that by choosing my perspective I could also choose how I felt and how I experienced life. That small tool of perspective builds a BIG bridge to happiness, joy and love for life! 

With that ‘reframing’ tool, I went from seeing the glass half empty to the glass half full and even Refillable! With that kind of perspective, I experience obstacles and challenges as opportunities that make me feel alive – eager, determined, and driven. Reframing has helped me design a life where I happen to it, instead of it happening to me. It enables me to design a life and world that I love – a world where I feel good living! 

Start with something simple. That uninvited interruption that just happened to you; choose to see it as a welcome break from what you were doing. Or, let that flat tire become the blessing that kept you from a traffic accident or traffic jam. Use that tool like a kid with a magic wand – wave it all over the place! All day long! Sprinkle magic fairy dust all over your life! 

Wow…Magic! Life is becoming more enjoyable. Good appears every single day. Wow…I think I just might be happy; I am experiencing joy… (magic fairy dust everywhere as the lights fade…)

Perspective…grace or grind

20 years ago or so, when I was doing a lot of driving in traffic, I dreaded hitting the road.  The thought of dealing with the over-abundance of drivers and vehicles caused tension, stress, and general feelings of dread.  As you can imagine, I wasn’t enjoying the journey and its experiences.  Who would?  Drivers cutting you off, riding your bumper, refusing to let you over, or rushing to get in front of you just so they can drive… S   l   o   w l y…  Sooo   Agonizingly   S   L   O   W …

I felt a particular disdain for the truck drivers.  The trucks themselves were bad enough, practically sucking your car under it, blocking your view, and instilling utter fear of cataclysmic death as they sandwiched you between them and a concrete barrier.  Then there were the truck drivers.  The drivers were such bullies, pushing their way into your lane and forcing you off the road or into another driver’s lane.  I had never experienced such bullies in my life!

One ordinary day, I was driving along happily (as happily as I could be while driving in traffic), when a trucker put on its blinker to get over.  Oh no!  No way!  You’re not getting in front of me, Buddy.  I sped up and victoriously pulled ahead of that big boy.

As I continued to drive, I noticed another trucker attempting to make his way from the farthest left lane all the way over to the right to exit.  I also noticed that every driver did what I did.  They didn’t let him over and sped up to be sure they were in front of him.  I watched this happen over and over.  That truck driver finally had no choice but to force his way over.

Pin drop.

Something happened.  A thought crept into my head.  It was a compassionate thought telling me to look at that poor truck driver.  No one will let him over.  He is following all the rules and courtesies of the road and, still, no one will give him a simple courtesy and let him change lanes.  How frustrating, tiring, and lonely for that driver whose home is the road.  All-day, every mile, constant diligence and awareness to wrestle his way safely to his destination.  Caring for his safety and others, not bullying and shoving people around, but carefully, firmly asserting his needs in a world that doesn’t recognize him or his purpose-driven requirements for successful transport of cargo (most likely, cargo that we take for granted daily in our personal lives).  Yet, he is forced to fight for every inch of every mile.  He has no choice but to do what the rest of us do and aggressively force his way into and across traffic so he can get where he needs to go.

Perspective shift. 

My traffic life has never been the same.  My travels are enjoyable, even and especially, when there is heavy traffic.  I enjoy opportunities to ease the way and welcome truckers and other drivers to change lanes.  I take pleasure in blessing with love and compassion a driver who cuts me off, feeling gratitude that I am not feeling as frazzled, pressured, or angry as they must be feeling.  I see the anxiety and concentration of the too-slow driver who is unsure of his route and exits.  I see grace: an abundance of opportunities to give a little hospitality and welcome on an often-hostile road. 

Funny.  The more grace I extend to others, the more pleasure and enjoyment I experience out on that old friendly road…