by Marla Beck, MFA, CTACC
Have you ever lost a few pounds or made another exciting life change, only to find that one of your friends simply can't deal with the New You?
Perhaps she can't restrain herself from making underhanded comments or offering you dark-chocolate fudge -- even after you've clearly said "No thanks."
Perhaps she gets so upset she can't talk to you any more.
Sometimes we keep ourselves stuck because it makes others around us more comfortable. It can be easier to carry a few pounds than to risk upsetting our friends or family. It can be easier to bury our need to write under endless to-do lists and obligations than to take time from family to honor our talent and write.
I get it.
Recently I've come to terms with the fact that I've been holding myself back as a musician in order to not disturb my household. My 5-year-old certainly doesn't like it when I divert my attention to the guitar (unless I'm playing exactly the song she wants to hear and sing along to)!
And my wonderful husband -- who loves and supports me in so many ways, has often gotten uncomfortable when I've practiced music in the house. It's hard for him not to clap and sing along when I practice. And he wishes my technique were more flashy, my songs more rhythmic.
Although he really wants me to flourish, when I practice in the house, my husband's forced to contend with his own feelings about wanting to learn an instrument and (so far) not logging in the time he needs to get better. When I choose to make music in the house, he's forced to face his own desire to perform and the fact that (for right now) he's not choosing to move himself any closer to his goal.
In response, I've been avoiding my music. I convinced myself that I was just postponing my art until the time was "right." Which means that for the past 8 years, I've avoided being fully "me" in life: deeply expressive. Musically sassy, sometimes. And super happy!
A few months ago, I decided to change the situation.
I rented a beautiful new office near my house, and created a small, private studio space within for my keyboard, voice, flute and guitar.
(Now whenever I show up to work, I also sing.)
I took action and invested in my art. Now I have the privacy I need to try out new musical ideas and to play as unrhythmically as I want. :)
And know what's happened as a result?
My husband took me out for my 45th birthday recently. At my request, we enjoyed a night of Indian food and jazz.
And wouldn't you know that before the night was through, my lovely husband told one of the musicians about my interest in singing. And before we left, I got his card so we could set up a time for vocal coaching.
The moral of the story is this:
If you're not free to write as you wish, the responsibility to change the situation is on you.
Sometimes, like the friend who's envious of her newly-thin girlfriend, we may lose a friend.
But more often than not, we can find a way to do our own creative work within the very life we have.
Perhaps you need to get to the library more often.
Perhaps you need to set up a writing date with a friend.
Perhaps you need to tolerate a few weeks of grumpy-partner syndrome as your spouse gets used to your new writing hours.
Whatever change you need to make, please follow my lead and dare to make it.
Because the people who love us are the ones who truly want to see us happy. They may even feel inspired by your example, and more empowered to take action to pursue their own dreams.
In fact, you should have seen the smile on my husband's face when he got back from comedy improv class the other night. He plans to go back again, and I can't wait to see him perform.