We turn not older with years but newer every day― Emily Dickinson
These past years I’ve been doing brand new things. I’ve become a mother, a music teacher, a climate activist, a backpacker. I’ve learned new ways to communicate, support, love, give; be resilient, bold, brave.
Now as I return to performing music it will be in a new way. Because I’m a different person than I was back then.
Growing up, I was incredibly shy. When I started performing in college, I discovered the power of music. Music enabled me to reach across a huge divide of my own silence to connect with other people. It was a miracle. It gave voice to my deepest thoughts and feelings. I treasured the connections I could make with people at my performances: we shared a closeness together.
Still though, I relied on music as a vehicle for validation. While I was elated by positive feedback, when I received criticism or faced rejection, I felt crushed. Even though music connected me to the world, it also reduced my self-image to a single dimension: either I was a successful musician or I was a failure.
In 2001, I took time off from performing to raise my daughter. Now, as I come back to performing, I feel rooted beneath these fickle currents of validation and criticism. While music helped me connect to the world, taking a break from performance helped me re-connect with myself.
During this break, my heart has been transformed to one of a mother’s, with extra chambers grown to accommodate my daughter’s life. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned from motherhood is the beauty of everyday care, or as I like to think of it, “tending the garden.” Just as our garden requires dedicated tending to produce summer’s tomatoes, my daughter required my simple devotion to come to fruition.
Tending the garden applies to all parts of life. This year, tending the garden meant my husband and I wrote 440 letters to would-be voters, encouraging them to vote, in order to preserve our democracy. Tending the garden has meant supporting my mom and brother as my mom moved from her apartment into my brother’s house, so that we can keep her safe from Covid. Tending has helped me move away from seeing myself as a single-dimensional individual and helped me move toward a gentle devotion to the world around me.
Now, as I return to performing, I feel ready to approach music in a new way: not as a way to prove myself, but as a way to nurture myself. In this way, performance is my return to tending my own garden of creativity. Just as I raised my daughter, and just as I planted our garden, I am creating music as an act of devotion to my craft. And this time, I will treasure not just the connections music helps me make with others, but also the way my art brings me closer to myself.
You could take a listen to my past music here: LINK
1 thought on “Renew”
Dear Deborah , what you have written is lovely, a needed antidote to the last five years and a hopeful look at the path ahead. All best wishes from your friend and fan in the Shenandoah Valley.
Sending love across the miles,,