Why Die Wondering?

GROWTH: What lessons did I learn during the past two years of the pandemic?

RISK: Maybe you took a risk and failed big, but found a silver lining? Maybe you took a risk and something wonderful came out of it? 

I just realized that the topics of GROWTH and RISK are totally embedded in my life right now. I’ve been feeling bad since I did not write a GROWTH post last week (Slacker). Now, I have the perfect opportunity to speak to both writing prompts in a meaningful, timely, soul-searching post. GROWTH and RISK.I am in the midst of intense personal growth because I took extreme personal risks. I’m sure the pandemic played a role in the timing of my fearful-yet-fearless, mid-life unraveling. Most of all, a simple question I read prompted some life-changing events in the past 6 months.

Why Die Wondering?

Another pandemic lesson…a profound one-liner: Jump, and the Net Will Appear

These two sentences hit me like a ton of bricks. Life after embracing this wake-up call has been both exhilarating and terrifying. I think two years of pandemic life pushed me to finally find my own voice and take a risk. Taking the risk- taking the leap – presented me with some long overdue opportunities for growth.

Jump and the net will appear.

I jumped. Finally. I faced huge personal issues I’ve been ignoring for over a decade. I jumped. And nets have appeared. But they are not Disney movie nets with a warm and fuzzy, happy ending. My decision to leap came with painful consequences for many people. They are not perfect nets. Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Searching for perfect plans and 100% certainty will not lead to growth. Growth requires risk. Growth happens when I’m ready to be good enough, not perfect. Growth happens after I leap and land in a new, terrifying net of possibilities and challenges. In the past, I avoided both growth and risk. Now, I’m embracing them. Some days, I can’t believe I finally jumped from my life of self-inflicted inaction into the net of new possibilities. I never imagined the pandemic could provide clarity and courage. But here I am. In the last 6 months, I’ve learned to ask myself new questions, too.

What would a brave person do? What would a confident woman do?

Obviously, we all have been changed by the pandemic. Personally, I decided not to yearn for the way things have always been. I realized I did not want to return to the status quo. The universal upset caused by the pandemic provided me with a frightening, personal call-to-action. The pandemic revealed a life-changing question: Why die wondering?  


The Stars!

I’ve always loved the stars, both metaphysically and metaphorically.

As a composer for over, well, let’s just say I started young, I have written a lot of music on the subject of stars. It started with an opera, and then a requiem, and smaller pieces for chamber ensembles, and it just snowballed until a great deal of my work has some connection with stars!

As many Arizonans know, stars have a special impact, especially in a dark sky.  And dark skies are important for us to remain connected with the stars.  I chose an elective my first summer in Boulder at the University of Colorado when the skies were still dark there, where we were close to the stars at over a mile above sea-level, and felt like we could reach out and touch them.  I became enamored of the stars by taking a chance on an elective called General Astronomy.

Astronomy, at C.U. is no light subject, and I entered it with much trepidation but my fears were soon allayed. My professor was so excited to teach about the stars we were excited to be able to learn about them from him. He showed us so much that summer, in the classroom, at the observatory, and at the Planetarium. There are things I learned from him that I will never forget, and they have nothing to do with my field and everything to do with how it was taught. He was enthusiastic, and I remember that energy the most. Everything was worth learning about and he shared that feeling with all of us. It also made me realize that if I’d been able to take this course while I was taking Geometry I would have understood Geometry better because now I understood why we were trying to find angles. It’s all about context, isn’t it?  For us musicians, we call that applied music.

So my inspiration came from excitement about teaching, learning about stars, and it all started with an elective I chose to take because I thought it might be interesting.

Electives are near and dear to my heart because I have been teaching elective courses here at GCC and at several universities for over twelve years at each institution. (Yes, add the numbers together.)

Most of my students apologize for taking my courses as electives, because they are required, but I can tell they are holding out hope that they, too, will be inspired by learning about a choice they made that just might be something they remember for years to come. And for me, being able to enthusiastically share music with them is a blessing.

One of my favorite texts about stars is actually found as two different poems by the poet below.  This is one version:

The Starlight Night

Look at the stars! Look, look up at the skies!
I kiss my hand
To the stars, lovely-asunder
Starlight, wafting Him out of it; and
Glow, glory in thunder;
Kiss my hand to the dappled-with-damson west;
Since, though He is under the world’s splendour and wonder,
His mystery must be instressed, stressed;
For I greet the days I meet Him, and bless when I understand.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins

So, open your mind and your heart, and be inspiring.