noun. ca·thar·sis kə-ˈthär-səs : purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity and fear) primarily through art. : a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension. —Webster’s Dictionary
There is no other word to describe the events that have taken place in my life since courageously deciding to walk away from my career in public education just a few months ago. When asked what I’m going to do next, my response is rather simple: follow my bliss. It may sound naive, but I know that I show up as the best version of myself when I’m sharing my love for something that truly lights me up. Once upon a time, it was the French language and musical theater. When my dreams of becoming a Broadway star didn’t pan out (truth be told, I never pursuded performing beyond high school), I chose to become a high school French teacher instead. That profession served me well for many, many years. Today, I’m in pursuit of what’s next and I’m using joy (and the Artist’s Way) as my guide.
5 Alternate Lives
This summer there is a group of people who are reading Julia Cameron’s book, the Artist’s Way (A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity) along with me (click here to join us!). In chapter one, she challenges readers to imagine 5 fantastical lives for ourselves. Mine are:
- Broadway Star
- Healer/ Shaman
- Belly Dancer
- Motivational author & speaker
Once you have chosen your alternate lives, the task further encourages the reader to do something about one of these lives: take a class, visit a museum, see a show, take a walk in the woods, perform karaoke, you get the point.
Well, as the stars would have it, I got to live out the fantasy life of a Broadway star not once, but twice in the past month and let me just say, I have never felt so joyfully alive (or abundant)! You see, in my younger years as a high school student, I fell in love with musical theater and used to perform in school plays. It was the hayday of incredible blockbuster Broadway shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Cats and my personal favorite, Les Miserables.
Karaoke meets Broadway
A few weeks ago, as I was following my bliss, my friends and I went to a local dive bar for a fun therapeutic night of karaoke. As serendipity would have it, there happened to be an unknown (and for-realsies) Broadway singer in the audience that night. I learned this by paying attention; you see, he was in the audience with a friend and I noticed that he was lip sycing his heart out to the song from the Moulin Rouge that I was currently duetting with a friend. I pulled him and his buddy on stage with us and that began a night of musical bliss! After our powerful quartet of the Elephant Medley, I learned that he had played the role of Enjloras, the fearless leader of the student revolution in Les Miserables, while studying musical theater in New York. Naturally, I asked him to duet Red and Black with me. And he did. And it was magical! It was like having front row seats to your favorite show, except you were in it (with a way better singer…but it was karaoke, so it didn’t matter!). I thought all of my Broadway dreams had come true.
But the universe had more in store for me!
Broadway meets a Rave
As if this gift of karaoke Broadway music magic weren’t enough for the rekindling of my long-burried dream of being a Broadway Star, last Friday night I went with the same group of friends to a “Broadway Rave” at a local concert venue. Now, before you try to make a connection between musical theater and a drug-induced party scene, let me clarify that it was really just a big old dance party for joyous theater geeks and avid lip syncers (my favorite kind of people!). Whenever “your song” came on, audience members were invited to come up on stage to lip sync their hearts out. It was incredible the way that multiple people would organically fall into sync with one another, sometimes with previously-learned choreographed moves, sometimes just with the flow of the energy–everyone choosing their part to play out and perform under the lights.
For me, there were a few really cathartic moments from the Broadway Rave. The first included, once again, the powerful music of Les Miserables, One Day More. I found myself on stage next to young man with a Les Mis t-shirt who was clearly born to lip sync the role of the protaganist, Jean Valjean. I stood next to him and supported his efforts while lip syncing every other part, including my favorite, Eponine (my life-long dream of playing Eponine on-stage before a live audience, check!)
Another was singing Seasons of Love from Rent with one of my besties while the whole crowd reverberated the high frequency feeling of LOVE! Words cannot describe the feeling that comes from being onstage with a group of truly passionate people who share a common love for a song, a melody, a battle cry to forge bravely “one more day” into the unknown and to recognize the healing power of love. The pictures below speak for themselves. My cup of joy overflowed.
Rave meets inner artist
The really epic cathartic moment, however, came when I heard the opening chords of Suddenly Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors where, once upon a time, at the tender age of 18, I played the role of Audrey at Westmont High School’s outdoor production of Little Shop. It was during that show that I fell in love with my (now) ex-husband, who played the role of the Dentist. The best man at our wedding played the role of Seymour; we were three peas in a pod and it was the highlight of my high school years.
Fast forward to Friday night when the DJ started to play that nostalgic melody, a force outside of myself (or perhaps deep inside of myself) pulled me up to the stage to let Audrey come out and play (coincidentally, I’m still wearing leopard print on stage! lol). I didn’t hesitate…I went to the stage, and let poor wounded Audrey sing about safety and learning to be more.
Lyrics from Suddenly SeymourSuddenly, Seymour (suddenly, Seymour)
Showed me I can (yes, you can)
Learn how to be more
The girl that’s inside me (the girl that’s inside you)
With sweet understanding (with sweet understanding)
Performing Suddenly Seymour on-stage some thirty years later reminded me that we all have inner artists that are in need of healing. Whether it’s Audrey or Eponine or a younger version of yourself, we all ultimately want to feel safe, to be seen and heard and loved. Living out my alternative life of a Broadway star filled me with good vibrations that felt intoxicating! Onstage I felt the fullness of my potential, as if my wings were spread and I was announcing to the world: I’m here! I feel the exhilarating thrill of safety and fear at the same time and I’m ready to shine! I’m ready for my next chapter to begin! I’m ready to share my lessons in love with those who are ready to transform their lives, just as I am transforming mine! For me, Suddenly Seymour was much more than a lip sync; it was a cathartic new beginning. Just like the 18-year old who was preparing to step out into the unknown to start a life of her own, so am I once again. The only difference is that now I’m 50 and a whole hell of a lot stronger and wiser!
Julia Cameron gets it. There is no coincidence that Chapter One (titled “Recovering a Sense of Safety”) kicks off the Artist’s Way with an invitation to imagine 5 different versions of your life, and then to courageously do something about it! She knows the feeling you will get when you follow your bliss (because let’s be real, each of those five lives is a secret dream/ un-lived passion of ours). When you live out moments of joy, you will experience what true alignment with your inner being feels like. And just maybe you’ll remember that you only have one precious life in this body, so why not get on stage if that’s what your inner artist is crying out for you to do?
And when you forget, when you fall into a funk of fear and worry and feelings of lack, you will be able to look back at these cathartic moments to remind myself of who you are. For me, I am a lover of music, a performer, an artist in her own right who is creating the life of her dreams. I may not have the vocal range that I once had, but that won’t stop me from hitting a dive bar for a night out of therapeutic singing in the name of fun, or from lip sycning onstage in front of hundreds of unknown faces. This is part of who I am, and I am grateful to Julia Cameron for reminding me to PLAY and HAVE FUN as I reinvent myself, as this phoenix rises from the ashes.
What about you?
What are 5 alternate lives that you dream of living? Share them in the comments below! You don’t need to overthink this–just go with the first five things that come to mind. And It’s not too late to join our sacred circle of the Artist’s Way for this summer‘s Soul Growth Book Club Series! Or perhaps you’d rather work/ play through it at your own pace? You do you! Whatever you decide, just know that, like Seymour, I am here to support and encourage you along the way!