If you believe in melting boundaries through art, stop indulging your neuroticism and practice your religion with conviction.
Dear LW, I want to take singing lessons. For years now. Not because I have a great voice or plan to perform anywhere... well "my dream" is something like after ten solid years of practice occasionally perform with some lounge band at a Ken's steakhouse for much older people who maybe won't judge me too harshly... but because I just love to sing. I love to walk around my house singing songs and I thought maybe if I really practiced it in a serious way, or learned something about it that it would be really good for me, and fill me with some kind of joy, and this is all so so so humiliating to write. We all have dreams. Some dreams are lamer than others (see Ken's steakhouse). I hope one day I can reconcile my dream with reality. It's just lessons! What is wrong with me?! Haha! Keep going. You are already pursuing your dreams one scary humiliating dreadful step at a time. AMAZING JOB!!! Seriously. Go get it girl!
"You aren’t satisfied with reality. That’s what makes you an artist." WOW. So true.
I'm in the same position as you, but mid-20's and I'm actually envious of you. I want to show my magic to the world and fulfill the little girl me's dream that had been abandoned too!! But I'm also terribly lonely, I want kids (eventually) and a husband (right now yes) and being in this world by myself is miserable. Juggling the search to pair up and settle down while also wanting to reach my creative potential has been a distracting process that makes me feel like one or the other's gotta give (I don't want to date another artist, as a fellow artist I know that artist men will be too much for me to handle). I never feel like I'm properly doing one or the other right. It's great that you know where you belong in terms of family, you have the support you need to focus your time on self-fulfillment (even if it's not the most encouraging support, it's still something) so go get it! Who cares what your age is, the way I see it, you're in a better position than me!
This is my letter! Thank you all for your beautiful comments. An update— This letter was published the day the songwriting workshop started. I read Polly’s words and wept and wept before I got there. When I walked in the door I knew something had shifted in me. I was being myself. I felt nervous but in an anticipatory way, instead of my usual anxiety which feels like paranoia and disassociation.
The whole experience was transformative. I was able to really sing in my full, authentic voice for the first time since childhood. I sang my songs loudly and unapologetically. I met some wonderful people who were so supportive and encouraging. Everything seemed to line up for me all of a sudden. I faced my deepest fears of rejection and I felt the hard work I’ve been secretly doing alone for years pay off. People seemed to be genuinely connecting to my music!
I’m now back in the real world, but I am going to take this experience with me going forward. Thank you, Polly/Heather for seeing me and giving me the words to help me make sense of my huge, confusing feelings. I am forever grateful.
Dear Ladies, THIS...ALL of this! From one late-30s mom/dreamer/crone to the rest, I know how you feel. I come at this from a slightly different perspective, but everything you both talked about resonates so clearly and I want to thank you for what you have written! I am also late-30s, mother of two and an artist (Yes, SVASP you are an artist!). Music is my career and I have been performing and teaching professionally for 23 years (since I was 15!). I used to perform extremely easily for so many years. Then, a husband and two littles later, and I can’t go on stage or put together a project without feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, self doubt, fear of judgement, embarrassment...pretty much all of it. I constantly want to cancel my gigs and sometimes don’t even want to go to friendly get-togethers, jam sessions, with my musical friends because of these feelings and fears. My years of training says, "this should be no problem at all," but my reality is telling me a different story.
I always wanted a family. It was my main life goal and along the way I became a kickin’ musician. Even though this is the case, I struggle now, as you are, with all of it. Momming, working full time, being a wife, trying to survive every day and helping three other people do too is really f****** hard. I’m there with you and I hear you. What Polly said: “You aren’t satisfied with reality. That’s what makes you an artist.” I myself have struggled with the thought of not being “satisfied” with reality. It makes me feel bad, like what I am isn’t enough already, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t mean I want to be any less of who I am and that’s a big deal. I am a musician, and recently an illustrator too, and making my art makes me feel the most like I can take on the world! It doesn’t mean the rest is any less beautiful. It makes us stronger, even though it can be scary sometimes. The world needs more of that kind of energy, because this plight is all around us.
One of the most amazing thoughts that Polly had, in my opinion, was this: “When you hollow yourself out into flat traits that don’t matter, you turn yourself into a pool playing dude, indifferent to and skeptical of your own enormous gifts.” Please, let yourself shine, SVASP! It will be beautiful because YOU did it! F*** that pool playing dude! Thank you, Polly, for the sage and kick-ass advice!
“Listen to me: Honoring your deepest desires is an act of generosity to the people around you. Right now, you’re showing your husband and your children and your friends and yes, even your family how to embrace what you love, even when the whole world rolls its eyes and turns its back and calls you a loser for doing it.“
This! The world needs this. Just because you are following your passions that doesn’t automatically make you selfish, and double for women!
LW, you already sound like every musician I know! Putting your heart on your sleeve is a constant process but worth it.
Fyi your husband makes vague noises because he doesn't know a damn thing about songwriting. Maybe with time he'll pick up enough terminology to be more specific but for now just get the reassurance you need: you're worth taking seriously, you're working really hard, he loves you and admires your dedication, and one day when you're proudly and fearlessly performing your own songs, you'll both understand how far you've come.
LW, you are amazing. Look at all you’ve done through your fear. From one late-thirties mom/dreamer/crone to another— I think you know what you nerd, and if you need guidance, I think you can ask the version of you you inhabit while playing. I was impressed by how many specific, concrete things you named in your letter — the precision of the goal you wrote on a piece of paper and crumpled up, the lessons you’re taking with a hero, the songs you’ve written. As far as the art goes, I don’t see a problem.
Polly — that sentence about the crone/broken doll/dull-as-mud mom is so brilliant.
A note on reality. In that sentence Polly captured something real about many people’s experience, like mine— a sort of sad and somewhat incontrovertible reality — but when a sentence flames up lie that, it almost doesn’t matter what reality is except fodder for song. ❤️
Thank you, Heather! You never fail me!!
OH! "People like you and me are essentially fixated on melting boundaries between us and the rest of the world. We want to feel the same things at the same time. The world’s absolute resistance to that effort can be one of our biggest frustrations.' YES YES YES YES thank you, as always, for your words.
LW: I hope to hear your songs some day because it seems to be that this journey you are on will inform lyrics or melodies that hit like a Polly column! SING OUT, LOUISE! <3
WOW. What a freaking gorgeous song. Thank you for sharing and so many good wishes to you!