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Thoughts about life, grief, art, music, and other things that matter to me...

Embrace Your Inner Whitney

I’ve been listening to Whitney for hours today at my desk. Good Lord, but she could SING!!! She was the ultimate DIVA. Her energy was electric and everyone wanted a piece of it. When I was growing up, I wanted to be able to sing like Whitney. (That never happened. Me with this opera voice…I sing power ballads, sure, but it’s not remotely the same.) She was beautiful, she was engaging. And then the pressures of fame and marriage and motherhood overwhelmed and whatever other demons that haunted her led her to drug addiction and tragedy. But that’s not the Whitney I want to talk about. I want to talk about the DIVA, in the best sense of the word. No, scratch that. I want to talk about the DIVA in YOU, dear reader. Because trust me, there’s a DIVA in even the most timid of us. She just hasn’t found her voice. (Gents, don’t feel excluded. You’re a DIVO, too.)

Inside each of us is that electric, engaging, mind-blowingly talented person who everyone wants to be around. Most people tend to think I’m confident, uber-competent, and that I’ve got all my sh*t together. Let me tell you a secret: I’m a great actress. Now, I don’t mean to sell myself short here. Sometimes I actually DO have it all together, and I love those moments. But sometimes, I’m faking it while I’m either quaking in my boots or at least self-possessed enough to be carefully, patiently wading my way through a quagmire of nerves and self-doubt. (Good thing I’m wearing those boots.) But here’s the thing — once I really dedicated myself to achieve better health, better fitness, better relationships, and to pay some attention to my spiritual practice, I could at least see that confident, competent, got-it-all-together girl shimmering under the surface all the time, and she started making more appearances out of the metaphorical water.

I have one of those inspirational greeting cards on my fridge that says:

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” (Elbert Hubbard).

I also like this one from Albert Einstein: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

That Einstein was a mathematical genius and a philosopher! Anyway, somewhere in my 20s I became terrified of making mistakes, so auditions made me more nervous. What if they didn’t like my dress? What if they didn’t like my dramatic choices? What if (and this was the worst) they didn’t like my voice??? And I started to become less bold. And I was less bold through my early 30s, too, until I met Ann Baltz at OperaWorks. She teaches artists that our individuality, our choices, our personalities, are what makes us unique artists. She helps singers unlock their inner genius, the thoughts that only they have that set them apart from other artists. She teaches us that these ideas aren’t too crazy or outrageous, that they’re interesting. Ann has a real knack for seeing a singer’s potential, and has developed a groundbreaking artist training program in California. My participation there in 2006 changed my life. Three months after I left OperaWorks, I met the man who would become my husband, and I wasn’t afraid to show him my true colors (even if he hated them, he had to see them…it was only fair). And he thought those colors were amazing! His favorites, even. I had some great opera gigs, met some awesome people, and I got married. And then, a few years later the economy turned and I went back to work full-time in an office. And gradually my choices became less bold, and even though I was still working my butt off to promote my singing career, my confidence had taken a hit. After all, I had gone back to work because I didn’t have enough singing gigs lined up to pay the bills. Was it because I wasn’t a good enough singer? NO. It was because of the recession. Too many opera companies went out of business. People in all professions across the country lost their jobs and their houses. I was lucky! I went back to a good, stable job when so many Americans were struggling. But still, I wished I were singing more. Like all-the-time more. So I’ve kept at it. But I haven’t always been as bold as I’d have liked.

A real diva may be self-conscious, but her choices aren’t. Her choices are big and daring. She paints in broad, brightly colored strokes. And you don’t have to be an artist to be a diva. You can be a school teacher, a banker, a microbiologist, an athlete, a stay-at-home parent, a food-service worker, a database administrator, an engineer… Being a DIVA is about being authentic, being unique, and working your butt off to achieve your goals. You may not think much of the job you’re in now, but stop to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What makes me good at this job?

  • What sets me apart from my coworkers?

  • What can I do to improve my situation? (That may be as simple as adjusting your own attitude…)

  • If I’m yearning to do something else with my life, what steps (or what FIRST step) could I take in order to make that happen?

Once Whitney got started, there was no stopping her. Ultimately, she was her own undoing. Can you imagine what other amazing things she might have accomplished, what inspiring songs she might have recorded, if she hadn’t been in and out of the tabloids because of her miserable marriage and her drug habit?! In the best sense, be like Whitney. Be your own, truest, most authentic self. Let your light shine bright! In the worst sense, DON’T be like Whitney. Don’t let your own personal Bobby Brown, or your own anxiety and fear, extinguish your light. Take care of yourself. Risk making mistakes. BIG ONES. That’s where your real creativity lies. Who cares if they don’t like my dress? (Though seriously, how could they not???)

Today, I challenge you to embrace your inner Whitney. As she sang, “Learning to love yourself It is the greatest love of all.”

I leave you with this.

“Greatest Love Of All” by Masser, Michael / Creed, Linda

I believe the children are our future Teach them well and let them lead the way Show them all the beauty they possess inside

Give them a sense of pride to make it easier Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to beEverybody’s searching for a hero People need someone to look up to I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs A lonely place to be And so I learned to depend on me

[Chorus:] I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows If I fail, if I succeed At least I’ll live as I believe No matter what they take from me They can’t take away my dignity Because the greatest love of all Is happening to me I found the greatest love of all Inside of me The greatest love of all Is easy to achieve Learning to love yourself It is the greatest love of all

I believe the children are our future Teach them well and let them lead the way Show them all the beauty they possess inside Give them a sense of pride to make it easier Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be


And if, by chance, that special place That you’ve been dreaming of Leads you to a lonely place Find your strength in love

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