My album, The Only Way out Is Through, is coming out soon.
I’ve uploaded all the song files to an online distributor that will send the music to iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere else music is sold and streamed.
Which leaves me with one question: How did I get here?
It certainly wasn’t part of the trajectory of mothering children and working with public health programs. It was never something I put on a vision board or set a goal to do.
When I sit with the question, the answer I come up with is this: Saying yes.
Saying yes when I felt challenged.
Saying yes when I was uncomfortable.
Saying yes when every fiber of my physical being wanted to scream a fearful no, but something deep in my soul knew that the answer was yes.
It started two years ago. I had been writing poetry and sharing it selectively with a few friends. When I found out that April is National Poetry Month, I texted my friend and fellow poet, Phillip Estes, and asked if he wanted to take on a challenge to write a poem a day for a month. He accepted and upped the ante…”Why just write them? Let’s post them on Facebook!”
My first response was a resounding “No way!!!” But as I sat in front of my computer on April 1, 2015 - heart racing, face sweating, fingers trembling - I said “yes” as I clicked the Post button and my first public sharing of a poem went live.
About a year later, Eric Pacheco, an old high school friend (with whom I had reconnected through Facebook), read one of my posts and asked if I had ever thought of putting my poems to music. We had sung together in high school choirs and musicals so he knew of my love for music. “But I don’t know how to write music,” said a voice inside my head even as my fingers typed the response, “I’d love to! Let’s collaborate!”
I said yes.
The next thing I knew, Eric (who was stationed in Djibouti, Africa at the time) and I were scheduling weekly Facetime calls and sharing files in Dropbox. I learned how to use the Garage Band software that I’d had on my computer forever. I bought a decent microphone so I could record my voice. We wrote a song. It was fun and we liked it so we wrote another. And another.
About a month later, I met songwriter and producer Justin Jagoda while visiting friends and family in Los Angeles. We talked and shared music and writing and he invited me to come back out for a songwriting session. My first thought: “I’m not someone who flies to LA to write and record music.”
But I said yes anyway.
The next month, I was in his studio and the song “Illusion” was conceived. A few weeks later, I was sitting on my window seat at home and the lyrics and melody for “Moving On” came into my head, almost fully formed. I recorded a voice memo and sent it to Justin and told him I wanted to finish writing it with him when I was back in LA to record “Illusion.”
I said yes to more songs.
And so began a new life of regular trips to LA where Justin and I would spend a day writing or fine-tuning something, and then a second day recording what we had written on my previous trip. I thought I would stop at three songs. Now there are six songs on the album – four that I wrote with Justin, one that I wrote with Eric, and a cover of Desiree’s You Gotta Be – and two more songs that we are working on for a future release.
I said yes.
It wasn’t just about saying yes to other people. More importantly, it was about saying yes to myself and to the sparks of inspiration that called on me.
I said yes every time a line for a poem or a melody for a song came into my head and I stopped what I was doing to write it down.
I said yes to being a beginner.
I said yes being more visible.
I said yes to allowing myself to expand in new and different directions: creatively, in my public health work, and in my personal relationships.
I said yes to the possibility of making mistakes, of disappointing other people, and of being disappointed myself.
Two years ago, I went “public” for the first time with a short poem called “Changing the World.” Now I’m about to go public again, this time with an album of original music, based on my poetry, in my voice.
A wise woman once told me that we generally set goals from what we currently believe to be possible. And often we become so focused on those goals that we put blinders on to things that don't seem to get us where we think we are going. It can be so easy for me to talk myself out of doing something that feels new or overwhelming, or that doesn’t fit the paradigm of who I believe myself to be. Allowing myself to be open to saying yes to possibility, even when it didn’t seem to have a purpose, has unlocked a world that I never would have imagined for myself.
From this new vantage point, I now can see all sorts of new possibilities and ways to integrate creative expression with public health, social justice, and healing. And I have a better understanding that there is so much more potential that my human mind can’t even begin to fathom.
Because I said yes. And yes. And yes.
And then let the universe take care of the rest.