Love is…

I think I finally understand why my parents never wanted me to try to make a living as a musician.

You know what it feels like to fall in love – head-over-heels, ga-ga, out-of-your-mind in love? And then, you know what it feels like when you’re hurt by that person you love? Or when you lose that person? Or when the person doesn’t love you back?

Well, sharing your art with someone is a lot like falling in love. To actually do it well – meaning that you’re actually passing on those best parts of yourself to someone else – requires opening yourself so wide that you invite everything in. That means you can’t choose to “block out” the bad stuff, or give only just enough that you don’t get hurt. It means you invite in the heartbreak. You invite in the disappointment. You invite in the frustration. You invite in the agreement that despite all of that, you’ll keep showing up and trying again.

You do it because you embrace the beauty of seeing someone else grow in your presence. You do it because you know what the human spirit is capable of. You do it because sharing your appreciation of life with even one other person makes your experience richer. You invite all of that pain in because you think love requires it of you.

But in some relationships, your love isn’t received in the same way you’ve given it. It’s met with resistance. It could be because of circumstances. It could be timing. It could be that other choices have already been made. It could be unhealed pain. Or it could just be that the story of your time together has come to an end.

Unrequited love hurts. No matter how reasonable the explanation, it hurts the same way. Nothing can heal the pain except the grieving and acknowledgment required to move on in your journey, and clearing the space for new love to arrive.

I’m about to say goodbye to some people and some practices in my life that no longer serve me. I’m finally ready now, but only after it hit me, lying in supported, Supta Baddha Konasana (“reclined bound angle”) pose last night in yoga class. It’s the ultimate pose of surrender. I was lying with my back and head supported by two yoga blocks, knees open, bottom of my feet together, and my whole heart open. And it hit me. I’ve been in deep pain for the past year. I’ve been giving all of my love, my truth, my beauty, and receiving pain in return. And the cycle of pain has continued – the same conversations, the same patterns of behavior, with the same people – for the entire year. Several years, in some cases.

It’s time for me to ask, “What new sources of love will arrive once I make space for them?”

I have been avoiding these goodbyes, because I denied that they were causing me pain. I wanted to “solve” my pain by doing something, fixing something about myself. What I now know is that I need to be in my truth, and to act from my truth, in order to let go of the pain, and invite in new energy.

So why did my parents try to steer me away from a life dependent on music for income? Like any parents, they would have done anything to protect me from heartbreak and pain. They were witness to the depth of love that music could invoke, and while they were moved by it, they were also frightened. As one example, they saw my violin teacher – so open, honest, and generous with her soul – get crushed by parent after parent who came banging down her door, begging her to share her gifts with them. Because she knows no other way to be than fully present and loving, she opens herself to heartbreak. My parents could not bear to guide their daughter toward a life so seemingly vulnerable. I used to think their advice was because musicians don’t make “enough” money. But now I realize that the “hard” life of a musician, or any artist, or anyone who chooses to care deeply about the professional work they get paid to do, is just the life of love. It was hard for my parents – unimaginably scary for them – to encourage me to make a living with what I love. They felt responsible for giving me an instruction manual first. They wanted me to think rationally and soundly about decisions, and to be practical. This grounding I am deeply grateful for. They loved me and shared with me the best of what they knew. And now I love and understand this part of them, even as I continue to step boldly in directions they could never have imagined for me.

Love feels hard sometimes. Love keeps pushing us to be exactly who we are. Sometimes our love is met with confusion, or misunderstanding, or coldness. If this happens to us enough times in our life, we might come up with a story that convinces us that we are not worthy of love, or that our love should be locked away in a secret hiding place, saved for only certain occasions.

But don’t believe those stories. Hear the stories of people who have done the work of listening deeply to the core of themselves, who found a way to break wide open and share the truth of what they found. Be in their presence. They are a joy to be around.

I choose love. Love is what brought life to The Music Within Us. What I’ve been doing for the past five years has been opening myself to both the pain and the joy of love, over and over again, risking all of myself with each new promise and each new family I enroll. This love is what I have to offer. This love has been the expression of the music within me. And this love, when shared and received with people who love me, will bring new life, as I now rush to greet it with everything I have to give.

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One Response to Love is…

  1. Charles says:

    Dr. Chu, thank you for a very inspiring piece that resonated deeply in me. I happened to stumble across your website because I am currently searching within myself in regards to my own life path. Let me start by mentioning that I typically don’t respond to blogs that I read, however something compelled me to reply. I truly appreciate your words when you write about your parents and how they steered you away from making a life dependent on music. As I was reading your post, I felt very inspired that you went against the grain and stayed true to yourself. I also appreciate that you understand where your parents were coming from. I have had a similar experience growing up when my parents always stressed being practical in making a career choice. They’ve always pushed for me to go in to medicine, or engineering, or something to do with computers because that’s where the money was; that’s where stability could be found. Well, I feel being true to myself means working for myself as well as somewhere in the arts. In my case, I feel my place is in music. I love music. Currently I work for a major music publisher and although it’s in the realm of music, it’s a corporate environment that doesn’t nourish my true self. Thanks to your post I’m moving closer to that point of fulfilling my dream of learning the drums and hopefully leaving the 9 to 5 world. The drums is an instrument I’ve dreamed of playing since I was in the fourth grade. Soon I will take the leap and find a teacher that will guide me to my dream of becoming a jazz drummer. Then one day I can teach children or adults music and finally leave the corporate world behind. Thank you again.

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