I recently was interviewed by FamilyApp about my career, creativity, counseling, and parenting. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!
When did you first want to be a singer?
Apparently, I was singing long before I can remember. Certainly, my earliest memories involve singing and my love of music and voice. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t love to sing, and more, know that I wanted to be a singer.
How were you able to keep that desire into adulthood?
Honestly, the desire– and love– were so strong that I never considered not being a singer. And fortunately, no one in my family or life told me that desire was silly or impossible. I just followed my heart, and my voice, and worked tirelessly at my career. I loved that time in my life, traveling the world recording and performing, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
How did you find your voice?
As sure as I was in my knowledge that I wanted to be a singer, and as comfortable with and confident in my voice as I was, in college that deep knowing was tested. I studied with a woman who told me to forget everything I knew about singing and that we would start from scratch. Initially, I was excited to learn, but began to experience discomfort and pain and, as a result, self-doubt. It was a challenging time, but in hindsight, it was an incredible gift.
As Mary Oliver, in her poem, The Uses of Sorrow says: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” I really resonate with this poem and found that that time in my life– that struggle and strain, the temporary loss of my best friend and confidant that was my voice– afforded me the opportunity to learn what people who never had a voice, or had this kind of connection with their voices, felt like. And to be able to show them the way, to or back to, their voices. This is the work I now do, and it is one of the greatest joys and honors of my life.
Finding Your Creative Voice
How do you encourage your clients who might be apprehensive about tapping into their creative voice?
So many people are, sadly. But the answer begins by reconsidering the question. I just wrote an article about this, actually. This big word, this big concept, creativity… we forget that it, like all language, is just a construct. What does it really mean, though? Singing and dancing and painting are creative, sure. But what about walking? Breathing? Being? Are they not also creative acts? Are we not creative acts? Are our lives not acts of creativity? The most important acts of all?
It really is all a matter of perspective. The work, I feel, is not about trying to convince ourselves or others (including my clients) that we are creative. It’s about reminding them that living and loving are creative acts and that we are gifted– it is our birthright, in fact– to express ourselves in this way, to be creative in this way… and in whatever way calls and appeals to us as an extension of that deep knowing.
How can parents encourage their kids to embrace their creativity?
In the same way that we encourage ourselves… by bravely, boldly, and without apology living our lives with our hearts and minds wide open. It is also important to be mindful of the language we use. To encourage our children beyond our own comfort zones; to not permit our own fears to interfere with their journeys. To not rush in constantly to try and appease, appeal and fix. To allow our children to be bored, and to allow them to direct their own explorations of things.
Lessons are fine. Activities are fine. But self-generated and self-led exploration of interests is, in my mind and experience, far more important. When we come to things on our own, when we walk into creativity’s house and explore for ourselves, we develop a fluency that we don’t always find when we jump in intellectually. It’s like a three-dimensional versus a two-dimensional experience.
Working and Counseling
How does your work as a vocal coach and counselor overlap?
Back in my touring days, I would give master classes and workshops at various stops. And no matter where I would go, I would see the same issues: seemingly vocal challenges that were in fact caused or exacerbated by a psychological or emotional one. I wrote my first book about this, and in time, went back to graduate school to study psychology to get the academic underpinnings of what I had been doing intuitively for years.
In terms of how the two overlap in my practice, the voice is inside of our bodies– the only instrument on earth that is– and as such, it is inexorably linked with who we are. Our breathing, our emotions… what we eat, what we think… everything we do has an impact on our voices and the way we use them. Every client and session is different of course. But there is always some blending of vocal and emotional issues in each. And as a result, a blend of vocal and emotional work that we do to bring healing and freedom.
What are some of the most rewarding parts of what you do?
My job is, effectively, to listen to and love people for a living. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
What’s your best parenting advice?
I love that you’ve asked this question because I get to sing the praises of a dear friend of mine who literally shaped the way that I parent for the better. Danielle and I met when we were in graduate school. Her son was 13 or so at the time, and John and I had just gotten married. We always marveled at how calm, grounded, bright, and comfortable Ryan was in his own skin, and how at ease and at peace he was with his mom. They had such a beautiful relationship with none of the wariness, struggle, and strain that I had had in my own relationships with my parents.
I asked Danielle about this and she gave me some terrific advice. I’m hoping she’ll write a book one day, but for now, I’ll do my best to distill what she told me: parenting doesn’t have to be a power struggle. Respect your children; trust them. Recognize that it’s our own fears– of loss of control, of failure, of imperfection– as parents and parents-to-be that cause much of the friction that parents believe are children ‘pushing and testing.’ Not to say that they don’t. They do. They’re human, as we are.
But when we trust and respect our children… when we listen to them the way we want to be heard, the way we listen to and trust and respect our friends and partners… much of the dreaded stress and challenges of childrearing fall away. When Danielle first told me this, I thought she was nuts. It went against everything I had experienced as a child, and therefore, had believed to be true as an adult. See your child as your equal? Be prepared to be walked all over!
But we so admired her relationship with Ryan and thought, why not give it a go? Thank goodness we did. Lucas and Ryan are very similar, and he has been a dream to raise. You can indeed treat your child as your equal– with love, trust, respect, and the benefit of the doubt– and still be the parents, truly effective parents, in the relationship. Parents who are themselves, honored, trusted, and respected.
What are some of the best things your kids have taught you?
Oh goodness, I don’t think I have enough time in this article, or in a year, to share all that I’ve learned from our precious son. He is for sure our greatest teacher. Off the top of my head? Love. Compassion. Patience. To be present. To put down my phone. To not sweat the small stuff. To make and take the time. Humility. Kindness. Forgiveness. Grace. Every important thing I know, Lucas has taught me or reminds me of daily.
Parenting true confession:
When Lucas was young and I’d make a mistake… whether I would get frustrated, or forget to do something I’d said I’d do… when I wouldn’t really listen to him as he went on and on about trains, or when I would doubt what he was saying… he would tell me. And I would apologize and say that I needed to go back to ‘mommy school.’ This always brought a smile to his face and brought us back together. I still say it today when I have my human moments and it still makes us both smile.
What 5 things are you most likely to have in your purse at all times?
Dark chocolate, a snack for Lucas, water, my phone, and extra tea bags of my favorite… organic chai.
What’s your favorite part about being a parent?
The constant, never-ending, all-consuming, impossible-to-escape opportunity to be fully present, fully alive, and fully in love.
Favorite parenting hack:
Trust your children. Listen to and really hear them. Respect them. Believe them. And… make sure they’re always well fed and rested.
Which three words best describe your style?
Comfort, comfort, comfort.
What’s your favorite show to binge-watch?
I’m not much of a TV watcher, but when I do watch, I’ll turn on HGTV or these days, Stanley Tucci’s terrific Searching for Italy. I find them both to be very soothing. I steer clear of sensational and violent things.
What’s your favorite beach read?
I am a voracious reader. Generally, I like poetry, self-improvement books, and spiritual writing (the Tao te Ching is one of my favorites). But at the beach, there’s nothing like a good John Grisham or Liane Moriarty.
If you could spend a day with anyone from history, living or deceased, who would it be?
Any of my ancestors whom I never got to meet.
What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?
Cuba. My family is Lebanese, Spanish, Cuban, and Mexican. I’ve been to the other three countries, but not yet to Cuba. I can’t wait.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Dark chocolate and strong coffee.
What’s your favorite form of self-care?
I start my days with a long sunrise walk. Even in the rain or snow. Before looking at my phone, before checking email, I make a tea and head out the door. It grounds and centers me. The silence and stillness remind me that I am a part of something larger than myself, and to look beyond myself as I walk through the world and my days.
What’s your favorite way to unwind at the end of a long day?
A long hot shower, time with my family, and a sunset or starlit stroll.