I’m going to tell you the story about the thief that stole my song (my deep joy of music), the journey I took to find it again, and the unexpected treasure I discovered.
But let me start in the middle, with the wake-up call that was not pretty.
I was curled up in a ball one bleak morning in 1996. I had just spent the whole night throwing up. My body was trying to tell me that something had to change, but I had no idea where to start. So I just waited for it to pass like it had all those other times.
But THIS time was different. My wife came in and took one look at me.
“David, if you are throwing up in the middle of the night, YOU’D BETTER TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR LIFE!” She left the room.
“Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh…”
But something resonated deep within me.
“Well, maybe she’s right.”
So that afternoon I started journaling. I wrote page after page, discovering more questions than answers. Why couldn’t I take a deep breath? Why was I tying myself in knots trying to please everybody? Why was I looking outside of myself for fulfillment? And where in the world had my song gone?
It hadn’t always been like this. As a child, my song lived in me, and I lived in my song. I remember being 5 years old in 1972, listening to my father’s youth group sing in our living room. The love that came alive inside me told me that as long as I had music, everything was going to be all right.
I was inspired to start cello when I was 6, and spent my youth studying music and performing in Pittsburgh. When I graduated high school in 1985, I needed to find out how far my song could take me. So I left Pittsburgh, where I was a regional treasure,to study cello at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where I was just another cellist. I entered into a whole new world of personal insecurity. My song lost its footing, and right in that slippery moment, a thief stepped in and saved me. Well…he saved my ego.
Now let me introduce you to this thief that would eventually steal my song. He’s invisible. But he lived within well-meaning friends. He taught me how to focus on the faults of others. He tricked me into the art of bashing.
This was new for me, but I liked it. I liked this feeling of superiority, so I let him in.
Bashing quickly became a habit, and soon I could cut any performance to shreds. As the years progressed, the cold concrete of judgment slowly seeped in to my bones. I was mesmerized by this power. The thief kept me well distracted as he stole my song.
I didn’t even notice my song was gone until the day I got a glimpse of my future. During my senior year I took a job playing in an orchestra in upstate New York. There, I found myself surrounded by a stage full of jaded, cynical musicians whose songs had all been robbed long, long ago.
I felt myself slipping into their quicksand of lost dreams. Was this my fate?
On the bus ride back to my dorm I asked myself, “What am I doing with my life?” This was my first dark night of my soul, but it wasn’t to be the last.
Wrestling with darkness
During my next lesson, I shared my struggle with my wise cello professor. He urged me to look into my heart and follow where it led. I didn’t know how to do that! I was just a 20-year old kid strung out on his ego. All I knew was that I was willing to walk away from everything I had longed for.
So I let it all go. That night in my dorm I made plans to join the Peace Corps after graduation.
And in that moment, I found freedom. I returned to school the next day, and suddenly, without the need to compete with my friends, I could finally appreciate their genius.
The music I experienced that day was amazing! How could I possibly give it up? My song came rushing back. But so did the thief.
I spent the next 7 years struggling between the call of my soul and the downward pull of my thief. I became my own worst critic. I became uncomfortable in my own skin. I tied myself in knots trying to live up to other people’s expectations. I couldn’t take a deep breath. I think you all know where this is going.
The Wake-up Call
So there I lay the next morning. “YOU’D BETTER TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR LIFE!” was still echoing in the empty place where my song had been.
I was willing to try anything…meditation? You realize this was before Google, so I had to actually drive to a bookstore to read what was out there.
“Excuse me, can you please give me a book on…uh…meditation?”
I walked away with Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. This book changed my life. I found answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. I learned meditation, regained my health, and quit my bashing addiction. After a year of incredible discovery, my wife I were living in a spiritual community right here in Portland. After many years, I had finally found my song again.
And the thief? Yes, he still lurks in the dark shadows of my mind, but he doesn’t like the light.