Elise Witt gets the world singing. She’s the “you can do it” elf.
Walking into her singing circle, it’s easy to see adventure ahead, and that she’ll teach you what you need to know to move right along with her. At a workshop in Asheville, NC she gave these singing points,which translate perfectly to love.
1. Sing like PLUTO, big and round in expression. This is a really good thing to do in intimate relationships, too. Going for bold lets your lover know where you stand. Elise told us to forget about expressing little ol’ you. Big you is way more fun.
She inspired us to prod a little, and poke around to find out what else we’ve got — and let it out! We have many voices, aspects, faces and inner places. As we sang, she encouraged us to find as many as possible.
Finding your other voices, faces and inner places keeps your relationship interesting!
2. Switch things up. Try the parts you don’t usually sing. Don’t get stuck in “I only sing alto.” She asked us to move to another singing section and give it a whirl. She reminded us that we have more room to move than we might think.
Singing a part you’re not accustomed to puts you in a different frame of mind, like brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. It’s good for you.
Such fantastic advice for a relationship! Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Think outside the box. Role play. Pretend you don’t know your partner, try on their point of view. Say what they said, and say it with conviction!
When you’ve interpreted your partner’s action, and you’re sure what s/he meant, ask yourself, “What else could it be?”
3. Know the value of your part. Feel your worth. So huge! Your relationship song wouldn’t be the same without you!
4. Don’t blast. Radiate instead. Beautiful singing is about surround sound. Elise demonstrated singing while standing in the middle of our circle, and how people behind her could hear her as well as the people in front of her.
In a relationship with another human, radiating (not blasting) is always appreciated.
5. Listen as you sing. Elise says 80% of singing is listening.
She asked us to “sing through our ears.”
This idea is magic in a love relationship. Listen as you speak. Have your ears open while you express yourself.
Definition of Obedience: Compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.
Obedience demands that we close our eyes, ears and especially our heart to do what somebody else wants.
Obedience should not seem normal to us. Obedience holds a beautiful soul under water until it cries uncle.
Thinking that obedience is a good thing presupposes that the people we obey have a higher knowledge, when in fact, they often do not. No one else knows you, why you came here, or what you came here to do. Only you do.
Life is too short to figure out how to please others and yourself, so pick one.
You simply can’t change yourself in enough ways to make the fickle folks around you happy.
Give it up. It’s a lose-lose proposition.
Do what you need to do and give others the golden opportunity to get over themselves.
Most everybody alive has been trained away from who they are.
Be quiet. Do this. Don’t do that. Color inside the lines. This is right. That is wrong.
But you can recover yourself today in this small moment.
Did your young daily life revolve around approval from others? Let it go…
When your freedom is calling you, run, baby run! Speak, baby, speak! Stand up baby, stand up!
“Art wasn’t accepted in my family, so I went to medical school.”
“Growing up, I wanted to play piano and sing, but I was not allowed to go near my mother’s piano. She was a well-known performer, sang with the big bands of her era and lived quite the life. She made it clear there was room for only one musician in the family, so I took a different path. I’m in my sixties now and I’ve discovered I’m a jazz singer. I also play classical piano. I’ve got a lot of music in me!”
“I wanted to go to cooking school, but my father talked me out of it and added a little pressure for good measure. He wouldn’t pay my college tuition unless I went to Ag College.”
Once a dream is smashed, it can take even the brightest person years to circle back around and give it another go.
But it’s never too late!
Don’t fall for media fervor ’cause that’s just another form of obedience.
Stay out of the word swirl. It messes with you. Turn off the radio. Put down the foreboding newspaper article. Click off the TV. The nightly news will happily hand you a head full of gory details you don’t need.
Keep your mind clear to do what you came here to do.
Now reach for your wings. Definition of Freedom: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
Most problems didn’t start yesterday. They developed over time.
A health problem, for instance, is often years in the making. Relationship problems establish themselves gradually and include specific details unique to you.
Photo credit — Joseph Sohm.
In a seminar I attended long ago witha wise and wonderful woman named Gangaji,a student grappled with a family problem and said she wasn’t making progress. She said the family dynamic was hopeless and would never change.
Gangaji did what Gangaji does — she stopped. For a short time, she did “nothing.”
After the silence, Gangaji said to the student, “Teach me how to have your problem.”
The woman gulped, but cooperated. With Gangaji’s helpful humor and encouragement, the woman described precise steps for creating and maintaining the enduring family squabble.
She taught Gangaji exactly how to fan the fight flames: what to say, how often to say it, what decisions to make as a result, what attitudes and expectations to develop, what to give attention to and what to ignore, and what to conclude. She taught Gangaji exactly how to have her problem.
After divulging all of this, the woman could no longer pretend she was helpless or didn’t know what was going on. The situation was no longer a mystery! She became aware of her part in the family dynamic — and she owned it. It was as if this woman walked from the deep forest of confusion and pretending, into a sun drenched clearing. She woke up.
This woman did a very powerful thing — she “outed” herself and now there was no turning back! She had become aware of her creation.
It Takes Years
To illustrate how detail-driven a problem is, may I show you a wacky example? Sometimes it helps to elevate a problem to the level of ridiculous.
Here’s my problem: I fail at roasting Jalapenos.
I’m going to teach you how to have my problem.
As you read the steps below, note the time and effort required to orchestrate even one small, unimportant failure — it’s pretty epic!
How To Fail At Roasting Jalapeno Peppers.
Buy a home large enough to rent out part of it, say, a couple rooms on the lower level.
Five winters later, fix up the lower level. Make electrical improvements, wash windows, vacuum, remove spiders, scrub high and low. Install an air filter, buy a small frig, a microwave and a toaster oven. Have a couple of friends downsize and buy some of their furniture, bedding and a heater. Make it a comfortable bedroom, work area, kitchen and bathroom — a space you would truly love. This takes a while.
When you’re finished, list the room on AirBnB. Wait patiently for Spring and guests.
Meanwhile, bake and roast often in your kitchen during the cold winter to keep the house (and tummies) warm. Even though you should clean your oven regularly with all that roasting going on, say to yourself (all winter long) “I’ll get to it later.”
Spring comes. Hooray!
Have a friend give you way too much organic produce, including jalapenos – fifty of them – enough to set the world on fire! Give a bunch to your hot friend and keep the rest. Decide to freeze half of them and roast the other half. Sounds brilliant.
Welcome AirBnB guests to your home who will review their stay and post it publicly when they leave, which influences your future business. These kind folks are thrilled to be at your home, and tell you the accommodations look super lovely and they can’t wait to unpack. They are looking forward to getting into that beautiful, comfy bed, so they can sleep late tomorrow morning and s-l-o-w-l-y wake up peaceful and happy to the calm, beautiful Spring morning before them.
You wake up in the morning and let it slip from your mind that you have guests (after all, renting the lower level is a pretty new endeavor.)
At 7:15 am get the bright idea that roasting jalapenos while making your coffee and doing early morning kitchen puttering would be a smart use of time.
Prepare the peppers, put them on the baking sheet, leave the oven door ajar to keep a close watch, and fire up the broiler. Let the roasting begin!
Look away, fix your coffee and do a few other things. When you turn back, smoke is pouring out of the oven like a house afire. (Should have cleaned that darn oven!)
Suddenly you recall downstairs guests and the possibility of the kitchen smoke alarm sounding. Your snoozing-and-dreaming-of-rainbows guests are counting on peace and calm as they luxuriously open their dreamy morning eyes in their very first AirBnB experience.
Slamming the oven door really fast, you stand still (as if that will help), you don’t breathe (as if that will help) and pray like mad (you hope that will help!) Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? You think it would be a bad idea for the whole house to burn down due to 50 overheated jalapenos. The 6 pm news story would be soooo pitiful. You peer quickly into the oven again, coughing into the jalapeno laced smoke. Even though your eyes are burning and your lungs are stinging, you still somehow come to the conclusion that things are “not too bad.” You crank off the heat, and decide not to open the oven again for a good long while. You run around like a blind anti-stink-idiot, opening windows and closing the door to the downstairs — so if the smoke alarm does go off, it won’t be quite so piercing to the rainbow dreamers below.
Then you sit down. Ohmmmmmm…………
Either your Ohm magic is paying off or the smoke alarm is non-functional. In any case, thank goodness. Your heart slows down.
When you finally open the oven door, you take a peak at the peppers. They look rubbery and smell a little funny.
You upend the stinky mess into the trash, knowing that your downstairs guests are admiring the mountain view as they roll over in their blissful bed, oblivious to the spicy morning happening at full tilt not too far above them.
You enjoy a nice cup of coffee.
See? The development of a problem is an incredibly complex affair! Look how many details led up to this one little smoky jalapeno morning. It’s never too late to start appreciating the intricacies of how your life is unfolding!
If you take advantage of the opportunity to teach someone else how to have your problem, it will certainly be revealing and quite possibly entertaining! No problem develops over night, it’s a long time comin’ round the mountain when it comes. Once you see how the problem is built, it’s pretty easy to see how to dismantle it.
For me and my problem, it’s easy. Next time, I’ll just say no to the fifty jalapenos.
Did you know our Statue of Liberty wears shackles and chains at her feet? Do you know why? And why would I (relationship writer) be talking about this?
The Statue of Liberty, that sits on Liberty Island in New York harbor, was conceived by the French abolitionist Edouard de Laboulaye. In 1865, the year the United States abolished slavery, Laboulaye discussed the idea of a monument to honor the emancipation of slaves in America with French sculptor Frederic Bartholdi.
(By the way, did you know that slavery didn’t end on Jan. 1, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation? It officially ended on December 6, 1865, the day the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. The 13th amendment says “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”)
Although Laboulaye and Bartholdi had envisioned a statue holding broken chains and shackles, American financiers did not want chains on the monument, or any mention of slavery, and insisted the chains be removed. Because the French faced difficult economic times and couldn’t fund the project fully themselves, they relied on American money to complete the project. Bartholdi eventually compromised to avoid losing American financial support. He eventually agreed to remove the chains from Lady Liberty’s hand, and replace them with a book.
But what many of us don’t realize is that Bartholdi left the shackles and broken chains at her feet. Because of the height of the pedestal built to support the statue, the shackles and chains are invisible to visitors on the ground. You can only see the chains from a helicopter. You can only see them “from above.”
SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH YOU OR ME?
Quite a bit, actually. I’ll go straight for it.
I very much appreciate that Laboulaye was an abolitionist, and that his desire was to celebrate the end of slavery in America. I’m all for that. Being raised Quaker, I remember hearing in Sunday School about Quakers helping slaves. Quakers actually played a major role in organizing and running the Underground Railroad, which was a system of secret routes and safe-houses that helped runaway slaves reach freedom in the northern states and in Canada. Quakers believe it is a moral duty to support freedom for all. After all, Quakers are a pretty spunky bunch and left England for America because they wanted freedom from bowing to the rules of royalty, religious or otherwise.
Even though we can’t (easily) see the chains on the Statue of Liberty, they are there. And while it’s doubtful that American financiers, who likely made their fortunes through the use of slaves, were pure in their motives about not wanting chains on the statue, nevertheless, the spirit and essence of freedom is not celebrated by bringing chains of the past (visible or invisible) into the present.
Broken chains are a celebration of resistance, not freedom.
It’s impossible to view shackles and chains and think “freedom.”
To celebrate true clean-as-a-whistle freedom, leave shackles out of the picture. To create a new life, with total freedom to move forward, it’s vital to turn my full attention from where I’ve been to where I’m going. While it may be tempting to throw stones as I leave, or emphasize the struggle, that won’t help because it chains me to my past through continuing resistance. If I’m throwing stones, even silently in my head, I’m still pushing against what happened in my past. If I’m talking about the struggle, and I’ve got broken chains to prove it, I’m keeping the feeling of my past active in me. The (not so) funny thing is, resistance to my past glues it to me.
So, the moral of the story is, don’t be a slave to a habit of resistance.
Resistance slows you down and keeps you un-free.
Honoring the struggle of the past will keep you there, too.
Instead, choose to make a clean break.
This, by the way, requires impeccable awareness.
It also requires a strong, clear desire to move cleanly in a new direction.
Can being resistant be useful somehow? Sure, if you notice it. Pay attention to how your body feels and you’ll be able to catch it. Use resistance to remind you to wake up. When you wake up, be vigilant about noticing when you’ve slipped into exploring old territory again.
Touch on your past just enough to notice what you want now — in the present. Turn entirely toward that. Use your past as a springboard.
Original vs. Final Design
BE AWAKE SO THAT YOU CAN BE INTENTIONAL.
If I want my relationship with my husband to improve, I don’t accomplish this by continuously telling my friends why things aren’t working, or what a schmuck he is. That plan won’t help me create a relationship I truly want! Pointing out the many ways he’s wrong, and how I’m the smart one, of course — that won’t help either.
To begin to change, I turn my attention to being who I am, not to the small, un-free, victim version of me. I don’t keep my attention on feeling stuck. Or on the belief that he’s the true problem. I let old ideas sit right where they are. I don’t pick them up and play with them. Why? Because I’m no longer fascinated by them. Neither am I fascinated by the drama of how things aren’t working. Or by who’s wrong and who’s right. It’s old news and it didn’t work. I leave the old stuff alone, like abandoned toys, and I deliberately and consciously get up and walk out of the room.
I turn my attention to what I want now, which I’m aware of precisely because of my difficult past. Gradually, I begin to feel genuine appreciation for my past because it helped me clarify important desires. This might take a little while, but we can get there eventually. (Yes, I know. At first it feels irritating that the biggest thorn in my side becomes my growth opportunity. Oh, joy!!!)
From my own personal experience, and from working with couples, I can report that it’s often quite a challenge to set aside old expectations in a relationship. Sometimes it feels more natural to discuss past details and justify why we feel the way we do rather than head straight for a solution. But talking about the problem reinforces the problem. Dwelling on the past keeps us there.
If I believe my partner is the reason I can’t be happy, I’m expressing my own personal, self-inflicted version of slavery. This may sound like an exaggeration, but in essence, it is not. I’ve been married four times, and divorced three. I learned about moving toward freedom in marriage number four. Trust me, you want to leave the chains of the past behind.
“You’re so free you can choose bondage.” — Abraham
In marriage or otherwise, we get more of whatever we pay attention to. If you prefer a feeling of freedom, pay close attention to when you experience that, and celebrate those moments.
Watch how things change!
By focusing on what you prefer, shackles fade into the sunset and they keep right on fading unless you miss them, call them back or invite them to tea. If you leave the past in the past, your new priorities can blossom. And what’s more beautiful than the long-awaited crocus, or cascading cherry blossoms, or a spring tulip all pretty in pink?
He is the long-time author of the NY Times “Modern Love” column.
In chapter 6 of his book, he gives practical tips for maintaining healthy individuality in marriage.
Thousands of people have written to him over the years about every possible aspect of love, one of them being the downside of living in the same house with the same person forever! For some, this long-term commitment can feel smothering. Others might describe the trouble with marriage as, “Somewhere along the way, I simply lost myself.”
And goodness! “Losing yourself” has so many variations.
You love freedom, but over the years, you feel like you’ve lost it. You love exploring the local countryside on weekends, or taking day trips or spontaneous Saturday morning excursions, and you stopped doing that. Maybe you used to hang-glide, take photographs of nature, or sing. But with the responsibility of children and schedules, you got talked out of it.
There are solutions to feeling like your individual flavors have melted into blobs of too much togetherness, where nobody’s really getting what they truly want. You know – those times when you go along with your partner, even when you don’t really want to. You go just because it’s expected or because you think they want you there — to keep the peace or to keep up appearances.
A friend of mine just came back from a very good vacation. He got a little divorced from his mother. Before he went on vacation to visit his parents and family, he warned his mother that he was not going to go anywhere he didn’t want to go — no obligatory visits to this person or that event — which thoroughly upset his mother. She was mad! But he said, “Mom, you really want to get over this, because you really want to see your grand daughter, right? So this is how it’s going to be. I want a real and relaxing vacation.”
ACT A LITTLE DIVORCED
In LOVE ILLUMINATED, Daniel Jones gives the example of a couple (both were children of divorce) who were especially determined to make their own marriage last. Even though they both did their best to be caring partners, they found themselves struggling in their marriage. They had also defaulted to traditional marriage roles as husband and wife, which did not sit well with the wife.
So, as they watched friends get divorced one by one, rather than getting divorced themselves, they decided to try (as Daniel puts it) “cherry-picking the benefits of divorce without actually getting divorced.”
This couple began with the idea that one ought to be as able and independent within the marriage as outside it.
So they decided to trade off leaving each other in charge of the house and children, meaning they handed off responsibilities to each other as if it was part of a custody agreement.
Then, as the non-custodial parent, they had ACTUAL free time to get out and do things — go on weekend trips, see friends, pursue a creative interest or whatever floated their boat. And when they came back to the nest, they felt refreshed, energized, and intellectually stimulated, and ready for another go at home life. It worked for them.
Interesting idea, huh? Such a creative way for remembering who you are!
On other sides of the question, what can’t you do because you’re single? Or because you’re working? Or because of money? Or because you have children or you’re a single parent?
Life will provide plenty of reasons not to do many of the things you want to do. So, make it a practice to become more conscious and intentional about consistently doing what makes your life richer and fuller, whether it’s with your partner or on your own.
There’s always a way to figure out how to do more of what we really enjoy!
Make a new choice this week in favor of you! Do something you thought you couldn’t because of your circumstances.
You’re broken down and tired Of living life on a merry go round And you can’t find the fighter But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out And move mountains We gonna walk it out And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again And I’ll rise up High like the waves I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
When the silence isn’t quiet And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe And I know you feel like dying But I promise we’ll take the world to its feet And move mountains Bring it to its feet And move mountains
And I’ll rise up I’ll rise like the day I’ll rise up I’ll rise unafraid I’ll rise up And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you For you For you For you
All we need, all we need is hope And for that we have each other And for that we have each other And we will rise We will rise We’ll rise, oh, oh We’ll rise
I’ll rise up Rise like the day I’ll rise up In spite of the ache I will rise a thousand times again And we’ll rise up High like the waves We’ll rise up In spite of the ache We’ll rise up And we’ll do it a thousand times again
During this strange time in history, I noticed y’all were tackling all sorts of interesting projects. I decided I needed one, too—something positive to remember the pandemic of 2020 by.
I decided to pay attention to something I had abandoned…
Nope, I’m not cleaning my garage. I am not organizing one single thing. I’m not planting a garden or cleaning up my yard.
Instead, I decided to take care of myself better. This, folks, has made all the difference for me.
With relatively little time and effort on my part, I feel so much better than I did a month ago.
On March 30, I got on the exercise bike and the yoga mat for the first time in a long time, and did 30 minutes each. I liked it so much that I decided to do it every day. But I fell short of that, and changed my commitment to every other day, which felt more manageable, reasonable, and doable.
I also get off the bike after every song, take a couple of sips of water, shake out my legs and arms for a few seconds, and get back on. This makes the bike project a reasonable proposition, too.
Daily walks of any length—by myself, or with my little guy, Jackson—are a fresh air bonus.
My recumbent exercise bike has pulleys to work my upper body while I pedal, which gets my heart rate up fast, and also helps my whole-body strength. It feels good to get up from writing, or doing a consulting session with a client, to do something physically challenging while listening to good music.
After only a month, I feel a sheet of muscles on the front of me I haven’t felt for a very, very long time. Goodness gracious. Who knew they were there. I’ll be posting rippling ab photos soon, I’m sure.
I have no idea what the scales have to say about my bike/yoga project—I don’t care. Paying attention to scales tends to send me sideways, and therefore, I’m ignoring them completely.
But—I LOVE the way I feel! Hang in there, everyone.