As a child I was a chronic dreamer. I spent my life staring out the window playing the “A” movie — the one where I’m doing a concert in the Sydney Opera House or winning a music award, or watching a movie when one of my songs comes on. I lived in that shadowy place between dreamland and the impossible, and yet I hoped my dreams would come true.
Born to teenage parents in a small mining town in NSW Australia, I was introduced to the piano when my grandmother moved in at age eight with an old German Iron frame. I fell in love with it and from that moment forth wanted to be a concert pianist and composer when I grew up.
At about the same time I was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (physical tics). Sometimes our weakness gives us strength, having TS taught me lots of things about people and toughened me up. Having obvious twitches also meant I knew how to stay away from scrutiny. I spent much of my childhood avoiding be looked at by sitting at the back of the classroom, but the headmaster became supportive of my piano playing and I ended up in front of everyone on stage and under lights! It was a strange twist of fate.
No one noticed tics when I played the piano, I hid them within the music and it translated as a musical dance. I had a sense of belonging when I played and knew I wanted music in my life more than anything. As a child I didn’t believe in glass ceilings, a male-dominated world or that anyone could stand in the way of my dreams. I learned those things later. Success is not just about finding what sets your soul on fire, or the things you are good at, it’s about making sure that no one takes them away from you.
At 18, I met the wrong person. At 19, I got married.
Getting married took me to San Francisco right at the time George Winston and Windham Hill became a world-wide phenomenon. I turned the radio on one day and in an instant realized where I belonged, the music I was writing had a name. New Age Music.
After a few years we returned to Australia but there was something missing. I was living my husband’s life and career… and then we had children. I had put my dreams on the back-burner to take care of everyone else. I felt used and trapped.
Having children should be a wonderful and fulfilling experience, but what if it isn’t? What if it leaves you depleted and unable to cope? What if there is inner anguish and turmoil because you love them so much and you want to make everything perfect, but you can’t? What if no one understands what you are going through?
I dealt with a number of difficult issues, like raising an Autistic child, another hyperactive child with health issues and a controlling and unhelpful husband.
I tried my hardest, but always felt I was failing. After a 25-year commitment to my marriage and children, it was time to find some missing courage and make a life-altering decision.
I hit the reset button one bright sunny morning in September 2008.
There is negative and positive in leaving one world and stepping into another, and no one tells us how these decisions may play out. I realized I wouldn’t discover the answer until I made the leap, gained a sense of self and decided to explore the very thing that drives me… creativity and music.
My mother advised me that no child will look back and say thanks for staying in an unsuitable marriage or in a place where you are not happy, and that I would not be teaching them anything by sticking it out for their sake. She said they learn by watching the decisions you make and the reasons you make them and basics like self-fulfillment and happiness are worthy reasons.
When two people do the dance of divorce, no one person should be blamed. I remember telling a friend my tale of woe and he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “You talk as if it’s all his fault, but you were there, you allowed it to happen because you stayed.” They weren’t words I wanted to hear, but they were wise and true; I needed to own my problems and fix them myself.
I wish more people had explained my personal rights to happiness, a career and love, the need to be honest with myself and that it’s OK to move on when things are not right. But mostly, that it’s OK to “want” for yourself. I had been married to a controlling man so the decision to make my own choices, and owning my mistake to stay so long was empowering.
It took 18 months to work through the twists and turns of dis-entanglement, but nine years later I have a career, I’m in a safe place and have learned more about life and myself than I imagined. I remarried and discovered you can find love and have your own identity at the same time.
We all have a purpose and things of value to share, following that pathway is essential to happiness, but to find it we need freedom mixed with a sprinkling of self-belief. Learning to stand up for yourself is a hard lesson and possibly the catalysts for my reset. It changed my life in so many ways, it allowed me to move forward and yet it took me right back to where I started… the piano.