Making Tough Decisions

Making tough decisions can be a nightmare, right? Here’s why and then what can help make it easier for musicians (including a Puccini aria).

First, the decisions we delay or avoid making are the ones that require taking action. They’re the decisions we find daunting because they bring up all of our fears—of failure, of rejection, of not living up to our potential.

Second, decision making requires facing the reality we’ve avoided dealing with. Whether it’s the unhealthy relationship we’re in, our overspending, under-earning, or any other bad habits we’ve let ourselves slide into.

And then there’s the worry about making the “wrong” choice. The very culture we live in renders decision making more difficult because it promotes the fantasy that . . .

If we do everything “right,” that we’ll be rewarded with the life of our dreams.

We all grow up reading happy ever after stories in a culture that tells us that we can be anything we want. As musicians, we grow up believing that if we’re talented enough and work hard, if we study with the right teachers and go to the right schools, we’ll be hired for the right job, and along the way, find the right partner, and—presto change-o—it’s happy ever after time.

This is what author and therapist Phil Stutz calls “the realm of illusion.”

It’s the fantasy story we tell ourselves, that once we “make it,” once we win that audition or get that manager, that we’ll be exonerated from pain and hard work—and that life will be easy.

But the truth is there are three constants in life: there will always be pain, uncertainty, and the need for hard work. No one escapes from these, no matter how rich or famous they are. That’s just the deal.

Yes, there’ll be good times and some success, but none of that will exonerate you from the need to deal with difficulties—there will always be challenges.

And it’s these challenges that keep us growing emotionally, artistically, and spiritually.

Of course, there’s a Puccini aria that captures all this.

In the first act of Puccini’s La Rondine, the heroine, Magda, a high society courtesan, offers a poet the ending for an unfinished ballad about romantic love. Magda finishes the ballad answering in her aria the mystery of why a young beautiful girl, Doretta, refuses the king who courts her. Magda’s answer is that Doretta had the memory of a perfect kiss. And no amount of riches were worth more to her than that dream.

Here’s the text . . .

Chi il bel sogno di Doretta

Chi il bel sogno di Doretta potè indovinar?
Il suo mister come mai come mai fini
Ahimè! un giorno uno student in bocca la baciò
e fu quel bacio rivelazione: fu la passione!
Folle amore!
Folle ebbrezza!
Chi la sottil carezza d’un bacio così ardente
mai ridir potrà?
Ah! mio sogno!
Ah! mia vita!
Che importa la ricchezza se alfine è rifiorita la felicità!
O sogno d’or poter amar così!

Doretta’s beautiful dream

Who could guess the beautiful dream Doretta had?
Why her mystery came to an end
One day a student kissed her on the mouth
And that kiss was the revelation: It was the passion!
Mad love!
Mad happiness!
Who will ever be able again
To describe the light caress of a kiss so burning?
Oh! My dream!
Oh! My life!
Who cares for wealth if at last happiness flourishes!
Oh golden dream to be able to love in this way!

Here’s my own dream of a recording of that aria. It’s Kiri Te Kanawa with the London Philharmonic, John Pritchard conducting in a 1984 recording of “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta,” (Doretta’s Beautiful Dream).

It is a beautiful dream, that first perfect kiss with its promise of an impossible future—the answer to why someone might give up everything for love.

The realm of illusion is a dream world we try to make real in life and it falls apart—just like in La Rondine. In the opera, Magda is the high society mistress to the wealthy Rambaldo. And one night she disguises herself as a simple shop girl and at a café meets and falls in love with a young man who knows nothing of her past.

They flee the city for the Riviera and there, with their money running out, Magda’s lover reads to her a letter from his mother who is happy that he’s found a virtuous woman to marry. Magda tells him she can be his lover but never his wife. That she can not bear to ruin his future. He is devastated and Magda returns to her former life.

Tough decisions pit our illusions against our everyday world.

As artists living in the real world, our job is to bring dreams to life in our music and to create in real life the circumstances that support the sustainability for our artistic practice.

Yes, have your dreams fuel your art-making, but make the real-world decisions to support the sustainable life you need so you can grow in your artistry.

If you want to have an introductory coaching session with me to see how together we might help you fit your dreams into your life, book a time with me HERE.

Here’s to better decision making on the road to becoming the artist you are meant to be,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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