“There is an inner wholeness that presses its still unfilled claims upon us.” Emma Jung
My one and only childhood encounter with musical instruction happened at the age of 9. My classmates and I were filed into a small room where a visibly irritated and tired teacher handed each of us a musical instrument.
When they handed me the French horn, I felt a sense of deflation in my body. It was bulky, large, unglamorous. I had no interest in or connection to a French horn. I didn’t even know what it might sound like (and I could never make it sound like anything other than a strained cow myself). I couldn’t imagine a less appealing instrument. I never warmed to it and abandoned my musical career as quickly as I was allowed.
I remembered this today as I was driving home from the studio, listening to a neo-classical violin song, and having the kind of lovely full-body listening experience where I really felt the music in my body. I wondered if I would have been drawn to the violin as a child if I’d heard how haunting and evocative it can be; if I’d been given the opportunity to explore what I was really drawn to. What creative impulses die before they can ever be really born, simply for lack of opportunity? What happens to those parts of ourselves that we aren’t allowed to nurture?
While I wasn’t truly passionate about any instrument, my younger self did have an unfulfilled creative longing to participate in gymnastics. I watched my friends in their leotards showing off their athletic feats with envy ( I envied the leotards as much as the athleticism, I’m sure– even then, I appreciated how the right outfit created a sense of specialness, belonging, of “I wear this to do this.” ). It wasn’t a financial possibility for our family, so I didn’t even ask– I put it aside as something that wasn’t meant for me.
I’d forgotten all about those years until I started practicing yoga. Prior to that, I’d been sedentary for over a decade and would have told you I had no interest in anything athletic whatsoever. But the part of me who longed to move with grace and strength hadn’t died– she was simply waiting for the chance to be reborn. Once I had the chance, I easily learned to arm balance, handstand, and do all kinds of things that young Laura hadn’t had a chance to do. The physical practice of yoga helped me to become a more whole and complete self.
Did life hand you a French horn, when you really longed for a fiddle? If you look back, what can you recall that you always wanted to do, but weren’t able to? Those parts of ourselves are waiting inside, unfulfilled. What parts of you have been denied or suppressed? Who have you always wanted to be? Are you waiting to take up the paintbrush, or travel to Uzbekistan, or tell someone you love them? One of my clients took up ballroom dancing in her 60s. Another is 70, and learning to play songs he’s written himself on the guitar. Yet another inspirational client took up voice lessons in his 80s– when he sang his opera solo in my studio, the room vibrated and I was moved to tears.
So, what is it that calls to you? It might even be something that feels impossible, or terrifying– but that makes your body zing with excitement or possibility. That’s often a sign there’s something there to explore. “If we want to know the next step along the path toward what we are ‘meant to be,'” says Edward C Whitmont, “we can look for the thing that attracts and frightens at the same time.”
This is the deepest kind of self-care– excavating, acknowledging and finding ways to meet our unresolved desires. It’s not frivolous, but life-affirming in a way that you almost have to experience to know. Each of us deserves to become who we really long to be.