You’re into you, but you’re into you for all the wrong reasons. ~ Serenity Stewart
There were 2 bath towels soaked with blood before Serenity Stewart thought there might be a real problem. She was working as the administrator for a very large gynecology practice in Arizona, and she didn’t have time to be sick. The recurring nosebleeds she’d been battling for weeks had turned into a full-blown fountain of blood from every opening in her head.
Her sister finally took her to the ER, and it turned out she had a brain aneurysm. As a 50-year-old working single mom of 4, she says she just didn’t have time for this back in 2005. She just wanted the doctor to fix her up and send her home. He tried explaining the severity of her condition and the next steps, and instead of paying attention, she asked for some loose leaf paper so she could hand write her will.
Blood was pouring from her ears and she was still focused on taking care of other people.
She thought she was going to die, and no one was more surprised than her when she woke up.
Several days later she was sent home to rest. Doctor’s orders were to relax and recover, and she couldn’t stand it. She worried about work and her kids and “wasting time.” After watching a few Jack Nicholson movies, she began thinking about her life. After a while, she couldn’t stop thinking about her life.
She kept coming back to the same question about her overworked, under-lived lifestyle:
Why am I doing this?
Serenity has a voice like an angel, but her mom always told her, “I think you could stand up to the devil.” With this kind of fearless attitude, you’d think she would have pursued her love of singing and become world famous long before her 50th birthday. Her family was musical – her mom an opera singer and her dad a pianist – but even those good genes and a desire to sing weren’t enough.
Instead of heading to Broadway, she fell in love, got married, became a mother, got divorced, and turned her ambition into something “reliable” to support her family. She was very successful in all outward appearances: an important job managing a big group of physicians, a nice place to live, money to give her kids a good education, and even the frills like great clothes and nice meals out.
But she still wasn’t singing except for her twice-daily performances in the car on the way to and from work.
Evaluating the Situation
As she restlessly stayed at home recovering from her aneurysm, she began focusing on herself for perhaps the first time in her life. She decided to finish out a few weeks at work and take a sabbatical. There was a lot to consider, and she needed time away to process what happened to her – both the brain injury and how she got so far from her biggest dream.
I had to shed all the hats I’d been wearing to find the real me. I hadn’t thought about myself like that in a very long time.
She traveled to California to visit a friend, and he offered her a trip on his boat. She ended up spending a year and a good chunk of her savings living there and thinking about her life, journaling and looking for what was real and what was manufactured. Those introspective moments on the boat led her to this conclusion:
“I should do what I’m here to do before it’s too late.”
Serenity realized her ability to sing was only a talent, one she had been hoarding for herself. To truly see it as a gift – the way she had seen it as a child – she had to actually give it to other people. This meant overcoming all her lifelong fears of not being good enough (a common ailment of over-achievers) as well as the societal pressure of being too old to start singing professionally.
She had to crack open the tough outer shell she created to preserve herself for all these years of hard-scrabble single parenthood and work. If this was going to work, she was going to have to be vulnerable.
Chasing the Dream
She began shedding her current life, learning to live without all the possessions and status symbols she craved before. Stripping it down to the essentials was her new status quo, and she reveled in the clarity it brought to her life. She kept asking herself:
“Am I really this person? Who was I meant to be?”
It started out as a personal project, singing simply to share her talent. She sang at churches, joined choirs, and gained experience performing. She worked her voice every day. She bought equipment piece by piece as she had the funds – microphones, amps, recording equipment.
As she continued focusing her life on this dream one small step at a time, she thought of a simpler era, times when war and other overriding concerns caused people to focus on what was truly important: love, loss, and pulling together. As Serenity created more simplicity in her own life, she began singing the songs from the 40s. She dressed in clothes of the time, showing just how attractive a woman of any age can be when she’s following her dream. She began playing gigs around town.
Her partner – now her fiancé – encouraged her to finally set up a budget and record a CD of these torch songs. He told her she was ready, something she already knew, and she took the final plunge of investing in herself by going to Las Vegas and recording a CD.
Serenity’s Take on How to Change your Life at Any Age:
- Most people are holding themselves back. Ask yourself these questions: Who am I? Is this all there is? Is this all I want? Am I happy with me? Am I happy with my life? If the answer to any of these questions is not pleasing to you, it’s up to you to fix it.
- There’s no magic pill. It’s still about you doing the work on the soul and spirit of you. Unlock the childhood trauma and lessons that weren’t ever real. They leave a residual effect, and you have clean the chalkboard and start all over.
- Slow down. It was the brain injury that forced Serenity to stop, and she says without it, she might never have done it. She was too busy living to really live. Take some time for yourself to figure out what you want and what you don’t. It’s far more important than Facebook, television, or housework.
- Stop taking responsibility for everyone else. They like having you do it, but they are often more than capable of doing it for themselves. Allow them – and you – the growth experience.
- Say what you mean. She says she was “shut off” before as she worked for everyone else, but now she’s “turned on” for herself. This means saying no when she doesn’t want to do something and learning to ask for what she wants without shame. Not everyone is going to like it, and they don’t have to.
Living the Dream
Serenity is still amazed at the outpouring of support for her CD, P.S. I Love You. She’s been performing regularly ever since, giving the gift of her talents and finally realizing the happiness she’d been sitting on for so long. Serenity is working on a new CD and even planning a European tour this spring. She never imagined her life could turn out this way, especially at 56, and she’s glad she took the time to finally focus on herself.
It’s not too late for her, and it’s not too late for you.
I don’t feel guilty. I have adopted a sense of entitlement to my life. ~ Serenity Stewart
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