I had one of the best vocal performances of my career several weeks ago. Since becoming a mother, I don’t travel the country touring anymore — at least not on a regular basis. My focus and attention have been on my family. But after this particular performance, I was left with some feelings of “What if?” And I took a little walk down memory lane.
The venue was a stunning home in southern Utah. A panoramic view of the valley could be seen from almost any floor-to-ceiling window that stretched across the house. A swimming pool glimmered outside, reflecting the dancing lights of multiple fire pits.
I got ready like I do before a performance (meaning I took a shower and did my hair and makeup) and because my kids were back home with my husband, Brad, I was enjoying small luxuries such as going to the bathroom by myself and eating a warm dinner.
During the performance, I felt totally at ease. Not relaxed — I still had that excitement that settles in me every time I get up in front of people. But this time, the butterflies were companions, not enemies. I sang like I never have before. It felt exhilarating.
Add on incredibly kind compliments and words of praise from those in attendance, and I couldn’t help but think: Is this what my life would have been like had I pursued my career more aggressively? I felt like I had finally grown into my voice and felt completely comfortable on stage.
The next morning, I caught an early flight home so I could make it back before my kids went to school. I braced myself before I walked in the front door, wanting the high of the night before to last a little longer.
I opened the door to find — what else? — chaos. My boys were still in their pajamas and ran downstairs, asking for breakfast. My baby wanted to be held. My 4-year-old wanted to know why I had left him. The house was a day behind maintenance, and I just had time to pause and give my husband a quick kiss hello/goodbye before I tackled the day. It was only 8 a.m., but I was exhausted.
A few days later, I sat on a park bench watching my boys play. The last week had worn me out.
And I couldn’t stop a dangerous thought that had slowly begun to take root inside my mind: Is this what makes me happy? This is hard.
Ironically, I was scheduled to speak at a Relief Society birthday dinner the following week on the topic, “Love Your Life.” How could I do that when in the moment I wasn’t sure how much I loved mine?
A few days later, my kids took turns getting the stomach bug at the exact same time my husband left for a work trip in Hawaii. And since our family believes in sharing, the bug was soon passed on to me. It was hard to love my life in that moment.
One of my friends, who must have had a week like mine, sat by me and we began commiserating. Back and forth we went, throwing questions such as, "Who are we?" and, "Do we like what we’re doing?"
Well, that night happened to be my own ward’s Relief Society birthday dinner. I sat down at a table and mostly kept to myself. Something was wrong, and it didn’t take long to recognize that I wasn’t feeling the Spirit.
Then a woman got up and bore her testimony on the gift of charity.
“This kind of love purifies us. It cleanses us,” she said.
It was as if someone took a bucket of warm water and poured it over the top of my head. That warmth spread down to the tips of my toes, instantly filling me with peace. The Holy Ghost confirmed her words for me.
Raising a family is hard work. Being selfless and taking care of others requires a lot, and being full of charity means that I will sometimes have to suffer, bear hard things, be patient and endure to the end. Those can be incredibly difficult things and will probably be things I have to work on every day of my life. But it is that refining, purifying love that stretches, strengthens and cleanses us that really makes us who we are and brings lasting joy.
Let me be very clear: I am not at all saying that we shouldn’t use our talents. I think the world is a better place when women cultivate and share their gifts with others, and I hope I can continue to share mine.
This experience was a tender reminder that although I have talents I want to be able to use, I need to be careful not to focus on what could have been. Because in all reality, it couldn’t have been. The reason I am a better, more confident person in all facets of life goes back to the depth, perspective and love I gained when I became a mother. I owe my personal growth to my children, four precious hearts that will always lead mine back home.