Bookmark and Share

On the edge of something else

We do not know what others carry within themselves.

Do we even know what we carry? We all carry a secret, a gift bigger than we are, our own personal DNA, our own history, a purpose with yearnings and desires. Others try to understand us, we try to tell them, but without success.

I read a quote from a British author, Penelope Lively who spent her childhood in Cairo in the 1940s. She writes, “I believe I have some idea of how the refugee feels, or the immigrant. Once, I was thus, or nearly so. And all the while I carried around inside me an elsewhere, a place of which I could not speak because no one would know what I was talking about. I was a displaced person, of a kind, in the jargon of the day. And displaced persons are displaced not just in space but in time; you are for ever in some crucial sense untethered.”

I believe as artists we sometimes find ourselves in an elsewhere place, untethered, on the edge of something else. It is where we can not speak about and yet our feelings are very real. We are displaced. We operate in another world, the world of the artist.

It has taken me a lifetime to feel “placed” in who I am as an artist. This place doesn’t calculate with the practical-minded person who is trying to make sense of life.

The innocence and the pureness of the art are stripped from us when we try to over think it or try to make sense of it, which I have done in the past. I just knew I was full of passion and did not know how to tether it. It comes from the heart; it is the music I dance to and many others do not recognize the tune.

I wonder how young people understand the gift that is in them when they are thrown into a demanding place. A good example is American Idol. Al and I watch it with millions of others. Do we vote? No, but we too are expecting something great from these young kids who stand glassy eyed in the spotlight while the whole world watches.

Have you noticed the judges’ continual comments … etc.? They say to the contestants who are high school age or barely out in the world, “Don’t overthink It. Make it your own. The song is too old for you. You took the heart out of the music. You didn’t connect with the music. You didn’t connect with the audience. Change it but keep it the same. You were lazy in that performance. You have to be better than the others. You need that star quality. Find out who you are, but try something different. Don’t talk back, but talk back.”

The hopeful kids stand before the judges bewildered. They don’t have a clue. They want to please. They have been given a gift, they can sing, but do they really know who they are or where they belong? In a sense they are displaced into a business world, a dog-eat- dog world, knowing they could be somebody great or forgettable. Their life is decided by others.

The most uncomfortable person on that show is Simon Cowell. He is uncomfortable in his own skin, yet he knows what he is talking about. He is brutal, heartless, demeaning and an honest jerk. This is the person who you love to hate, or hate to love. We also wait for his candid response to the contestants. His opinion carries the weight of the other three judges put together. He knows what it takes to make a superstar. What he says you can take to the bank.

Simon is also the most displaced person there, since the poster-child, Paula, is gone. He doesn’t know how to respond to a familiar joke, waves in a disjointed manner, winks in nervousness, and can’t handle another person in his zone, especially Ryan Seacrest, the announcer. Simon is conceited, loves himself more than anyone else and makes fun of the other judges. He doesn’t care who boos him because he knows he is right. He definitely carries the show.

Interesting. Simon knows what to see in others, but doesn’t know who he is. What a paradox!

Yes, the young contestants are brushing shoulders with great artists, learning what the world calls great, honing their talent, learning stage presence and taking brutal rejection, yet envied for given that chance. They are growing up too fast.

Only a few know who they are and will stay true to the music they feel. One such artist is Taylor Hicks, a recent Idol winner. He knew his music and what he wanted and wouldn’t change, not even the color of his hair. It didn’t line up with the world’s thinking. The world doesn’t hear much about him these days.

The world will rip the innocence of the art out of you if you are not tethered into sound principals. Know who you are and what has been given to you. If not, the world will tell you very quickly. They can’t figure themselves out but they will figure you out.

We say, “Stay true to your art.” Maybe we are saying, “Be true to you.” From your heart come the real issues of life and pureness of your art. What is done in haste is never innocent.

Final brushstroke: You might not end up with a platinum record contract but you will learn how to live in the fullness of your place as an artist. You will not have that feeling of being displaced no matter how the world sees you.

Comments from readers

E-mail with your comments.

Dear Betty:

Going in circles: good one, Betty. I like the C.S. Lewis quote. You find great quotes all the time.  Recycle and being on a merry go round are certainly two different things.


Tehachapi, Calif.

Dear Betty:

Still inspiring me, Betty. Time to get off the Merry-go-round  (the article) has made me realize how wonderfully organized God is through our surroundings. He has allowed us to design things using nature as our template. He has endowed us with the gift of free will to be as creative as we can be. Life is then beautiful!  Let that little voice in our hearts guide us everyday.




The Cookie — What a moving account, we had thought you had always prospered abundantly. When we came to Pagosa and worked on the house I remember having just enough money for a hamburger on the way home. Later, when we moved to Deming, that winter I worked in a junk yard and we lived in a small house on a alley — nevertheless in retrospect I remember them as a good time. However we can pay our bills, have a car to drive, food on the table, roof over our head, good health, a loving church family, and most of all people like you and Al in our hearts and lives. Betty, I’m rich; just don’t have a lot of money. I have to admit I had a hard time writing this thru the tears your message brought me. Thank you for your message, it was for me.

Vaya Con Dios (may God walk with you),


Deming, N.M.

Dear Betty:

The word about being hungry even with a cookie was and is a very powerful article. What a challenging description of what our hunger really is. Close to family and dependence on Someone outside of us who is a wonderfully loving God who teaches us every day who we really are if we listen.




Hi Betty:

I’ve been wanting to write and tell you how much I enjoyed your story about “April Fools” and your marriage to your dear Al. I enjoy reading your column and try to read it even if I don’t have time to read anything else in the Preview! You are blessed with a great gift of writing as well as your artistic ability.



Artist’s Quote

“What others do or say is their stuff, how we react or not, is our stuff.” And, “True happiness in life isn’t having what you want, but wanting what you have.” — Unknown.