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Women (2 posts)
As her new album, The Art of Renée Fleming, hits stores, the celebrated soprano talks about the City of Light, the secret to weight loss, and what comes after her final bow.
1. You Have to Make Time For Joy
You can't just focus on shoulds. You have to also do whatever makes your heart feel full. Maybe it's cooking for your friends, being with your children. For me, it's a sunset walk around Paris—where I keep an apartment—listening to jazz and Joni Mitchell on my iPod. It's like having my own soundtrack.
2. And You Have To Make Other Things, Too
It enriches you to enjoy music and art and writing, but creating something yourself is even more important. Ask yourself what it can add to your existence to write, to paint, to sing. It's so easy to leave creativity out of your life because you don't have time. But I know I wouldn't feel fully alive if I couldn't put forth some expression of myself.
3. Success Is Nine-Tenths Elbow Grease
I once said to the photographer Annie Leibovitz, "You've met so many incredible people. What have you learned from them?" She answered, "Everybody works really hard." That's the key.
4. Changing Your Body Means Changing Your Thinking
My whole life, I've struggled with my weight. Many people in my profession do—"It's not over till the fat lady sings," as they say. But I've learned that weight loss, like a lot of things, starts with your mind. If you don't look inside and examine how food is protecting you from dealing with something difficult, and why some inner voice is undermining your resolve, no diet in the world will help.
5. Nothing Lasts Forever
A singer's career is like an athlete's—short. It would be easy to view this negatively, but instead I try to think about what my legacy will be, how I'll give back, and all the new things I'll get to try. Like spending less time in airports, for example.
My thoughts drifted back to that cookbook last week, when I saw NPR's piece on the history of community-based cookbooks. The writer, Jessica Stoller-Conrad, pointed to The Woman's Suffrage Cookbook and 1904 Bluegrass Cookbook from Kentucky. Like me, she recognized their outdated references belonged to a time when women didn't have a lot of personal or professional choices. But she also felt the books were social outlets that "were so much more than just a catalog of recipes—they were fundraisers, political pamphlets, and historical accounts of the communities they served."
They were memoirs too, I suddenly realized. Every gravy stain and little handwritten comment ("add extra salt!" or "need more clam juice") tells a story. My cookbook, however, is wonderfully blank. My mother did not cook. She was a social worker in the 1970s. She did not have the time, interest or energy. Her lack of comment was a comment: There's a big world beyond the kitchen, honey. The silence of stains on each page may just have resulted in my being a working mother too (though I do love cooking, especially when it's something like "Mooseburger Meatloaf.").
Now that we live in the age of round-the-clock blogging, any lack of commentary (of any kind) seems harder and harder to find. I see these kinds of tell-all-say-nothing moments occasionally when a friend restrains herself from making a political point over dinner or someone shows you a photo but fails to tell the story behind it. I wish there were more of them. These omissions aren't nothing. They're windows into our choices: to cook or not cook, to explain or not explain, to show and see if anybody is ready to understand instead of just lecture and opine.
Tune out the World, Find Your Voice
Do You Trust Yourself?