So what makes me hesitate to announce this beautiful, musical part of me? It’s quite simple: I don’t feel good enough. Even though many people love my singing voice, and I really enjoy singing, there is still a part of me that compares my voice to what I judge as better voices.
And then there are the songs I write. Nothing fancy. Just what I consider heart-felt messages of love and spirituality. And yes again, people love my songs. And the most important person who is my greatest fan is Joyce. So why is there still a part of me that compares my songs to the elaborate and polished songs of “professional” musicians?
It’s all about not feeling good enough. I have a gift to give, but it’s far from perfect. So I hesitate to give it.
Joyce and I have written eight books and are working on two more. I’ll never forget trying to publish our first book, The Shared Heart. About thirty publishers rejected us. We felt like giving up. Someone suggested self-publishing. We did just that in 1984, to give our gift and not be stopped by feelings of not good enough. Still, we had a moment of panic when we sent the first batch of books to reviewers. Then a few days of fear as we waited for the reactions.
Finally, a small padded envelope arrived at our mailbox. Inside was a cassette tape, which we hesitatingly inserted into a player. After a few moments of tense silence, during which both of us were holding our breath, there was the sound of a man crying. Mystified, we listened intently as the crying continued for several minutes. Then the crying stopped and he said, “This is the most beautiful book I have ever read,” and then he began crying again.
To this day, that first response to our first book has been the most important validation of our writing. We couldn’t have gotten any better feedback. The Shared Heart went on to become a best seller, inspiring and helping so many people.
One more personal example. Although, after medical school, I primarily studied psychiatry and psychotherapy, I still worked many years as a medical doctor. I saw patients at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Santa Clara, then at the Santa Cruz County Health Center. I kept receiving inner guidance for a deeper gift I wanted to give, to work with people’s souls instead of their bodies. On one of our spiritual pilgrimages to Mount Shasta, my dissatisfaction with my medical job became unbearable and, when I returned home, I quit my job. I felt so happy and relieved, although a bit worried about making enough money to support our growing family.
I felt ready to focus all my energy on the real gift I came to earth to give, my purpose in life, working with individuals, couples and groups on a soul-to-soul level, rather than just their bodies.
Out of the blue, Jerry, the medical director of the University of California at Santa Cruz, offered me a job in the health center taking care of the college students. If I could have picked the best medical doctor job, it would have been that one. I accepted. I worked there for several years. But alas, it was still medicine, and I was still not living my purpose. The benefits were great. The salary was great. But I became more and more unhappy.
Then came divine intervention! Jerry called me into his office. We had a great relationship. He said, “Barry, I’m going to free you up to do the work you really want to do. I’m letting you go.” Then he added sadly, “I wish there was someone who could do the same for me. I would love to pursue a career in music, rather than directing this health center. But I don’t seem to have the courage to fire myself.”
Jerry and I hugged and shared some tears. I left knowing I would never again work in the medical field. Together with Joyce, we began in earnest to share our deeper gifts with the world, the work we still do today.
About a month later, I was notified that Jerry had a massive heart attack and was found dead in his office. His death has always served as a reminder of how vitally important it is to pursue your dreams, to go for your higher purpose, and give your gifts to life, no matter how imperfect they may be, or how inadequate you may feel.
Joyce & Barry Vissell, are a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964 are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org.