Temenos Journal II

July 2, 2011

Prayer at the River

Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense (Mignon McLaughlin)

Another way to put this is that successful people are the ones who have made peace with ambiguity.

The majority of us are quite content when we know where we are going and we know how and when we are going to get there.

Really successful people know where they are going — at least they know how it will feel when they get there. They have a vision, a mission — but they don’t fret about the “how-to’s” and the  ‘when’s.” They trust that the details will take care of themselves.

That is not to say that successful people wait passively for their dreams to just happen. As the old saying goes, “God gives you the spade, but you’re the one who has to do the digging.”

Successful people consistently chip away at the digging, and they pay attention to the treasure map (which, by the way, often continually changes). This is the aspect of the journey that weeds out the also-rans.

Average people tend to get discouraged when the treasure map changes. They think it is the end of the road, when in fact it is only a fork in the road. You have the option of giving up at that point (and a good excuse to do so). Or you have the option of looking at the journey with a new perspective… one that allows you to see a new map.

I encountered such a fork in the road when I first came to Reno, with my sights set on starting a new career in music. I had relocated from Cleveland, Ohio, where I had been a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman.

I had done my homework and was prepared… I had my vocal demo, my promotional photos, I was in great shape, and I felt confident. I had my best friend by my side working as a coach and head cheerleader. I had everything going for me…. talent, preparation, and tools of the trade. Within ten days of landing in Reno, I had my choice of three job offers.

I chose the job that paid the most — a 3-month gig as the lead singer in a casino review. The other two jobs were also singing jobs, but they didn’t seem as secure or promising as the steady 3-month gig. Also, I have to admit that it appealed to me that I would be the “star” of the show (I figured that would look good on my resume!).

Well, the casino revue was a big flop… It closed after only two days. But I was fired after the first day. The producer pulled me aside after opening night (which was a disaster), and told me that I was being replaced. He told me they were going to rework the show overnight, rehearse the next day, and that they would have one more chance to save the show. They were replacing me with a singer from Vegas, in the hopes that they could save the show.

The following day, most of the other cast members avoided me, feeling awkward, I think, because I had been the only one fired. The youngsters in the group (most of the dancers were in their early 20s) wouldn’t talk to me. The older cast members, the ones in their 30s, were more philosophical. They had been through this scene before. “That’s show biz,” said one of them.

I sought out Daniel, a dancer I had made friends with. We had driven the 400 miles to this gig together and so we had kind of a bond. “You can tell me the truth, Daniel,” I said to him. “You’ve been in this business a long time. Is it me? Am I barking up the wrong tree? Am I not talented enough? Am I too old?” (I must have sounded pathetic!)

Daniel took a deep breath and looked straight at me. “You sing like a veteran professional. You carry yourself like a veteran professional. But… let me put it this way… You’re not tall enough, blonde enough, or busty enough.” Oh.

So I did the reworked show with the crew the second night, while they waited for my replacement to arrive. I fought tears the whole time, but I got through it. It was the single-most humiliating experience of my professional life. I felt old, dowdy, washed-up. I felt like I was in a bad movie. The show still sucked, and the show was canceled anyway… even after my replacement stepped in.

Two days later I drove back to Reno with Daniel, both of us stunned. Neither of us knew what we were going to do next. Both of us were filled with self-doubt. Daniel continued on to his home in Las Vegas and I knocked on my old roommate’s door, suitcases at my feet: “I’m ba-ack.”

I was so despondent that I did not leave the apartment the entire next week. I was too embarrassed and upset. I didn’t even go to the gym. I didn’t want to face anybody and be asked what I was doing back in town so fast. I just sat in the apartment and strung beads and made spider web designs with them.

Once a day, I would drag myself out of the apartment and walk across the street to sit on the rocks next to the river. I would sit on a rock and watch the Truckee River flow along. I would just sit there and watch, for an hour or two.

I would watch the river keep going… day in, day out, sunny days, cloudy days… it just kept going at a steady pace. I noticed how easily the water maneuvered around rocks and trees that had fallen into its course. It just continued to flow over, under, and around all obstacles. Effortlessly and painlessly. Its map changed continually… not only daily, but minute by minute. I watched the river keep on flowing with graceful motion.

The river knew exactly where it was going and so I asked it, “Can I sing? Am I on the right path? Am I fooling myself?” The river would keep on flowing and one day I understood its answer: “Just watch me! Pay attention! I will show you…”

The Truckee River flows right through the middle of downtown Reno. It’s a small river, which flows from Lake Tahoe, high up in the mountains, to ancient Lake Pyramid, which is a remnant from an inland sea.

The river became my friend. We would talk to each other. The river would reassure me when I was on the right path, and it would correct me when I got off the path, too. Like when I took the casino revue job in the first place… That would have been a terrific gig for a show singer, but that’s not me. The river reminded me to stick to my treasure map — that of an original artist and writer.

And so this is the song that was written on the rocks beside the river: Prayer at the Truckee River.

Read the lyrics: Prayer at the River lyrics

(c) copyright Genie Webster 2011. All rights reserved.


  1. Beautiful! What a great lesson!

    Comment by jerry avila — July 2, 2011 @ 9:50 pm |Reply

  2. Thanks Jerry! The river continues to teach me…

    Comment by Genie Webster — July 25, 2011 @ 11:44 am |Reply

  3. This is a beautifully written, poignant tale, Genie. I appreciate your honesty and the depth with which you expressed yourself. Thank you for sharing this experience and the lesson that it imparted. ❤

    Comment by Stacy Alexander, Writer/Artist — January 6, 2015 @ 8:29 pm |Reply

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