Into the Flames

Opera sen­sa­tion Measha Brueg­ger­gos­man on drama, faith and the wis­dom that car­ries her through

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Contents - BY COURT­NEY SHEA IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY AIMÉE VAN DRIMMELEN

A Q&A with opera sen­sa­tion Measha Brueg­ger­gos­man. COURT­NEY SHEA

What does the ti­tle of your new me­moir, Some­thing Is Al­ways on

mean to you?

Fire,

I think ev­ery­one al­ways feels like some por­tion of their ex­is­tence is in flames. And some­times we have to burn some­thing to the ground to make space for more things. Also, hon­estly, if there are no fires in your life, you have to ask your­self if you’re liv­ing your fullest life. We’re not meant to spend our ex­is­tence try­ing to stay out of the heat, we’re meant to make our­selves fire­proof.

The book be­gins with the emer­gency heart surgery you had fol­low­ing a torn aorta at the age of 31. Why start there?

I throw you right in, don’t I? I knew there was no way to warm up to it so I thought I’d just start there. I’m proud, and slightly trau­ma­tized, to have had so many dra­matic mo­ments in my life that could have kicked off the book: di­vorce, los­ing ba­bies, hav­ing ba­bies, my ca­reer. But that surgery is the mo­ment that re­ally got me think­ing. Only 13 per cent of peo­ple sur­vive it, and that’s the def­i­ni­tion of a sec­ond chance.

You don’t shy away from the raw, emo­tional truth—your infidelity and your fi­nan­cial prob­lems. What was it like to share so much?

It was ag­o­niz­ing. I sat with a book deal for a cou­ple of years pre­tend­ing it wasn’t hap­pen­ing. Banff, where I did a lot of the writ­ing, plays a big role in what this book be­came. The moun­tains in Al­berta are mon­strous and they will be here long af­ter I am dead and gone. So, what, I’m not go­ing to talk about my infidelity? I didn’t want to look back one day and wish I had told more truth. Don’t get me wrong, though—I still have se­crets.

You talk about the im­por­tance of your faith quite a bit in the book.

Yes, and I’m go­ing to call my faith specif­i­cally Christian be­cause I feel like some­body has to stand up for Chris­tian­ity in this cli­mate. The cra­zies out there don’t rep­re­sent the God I serve, who calls me to hurt no one and love ev­ery­one. A great hint for peo­ple who claim to be Chris­tians is to look at whether they’re leav­ing wreck­age or love in their wake.

For the epi­graph, you even chose Luke 12:48, which in­cludes “Much will be re­quired from ev­ery­one to whom much has been given.”

De­spite all the hard­ships I’ve had, I re­ally won the lot­tery—my cir­cum­stances, my sup­port sys­tem, my health. That scripture is a way for me to rec­on­cile the guilt I feel at hav­ing it so good with my re­spon­si­bil­ity for what I need to do with the short time I have on this planet.

Of all the hard-won wis­dom you share, what’s the most cru­cial?

Peo­ple don’t want to hear that they’re here to suffer, but that’s the in­cred­i­bly over­sim­pli­fied an­swer that I’ve come to know is true. Bud­dha says that at the core of hu­man suf­fer­ing is our in­ex­haustible de­sire to avoid hard­ship and an in­abil­ity to ac­cept that good things end. If you can cease to qual­ify mo­ments as good or bad and see them as sim­ply use­ful in get­ting you to the arena of great­ness—that is a life­long pur­suit.

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