Measha Brueggergosman: The RD Interview
Canadian opera sensation Measha Brueggergosman on drama, faith and the wisdom that carries her through.
ILLUSTRATION: AIMÉE VAN DRIMMELEN
15 Minutes with Measha Brueggergosman
Reader’s Digest Canada: What does the title of your new memoir, Something Is Always on Fire, mean to you?
Measha Brueggergosman: 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.