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Learning to Live

At 45, Wynonna Judd finally has perspective, she says.

"I’ve been to the mountain. I’ve been down to the valley. I’ve been plywood. I’ve been platinum. I’ve been on the charts, off the charts. Some years, you feel like the comeback kid. Other years, you feel like the queen.

"Honey, I’ve played Harley conventions and nun conventions. I’ve done so many things, I think about it and I just laugh at all of the crap I’ve gotten away with, and I’m still here. It’s a miracle."

She tells fans at concerts: "Go out on the limb, honey, that’s where the fruit is."

She’s learned to relax and court the journey, not the destination. When she was a teen, she always was reacting to demands for her and her mom’s musical time as part of the Judds. Then she felt she had to prove herself as a "warrior princess" of a solo artist.

"I was in a goldfish bowl by the time I was 18," Judd says. "I lived in such a world of me. I spent all of my time trying to figure out what I was going to say on Johnny Carson, what outfit I was going to wear to try to match my mother on the awards show.

"I was reacting to so many people."

She used to think, "What do I have to be this week to like myself?" Now?

"I just say, ‘Good morning, God. I have an opportunity. I’m really grateful.’

"I can surrender it and let it go a lot easier than I did, because I realize there’s a higher power and I’m not it. And that just comes from wisdom and experience, getting your butt kicked so many times you realize it’s not about you."

She used to spend all of her time doing. In doing, she forgot to be, she says. No longer.

"I light my candles. I lay there, and I spend a lot more time daydreaming than I used to," she says.

"I literally leave the house and take a walk to the lake and just sit there. That’s really useful to me. I live on a farm with my sister (Ashley) and my mom (Naomi). I’ve learned how to just get out to nature and take a walk. Or on the (tour) bus, I’m gonna sit here and watch this movie and lay here and cry and feel. I’m gonna allow myself to move through the process of emotions.

"It’s not selfish. It’s self-care," she says.

She won’t tell me what "process" she’s found lately that’s helped. She says she’s involved in something she’ll reveal on "Larry King Live."

She says, though, she is in financial recovery (though she does have plenty of millions), work addiction recovery and perfection recovery, as well as dealing with weight issues.

Physically, she’s started stretching and doing core-muscle workouts.

"I don’t wake up and creak as much, and feel as stiff and bitter, as I have in the past.’"

Financially: "I cut up my credit cards a couple of weeks ago, and my kids are in a financial freedom program. They have to buy their own stuff on their debit cards, and once it’s gone it’s gone."

On the perfectionism front, she’s learned her best is good enough.

"It used to be, ‘Hey, can I do one more take?’ And the producer would say, ‘Nope, you’ve done 32. You’ve done enough.’ "

She’s ditched the feeling she’s unworthy.

"I told Oprah this — she kind of popped her head to the side like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I don’t know that I’ve really felt worthy of my success until the last couple of years. I got into this by accident. I feel like I hit the lottery at 18. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to earn it."

Looking neither back nor forward but at the present, she has a sense of well-being, she says. She shares that with fans at concerts.

"I have so many stories" to tell fans, she says, about her mom, about Ashley, about living on welfare in Appalachia, about singing with Bono onstage, about "sitting behind Tina Turner at the Grammys," and so much more, like:

"I get into this Vanity Fair party, and I’m sitting here with Joni Mitchell, Cher, Madonna and k.d. lang. I mean how did I get here, God? How do I get away with this? Why am I here?"

She feels as if she’s just "arrived."

"It’s a confidence of knowing I can carry on a conversation with Bono and Sting and these people I really respect. I have the love and admiration of my peers, and that means more to me than any award."

Life is a roller coaster. She remembers vividly singing with her mom at a country music festival where 50,000 people sang back at her — "and watching my mother weep" — and then, "I drive home, and my loving cat is dead and laying in my driveway.

"It’s never easy, but it’s worthwhile," she says. "We persevere."

E-mail Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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