Weathering the Storm

I think we can all admit, it’s been a DOOZY lately.

Hurricanes, Forest Fires, and the anniversary of 9/11.

I stared up at the sky to see twin lights over Manhattan this week and was reminded of the sirens and smoke, and so many lives lost on that day.

I had one client show me a picture of raging flames outside her property, and two others re-building in the wake of Harvey and Irma.

How are you doing?
How is your heart?

In the face of these disasters and devastation, it can be so easy to feel heavy-hearted.

So often in these moments we feel out of control. The devastation can feel like waves crashing over and over. How do we weather the storm?

Today, I want to offer a healing balm.

Take a moment, wherever you are reading this, and place your hand on your belly.  Bring your attention back to the rise and fall of your breath.

You are ALLOWED to feel.

I’m here to remind you.

Disaster can be overwhelming, and it’s so easy to just disconnect and shut down.

In this uncertainty, where is your Art?
Where is your expression?

When you look at your brushes, your camera, your pencils, the stage or blank page…how do you feel?

The real question is, how do you create in the storm?

 

In 1982, sculptor Seward Johnson completed work on a piece called Double Check.

Double Check is the life size bronze of a business man sitting on a bench as he sifts through his briefcase, seeming to make final preparations for an upcoming business meeting in a nearby office building.

Installed in Liberty Plaza Park in downtown Manhattan, the sculpture soon became a fixture in the downtown landscape, a symbol in honor of the thousands of people who work every day in the financial district.

For 20 years, this art brought enjoyment, inspiration, and joy to all who witnessed it’s life-like form.

All in the shadows of the World Trade Center.

Until September 11, 2001.

The destruction of that day covered the figure in ash, and though all the moorings were loosened, the figure endured as a still object in a world of chaos.

Afterward, it became a memorial, with mourners leaving notes, photographs, candles, and flowers on and near it.

Seward left all visible damage the piece had sustained in the attacks, and the sculpture was re-installed on a granite bench in the plaza it had occupied before 9/11.

To remind us all.

This is the power of Art.

It endures.

It inspires, and it gives you AND your audience the reminder of something far more powerful than any storm, fire or attack.

Our humanity.

Having that sculpture gave great comfort to every person who visited the site, offering a safe place to mourn and remember.  The art allowed each witness to cry, and ultimately heal.

The sculpture helped people to come back to a core need that had felt torn apart in the face of deep despair,

Belonging.

Think of the immense joy you have felt reading your favorite book, or seeing your favorite singer in concert.

You have been captivated.

Something comes alive in you at that moment. You feel like you are a part of the experience.  You feel connected, and a sense of belonging emerges bringing the sweet flow of inspiration.

And when we are inspired, we can do great things.

This is the same for your audience.  They connect to their humanity through your work.

Seward Johnson didn’t “tidy” things up!  It was messy, it was real, it was exactly what people needed at that moment, and it struck a chord.

His art was honest.

So, translate today INTO your Art.

This is the gift we have as Artists.  We can take our experience and allow it to speak through the medium of song, dance, words and pictures.

And when we do translate, it actually heals us.  We feel connected to our humanity, to our gifts, and to what lights us up from within.

Pick up your brush, pick up your journal, go to your instrument, and ALLOW.

I’m here to remind you.

It’s all there inside, enduring in the fire and storm.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

 

Creature Comforts

Oh Dear GOD…

There it is.

My skin is crawling.  I’m not even sure if I’m breathing.  My hair is literally standing up on end.  There’s this sickening feeling in my stomach. I’m frozen in time, helpless.

In front of me, my deepest fear.

A spider.

Spindly, large, gross….a million words coming out, all to say,
AHHHHHHHHHH!!

What is it for you?

Snakes
Heights
Public speaking
Rats
Cockroaches

I mean, YUCK!

What makes your skin crawl and you do EVERYTHING in your power to avoid?

I get it, I ran from spiders for most of my adult life, convinced they were pure evil and would kill me.

I mean, HOW could a spider help me?

This was my fear.  This was something to AVOID, not walk towards.

Right?

 

In 2012, I was the dance captain for a production of the musical A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I loved this musical, and I loved the cast.

But my life was falling apart.

On Thanksgiving, my husband flew out to tell me he didn’t want to be married anymore and was in love with another woman.

I felt as if the world had opened wide, and swallowed me whole. I was in shock, and utterly devastated.

I wanted to scream to the world,
STOP!

I wanted to control the immense change that was happening.

This wasn’t what I planned.

I planned we would go old together.
I planned we would work through any issues.
And most of all, I planned we would have a family together.

In one conversation, I saw all of that disappear.

And I found myself facing my deepest fear,
losing my marriage.

Because, WHO was I if I wasn’t married and trying to have a child?

In December, we had a cast Christmas party, and the company manager brought in a company called.
Creature Comforts

I walked into the party room to large turtles crawling around, and walked over to my fellow dancers who had a giant boa wrapped around them.  I got out my phone to take a picture, as I think snakes are SO cool, and then out of nowhere, a man came up from behind and placed a spider on my friend’s head.

Not just any spider, A TARANTULA.

My whole body froze.  I stopped breathing.  This wasn’t just any spider, it was the mother of all spiders..the largest.

And then I looked behind this man to see a table with FOUR tarantulas in cages.

My worst nightmare.

I was just about to bolt from the room, when a small voice arose,
I always thought spiders were my largest fear, but facing divorce is far deeper.  Since I’m facing that and still breathing, maybe I can finally face this fear of spiders.

I saw an opportunity.

So I walked over to the handler, and asked him to place the tarantula in my hand.

When he first did, the spider started to scratch and crawl in my hand. It was freaking out!  I realized I needed to probably calm down because the spider was feeling my fear.

So, I took a breath.

The spider stopped moving, and was standing in my palm, it’s abdomen shaking, and I realized,
It’s just as scared as I am.

And then a wave of realization came over me.  The spider was NOTHING like I thought it would be.  It was actually soft, light, and fuzzy.

A huge smile came over me, as my fear dissipated, and my friend took a picture.

That picture became my profile picture for months on Facebook, because every time I looked at it, I was reminded,
If you can hold a tarantula, you can do anything.

And anything included,
surviving and healing from a divorce
launching my own successful arts business

Who knew the key was in my biggest fear?

In that moment, my arachnophobia vanished.  It literally disappeared when I realized what I had in common with the spider, and that I was still breathing and ok.  My fear vanished when I LET GO of the woman who ran from spiders.

Who was she anyway?  She was really just made up in my mind.  She wasn’t permanent.

So, what is your biggest fear?

WHO would you become if you no longer had it?
What would be possible for you in your Creative Life?

So often, we isolate and avoid our fears, but the real lesson lies in facing them.  We may have formed a massive belief the fear will harm us, but what we are really avoiding is the FEELING.

If your fear of heights or snakes was faced, and you found yourself still breathing as you skydive or pet a snake, then what other assumptions could be blown apart in your Art?

Perhaps,
No one wants my work
I’m a fraud
My work needs to be perfect to be shown
No one will pay that price for my work
I’m not ready

If these are no longer holding you back, perhaps you would find your fears are actually not harmful, but soft and fuzzy.

You just made them far larger than they actually were.

Maybe even as large as a tarantula.

 

Over the holiday weekend, I was staying at my boyfriend’s house in NJ.  I went into the downstairs bathroom, and caught my breath when I looked in the shower stall to see,

A giant spider.

Instead of running from the room, as I would have done five years ago, I sat down and looked at it. I could feel some of the hairs on my arm rising, the old pattern and memory of fear.

The spider was pretty huge, and I knew I needed to get it outside.

I grabbed a glass from the kitchen, and a piece of mail, and placed the glass over the spider.  As I lifted the spider closer to me, I became surprised at how small the spider looked up close.

It had looked SO large from a distance.

And I found the closer I was to it, the less scary it appeared.  I became curious, looking at it’s markings, as I carried the glass to the backyard.

As I watched the spider crawl in the grass, I marveled at the journey.  I could NOT do this five years ago.  I would have screamed, and ran from the room, shutting the door, and pleading my man to kill it for me.

And I thought of that woman five years ago, who really thought she was keeping herself safe.  And I gave her a hug.  I loved her.  She was doing the best she could.

And I looked at the yard of this house that will be my home, that will house my children, and I remembered that moment holding the tarantula.

Thank goodness for the tarantula.  My biggest fear actually set me free.

The way is always through.
You have everything you need.

 

Get curious around your fears, and turn towards them.  Hold them in your hand, and LOOK at them.

You can’t change what you can’t see.

WHO would you be without them?

WHAT could you create?

 

 

Top Photograph: Caitlin Cannon Photography