The Gift That Changed My Life

It was the worst Christmas of my life.

I remember getting out of the cab with my luggage and seeing my husband.  I had just flown back from a six week contract doing A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was still reeling from his Thanksgiving proclamation he no longer loved me anymore.

He had basically refused to go into it over the phone, so here I was back home….praying this could be saved.

He greeted me at the cab, and every muscle in my body tensed.  As he helped me with my bags, I thought…could there be a miracle?

When I walked into our home and saw he had actually decorated, a surge of hope came up in me, but underneath was something far darker.

This may look like Christmas from the outside, but it was not reflective of our truth. Yes, there were lights and a tree….but they were covering up immense pain.

Actually, this was the real reflection……pretty lights covering up something that was, and had been broken for years.

I went into the bedroom, and curled up into a ball and began to cry.

 

With everything falling apart, we didn’t travel to see family, so on Christmas morning, we woke to each other, from separate beds.

Christmas day had always been a day of great celebration.

As a child, my parents would have my brother and I wait while the lights were turned on, and we would rush down the stairs to see what Santa brought.

There would be music playing, my parents standing by the tree with arms open, and Santa hats on their heads.

Christmas morning was always filled with LOVE.

This Christmas I woke up in great fear, anxiety and pain.  I prayed for a miracle.  I prayed that the day would end this nightmare, and we would have a happy home again.

Everything felt upside down.  We were exchanging gifts and all I wanted to scream out was,
Why are you giving me this if you don’t love me anymore??

My stomach turned with confusion and anger with everything he gave me.

Thankfully, there were other gifts there.

I opened one from my parents, and soon was holding in my hands beautiful black binoculars.

For years, I had gone on hikes with my parents and borrowed theirs when we were bird watching, so they had finally bought me my own pair.

So that I could see on my own.

I held them for a moment, feeling something very different building in me. A different view.  Turning them over in my hands and bringing them to my eyes, I realized I could see farther.

Farther than my small living room in Queens, and my immense pain.

 

Have you ever been in a really challenging situation in your Art?

Have you felt the dark cold of rejection, and loss?

What’s more, has this happened during a time when everything and everyone around you is celebrating?

It can be so difficult to put on a “show” or a happy face when inside everything is falling apart.

And we feel this deeply as Artists.

In fact, it affects our art directly, and our ability to attract our audience.

The holidays can be especially challenging as there is a pressure to be celebratory ALL the time.  So, what tends to occur is two extremes….
Extreme Jingle Bell Cheer
Silent Night Shut Down

Neither one is sustainable.  It’s the roller coaster. 

So, what do we do in these moments when our hearts are breaking? How do we continue in our work that is so personal and means so much?

 

This past week, I led my clients through a powerful Native American Medicine Wheel.

We began with our Successes, then made our way around the wheel to our Surprises, our Failures, and finally our Wisdom.

The wisdom was crucial, because it gave all of my clients the deep a-ha as to their next steps.  They left the call feeling empowered and excited for 2018.

What was most fascinating, was on the wheel, the wisdom comes OUT of the Failures.

We can only SEE the wisdom, when we take the time and space to see what didn’t work.

What is most key to this process, is a space free of judgement.

A space of love.

Do you have this?
Do you know how to create this for your Art?
Is anyone helping you with this?

That Christmas day, I had asked for a miracle, and it came.  It didn’t come in the form I expected, but as I turned over the binoculars in my hand, I was being given a new gift…one that had been sorely missing in my life.

The gift of sight.

Maybe there was a way to view this devastation and gain wisdom.  Wisdom that could lead me to action.  Lead me to a VERY different life…..one that wasn’t covering up pain.

In this life, the lights would illuminate everything.

 

OH MY GOSH!!!  He’s SO Beautiful!!

Staring in disbelief at a stunning Cooper’s Hawk just sitting in the tree above my head, I raise my binoculars to my eyes.

Taking in his long feathers, and golden stripes, I smile ear to ear.

Here, honey, take a look!

I hand my binoculars off to my man, watching his mouth open in wonder. I take in his beauty and form, and am overcome with gratitude for his presence and the love he has brought to my life.  Love I prayed for.  And my heart bursts with gratitude for this journey.

From failure to wisdom to action.

Five years later.

As my Zen teacher said to me back in 2013,
You are in the same room you were always in, but now the lights are on.

For this Holiday, I wish you the gift of sight .

Raise your binoculars.

What do you see?

A Dancer’s Faith

Do you ever feel like you are stuck in between where you are and where you want to be?

You are doing everything you can for your Art, and you know you just have to STICK it out, and yet, you want to yell out,

When will I GET THERE?

We can have such a clear vision of our success, but the journey can be downright exhausting.

Could we just skip to the raving fans and thriving career?

Wouldn’t that be AMAZING!

But since this is not our reality, the question arises, what helps?

When we are feeling stuck…..what is there?

 

Back in early July, I found myself in excruciating pain.  My right shoulder was killing me, and what I would normally think was a tight knot, wasn’t going away.

Something was wrong.

I soon found myself staring at a large x-ray in my chiropractor’s office, with the diagnosis of swelling in my disks, arthritis, and my skull at a 9 degree angle off from center.

I had injured my neck, and now had to go into treatment.

And stop dancing.

I’ve always been a good patient, and showed up for all my adjustments.  I started to see improvements quickly, and after two months, started taking yoga again.  It was feeling so good to move my body, and then I pulled a muscle in my back.

And was back at square one.

Still no dancing.

It took another month of recovery before I could take class.  When I walked back into the studio, I was both excited and scared.  This was the longest time I had taken off from dancing in my whole LIFE.

I was shaky…..I was off balance, but I was there.

In the coming weeks, it was frustrating.  I didn’t have full range of motion, and it felt so strange to be in dance class, my place of joy and expression, and NOT be able to fully let loose.

My back was still tight, my neck still tight, and I felt like I was managing it all.

And I didn’t WANT to manage it…I wanted to just DANCE.

Have you ever felt like this? Constricted in your Art?

Dance hasn’t been my place of safety and conservation…it’s been my place of FREEDOM!

One week, we did a fast combo, and I found myself hunched over, desperately trying to get in enough air.  My stamina was in the toilet…..class was feeling HARD.  I was really questioning if I would ever feel the same in my body again.

I wanted to feel strong again.

But, with each week, it got slowly better.  I was still going for my chiropractic treatment, and feeling my neck loosen, my back widen….

Incrementally, I could feel the change.

 

Last week, we learned this really fast combo.  As we learned the steps, I felt full range of motion.  I was feeling alive and strong, and having a blast. I had no idea what the song was, but the movement was so much fun!

And then my teacher turned on the song…and I grinned ear to ear as the familiar guitar strum reminded me of my early teenage days….George Michael singing on my Sony Walkman:

Faith.

Before this river
Becomes an ocean
Before you throw my heart back on the floor
Oh baby I reconsider
My foolish notion
Well I need someone to hold me
But I wait for something more
Yes I’ve gotta have faith
Unh I gotta faith
Because I gotta to have faith, faith, faith
I gotta to have faith, faith, faith

And then I danced…..

Five months after walking into the doctor’s office, I danced.

 

What does Faith mean to you?

Is it a part of your Art?

I see so many Artists struggle because they are stuck in their circumstances.  They can’t see PAST it.  They are disconnected from a larger picture.

The picture of their vision
The picture of their audience

The reason WHY they came to their Art in the first place.

What DO you have Faith in?

If we are going to take our work to a larger audience, we need to realize we are larger than our challenges. 

And I get it, it can be deeply isolating when you are in pain and struggling. I felt so self conscious being in dance class and falling out of turns, and doubled over from exhaustion.  But I kept showing up, each week.

If the only reason you are doing your Art is confined to your Ego, you will suffer again and again.

We ALL face challenges along our path,

Rejection
Disappointment
Loss

We don’t have control over people. There is a letting go here.

So, what can we CREATE and NOURISH to get back on the dance floor and be strong?

FAITH.

And this is personal TO you.

Two years ago, I interviewed four successful Artists that are dear friends.  They were at the top of their field, in choreography, performance, teaching and writing.  They were on Broadway, large films, and turning down work.

The common thread with them all?
Faith.

Faith in their Art
Faith in their audience
Faith in the larger picture of what ART actually is doing FOR themselves AND the world

You may be shaky and off balance in the process, but tap into something larger, and find the support that FEEDS you.

We are stronger together.

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography