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?

The Artist’s Road

Do you ever feel like you are going down the same road again and again?

Another rejection letter
Cut from another audition
Another Closed door in your face

You put yourself out there time and again, with your Art, and it feels as if your heart is being trampled.

You put so much of yourself into your work, so the sting of rejection FEELS so strong.

And it can be disheartening.

You imagine a different road…
One where the publisher says YES
One where everything flows
One where your fans are raving for your next piece of work
One where you are booking your dream gigs

That’s the road you want to be on, right?

So, how come with ALL your effort, you feel as though you are driving down the SAME road again and again?

You feel like screaming,
I NEVER want to be on this road again!

I get it…….I was just there……

 

Last week was a big moment for me.  I was meeting my boyfriend’s parents for the first time. 

While it has been decades since I have been in this position, the nerves were still there.  I’m head over heels in love with my man, so I wanted everything to go well.

Thanksgiving has been a holiday of transition for me.  For years, it was the sources of family and love.  And then, five years ago, it turned into the darkest moment of my life when my former husband told me he wanted to end our marriage…on Thanksgiving Day.

I had spent almost 18 years spending every Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania with my former in-laws, and now returned to having the holiday with my parents in Virginia. In transition, it took 3-4 years for me to find joy on the day again.

This year marked the first time I would be spending the holiday away from Virginia, and with my new man.

The original plan was to go to his parents’, who live in upstate New York, but a month before Thanksgiving, his sister decided to host.

His sister lives in Pennsylvania.

The irony was not lost on me, and I thought how insane it was that after 18 years of Pennsylvania Thanksgivings, I was returning to a similar place…..in love…..but with a new man, and meeting a new family..

We hopped in the car from New Jersey last Tuesday and began the drive down the road to his sister’s.

Energy was high, and we cranked the radio, singing along to fun tunes.  We got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and then I saw it…

The sign.

We were about to drive through the town my ex in-laws lived in.

I suddenly realized his sister’s home was only 20 minutes down the road from where I had spent most of my adult holidays.

I became very quiet, and could feel tears welling. I hadn’t been down this road in six years.

In fact, I had purposely done everything I could, to NEVER go down this road again.

This road was full of painful memories.
This road reminded me of the rejection.

And then I looked up and saw the hotel I stayed in with my wedding party……

And I burst into tears.

 

The next morning, I woke up, and just let everything out.  I allowed every feeling to arise, and began to have clarity.

When the divorce went down, only one member of my old in-laws stood up for me, fighting for the marriage.

Everyone else turned their back, and went silent.  That had been my family for 19 years, and I was devastated.  I wasn’t only losing my marriage, I was losing a huge family that I loved.

Driving down the road again, all of that came up, and it was made even more alive, because I was on the road to meet a NEW family….one that I deeply want to be a part of.

And I realized,
I have no control.

I have no control over what this new family thinks or does.
I have no control over what my boyfriend does.

So, while it scares me to my core that I may find myself at a crossroads again, my only choice is simple:

To love.

And recognizing my fear and releasing control brought a huge wave of relief over me.

And I was free, not only to have a deeply connecting Thanksgiving with my boyfriend’s family, but release the past that had been choking me off.

Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania again, and yet COMPLETELY different.

Same road, different ME.

 

Best-selling author Tim Ferriss, who has sold millions of books, recently shared he was rejected by 27 publishers before his first YES.

Oscar Winning Actor Tom Hanks became an overnight success after 10 years in the business.

Rejection can be brutal, especially for Artists.

But the question is, what are you making it mean?
Who are you being IN the rejection?

What is on that ROAD you find yourself time and time again?

It can be so easy to AVOID what is right before us, instead of asking,
What is to be LEARNED?

I thought there was a cruel joke being played on me, as we whisked down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and yet, in hindsight, I see how re-visiting that road was the final piece of healing for me to fully embrace Thanksgiving again.

I NEEDED to go down that road.

I was scared to do it, and yet it brought me back to what matters, and allowed me to release control.

Rejection WILL occur.  Anyone who tells you otherwise, run the other way.

So, place your energy on your Art, and how you can grow, not on trying to control every rejection out there.

Your freedom as an Artist lies in your ability to grow, to change, and to persevere.

Your freedom as an Artist comes from connection to your heart, to your LOVE of Art.

This is what makes you Unstoppable.

Pay homage to your journey, and open to your road.  There is gold here for you.

 

Release control over the external rejection.

Same road, fearless YOU.

 

 

 

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography