Crisis No More

Have you ever had a shocking setback in your career?

Something that just came out of the blue, out of nowhere, and swiped you off your feet?

Were you moving forward and feeling SO good about your Art, really feeling like you were rocking it out, only to have this enormous blow?

The rejection letter
Losing your voice
An injury
Getting sick
A team or band member leaving

It can be so devastating!

Before this happened, I imagine you were thinking,
It’s happening!
Everything is working out!

And then, BOOM…..you’re down, and you just feel confusion.

You felt like you had this amazing momentum going with your Art. You felt like you were finally making it, and then this THING happened, and that voice comes up in your head saying,
I told you this was too good to be true
Obviously you haven’t made it yet
This setback means you are doing something WRONG.

And the kicker…
You’re just not good enough

And the heartbreaking piece is, you WANT to be.  You want to be successful as a full time Artist.  You LOVE what you do, and just want to know HOW to make it happen.

So, what do we do in the face of setbacks?
How do we stay the course when we feel so discouraged?

And most importantly, what does the setback actually MEAN?

I’m on the side of the room in dance class, about an hour into class.  We’ve done the full warm-up and are just getting ready to do leaps across the floor.

I feel great.  Energy is up, body feels good! 

I do a chasse to prepare for the leap and as my legs come together in the air, I feel a sharp pull in my right calf.  Burning, it clenches tight.  I know something is wrong.  I don’t leap, and when I get to the other side of the room…I can’t put my weight on my right leg.

My calf has completely seized, I can’t roll through my foot.

The front desk gets me ice and I immediately call my husband, as he’s an Occupational Therapist.  He tells me I will need to ice for 15 minutes with the calf elevated, and it starts to dawn on me….I’m on the Upper West Side of Manhattan….and somehow I’ve got to get home.  I’ve got to make it all the way back to the Jersey Shore…..and I’m by myself.

And the question pops in,
Can I walk?

My husband says,
You’re going to need to take a cab to Penn Station.

When the 15 minutes was up, I realized I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg.  I hobbled very slowly to the elevator, and caught a cab right outside the entrance. When we arrived at Penn Station, the driver had let me off very close to the escalators down to the train station.  With my regular mobility, I would get to the entrance in under a minute….but not tonight.

It felt like an eternity hobbling from the sidewalk to the escalator.  I became aware for a moment of a man staring at me, but stayed present to the moment, and to what I needed to do next…which was get to the train.

Which I did….slowly, holding onto the railing, keeping weight off my right leg. 

Two hours later, I arrived home, after driving from the train station, gingerly flexing my ankle on the gas pedal, staying focused on the road.

One step at a time.

I closed the front door and looked at my husband and said,
I made it.

He set me up on the couch, got me ice, and said,
You’re going to need to be completely off your leg for 48 hours.

I had all kinds of plans for the next 48 hours, and I got out my phone and started to send emails to change those so I could work from home.

And over the next 48 hours, I crawled around on my hands and knees in my home.  I had to put knee pads on because my kneecaps were getting sore.  I was going up and down the stairs on my rear end like a toddler.

Not what I expected.
Not what I planned.

Certainly not ideal…..and yet, as I was staying off my feet, I took a moment to recognize what didn’t happen.

I didn’t panic. 
I didn’t go into doomsday thinking, attaching meaning to my self worth as a person.

I didn’t say,
This means you are BAD.
This means you are WRONG.
This means you should stop going into the city to dance.

And I used to…ALL the time!  When I would experience setbacks, injuries or disappointments in my career, I would panic and spiral in the moment. I would think the setbacks meant I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t meant to be successful, and that I was doing it all wrong.  Because, if I was doing it RIGHT, then everything would work out, right?

If I was doing it right, then nothing bad would happen and everything would FLOW…right?

Have you ever felt that?

I know I did and it led to all kinds of suffering and ultimately kept me stuck from truly owning my voice as an Artist. It kept the voice alive in my head that I wasn’t good enough.

So, what changed?

I now have the tools to deal with crisis.  I now have the tools to deal with the unexpected, and because of that I am back up on my feet, standing at my desk writing you right now.

In the face of a setback, I can stay PRESENT.

Why is this important?

Because what commonly happens in setbacks is we go into future thinking.  We think everything is going to fall apart.  We think everything is ruined…when the fact is you don’t KNOW what the future is, and it’s how you DEAL with the setback that makes all the difference. Your mind will race away and start to create a reality that actually isn’t TRUE, it’s just something that’s been fabricated in the moment because you are feeling scared.

And that’s human. 

But, if you want to be able to have a career that lasts, you have to learn how to deal with setbacks.  Because they will happen.  We can’t control other people, in fact, we can’t control anything. 

My Zen teacher recently said,
A lot of people suffer….but many don’t grow.

These setbacks are scary, and we suffer in the face of them, but can you stay present in the moment to LEARN from them? 

What if the setback is here FOR you?
What is this is the perfect time for you to learn how to rise above your inner critic?
What if the setback is actually opening up an even better opportunity or pointing you towards where you need to place your attention this year?

When I got really quiet a few days after the injury, I realized that I actually had two calf spasms in my right calf within the last six months.  With moving to the suburbs of NJ, I wasn’t taking dance class as regularly and also wasn’t walking as much, so I imagine this means my calf was weakening.

I realized, I needed to add more weight training or something during my week to keep my calves active.

But here’s the most important thing….when I came to the action step….it wasn’t making myself WRONG.  It was actually coming from a place of LOVE; from a place of how this is going to HELP me live the life I want.

And what about you?
What has been a setback you experienced recently?

How did you handle it?

What could be possible if you had tools to move easily and faster through your challenges?
What if this is the year for you to learn how?

What if you are actually Unstoppable?

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

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