Ending the Setback Cycle

Have you struggled to come back from a setback in your career?
Has it taken WAY longer than you thought?

We deal with a LOT of rejection in the creative fields, and sometimes it can be really hard to pick ourselves back up.

In the face of the setback, it can feel like we will never return, and that is deeply discouraging.  You may feel injured.

And this setback may have been an illness, family emergency, a job or gig falling through….sometimes it can feel like we are climbing a mountain to be in that place we deeply want…which is everything FLOWING! 

I imagine you love what you do, so you want to actually enjoy the process!
Because, nothing beats that feeling, does it?

The pure JOY of creation, of being full time doing the work you know you are meant to do, expressing your heart and being cherished and adored by your audience!

I’m smiling just typing it.

So, what do you do when you are in the middle of the setback?
How do you get back into the flow and not let the setback take you out?

Last night was a really big night for me.

I went back to dance class for the first time in three months.  Right after the New Year, I strained a tendon in my right calf and hobbled out of Steps on Broadway barely able to put weight on my right leg.

It was very scary.

It was very scary because I’ve never injured my calf before.  I’ve been dancing my whole life and I think I’ve injured just about everything in my body…except the calf, so when it happened, I really tensed up.

My husband is an Occupational Therapist, and dove into incredible care.  He first said,
7 to 10 days

I thought,
Well..that’s not so bad!

And then those 7 to 10 days turned into weeks, and then those weeks turned into months.  I had to keep changing my expectations, and release my timelines, which was a huge challenge as I LOVE to dance.  In fact, dance is a an incredible stress relief and my main source of expression next to writing.

To not have it for three months felt like a part of me was cut off.

Have you ever felt this?

But during those three months, I kept asking for help.  My husband gave me a huge education on calf injuries, and I followed his guidance.  I first returned to movement with an incumbent bike, then yoga…lots of yoga.

And I kept checking in with my body.

I wanted to return to dance SO badly.  For three weeks, I would quietly sit and check in with my body, asking
Can I return to dance?

For weeks, the answer was a solid NO.
And then last week, the answer was mixed…almost like a 50/50.

And I noticed something was creeping in….fear OF returning.

I was feeling amazing on the yoga mat, had taken a month of classes with no tension and my body was saying I was ready to return.

Where was the joy?
Why was I feeling trepidation upon this return I had wanted so badly?

Even my husband, after massaging my calf, on Monday night said,
You’re ready

So, why was I feeling so scared?
I’ve come back from injuries time and time again…what was different here?

Have you ever felt this; the fear of returning after the setback?

Waiting to go into class last night, I was greeted by a friend I haven’t seen since the injury.  She smiled with joy to see me and said,
Take it easy

I stood in the back of the class, feeling vulnerable and foreign as I always stand in the front.  My dance teacher came up to me and gave me the deepest hug saying how happy she was to see me and also said,
Take it easy

And class began.

It was a whirlwind…..I found my mind was working overtime, managing my weight and checking in with my calf.  Warm up was ok, I opted out of leaps and pique turns, and started to actually feel some flow when we got to the combination.

My calf was tight, and my balance was off….and I walked out of class feeling a little shell shocked.

I was ok…but still feeling uneasy.
There wasn’t the relief I was hoping for, or the great release.

And it wasn’t until this morning I began to have some clarity.  I woke up feeling really good actually.  I had prepared myself that I would be VERY sore.  My husband iced my calf last night, and we both agreed I should take a day off of any exercise.

And then I put my leg down on the floor this morning upon waking, and it was a little tender…no searing pain….no incredible soreness.

Maybe I was better than I thought.

And my fear of returning began to open.

I’ve never injured my calf before and the recovery was a HUGE learning experience for me.  I felt like what I knew before with other injuries didn’t apply here.  So, even though I have returned to dance class from injuries MANY times, and known it’s always a process….this felt new.

More to the point, it felt unknown.
And that was scary.

I’ve injured my back a few times, so when I came back to class, I had experience to draw upon.
I’ve injured my ankles more times than I can count, so when I came back to class, I had experience to draw upon.

Where I was disconnected, was thinking the calf was different.

In fact, what applied WITH my ankles and back all applied WITH my calf.

The steps were the same.

* Get help from a professional who KNOWS the injury or setback
* Educate yourself on what will be most helpful to return
* Check in with your body, listen to those messages, not your limiting thoughts

And most importantly,
Take it easy upon your return.

In every career, there will be setbacks.

In fact, the most important work you can do FOR your career, is learn how to face them.

And it’s so vital that the setbacks are not swept under the rug.

Every year I take my clients through a powerful Wheel of Reflection and ask them to list their failures.  After that they then list their wisdom.

Wisdom doesn’t come when everything is going great.
We never question anything when things are going well.

It’s only when we are challenged, we question.
And when we question, we have an incredible opportunity to LEARN.

You have an opportunity to learn you are actually FAR better than you think.

You actually have all you need within you, and this setback is here to show you your strength and give you the opportunity to learn what you need to take your career TO the next level.

What if the setback is here FOR you to point your towards your inner strength?
What if it’s your purpose to stand strong?
What if your setback has a hidden gift you’ve been waiting for?

You are not alone, and there is a gift waiting for you.

Ask for help, educate yourself, and learn to connect with your whole body, not just your whirling mind.

Maybe you never left at all…..
Maybe this is just the next step on your glorious path.

Photography: Caitlin Cannon Photography

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