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

Coming Close to Your Audience

Are you frustrated by your audience?

Do you wish you could just shake them and say,
HEY! I’m amazing!  Don’t you see me?

I mean, you are doing SO much work and putting out your
music
words
art

Aren’t they supposed to love and cherish you?

Do you wish they would just do what you WANT?

Wouldn’t it be amazing to just have a magic wand and they would come eagerly running and buy all your work?

You may be scratching your head and asking,
How do the most successful Artists do it?
How do they have raving fans?

Because I imagine, you would love the answer. You could stop exhausting yourself and actually build an audience you love as well that nurtures and promotes your work.

So, how do we go from wanting to control our audience, and feeling frustrated and overwhelmed to actually having them come running to US?

I have to admit something to you.

I have really struggled with wanting things to be different than they are.

For most of my 20 year career as a performer, I felt like I was waving my hand in the air and saying,
PICK ME, PICK ME!

Can you relate?

It felt like I was reaching out with my arms, seeking attention, my arms outstretched, all my energy going OUT.

And then when I would experience rejection, it felt so personal. 
Didn’t they see how badly I wanted this? 
Didn’t they know how much this meant to me?

I was so confused, and in this confusion my answer was just to try harder.  To want it even more…to SHOW them how hard I was working.

I thought if I just tried hard enough, I could control them.  I could WILL them to pick me. I would just place all my energy on being perfect and amazing, so I would stand out.

And I hit a ceiling.  This trying so hard only got me so far.  I thought the rejection would go away.  I thought I would finally book my first Broadway show.  And I didn’t.

I was devastated…..

Do you feel like you are doing this with your audience?
Do you feel like no matter how good you are, it doesn’t matter?

And this whole energy going out went on for years, and affected many other areas of my life where I struggled.

I would want people to be quiet on the train who were speaking loudly into their phones.
When I was dating, I would want the guy to specifically say what I wanted to hear.

And it even seeped into my meditation practice. In a quiet room, I would sit with my sangha in silence and meditate together.  Except sometimes people would fall asleep, or their legs hurt. It would drive me crazy to be sitting still and feeling my mind calm, to be completely distracted by the person in front of me fidgeting.

Oh man….even here I’m struggling.  I can’t seem to get away from this!

Until two weeks ago.

I did a weekend meditation retreat and it was the longest and most intensive retreat I’ve done.  My teachers had given a very specific instruction, which was when I felt myself wander, or difficult emotions arose to simply,
Move closer.

So, I settled in, and sure enough I had someone in front of me who was moving around.  I could feel that voice coming in, judging and saying,
Why are they doing that?
Don’t they know I need stillness?

And then I came close.  Literally….I shifted my energy on them and their actions, and came back to myself, sitting on the cushion.

And I felt something very different in my body, in fact I then had an awareness of how OUT of my body I had been in that moment and how QUICKLY I had gone there. My eyes had actually shifted up towards the person in front of me.

So, I came back to where I was, my actual experience, and lowered my eyes again.  Immediately the judging voice went away, and I felt a relaxation.

This happened again and again, and each time, I just brought myself back to me. 

Each time I would start to obsess on someone’s practice or actions, I would just come back to my breath, to my body in space sitting on the cushion.

And I began to remember and process all those moments as an Artist when I had NO awareness I was doing this,
When I would stay fixated on the choreographer who didn’t pick me
When I would stay fixated on the casting director who was looking at his phone instead of listening
When I would stare at the director during an audition, willing him to pick my headshot
When I would want the audience to cheer and they would barely clap

This was all actually OUT of my control.

And energetically, I was wasting my energy because what really ended up making the difference and caused me to have a total resurgence in my career was when I stayed IN my body and placed my attention more on my experience.

I had always heard my acting teachers say,
You can’t care about what they think…

And this always confused the HECK out of me!  But I DO care!  How am I supposed to audition or perform without my passion?

But, what I realize is they were actually pointing towards,
I can’t control my audience.

In fact, the largest lesson I learned in my divorce is, I can’t control another person.

That energy is wasted, which is why it exhausted me.

When we put all our energy on our audience, we are seeking validation, and validation is a one way trip to disappointment.  No everyone is going to like you or your work, and that’s OK.  This isn’t about pleasing everyone.

But most of all, when all of our energy is placed outside ourselves, we are lopsided.  We’ve all been in the presence of someone who is trying too hard, who just wants attention, and I imagine your reaction in that moment was to turn away.  It probably felt uncomfortable.

As Artists, we really need to learn how to receive, but in order to do that, we need to know how to BE in our bodies.  When you come closer, and stop obsessing about your audience, it means you are coming back home.

You are coming back to who you are as an Artist.  And you need to know who you are.  It may be the most important work you do.

Because when you can sit with who you are, with acceptance, then you will be relaxed.  When you are relaxed, then you feel safe to others.  And when you feel safe to others, they will come TO you.

Look at your marketing.
Look at how you are speaking and showing up to your audience.

Really assess where your energy is, and learn how to build lasting relationships that are healthy, not one-sided.
It begins with you.

Come close.

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon Photography