Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Deleting The Negative

You ever have one of those nagging negative thoughts that won't leave your head?  You're trying to write, rehearse, practice, even perform and that one tiny moment keeps repeating over and over, like some crazy cat GIF gone awry.  Years ago, or perhaps yesterday, a critic didn't like your latest show, a director gave you a look when you missed a line, an editor commented negatively on your favorite phrase, or, the worst, your mother said she didn't like your newest creation.  You replay the words that felt like a dagger, your confidence sinks and your spirit begins to shut down.  All of the positive work you had accomplished begins to fade.

Me too!!!

Here's what I've been playing with lately. Every time my mind returns to the negative moment, I practice replacing it with a positive one.  Like the spontaneous compliment from a respected colleague.  Or perhaps the memory of an accomplishment.

I will warn you, this takes time and practice.  The first time I experimented with this practice, I found myself working on it for almost a week.  But it did stop the negative thought from planting a root in my mind. I'm trying to recall the moment right now and I cannot.  Truly.  It is quite remarkable.

There's another practice I've been working with.  I remind myself that I am the only person on this entire planet who is still experiencing this past moment.  Everyone else has moved on, possibly to more joyful moments.  I have a choice.  I can hang on or I can let go.

Guess which one I choose?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Cancelling On Your Self

I'm back to my teaching studio for a couple of weeks and sadly, I'm back to the frustration of cancellations.  Today, I had 50% of my students/clients attempt to cancel within 24 hours of their lesson time.  This is a tad disappointing.  First of all, my policy is very clear.  Secondly, I've been away from my teaching for 5 weeks; I assumed people would be excited to have a lesson and would do everything in their power to be here.  Silly me.

Let me start with my rant.  Look people, if you make an appointment with a professional, respect them and their lives.  Keep the appointment or pay them.  Don't make excuses and please don't force them to come after you for payment.  Very few teaching artists have staffs to call you or bill you.  Well, that's not true; we do have staffs - US.  Which means if I have to call or email you to ask you to pay me for the lesson you missed because you had to go see your neighbor's daughter's new puppy (I've heard worse), I am the one who is doing it.  Which means less time for art and we all know that doesn't make Heidi happy.

Rant finished.  Thank you for your patience. Back to the current situation.

What did I do?  I sighed (I always sigh when this happens, which means I sigh frequently) and I returned the communication, including a link to my studio policy.  I asked if my illness policy described their current physical condition. I used the phrase "gently encouraging you to attend your lesson".  Guess what?  Each one of them responded to say they would be at their lesson.  

I had a feeling that these students weren't really all that sick.  I had a feeling they were letting life get in the way.  What made me think that?  Let's see, using words like "woke up with a sore throat" and "feeling warm"; symptoms coming on suddenly; last minute notice - all of these are markers to me that this isn't a true illness.

In all cases, a brief conversation led to the acknowledgement that life had presented some challenges lately and the student was stressed, scared, worn down, disappointed, etc.  BUT THEY WEREN'T PHYSICALLY SICK.  THEY HAD NO TROUBLE SINGING.

In all cases, I was able to convince them to take a vacation from their life challenges and to start to sing.

In all cases, they were able to sing for an entire lesson.

In all cases, they left feeling significantly better than when they arrived.  Drooping shoulders and monotone hellos turned into heads held high and lilting thank yous and good byes.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we cancel on the activities that allow us to return to our authentic, honest, true selves?  Listen, I'm not throwing any stones here.  I haven't been to yoga class in 3 weeks and you are correct, I always find my true self in yoga class.  I'm asking the question out loud for all of us.

We should all stop this.  Yes, we have to be reasonable about how much time we truly have in our lives for work, for family, for relationships, for play.  We can't do everything.  But we can strive for a balance. A balance that includes those activities that make us feel human, that allow us to get to the core of who we are.

The next time you think you need to cancel an appointment with your self, I want you to take a deep breath and ask yourself if that is the right action to take.  Ask yourself why you want to cancel.  Attempt to get to the truth. And then be responsible AND responsive to your self.  I bet you'll go.