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.


  1. The advantage of "showing up" even when you aren't at your best is that something will happen even then. And if you keep doing it, much more will happen than if you are sporadic about it. Besides whatever benefits to your spirit and soul there may be from getting to do music on a regular basis.

    I know this is true because I see it in the students I teach (not music, but science). I also found how much I could draw on when I joined a choir of complete strangers (at least initially) on the other side of the country and found that I was able to keep up with them for their two and half month rehearsal/performance cycle. Tone production, vowel-consonant production, pronunciation of foreign languages -- I was far from perfect but I was able to keep up. And I wouldn't have without that slow steady accumulation of experience and efforts to learn from Heidi's patient and capable instruction.

    1. Exactly, Bruce! Showing up and working on whatever the task is almost always of value. Hearing from a fine musician like yourself (who also happens to be a scientist) is even further acknowledgement of the importance of this concept for everyone.

      I think it is wonderful that you continue to find space for music in your life. I know that has been a challenge, but you continue to solve it. I'm honored to be a part of the effort.