Our diva slumped along the hallway to the bathroom. She didn’t feel glamorous. She felt tired. She washed the day from her face. Feeling the mascara coming off of her lashes, she paused and looked at her kohl-smudged eyes. She stood there for a moment feeling thoughts starting to whir and nag at the back of her mind. Those busy thoughts resisted coming forward to be fully recognized. But, she applied her teeth whitening strips and slowly sat down on the edge of the tub. The porcelain felt cold. She felt cold. She finished up her routine absent-mindedly and crawled into bed.
A few hours after falling asleep, our diva shot up wide awake from the pillow. The sweat on her neck cooled as soon as she noticed it was there. “Oh my god,” she stuttered, “I don’t have any real ideas.” That was it. She sat there silently staring at the opposite wall until sleep came to collect her once again. She didn’t dream. Just slept.
The Day 4 challenge on your journey is to ask “what am I missing?”
The alarm clock summoned her back into the world the next morning and she jumped at the opportunity to busy herself with morning activities. She rushed through the making of coffee and making of her bed. Her lunch came together in a hurry of utensils and tupperware containers. She zipped up her boots and went cruising out the front door to the car. NPR called all of her attention to various world happenings of politics, Nobel prizes, and more. It wasn’t until she settled into her desk that she started to feel the same whirring of thoughts she felt the night before. While keying in the various usernames and passwords to get her day started her thoughts traveled right back to her worries from the night before. The low-grade anxiety was missing words and definition until it suddenly snapped into focus, “I don’t have any artistic integrity.”
Missing artistic integrity
There it was. She was missing ideas. She was missing integrity. She always knew that she was choosing a career that didn’t promise a lot of money. “Long on fulfillment; short on cash” is what her mentor always told her. But, it didn’t feel “long on fulfillment” at the moment. She desperately wanted a career that felt like she was making something and contributing. Fully staring off into space, she asked herself, “to what degree am I transforming the world?” It didn’t feel like she was reshaping it at all. In fact, she felt a little invisible to the rest of the world.
The phone on her desk startled our diva back to the present moment. She quickly dealt with the questions and logistics the caller required going over scheduling, fees, and policies. Glancing around her workspace, she took in the sight of the legal pads and coffee mugs and binders of plans. Instead of wondering how she got there, she wondered, “I am so organized in this area of my life. I’m on top of all of this. Why do I feel like I can’t have the same feeling in my singing life?”
Is it possible to change the world?
Her thoughts took another turn and she found herself remembering spending time with her diva friends the other night and how sure she was that she was “doing it.” That flush on her cheeks told her just how deeply embarrassed she felt by that notion now. “Am I really doing what I think this life is supposed to be? Am I even capable of creating something new? Is that even possible to take this career and change the world?”
“There’s got to be a way,” she insisted. “There has got to be a way. And, I can find it.” She felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm creep up in her body. This realization felt like it came from such a weirdly unexpected place. Her cousin’s questions had always pushed her before. But, this was new. This inspiration she was feeling was transformative. It was as though her eyes were focusing more clearly than they had before. Her blood was pumping. The crimson in her cheeks turned from embarrassment to exhilaration. Perhaps the coffee was starting to kick in or maybe the adrenaline came from a slightly more intrinsic wellspring. It didn’t matter. She didn’t need to find a mirror, she could tell she had a sparkle in her eye. “This may not be five excellent ideas and five terrible ideas, but this is a new conviction.” she insisted to herself.
The ‘open field’ moment
Our diva knew that this was an important moment. Other friends and colleagues had told her about having this moment, when they realized that they needed something more. Lacking integrity in your creative or artistic work can be self-concealing for so long until it all comes roaring forth. Thinking back, one of her friends had described this feeling perfectly. “I was getting ready for this triathlon at the time. Living in Kansas, during the winter, swimming laps in the university pool everyday and feeling powerless even though I was in better shape than I had ever been before. I had muscles! I was also working on my graduate school projects, but they were all lifeless. I was engaged to a very sweet girl, but I knew it wasn’t right. We both knew it wasn’t right. But, that’s what you do, ya know? You go to grad school to be part of a really good program. You get engaged if it’s all going well and there’s no reason to break up. You train yourself to swim 1.5 km, bike 40 km, and run 10 km to keep reassuring yourself that you’re still alive.”
“Oh yeah… So what happened?” she remembered mumbling back to her friend.
“One time, I just stopped,” he confessed. “I stood up in the middle of the pool — in the middle of the lap — and said, ‘I’m done.'”
“What? Done with training for the triathlon?”
“Nope. Done with it all. I got out of the pool and went home and told the girl that we weren’t going to get married. I had to say it. I had to take that moment while I still felt it. That moment of insight can die away very quickly. It was sad, of course.”
“Whoa! What? But, what?”
“Yeah. I know. But, the most incredible part was that it felt like I was driving this beat-up jalopy through intense traffic and turned a right corner and suddenly I was sailing over open road in a red convertible. I could feel the sun on my face. It was right. Everything opened up after that. Everything.”
Our diva knew she was having her “stand up in the middle of the pool” moment. She could feel it. She didn’t really know what was next after this but she knew it was going to be different. She wasn’t going to stop. She didn’t think that it was time to quit. She just knew that it was going to look different. Things were going to open up from this point on.
How will I know?
She looked at some of the documents on her desk. “These can be helpful,” she thought. What could she learn from these resources that she already had amassed around her? What secrets did she understand about how to live the life she wanted, but she hadn’t fully acknowledged yet? Our diva’s mind was racing, “if the goal is to be meaningful, how will I know if I’m successful?”
29 Days to Diva: The Worksheets
Want some help completing your Day 4 challenge? 29 Days to Diva is all about tackling the big issues of our careers through micro-actions. What can you do today to move yourself closer to unlocking your artistic integrity or achieving your biggest goals and dreams? I made a worksheet for you to prompt your thoughts on artistic integrity.
Try it out! If you like it, I hope you’ll sign up for the email list in the box below and share this post on your favorite social media channels. You can find me @mezzoihnen or feel free to use the hashtag #29DTD or #29DaystoDiva.
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