I’m on tour with the North Carolina Dance Theatre. (They’ve choreographed a ballet to some of my songs, and I’m performing with them for a five-week run.)

Our first show was at a theatre in Pennsylvania yesterday. A really great theatre. When we unloaded at noon, I was shown to my dressing room. I threw my stuff down, and I walked out into the hallway to look around. I was jittery.

One of my biggest challenges on the road is to show up in all these new places as an artist. I can’t put up a front. This is my life. And here I am getting ready to present it. I don’t know if theatre presenters really get how intense that feels for some performers. So, I need lots of space and breathing time.

On the wall by the dressing room at this theatre, there’s a bulletin board at eye level. It was the first thing I noticed, and I glanced at it.

Each show of that season had been advertised in a program. On this bulletin board, someone had cut out and pinned up the ad for each show after it had run. Then, with a thick black magic marker, that person had written on top of the clipping a one-phrase “review” of the show. Some of the reviews were fine. “Good show” was on one. But several of these shows had been dismissed by this black marker with a swift “NEVER AGAIN!” or “WILL IT EVER END??” And other sarcastic remarks here and there.

Around the corner from this bulletin board were framed displays of this review process for the past seasons of this theatre’s shows. One frame per season. The mats were shaped so that each clipping of each show (with the black magic marker review) was prominently displayed. Every single performer to arrive at this theatre would see how quickly their work could be dismissed by the marker.

Of course, my voices were shouting Monty Python style – “LOOK AWAY! RUN AWAY!” But I couldn’t stop. I was looking at these quick strokes of this marker, and the delight it took in meanness. And it was framed! As if to say, “Everyone look at how clever we are at this theatre!” With my heart racing, I walked out to the lobby.

Now, I’ve written about not letting your negative voices from taking over. And there are times when that method works. Then there are times when you or I might not be strong enough. Sometimes a situation warrants a moment of feeling what needs to be felt. This was one of them.

So, I sat there and let the thoughts run their course for a little while. I’ll give them credit. They had quite the ticker-tape parade.

The lobby was empty and big. The dancers were on stage taking their class. The sound of the piano filled the silence. It was overcast and cold outside. My voices get particularly good when it’s overcast and cold.

But I’ve gotten particularly good at knowing that I get to choose whether or not to stay in the space of grossness. And because I knew I probably couldn’t find my way out of it on my own, I stopped and took a breath. I looked across the empty lobby and said, “Help.”

I noticed some display cases all around the lobby. This was an art exhibit of students’ work called “More Than a Book.” The books were hand made, hand painted, hand bound. One of the books was open to a sketch of a forest. Daina White (’07) was the artist, and the poem titled “Faith” ran down the side of the page.

…the wind stirs the trees as sunlight filters through

I can feel another presence beyond me from a much higher place,

the warm sun dances across my skin and reminds me I am not alone.

So, my little call for help yielded me an angel in the form of a college junior who I will never meet. And she made me remember that there are others like me. Millions who softly notice the world in all its wild beauty and share what they see.

All of the books were beautiful. I took in the images and the words and the willingness to create. My heartbeat slowed way down. The last book I looked at was by Iris A. Bogaert. The very last page of her book was painted in bright colors that made me think of Mexico. It said:
Love like a butterfly emerges from our souls unstoppable when we share what we have with others.

That was all I needed.

The black magic marker wasn’t sharing with others. It was trashing people. The performers were sharing what they have with others. I am sharing what I have with others. This is all you can do. You decide to share. You decide to shine.

So, I returned to the backstage area and decided to do just that. The black marker gets to do its thing. I get to do mine. Cynicism is rampant. It’s so easy to be cynical and criticize the game, and not play the game. It’s much easier to be the marker than the person in the picture. Much.

I don’t want to be the marker. The markers have never once changed my life, inspired me, encouraged me. The people in the pictures, however, have. Quite a bit.

Think about anyone who has ever made you laugh, or cry, or opened your heart, or made you believe in yourself. They’ve all faced their own black markers. You will too. This is not a call to fight the markers or to get self-righteous and go on a rant about the marker-people. They’re certainly allowed to have opinions and express those opinions in any way they want.

This is a call to open up and decide yet again. If you shrink because of the marker-people, then they get exactly what they wanted, and no one wins. Yes, it takes some self-esteem to believe that you even have anything worth sharing. But of course you do. Don’t waste your time waiting for the world to agree that you do. It’s all service. You don’t know what random person in an empty lobby somewhere is going to benefit from your openness.

So, serve. Share. You’re not alone. Get bigger. Shine anyway.

17 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • sarah

    What an absoluely wonderful article. The poem is beautiful. Do you have the whole thing?

  • Beth

    Merry Meet Christine! I found my way to your blog via Jennifer Louden’s Comfort Cafe, a response from someone comforting me after receiving a rejection letter from a juried show yesterday. There is soo much wonderful stuff here! I have wiled away my whole hour of bread-baking just reading your blog.
    I really loved your post about listening to the wise inner voice, and learning to trust it by acting on it–it made so much sense to me.
    You have shined a light on one of the last hours of my vacation–thank you.

  • RW

    Hi Christine,

    I accidentally found your blog on the way somewhere else. Kind of seredipitous because I was working on looking for posts about conquering inner critics! I really enjoy your writing. So often, I read self-help blogs and there’s something insincere about them even though their intention is to help. So thank you for writing from a real place -RW

  • Heather

    Just read this again. Really needed to hear it today. Thanks for that.

  • Marylo, the dreamer (la Reveuse)

    Dear Christine,

    I have come to you blog thanks to a [very dear] friend of mine who suggested that your blog may interest me.

    I have to thank you so much. Your blog is like de fresh source where I can sit and think quietly.

    Blogs like yours are precious gifts to us.

    So, once again: thank you to be here, and for all these wonderful gifts given to us.

    LOL (Lots of Love) from France
    Marylo, the dreamer (la Reveuse)

  • Michelle

    “DITTO” to the poster befor me. 🙂

  • Suzanne Hull

    Thank you, this is just what I needed today.

  • Katherine/ME

    Of all your blog entries, this one is my favorite. Although I first read it a few months ago, it continues to deeply inspire me, especially in times when I am feeling alone in my understanding of the world.

  • Goddess of Leonie

    this is absolutely beautiful.
    thank you so much christine 🙂

  • Virginia Daniels

    I jsut want to say thank you, Christine, for your amazing writing – your insights, generosity in sharing what it takes and how it is to be an artist are truly inspiring, encouraging – and comforting: Knowing that even “successful” people struggles with the same issues makes them so much easier to deal with.

    So, Thank you 🙂

  • christine

    Thanks, Alvin! I’m happy to “meet” you here in blogland!

  • Alvin

    Hi Christine,

    I just found your blog from the Personal Development Blog Carnival, and I haven’t been able to stop reading since! You write with beauty, heart and humour, and your posts have inspired me in just these first short hours. Thank you 🙂

  • christine

    Thanks Terri… Yea, it can take a while to get used to reading so much text on a computer screen. I’m glad you like it. And congrats on getting over fofu! (we all have it. some people just keep going anyway!) As far as delicious goes…well, it makes me anxious too! Thanks for trying!

  • Terri Anderson

    Hi Christine, THANKS! I love your Blog! and I’m not really a blogger person. I attended your workshop and concert at Grace in LRock.
    I wanted to attend the retreat but didn’t so please have some more soon. I’m trying to pursue my dream in teensy steps but I am doing it. Your blog made me face it!! I have it!! FOFU( fear of fuckin up) syndrome. Cause I had potential and was using it and now I’m doing this. Thanks for making me laugh. By the way, I went to that del icious thing and got real anxious and left. I didn’t know most of those terms. Terri

    • kim dupre

      hi christine,

      i arrived at your blog page today wanting to check out the latest post. i saw the tab with the page number 139 and clicked, not sure why, but when i read it, i knew why. the markers…….

      i don’t think anyone who isn’t the owner, the performer, the director ever realizes the enormity of being that thing. we put ourselves on the line, we take imperfect action, we envision and create, we manage and market, we keep afloat lots of “spinning plates” and tomorrow we continue where we left off hoping none of the plates crashed in the night.

      the “markers” are ever present. they are always there to quickly point out what didn’t quite work for them, how they might have done that one thing differently, not ever realizing that one thing is one among the many things we simultaneously attempt to balance and manage, rarely respecting our being ok with not being perfect, never stopping to realize that they are also imperfect beings at least some of the time. rarely feeling gratitude for being paid by the organization where this imperfect thing was executed, but not taking responsibility to depart the organization when they are aware they don’t feel aligned.

      i’m learning to honor the markers. they make me stronger, i trust myself more and more when i continue on my path instead of listening to their collective voices, i feel more confident when i choose not to shrink or desire approval from them in the face of their disappointment. i’m learning not to stand still while they poke me in the eye. i’ve learned to offer gratitude for the lessons they provide and for the daily practice i must engage in to remain centered and aligned with my vision in spite of their criticism.

      something came my way recently which sort of blew my mind. WHAT A CONCEPT, it bought to myself when i heard this. it seems to shut the marker voices down before they gain momentum. a simple statement with a whole lot of inherent power – “your opinion of me is none of my business”.

      perfect.