I can be a snarky bitch… Now, a lot of people think I am nice. I try to be nice. I really do. But my closest friends see the snarky that pops out a little too frequently and a little too often. And sometimes I am snarky in front of others. By snarky, I also mean “truth-telling…” or maybe more accurately, “truth-telling that no one wants to hear.” And, to be truthful, truth telling can also be defined at times as “being a total bitch.” But sometimes we (me included) develop attitude because it feels like our savior in the moment. We put on our snark, our attitude, our nasty comments, and we feel like we are wrapped in armor. We are protecting ourselves. But from what? From the risk of letting people know us, see us, love us, hate us, or, maybe more frighteningly, be apathetic towards us. We desperately want and need to be seen but we fear it at the same time. So, by attacking others we can step out to be seen but hide behind these negative comments which push the focus off of ourselves and onto someone else. We can bury ourselves in a protective cocoon, lashing out with our claws like a hermit crab snapping and snarking away before anyone has the opportunity to get close to us. But, as most of us know, snarky isn’t the best way to be and sometimes I forget (and need to be reminded) that I have many other emotions to put on other than “attitude.”
When I was in Toronto for the Toronto Burlesque Festival, I took advantage of a wonderful opportunity to take a private lesson with the talented Sydni Deveraux. I had an hour. I could have picked a lot of topics. But what I chose was confidence. And, as part of that discussion (which I will talk more about next month), we also talked about gratitude. Gratitude – and how important it is to be thankful, respectful, and have gratitude as part of one’s development and exuding of confidence. What a beautiful concept, I thought. I usually am so busy having attitude I forget to think about gratitude.
But, how much more do we open our fragile selves up, pry our hearts open, when we feel and express gratitude to those around us? (Note: it can be A LOT.) How does it change us when we notice and then feel gratitude to our audience for showing up, for being present, for screaming and clapping and going crazy in their seats? How does it change us and change what we represent to the audience and to others around us when we take time to notice the audience, to actually respond to them, to feel them? Wow.
We often take so much for granted. I know I do. I frequently spend more time lamenting the people who couldn’t be bothered to come to my show than to be grateful for the people that came to my show. I need to spend more time being thankful to my dancers, my spouse, my coworkers. Instead of lamenting that one of my dancers forgot to point their toes, my husband left his dirty socks in the middle of the living room, or that my coworker wrote a sloppy memo, I need to remember to be grateful that I have sweet talented people who want to dance with me, I have a husband who loves me and supports my artistic endeavors, and I have coworkers who are smart and work great as a team. Does that mean I don’t strive for improvement around me? Absolutely not. But, I can strive for improvement, both in myself and those I work with (and live with) while trying to notice the positive things instead of focusing in on the negative things. Focus is defined as having clear visual definition, but frequently we are so busy focusing on some tiny issue that we lose sight of everything else around us. The microscope helps us see tiny amazing important things, but if we looked into a microscope all the time, we would be bumping into the walls because we would never be able to find the door. We don’t have to forget about specifics, improvement, and making things better, but if we only see that all of the time, we lose perspective and increase our potential to lose our shit… We can’t be focusing in so much on the microscopic that we lose the importance of the big picture, fail to see the positive things around us, and fail to have gratitude for the positive things in our lives.
In feeling gratitude, we open ourselves up and have the potential to reveal more of ourselves and reveal our vulnerabilities. When we open up to positives it can mean that we are opening up to a lot of our other emotions and vulnerabilities as well – opening up our fear, opening up our uncertainty, opening up our hearts and minds to new feelings and new emotions. But, if we don’t open ourselves up, we can’t show or even feel our strength, our confidence, or our power. We have all of those, too. But, if we are too busy protecting ourselves and shielding ourselves with negatives and bad attitudes, we can’t feel the good things and the power and the confidence either. Gratitude is a stepping stone to positivity about yourself. And if you can feel grateful to someone else, to your audience, to your coworkers, maybe you can love and forgive yourself enough that you are grateful for yourself, as well.
Let me give you some examples: At the Toronto Burlesque Festival, I was very positively impressed by the talent on the stage, so much so, that I was feeling a little apprehensive about my number and abilities. Based on conversations, I am sure other people were feeling that way, too. But one woman chose to have negative reactions. I didn’t know her very well, but had met her at previous festivals. We saw each other, we hugged. She immediately starts bad-mouthing the performer on stage to me. And then the next performer. “Well, this is like the premise of so-and-so’s act. If you are going to copy another person’s act, you should at least do it better than they do.” Me: “I doubt she has seen so-and-so’s act and probably doesn’t know her or the act.” “She has no energy. My friend can do that move so much better than she can. And what is that costume.”
Wow. Bad wow. I was in shock. I thought, she is doing this because it makes her feel better about herself and her performance. (She didn’t need that as she did a great job.) And I was shocked that she would snark so strongly to me, someone she didn’t know very well. But, then I also saw myself doing the same types of things to people I know. Instead of showing gratitude and graciousness, she was being negative and bitter. Fine, maybe she wanted to look through that microscope, but, even in the microscope everything you look at shouldn’t be a germ.
In Ohio, the performers I interacted with were way more positive and supportive. The festival is put together with a mindset of diversity and inclusiveness and they have a very talented show that is also very diverse. Most of what I saw was gratitude and appreciation of other performers. But, even there, one performer saw fit to make body shaming comments to another performer. Why? Do you really need to bad mouth’s someone body to make yourself feel good? Can’t you be appreciative of other bodies? Body size, weight, length, sex, are NOT what makes a good performer. If we have to make other people to feel bad to feel good about ourselves, then what is wrong with us?
So, I am going to strive to let go of some (not all – because I have to be honest with myself) snark and have more gratitude. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this by any means – I am learning. I will screw up. I will be snarky and bitchy and lament. But I will try to lament less and be more positive, too. It will take time. The snark is strong. But, instead of lamenting that we don’t have enough performance opportunities, let’s be grateful for those we do have. Instead of crying about the negatives all the time, we need to identify and be grateful for the positives, at least enough to balance ourselves out. Open up, be brave, let people in, shine outwards, and be grateful. We have so much to be grateful for…