Cleaning Up Thoughts and Allowing Emotions

I listened yesterday to Corinne’s fabulous business call and heard her say a few times that it would be helpful to “clean up the thoughts” around a certain situation. I started wondering about the relationship between cleaning up the thoughts and allowing an emotion. Here’s my understanding and I’m open to correction:

We allow the emotion in the red-hot minute we feel it. We let it be without trying to change it.

Later (and that could be hours or days or even years), when we’re ready, we can decide to stop living at the effect of that emotion by cleaning up the thoughts about the circumstance. That means choosing thoughts we like better.

So far so good?

As it happens, I had a situation last night that gave me opportunity to explore this. Two years ago, I was invited to perform a concert of songs, stories, and poems for a local poetry series. It’s a pass-the-hat sort of thing, and though I really don’t do those kinds of gigs anymore, I decided to honor the original commitment. I did my usual 1000 watt show and made lovely connections with the small crowd. At the end of the night I sat in the car and counted up the mess of ones and fives that came out of the tip jar. $66.00.

I felt furious. So much work, love, planning, and time for such a small financial return.

I felt ashamed and stupid. I was angry with myself for bumbling into a gig that actually cost me money (I moved around my scheduled music students to honor this commitment I made before my teaching business took off). I was angry with myself for not asking better questions, for accepting such a crappy deal, and for not canceling long ago when I had a twinge that said this was “off” for me.

I was also angry at myself for letting my likable, overly-agreeable persona of “I’m just happy to be here” be the one in charge of my performing and financial life. That version of myself is at odds with my true desires – to perform in situations that feel like honor, and that are more aligned with my years of experience and investment and achievement. And all of this is up to me, since I’m the one who took the rotten deal and didn’t ask good questions.

For a couple hours before bed, I was really angry. I experimented with feeling the anger fully, letting it burn in me. I did wonder if I was doing something to perpetuate it, but I tried to just let it be without opposing it. I felt like I got the message it had for me – no more pass-the-hat gigs, no more giving myself away for so little – but it persisted. As I fell asleep, I thought, “I’m willing to be angry. It’s OK to be angry. I’ll be angry as long as I need to be angry.”

In the morning, I woke up feeling clear. The physical sensation of anger is gone. Here’s where the “clean up the thoughts” part comes in.
I realized that I have a choice about what I “keep in my brain” (to quote Brooke) about this experience. I made a list of thoughts, both positive and negative, and these are the thoughts I chose to keep:

• I’m proud of the show I put on for those people; I did a great job.
• Nothing went wrong. I needed this experience to gain clarity about my desire to perform in situations that feel like HONOR from first to last.
• It’s OK to want more for myself. It’s OK to ask for more. It’s OK to see myself as important and to proceed accordingly.
• Now I know that I want to slow down the booking process and ask more questions.
• I’m officially giving myself permission to change my mind if conditions change.
• I’m grateful for what I learned about myself.

At this stage, if a resentful or junky thought comes up, I will instead practice these thoughts. Is that right?

Coaches, thank you for reading all of this. At this point, I’d like to know two things:
1. Have I understood these two concepts correctly? And if not, I’d be grateful for your corrections.
2. Have I missed anything in the way I’ve processed this event? Any blind spots?

For the record, it actually feels kind of exciting, like suddenly I can see a new vista that was invisible to me yesterday. It’s making me think about how I might get these new kind of opportunities and what I might do with them. I feel more than ever loyal to the songs and stories in my repertoire; they are precious and rare and I’ve learned them over decades of dedicated study and practice.

It’s time for a new deal that honors that!