Ep. #72 Does Dance Save Lives? with Dr. Adrienne Wilson Mann

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #72 Does Dance Save Lives? with Dr. Adrienne Wilson Mann

I’ve been taking notes from this woman my whole life, and now, she is sharing answers to questions we’ve all been asking, like:  What is the secret to managing a busy schedule?  How do we OVER-deliver without burning out?  Does dance save lives? Yes, all that, and then some, because my guest this week is all that and more!  Movers and shakers, I am so proud to present,  my sister and my hero, Dr. Adrienne Wilson Mann

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Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.  

Dana: Holy smokes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends, and literally family. This is a good one. I’m so excited. Uh, first of all, I’m Dana and this is words that move me, welcome to the podcast. Today, I am joined by my sister, Adrienne Wilson Mann. do you have Adrienne Wilson Mann or Adrienne Mann? 

Adrienne: Adrienne Wilson, Mann, its a mouthful. 

Dana: Welcome to the podcast. We are sitting in my sister’s office right now in Denver, Colorado. You are witnessing my first trip home since Christmas of 2019 and it is end of April, 2021. I’m really, really excited to be here. Thank you for housing me and also being on my podcast. 

Thanks for being vaccinated. 

Yes. Super double fist pump. Um, okay. So, Oh, we, she also has a dog named Hugo who you might be Hugo you might be hearing from, uh, later on in the episode. Um, okay, so this is sort of how it operates here at words that move me.  

I don’t know if you’ve heard of the podcast or listen to the podcast, but all my guests introduce themselves. So you have this daunting task. Oh, wait, stop. Before we do anything, we celebrate wins. So I’ll share a win and then you’ll share a win. And then you, the listener person will also get to take the floor for a second and share a win, so start thinking about what that might be. Today I am sharing that. I dropped my niece off at school today and I didn’t mess up. We made it with like three minutes to spare. Um, didn’t speed. Didn’t get into a car accident. Did get a little bit lost, but still made it. And I, I think I struggle with what I tell myself about how responsible I am sometimes. Um, I’ve talked to on the podcast about, uh, becoming a plant mom. I think I’m far from becoming responsible enough to be a human mom, but I did that thing today. Human got dropped off at school. Yes. You’re a human. As a matter of fact. 

Was my human. My win is that I knocked a big item off my to-do list. Over these past couple days, I make the schedules for my group at work and I just made 12 months of a schedule 

And I wish you all could see it. I’m looking at it. Color-coded on the desk right now. It’s beautiful. I don’t know what it means. It looks like somebody sneezed confetti squares onto a spreadsheet that’s what it looks like to me. Um, but congratulations. Thank you. That is massive one. Uh, all right, now you go, what’s going well in your world, Listener type 

*wins music*

Okay. So let’s go ahead and get into this episode, which is probably going to be many things because we are many things. Um, but a few that I want to be sure that we talk about because you and I both grew up dance studio kids. Um, I still am very connected to the dance studio world via convention circuits and whatnot, but you are a bonafide MD. You are a doctor and you’ve got big, big life and death type responsibilities. Um, I want to talk a bit, a little bit about how dance prepared you for that for a career in medicine. I want to talk about time and money management and thought management and how those are actually the same thing. And also I want to talk about this notion that dance saves lives. So this is a pretty our plate is quite full for our plate is full. Um, I’m excited about this, but okay, now we get to the introduction part, introduce yourself. What do you want us to know about you? And then we’ll do all the lofty things that I just said. We talked about 

Its a lot. Uh, okay. So I am, let me see. So I’m Adrienne, I’m a mom to Amelia and Charlotte. I’m a wife to Scott. Who’s also in medicine. I’m a physician. I take care of veterans and I’m a teacher. I’m an educator. I work with residents who are training to become internal medicine doctors. And one of my roles is in, um, coaching and helping them become the best versions of themselves. 

The end. Bye. See you later, I’m tearing. I’m so proud of you and all the awesome things that you become. I remember growing up in the house on Waco Court in Aurora, which is a suburb of Denver.  

Both: Excellent. 

That’s a Wayne’s world reference, shout out if you call it that. Um, I never remember you watching, ER, George Clooney at the time we watched a yard that was one of our family traditions. And you were so into it. And you talked about like wanting to become a doctor. Um, is that really what it was? And is that what got you through med school? Like this idea of what it is to be a doctor as seen on TV? 

Yeah, I think definitely. ER, but then I was obsessed with Dana Scully from the X-Files. Yeah. And I thought really that I would probably be a physician FBI agent and maybe also do like, um, like level four biohazard research was the other thing I thought I was going to be, you know, treating Ebola. 

I remember you love the book, the hot zone. Yeah. I was into it at that time.  

I think it was the largest book I had seen. Yeah. 

Yeah. But I thought, I thought that that was possible for me. And I could envision myself doing any of those things. 

I love that. Cool. Hugo’s excited about it too, is really supporting you from, from the background from downstairs. Do you need to go check on Hugo? 

He’s good. No, he’s not good. Hold on.  

And we’re back. What was that?  

Uh, that was the crew. Who’s gonna come and mow our lawn this year and help us to take it.  Uh, the, the exterior and the dog was letting us know that they were here. Yes. I was grateful for the alert. 

Good job Hugo. Um, okay. So that actually might be a beautiful segue to one of the things I wanted to ask you. So you are a full-time physician. Yes. You are a mother of two. Yes. You are starting your own business, which is kind of tied to the hospital in some ways, but you’re, you’ve started a coaching program.  

Yes, right now I’m only physicians. 

Okay, great. So sorry, Dan types. That’s a pretty full plate. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from being home for a couple of days, it’s that you might schedule and calendar your day to the minute. And almost certainly that’s not going to happen. Like, as it is on the page, your schedule will not work the way that it looks on paper, which is honestly kind of embarrassingly, not the way it is in my world, at least for the last year, which is not the average year, which is not, you know, it’s hard to compare, but I really got very used to being the designer of my day. And then if it didn’t work out, it was because of me not because of anything else. So I’d love to hear how you manage your time and how you manage your mind around time, being a person whose life is very full. Um, because I know a lot of people listening come up against this idea of like, I have so much to do and not enough time. Yeah. 

Uh, part of that for me, has been really holding myself accountable to making a realistic plan for my day. I think I’m a recovering over-committer.  And, um, I used to just make it to do list that was probably 15 items longer than I could reasonably get done on a normal day, even if I didn’t have two kids and all the other things. So I think what I’ve really done is I’ve tried to say like, what are the three things I need to get done today? If I can get three things done, that’s a good day. And the rest of my day will get filled with other things that are also important to me, but may not be, you know, accountable for in 15 minute increments,  

Reasonable sized bites.  

Yeah. Like if it’s, I need to get groceries, I need to write up a paper that I’m working on or make 11 months worth of a schedule, make a schedule. Like I can, I can. That’s probably a lot.  

Yeah. When I, uh, delegate the groceries 

To someone else, I think the other thing is I used to just like have this to do list that would just roll over every day was the stuff I didn’t do yesterday. And that to-do list was so like, I was never, ever going to catch up on that to-do list. And so part of it was, it’s not only being realistic about what can logistically be done in my day, but getting really clear on what things I needed to do and what things I didn’t need to do. And why am I doing them? And who am I doing them for. 

Are you familiar? I forget the name of the guy who gave this talk. I’m pretty sure it was a Harvard business school talk and guy talks about instead of a to-do list. He maps his tasks in quadrants quadrant one, two, three, and four is this familiar. 

No I haven’t 

Quadrant quadrant one. Imagine top left is important and urgent tasks. The next one to the right is not urgent, but also important tasks below. Number one here, bottom left is, um, urgent, but not important. And then the fourth quadrant is not important and not urgent. So what most people do is they do the urgent things first quadrant one and quadrant two quadrant three, which is important, but not urgent becomes urgent and important because people don’t ever get to it. Yeah. I think this is an episode in and of itself, but I like that approach of like keeping the important and urgent things down to like three task items and you just do that and then you tackle important things next, even though, even if they’re not urgent so that they don’t become that way and then delegate and manage your time around the rest of it. Yeah. Okay. But that doesn’t speak to like what happened the other morning? You walked into the girl’s room and you found a wet bed. So we had a peed, peed bed, and then we had peed stairs moments after that. So you had two unexpected circumstances in the middle of a really already tight morning. So what is going through your head? How did you manage that day and how we, it worked by the way?  

Not great. No, I was pretty stressed out all morning. I mean, you know, my kids are old enough that they’re not having a ton of accidents, but it happens sometimes. And this morning just happened to be a morning where we were already a little late getting up and then both kids needed a bath before we got in the car, 45 minutes later. And I had a meeting coming up and it was tight. I mean, I was pretty stressed out.  

I had no idea based on your like volume or tone of voice and language that we were in any tight spot. When I, by the time I got over here in the morning, I just thought it was a normal morning. Oh, come to find out we had double pants fee and we’re late, but  

I mean, it wouldn’t have helped at the moment for me to freak out about it. I guess I’ve gotten a little bit better around, um, managing my energy, spending my energy on being angry or frustrated or totally overwhelmed. Wasn’t going to help me get out the door and move on with my day. So,  

Okay. Let’s say within, into some thought management stuff. Yeah. So you’re a certified coach. Yes. And how was it that you came upon your coach and got into this idea of, of coaching?  

Yeah. Thanks. Um, so let’s see, I had my first kid right at the end of my medicine training and then a second one short after, early when I had started my first job. And, um, I, both of my pregnancies were tough and that’s a story for another time, but I ended up at the end of my second pregnancy really, um, over committed at work and really stressed out. And I pretty depressed. I was like, I think I was pretty depressed for my entire second pregnancy. And, um, I just wasn’t doing well. I was eating way too much and, um, didn’t really have the skills I needed or the tools to cope with a lot of change in my life and my health and, um, in my daughter’s health cause she was born premature. And so we had some time in the hospital and I, um, was really depressed. And so I got on an antidepressant and then also, um, hired a coach and I hired a life coach who specializes in women physicians who wanted to lose weight. I had gained a lot of weight over the course of baby number one and then IVF and then baby number two and being really depressed. And so I wasn’t really happy in my body and I, I wasn’t happy in my mind. And so I hired a coach and um, check out weight loss for busy physicians. That’s Katrina Ubell’s podcast. And she blew my mind. 

And then she blew my mind too. I remember distinctly getting off the phone with you on day. And it was like, yo, something is changed. What, what are you doing? Like I’m figuring like some, maybe some, I dunno, it’s a shift in your life. And you were like, Oh, I’ve been listening to this podcast. It’s called weight loss for busy physicians. I was like, excuse me, you’re like weight loss for busy physicians. Uh, see if we can say that one more time in the sentence. So anyways, I started listening to the podcast and I became a busy physician. God damn it. I was like, I am all in. And surprisingly, I think there are several, several overlaps between my career and or, or a day in the life of a dancer. And the day of the life of a doctor, not at all saying that dance saves lives or does it, but really unusual work hours sometimes very late into the night, essentially being on call. You know, I don’t know today that I’m going to have an audition at four in the afternoon. Just like, I don’t know that I’ll be scheduled to wrap at 10, but we’re going to go over six hours. So I found a lot of things in common between dancers and doctors. And I got a lot from weight loss for busy physicians, even though I’m obviously not one. Um, okay. So back to Katrina became your coach and then what happened?  

Um, I realized that I was living a lot of my life, um, without taking responsibility for my own emotional and physical wellbeing. I guess that’s the simplest way to put it, um, 

And using food as punishment and reward 

because that’s how we grew up. Yeah. You do get it on a test convention. We’re going to dairy queen. You deserve it. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, so different ways. Like in my work, in my relationships at home and my interpersonal inter-professional relationships in so many ways, I was not acting from a place of emotional maturity or adulthood. And even though I’m a high functioning person who gets stuff done, like the experience of that for me was a lot of times, uh, challenging, uncomfortable and really stressful. And so what I learned from Katrina is that I was creating that for myself. And so I, uh, did Katrina’s program about, I think I did three times and I knew in the middle of the first time going through her six month program, that I wanted to be able to offer a program like that for women resident physicians, um, in a way that it’s free of charge to them because it was super expensive for me to go through and I thought this is something I needed and this is something my community needs. And so this is the way I can serve, um, women in my profession who we know burnout at a rate that’s faster than men. And, um, that has affects that linger into their early professional careers. And so, um, I’ve partnered with a dear friend, also a coach, Dr. Tyra Fainstad and we have created a coaching program for women resident physicians. And that’s what we’re working on now.

How did you, how were you able to pull that off for free for the residents?  

Um, well right now we’re doing a pilot program and so we recruited, um, women who trained with us at the University of Colorado. And, um, we have small grants to fund a little bit of our time and to fund the development of our website and our program. And we’re studying to see the effect of the program on resident wellbeing and burnout.

I remember you writing your application for the grant. 

Yeah, I was so stressed out. So that was way outside my comfort zone. You know, I never thought like I love taking care of patients. I love teaching, but I never saw myself as a person who wanted to do research or who wanted to apply for grants or do that kind of work. And it was really uncomfortable for, I mean, I have a whole lot of thoughts around what people are gonna think about me. What if they think this project is stupid? What if I’m not a good enough writer? What if I didn’t? You know what if this is totally, what if  

What if I forget the next step? What if I mess up my forte turn? What if I roll out of my deals? What if they think my outfit is stupid? If everybody sees, what, if everybody sees me look like a fool, a fool, or, Uh, a beginner, like a non-competent Non-professional person. 

I mean what’s so funny is that I am a beginner at this. Like, I was a beginner at writing a grant. I was like, you know, what, if I’m bad at this, of course, like I’ve never done that before.

The parallel I’m drawing there is, is auditioning or interviewing. You’re presenting yourself in a sense, you’re going to have to have to be a little bit of a salesman. Yeah. Which I think leaves a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths because we’ve all encountered this smarmy salesman. 

Um, well, no, and we have been conditioned that humility, I think, especially as women, like being humble and not being a sales person is preferred and is virtuous. And I think that, um, I know I experienced discomfort with putting myself out there. Uh, cause I don’t want to be too proud or too. I mean, I’ve done a lot of work on this since then, but yeah. I mean, it’s like, do I deserve to take up this space? Like who am I to take up this space? 

That’s big stuff. Yeah. I had an acting teacher once who talked about the word humble, uh, yeah, the root of this word, humble or humus or something, um, as meaning of the earth or of the ground and sure. Yeah. We can look on being grounded as virtuous as well. But he said is on the ground where really where you, you want to be with people, stepping on you with people,  Cleaning their shoes off on the mat, that you are the way to beneath their feet and not, it changed my perspective about the word  

humble and I no longer sought that out. I figure, I honestly, that was something I already did well, and this is one of those strengths, overused become a weakness thing. So somebody tells you once that you’re Oh my God, I just love you because you’re so humble. Like you’ve done all this great stuff and yet you’re not, uh, you’re not cocky or not arrogant. I just love how humble you are. And you’re like, Ooh. Yeah, I can be humble. Watch how humble I can be.

Like let me deflect every compliment I’ve ever gotten. 

Exactly. Okay. You mentioned something about women have a tendency to burn out faster in medicine. Is there research on that? How do you know that we know that. 

Women enter medical school as 50 or more percent of the people seated in a medical school class and they enter residency at the same rate, roughly 50 or slightly more. But, um, after that, and in early career, women tend to leave medicine at a rate that’s faster than men and in leadership positions, women remain dramatically underrepresented. Um, I’m speaking about women, but that same thing is true about other people who are underrepresented in, in medicine. 

Okay. And what do you think is the solution? What’s the Resolution? 

So, I mean, my personal experience with this was that in early career I was over committed and it had a huge desire to please everybody. And I was over committed in all domains of my life and that was, did not help me succeed. And I think that, um, because women in medicine tend to have children in their early career and that tends to, I mean, it requires you to spend less of your time doing things at work for many. Um, so I think it makes it hard. And that’s a time where many women face a decision like where is my time going to be spent at this point in my life. And I think it’s hard for women to return to the workplace in medicine, especially to reach those higher echelons of leadership and other positions, um, when they’ve had to, or when they’ve chosen, they haven’t had to do anything, but when they’ve chosen to take time away. And so I struggled a little bit with that, stepped back from some of the leadership work that I was doing, um, while I kind of reset and redefined my own expectations of myself and what I wanted and just the act of defining for myself, what success looks like personally and professionally has allowed me to re enter and remain in this workspace and

Go above and beyond, like over-delivering in some areas. Um, but I remember you as being an overachiever,

What does that even mean?

It means that traditionally straight A’s are a good thing. And you went for straight A’s in the international baccalaureate program and plus 40 hours a week at a dance studio, plus, plus your X-Files on the side, I don’t know, is, is believing in overachieving unhealthy.  

Oh, that’s so interesting. I I’m remembering. So I think there’s a difference between healthy, striving and perfectionism. And I think that what you’re getting at is like, what is the point of me being an overachiever is, and I’m not even gonna use that word overachiever, cause I’m not sure that we have a clear definition. Right?  

I love that. Yeah. Let’s adjust let’s shift.  

Um, for me, I think the idea and Brene Brown talks about this the best, but she says basically the perfectionism is the 2010 shield that we carry around. And it’s the thing that says, if we’re, if we look perfect, if we do everything perfectly, if nobody can see any of the cracks that, that, then we can avoid the uncomfortable feelings of, you know, blame, guilt, shame, and all of those things. And I think for many people, and I include myself in that like pursuit of perfection becomes avoidance of those uncomfortable feelings. That is problematic. That was problematic for me because trying to be perfect in everybody else’s eyes without defining what acceptable even was in my own, um, left me pursuing everything at a hundred miles per hour with no rudder, you know, like with, with really very little direction. Now, what is healthy, striving? And how’s that different from perfectionism? I think of healthy striving as like, what is, um, what is the end goal of, I mean, the end goal of it is my own personal growth, my own personal fulfillment and my connection and relationships at work and my connections and relationships at home that is much more easy to achieve. If I know what it is I’m looking for, instead of looking to the outside to define it for me, I’ll give an example. I did an Instagram poll on this one time, but, um, I have a drawer in my fridge that I like to organize with like the sparkling water and I had organized it, um, in color. So there was like all the different La Croix. However you pronounce it, um, you know, sparkling waters and they had to be like in the right order. And I kind of asked Instagram, is this healthy striving or, um, perfectionism. And it turns out like vast majority think that that is perfectionistic and not healthy at all. They’re not wrong. Like, what is the point I used to get really snappy at my family if they didn’t, you know, unload the sparkling waters in the right order. Wow. Yeah. It’s about it turns out that wasn’t good for me.  

Oh, there’s something too. I love it. I don’t know if that’s perfectionism or simply simple pleasures. I guess the question is like, why does the snap happen? It’s like, I can really enjoy a color coded thing, but I might, I will likely not snap. If, if, if someone’s out of code, you were very close to the snap. Um, okay. So I really encourage everybody listening to take that on as like a question for yourself is what is the difference or what is your definition of achievement or overachievement? What is healthy striving and what is perfectionism? 

So, I mean, I guess the question is like, if I, in five years or you choose the timeframe, how will I know that I’ve succeeded in this thing I’ve set out to do? Like, how will I know I’ve done it right. And you got to get really granular on that. Like what, what will that look like? Is that a number of items on your resume or your CV? Like what, how, what is the definition or is it that you’ve grown and are no longer recognizable as the person you were before? Like what are the actual results specifically that will show you that you’ve been successful in your goal?  

Yes. That’s a good one. Pause right now and answer that question. How will, you know, you have achieved fill in the blank of whatever it is that you are interested in achieving. How will you know that you’ve done that? Yeah. Okay. We’ll be right back.  

I want to ask, and this is kind of broad in it. This question sparked up in me years ago and I’ve been kind of like letting it sit in the parking lot for awhile, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about this. I was in New York city at some fundraiser event and there were dance performances that were famous speakers, big people in dance, big people in performing arts, all of this event. And every other person, it seemed like that took the mic, said this work is saving lives. Dance is saving lives or dance saved my life. I am a living breathing example that dance saves lives. And I’m a very proud, I’m proud of having multiple actually family members in medicine. And I do kind of reserve that, that whole life saving thing, um, for exceptional cases. But I, I wondered what you think about that as a person who knows dance intimately has experienced it in different modes, right? As a competitive dancer, um, as an adult who simply loves to move their body, um, as a teacher, what do you think about that? Does dance save lives?  

I would never tell someone that it didn’t right. If someone believes it’s saved them, then it’s saved them.  Um, my doctor brain Is like, what does saving the life mean? Like What.. All of us are here in this one life. Um, right now this one that we’re living and continue, can dance change your relationship with yourself in this life or your relationship with other people in this life. I have no doubt. I mean, for me, dance taught me about connection. It taught me about connection with myself. Um, I mean, it’s a little cheesy, but like actually looking in the mirror every, like spending hours in front of the mirror every day for better or for worse. And I think when I was young, I didn’t know. I have, I, I struggled a lot with that. Um, but I understand myself and I’m connected with myself in a way because of dance. Um, and then also in connection. with people who I love, um, whether like it doesn’t matter, the type of dance like dance is social and communal and connecting, and that’s the whole point. So one of my overarching goals in life is to increase connectivity and connection among human beings.Does dance do that? Yes. A hundred percent.  

I agree. I cannot disagree. I cannot disagree. So why do my feathers ruffle up when I hear someone say that? Because I w I mean, we’re on the tail end of a pandemic. And everybody was saying like, this is artists. This is like a call for artists. So this is when we’ll see the best art. And  I don’t, I don’t see any paintings that cured anybody, 

But what’s your definition of the cure. So that I, maybe,  

Maybe to me, it’s like, I think that dance and more broadly art make life worth living, certainly more enjoyable, certainly funkier, but 

Way funkier It depends on your definition of saved, right? Yeah. We can get it really nitty gritty about the details. Like, I’m not sure, but I’m not sure that’s a good place to spend your mental. Like, do you  

Certainly not. Which is why I’ve had this conversation in the parking lot, not in the front of my mind, but I mean, I believe tremendously in the power of the mind body connection. And to be totally honest, part of the reason I got interested in coaching is because even still part of me doesn’t believe that the flow goes one way, like thoughts, lead to feelings, feelings, lead to actions. On paper I get down with that. I have seen somebody in this, in a dance studio be blocked physically. And then by simply explaining it different by giving them a new way to think about it. All of a sudden the physical thing becomes possible. I have seen mind be the gateway to body, but I’ve also seen body be the gateway to mind. So I do believe that that body and being physical, being dancing has tremendous life-changing power, like thought changing power. I think that dance can help to change minds. 

Yeah. I love it. I mean, does that say, I still don’t know what you mean by saving lives. 

I don’t either. I don’t, know. Heres what I think cancer and you rub a blueberry on it, it won’t go away. Just like if somebody has, if you were Greek were very Greek. Um, if just like, you know, taking a jazz class might give you that temporary dopamine hit, but I don’t, I don’t know if it saves your life. I’m not getting my, I’m not getting my thoughts across well, and that’s okay. This is a concept that I haven’t been, I haven’t been touching it because it makes me uneasy in my, my convictions, which are like dance is king and I I’m a dance, you know? Okay. 

So, but then why is that? Have to be the question. Can you stop asking the question?  Does it change lives, right? Yeah, for sure. 

Ooh. Yeah. Let’s get rid of saving all together.  Thank you. Yeah. That’s the problem. 

That’s how you’re blocked. 

That’s helpful. Yeah. Thank you for that. Yeah. It’s my pleasure. Ooh, I’m still resisting a little bit. Um, I don’t know. Do people need saving period?  

What if we are all exactly. 100%. What we’re supposed to be right now, 

Sweating from my left pit profusely. That’s exactly how I am right now. And that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. I will embrace it. Thank you for that. For that perspective shift, that was important. I really needed it. And I, as I was sitting in that seat several years ago, it was just like, no, it doesn’t. No, it doesn’t maybe tangentially. 

Who decides if it saves their life, them, not you. 

Ah, there it is breakthrough. So it was having this conversation pointless. 

No, no, no. Having a conversation with you is never pointless, 

Even if it goes in circles. Well, thank you for talking to me about that. I think it’s important. I’ll probably have more thoughts to follow up and share. 

I can’t wait. 

I think what you do is incredible. 

Thank you. Yeah. I think what you do is incredible. 

Thank you so much. That’s kind, I think you’re doing a really good job. 

You’re one of the bravest people. I know. 

Thank you. What makes someone brave? 

A willingness to put themselves out there and to stand with your back straight and holding yourself up? I don’t mean that anatomically, but I kind of do 

My bag is usually pretty sure, but my shoulders sit quite high. 

I’m saying that like I have struggled to put myself out there. I mean, I, it’s a thing that is still hard for me to do, and it requires deliberate practice and it’s not something that comes naturally or easy to me. And I’m sure it doesn’t come naturally or easy to you, but I think you’re brave because you do this, you do this work and you do so many things that touch so many people and you have your own back while you do that. And I think that that’s beautiful. 

Thank you, sissy. I think that you’re beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. Is there kind of a self gratify self satisfying when I say that because we’re related and we do kind of look like. 

I think we’re great. 

Um, and I think all of you are great as well. Thank you so much for listening today. Um, and I hope that you go out there and have your own back. Um, and I also hope that you keep it very funky. 

Keep it funky friends 

You know the tagline. I love that. All right, everybody, I’ll talk to you soon.  

Me again, wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit theDanawilson.com

for links to free workshops. And so, so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

Ep. #39 Holding the CREATIVE Space

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #39 Holding the CREATIVE Space
Either you KNOW an overactive listener, you ARE an overactive listener or BOTH!  This episode is dedicated to the importance of neutrality and HOLDING THE SPACE (for yourself, for others, and for the project!)

Show Notes

Quick Links:

The Overactive Listener by Caitlin Reilly: https://www.instagram.com/p/CEpuG81pnQs/

Dr. Katrina Ubell’s Podcast: https://katrinaubellmd.com/podcast/

Man Talks Podcast: https://mantalks.com/

In the Heights: https://www.intheheights-movie.com/


Intro: This is words that move me. The podcast were movers and shakers. Like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello. Hello, everybody. Welcome to words that move me. I’m Dana and I am so stoked that you are here. I’m stoked to be talking to you. Number one, because the subject matter of this episode is near and dear to my heart. I think it’s very important, very valuable, but number two, because right now I am talking to you from my homemade podcast booth, which I have appropriately named the pod. Um, my husband and I worked on it together. And I think it sounds really great. I dunno, you tell me, I would love to hear some feedback either over @wordsthatmovemepodcast on Instagram, or you are always welcome to leave a comment on theDanawilson.com/podcast Also, if you’re digging what you’re hearing, I’m not sure. I think, I think my listeners are pretty split 50, 50 half of you guys over listening on Spotify. And half of you are listening on Apple podcasts, but if it sounds great, if you’re digging what you’re hearing in terms of quality and content, please do leave a review and a rating. Download these episodes, keep them with you all the time. I do so appreciate it. Your reviews and your ratings help other people find the podcast more easily so it really is so, so helpful to me and to the community. Appreciate that. Um, okay.  If you’re new, let me introduce the format of the show. I usually begin every episode with wins. I think it’s really important to celebrate what’s going well in all of our worlds, especially in times where it might seem like nothing is going well. It’s important to celebrate your wins no matter how big, no matter how small. So this week I will start by celebrating my larger than a bread box size win, which is my podcast studio. I’m so jazzed about it. It feels so good. So glad to not be crammed in my closet, ruffling against items and jackets and, you know, rubbing my shins up against this awkwardly sized step stool so that I can be at the right height to reach a microphone, the pits. Um, now I am not crammed in a closet. I am actually standing very comfortably in front of a closet and inside of this awesome booth that reminds me of my husband and all of his many talents. So that is my win today. Now it is your turn. What’s going well in your world.  

Oh right. Congrats. Keep winning. I’m so proud of you. All right. Now in episode 36, the assistant, I talked about how to be and how to have a great assistant spoiler alert. There is really just one thing that you need to do on both sides. And that is have a great relationship. I actually do give some specific steps to achieving and maintaining that relationship and really all relationships truly in that episode. So if you haven’t heard it think about tuning back into episode 36. Um, in that episode, I also talk about a few of my assistant fails, like big ones, big, big learning opportunities that I share with you so that you don’t have to learn the hard way. This episode is a branch off of one of those stories. So last year in 2019, while I was working as an associate choreographer on, in the Heights, under our supervising choreographer, Christopher Scott, he mentioned to me one day, not in a good way, not in a bad way, but just as something that he noticed that I give very noticeable feedback sometimes verbally, sometimes non-verbally is it possible to do both simultaneously?  It’s true. I’ve noticed this about myself even before he said the words, but once he said it, it was like somebody had just held a magnifying mirror right up in my face and my head is nodding blatantly. Um, yeah, I, I, I do think I kind of report the news constantly with my body non-verbally and with my voice, if any of you have taken class with me, you know, that to be true, I’m a pretty vocal class taker. It’s obvious when I’m loving it. Um, and it’s obvious when I have questions. I love asking questions during class. I do try to ask them at appropriate times, but when Chris gave me this feedback, I started to notice it more and more often. I nod a lot. I smile. I grin really, really big when I’m in favor of, or in agreement of what’s going on, or I hold really, really still, if I’m not in favor of, or don’t understand exactly what’s going on.  So I started noticing, noticing this about myself and in other people a lot. And then I saw this brilliant human on Instagram. Her handle is at @hicaitlinreilly I think R E I L L Y. So that’s at H I C A I T L I N R E I L L Y. I found her thanks to my assistant and technical director, Malia Baker, Caitlin has this parody impression of the overactive listener. And I was like floored by it. I’m like, yes, this is a thing. And I have thoughts about this thing. I’ll be sure to tag Caitlin’s Instagram video in the quick links of the show notes of this episode. So if you’re interested in finding that, go to the show notes too, to check that out. So when I saw this very masterful piece of comedy, I knew that this is actually a pretty serious thing. And I have thoughts about it. Let’s dig in to being an active reactor and how to hold this space.  

Alright, Most of the relationships in your life, like the ones you have with your parents, your friends, significant others, teachers and so on and so forth are not focused on objectivity. Those relationships, typically very openly without pause, either show agreement or disagreement or approval or disapproval likes or dislikes. When I say show, I actually should say demonstrate perhaps the demonstration of agreement or disagreement is verbal. “Oh my God. Yes. Oh totally. Oh my God. Yes.” Or, “Oh God. No. Oh my God. Why would you think that? I can’t believe he just said that.” Or perhaps it’s nonverbal the shaking of a head or the crossing of arms either way, be it verbal or nonverbal disagreement usually causes discomfort that we either avoid or embrace super shout out. By the way to episode 30 with Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey, where we talked about how to disagree with people that you love.  Oh my gosh. So good. Well, all that to say, I’m learning a lot about conflict. I’m learning a lot about how my dance training can help me to see opportunity in conflict. I’m learning a lot about how to manage unwanted feelings that crop up around conflict, like guilt, regret, feeling misunderstood, et cetera, and okay, sorry. I’ve gotten sidetracked. Most of the relationships in your life are not rooted in objectivity. Most of our training tells us that it is good to agree with people and to be agreeable, and that it’s bad to disagree or be in conflict as a result. So many of us are trained into this physicalizing and verbalizing of our agreement, our approval, our being pleased and our pleasantness. And this might not be a bad thing, but there are certainly times when it isn’t the best thing to do this episode zooms out to really observe the effects of that verbal nonverbal feedback and it considers the alternatives. One in particular being neutrality, the alternative to being an overactive listener is holding the space. You may have heard of this phrase, holding the space, um, because it’s actually become a bit of a popular saying, but what does it actually mean? One of my favorite podcasters, Dr. Katrina Ubell has a great episode about holding the space. It’s episode number 157 of her podcast, weight loss for busy physicians stay with me here, and it is called holding space for yourself while you lose weight. Okay. Again, stay with me here. Don’t get distracted. Doctor Ubell’s podcast is geared towards physicians and weight loss, but the concept of holding the space can be practiced by everyone and applied to darn near any conversation. Dr. Ubell, his episode is a fabulous place to continue learning about this concept. If it’s interesting to you, and if you want to hear more after this podcast, her podcast is also an exquisite resource If you’re interested in weight loss or finding freedom in your relationship with food, yes. Even if you are not a busy physician. I think of the phrase, holding the space as kind of a modern, more specific way of saying ‘being a shoulder to cry on,’ you’re allowing a safe and open space for somebody to discuss something difficult or painful. Sometimes involving tears holding the space is a specific practice, but it’s not by any means. One specific thing that has one specific definition. To explain holding the space. I’ll describe, um, kind of a hypothetical situation here. Imagine that a friend has just gone through something awful. Perhaps let’s say they’ve lost their job. And they open up to talk to you about it. Not holding the space in that situation might look something like you saying, “Oh my God. Yeah. You and like half the country, I completely understand Trust me. Like the exact same thing happened to me. And I’ve been unemployed for like all of quarantine and I totally blindsided me. I know how you feel. I mean, I feel awful. I am right there with you and here’s what you need to do. Let me just tell you, you need to stay positive, pull up your big girl pants and like, get your resume together. You should definitely go on unemployment like now and blabity, blabity, blah,” you, you get the picture. This person may be very well intentioned, but this is definitely not holding the space. When you’re holding this space, you’re listening more than you’re talking. You’re not distracted. You’re not giving advice. You’re not making it about you. You weren’t even trying to make the other person feel better. You’re simply honoring the, they are feeling right now by listening and staying present and gently holding space for them to be exactly as they are.  

How does that sound to you? Does that sound like holding the space might be really challenging? Does that sound difficult to you? The process of keeping a neutral zone for your friend to sort of be not neutral in. Dr. Ubell describes holding the space, like holding a really big pillow, kind of with your arms out in front of you really gently, really light doesn’t require much effort. You know, kind of like the way you would hold a big empty box. It shouldn’t require much effort from the listening party, but here’s the real caveat. The real important part is that holding the space requires no effort from the other party. If you’re the person holding the space, the person in this space shouldn’t need to worry at all about holding you. In Dr. Ubell, his episode, she mentions another podcaster named Connor Beaton and his podcast called Man Talks Podcast. Connor describes holding the space as holding a metaphorical bucket for someone else to mentally and emotionally vomit into. Well, me and my seven year old humor really do find that quite appropriate. It doesn’t take much effort for me to hold this bucket for you. Go for it mentally and emotionally spew into this. High five If you just caught my Wayne’s world reference. Alright, So holding the space requires that you listen to hear people’s thoughts. It also requires that you manage your own thoughts and don’t make the moment about you so that the person in need of the bucket doesn’t need to hold the bucket for you. So that’s how you hold the space for others, but you can also hold space for yourself. This can be sticky because if holding the space is not making it about you, then how do you hold the space for you without making it about you, but it’s you, that’s in the space and you’re holding the space for you? It’s kind of a mind trick, but believe it or not, you can allow yourself the space to mentally and emotionally spew without telling yourself “Ew gross, dude, pull it together, Ugh, how could you let that happen? You’re so sloppy. Yuck.” So for me, holding the space for myself usually starts with a totally judgment free download a thought download, a thought dump or a kind of a free journaling. Usually I do this with pen to paper. Sometimes it’s fingers to keys, either way It’s a stream of consciousness writing without any judgment, whatever crops up comes out. Then I read what I’ve written and I hold the space for the person that wrote those words. I hold the space as if person who wrote those words was my best friend. I get curious. And I ask questions when it’s appropriate, I get compassionate, and I use kind language with myself. Now, whether you’re holding space for yourself or for someone else, holding space requires clean thinking. Now you’re gonna make judgments. You are a human being, and that is what we do, but it is possible that you can make judgments and set them free and get back to holding the bucket. You don’t need to use your hands to hold your judgments, use your hands to hold the bucket. It’s possible that you can make judgements and not voice them or show them physically. So now we’ve talked a little bit about holding the space for someone else and holding the space for yourself. I want to broach a new subject, holding creative space. In other words, holding space in a creative setting, be it a rehearsal, a brainstorm meeting, or even an interview. New ideas are presented as as little seeds, sprouts, tiny hatchlings, little fragile, but full of potential. Not fully formed yet, in those early stages. Ideas have no walls and they have no ceilings. And when you give a verbal yes or no, or even a nonverbal, “Oh my God, I love it.” Or “no, not quite working.” You wind up putting up walls and setting the ceiling for that tiny sapling of an idea. What happens if you just let that seed fall into the ground and hold the space while it sprouts? Yes. You can give it a little water by asking questions that reveal what it might become. Yes. You can ask it. How do I help you grow? But you don’t need to immediately claim what that seed will become. A big evergreen, a tomato plant, a basal plant. You guys all know I’m super fond of the basil. So here’s the other thing about showing your approval right away. And I’m speaking, especially to myself, as I say this, because I am actively working on this is when you respond with kind of an all in attitude at the suggestion of an idea, it can be kind of suspicious. Who in their right mind would fully agree and jump on board with something that’s not even be, that’s not even been fleshed out yet? That’s not even sprouted. You know, it, it can be a little bit concerning. In addition to that, one enthusiastic nod turns into another. That can limit the type of questions that get asked. If any, at all, speaking of nods of when somebody has presented a tiny hatchling or a thought, an idea, and you nod in approval, it’s very likely that you’re nodding in approval of what you see, not what the person has said. As the idea is new, It’s possible that they’re not even seeing it fully yet either. Now that can be risky because from that point on, you’re claiming that idea’s yours. Mine not theirs. Great not better. So how can you help hold the tiny seed, the little hatchling, the new idea and care for it as ours, not yours. How can you let it be best? Not just great, because let’s be honest. Some very early ideas are great, especially those first reaction, gut impulse, Holy cow, listen to this ideas. Yeah, they probably are great, but you might be keeping a great idea from being even better by putting your exclamation mark at the end of a sentence that could be an ellipsis. You know what I’m saying? What happens if you let it be open-ended. Now here’s the tricky part, when you’re in a creative, especially in a collaborative situation, you’re likely expected to not just hold the space, but to step into it and contribute. So one of the most important things you can do as a collaborator is check the temperature of when you should be holding space and when you should be jumping in, okay, these are the two questions I like to ask myself. The first question is, am I being asked for my opinion, if no, then keep holding the space. If yes, then go ahead and jump in. But immediately after deciding to step in to this conversation, I asked myself the second question, am I leaving room for other people’s opinions? See, even from the inside of the creative space, you can still hold space for other ideas. I like to think of this as like a swimming pool. It is definitely possible for more than one person to be in the pool. But if one person is splashing around like crazy person, then it makes it hard for other people to be seen and to be heard and to well swim. So let’s get out of that metaphor and let’s jump into another example to kind of illustrate the difference between leaving room for other opinions and not leaving room for other opinions. Let’s say that, um, collaborator A says, “Ooh, what do you think about breaking into a tap section right here?” They say, what do you think? So I’m taking that as an opportunity to share my opinion and opinion that doesn’t leave room for others might sound something like this, “sick that would be so dope. Yo, you have to get Chloe Arnold. Nobody is better than she is. It has to be Chloe. That’s it period the end.” or something like this, “maybe. Ooh, um, maybe, but they’d have to wear sneakers or something soft in their feet because otherwise we’d have to buy mics to capture the sound and then get hardwood flooring. And really that’s just a total mess. And like kind of out of our budget.” that’s an example of not leaving room for other opinions. Here’s what it would sound like if you were leaving room for other opinions, collaborator A says, “Hey, what do you think about breaking into a tap section right here?” A person who’s holding the space might say, “Ooh, I love that idea. Is there a world where it’s like kind of a golden age of film type song and dance soft shoe thing? Or I don’t know what other styles call to you?” or we could take the yes and approach one of my favorites. And if you’re not familiar with the concept of yes, and you might journey back in time to episode number 15, where my seaweed sisters and I talk a bit about our creative process and how we have kept holding the space for each other for over six years. Alright. So a Yes. And approach to an answer to this question. What do you think about breaking into a tap section? Might look something like this. “Ah, I can see that as being a super grounded and soulful moment. And could it be done with plastic cups on our feet instead of traditional tap shoes that might give it the quirk and the comedic element that is at the heart of this piece?”  I’m saying yes. And I’m contributing an additional idea. I love asking questions. Like, is there a world where, or is it possible that we and I love playing? Yes. And. Can you see how holding the space even from inside the creative space, affords that creative idea to become ours? Not mine. It leaves no pun intended a room for the idea to grow into something. Instead of committing that idea to its current state, a tiny little seed. Now, trust me, it’s easier said than done. I think it’s pretty clear the value of holding space in a creative setting, not just from the outside, but from the inside as well. One last thing I’d like to include is that you should have a plan for what you might do and say, and think if creative space isn’t held for you.  In that moment, hold it for yourself. Try not to get distracted, keep holding space for yourself, especially, but also for the room. Collaboration is really quite simple, but it’s not always easy. Trust me. It’s much easier said than done to hold the space in a creative setting. I am not a master of that, but I am committed to practicing it. And this is the great thing about holding space. You can practice literally any time, whether you’re in conversation with someone else or with yourself or in a room, creating a work. The other great thing is that the more you practice in one area, be it holding the space for yourself or someone else or in a collaboration. The better you get at all three, because they are more the same than they are different. Just like us I imagine.  

And with that ladies and gentlemen, I will bid you adieu. Thank you so much to listening. Thank you for being open to holding the space and please, as this is a concept that I am absolutely working on myself. I would love to hear your feedback about this episode, about any tricks or trials that you’ve encountered in holding space, especially in creative collaborative circumstances. Again, please leave comments on Instagram over @wordsthatmovemepodcast or leave a comment on the website, theDanawilson.com/podcast And um, let’s see what else? Oh yeah. Don’t forget to keep it funky. I’ll talk to you soon. 

Thought you were done. No. Now I’m here to remind you that all of the important people, places and things mentioned in this episode can be found on my website, theDanawilson.com/podcast Finally, and most importantly, now you have a way to become a words that move me member. So kickball, changeover, patreon.com/wtmmpodcast to learn more and join. All right, everybody. Now I’m really done. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll talk to you soon.