Lessons in change power from the diva Maria Callas

The sun is out. Spring is in the air. Travel is becoming easier.

With all change, feelings of hope and thrill, and even intimidation can follow.

Don’t worry. It’s normal to face change.

Change comes in two forms.

It can be slow and gradual. Something that you imagine and aim towards and slowly put into progress, like a chill winter turning into a fresh springtime morning. It can feel quietly satisfying when it’s realized.

But most of the time, change is erratic, sudden, and painful. It can feel like a typhoon that drops you into survival mode and makes you act quickly.

Even with the best of plans and preparatory action, you never know what will come next on your journey.

And isn’t that a good thing?

How could you predict the future?

“When the curtain rises, the only thing that speaks is courage.” – Maria Callas

I left a small island for the first time in four years to come to the big city of London.

I thought I would love it, but I had all sorts of circumstances emerge that have thrown a wrench into my seamlessly open plans. I picked up an infection from some coral, along with a blood clot from the long-haul flight, and wasn’t able to walk for a good three weeks.

I spent my days at the London School of Tropical Medicine and indoors, watching a season change for the first time in years. Legs up, writing on the couch, I watched spring blossom from buds still covered in frost from out the window.

Even Spring seemed to come as a surprise and all too soon for the flora. But these buds are now in full bloom. They made it through the cold snap.

I also experienced what some would call reverse culture shock.

Have you felt this kind of change before?

It’s when you step into a place that you know, but it feels alienating and odd to be in because you feel estranged. You’ve gone through unimaginable changes while you’ve been away traveling or in a completely different environment and noticed how acutely foreign you feel in a once-familiar scene.

I used to experience it when I went on canoe trips into the Canadian forest and then returned to the comforts of the indoors after months out. I felt disoriented. And missed the outdoors. I used to pitch a hammock on the balcony so I could sleep with the stars. I wasn’t wanting a real bed and hot shower. It all felt too comfortable and easy.

I have to admit it, I hate London. I hate the cold. The big noisy city. Feeling displaced. Alone. In pain. And anonymous.

Yet, embracing the change, whether it’s incremental, unforeseen, or disorienting the familiar, is all part of life. It’s a matter of practice for how graceful that will be.

My philosophy is not to run from discomfort. It’s there to show you something you haven’t noticed before.

Take it on.

“I belong to the givers. I want to give a little happiness even if I haven’t had much for myself. Music has enriched my life and, hopefully – through me, a little – the public’s. If anyone left an opera house feeling happier and at peace, I achieved my purpose.”

– Maria Callas

Be that moody writer gazing out from a window. But that person who feels completely uncomfortable in comfort and wants to run from the city screaming.

Dive into your darkest thoughts and emotions and use them as a means to explore what truly fuels and inspires you.

As creatives, introspective communicators, and artists we also have an added superpower in these moments of change and duress.

We can turn our experiences into creative outlets, and make them into something to share, explore, laugh at, point to, and embrace.

Even when you do something you don’t like, it helps you to understand what you truly need in life. It helps you to inquire:

What is truly important to you? And what keeps you afloat?

For example, I’m currently working my indulgently sad London experience into character development for a new piece of fiction. Nothing wrong with a little drama.

You can choose to make it into a comedy or tragedy.

What sort of story will you write from your unfolding narrative?

The sudden and unexpected change also helps to jolt us back into alignment with what is important to our fundamental sense of being.

It’s easy to become complacent or start to edge towards creeping normality.

When you accept slow and often unnoticeable increments of change you might find that you are far away from a mark that you didn’t even realize. You might experience remarkable change without really paying attention to how you got there.

You might wake up one morning to find, oh, I’m living a life a swore I never would take on.

How did I get here?

A little recalibration is always useful.

When we have major life events, shocks, unexpected disappointments, grief, heartbreak, violent turmoils, and frustrations confront us, they can help us recalibrate and wake up to our situation.

Even experiencing someone else’s tragedy can serve as these important reminders.

I was lucky to come across a performance of the personal letters of the infamous Maria Callas. She was an American-born, Greek soprano who was the defining opera diva of the 20th century.

This remarkable woman went through painfully challenging moments:

She build up a musical career on her own, was blackmailed by her unsupportive and neglectful parents, endured years of emotional and physical abuse from family and her husband, and suffered wartime poverty, a devastating love affair with the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and vocal decline from sudden weight loss.

But the thing that got her through the darkest of moments, the place where no one could touch her, the aspect of herself where she would shine, was the expression of her raw and untamed voice and daringly original talent.

That was her unwavering lifeline in times of struggle.

“ART is domination. It’s making people think that for that precise moment in time there is only one way, one voice. Yours.”

– Maria Callas

She reminds us to speak. To express. To prevail. To sing.

If you are somewhere that challenges you, that aggravates you, that brings a rise out of you, that makes you feel dissatisfied, it can point you to your lifeline. Go back to your core and speak from there.

From there, you can face them head-on. You can ask:

Am I facing life bravely as it comes? Or have I been hiding in a place of complacency waiting for it to pass by?

“You are born an artist or you are not. And you stay an artist, dear, even if your voice is less of fireworks. The artist is always there.”

– Maria Callas

The way I see it, aggravation and frustration are better fuel than complacency.

If we take time to embark upon deep introspection, get to know our misery, or pain, or reaction to the unexpected, we can learn.

When we embrace our dark side and connect with our so-called negative emotions and feelings of fear and disappointment, we have something to gain.

Having some more time on my hands, I’ve had a chance to visit and explore some insightful, practical exercises to tune back into ourselves.

I’ve revisited lessons in the Out of the Box workshop by the renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He reminds us how much power and potential lie within. And how we need not fear our reactions to life and feeling displaced.

A word of caution – Rudá isn’t going to sugar-coat this experience for you.

He doesn’t paint a pretty picture for personal change or sprouts toxic positivity like so many others do. This stuff takes work and courage.

Instead, he’s going to honestly ask you to look inwards and confront the demons and difficulties within. It’s a powerful approach, but one that works.

So if you’re ready to take this first step, there’s no better place to start than with Rudá’s unique technique.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

With his contagious smile and provocative words, he reminds us that there’s nothing to fear about feeling anxious or insecure, or frustrated.

Sometimes knowing what we don’t want can garner more clarity than dreaming of what we do want.

Sometimes we have to hate what we are doing to see our circumstances or mindset with fresh eyes.

Sometimes we have to be jolted out of creeping normalcy so we can truly jump out of it.

Sometimes we have to learn how to sing and express in spite of it all.

And when you can feel more at peace and ease with unsettling change, it can be used as fuel to your fire.

What a power that is!

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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