Acceptance or rejection: how do you react to bad news?

I will never forget when I got the picture. My husband sent me a selfie from Lookout Rock.

I looked at the picture. Shock, surprise and a sense of satisfaction.

Earlier that year, my husband had health problems: breathing difficulties, fatigue and chest pains. After several doctor’s appointments, tests and lab results, he was told he had sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is a disease that inflames the lungs, lymph nodes and other organs in the body.

The disease is incurable, but the symptoms often subside on their own. Meanwhile, the condition, when it affects the lungs, causes shortness of breath. Therefore, I was surprised when I saw the photo of a high point on protected land only accessible by hiking. The path is almost a mile long with an incline equivalent to climbing 26 flights of stairs.

But there he was, staring at a view that includes the Boston skyline, albeit with skyscrapers that appear to be less than an eighth of an inch tall. On a clear day you can see the Prudential Building and the John Hancock Tower, both over 30 miles away.

Faced with a medical diagnosis such as sarcoidosis, there are generally two reactions: acceptance or rejection.

Acceptance prompts the diagnosed person to learn to live with the symptoms. Rejection encourages the patient to defend himself.

These reactions are applicable to areas of life beyond sarcoidosis. What if your creativity was diagnosed as incurable?

You will never do a portrait again.

Your floral arrangements will never skip.

Your writing suffers from weak characters, labored plots, and sparse settings.

Your pastry becomes dark compared to other pastry chefs.

“I’m sorry, but your clothing designs offer nothing flattering, functional or fashionable.”

Too often, artists/creators/creatives get carried away by criticism as if it were a diagnosis of a disease.

  • We cling to negative comments.
  • We focus on our shortcomings, missteps and weaknesses.
  • We barely hear the praise.

What if we looked for ways to make our own diagnosis and choose our own destiny? What if we created our own remedy?

My husband told Carole, a business acquaintance and someone I consider a friend, about his diagnosis. She had worked as a nurse practitioner, so her medical advice was valuable.

But it was his personal connection to a family member who also suffered from sarcoidosis that really mattered.

“The best thing to do,” advised Carole, “is to exercise. My brother also has sarcoidosis in his lungs. He found that moderate to heavy cardiovascular and aerobic exercise made him breathe harder and his breathing capacity improved significantly.”

Wayne learned from a real person that real results could be achieved not by taking drugs and sitting down and accepting the diagnosis, but rather by devising workarounds.

How can the artist/creator/maker critically assess their work and reverse that criticism?

Originality often seems bizarre at first glance.

The first time I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show was February 9, 1964. My sister and I watched the Fab Four, with their long hair, heard the screams of the girls, and listened to their unusual sounds.

I remember going out and discussing their sweeping performance.

I was only five years old. But I had an opinion. What does a small child know about music? Or fashion? Or hairstyles? My reaction? Shock! Maybe even disgust. Definitely confusing.

A few years ago, Kathy Brodsky, a children’s book author and licensed clinical social worker, told my class about her work. Brodsky writes stories about physical differences, challenges and integration. She writes rhyming couplets in an easy-to-follow, lyrical cadence, and I think it helps children learn to read.

During our class, she shared a personal story. She was sitting with a group of agents, publishers and other authors. A woman in the circle made a face as Kathy read her book aloud. Kathy confronted the woman after the meeting and admitted that her unpleasant expression had bothered her. The woman said, “I am only one person.

Brodsky is an award-winning author. People to like his stories. Her rhyming lyrics might not be for everyone, but what if she took that person’s frown as a diagnosis of her work? What if she had given up?

Unpleasant diagnoses can shed light on a catalyst for future growth and success.

Design your own exercises to use the negative as an opportunity to reinforce your artistic creation.

Like my husband, Wayne, climbing to the top of a small hill, you can achieve your dreams one step at a time. And, like the first time Wayne climbed the hill, you may need to stop every few yards and pause to catch your breath.

Keep on going. The world deserves to see your art!

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