Personal Writing

Battered and bruised but still trying

I’m in a super vulnerable place at the moment. My work side, I guess my professional life, has taken some enormous hits of late. We were a finalist for a significant grant prize in the region and found out last week that we didn’t receive it.

The feedback I got from them was maddening. The panelists were unanimously positive about the direction we have gone as an organization, the impact we are having on the arts sector and the larger community, the tremendous growth we have seen and the very real value of my leadership. But they felt that our funding was not as secure as they wanted it to be, so they didn’t fund us. In short, we don’t have enough stable money, so they wouldn’t give us money.

I was left feeling angry and frustrated and disappointed that this particular organization just doesn’t get it or us. And maybe the hardest part is that they are a basket I keep putting personal and professional eggs in to, despite consistent rejection at the finalist level, because they are the only basket we have access to, so it’s them or nothing.

I am 4/4 in the loser game with this org. Twice rejected for myself and twice rejected for my organization. I apparently can write the hell out of myself and TAP but I can’t talk about me/it to seal the deal when it comes right down to it.

Four times I have been “this close” to $100,000+ dollars. Four times I have let myself imagine what I would do with that infusion of cash. Four times I have envisioned how I would finally feel seen and valued by my peers, my community and beyond. I have entertained what doors would open because of this validation; I have stupidly let my mind create a community where this award would open the eyes of all the people and businesses who should be supporting the arts to finally see the value and open their checkbooks.

And four times I have had to watch the announcements of 24 other people or other organizations get the praise, the money and the opportunities.

And I am battered and bruised and feeling like my absolute only option is to quit my job. It’s so bad that yesterday, I said to my mother, “I’ve got to quit my fucking job.”

Now, if you know my mother, you know how low I have gotten that I would even consider using that word with her. Just for context, in case you don’t know her, growing up, I couldn’t say geez or darn because they were a little too close to Jesus and damn. She has definitely loosened up over the years, but she would have to have become a bowl full of jello cubes before using that word would ever be acceptable.

To her credit, she said nothing and graciously accepted my immediate apology. That tells you she also knows what kind of state I am in because saying nothing is not really in her wheelhouse.

But the real thing I’m trying desperately to get to the bottom of is why I need/crave outside validation, personally and professionally. If you read my blog, you know that I declare myself to be Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way.” And I really say that with very little irony.

From the outside, I think people think I get all kinds of validation, and I suppose I do. My writing garners attention, we have won some nice awards over the years at work and people tell me that our advocacy has mattered.

I get lovely personal validation from Dr Marry (again, you’re so nice Dr Marry. I’m not absolutely sure I deserve your nearly 20 years of support, but I’m so grateful to have had it.). I get validation from my mother, but that is a kind of fraught thing–go back and read older posts if you are wondering what I mean. Or wait for my mother to comment about this one (No, Mother, that’s not a snide comment about your commenting–I like your thoughts, and my friends would fall apart if you didn’t, so keep on keeping on!).

Maybe my real fear is that getting one of these opportunities wouldn’t actually “fix” anything. The money and the initial praise would bandaid my insecurities, but you can’t put a plaster on a gunshot wound and expect that to take care of it. This is a much deeper problem in my life, and in my case, it’s also an incredibly long held belief. I’m both perfect and horrendously imperfect all the time, simultaneously.

And on one hand, I’m worn out trying to maintain the luster of gold paint over rusting metal, and on the other, effortlessly moving through life carefree, successful and blessed.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this (I just might be alone in being so willing to lay myself out there for all the world to see, warts and all, over and over again), and I’d love to hear your solutions for focusing on good v. bad, happy v. sad, positive v. negative. What works for you?

And even I’m rolling my eyes at all of this today. So I’ll go get ready for work and see what it brings. I can pretty safely bet there will be some good and some bad. I can also bet I’ll mostly focus on the bad, so for today, I’m going to take my bruised self and try to find and focus on some good. We’ll see how I do.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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