Go make some tea. This is going to take a while.
I’m a professional. I treat my job as a professional should, and I respect the boundaries that are present between it, and my personal universe.
So ... What happens when a part of your personal life is too closely present in your professional life, and NOT by your choice?
I’ve been working this restaurant for almost three years, and for most of that time, my relationships with the patrons have been friendly, professional, and very casual … UNTIL - 3 months ago, when I started noticing a "spark" between me and a frequent customer. She shall now, and forever more be referred to as "the dog lady" (no explanation needed - she walks dogs)
It started with a late night breakfast, then a casual game night with friends ... then led to dating, and by dating, I mean - seeing her almost every day, and her coming to the club every night I played. Are you following this? EVERY DAY, and EVERY NIGHT.
Sigh ... every night.
I'm not used to my worlds colliding (Seinfeld ref.) like this, and it didn't sit well. As the weeks went on, I noticed more and more discomfort with the situation, and within a short time I was pretty sure that this relationship had no legs, so we sat on the couch, and I explained why we had to stop seeing each other. Of course, there were lots of warning signs along the way, but it was new, and I enjoyed the company. (no - she's not a redhead)
I was polite. I was honest. I didn't do it in a cowardly text. I wanted to go back to the way it was before we crossed the friendship line. She looked sad, but seemed ok with that. I expected her to eventually shy away from coming to the club, and little by little I'd get my regular orbit back ........ but, no.
She comes in the bar EVERY NIGHT. (Seeing a pattern?) She sits at the closest table to me (10 feet away), and tells everyone who'll listen about how I no longer want to see her, and how this is HER watering hole, and I have no right to expect that she should avoid coming in. I agree with that. I never suggested that she stay away. it was her hangout before I started working there, and I have no right to ask her to leave. BUT - I'm the featured performer four nights a week. The tempo, the stylings, and the song choices are an extension of my world, and my feelings. Why would she want to be in a place that is flooded with me, and my choices?
It's very uncomfortable, but I sort of asked for this, right? EXES …. UGH.
The constant trash talk, and the and the very sound of her voice makes me cringe. Customers, and servers are telling me "I'm so sorry ... this must be hard for you" ... well, it is. She's polluted my workplace with her rants, and it's such a small place, I can hear her BANSEE-LIKE tone above the music almost all night. She sits SOOOOO close.
Now, it gets interesting.
I used to use a USB disco light on certain numbers to fill the room with a little dance fever, for effect. https://smile.amazon.com/Atmosphere-Port...0978&sr=8-5
Been using it for well over a year. While we were dating, she mentioned that she gets dizzy from the light (due to vertigo), so I tried to respect this, and stopped using it ... although she never complained before we dated. It was just recently that she brought it up. Curious? Maybe.
Now that we're no longer an item, I want to put some "space" between us, and try to encourage her not sit so close to the bandstand. She never used to sit at this table before. 3 tables back was her go-to spot, and the light doesn't carry that far. YUP. I started using the light again. (is that mean?)
Here's where it gets all junior high.
She calls the OWNER of the club, and cries her case about the dizziness. The owner calls me. We sit, we talk, and we come to the solution that dog lady should sit further back, and as a courtesy, I will limit the use of the light to only the most energetic times for effect.
Later that day, the owner calls back and says that dog lady already has reservations for two more nights and she wants to keep that first table. Next week, she'll "TRY" to use the table in the back. I don't really believe her, but we'll see.
So, last night I was livid. It's very hard to be creative when your stomach is in a knot. I look straight ahead, and try to avoid eye contact, but that stinkin' table is RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME ..... Grrrrrrr ... and the banshee keeps cackling .... it's a nightmare. Still with me? How’s the Tea?
Now, some back story about me.
I have NO temper. ZERO. I hate confrontation, and whenever possible I try to judge slowly, and forgive quickly. This time it's hard to forgive at all because she's affecting my work. She's messing with my livelihood, and that's just not right. I'm sure she's trying to "stick it" to me by sitting so close, and all this could go away if she'd just shut her canine lips, and go back to her old table. (mean? nope)
There's good news .... I think.
I woke up today thinking that I need to put some space between this entire issue, and my time on stage and, you know what? I think I can. I'm not sure what changed, or if it's really any different at all, but for some strange reason - I think when I get to work tonight, I will be able to channel all my emotion into the songs. I will use the energy of the melody to mask the ugliness at table 21, and just DO MY JOB. I’m a professional, right?
I mean, for crying out loud - I don't dig ditches .... I SING for a living. I spend 4 hours a day with (mostly) strangers who are trying to dust off the cares of their day with some company, some libations, and some music. This is not a factory. I don’t do heavy lifting, or wear a hard hat.
Tonight I will remind myself of just how lucky I am to be able to support myself doing what I love, in a place that's close to home, and very steady. I will “sing” my feelings.
Thanks for reading my rant. No need to weigh in, unless you feel you need to.
I'm better now. I think I grew up a little in my sleep last night.
If I had to summarize this, and put it into a musical context, it'd be something like this:
As a performer, we are encouraged to keep a professional distance between ourselves, and the audience. If that 4th wall is breached ... rely on the tools of the trade to overcome your personal struggles, and ...
USE the music.
EMBRACE the stories.
RIDE the melody to a calming place.
SHARE your emotions with the songwriters words, and most of all ...
SHOW HUMILITY as you share your talents with the world. Music is a gift, and it must be shared to be useful. Tonight, I will be mindful of all these things, and try to follow my own advice.
Thanks for listening … now go wash your cup, and have a nice night.
(BTW - with regard to my quote ... EVERY voice is no longer my teacher. I'm trying very hard to block out the dog lady's voice)