Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Public Persona/Personal Values

Most of us have something like this happen in our lives: our public persona (what we are known for at work, in the PTA, among friends, in the community, that sort of thing) is in conflict with our personal values. This can happen accidentally, with a careless remark or a decision that goes wrong, but very often we do it to ourselves.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out the right thing to do about that very scenario----my public persona is in conflict with my personal values. Some of it is related to the public role of ministry; some of it is related to the public role of the band I have started to sing with. It all has to do with my personal values around alcohol use, that it should be recognized as the potential hazard it can be, and that its use should be carefully considered. My fellow band members aren't alcoholics, we don't encourage drinking by our jokes or our behavior, but the name we started out under is "Wry Whiskey".

It's a cute name. I'm just not comfortable being a lead singer for a group called "Wry Whiskey", which has now morphed to being "Wry Whiskey and the Whiskey Chicks", with the addition of us two women. Having been married to a man for many years who put away a half-gallon of Jim Beam every few days, I'm not interested in promoting whiskey. I guess I'm also not comfortable being a "Whiskey Chick", even though it hints at my favorite group, the Dixie Chicks.

Since we have only performed under this name a couple of times, both of them sparsely attended events, it seems like it's timely to change the name to something else. So I have brought it up with the other members and most are fine with it, once I explained my reasons. There is a certain amount of protest from the guy who came up with the original name, but that's probably to be expected.

Here's what bothers me: I don't know how hard-nosed to be about this if it becomes an issue. I don't want to be a "diva" and insist on my own way. I don't want to force the issue by threatening to quit (because I don't want to quit). I don't want to be overreacting to an issue that is trivial. But it's really important to me that my public persona matches my personal values. I don't want it to be an act, ever. And I don't want to throw out the "I'm a minister and have to be careful about this stuff" line, because it's not my primary reason, though it is pretty important to me too. They just aren't very likely to resonate to it like I do.

None of my fellow band members are UUs---which I am glad about---and they all have pretty solid values themselves, as far as I can tell at this point. We are becoming good friends and I care for them. It matters a lot to me how they see me, as well.

So I don't know what the outcome will be. I think it will be okay but I am not at the point of being able to let go of it. Being challenged about it arouses my defensiveness and I'll have to examine that first. Singing has quickly become very important to me and I don't want to lose this group of friends over an issue. But I also have to come to terms with the issue.


Joel Monka said...

How about a compromise? Let him keep the original name; it is cute, and it already has some recognition- just change your half. Might I suggest "Wry Whiskey and the Whidbey Chicks"? It keeps the reference to your favorite group, yet puts some distance between you and the whiskey.

Ms. Theologian said...

I had something sort of similar happen this morning. A community member stopped to talk to me about an issue related to the non-profit board I served on, which gave me a public persona. But because I've been sued and am now bitter, I had trouble engaging in this discussion. I just didn't care to get into it.

Obviously not exactly the same, but it sort of raised the issue of how someone perceived me in a public persona, when I have stopped caring privately.

Kelly ~Faith!~ Holiday said...

Hi! You and I have not met, but I have enjoyed your blog for quite some time now. My name is Kelly Holiday. I had the good fortune of discovering your blog when I was living in Florida, and was considering moving to Whidbey Island. I made the choice to move to Redmond this summer instead, because my son will be attending Digipen in a couple years, but your blog happily remains a part of my online round.

I read your post about your conflict over your band’s name, “Wry Whiskey,” and thought I’d send some thoughts your way…
Being a mental health counselor, I know how strange, and frankly, lonely, it can sometimes be to be in the healing arts. I can’t be a counselor and be someone’s friend—it’s unethical. As a minister, it must be a slippery slope being a spiritual guide/counselor/healer, and yet still trying to find an outlet for unapologetic fun and social connection for its own sake. It sounds like you’ve found a release and a happiness with your band that puts a smile on your face and gives you great joy.

I’m right there with you with regard to the alcohol issue. After a 16-year marriage, I divorced a year and a half ago over my ex-husband’s refusal to seek treatment for alcoholism. My feelings on the issue are still raw, and I want nothing to do with alcohol in my personal life. I can spot an alcoholic now from about 50 miles out, lol.

You talked on your blog about not being compassionate with yourself. That is a classic hallmark for many in the healing arts (myself included). Others treat us like we’re super-human, so there’s no room for *being * human. We never set the bar as high for anyone else as we do with ourselves.

You also expressed the need for the jam sessions to remain a social sanctuary of sorts for yourself, away from the requirements and expectations of your life as a minister. This desire seems totally valid to me. You deserve a place where you can go, have fun, and grow your singing talent with reckless abandon, lol! You deserve a haven where you don’t have to edit yourself. I think this need is why so many of us in service of others love to travel, so we can leave “the counselor” or “the minister” at home, and just have a good time.

Speaking from personal experience, there have been a couple times in my life when I’ve sabotaged a good thing…sort of a “you can’t fire me, I quit” moment. Like many healers, I can be too comfortable with aloneness—hermit-like, almost. I used to jokingly sing, “I’m out with the in crowd…”

Our professions demand that we be near groups, but hovering slightly, “of” them but never fully “in” them--kind of like a gunfighter taking the corner seat with his back to the wall.
Sounds to me like you are blissfully immersed *in* your band! Maybe that kind of belonging is out of your comfort zone? I wrestle with this, and had this experience with a singing group. At the time, I was divorcing, and it felt incongruous to be divorcing and singing at the same time, but nonetheless, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with just being “me” and "belonging" in that group, so I left it for that comfort zone reason. So, just something to think about.

And, as a light-hearted ending to my little rant…even with my detesting what alcohol does to people...Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name… “ Your blog is Miss Kitty’s Saloon, and I’ve never, ever given that a negative thought where you’re concerned (heck, the name intrigued me!).

It’s just a fun name, and everyone who meets you via blog, or knows you in person, knows that you are dedicated to aligning what you think, feel, say, and do, and that you live an authentic life! No band name will ever be able to disguise that lovely truth about you.

Only you can determine whether the concern is trivial or not.
Regardless of the outcome, I hope you keep singing, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity of hearing you sing one day! Take care, Kelly

ms. kitty said...

Kelly, thanks so much for your wonderful wisdom and for sharing your own journey with me and other readers. I appreciate your kind words and am glad you're out here in the beautiful PNW.

By the way, I am speaking at the Woodinville UU Church on the 21st. If you feel like meeting, come on over. Service is at 10, I think.

Kelly Faith! Holiday said...

You are most welcome! :) I will absolutely try to make it to the Woodinville UU on the 21st. I'd seen the church's info online, and saw that you were involved--how nice! I'm canvassing that day too for Obama, but I'll sure give it a go at heading over your way.

Have a wonderful rest of the week,

ms. kitty said...

I'll keep my eyes open for you, Kelly!

Mile High Pixie said...

Good point, Rev Kit. On the one hand, I can see how the situation makes you uncomfortable. On the other hand, at what point are you allowed to simply indulge in what is a linguistic joke? Please let us know how this turns out.

Miss Kitty said...

Maybe you could just tell them what you've told us here? Sounds good to me.

ms. kitty said...

I'm absorbing and considering all your helpful thoughts. Thanks.

It may turn out to be a moot point, since I've been thinking about how much time I actually have to spend on this. If we are invited to do lots and lots of gigs, I'll have to think about whether I can rehearse that much. And my Sunday schedule makes it hard to do gigs on Sunday. So I am going to bring it up today when we meet and maybe I won't push for a different name, just let it slide for now.

Christina Martin said...

I think even by bringing the subject up with the band, you have honored your ethics on the subject. You've given them something to think about, and a chance to either change the name if they agree, or compromise (and I think that Joel Monka's suggestion is a very good one). If they do not agree, I think that you have done what you need to by not being silent. Your responsibility here, I think, is to do what you can, and to express what your conscience and values have urged you to express... and you've done that, regardless of how it turns out.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Christina, for your thoughts. This has been an interesting journey, for it turns out that we are having a good time figuring out a new name which represents us better. The other woman in the band, Debbie, also has her concerns that we have a name that represents our values and that we sing songs that represent our values and that if any person is uncomfortable with a song because of personal values, that person can sit out that song.

Here's the other funny thing (funny haha)----it's true that there is an obvious contradiction between my objection to the name of the band and my own blog's name and I had totally missed it until Kelly mentioned it below in the comments! DUH!

Oh well, as I blushingly admitted yesterday when we were talking about it as a group---I am a contradictory person! And I'm not going to attribute that to my astrological sign, Gemini!

Thanks to all of you for your comments.