This two-part series about mom-daughter duo, Rhonda and Diana Ross, is dedicated to Moms everywhere. Before social distancing mandates, I attended a Diana Ross concert with no idea who the opening act would be. It turned out to be daughter, Rhonda Ross. A singer/songwriter in her own right, Rhonda’s own unique style and incredible voice brought the house down. It was obvious to me that, following in her mom’s footsteps, Rhonda has the chops to make it big. But something else about this singer/songwriter captivated me. Her latest album, “In Case You Didn’t Know,” reflects her life philosophy of resilience, knowing where you hold your personal power and how they sustain you through the kind of hard knocks we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rhonda shared her personal approach to dealing with the Coronavirus anxiety in the second part of my interview.
Bryan Robinson: Rhonda, how do you spend your time on the road?
Rhonda Ross: I take my physical, mental and spiritual health extremely seriously. And I do that in all parts of my life wherever I am. One of the things I do on tour is spend a lot of time paying attention to my thoughts. I’m a thought person. When I’m public speaking, I tell a joke that I’m a power monger. I’m always paying attention to where I have power, where I’m holding on to it and where I’m giving it away. One of the places where my power resides is in my thoughts, “What am I thinking about whatever is happening in my life right now?” I’ve worked on that in my quote “time off.” I listen to spiritual teachers. I’m not a TV watcher, except for conscious watching. I can be in a hotel for two weeks and not turn on a TV. I don’t even realize it’s there. I watch very little news. I have a digital subscription to The New York Times and go there to read an article here and there. But I don’t leave the TV on loop.
Robinson: I wanted to circle back to what you said about where you hold your power because this has significance for readers struggling with COVID-19 fears and job loss in the era of social distancing, along with the mindset they take to work. Could you talk a little more about how you do that.
Ross: I’m very aware that the way I feel about something has less to do with what that something is and more to do with how I’m looking at it. We get stuck in thinking that the feeling we’re having is coming from what the thing is; therefore, we have to change what the thing is so we can feel better and not be stressed out or depressed. But that way of thinking gives me no power because I have to change that thing which is very likely unchangeable. And even if it is changeable, it will take crazy amounts of energy on my part to change it. That goes from everything from the government to my husband who doesn’t do the dishes when I want him to. I can’t change him, and I can’t change my son.
Robinson: You’re talking about your perspective.
Ross: It’s all about my perspective, so what is it about my perspective that I have control over? I have control of how I see it, how much I focus on it, how much energy and time I give to it, how much mental space I give to it. Let’s take the Coronavirus, for example. I can’t stop a global virus. So I can be stressed or scared or tense about it, which will only hurt me in terms of high blood pressure or depression and other mental and physical problems. Or I can look at the parts of it that are not as scary like how many people have recovered from it. And I can do the things in my life that help me feel in control or give me back my power. I can wipe down the phone, keep my hands clean, I can keep my immunity up. I can get sleep and drink water and make sure I’m not running myself ragged. One of the things that gives me power and control is to not think about what’s going to happen two weeks or six months from now because no one knows. I can focus in the now, be present and know that for right now I’m healthy and safe. I’m not with my son right now and there’s a feeling of wanting to micromanage his hand washing from thousands of miles away. I’m going to trust that they’re doing it. I’m going to breathe and take time to not freak out and panic. This is all to say what things can I control and what things do I have power in. When you focus on where your power is and activate things you have power over, you feel like you’re not being batted around by life. You’re not being thrown up against the wall. You get to walk in your own control, and that is huge for me whether it be the coronavirus or anything else. I’m always thinking about where my power is in this moment and where am I giving it away whether it’s to something else or to somebody else’s opinion.
Robinson: That’s so wise. Our power comes from what we do with what life brings us, because we can’t change life. I love the way you put that.
Ross: I like to think about it like a sailboat. The wind comes, but you don’t get angry at the wind and say, “Why are you coming from the north? You’re not supposed to be coming from the north!” You adjust your sails and keep going by adjusting your sails. That’s where your power is: the adjustment of how you handle what’s coming at you. I think we get into the habit of complaining about everything from the weather to our circumstances. Just the alleviation of that one habit can change how you think. Then going one step further beyond complaining is appreciating how beautiful that tree is blowing in the wind or what great color on that woman or that bird as it’s flying. You talk about something that will reduce stress, it’s walking through life with appreciation.
Robinson: It absolutely will. And it will draw others to you. People want to be around that kind of energy.
Ross: It’s true. I was laughing with my husband some years ago. We were on a flight and he was in a mood, complaining about everything. As soon as we were airborne, the seat in front of him came back but his seat wouldn’t go back, then something else didn’t work (laughs). And he was feeling everything was going wrong, but everything was going right for me. I said to him, “You came on the plane already in a complaining space, and you had a terrible flight, and I had a great flight. And I was sitting right beside you.” It has nothing to do with the objectivity of it. It’s the subjectivity of how one person can be walking through life seeing all the great and beautiful things and attract the nice people. And somebody else can be having a totally different experience. My personal belief is that the difference in your experience is tied to your thoughts, your perceptions and how much you’re complaining or appreciating.
Robinson: That’s so true.
Ross: There are times when things don’t go well for me. My first thought, instead of blaming the world for it, is to ask where my head is and how I found myself here. And I don’t even have to go back and figure it out. I can switch it right now in the moment. That’s my practice and my work all day whether I’m on tour or not. With the kind of pace and routine we have, thinking like that has allowed for everything to go smoothly. Everything I talk about is in my music. To me it’s all the same whether I’m speaking, singing or living—it’s all the same stuff.
Rhonda Ross joins Resiliency 2020 on Zoom September 10, 2020. You can register for the free live-streaming webinar at resiliency2020.com.