Category Archives: healing
Sometimes, in the process of navigating your life, you look up and realize you’ve passed a bunch of waypoints without even really noticing.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: I realized that I needed to update my dance resumé, which pretty much made me laugh out loud, because I’ve come a really long way in less than one year, and I totally failed to notice.
In short: this year, my life has suddenly taken off.
Or … well. It feels sudden, but when I think about it, it really isn’t.
(moar behind the cut; it’s long)
I was on the fence about going to class today, as I woke up feeling foggy and congested.
I went anyway, and was glad of it, since two guys who came for a few weeks last year were in class. They’re both very good, and really quite nice. Sadly, they’re only in town for a week this time—they’re both professionals, and they spend most of their time on tour.
Either way, it was nice having them in class. They’re both good examples for me: relatively muscular guys who dance really nicely. I wanted to tell the taller of the two that he’s basically my hero right now, since he, like me, is built for big, powerful jumps, but is actually really quite good at petit allegro. He makes the small, finicky jumps look pretty freaking great.
Fogginess notwithstanding, I found myself surprisingly able throughout barre, adagio, and turns. BW’s class has proven to be the biggest help to getting me through Killer Class: BW gives me physically demanding fondus, makes me use all my turnout, makes me get my legs up as high as I can and then hold them there, etc.
I did get weirdly woozy at one point during grand battement. I’m not sure if I was holding my breath, or if my blood pressure just dropped through the floor for no reason, but it was weird. The last time that sort of thing happened, I was definitely holding my breath during a long cambré back (in BW’s class, of course) and almost fainted. Wooooooo.
I was also not too terrible during petit allegro, although I kept blanking on a part of the third combination that should’ve been obvious.
I actually did royales without substituting entrechats. I may be the only person alive who learned entrechats before royales, and whose body thus stubbornly persists in refusing to acknowledge the existence of the royale.
It was Killer B’s demo that fixed me: I’ve been thinking of a royale as a sort of half-baked double beat (like an entrechat that’s slow to wake up, or something), but if I think of it as a squeeze-change, I don’t then end up doing an entrechat quatre and thus finish on the wrong foot.
Or, well, I don’t finish on the wrong foot unless I start on the wrong foot, which is always a possibility.
Killer B gave us a long, beautiful grand allegro. Predictably, I landed a pas de chat not terribly well (I was trying not to run into a railing at the edge of the studio), my toe started kvetching at me, and I had to stop.
Or, well, I didn’t have to stop. I could have kept going … only I’ve realized that this toe isn’t going to finish healing until I stop pissing it off all over again. Sometimes you give up the grand allegro for a bit, even though it’s the thing you really love, so you can get back to doing grand allegro without having to bail a third of the way through the nicest grand allegro combination you’ve seen in ages (there was a cabriole and everything!!!).
I thought about getting back up there and hitting the repeat on the grand allegro, but I didn’t. I think that was probably the right decision, particularly since grand allegro is really my strong suit as a dancer and I’m not really losing a great deal by sitting it out once in a while.
Anyway, it turned out to be a much better class than I expected, considering the slow start this morning. Now I’m off to dance team, then probably home for the evening. Last night I was hit with a gigantic wave of fatigue at roughly 8 PM, so between that and the fogginess and the vaguely-itchy throat (and the performance this weekend), I’m taking a conservative approach to physical stuff today.
But first, Cabrogal over at Neurodrooling turned me on to this really insightful post(1) about how maybe there’s a different lens through which we could possibly view bipolar, which hooked in rather directly to a lot of other stuff D and I have been talking about a lot lately.
- Potential content warning: it deals with with the with the idea that perhaps mental illness isn’t really even the right model. Some readers might feel like this invalidates their struggle, and that is a totally okay way to feel. There was definitely a time not too long ago when I would’ve felt that way. If you’re there right now, you might want to skip this particular link for now.
Okay, moving right along.
I’ve been at this adulting thing for a while. I’m slowly getting, like, less bad at it—much more slowly, I am forced to admit, than I expected, and also more slowly in some ways than seems to be typical.
I’m pretty pretty sure that’s okay, though.
We all live in our own timelines and on our own time scales. I come from a family of people who mostly live a really long time and often seem to take a while to figure things out. I’m also pretty sure that dealing with some major trauma (or, more accurately, not dealing with it for a long time) set the clock on the process of reaching a kind of functional maturity back by ten years or so for me. For a long time, I was stuck being 14 and severely traumatized.
Yesterday I wrote a G+ post about how I’ve learned to deal with D’s dietary preferences. Backstory on this: historically, he has been pretty into Southern “comfort foods”and sweets and not at all into veggies, and since I can’t eat that way and stay healthy and I’m morally opposed to cooking two separate meals all the time, I’ve had to find a middle way.
The analogy that came to mind was that our life together isn’t a tandem bike ride; it’s just a regular bike ride. Sometimes I get up the hills faster than he does because I like climbing on the bike. That’s okay. He still gets up the hills at his own pace, and I am okay waiting for him at the top(2).
- In real life, I used to do a lot of riding ahead, then descending back to my friends, then riding ahead, until I figured out that too much of that makes you look like an annoying show-off.
Sometimes we even take a different route, either because he doesn’t feel like climbing or just for fun. That’s okay, too. At the end of the day, he rides his bike and I ride mine. I can influence the route we ride, but can’t ride his bike for him, and the funny thing is that we both enjoy the ride more when I don’t try to ride his bike for him.
Anyway, I’m slowly realizing that same analogy applies to other things, like adulting.
Maybe I’m not getting up the climbs as fast as other people—hell, tons of people my age have responsible, well-established careers—but I’m still on the road, pedaling along.
I’m way behind the group I started with because an asshole threw a stick into my spokes early on, and I had to scrape myself off the tarmac, and then I got lost for a while when looking for a shop to help me fix my wheel.
That’s okay, too. I’m back on the road now; the one I want to ride. And, honestly, if it hadn’t been for for the asshole who broke my wheel, I don’t know that I would’ve ridden my own road. Having lived through something that really shattered my whole life early on has made me both unable and unwilling to struggle through a life that doesn’t fit(3).
- No judgment implied, by the way, towards the folks out there doing exactly that. Sometimes you have to live the wrong life in order to get to the right place—just like road work happens and sometimes you have to take some crazy-ass detour to reach a treasured destination. I admire people who have the strength to do that.
Anyway, so yeah. I feel like I’m learning things now that, in retrospect, should have been obvious—things maybe other people learned way earlier.
One of them is that being a grown-ass married adult doesn’t stop you from developing intense and enduring crushes on people you admire.
Not that I subscribe to the philosophy which dictates that marriage should make you blind or you’re doing it wrong. Honestly, part of being human is admiring other people—ideally, people who are worthy of admiration, and not giant self-aggrandizing dicks. Sometimes those people will also be hot and kind and insufficiently whatever-it-is-that-prevents-crushes-for-you(4).
- For me, it’s a certain flavor of authority: I have never had a crush on a boss or an academic teacher or advisor; that feels too much like crushing on a parent. It’s like, “Squick, and also, no.”
Sometimes, you will develop an uncomfortable and enduring crush on someone with whom pursuing a relationship would be a Bad Idea For Reasons even if you were single, or if you were poly and sure they were fine with poly relationships.
Sometimes, regardless of your best efforts, you will go on crushing on said Amazing Person no matter what. It will be weird, but you’ll stick it out, because regardless of the fact that the person in question “makes (your) heart kinda flutter; makes (your) eyes kinda blur,” it it is really good to have them in your life anyway.
Nobody ever told me that, so I’m passing it along.
It is also possible that living with such a crush might sometimes be as wildly uncomfortable as, say, crushing on your best friend or lab partner or Lofty McPerfecthair was in high school.
Part of you might still desperately want to lay your absurd crush at their feet in hope of (chaste) validation; in hope that they will say, “No, if things were different, we would totally happen, and it would would be awesome because you’re amazing and also really hot.”
Part of you might desperately hope they never find out, because it would wreck you at least a little bit if they were like, “LolWut?” and a lot if they were like, “Yeah, um, this feels too weird. I’m outies,” and even more if they told
all the cool kids your peers or colleagues about you and your ridiculous crush(5).
- Which, of course, leads to the feeling best identified as, “If s/he ever finds out, I’ll never be able to set foot in the coffee shop/studio/office/chemistry lab again! I will have to move. TO ANOTHER PLANET.“
So you endure, trying to figure out how to make yourself stop having a crush, because it would totally be super weird for everyone involved if Awesome McDreamyface ever learned The Awful Truth(6).
- By the way, this is powerfully amplified by the conditions of dance and circus arts, wherein we interact at close quarters in our fancy underwear and touch each-other a lot. Perversely, these exact conditions, coupled with the inevitable admiration and hero worship involved in doing difficult things with other humans, all but guarantee that dance and cirque are first-rate Crush Incubators.
Nobody told me that, either.
Like many socially-challenged people, I’ve learned a great deal about How to Human from fiction.
In fiction, though, conflicts kind of have to resolve. Nobody(7), to my knowledge, actually writes about the poor, happily-coupled schmuck who goes on having an awkward crush and never speaking of it and not even being a total creeper about it(8).
- Maybe I should? This seems like a topic that Anne Tyler might handle well, so maybe I should just send her an anonymous note suggesting it?
- Creepers be like: “I punched him in the face because he never should have said that purple isn’t your color! He doesn’t deserve you! You deserve someone better!!!” *suffers in deafening silence* “Also I made you this scarf. I knitted it from from my own hair.” Silently, to self: …Which I have shorn, mourning the great love between us that can never be. Oh, why will you never see how much I love you?!
Come to think of it, “Making peace with yourself; learning to go on being friends happily in spite of The Most Awkward Crush,” probably is a valid resolution, so maybe I’ve just missed that book, but if it’s out there I haven’t heard of it. Maybe if I’d read more in the “Written Rom-Coms” or “Touching Stories of Friendship” genres, I’d have encountered this idea earlier.
Anyway, I’m filing this with Things That Don’t Automatigally Fix Themselves When You Turn 18 (0r 21, or when you graduate from university, or possibly ever). If I come up with a solution, I’ll let you know. If you have any suggestions,
please please please for the love of of all that is holy feel free to leave them in the comments. If you’ve had similar experiences and want to to leave those in the comments, that’s awesome too (even if you, too, are right this very moment in the throes of The Most Awkward Crush and haven’t the faintest idea how to deal).
The other one that’s grinding my gears right now is the thing about being afraid that
the other kids in your class project group your colleagues, with whom you’re working on a group project dance that you’ve choreographed, secretly would rather do something else and wish you would stop bothering them and are only working with you because your English teacher is forcing them to out of pity.
I kept feeling weird about inviting dancers to work on my piece, and then feeling weird again when trying to schedule rehearsals—like I was imposing upon them or something.
I finally figured out, as a by-product of realizing that I was afraid that no one would come if I threw a party, that I am still convinced in some level that people just kind of tolerate me because they have to, but aren’t willing to tell me.
Basically, it seems that I’m still convinced that, once people realize how much I suck, it will be just like middle and high school again. No one will want to hang out with me or participate in my projects, because I don’t really know How To Human.
I think, though, that maybe grown people—some grown people, anyway—figure out how to get along with the socially awkward weirdos of the world and how to be more comfortable with their own Inner Weirdos. And I hope that they learn to say no instead of agreeing to work on the project and then fervently hoping they really won’t have to.
So after the difficult and awkward Nobody Told Me That…,there’s this one. Nobody told me that I’d still feel just as certain of rejection now as I did in middle school. The upside of this one is that I think I know how to approach it, now.
For me, the best way to deal with something scary is to run right towards it. Sometimes I can’t yet, but I think I’m ready to run straight towards this piece of of this problem. The work I’m trying do as (I guess?) an artist isn’t going to get done any other way. It doesn’t matter how great my ideas are if they stay locked in my head as I sit here doing doing the equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming to trip over me and decide to marry me on the spot(9).
- My inner cynic is picturing Prince Charming saying,”Well, now we’re lying here on the ground together, so I guess we had better get married, because people will talk.”
Given my past and the fact that I’m both shy and still a little fragile in the self-worth department, I’m not going to say Go Out There And Grab Your Dreams By The Balls!
… Because, let’s be honest, that’s not what I’m doing at all.
Nope, instead, here’s what I’m trying, and maybe what I recommend if you’ve got big dreams and you’re afraid they’re gonna kick you in the face, hard:
Get out there use binoculars to spy on your dreams. And then when you start to get a feel for their habits, maybe get a little closer. Then a little closer still.
And then kind of follow them around, so you maybe just seem like a particularly persistent tumbleweed or some other part of of their normal environment.
And then integrate yourself into the herd of dreams, and over time get a little closer and a little closer until you’re standing around next to your dream, pretending to graze (because you definitely don’t want it to suspect anything).
And then eventually lean on your dream and later maybe skritch that one spot right behind its ears, to make friends.
And then sort of wriggle yourself up on its back a little, like you’re just another dream and just cuddling.
And then when it doesn’t even worry about that, just kinda slide up and throw a leg over, and hope that it’ll just just be just be like, “Oh, no problem.”
And then stay up there and ride.
Then if you do fall off and get kicked hard in the face, it’s 100% cool to lie there and lick your wounds for a while.
I guess what I’m saying is that, even where dreams are concerned, you’ll get up the hill when you get up the hill.
And that’s okay.
Content and language warnings on this one. Sorry, guys.
I’m in a weird place right now.
On one hand, I’m doing better than I have at this time of year in a while.
Fall and winter … okay, and spring … are hard for me. The whole range is loaded with difficult memories, and winter does all kinds of crazy stuff to brain chemistry. Crushing depressions studded with dizzying manias are more or less the norm.
While late summer is potentially the most dangerous season—that period when any Summer Mania shifts into agitated depression—but the winter is full of a trifecta of suck: crappy health, crappy brain chemistry, and really effing bad memories.
This year, I’m having less general trouble with the brain chemistry than usual. I’m not going to say that I’m not depressed; I am probably at least a bit depressed in the neurochemical sense. On the other hand, dancing and cirque-ing and having an actual supportive network of friends in meatspace helps, as does getting the house back in order and baking a bunch of delicious stuff all the time. Seriously, you guys, when something I cook makes D happy, the effect is weirdly magical.
Because of cirque, Winter Ballet Break doesn’t mean an abrupt halt to all the physical activity that helps keep the volume of the peaks and troughs in my brain chemistry a little lower.
I’m putting the rest of this behind a cut, y’all, partly so you have a choice about it, but also partly because it makes me feel less weird about writing about it.
I wrote on Friday about gratitude, and also about the company of fire ants living in my throat.
I was in denial. I knew that the fire ants (which had first made themselves known on Tuesday) were probably the opening salvo in the battle with another respiratory infection, but for various reasons, I didn’t want them to be.
I didn’t want to acknowledge the nature of my fire ants because, frankly, it’s frustrating to be sick.
Health-wise, for me, this has been a phenomenally good year. I have gone months at a stretch without getting seriously ill. I have recovered from things more quickly than I expected to. I have actually had a couple minor viral illnesses that didn’t lead to secondary infections.
When I put it like that, though, it feels like a pretty low bar.
I’m a bit of an anomaly — or, rather, I’m something that America’s approach to health, which remains firmly rooted in Puritan ideals, doesn’t know how to place. On paper, when I’m not ill, I seem pretty robust. Tons of exercise, good basic diet, excellent vital stats. Allergies and asthma, of course, but I live in the Ohio River Valley. I have even mostly learned to listen to my body, my wonderful and obedient body that will allow me to push it ludicrously, when it asks me to rest.
According to the American ideal, I should be and stay as healthy as a horse (which, frankly, is an idiom that can’t have been coined by a horse person). But I’m not, and I don’t.
I am still someone whose immune system, for reasons nobody understands, just isn’t that great. I catch things that are, for other people, innocent little colds, and they go rogue. I am terribly prone to secondary infections. I get sicker than other people and I take longer to get well.
It’s worse when I don’t take care of myself or acknowledge the limitations that circumscribe my choices (I can ride my bike hard in cold weather if I’m willing to pay the price in terms of respiratory problems that inevitably lead to infections; I can adopt a schedule that approaches typical American busy-ness if I’m willing to acknowledge that my immune system will respond by going on strike).
But it is what it is even when I’m doing everything I can to take care of myself. This is my reality.
This weekend I talked with Denis about some of the ways in which I’ve historically felt conflicted about my body, and how I’m beginning to understand that I need to stop looking at it from a dualistic, one-or-the-other point of view.
Maybe the same can be said for my health.
Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of it as either-or, and start thinking of it as and.
Like, maybe I should take care of myself as best I can, enjoy the periods in which I stay well for an unusually long time, and gracefully accept that I’m still going to be prone to infections that will, from time to time, knock me flat for longer than they should. Maybe I should try to accept that one does not invalidate the other, and to be kinder to myself about all of this.
As a dancer, it’s hard to accept any of these conditions. As a dancer, and as a human being, I find it easy to accept my gifts and hard to accept my handicaps.
One set of conditions propels me forward; another holds me back. I am inclined to forget that this trade-off is universal — everyone’s tally sheet has entries in both columns. Maybe my peers in the studio don’t have immunity challenges that can keep them from dancing for weeks at a time, but they have other struggles. Maybe those struggles don’t affect their lives as dancers, but they hit somewhere.
I feel like there’s a profound lesson in not clinging to phenomena here — both in the sense of not clinging to the phenomena of health or illness and in that of not clinging to the phenomenon of dancerness. I’m not sure how how to put those thoughts into words, though.
We live in a culture that treats illness like it treats fatness — which is to say, as a question of moral failure.
People who rarely or never get sick tend to announce that status with a kind of prideful tone that suggests that they are somehow morally superior, even if in the same breath they say, “…and i don’t do any of that health-nut BS,” and scarf down a Whopper and half a bag of Cheetos. People like me, on the other hand, and regarded with a degree of suspicion, even (maybe especially) if our lifestyles should produce unequivocal good health.
When I find myself forced to explain that I get sick easily and that my immune system just kinda doesn’t do its job very well, I almost always receive a bunch of advice about what I “should” be doing to fix it. I get get tired of explaining that I’ve basically tried everything; that, yes, it’s worse when I don’t take care of myself but it’s never going to be normal; and that much of what people suggest is complete crap founded in pseudoscience (I do try to be polite about that).
I get tired of explaining why n=1 makes a great basis for an anecdote but a poor basis for an axiom. I get tired of re-asserting the fact that neither goji berries nor a strict Mediterranean diet will “cure” me.
I get tired of the implicit and usually-unexamined assumption that anyone who isn’t a shining paragon of good health probably just just isn’t trying hard enough, or isn’t trying the right things. Sometimes that may be true, but often it’s not.
My crappy immune system isn’t the result of poor habits or poor morals. It’s the result of poor genes — with the caveat that the same set of genes that saddled me with this burden has also given me the gifts of talent, strength, flexibility, coordination, off-the-chart spatial processing, a powerful musical sense, and the intelligence to use all of those things to make art.
This, by the way, keeps me humble.
I know that my crappy immune system is not a question of effort or a measure of moral turpitude. By that same stick, I can see that the things that make a good dancer are, likewise, random gifts. Morally speaking, they do not make me a better person. In fact, morally speaking, they have sometimes made me a worse person — a less compassionate person; a more self-aggrandizing person. Thank G-d for crappy immune systems and for ballet, both of which are really good at teaching us humility when nothing else will.
I try to make the most I can out of the gifts I’ve been given, but sometimes the things in the “debit” column get in the way. I suspect this is true for most of us.
Most of us are just muddling by ,trying to do the best we can, fairly often saying to ourselves about about many things, “There, but for the grace of G-d, go I…”
On which note, I’ll close, because I’m hoping to go back to sleep for an hour or two.
I’m still working my way through this particular thicket, though. More later, perhaps.
One last responsibility before I can throw myself into the Sea of Sleep (which I hope will receive me more readily than it did last night!) — class notes!
It was good good to get back to class tonight; to the thing in my life that’s my Normal.
Also good and terrifying to be not just the Onliest Boy (totes normal) but the Onliest Student (first time ever.
I’ve done a ton of accidental semi-privates with BB, but have literally never, ever taken a private dance class before (oy, vey — here comes the thing in my head that warps lyrics to effect up Tina’s classic). Fortunately, I am apparently all out of panic at this point (had a good bit harrowing therapy session today), and just sort of calmly accepted the fact that it was All Me, All the Time with the dude who is my local Ballet Crush (in the sense that he’s the dancer I want to be when I “grow up”).
Anyway, we put in an hour at barre, some of which was super hard — I finished fondu (which was not terribly hard or long) puffing like a steam train and sweating like a race horse. My body is definitely enforcing its right to use its resources for and. Woooow.Normally, the fondu that BW gave me would have been somewhat challenging; tonight, it was flat out hard. Oh — and the frappé that ended with an 8-count long fondu à la seconde. Eight slow counts long, that is.
Not gonna lie —I was not strong enough tonight to support that without the barre.
BW has a lovely way of shaping things — tonight he said, “You know, your passé is lovely, but I think you could get it even higher and a little more open and it would really show off your turnout.” (Because evidently your humble Danseur Ignoble be turnt.)
I tried it — basically, continuing to fold and lift and rotate the working leg until (avant) the toe rests just above the adductor tubercule or (arriére) just behind the same point, but crossed in a little more —and it worked. I did literally the best-looking passé in the history of my life as a dancer tonight The best part, though, is that this forces my turnouts to remain kicked on and do their freaking job, which makes the passé balance both more stable and less effortful.
Often in long passé balances, I feel like I’m fighting to keep the turnouts of my supporting leg from taking their coffee break. BW’s adjustment solved that problem for me. My supporting leg leg kind leg kind of *has* to stay on the clock at that point, so it does. Go figure.
Anyway, I also identified the source of my ongoing issue with waltz turns — I sometimes fail to execute the initiating movement as a sort of tombé simultaneous with a brush of the opposite foot. Instead, they become separate movements, turning a 3-beat step into a 4-beat step and tangling your feets.
Come to think of it, the fact that we did a center tendu (to work on body facings, my current white whale) that involved a tombé-brush going both forward and backward probably helped. Priming ftw!
Anyway, I managed to make it through to the end of class even though my brain kept failing to retain combinations. Doxycycline tends to make make me foggy, so whilst I’m recovering at a nice clip, my brain is still like, “Wait, whaaaaaa? Howza go again? Izzat a turn or a wut?”
I also learned that double turns with an ear infection are possible but, um, weird. Like, the first revolution and spot feels fine, but in the second one, the inner-ear disruption catches up, and it starts to geek like your small craft has just hit heavy seas.
This is especially true of the combination ends with tombé, pas de bourré to fourth, turn; tombé, pas de bourré to fourth, turn. Oh, and the music had time for quads, at very least, so I was doing slow doubles, which left plenty of time for the invisible ocean to try to capsize me.
One more bit of awesome news. Today a very dear person who I love so very much reconnected with me, and that made my heart so very happy. PapaBear, if you’re reading this, you know who you are. I’m so glad glad you’re back in my life. This was just just the right ray of light and hope at just the right time (and helped me be brave enough to talk with my therapist about the very dark and scary stuff that is finally time to start working on).
So thanks to PB and Robert and to the Great I Am for that.
In spite of everything, for me, today has turned out (ha ._.) to be a good day.
… Or, okay, yes, but really only whinging a bit 😉
I saw the nurse-practitioner (you guys, autocorrupt suggested MURDER practitioner! W… T … Actual … F?! o_O’) at my doc’s practice today.
She confirmed that I have a sinus infection and also a wee ear infection, which explains why it sometimes feels like the spirit level in my head is borked.
I’ve been handling this thing very conservatively — actually resting basically all the time, staying clear of strenuous activities (except for the part when I decided to be helpful and uninstall two of the three window aircons in the house by myself, which I did successfully, but which knocked me onto my backside). On the balance, I think it has paid off. In the past, my sinus infections have often progressed into bronchial infections by the end of a week and change, so the fact that this one had constrained itself to the confines of my head is comforting.
I’ll be taking doxycycline for a week and I’ve got a script for plain 12-hour psuedoephedrine for a while, so that should get me sorted and back to the studio.
I may attempt Killer B’s barre tomorrow, but I may not. It really depends on my balance and energy level. Today I am definitely listing to port (and not just politically speaking, though I did go and vote), so that’s a huge if. I might also hit up Trap 3 tomorrow night as a semi-spectator, but I don’t want to pull out all the stops right away. I have figured out that easing back into things is part of the deal for me.
On the upside, my blood pressure was stellar (110/56) and my heart rate was fine (75, which is lower than it often is in doctors’ offices, because I am still mildly stressy about being in them, which can be weird and hard and awkward if you’re an intersex person).
So things look doable.
Now I’m going to lie around and watch stupid movies and otherwise bury my head in the sand until the US General Election is over, at which point my friends will tell me whether it’s safe to come out or I should start burrowing a tunnel to Canada. Except by then I’ll probably be asleep.
In other news, I’ve been reading horse blogs, which reminds me how much I miss having horses in my life, which is why I avoid horse-related content.
A long time ago, my Step-Dad said to me, “You won’t be able to keep eating like that when you get older.”
At the time, it pissed me off. I was like, What does he know? Who is he to tell me how I can and can’t eat?
And, in point of fact, there were a lot of things he didn’t know — which, if we’re really honest with ourselves, is pretty normal even for parents who live with their kids, and my Step-Dad wasn’t living with us yet at the time (in fact, he wasn’t even officially my Step-Dad yet, though he’d been in my life for several years by then). Kids are independent beings — the more so they older they get — and while it’s important to know the important stuff, it’s impossible to know all the stuff.
If I remember correctly, I was working my way through an entire stack of Saltine crackers, rabbit- (or possibly typewriter-)style: gnawing my way horizontally across the cracker, then back the other way, until each cracker was gone.
Basically that’s what I lived on during the day — Saltines, ramen noodles, Chunky soup, sometimes hot dogs, the occasional grilled cheese sandwich(1).
- True story: it took me until I was like 18 to figure out that if you put butter in the pan or on the outside of the bread, your grilled cheese sandwich will taste a bazillion times better. I persisted in not understanding this even though I regularly ordered clam rolls or hot dogs at Friendly’s largely because I loved what they did with the buns. Apparently, I imagined that this was some kind of unknowable Restaurant Magic. Seriously, childhood self: WTF?
I mean this, by the way, more or less literally. This was during a long stretch (read: my entire life) during which I found it nearly impossible to fall asleep before 2 AM and thus rarely woke up with enough time to eat breakfast; during which, to compound matters, I found most of the offerings of my school’s cafeteria singularly inedible (okay: in fact, I had never found school cafeteria food at all edible). Had it not been for the deli cart that sold little sandwiches on Kaiser rolls, I would have eaten literally nothing during any given school day.
So, basically, I would come home and shove Saltines (or ramen, or Chunky soup, or hot dogs, or… and almost always or rather than and, by the way) into my face because I was more or less starving. But, of course, my Step-Dad didn’t know that. He came from a world in which kids eat breakfast at home and lunch at school and maybe a snack in the afternoon. He had no way of knowing that one of those things wasn’t happening at all and the other was happening, but inadequately.
And I had no way of explaining any of this, because it was all just normal to me. I didn’t think there was anything weird about the fact that I never managed to fall asleep before 2 AM, for example — that’s just how it had always been. Your own normal is your own normal, and as a kid it’s not always easy to tell when your normal, like, maybe isn’t.
Normal, that is. It’s still yours.
Anyway. I digress.
So, basically my immediate response, because I’m a hot-headed little prick and frankly it tends to be my go-to, was anger. I did not welcome what felt like unfair and undue criticism from someone who still, at the time, seemed like an interloper(2).
- This wasn’t, by the way, his fault: I think he did a very reasonable job, under the circumstances, trying to integrate into a family in which it is both fair and actually pretty accurate to say that the kids had more or less been raised by cats up until then. In case you’re wondering, cats don’t do a great job teaching you how to human. I love cats, but in some ways they make lousy humans. Anyway, my sister and I weren’t having any of it.
In fact, all I heard was unwelcome criticism. I didn’t hear the part that went unsaid: that this guy, in fact, actually cared about me.
The content of the message, of course, is debatable in 2016, in a world in which we’re beginning to see the question of body diversity very differently than we did when I was 12 or what have you … though I suppose a steady diet of Saltine crackers is probably less than ideal from a nutritional perspective, at any rate.
Even in the last few years, we’ve really begun to rethink the way we approach nutritional issues with kids (if not, sadly, so much with adults). We recognize that, in a world already rife with soul-destroying messages about size and weight, we have to be really thoughtful about how we talk to them about food and body size and everything in that whole arena.
So surely there could’ve been a more body-positive way to have that conversation — one with a little more “Hey, Saltines are great, but you could probably use some hummus or something to go with them so you don’t get scurvy, because scurvy is going to make gymnastics/skiing/horsebackriding/dancing pretty hard,” and a little less, “Whoa, there, buddy — you’ve gotta learn to slow down, or you’re going to get fat when you’re older,” with all its unspoken implications about the validity of fat bodies.
But, at the end of the day, cultural baggage notwithstanding, there was that other, more important message — the one that’s so hard to hear, so much of the time, when the people who love us offer what they very sincerely intend as constructive criticism.
It’s the message that goes, “Hey, I want you to be healthy and happy, because I care about you, and I want you to avoid these pitfalls that I’ve fallen into myself.”
Things have changed a lot in the intervening years. My Dad died when I had just turned eighteen. My Step-Dad was an unexpected ally: he understood my hurt, my anger, and why I wandered around wearing my Dad’s Air Force jacket all the time. My Mom and Step-Dad married when I was nineteen (like so many other important events in my life, including my own birth, that involved a major blizzard: does anyone wonder why I scheduled my own wedding for May?). My sister and my Step-Dad reached a detente, then an accord.
I realized, most importantly, that my Step-Dad makes my Mom happy, and that they work well together, and that, in the long run, that’s what matters.
We are still a family that talks in ellipses; a family in which so much is left unsaid. After a while, you learn to kind of hear between the lines. You figure out that, sometimes, “Hey, you should put something warmer on,” really means, “I love you; don’t get frostbite.” That, sometimes, the Yankee stiff upper lip makes it hard to pronounce the words.
Not to say that everything’s perfect now. On our trip to Marco Island, I was kvetching about my eternal nasal congestion and how it makes sleeping difficult, and Step-Dad piped in with, “Especially when you get older, you should make sure to get checked for sleep apnea.”
From somewhere in the depths of my psyche, my preteen self awoke and bristled and almost said something like, “OMG DAD SRSLY?!!!”
And then I took a breath and realized that I was missing, once again, the thing that went unsaid: “Hey, I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve really suffered with this thing. I care about you, I worry about you, I don’t want you to have to go through that.”
I’m not sure if I gracefully said, “Oh, thanks, yeah, good idea, I will.” I think I said something more like, “Oh, yeah, I know a couple people with sleep apnea, it sucks.” I don’t actually remember, because I was really kind of busy being annoyed at myself for being annoyed in the first place.
But I hope that, whatever words made it out of my mouth, that my Step-Dad heard the things I left unsaid.
That he heard, “Thank you. I love you, too. That means a lot.”
Right now my country is in a welter of anger, fear, pain, and (too often) recrimination. I don’t know what words to say about it; as with the Orlando shooting, I think other people have already said what needs to be said better than I could here.
Back in the 13th century, though, Saint Francis of Assissi wrote a prayer that encapsulates a lot of what I’m feeling right now. I first encountered it as a singer, and along with Tich Nhat Hanh’s simple breath-following meditation from Being Peace, it it one of the things that swims into my mind at difficult times like this one.
Even for those whose worldview is entirely secular, it says a great deal about how to be a force for peace in the world — not by giving money to organizations (which is okay, too) or agitating for change (which is also okay), but simply by being in the world. Anyway, here it is.
Saint Francis’ Prayer for Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Today I was going to write about choreography, but instead I’m going to write about depression again.
In fact, I have an entire post about choreography almost ready to go, but I don’t feel up to finishing it.
So here we are.
This morning I woke up, which is to say that I finally and begrudgingly relinquished my grasp on a 10-hour sleep marathon, in a bad way.
Not that I’ve exactly been in a great way, so to speak — though I keep sorta faking it on facebook and in other areas of my life where it doesn’t make sense to let the depression leak on too many things, as one does.
It’s just that the sheer calibre of this particular depression has shot from “fairly mild” to “crushing” overnight.
By way of analogy, it reminds me of a thing that happened a couple of years ago. One day I was riding my bike up to the Highlands for one reason or another and was flabbergasted to discover that, literally overnight, an enormous sinkhole had swallowed someone’s front yard, a mature full-sized tree, and about a quarter of a fairly large intersection. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.)
Needless to say, it was a shock. I had ridden past the same spot the day before, and everything was normal. This happens here, from time to time, thanks to a highly-porous limestone substrate and lots of underground water.
That’s kind of how this thing is going for me. Like the forces of whatever have been gnawing away at me from underneath, silent and unseen, and at last the surface has given way. So now I just wait it out, I guess.
The upside is that I wouldn’t say that it’s quite reached the “crippling” point. I am still capable of getting up and going to class and dancing. I thought I was supposed to teach today, but it turns out we didn’t have class because my co-teacher is in Massachusetts (should’ve known that; didn’t think to offer to teach class by myself — that’s probably okay).
I spent this morning at Open Fly making dances: one to Adele’s “Hello,” one to Jeff Buckley’s stellar cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” one of the few covers that I like better than the original artist’s version or, in this case, versions. The dance-making went well (if less modern and more ballet-influenced than I intended). I could move. I could balance. I could create. I could write stuff down, which I did a bit at the end. For a little while, I felt rather more … I don’t know, alive?
It’s weird how that works. The depression makes my body not want to move (which, btw, is the way you can tell when something is really, definitely, seriously wrong with me). Even speaking is hard right now. Dancing brings the body back to life for a while.
It’s like depression rolls a thick slab of glass across my experience of the world, and dancing pushes it back. As long as I dance, the glass stays gone. When I stop, it returns.
To be clear, though, dancing doesn’t eliminate the haze of pain that is forefront in my emotional experience. It’s just that I’ve learned that you can dance from the heart of pain the same way you can dance from the heart of joy.
And then, perhaps, sometimes you should dance from the heart of pain.
After, Denis collected me from the outdoor bench where I was slowly dissolving into inarticulate tears and took me out for brunch. While he was using the men’s room, I wrote myself a note:
When there’s joy, create from joy. When there’s pain, create from pain.
It’s not a profound thought, just kind of a reminder. Both joy and pain can be fuel.
I find all this comforting. Last night I was busy worrying if bipolar is going to derail my efforts to work in dance; if I am, in fact, a poor investment for any company, no matter how small.
But I think I can do this.
I can’t go work a desk job when I’m here (and definitely not if that desk job involves phone-based technical support … eee). But I can get up and make my body work; I can get up and be nice to the humans who dance with me and the humans who direct me as a dancer; I can get up and make art, somehow, with my body.
I can plumb the depths of my despair for dances the same way I sweep them from the heights of my joy.
And I can feel this without fighting it; without resisting.
In the car on the way to Open Fly, I think I apologized to Denis for falling apart or something like that.
He said it was okay; that maybe a huge part of the problem is that I work too hard to hold it all together. He said something similar the other night (last night? the night before?), when I couldn’t stop crying on the way home from a movie — that he loves my feelings, that he’s glad I have feelings.
I’m not always glad I have feelings, and I don’t entirely appreciate the fact that my feelings are all about the guerrilla warfare. On the other hand, maybe he’s right: maybe if I would just let go a little more often, there wouldn’t be so much of that.
For what it’s worth, dancing helps with the letting go. It’s hard to imbue your dancing with any kind of real emotional presence if you’ve got your emotions sealed up in some kind of sous-vide container and locked up in a freezer somewhere.
Hell, maybe they don’t call it “release technique” for nothin’, eh?
Anyway. So that’s what’s up, over here. Part of me feels like this is basically so much emotional exhibitionism (but, erm, if that’s so, then what the hell is basically all of modern dance?); another part of me feels like I’m still writing this at arm’s length because being entirely human in so public a context still basically freaks me the feck out.
So, yeah. Not sure if this makes even a modicum of sense. It’s just stuff. But, on the other hand, like Denis always points out: “If they were rational, we wouldn’t call them feelings.”
Soundtrack for My Depression:
Adele, “When We Were Young,” from 25
Adele, “Hello,” from 25
Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah,” from Grace
Jeff Buckley, “Corpus Christi Carol,” from Grace
Leonard Cohen, “Bird on a Wire”
Leonard Cohen, “If It Be Your Will”
Leonard Coehn,”Who By Fire”
Hozier, “Take Me To Church”
Hozier, “Work Song”
The Beatles, “Julia”
…Oh, and basically the whole of Faure’s Requiem, but that’s a playlist unto itself.
…And also, if you haven’t heard Buckley’s version of “Corpus Christi Carol,” OMG, go listen to it. He sang most of it in an exquisite falsetto, clear and expressive and breathy only in exactly the right moments and sometimes tremulous; the rest in the upper part of his range, beautifully raw. Listen to his cover of “Hallelujah” while you’re at it, because holy. The man was a treasure.
And also, I so need to add “If It Be Your Will” to the contemporary ballet project I’m semi-secretly working on.
Edit: and “Who By Fire.”