Category Archives: health
…When you’re a dancer.
The body of a dancer is a precision instrument
- You guys, autocorrupt really wanted this to read, “…is a prison.” WHAT. THE. HECKING. HECK.
It responds like a top-flight racing bike combined with a masterwork violin. To the dancer, it delivers sublimely subtle signals (okay, and sometimes obnoxiously loud ones) and offers exquisite controls.
It’s also persnickety as all hell, though, to be honest.
Like, there are a million things that can, for ballet purposes, just make you feel weak. For example:
- To much sleep
- Not enough sleep
- Eating too much
- Eating too little
- Drinking too little
- Drinking too much
- Allergy meds
- Needing a day off
- Taking more than one day off
- Disruptions in the daily routine
- Boredom with the daily routine
- Too much class (see: overtraining)
- Not enough class (see: Chicago, The Musical [mildly NSFW: coarse language :P])
- Yesterday’s grand allegro
- The fact that we haven’t done grand allegro since Taft was in office
So, basically, to sum it all up: like everything else in ballet, keeping the body strong and tuned-up is all about desperately fighting for balance whilst making it all look effortless.
Feeling inspired yet? o_O’
This post brought to you by a conversation with BW that more or less concluded with both of us giving up on trying to figure out what might be making me feel weak, because obviously the answer was YES.
And the numbers 1 through 8, because #dancermath.
I think I’ve figured out the source of my pervasive brain fog.
Spring is upon us, with all the flowers in bloom, and as such I’ve been taking loratadine for my allergies. I haven’t taken it in a long time, but if I remember correctly, it definitely made me feel foggy in the past (which, of course, is probably why I haven’t taken it in a long time >_<).
Anyway, I made it through Killer Class, but it took me until Grand Allegro to feel like I had any brain at all. During Grand Allegro, I managed to do Bournonville jetés without winding up on the wrong leg every damned time, so that was a big step (leap, actually … womp womp woooooommmmmmmmp) in the right direction.
I have to dash off for our Dance Team rehearsal, but figure I’d post this before I forget, because frankly right now I am forgetting ERRRTHANG.
No more Claritin for me.
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.
Finally feeling up to Saturday Class, so I figured I’d make it a double. We’re off for the next two weeks (Winter Break, booooooo).
In Advanced Class, barre, adagio, turns, waltz, and terre-a-terre were pretty darned good, petit allegro was acceptable, and grand-ish allegro was a disaster en mènage. I kept alternately effing up tombé-coupé-jeté and leaving out the transitional step that came after. Blargh. Going left, I kept doing my balancé en tournant inside out like a total n00b, which then forced me to do my t-c-j backwards.
At least I haven’t done any backwards turns(1) in a while?
- I have no idea when backwards turns stopped happening, but they did, at least for now.
In Nominally-Beginner-But-Actually-Intermediate Class, everything was good except petit allegro, by which time my legs weighed approximately 1,354 kilograms each. I couldn’t get them to do things quickly. In fact, they were not terribly willing to do things at all.
Nonetheless, the entire day was completely redeemed by the girl who asked me after class, “Are you in the company?” (She was my partner for all all the across-the-floor stuff, and she was also pretty good.)
I refrained, of course, from asking her to marry me on the spot, since I’m already married, etc. But it was a very welcome thing to hear, especially on a day when I’m not feeling at my best.
Speaking of The Company, tonight we get to see BW and TB Nutcrackering. Yaaaaaay!
I’m a little sad that we didn’t we get to see BW as the Cavalier last night (because A) broke and B) so freaking insanely busy), but we still get to see one of his Partnering Masterclass performances.
My introduction to BW, by the way, followed the first performance in which I saw him dance a pas de deux. The very next class, he showed up and, if I remember correctly, installed himself on my barre (we were on portables, 4 or 6 to a barre,because there were like 30 people in class).
I proceeded to quietly have a heart attack throughout class. I am marginally ashamed to admit that I felt felt more or less how a teenaged girl in the 1960s would have felt if John Lennon sat next to her in music class. Only, you know, ballet, so both we were both more or less in our underwear.(2)
- Ballet: because hero worship isn’t awkward enough.
Yeah, I know. #PatheticFanboy
But I kept it all inside, because I’m cool like dat.
B| <— my cool face
Anyway, I need to go takeashowerchangeandbuyflowersforBW, so that’s it for now.
And then, two weeks to clean, finish the book-keeping for the year, and get back in shape (because holy cow, soooooooo out of shape right now).
…Okay, okay, so technically I got a shot (of steroids) and technically it was in the nebulous region that is not quite butt, not quite hip. (If sideboob is a thing, shouldn’t sidebutt also be a thing? If not, I hereby declare sidebutt to be A Thing.)
And in the interest of full disclosure, the nurse actually stuck me. Apparently she doesn’t jab dancers in the sidebutt very often, as it took her a moment to orient herself in the unique landscape of Square Danseur Hindquarters.
Erm, hooray for ballet muscles?
Once she found the landmark she needed, though, the injection was painless (though slightly sore afterwards, while my body went, “Wait, WTF is this, now? Oh, anti-inflammatories, right, let’s get on distributing that.”).
I am also on an antibiotic again—a different one, this time, to ensure that we don’t just just wind up leaving some doxy-resistant bastidges behind.
The Dx is more or less what I suspected—a relapse of the most recent sinus/ear infection, probably secondary to the viral horror currently laying waste to Louisville (basically, a nasty cold). The corticosteroid is intended to reduce the inflammation in my sinuses enough to get everything to drain this time. Take that, Solenopsia!
The really gross part . . . erm, wait. Grossness warning! Icky stuff ahead, y’allz. Feel free to skip past the next paragraph.
Okay, so the really gross part is is that the conjunctivitis resulted from goop in my maxillary sinus finding the only available way out. THROUGH MY EYE SOCKET(1). Ewww. Squick. On the other hand, it has basically cleared up today, so…
- I tend to sleep in a little ball on my right side, and the right side of my nose and throat were basically swollen shut, hence the right eye)
Anyway, between the steroid, which gets to work fairly fast, and all the other pharmaceuticals I’ve crammed into my bloodstream, I managed to actually get some things done done today.
I also found a 12-hour cough suppressant syrup. It bills itself as orange flavored, but in fact is strongly redolent of mango, with notes of chalk and tangerine and a bouquet suggestive of a fine aluminum foil. It’s surprisingly not that revolting, as such things go, though it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice as a dessert liqueur.
The important thing is that it works, so I should finally be able to get a full night’s sleep, without a 3 or 5 AM dextromethorphan top-up, I hope.
I hate missing BW’s class, but stayed home tonight for my own good. We shall see how Saturday looks, but I’m optimistic. Tomorrow we take Dance Team to the aerials studio for a workshop, which is totally exciting.
And now to bed, because ugh, I’m tired. But OTOH I cooked a lot and washed all the freaking dishes.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on some of the themes from Monday’s post — the need to step back from a dualistic world-view that makes me want to do the adulting equivalent of storming off the playground because the toys I want aren’t there right now, or whatever. I have more thoughts on that, but I’m not feeling very serious today(1)
- Possibly in part because I may finally have reached “laugh so you don’t don’t cry” territory; certainly because this latest fire abt invasion is veering into Theater of the Absurd territory; I feel like a walking, talking … okay, shuffling, croaking Monty Python sketch.
My fire ants are still in residence, but I’m seeing seeing my doctor tomorrow.
I’m really glad that I decided to get off the fence and make an appointment, because over the past couple of days, a detachment of fire ant scouts has established a beachhead in the conjunctiva of my right eye 😐
(Maybe -___o is more appropriate?)
Medically speaking, this isn’t as horrible as it sounds—it’s just run-of-the-mill “pink eye,” which I assume is related to the Invasion of the Fire Ants but might just be a random dose of Immune System Trollery.
In short, it’s itchy and weird-looking, but not dangerous.
The main problem is that “pink eye” in general is often highly contagious, and thus essentially good cause to go about wearing a placard that reads “LEPER UNCLEAN!”(2) and ringing a warning bell.
- Ironically, actual leprosy, properly known as Hansen’s disease, really isn’t very contagious.
In other words, you can’t go anywhere or do anything when you have “pink eye.”
Not that I’m in any shape to go anywhere or do anything in the world (though I finally discovered that I can actually sleep if I take, like, four different decongestants and a cough suppressant before bed, and then keep the cough suppressant handy for the inevitable 4 AM coughing fit, so I’m feeling marginally perkier today).
Anyway, I seem to have wandered (for now!) past the Bitterness and Recriminations phase of being ill and found my way to the Jovial Self-Deprecation phase, so that seems like progress.
Back to the doc tomorrow to (one hopes) roust the dreaded Fire Ants both from my respiratory tract (which they’ve petitioned to rename Solenopsia) and from Fort Pinkeye for good.
Here’s hoping they won’t be back for Round 3,because ballet blogs should be about ballet, not about the only thing that can turn a dancer into a whinging heap of goo.
Until then, I will try to remember the motto of my poor, besieged Inner Buddhist, who is trying very hard not to let the rest of my Inner Populace run away with their whinginess:
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.
I mean, Turksgiving.
Wait, no. THANKSGIVING. That’s what it’s called!
Public gratitude posts are are a thing.
I don’t normally do them, but I’m (mostly) cool with people who do.
I’m kind of doing one this go-round, in part to take my mind off the fact that my throat has, since Tuesday, developed a wicked itching-burning thing that A) makes me feel like I’ve swallowed a snifter-full of angry fire ants and B) makes me cough, which makes the fire ants even angrier.
I suppose I should begin by being thankful for for the existence of of cough drops, because unprintable words this is driving me crazy.
Nice quiet day at home yesterday. I finally transitioned from Trim Painting hell into Trim Painting Purgatory. I’m grateful for that, because jeez.
Also, I am grateful for ballet, modern, and aerials, which keep me sane (fire ants notwithstanding), grant me membership in a phenomenal community of amazing people, and give me something to do with my creative energies.
I am grateful for my astounding husband, who manages to keep a roof over our heads despite my best efforts to completely drive this little train of ours right off the rails (note to anyone considering marrying an artistic type: we can be very responsible, but some of us are prone to long bouts of throwing ourselves wholesale into our work at all costs, and those of us who who dance can be expensive to feed), and the strange beast that is our family, with its many branches staggering off in different directions.
Also for mixed metaphors, without which it might be much more difficult to describe snifters full of fire ants, the glorious chaos that is family at its finest, or probably anything at all about dance or home maintenance.
Lastly, I am grateful that, at least at the moment, I still have medical coverage, so if these unspeakable, unprintable fire ants don’t GTFO soon, I can go see a doctor about about them.
Oh, yeah — and also for everyone who, for mysterious reasons, reads my blog, and for all the amazing and inspiring bloggers out there.
When I was racing bikes badly (or at least with immense mediocrity, heh), I relied on a Garmin Edge 500 GPS-tracking device to keep track of speed, time, and so forth while riding and to log my workouts.
These days, I spend most of my time dancing somewhat less badly than I raced bikes, and I don’t ride anywhere near as much. The Edge 500 isn’t equipped for tracking things like dance, aerials, and housework, so while I’ll probably keep the Edge 500, I’ve bought a refurbished first-generation Garmin Vívofit fitness tracker.
I don’t really need it, but I like data, and I’m curious. I wasn’t, however, willing to commit $100+ to a fancy new-model fitness tracker until I’ve tried using one for a while — not least because I’m not great about wearing things on my wrists.
The Vívofit refurb was fairly inexpensive and pairs with my existing ANT heart-rate monitor strap (which is comfy), so I figured I’d start with it and work from there. If I like it a lot and decide I want something a little fancier, I’ll pass this one along to Denis.
Thus far, the only thing the firs-gen Vívofit doesn’t have that I’d like to have is a built-in watch. Oh, so it turns out that the Vívofit does have a watch; it just wasn’t activated until I synced it. Derp. So, now I also have a watch. Yeah, my phone knows what time it is, but sometimes it’s a pain in the neck to dig the phone out of my pocket or whatevs. It turns out that the folks who invented the wrist watch knew what they were about, eh?
It also knows the date, which is nice for those of us (like me) who live in Golden Retriever Time and tend to be a bit vague about dates.
Anyway, thus far, I’m not finding the wristband annoying, which is really kind of the most important thing, since a fitness tracker I won’t wear is worthless. The small one fits fine and doesn’t get in the way when I’m typing.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Vívofit thinks of ballet classes 😛
I’m really feeling a lot better — which is to say A) better enough that I realize how long I’ve been feeling like crap and, B) better enough to have energy to complain about things.
Before, I was basically feeling too awful and tired to resent feeling awful and tired (besides which, I basically spent the better part of ten days asleep). Now I’m well enough to be past that, but not well enough to be back to normal. So instead I’m feeling cranky and resentful and sorry for myself. Poor me. Le sigh.
I guess that’s progress?
The weirdest complaint is that I’ve apparently forgotten how to eat. This illness just basically killed my appetite, and I kind of don’t think I’ve really been eating enough.
Anyway, today we took our friend KH out for dinner, and I ate half a small Caesar salad and three small seared ahi nigirizushi, and then I was ridiculously and depressingly full.
Mostly it was depressing because the ahi was so good, and I wish I had skipped the salad (which was horrible because it was overdressed, even though this place does a good, legit Caesar … slimy lettuce is just kind of revolting) and just eaten the fish. I couldn’t even bring it home — it would’ve had to sit in the car for a couple of hours, and it isn’t yet cool enough here to pull that off with fish. (I know: First World Problems all the way, quel dommage.)
But it’s also annoying because now I’m eating Graham crackers in bed because I know I’m going to wake up starving at 2 AM but everything else seems nauseatingly oversized. I think I’ve taken in maybe 900 calories today. Bleh.
I hope my stomach will get its stuff together soon so I can go back to eating like I normally do, because this is no way to fuel a dancer.
I don’t have energy enough to complain about real problems right now, at least, so there’s that.
Anyway, I’m done whinging for now. Tomorrow I shall attempt class, so I’m sure I’ll whinge about that, too.
G’night, errbody. Feel free to drop your own ridiculous, frivolous, but still irritating whinges in the comments; I feel like a self-aware Open Whinging thread could be kinda fun, actually. We can collect them into a book later and call it Fine Whines, and we’ll all be famous on the internets and make a million yen (which is only, like, $10,000 dollars, but that’s a start).