Category Archives: life management
I’ve probably come to this conclusion before, so my apologies if this is tiresome.
I make the same mistake over and over again (what was that definition of madness, again?)—deciding either:
- …that I will somehow throw the neurochemical round-house punch to end all neurochemical round-house punches and knock my depression right TF out.
- …that I’m feeling much better and that, as a result, my depression is just about over and I’ll be fine any old minute now.
Then I find myself flummoxed when I don’t magically turn into … well, not a normal person (as D always says, “Average was never the goal!”), but a not-depressed person … overnight, or when I overextend myself and just can’t even for the next five days.
As such, I’ve decided to adopt a motto that some might call “strategetic” and others might call “cowardly.” In short:
When all else fails, run away
And live to fight another day.
(Coincidentally, this exact phrasing is the motto of Daniel D’Aeve, a semi-cowardly knight [he doesn’t like loud noises, for one thing] and accidental pirate [he doesn’t like boats, either] and the semi-hero of a musical I’ll probably never finish, but who knows. Miracles do happen.)
I’m not going to wrestle my depression into submission. That’s not how this works.
If I keep engaging it head-on, this gorilla will always, always wrestle me into the ground. Depression is like … I don’t know, wrestling some kind of mutant alligator that has gained the ability to steal your strength and make it its own as long as you keep fighting. (I feel like there’s almost certainly a Japanese monster movie about this already, but if there isn’t, there should be.)
As such, I’ve decided to adopt a more conservative tack. I know that I’m too impulsive to entirely avoid wrestling the alligator—sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing so until the alligator is already doing death-rolls at the bottom of the pond—but I’m going to try not to, like, walk up and pick fights with the alligator … even if that means letting it live in my house for a while.
In other words, for a little while, I’m going to try not to do as much.
I’m not going to stop doing everything, of course, but I’m not going to push quite as hard for a bit.
Instead, I’m going to revert to the best strategy I’ve ever found for keeping myself afloat in the midst of one of my moderate-but-grinding depressions: Do Two Things.
Oddly, I thought I’d written a post about this strategy before, but I can’t* find it, so I’m writing it now.
*Which is to say, I ran a search, devoted exactly 30 seconds to looking
for it, and then I gave up because I realized that if I kept it up I’d
start reading old posts and never finish this one.
So, in case you’re wondering, here’s how it works.
First, you get depressed. This makes living seem like a tedious uphill grind, and causes you to write poems empathizing with Sisyphus, and generally makes every single little thing that you have to do in order to continue to remain semi-afloat seem like a hideous impossibility.
Second, you own up to the fact that you don’t want to do anything. You don’t feel up to doing anything. You drag yourself to class because some part of you dimly recognizes that things will only be worse in the long run if, on top of recovering from a depression, you also have to get yourself back in performing shape or auditioning shape or what have you in the span of 3.4 days somewhere down the line. But other than that you feel like you just can’t even.
Eventually, you begin to feel slightly better, and then you look around your house and you realize, Holy Hell, it looks like a tornado crashed through a paper mill, a diner, and a thrift store before chugging right through your door. And also the cat has somehow contrived to get maple syrup on his head (which he doesn’t mind in the least, but you do). And you are out of Kleenex.
Some part of you thinks, “I should do something about all this,” while the rest of you just gazes around at the chaos with the proverbial thousand-yard stare and no idea where to begin.
That’s where Do Two Things comes in. You tell yourself, “Okay. There is no way I can do all of this right now, so I’m just going to do two things today.”
Then you turn to the thing nearest thing—or the nearest thing that feels like you have some hope of accomplishing it—and you do that thing.
The whole strategy hinges on this one truth: that sometimes “Do The Dishes” counts as one thing, and sometimes, “I’m going to wash this one dish” does. Sometimes, getting out of bed counts as one thing, and sometimes completely unmaking the bed, rotating the mattress, and remaking the bed counts as one thing.
It doesn’t matter. You judge yourself by the standard of where you are now. You give yourself permission to wash this one dish and that one fork.
The funny thing is that usually once you get started—once you wash the One Dish—you’ll usually find yourself thinking, “Ah, well. I might as well wash this entire stack; it’s not going to take any longer, really, and I already have my gloves on.”
So often Doing Two Things turns into Cleaning the Kitchen—but you have to remember not to look at that fact too directly, or your motivation might catch your scent on the wind and bolt. Wild motivations are flighty like that.
In my worst depressions, sometimes my Two Things are as simple as getting out of bed to get a drink, then eating a bagel while I’m already up.
When I’m well into recovery, they may be as complex as making the dining room ready for company and re-organizing the closets.
Either way, I give myself permission to feel like if I’ve done my Two Things, then I have done enough for the day.
It is, of course, totally okay to do more than the Two Things. It is pretty much impossible to do less: even in the pit of the kind of depression that keeps you confined to your bed or the sofa, it’s fairly likely that you’ll have to use the bathroom at least twice on any given day. If you’ve been in that place, you’ll understand why that counts. You just start with whatever Two Things are in reach.
Do Two Things acts both as an accessible goal and as a limiter.
If I’m having the kind of day that starts with “I am going to wash this One Dish,” then I know that, no matter how significant an uptick I might feel, I probably shouldn’t tackle rearranging the closets (which always sounds like a good idea, but turns into a nightmare because D has lived in this house for 20 years and almost never gets rid of anything).
Even if Washing the One Dish turns into Washing the Dishes, the knowledge that the first of my two things began as “Wash the One Dish” keeps me mindful of the fact that I’m not yet fully recovered, and that I shouldn’t start burning tomorrow’s matches today.
So there we have it. For the time being, I’m going to Do Two Things. This will help me get through the current slog without overwhelming myself (at least, without overwhelming myself as often).
Anyway, I don’t know if this strategy will work as well for anyone else as it does for me, but feel free to try it if you want to. It’s also good for getting started when you just plain feel overwhelmed, whether you’re depressed or not (this is a key feature of Adulting with ADHD).
I tend to try maintain an aura of ebullient optimism.
I’m aware that I lead a relatively charmed life, in which I’m permitted by circumstance to pursue a fairly impractical set of goals, and to mention that I still struggle seems a bit like spitting right into the face of good fortune.
But I do still struggle, and I’m beginning to understand something, which is this: living a life in which I’m not forced to do work that grinds my soul to powder, in which the work I do is work that I enjoy, doesn’t alter the fact that my mental health is a little fragile and that history and genetics have conspired to place me on a narrow bridge that spans a yawning chasm.
Rather, the life I’m living acts as a kind of safety harness, so that when–not if–I go plummeting off my bridge, I can eventually climb back up, or at any rate be hauled back up by people who love me.
I am capable of periods of immense creative productivity, but they’re interspersed with periods in which merely surviving is still all I can do. Those periods of mere survival are made easier to bear by the knowledge that I won’t have to return, as soon as I’m barely able, to work that will inevitably accelerate the arrival of the next plunge off the bridge.
Because D carries the vast majority of the weight of the financial responsibility of keeping us afloat, I’m able to get up and walk along my bridge for long periods, when in the past I rarely made it beyond the clinging-and-crawling-along-the-edges phase before I slipped again.
I don’t make much money doing what I do, but I usually have enough energy left over to keep our house comfortable to live in and to cook good food.
Today, I have accomplished the following:
- Get out of bed (eventually)
- Sew buttons for straps into new tights for CirqueLouis gigs
- …Yeah, that’s about it, really.
Bit by bit, I’m regaining range-of-motion and resuming my “Activities of Daily Living,” as they’re known to PhysioBots® from the future and their human counterparts.
This includes collecting small objects at a street festival whilst everyone else takes down the aerial rig and going to parties, not to mention catching up on the six million loads of laundry that are waiting for me because I was wary of schlepping large loads at first.
Anyway, it’s been surprising to observe my own healing process. Each day, I’m able to move my arms a little farther without yoinking anything, even though I’ve specifically been avoiding moving them beyond a pretty restricted zone. I can now get them into a languid “Romantic 4th,” basically, without irritating anything.
Practically speaking, that means I still can’t reach anything higher than the surface of the second shelf in the cabinet where the dishes live unless I stand on something, but at this time last week I was barely making it to the first shelf, so that’s good progress.
Also, it means I can at least put the plates away, though the soup mugs and pasta bowls will just have to wait a bit longer.
This weekend, I also realized how very strictly I avoided actually standing up straight outside of the ballet studio prior to my surgery.
Like most guys with moobs, I used to wander around with my shoulders sort-of rounded in on themselves. It makes you look like defensive and also makes you shorter.
It’s really still very weird for me to realize that when I actually stand up straight, I’m pretty much average in terms of height. Heretofore I guess I’ve known that rationally, but in a practical sense I still thought of myself as a little of the small side.
For what it’s worth, both D and I have found the results of my surgery a little unexpected. He mentioned last night that I look less different to him than he thought I would in some ways; more so in others—mostly that for whatever reason my whole body looks leaner and narrower. He’s not alone, either—other people also keep asking me,”Did you lose weight?”
I can only assume it’s something about the way I’m carrying myself…? Because, in fact, I’ve gained a little weight, as inevitably I do when I have to sit on my butt for a while.
For me, it’s more nuanced. I can’t say that I really expected to perceive my build as kind of rangy and muscular, nor to actually like that about myself.
Anyway, it’s weird. You would think that having this sort of thing done would just result in feeling like, “Okay, cool—that’s just me without moobs.” Maybe that’s been how it does work for some people. For me, though, it’s made me realize that I only ever looked at parts of my body before: I thought I looked at the whole, but now I think I really didn’t. I can’t really otherwise explain how surprising my body is to me when I look at myself in the mirror now.
Anyway, I’m back to slowly catching up on the laundry and the cleaning. I’m also counting calories and opting for a low-carb approach to food until I’m clear to Resume All The Things. That seems to be helping to keep my blood sugar levels a bit more steady, as it generally does.
I might stick with it once I’m back in action, but I might not. I’ve made a pact with myself: I’m not going to get hung up on any specific approach to eating, period. My normal schedule burns a lot of calories and makes it quite difficult to eat enough, let alone to eat enough whilst also largely eschewing an entire nutrient category.
On the other hand, the inability to lazily wrap everything in a a tortilla does mean I’m eating even more veggies than usual, since cabbage rolls (and shredded cabbage in place of noodles) are basically the order of the day right now.
Speaking of which, I should go assemble some kind of … brunch, I guess, since it’s 11:30 and I still haven’t eaten anything.
Because evidently time and I have a tenuous relationship at best, I realized yesterday that I was beginning, rather than ending, the third week since my surgery, and as such I still face four weeks before I can resume my usual workload. Oops.
On the other hand, that does mean I’m healing very, very well. I’ve been
obsessing over reading other people’s accounts of healing from this kind of survey—initially to figure out what to expect, what was normal, and what was cause to panic, and but now because they’re just plain interesting—and it seems that a lot of folks still have a fair amount of discomfort and so forth at this stage. I’m chalking my relatively easy recovery up to a really awesome surgeon and above-average physical fitness.
Anyway, Golden Retriever Timescales not withstanding, I’m starting to make plans for next year.
- I’ve probably used this analogy before: while my sense of immediate time is pretty decent, once I venture beyond that, my perception of time flakes into two distinct categories—the ones you might imagine a not-very-bright Golden Retriever understanding, which is to say say, Now and Not-Now. Anything further than two weeks out, meanwhile, exists in the realm of absurd fantasy. Evidently, this also applies retroactively 😛
I auditioned for more things this year than last year. I expect to continue that trend next year. I’m looking at dance companies (ballet and modern, but mostly ballet), cirque companies, and cruise-line dance-and-cirque companies right now, as well as the usual gig-based auditions.
Ideally, I would love to work in ballet, but I realize that my particular skill-set makes me a good candidate for progressive circus companies. Likewise, while many classically-trained dancers turn their noses up at working for cruise lines, I like the idea of living and working on a self-contained floating city, and cruise-line companies value versatile performers. I suspect that my strong classical dance background and existing aerial skills will place me well (I’m also a pretty good singer, which doesn’t hurt).
That said, my best asset is simply the ability (and willingness) to up stakes and go wherever the work is.
It seems like a good idea, when you’re trying to work in a ridiculously competitive industry, to identify all of your strengths (not just the obvious ones) and seek opportunities where they’ll be useful. Given that I’ve taken a really, really atypical path to working in dance, I plan to use the heck out of that strategy. My goal is to audition as often as possible for jobs that will find my collection of both skill- and non-skill assets highly desirable: in short, to target companies that need people with strong classical (and progressive) dance training, strong aerial arts training, a background in gymnastics, fearlessness, willingness/desire to travel, and flexibility (both physical and mental). Being a ballet-and-trapeze boy who also performs on lyra and fabrics shouldn’t hurt, either.
I’m not operating under the illusion that, should I work for a cruise line or a touring company, I’ll get to see a great deal of the places we visit—but opportunities do arise, and I’m not seeing much of the world from where I am now, either 😛
Anyway, the primary goal next year is to continue training and gain as much professional experience as I can—basically, either to work with a company that rehearses and performs across a regular season for much or all of the year, or to continue to work with a company like CirqueLouis and take every additional gig that I can.
I’m not defining my ballet goals quite yet: I think I’m going to buttonhole Killer B, BG, and BW about those first. I still don’t have an intentional double tour, so I’ll be working on that through the end of the year once I’m cleared.
*For values of “live” meaning I was alive when I posted this 😛
No actual live footage implied or guaranteed 😉
…I mean, not that I’m back in Modern class yet. Modern is probably going to have to wait ’til the 6-week mark, since it usually involves getting into and out of the floor and using your arms and so forth.
It’s not like ballet, in which you can say, “I’m just gonna do the gentle stuff today, and I’m going to keep my arms in 2nd.”
But, anyway, I realized that I haven’t posted updated pix in a couple of days, so here:
- Honestly, forget my chest, check out dat shoulder
- D keeps giggling at me about acting like a 14-year-old. He may be on to something, but I maintain that I’m acting like a 16-year-old. 14-year-olds have nothing to flex. Like OMG EVRYBODY KNOWS THAT.
So, as you can see, things are healing up quite nicely.
As you can also see, I’m standing on top of the toilet, and I didn’t really bother to put anything away before I shot these. Which, in fact, maybe does imply that I’m acting like I’m 14, because NO IMPULSE CONTROL.
As you can also, also see, I have indeed been mostly sitting on my butt and eating for the past couple of weeks. And I was too lazy to take my shirt all the way off, but I kind of like it?
Anyway, peeled the tape off a bit today and noticed that my suture lines look quite good. The left one is really, really nice; there are spots where there’s no scar at all right now. I put the tape back after because I’m not taking it off ’til Wednesday, because that’s when my surgeon said it would be okay.
The right incision is a little redder, probably because I sleep on the right side of the bed so I wind up using my right hand to reach for stuff on the nightstand, which is problematic because the nightstand is roughly 6″ lower than the bed and beyond the range I can reach without extending my arm just above shoulder level while lying down (the first five nights I didn’t have that problem because we weren’t home yet; then for a couple I was really careful … now I’m kind of over that, since it doesn’t feel like I’m tugging or injuring anything).
Anyway, the lines on both sides are very crisp and clean; totally acceptable in terms of my long-term goals.
The little red spot inferior/lateral to my nipple (which is actually the left one, because I still haven’t remembered to un-mirror my phone’s camera and didn’t think to flip these before I uploaded them, feh) is a bug bite. Turns out that’s why I’m so itchy, at least on that side. On the other side it’s because I keep forgetting to snip off the loose end of the tape, so maybe I should do that now?
Also turns out that when you wander around in a nice, airy tank top, the mosquitoes take advantage of those arm holes
I had really pretty much forgotten about that.
Also, in the Uncropped Smoldering Ocular Seduction Edition, my feet look like chimpanzee feet. From time to time, I’ll notice that happening, and occasionally it leads to a brief episode of cognitive dissonance in which a part of my brain goes, “MY FEET ARE HANDS: REPEAT MY FEET ARE HANDS OMG =:O”
OTOH, in part of my line of work (aerials, specifically) good toe separation is an asset. Of course, I make up for that by having weirdly tapered duck feet with a whole lot of sweep from second toe to least toe.
Guess you can’t have it all (my hands are sweepy, too).
In other news, today I took the Subaru to the tire shop to get its leaky tire fixed. It turns out that the tire was screwed—literally: as in, it had picked up a screw.
Anyway, they were able to fix it, so now the car is happy again and D is happy again and I was already happy, so…um. Everybody’s basically pretty happy.
Except the cat, probably, because his food bowl and my lap are too far apart, but he’ll just have to tug on his big-boy trousers and cope.
(File under: Every Aphorism I Know I Learned In Bike Racing)
I’ve been having a tough time with re-entry following this summer’s intensives.
Not that I’m, like, pining for the fjords. Just…
Hmm. How do I explain it?
Going to a dance intensive is, in a way, very much like going to summer camp. You’re essentially excused from most of the responsibilities of adulting. Your daily activities are heavily programmed for you. You don’t have to juggle variables, interruptions, or random transportation disasters.
If you forget your ADHD meds, you make it through the day pretty well because all you’re doing, really, is dancing, and your brain works best when you’re in motion. You don’t have to remember a bunch of discrete, unrelated tasks and somehow accomplish them.
If you stay up really late bonding with your new dance family, it’s no big deal. You get up the next day, pour some strong coffee into your face, hit the studio, dance your butt off, and sleep like the dead when you get back to the dorms or your AirBnB.
And then you come home, and your body is adapted to an 8-hours-per-day-plus physical workload that you’re unlikely to match except during the most intense periods of rehearsal or performance, and you have to get back to Adulting (with or without ADHD).
For me, this illuminates one of the central challenges in living with ADHD: it never goes away.
To borrow a quote from Kiwi bike racer Greg Henderson :
- or a quote about success from Robert Strauss, who presumably doesn’t race bikes but could feasibly be a Kiwi; can’t be arsed to look him up right now.
You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.
ADHD is, in some ways, a gorilla that never gets tired. Instead, you have to learn to manage your gorilla—and managing is largely a question of automation.
When I’m doing it right, I manage my ADHD by making it as hard as possible for myself to screw up the basics.
I lay out each day’s clothes the night before, so I never have to fumble around looking for clothes before my brain is working.
My morning and afternoon doses of Adderall are right there in my 7-day pillbox, so I don’t find myself thinking, “Feck, did I take my meds?”
My keys, wallet, sunglasses, and other important small things live on a shelf by the door, so I will always put them there when I walk in and never have to wonder where they are.
My phone lives next to the bed, where it acts as an alarm clock. Once I get out of bed, I either leave it tethered to one of its chargers or keep it nearby. That way, I never have to look for it.
My class and rehearsal schedules get written out on the whiteboard on the refrigerator door. Writing them down helps me remember what’s coming up; it also gives me a hard-copy reference when I’m not sure and lets D know where I am, when.
While I cook, I clean as I go and streamline general dishwashing into those moments when there’s nothing that requires attention.
I run errands before, after, or between classes so I won’t have to take extra trips out of the house. I maintain shopping lists on Google Keep so I don’t have to remember anything, including the shopping list.
I burn a ton of energy, knowing that it’s the only way I’m going to be able to sleep on anything resembling a normal, diurnal schedule. I run Twilight on my phone and f.lux on my PCs to cut out blue rays (this really does make a huge difference, for me). I don’t play video games or peruse social media in bed, because those get my brain ticking over too fast.
I pay really close attention to things like caffeine intake: and if I’m having a rough time sleeping, I avoid any caffeine at all after about 2 PM.
These are all fairly small things, but they add right the heck up.
The problem is, they’re all routine-driven, and once I get out of a routine, it can be really hard getting back in.
This week, I’m struggling really hard with insomnia. After being sick for most of last week (during which all I actually did was sleep), I’m left with a surplus of energy, but not enough on the schedule to burn it off.
Since it only takes one sleepless night to torpedo weeks of careful sleep programming, I’m currently in the midst of a really unpleasant cycle of sleeping two hours one night, then nine the next.
Last night was one of those two hour nights. I missed class today because of it: I finally got to sleep around 8 AM. Turned off the alarm at 9 AM, when I realized it would be foolish to try to do modern on one hour of sleep. Woke up at 10, when I should’ve been starting class, anyway.
I’ve realized I need to get back to negotiating with my gorilla. I’m home for one more week, then off to That Thing In The Desert after all, then back for a week, then off for a medical thing, then possibly starting rehearsals for a thing, depending.
- In addition to the usual Open Barre sessions with mimosas, I’ll be leading some contact improv playshops at our camp this year.
- I’m going to apply my “to know, to will, to dare, to keep silent” clause here. This is a minor medical procedure but a huge freaking deal for me, so I’m trying not to feck it up.
- Here, too. I’m actually okay with waiting and auditioning for the next thing this company does, but it’s sort of up in the air right now whether we can work around my temporary restrictions after The Secret Medical Thing.
None of this makes it easier to figure out where to start rebuilding my Life Management Protocols, so I’m just going to do what I normally do: fumble forward and hope for the best.
In other words, just pick something and start where you are.
In that vein, I’m hoping to get a class in tomorrow to make up for missing today’s (though tomorrow’s class will be ballet, not modern).
I’ve got a doctor’s appointment at 8-o-freaking-clock in the morning for which I have to check in at 7-goshdarn-30, which means getting up at 6-what-even-is-sixthirty-30 because I kind of need D with me for this one and he needs more than 20 minutes to get out the door 😛
As such, I need to actually get my tuchas in bed at a reasonable hour tonight and, if necessary, hit myself with a whacking great dose of doxylamine succinate to make sure I don’t stay awake all night.
Those are some easy start-where-I-am steps that I can actually do (along with getting audition video links to the AD for the Secret Dance Thing and signing some documents for The Secret Medical Thing and emailing them back to the practice in question).
So, there you have it. I think I really wanted this post to be more of a thought-piece about managing ADHD than me scrabbling on about how I’ve managed to hose everything up for myself (though I did plan to mention that), so I suppose I’ll add that to my queueueueueueue of posts to actually write sooner or later as well.
Until then, I’ll be here, negotiating with my gorilla.
Oh: in other news, I successfully gave a bit of advice to a new guy in class last night, which felt really good.
I was having an awkward kind of morning: got a little tipsy last night, stayed up too late, slept badly, woke up early (whichever one of us taught my cat that it’s possible to awaken humans by tap-dancing on their bladders needs a swift kick in the tuchas), started reading, lost track of time, failed to eat, etc.
This translated to a wonky start at barre. I couldn’t figure out where my pelvis was or find my lateral obliques or keep my arm from wandering off to do its own thing. My head kept getting ahead of my arm. I tendued to second, then went, “Hmm, no,” and adjusted (which drives both JB and BW crazy).
Midway through one combination, during a sus-sous balance, JB sauntered over, grabbed me by the back of the neck, reset my head and neck, and then used both hands to physically move my entire ribcage.
I tried not to do the weird thing where I respond to someone touching me much in the way that a sea anemone responds to the touch of a potential predator, though it took a little doing.
Anyway, I had mostly sorted myself out by the time we got around to going across the floor and doing jumps, though I was momentarily distressed by this bizarre phenomenon in which, during a mark, my brain went, “assemblé!” and my legs went, “CABRIOLE, MUTHA****A!”
On the other hand (foot?), there were some nice cabrioles in there, so…?
Since this entire combination was assemblés changing direction and leg until none of us could remember which leg was which, that obviously would’ve been a problem.
Anyway, tomorrow should be better. Today the plan is (in no particular order, except for the “early to bed, Nyquil if necessary…” bit):
- catch up the finances
- mow the lawn
- make dinner
- early to bed, Nyquil if necessary because insomnia and insane allergies are making my life difficult
Oh: I’m considering Schumann’s A minor ‘cello concerto for the third act of Simon Crane. I haven’t listened all the way through it yet, but the first movement sounds promising.
For all that, though, I’m still not at all sure that I want to do away with “Isle of the Dead.”
Leading up to PlayThink this year, I was bulldozed by a swift and nasty bout of your bog-standard “depressolepsy”—that fierce, crushing, exhausting depression that rocks up out of nowhere and smashes everything in its path. Thanks, Rapid Cycling Type I Bipolar, or whatever the hell is going on with my brain.
That’s been the case the past three years running, so I think it has to do with timing: the time of year; the timing of the onset of Summer Intensives and my inability to figure out how much GoGoGo I can take before I need to take my brain out and put it on ice for a couple of days; the timing of the stressful bit of my non-dance job; the timing of always effectively losing my husband to The Great Wave of Planning that precedes his standing summer plans (PlayThink and the Big Burn) just when I most need someone to help me stay afloat.
- This bit isn’t really his fault, btw. It’s more that I have a hard time broaching the divide between myself and other people, including D, when I’m struggling, and it gets even harder when he seems preoccupied. It’s something we both need to work on, together, and we’re doing it, but it takes time.
None of this was improved by my lack of security about our performance piece for the Friday-night “FlowCase,” which we hadn’t rehearsed anywhere near enough.
D offered time and again to cancel, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be better to get out there and do the show than to back out. This is, for all its friendly down-home atmosphere, a professional gig—and the first rule in the performing arts is and always will be: “The Show Must Go On.”
- Corollary: if your name is printed on the official marketing materials, you’re part of the show.
- I consistently misspell this word, even though if I stop and think about it for a sec I actually do know how to spell it. Seriously, self: “Corolarry?” Really? Is that, like the cousin of Corojessica, or…? SMH.
Basically, getting out there and screwing up sometimes is part of the business—even Nureyev fell flat on his arse from time to time—but you don’t want to get a reputation for backing out of your commitments.
So I gritted my teeth and accepted that we might totally bomb; that the whole thing might go right off the rails. That life is, after all, pretty much an exercise in walking a tightrope in a maelstrom, for all our delusions of control. That the even inclusion of a twirling beach umbrella and faux 20s-era men’s swimwear might not pull my carefully-crafted little acro-clowning-ballet back from the edge of disaster.
- I had thought of also including fake moustaches, but forgot about them, so even they could not have saved us if things went south.
So we wrestled our way through a couple more hours of rehearsal rendered incredibly awkward by the lack of so much as a single properly-flat spot in which to rehearse, which in turn made the apex of the whole number—the candlestick-to-diver transition that we basically invented for this show—literally impossible.
And then we went on.
And you know that thing that happens when you get on stage and the whole world falls away and suddenly you’re ON and even if you literally put a foot wrong, you can’t put a foot wrong?
So, that happened.
Our performance wasn’t perfect in the literal sense. Because we hadn’t been able to nail the diver transition, we left it out (though we didn’t actually program in something else, just in case it magically came off: I simply sort of rolled out to the side, pulling D up with me).
We had already scuttled the bluebird lift at the end because we need more practice with it before we put it in a show. Right now, its hit rate at home is only about 25%; the rest of the time, I wind up hitting it for about .5 seconds while D struggles to figure out the balance point, then we fall out of it and I yell at him and then apologize for yelling at him.
And, yet, in another way, our performance was a million times better than I could have imagined.
D lit up in a way I’ve never seen him light up on stage (evidently, all you have to do is give him a beach umbrella and let him twirl it).
- I actually rather suspected this would be the case, which is why he got to twirl the beach umbrella (okay, so also it fit his character better than it fit mine). D has a lot of natural clown in him. I formulated this thing to play to that strength, and I think it paid off. Choregraphy Rule Number One: when you’re creating a piece on a group of dancers, create it on the dancers you have.
The piece filled up the music exactly (I was incredibly worried that we’d get ahead, finish early, and have to stand there grinning like eejits for 30 seconds or what have you).
Perhaps most importantly, the audience rippled with genuine laughter at all the right moments. It wasn’t that weird, “Uh … is this supposed to be funny?” laughter that we all secretly dread. All the jokes (physical jokes, not verbal ones) hit the mark.
When it was over, they cheered. Lustily. Thrillingly. Authentically. It was awesome.
Here’s a shot by the talented Jesse Miller, who photographed a lot of the festival.
So, score one for team Dawson/Taylor-Dawson. Not bad at all for a pretty complex bit of physical theater that had a sum total of maybe four or five hours of real rehearsal time and literally no full run-through with music.
Throughout the rest of the festival, we constantly heard how much people had loved the piece.
A few even commented on exactly the thing I’d hoped to bring to the table: the fact that the piece had characters and a storyline, which isn’t something I’ve seen in FlowCase in previous years. Our good friend reported that she was so proud she found herself tearing up. Someone even commented that my ballet (all three-ish steps that actually made it into the final piece!) was beautiful.
Needless to say, the success of the piece and the instantaneous lifting of the pressure of it off of our collective shoulders helped immensely. So did being done, and thus able to go retire to the camper and just read (I did stay for most of the rest of the show, though, until the mosquitoes emerged and began eating me alive).
I also discovered a technique that really helps D and me: right before we went on, we simply talked our way through the piece, back and forth, each of us simply stating the short-hand name for our moves.
- Except for the ballet part: since I do that by myself, and I sometimes find it quicker not to actually attempt to get the language bit of my brain firing, I just visualized and went, “Balletballetballet, maybe some other ballet” there.
We each went on feeling like the other knew not just the skills required, but the sequence in which they needed to be called up, and it let us both relax. Handy!
Anyway, there’s video of the whole FlowCase, but it won’t be ready for a couple of weeks. I’ll watch it, even though I’m not sure I want to (the performance felt really good, but when I watch video, I tend to get hung up in my flaws).
This week, I’m taking two days off to get things back to normal as much as I can before diving back into class and so forth. I am vaguely regretting not signing up for our AD’s master class, because I know a couple of people who are taking it and it sounds cool, but I also recognize that I need a breather.
I need a couple of days to just do day-to-day life stuff. Mentally speaking, I already feel like the summer is more or less over: I’m away for two weeks of July on dance intensives (LexBallet and Pilobolus), then possibly again for much of August and the first week of September (depending on a handful of circumstances) for Burning Man. Because I struggle with time, the idea of those giant pre-planned blocks makes it hard to understand that the rest of the summer, the windows between those bricks, exists.
Inevitably, when I take a couple of days off, there’s a part of my brain that remembers how nice it is to have the whole day to do the things that need doing (or, if possible, to do nothing, or do only things that don’t need doing). Occasionally, a very quiet voice in the back of my head whispers, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to do this than to pursue your insane visions?”
I remind it, of course, that “it makes more sense” hasn’t really worked out for us in the past—that I’m not actually great at predicting what makes sense; that (perhaps more importantly) the pursuit of impractical dreams, Quixotic though it may appear, keeps the wind in my sails.
Someday, I’m sure, it probably will make sense to ease off the accelerator a bit; to drop out of the big ring. Right now, though, I’m riding to ride the hills; I’m dancing to feel the sensation of soaring at the top of the grand assemblé porté.
And, yet, I think it’s good for me, having a life in which something as powerfully thrilling as Friday night’s performance is followed by something as entirely mundane as getting out in the backyard to chop up the branches that are still waiting there for me.
To misapply Jack Kornfield’s magnificent summary of Zen practice: “After the ecstasy, the laundry.”
So there we are. Back to class tomorrow, though I am sure I’ll sorely (ha!) regret jumping back in with Killer Class instead of something gentler.
I woke far earlier than I intended and in an increasingly terrible mood. Headed to class once again figuring I’d just do barre.
I wound up staying for the whole thing, including a nice grand allegro. I got to whipout my Pas de Chat Italien for the first time in months. W00t!
In fact, as a whole, class was pretty good—even petit allegro, during which I managed to do acceptable petit assemblés. We also did the glissade-jeté x8, glissade-jeté x4, glissade-jeté, glissade-jeté, changement, changement, reverse, repeat combination that I enjoy because, frankly, it’s the only piece of petit allegro I reliably do well 😜
The fact that I can do it at all is fantastic: my foot held up through everything.
Anyway, I’m home now and much more relaxed, if still operating on a short fuse. Basically, I have no frustration tolerance today.
On the way home it occurred to me that I might get along with myself better if I accepted that my brain chemistry does this sometimes, and that rather than trying to change that, I can do things to keep myself from making life horrible for other people when it happens.
Maybe down the road I’ll mellow out or learn to down-regulate these moods. For now, though, just getting out of the way makes sense .