Category Archives: mental health
(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.
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 .
I should be mowing the lawn, really, but I want to try to sketch out some thoughts first.
Yesterday was a good day for me, body-image wise. Today hasn’t started out as one.
There’s no rhyme or reason to it, as far as I can tell. Sometimes it changes, for better or worse, in the middle of things. It shifts on the fly.
I should note that this is progress. It used to be all bad, all the time, no matter what.
Then, for a while, it got weird: like, sometimes I could look at my body and think, “Yes, this is a good and functional and rather nice-looking purpose-specific kind of body, but it doesn’t look like my body.”
- I don’t mean I think this on a rational level. I mean, really, on the level of instinctive identity perception, in the sense most disconnected from questions of philosophy, there’s just no there there. There’s no conscious analysis involved, just an unconscious, “Nope.”
How do I explain that concept? For me, I think part of it stems from some fundamental disconnect in the neural circuitry that drives identity-related connections. When I look in the mirror, I don’t feel any sense that I’m looking at myself, really.
I mean, rationally, I know that I am. But the circuit that says, “Ohai! That’s me!” doesn’t really seem to fire. (Sometimes this results in me staring into the mirror for a really long time, trying to figure things out.) I don’t know if this is anything at all like what many people experience, but a few conversations and a fair bit of reading have indicated to me that it’s kind of weird.
- Please note that “weird” is a word I use without any value judgment. I actually rather like it. To me, it just means “strange” or “unusual,” sometimes “uncanny,” but without the additional sense of “…and offensive or repugnant.”
If you’ve ever seen a recent picture of yourself in which you don’t actually recognize yourself until someone points out to you, “Hey, that’s you!”, that might be a similar phenomenon (though, really, I’m not sure).
Curiously, the effect is diminished in class when I observe myself in the mirror and correct myself accordingly.
Yup, it’s long, so here’s a more tag:
Read the rest of this entry
I’m apparently in a bit of a rut right now, of the irritating kind defined by the feeling of being sufficiently depressed to find socializing exhausting but not so depressed that you can’t see that A) you’re depressed and B) you’re kind of a jerk right now.
On the other hand, good things are happening regardless, to wit:
- I can finally jump reliably again! (And I am So. Out. Of. Shape. But I can jump, so that’ll be sorted soon enough.)
- Ballet Detroit’s master class was superlative! Literally one of the best classes I’ve ever taken and also one of the hardest. Rayevsky gives a heckin brutal barre, but in a good way. Meanwhile, our final exercise across the floor involved (for the boys) sixteen grand pirouettes. On each side. I managed eight on the right; I literally can’t remember what happened on the left =:O I will be working on these with BW.
- Got my triples back going right. Going left, turns still feel a little weird on my healing foot, so I’m working on getting clean ones and not focusing on counts—so it’s singles and doubles, which I mostly don’t do like a crack-addled wildebeest. Mostly.
- Did a … We’ll call it a “quarduple.” Not quite a real quad, but a proper triple that ended with I … AM … GOING AROUND … AGAIN … DAMMIT!!! It wasn’t pretty, but it happened.
- Did turns at the barre without panicking because there was no time to panic, because the in question was like “8 counts AND TURN! 8 more counts AND TURN! Now repeat (AND TURN!) and reverse (AND TURN!)”
- Also landed a double tour out of sheer terror. Apparently, I perform best when I’m basically terrified of disappointing my instructor. Sadly, I didn’t even really clock the fact that THAT HAPPENED at the time because, you know, sheer terror.
- Got a scholarship for Pilobolus’ intensive 😀
- Picked up my first Official Dance Paycheck. YASSSSSSS.
- Learned that D can Bluebird Lift me.
So those are all good things that happened. I’m hoping that now that I can jump again and have survived a double tour once, I’ll stop psyching myself out of double tours.
PS: I can only Bluebird Lift D if he climbs into it, partly because he’s harder to balance than I am because he’s not as good at engaging all the things, but also partly because my arms are short.
PPS: I realized that even though I know how to lift people bluebird-stylie, trying to be lifted us confusing as hell when you’re trying to remember where your hands go when you’re doing the lifting and translate it to placing your bodyparts appropriately.
First, something that it never occurred to me to do.
Every now and then I notice that a blogger I’m following will post something like, “1,000 Subscribers! Wow! Thanks!”
I haven’t done that, or at any rate I don’t think that I have … so, um, to all you amazing people out there who follow this blog for whatever reason? Thanks!
It turns out that are more than 2,000 of you. I find that completely baffling, but not in a bad way. I mean, I’d still be writing this blog even no one subscribed (qv: if a hipster blogs in the wilderness and no one subscribes, does it make a sound?), but I’m weirdly delighted by the idea that somewhere out in the world there are people who, for whatever reason, like the stuff I write enough to add it to their feeds.
Special thanks to the handful of you who regularly comment. I live at this odd little nexus of the Ballet Blogger Universe, the Mental Health Blogger Universe, and the Bike Blogger Universe (even though I read bike blogs much more I actually ride right now), and there are folks in all three of those worlds who, even though I know some of you only by your blog handles, feel like friends.
It’s a funny old world, but I’m glad I’m living in it now, in the age of the Innertubes. I’m grateful for this ocean of virtual strangers, this sea of compulsive writers and readers who leave open windows into their lives and who stroll around the virtual block glancing in at windows of others like themselves, pausing now and to wave or chat across the virtual flower-boxes.
Bizarrely, the rest of this is really long, so here’s a more tag:
I’m doing better, lately, mental health-wise. At least on average, anyway.
I suspect that this comes down, in part, to the protective effects of dancing so freaking much.
Like, it’s definitely physically taxing at times (though still nothing compared to last year’s M-L & Co intensive), but for me that’s a good thing. That means I generally sleep better and, in turn, my mood stays more stable.
Add to that the generally-positive effects of exercise, a sense of belonging, and a sense of being good at something (and getting better at it), and you’ve got a nice recipe for better mood.
That said, I’m still struggling a bit with my schedule.
Split shifts aren’t my ideal—but they’re my reality right now, and are very likely to remain as much well into the foreseeable future.
So I’m working on learning how to adapt.
- …Just as I’ve learned to begin sentences with the word “So,” even though it makes my inner Prescriptive Grammarian gnash his teeth and howl with rage.
Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is that I need one day each week on which I do not schedule anything; on which I can stay home and clean the house and gather my wits about me in preparation for the next sortie.
In the past, I assumed that eventually I would settle into a stable and predictable kind of working life; one in which most weeks would be essentially the same in terms of schedule, if not in terms of content.
That, however, is not the rule for performing artists these days where I live. Indeed, I suspect that it hasn’t been the rule for performing artists almost anywhere, ever.
Had I realized that I was, in fact, doomed to stumble into a sort of career in the performing arts, I might have twigged on to this earlier.
As a dancer, you rather live by the gig unless you’re attached to a company (even then, you still probably need a side-hustle unless you’re either attached to a major company that can afford to pay a living wage or supported by a generous spouse). That makes for an ever-shifting schedule as projects come online, develop, reach fruition, live out their performance runs, and subside.
Most of us have day jobs (even I have a day job: besides being responsible for the housework, I’m still the web lead for D’s business—he just pays me mostly in ballet tuition), so by necessity rehearsals skew towards evenings.
Classes, meanwhile, skew towards mornings—probably in no small measure due to the fact that our teachers are usually also working dancers, directors, or choreographers with own rehearsal schedules, and many of them teach youth classes in the afternoons.
The result is a split-shift reality in which the middle of day becomes “free time”—by which, of course, I really mean the time when we Do All The Things.
This is convenient when it comes to scheduling haircuts, check-up, and shopping trips.
For me, it’s less convenient where getting other things done is concerned. I don’t change gears very well, and I have serious trouble estimating how long any given job will take.
I’m getting used to it, though. These days, I find that when I get home from class in the morning, if I know I’m heading back out in a few hours, I’d rather knock out a few jobs around the house than sit down and read or write—because inevitably, if I start reading or writing, I’ll have to stop at some inconvenient point. Instead, I mostly read or write after I come home in the evening.
Obviously, my day off is an exception.
On my day off, I like to linger in bed, reading or writing, until I feel like doing other things. Then I get up and get going.
I don’t think I could manage a schedule like this at a normal job. I need more time recover mentally from working in an office or a retail environment, though maybe that wouldn’t be true if I worked in the bowels of some filing department, retrieving things and putting things away with minimal actual interaction and little changing of gears.
Basically, for me, interacting with people burns a lot of matches—unless I’m dancing. This might be because interactions in rehearsal follow simple patterns: you receive choreography, you learn it, you take your corrections, now and then you might ask a question or advance an idea.
Mostly, you don’t have to talk.
I had a winter-break job at a warehouse once that I thought of as a of live-action video game: 12 hours pper day, 3 days per week (more if I felt like it), orders rolled onto the screen of my scanning gun, and I went on merry quests throughout Warehouse World to fill them. I have a very keen spatial memory, so I was good at it, and I actually liked the work because I never had to sit down and only rarely had to interact with other people. Basically, my day was like one long scavenger hunt, only I got paid for it.
Maybe I could do something like that on this kind of schedule—but it’s hard to say. I suspect that there’s something specific to doing the thing you love most that makes you more willing and more able to jump through crazy hoops do it.
- Honestly, nobody would ever do ballet in the first place, otherwise, because ballet is basically the art of jumping through crazy hoops and making it look effortless.
Regardless, I would still need one “downtime” day; a day like today on which I can let my brain off the leash—one on which I might still need get things done, but can do them in my own time.
When I worked with horses, even the best schoolmasters and the prospects in the most stringent training got one day off every week to run around in the field just being horses. They needed that.
So do we. So, very much, do I.
Some while back I wrote about the weird point at which I realized that I’d come to identify myself as a dancer, and how it had happened sort of under the radar —by the time I realized it, it was already a fait accompli.
This weekend, it dawned on me that a similar thing has happened again. Without noticing it, I’ve come to think of myself as a working dancer; someone who will to continue to go and audition for things and work in dance for the foreseeable future. Someone for whom even going to auditions in the first place is not actually evidence of madness.
- Or, at any rate, of any madness other than that common to working dancers in general. What it that us think, “Hey, here’s a difficult and challenging thing that I love to do! How can I make it stressful in addition to being difficult and challenging?”
I mean, there was a definite thrill that came with my first successful audition—I didn’t somehow fail to notice that.
But the intervening period, I’ve evolved a sense of myself as someone who does dance in a kind of official capacity. Like, when someone asks what I do, it no longer feels weird to say, “I’m a dancer.”
Ironically, perhaps, the best tool I have for understanding it is my own Impostor Syndrome.
It’s still around, of course. I don’t think Impostor Syndrome ever entirely goes away in any field that invites the thought, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this!” Rather, one might say that it evolves into a question of degree rather than kind.
As such, I no longer feel like actually working as a dancer is some kind of impossible pipe-dream. I can’t feel like that because I am, in fact, working as a dancer.
Instead, my mind has neatly created a new division; one in which there working dancers and, I don’t know, Working Dancers, and I can call myself one but not the other without laughing.
I am okay with that division. I suspect that, going forward, it will help to keep me humble. Besides, it afflicts every working dancer I know, including BW, who in a recent conversation about cross-training said something about “all the really amazing dancers,” which T and I found terribly charming because it was so unmistakably clear that he does not number himself in that group.
T and I, of course, very much do number BW among those stars. To us, he is a treasure: to himself, he is just him, warts and all. Not that I’m assuming he has actual warts.
Such is life. As dancers, we are keenly aware of our own faults. Even Nureyev was: he fell in love first with Eric Bruhn’s precision, because precision was not his own natural strength, and only later with Bruhn himself.
There is always Impostor Syndrome.
So my Impostor Syndrome no longer makes me afraid that, any day now, I’ll get an email saying, “Oh, sorry, there was a clerical oversight. We didn’t really mean cast you. Thanks for coming to all those rehearsals, though!”
Instead, it’s more of a sense that when I tell people what I’m doing work-wise, I should qualify myself: “I mean, I’m not in a company. I’m freelancing right now, doing local shows, auditioning for stuff.” It’s the thing that makes me add the qualifier “semi-” before “professional,” still.
I still feel like I more or less fumbled my way into this work, but I imagine that I’ll keep on fumbling forward now that I’m here. There will be more auditions and more gigs; more split shifts; more grateful kvetching about the weird reality in which one must decide to eat dinner at 3:30 or at 10 and in which one has difficulty identifying one’s co-workers in their street clothes.
Maybe if I keep at it long enough, I’ll even get to be as good at it as some people seem to think I am.
Of course, by then, my goal posts will have moved again, along with the locus of my Impostor Syndrome.
For now, though, there is a part of me that still thinks, “Huh, wow,” on the occasion that I find myself thinking about where I hoped to go when I returned to dance, or when I applied to Columbia’s DMT program, or when Dr. K told me that for someone like me, “…The sky’s the limit.”
I’m still trying to talk myself into believing that last one. As a dancer, I still feel so raw and so unfinished and like there’s so much I to learn, ballet-wise at any rate.
But I’d be lying if I said that those words didn’t act as a kind of springboard. And here I am, in a place I didn’t really believe I would ever find myself until, rather suddenly, I did.
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.
First of all, um, Happy New Year, errbody. I sorta missed the boat on that one. D and I actually managed to stay up ’til midnight for maybe the second time in our life together(1).
- Possibly the deepest irony in my life right now is that, for all my implacable insomnia, I never seem to manage to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve these days. WTF is that about?
I’m still kind of wrestling with depression, so I’m making the most of the last two days of my
reprieve break from the chaos. I’ve been organizing like a madperson, and also sort of crafting things, because … I dunno. Apparently my current response to OMG The World Might End is, like, nesting?
Although I have never before in my life had the urge to cover a coffee can with contact paper, yesterday (in a fit of covering recycled cardboard boxes to hold things like plastic utensils, because I am apparently That Gay Guy after all and realized I would be more satisfied with attractive utensil-holders than with unattractive ones) I did just that. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but it turns out that it’s a perfect fit for all the junk(2) that lives on my side of our vanity(3). Also looks pretty nice, actually.
- Said junk includes sunblock (because I am the whitest white boy who ever whited; I am like, nuclear-winter white), Boudreaux’s Butt Paste All-Natural (good for bicycle-induced irritation; also good for that stupid thing where I decide it isn’t important to shave the hollows where my thighs join my pelvis in the morning and then wear an effing dance belt all day … NOT A GOOD IDEA, guys(4)), my deodorant, off-brand Gold Bond powder that I use only occasionally, and … erm, I’m sure there’s somethin else in there? All these things used to be able to fall off of the vanity individually, now they have to either stay put or fall off collectively.
- My drawers (each roughly shoebox-sized) hold socks, underwear, and miscellany (stuffed wolf keychain, old phone because why?, LOLCATs dog book that I forgot to give a friend of mine ages ago, spare glasses, etc); D’s hold a few sweaters rolled up into furry cylinders, a bunch of t-shirts he probably doesn’t even remember, and our communal dress accessories—pocket squares with matching ties, etc. The middle drawer holds who even knows what; the small top drawers are reserved for cufflinks (of which we have many, thanks to my weird obsession with cufflinks), jewelry (of which we have almost none), and G-d alone knows what else. I should really go through my miscellany and would-be-jewelry drawers again. Also the middle drawer. Pretty sure that if I don’t know what’s in it, we don’t need any of that stuff.
- My skin isn’t quite as sensitive as my Dad’s was, but it’s still pretty sensitive, and Ehrlers-Danlos makes it a little fragile. Couple this with the fact that I have almost no body hair except for the annoyingly-assertive stripe down the inner side of each thigh, and I have a recipe for disaster if I don’t shave at all, and even worse disaster if I try to let it go for more than a day or two.
Getting back to class will be good for me (even though it will also kill me, because Jiminy Freaking Cricket, jumping right back into Killer Class is a terrible idea).
This month also begins the mad dash to March 11th. “Work Song” (or possibly another piece that I really want to do, but first I’ll have to discuss the idea with my dancers; it might not be kosher to change horses just now) goes up then.
Also this month, D is taking me to the inaugural Louisville Dance Series performance, and I’m taking him to Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet (speaking of LINES, I need to go pick up my tickets). The day after LINES, the team has a competition (I can’t call them “the girls” anymore; we have a boy now … yasssssss!).
This semester promises to be, in a word, cray. Or whatever the 2017 version of Cray is. You know: wack. Insane. Hell-bent for leather.
On the other hand, if I live, I’ll be going to Pilobolus’ summer workshop, which is immensely exciting (it’s also exciting that I can write that off as a business/education expense—professional development/continuing ed, I love you so much). Which reminds me, I need to check in with ABM about which week she wants to go, so I can potentially schedule other intensive things around it.
So January promises to be a bit intense, but worth it. In February, we’re going to see Lexington Ballet’s performance of Romeo and Juliet for my birthday. Huzzah!
Speaking of which: when my Mom was pregnant with me, she ran past her due date, and was given the options to induce with an eye towards delivery on the 10th or with an eye towards delivery on the 14th.
She chose the 10th, a kindness for which I remain, to this day, very grateful. It’s one thing to be born in a month that everyone hates (poor, unloved February: I actually love February in New England, but here it’s a cold, drizzly misery); quite another to be born on the specific day that, it sometimes seems, half the world regards as Obligatory Jewelry-Purchasing Day and the other half regards as Unwarranted Oppression of Single Persons Day.
Anyway, that’s it. This is basically a whole post about nothing, but there you have it.
Not sure how much I’ll be posting in January, because I have no idea how my schedule is going to shake out (especially WRT rehearsal scheduling, which is going to be interesting, since we’re all rehearsing six million different things).
I will try to post at least once a week, though.
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.