Category Archives: life tools
Although I have a long history of finding it at best annoying and at worst utterly unbearable to wear anything on my wrists, after reading about a million reviews, I decided to give Amazon’s Halo View fitness tracker a try.
You might be wondering why I feel it necessary to actually bother, given that my work involves, like, a metric shed-ton of exercise. And, honestly, that’s an excellent question.
First, there’s definitely a part of me that misses nerding out over workout data like I did in my bike racing days. It’s not even about, like, getting jazzed over progress–I just like data. I was the kind of kid who makes spreadsheets of imaginary things just because.
Second, and much more importantly, I was really curious about the sleep-tracking aspect. I wanted to know whether a bit of wearable tech would agree with my assessments of sleep quality based on how I feel in the morning.
On point the second, so far, the View and I concur, which actually surprises me a little (my faith in tech is generally tempered with a solid dose of realism, and sleep tracking is a lot to ask of a fancy rubber band with a tiny computer strapped in).
I’m not sure what exactly I plan to do with my sleep data, but it’s kind of useful to sync the View, look at the data, and go, “Oh, I feel like I didn’t get any sleep because I didn’t.” Or because I got crappy sleep.
As far as, just, random data is concerned, some of it’s actually pretty useful. The View has a built in oxygen saturation thingy–basically a pulse oximiter for your wrist, and I find it helpful to be able to look at that when I’m feeling a little like my lungs might be trying to go on strike. Because we don’t always localize sensations (including, but not limited to, pain and … weird stretchy feels?) well once we get past the ribcage, a weird vibration or stretchy/constricty feeling that’s probably actually just Ehlers-Danlos doing weird collagen things can sometimes feel like the beginning of an asthma attack, or the way my lungs sometimes feel when I’m sick. A quick 02 Sat check can be deeply reassuring.
Activity tracking is a mixed bag, though I rather expected that. For several normal forms of exercise, there are categories that you can use to log workouts (hit appropriate button -> hit start -> work out -> hit end when you’re done), and because the View logs all your movement whether or not you do that, you can go back and edit workout durations if (okay, when) you forget to turn it on at the beginning of a session.
And you’ll still get points even if you never get around to formally logging a single workout, because the View doesn’t care whether or not you think you’re exercising. If scrubbing the floor gets your heart rate up, it’s going to log that, too.
That said, there’s not really a category that works for ballet (though for some classes, HIIT would probably be a good fit ^-^’), so I just log it as “other.”
That, so far as it goes, is acceptable; even expected (though it would be super cool if there was a “dance” category in the View’s hardware interface).
The place where the View’s Movement tracking features might not be ideal for some come down to the question of Activity goals and sedentary time.
The Halo app uses a weekly activity metric based on a system developed by the American Heart Association. The base weekly goal is 150 points; everything above that is gravy.
With only two days of class and teaching, and a few days left to go in the week, I’m already over 200.
You do get extended goals–300 if you break 150; 600 if you break 300; who knows what after that. I’m looking forward to seeing what it makes of Summer Intensives, or a full-on company week.
What I’m wondering, with regard to Activity goals, is whether the View app ever says, “Whoa, Nellie! Time to take a rest!” Because, honestly, rest is important, and athletes need to rest, and let’s not even get into the topic of exercise bulimia.
Likewise, I’m not exactly sure at what point the View considers you to be sedentary. Like, if you’re Pretty Darned Fit, you can wander around the house a lot without actually doing much to your heart rate. I mention this because it logged some hours as Sedentary that definitely weren’t, though they I guess they weren’t really exercise, either. But I don’t know if it just didn’t notice my steps, or if it only thinks you’re active if your heart rate increases by some unknown amount, or…?
Or, it could be that it just wasn’t used to me yet. That was, after all, the first full day that I wore the thing.
Either way, I wonder what the View would make of someone who spends most of their time in a wheelchair. I also wish it grasped that even when I’m sitting down, I’m almost never sitting still. I do quite a bit of high-volume fidgeting. (Update, even though I haven’t posted this yet: the View uses a combination of heart rate and movement to assess activity level at any given moment. Clearly, I need to swing my arms around more or something when I’m fidgeting ^-^’)
Regardless, you get 8 hours of sedentary time per day, then you lose 1 point for every non-sleeping sedentary hour in that 24-hour period, but Activity points are automatically gained at a rate of 1 to 2 points per minute whenever the View perceives that you’re moving even a little briskly. As such, even though my Halo View has subtracted 15 points for sedentary time, I’m still rocking the Activity goal.
The View app does come with a feature that estimates body fat percentage, but I’ve decided to leave that alone for now. It’s the kind of thing I might find useful in the midst of a full company season, when I can’t eat enough to keep weight on, but at the moment it’s too likely to be triggery, so I’m just not doing it.
I guess I should comment a bit on fit, finish, and build.
Fit-wise, I find the Halo View surprisingly wearable, though it did initially bug me when I first tried using my laptop while wearing it. I accidentally ordered the medium/large band, which is about right on the smallest hole, so I probably should’ve actually ordered the small/medium band like I meant to. That said, I’m planning on ordering an aftermarket band or two.
Part of what makes it work is that the Halo View unit itself is long, but not very wide. It almost spans the entire width of my wrist, but is only as wide as my right index finger, and I think this ratio helps distribute pressure in a way that’s acceptable to my body.
I haven’t had any issues with the band popping off the unit itself, which seems to be a common complaint of early reviewers, though I have managed to accidentally unbuckle it by getting it hooked on my one of the straps of my dance bag.
The display is crisp and bright–honestly, a little too bright for me even on the dimmest setting, but my eyes are pretty sensitive to light. That said, you can disable Lift To View either all the time or in Night Mode, and that keeps it from being a nuisance when you’re trying to sleep.
The onboard interface is pretty intuitive and can, if enabled, display incoming text messagesfrom your phone. It also makes a perfectly good watch, which has proven quite useful to me, even though I’ve never been a watch-wearer before. I’m forced to admit that it’s nice to not have to whip out my phone to check the time (and to discreetly check the time in class, which I usually do because I’m hoping that we have time for another grand allegro exercise ^-^’).
The View purports to be swimming-friendly, which is pretty awesome, though I’m hesitant to wear it in the water with the current band, because I’m not sure my skin would like the combination.
The battery life does seem to run about on par with the promised 7 days, and the charging clip (which I tested when I decided not to wear my View in the bath, though it didn’t really need to charge at the time) is pretty easy to use.
The Halo app offers a bunch of workouts and so forth which are reportedly pretty good overall, but I haven’t tried any yet, so I can’t comment on those.
The app interface overall isn’t terrible, but I do agree with prior reviewer’s assertions that it’s a bit cluttered and a bit prone to rabbit-holing. They’ve also only just added the ability to save favorite workouts, recipes, and so forth, which seems like a glaring omission (still, better late than never).
Overall, I’m glad I bought this thing. It’s doing the thing I hoped it would do–helping me understand how I’m sleeping–and also doing a thing I never expected, which is simply being a watch.
I like the View’s approach to data. It gives you the big picture first as an at-a-glance infographic, and you can drill down from there if you feel the urge. This makes it easier to resist obsessing over granular details that might not be important if you’re not, say, training for races.
That said, for those who are training for races, the View (which lacks onboard GPS) won’t provide data about pacing, mileage, and so forth. For those details, you’ll probably want a more sport-specific activity tracker (or you could use an app like Endomondo for that stuff and something like the Halo View for a big-picture view).
One last thing: the Halo View offers a handful of difference watch faces, most of which offer a “plain and professional” vibe … but if you scroll far enough through the options, you get this one:
It may not be plain or professional, but I like it, so Resting Cat it is.
I’m writing this mostly as a reminder to myself, since managing widgets on an Android device is kind of a PITA and I’m not in front of my laptop right now.
Anyway! I’m planning to add three resource widgets: one with resources for autistic peeps, one for ADHD peeps, and one for Ehlers-Danlos info.
Each will include links to websites I’ve found really helpful, and that I hope might be helpful to anyone else who’s trying to navigate that neurodiverse lyfe or that bendy, poppy, sometimes dysautonomic lyfe.
I thought about lumping the ASD & ADHD resources into one “Neurodiversity Resources” widget, but A] that could turn into one hella long list and B] breaking them out into two separate widgets might be useful for anyone who’s looking for one topic or the other specifically. Also, I find it deeply satisfying to sort things into categories, because autism.
That said, there is often a lot of overlap between ADHD and ASD, and I hope y’all will feel free to explore any resource that sounds like it might be useful.
ASD is also more common in people with EDS than in the general population, which is both fascinating in terms of research potential and a huge relief to people like me who have spent our entire lives wondering if we’re really just gigantic hypochondriacs (even though EDS is diagnosed by objective physical criteria and we chime right along with the diagnostic profiles for ASD & ADHD and have carried both diagnoses for most of our lives).
I’ll also add a Resource Room page—that way, folks can find the resource lists in an uncluttered context.
Lastly, because I’m a nerd who likes to review things and who recently received the gift of a Costco membership, I think I’m going to try doing a wee video series reviewing stuff I’ve stumbled upon at my Costco that has proven really useful in my life as a neurodiverse dancer currently struggling with the scheduling chaos related to the ongoing pandemic. SPOILER ALERT: it’s mostly gonna be food.
- Autocorrupt suggested, “…ongoing Patricia.” Patricia, I don’t know you, but apparently Autocorrupt thinks that you’re the one sowing chaos in my daily life 😱 Don’t worry, though—Autocorrupt is almost always wrong. Almost always. But if it is you, can you take it down a notch, please? 😅😅😅
Today’s episode of Danseur Ignoble is brought to you by the famous palindrome, “A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL: PANAMA.” Which, to be fair, only works properly if you don’t consider the punctuation when reversing it, in which case you’d get “.AMANAP :LANAC A ,NALP A ,NAM A” thus utterly defeating the entire point of palindromes in the first place. Also, full disclosure: at the moment, as far as I know, there isn’t a canal in my plan.
I wrote recently about how planning to eat is a good idea, and how the #dancerlife can make that challenging, etc.
Anyway, now that the season is looming into sight (OH LORD, MAKE HASTE TO HELP US, etc) and I’ve done the fun part of being a responsible adult danseur (New tights! New shoes! New … dance belts. Yeah, well, it can’t all be that exciting.), I’m on to doing the hard part.
Or, well, the part that’s hard for me.
Which is planning.
Anyway, in the spirit of continuing to explore the vagaries of #dancerlife in ways that might potentially be useful to other people, today we’ll take a brief look at my planning process (HA! I’m not sure it qualifies as a process, tbh.)
I find it really helpful to create a broad visual guide to my week: a kind of general picture of how things are likely to look, knowing that they’re going to be different sometimes. Because I’ll take 6,000,000 years to finish it if I try to do it by hand, I typically just create a table in Google Docs.
Here, for your edification, is a screenshot of said table as it currently stands:
My teaching schedule (thus far) includes Monday evenings (useful, since my teaching job is more or less halfway between home and Lexington) and Wednesday evenings, and my Wednesday class is late enough to allow me to take an extra class in Lexington on Wednesday evening.
I’m deeply grateful that I won’t be trying to jet out to Frankfort to teach at 5:15, or 5:30, after rehearsal. Yes, it bought me some time to play around in the studio, but it also made it really hard to figure out when I to eat dinner.
Though I’m not sure yet whether this strategy will work, my current plan for Wednesday is to eat a reasonably substantial meal between Rehearsal Block B and Evening Class, then a snack/mini-meal on the way home from teaching. That should prevent me from wanting to murder anyone in the interval.
I might(???) be teaching on Friday evening, though if I’m not I plan to take an extra class then as well. Might as well make the most of my time, and I have plenty to learn as a dancer, soooooooooo………..
I have literally no idea what Theater Week for our first production will look like, nor whether the Nutcracker run will in any way resemble its usual self, so I’m not even going to try to make a draft plan for Theater Week right now.
TBH, half the time, no matter how well I plan, Theater Week turns into “All You Can Eat Pizza Week” anyway (work is irrelevant, as one inevitably just has to tap a sub, or in my case, possibly several).
I think our company schedule is a little different this year (I seem to recall that our morning break is now 15 mins, which probably means we’ll take lunch at 1:30 instead of 1, or something) but not so much so that it’ll drive a train right through this schedule, which is only a rough draft anyway.
If you find yourself thinking, “Yes, fine–you’ve written all these words, and you’ve still told us NOTHING about your planning process,” you’re absolutely correct, and I apologize.
So here’s how the process itself works:
Really first, before I actually begin planning, I look at my various schedules from various places and try to make them make sense in my head and generally develop a headache.
Officially First, I realize I need to make a visual depiction of my typical week, so I begin by making a table on a blank document.
At first, my blank document includes:
- 7 columns: one for each day of the week.
- 4 rows: one for each more-or-less arbitrary division in my day (I don’t like to use an hour-by-hour schema at this stage; I get too hung up on how things don’t line up visually the way I want them to).
Then I realize that I need a header row for days of the week, so I add that, and probably a label column so I can label the different sections of the day, so I add that too and spend a few minutes dithering over what I want to call the different parts of my day.
Once those rows and columns are in place, I start copying data into the individual cells for my company day, then by data for classes other than company class, then data for my teaching job(s).
At some point in this process, I realize I want color blocks to help me visualize my week without reading, so I start adding those. And then once the color blocks start coming together, I realize that a visual breaks for lunch would probably help, so I add a row (columns merged, text aligned center-center) for that. And, hey! It does help!
I briefly decide that I need a separate row for my potential second teaching job, so I add one. Then I change my mind, since adding the row in question will make the whole schedule less meaningful visually, and I remove that row and decide that I’ll just add a note at the top of each work cell (and probably make them different colors if I teach at more than one place).
For now, since I’m not 100% sure I’ll have an extra teaching gig, I’ve filled in the space it would occupy with question marks (???). It could take place on Thursday instead of Friday, but Friday seems more likely, and so the overall shape of the week in this draft is settled.
Then I realize I’m going to need another visual break between the end of the company day and … everything else, even though I technically consider additional classes part of company life. So I add one of those, formatted just like the lunch break, and label it accordingly.
The line for breakfast was kind of an afterthought. I actually thought about leaving it out: I mean, I actually do tend to eat breakfast every day, because when I don’t, I’m typically unfit for human company until I do eat something. But I liked what it brought to the table visually, and in all honesty, it’s useful in helping me imagine how I need to use my time.
Which, for me, is the whole point of doing this.
What this little visual layout really does is help me stop myself overcommitting.
Without it, I tend to imagine all of the time that I’m not actively in the studio either dancing or teaching as “free” and thus available for teaching or whatever, or even just doing side projects. And then, unsurprisingly, I wind up burning myself out.
There will always be seasons (NUTCRACKER) in a dancer’s life in which a little burnout (NUTCRACKER) is more or less inevitable (N U T C R A C K E R!!!!).
That’s why we have breaks in our company calendars. We need that time to literally rest, so our minds and bodies can recover from the strain of long days rehearsing and performing (and living on pizza because we’re artists and thus broke).
Last year, I overcommitted myself, and wound up creating a situation in which I wasn’t eating well enough or resting enough during rehearsal weeks, so by the time performance runs ended, I was not simply cooked, but overcooked. I did finish the year a better and stronger dancer than I began it, but I could’ve made more progress if I’d just taken slightly better care of myself.
Likewise, just as it is with our hearts and minds, we can only take more out of our bodies than we put back for so long. If my goal is to have staying power as a dancer, I need to take care of my instrument. Part of that is feeding it well and giving it enough rest to make up for the crazy demands I place on it.
Nobody pursues a career in dance because it’s easy: if you think it’s going to be easy, you’ll either drop out before you get anywhere near a career, or you’ll realize how wrong you were and embrace the challenge.
That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to make it harder for ourselves.
And one of the best ways to prevent making it harder for ourselves, of course, is to plan. And while I try not to overuse this phrase, I am sufficiently bad at planning on the whole that I want to say, “If I can do this, you probably can, too.”
PS: my decision to arrange my schedule Sunday-Saturday is a purely pragmatic one. That way, since my company week runs Tuesday-Saturday, my least-scheduled days are grouped together, which I find visually useful. You should organize your week in whatever way works best for you.
Upfront disclaimer/disclosure thing: I am definitely not a nutritionist, as you’ll probably realize if you read the rest of this post, which is mostly about stupid food-related mistakes I made last season. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition, nor should it be taken as advice, unless the advice is: If you have questions about feeding yourself as a dancer, maybe go ask someone who really knows their stuff.
I’ve written about food before. Probably a lot. I like food, though I struggle with food sometimes. I also generally quite like eating.
- Except, apparently, when I don’t. I’ve recently experienced a baffling lack of interest in food itself: I’ve been in this place in which I would be perfectly content to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or really whatever requires the least thought or effort, day in and day out.
On the whole, I’ve felt like I’ve had a pretty good grasp of basic nutritional science (hard to get through a Bachelor’s of Science degree that includes Anatomy & Physiology without understanding at least a bit).
I’m sufficiently equipped that I mostly manage to steer clear of trends based on junk science or poor data and to regard with equanimity the ones that might, in terms of their originators’ ideas about science, be based on shaky logic, but which still work well for people in practice because they’re motivating in whatever way and manage to get the various nutrients in.
What I haven’t had, as I discovered over the 2019-2020 ballet season, was the slightest shade of an idea as to how to actually feed myself for performance while dancing 30 hours per week, teaching about six hours per week, and driving an extra 80-90 minutes per day 2-3 days per week between those two gigs.
This was especially difficult on days when I left my teaching job at 8:30 PM and didn’t arrive home until after 9, chronically underfed (though I usually didn’t realize that) and with little time to eat, shower, prepare food for the next day, and wind down before I had to be asleep.
To a great extent, this was my own darned fault.
I extrapolated as follows:
- P1: I have a fairly sound working knowledge of basic nutritional science.
- P2: An awful lot of the nutritional advice I know how to find runs contrary to basic nutritional science.
- P3: I am broke and can’t afford to go see a nutritionist.
- Therefore, I should just stick with what I’m doing.
Or, well, something like that.
Yes, y’all, I am an idiot. Sometimes, anyway. Even often.
I think I also wasn’t sure who to ask: like, let’s be frank. Dancers are mostly paid what is known, in the technical language of economics, as “bupkis.” Or possibly “peanuts.” (In fact, since I have volunteered at events where one of the perks was free access to peanut-based trail mix, I can literally say that I’ve worked for peanuts. Hmmmm.)
Regardless, dancers be broke, and qualified nutritionists who have adequate knowledge of the nutritional requirements of full-time ballet dancers be … not cheap. (Nor should they be. They train for years to master their specialty, just like we do.)
So you had better believe that when I learned that LouBallet’s MindBodyBalance program was hosting a Zoom-based nutrition workshop with an actual qualified person who actually understood things about how to feed dancers, I jumped right on that enroll button.
Anyway, today, Becky Lindberg Schroeder of Lindberg Elite Nutrition (she’s also on Insta!) gave us a really solid talk, with time for discussion, about how to feed ourselves for performance as dancers.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I realized I’d been going about things … well, not all wrong, but wrong enough.
The two most important things I’ve been doing were basically:
- Not eating enough
- Not eating often enough.
Somehow, I felt like I shouldn’t be eating during the 5-minute break between class and the beginning of rehearsal. I would usually surreptitiously scarf an apple, but I felt like I shouldn’t.
Honestly, I think I just noticed that few of my fellow dancers shoved a snack into their faces during that interval. Outside the studio, I’m fairly resistant to peer pressure, but life inside the ballet studio is different, especially as an apprentice who doesn’t feel super confident about his place in the company.
Now that I’m writing that “out loud,” of course, it seems kind of dumb.
You can’t stuff yourself with a huge breakfast before class if you want to get through class without, at best, being miserable or, at worst, puking … but if you eat a lighter breakfast at 8:30, by the time class is over at 11:30, it seems entirely reasonable to assume that you’re going need to top up your fuel tank.
If you try to hold out until lunch break at 1, you’re likely to be hangry before you get there. (Regarding which: yes. On days that I’ve failed to eat any kind of snack at all, I’ve usually been deeply hangry before lunch break rolled around.)
Becky’s suggestion that we eat every 3-4 hours made that all make sense. In fact, it makes so much sense that I’m now wondering how I failed to grasp it before. Then again, that’s why she’s a high-performance nutritionist, and I’m not.
Perhaps even more importantly, I don’t think I really understood the effects of chronically low blood sugar on both performance and body composition.
Becky showed us a diagram illustrating the point that the range in which the human body works best falls between 80 and 100. My fasting blood sugar is rarely higher than 70 (I forget what the units in question are right now, sorry). I’m impressed if it’s 72; the one time in my life it was as high as (GASP!) 74, I wondered if I’d randomly awakened and eaten something in the middle of the night and forgotten about it.
Anyway, <70 is low. The typical response that garners during a medical exam is basically, “Cool, no need to worry about diabetes!”
But it turns out that when your blood sugar level is low, your body really does burn muscle and hold onto fat. I kind of knew that: we’ve all heard of “starvation mode.” What I didn’t know was that your body doesn’t wait around for a couple of weeks before heading down that road.
So, in short, I probably wasn’t doing myself any favors by avoiding carbs in the morning.
This certainly explains why I’ve felt better on the rare morning that I impulsively threw a donut into the mix because I happened to stop for gas, or had to use ACTUAL SUGAR in my coffee because I ran out of stevia, or whatever.
If you’re starting with basically an empty tank, putting anything in it is going to help. It’s not like you’re body’s going to ignore fuel simply because it’s not Eleventy Octane Super Premium Ultra Plus, Now With Scrubbing Bubbles.
Your body, at that point, just wants ANYTHING. And if you don’t give it something, it’s going to assume that it should hold on to its emergency stores and tap the muscles instead.
That might also explain why basically surrendering to chronic disorganization, purchasing an immersion blender, and just making huge smoothies with some protein stuff (usually pasteurized eggs) and a handful of trail mix (peanuts and almonds … protein and fat in one happy little package) for breakfast and packing more of said trail mix to eat with lunch correlated with an unexpected drop in my body fat percentage.
Obviously, without a controlled experiment, causality is danged hard to determine–but in retrospect, it seems like maybe one way of accidentally starving myself was worse than the other. The one that gave me some carbs, protein, and fat, while still not ideal, was probably less bad.
I also made the mistake of thinking that my other frequent snack choice–inexpensive protein bars, because broke–was somehow … not good enough. Again, that seems silly now. The protein bars in question may be fairly processed (though they’re still mostly made of things that are recognizeable as food, albeit in small chunks), but they do the job of being quick and easy to eat when “quick and easy” are probably the most important criteria. You might have the best apple in the world, but if that’s all you’ve got, and you can’t finish it in 5 minutes, it’s not going to do the job.
Anyway, the most important takeaway for me was that I need to eat more, and to eat more often, than I did last season. Well, that, and to not eschew nutrition in bar form, because that’s often going to be my best bet.
My breakfasts, snacks, and lunches were uniformly underpowered last year (I’m not going to say “too small”), while my dinners were … spotty. I didn’t have time for a full meal between rehearsal and teaching, so by the time my classes let out, I was both incredibly hangry and in no position to drive for 40-50 minutes without eating.
Since I would, inevitably, have also run through the woefully-inadequate supply of food I had packed for the day, I typically resorted to drive-through dining, but usually (in an effort to reduce the artery-clogging effects of fast food) I’d get the smallest meal I could find.
Then I’d be mad at myself when I was starving at 10 PM, or wonder why I was so hungry at 1 AM that I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep without eating something.
You guys. In retrospect, I’m really trying to figure out … like … how I didn’t figure it out -.-
Part of the problem was my tool set. Basically, I was whacking away with a hammer, mentally screaming, “Why is it so hard to saw through this log???!!!!” I kept focusing on how to eat better at dinner time, when I would’ve done better to just eat a little more and a little better across the whole day.
Anyway, one of Becky’s smart, actionable suggestions was to literally write out your daily schedule (not too obsessively: sometimes lunch break is at 12:53; sometimes we get really into rehearsal and at 1:30 Mr D looks up and goes “OMG, sorry, you guys! I haven’t given you a lunch break!”) and figure out how to feed yourself around it.
Which … oh, my G-d. That’s brilliant.
Becky’s presentation also introduced Team USA’s Athlete Plates–three useful visual guides to adjusting nutrition for the demands of your day. They’re less about telling you specifically what to eat than suggesting how to proportion your meals to keep yourself well-fueled. This is exactly the kind of information delivery I’ve been yearning for: visual, so you can use it at a glance, but with lots of deeper information readily available.
- You can find PDF guides to the Athlete Plates, along with lots of other great information about nutrition for athletes, on Team USA’s Nutrition page.
In short, I came away from this workshop with a much better sense of how I, a broke-ass dancer with ADHD and time-management challenges, can make a plan to keep myself well-fueled that actually fits into my life.
So that’ll be Part 2 of this post … because right now it’s dinner time, and I’m hungry.
Right now, I think it’s fairly safe to say that we’re all a bit lost in the woods; a little at sea.
Like, all of us. The whole planet.
We didn’t really know this thing was coming, and now it’s here.
You can prepare all you like for the possibility of some global … I guess disaster is the word; it’s not the word I want, but it’s the only one that to mind. It’s a slow-moving disaster, I guess.
Anyway, you can prepare all you like, but the reality of living in it—the experience of living in it—can’t be anticipated. You can have all the stuff you need to survive and enough to help your neighbors survive, but even that can’t mitigate the shock of the sudden and utter shift, the change when the thing finally comes.
We are, whether we realize it or not, creatures of habit. When we suddenly find ourselves obliged to upend the entire normal course of our days, we kind of derail a bit.
So that’s where I am: derailing a bit, but trying to learn how to drive my train without its track. Trying to figure out which way is up. Trying to orient towards the sun and get my feet under me.
You would think that as someone whose career is inherently cyclical, with long periods of down-time, I would be more okay with this than I am.
I certainly thought that. I was like, “Yeah, it sucks that our season is over early, and that we never got to do our closing show, but it’s only a month early, really, and we’re okay financially.”
But, really, I thrive on order and ritual, and apparently the ritual for changing gears into summer mode is the last show.
Likewise, “summer mode” usually means I still go to class. It’s easy for me to forget that the thing that keeps my brain on the level is the daily litany of movement. It’s a startling surprise to remember how easily and how quickly things begin to become unbalanced.
The first week of this, D and I were in the middle of finally replacing the Camry—originally with the Electric Jellybean, but since that didn’t work out (the battery wasn’t up to D’s commute), eventually with VW Jetta TDI. That made planning my days difficult for me, so I didn’t dive feet-first into the array of ballet classes available by streaming.
Between the mental stress of the Emerging New Normal and the lack of sufficient physical exercise, my sleep quality and quantity took a nosedive.
Because the rhythm of my day was just plain gone, I kept forgetting to take my Adderall. That meant my brain was … Less able to adjust, shall we say.
Over the past several days, I slowly realized that I was starting to slip, and that it was time to do something about it. I started taking a sleeping pill early each evening in hope of getting some solid sleep.
Last night, it finally worked. I slept until 9:30 today and woke up feeling … if not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at least, like, eyed and tailed. You know. Basically equipped to more or less function.
I remembered to make myself a cup of coffee: it’s become part of my morning ritual, and one that I enjoy. It helps my brain know that there’s a day happening and we’re going to go do the things. I remembered to take my Adderall.
I’m late getting started, but once I finish this coffee and this post I’m going to go take class … albeit, in my living room, and probably in socks. When I’m done with that, I’ll do my assignment for the company, because I’d like to still have a job when the current storm blows itself out.
I’m not going to sermonize or tell anyone how to handle this crisis. We’re all grieving, and grief is a deeply individual process.
Nor am I going to confidently assert that I’ve got this handled, now: I’ve only got this present moment handled, and if things start to derail again, I’m going to try to give myself in una poca de gracia, as the song says.
- The song, of course, is La Bamba, which arguably has nothing to do with any of this … Except doesn’t the line, “To dance the Bamba, it’s necessary to have a little grace,” rather beautifully describe how to cope with a sea-change like this one?
- Dancing, after all, is just falling and catching yourself, over and over, until it looks beautiful.
I’m going to remember the tools I’ve learned to use over the past few years. I’m going to:
- do two things
- grant myself grace
- take my Adderall
- and last, but not least, take class.
Going forward, I’m sure I’ll make some mistakes. That’s okay. We humans are makers of mistakes, but also makers of magic and music and beauty and art.
We’ll get through this, and we’ll find north again.
And until then, we’ll stay home and remember to wash our hands.
Oh, and since I wouldn’t be me without a little irreverent humor, here:
Yesterday was the first day since the beginning of the ballet season that I haven’t had something scheduled that required leaving the house—or, well, technically, I did have a cirque rehearsal, but I was running a fever and decided that it would be prudent to stay home rather than passing my germs along to everyone else.
Same thing today: Monday is a day off ballet-wise, but a rehearsal day for a small group of us from cirque. We decided to cancel cirque rehearsal today, since of the three of us, one is away and one is ill (spoiler alert: it me). Meanwhile, it’s break week at FSB, home of the partnering class I’m taking on Monday nights.
I’m definitely not complaining about the extra day off, though. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I really need some measure of time alone in order to stay sane.
I’m not sure whether my need for solitude (ha, that makes it sound so much more studious and intentional!) is an inborn trait or a function of having spent a great deal of time alone when I was growing up, but that doesn’t really matter anyway. It is, as they say, what it is.
Anyway, this past month has been one long, unbroken stretch of work days—and though I love my work, I’m seriously grateful for a chance to come up for air, even though it’s purely a function of coming down with whatever bug is making the rounds (and even though I’ve spent most of this unexpected down time asleep).
So, anyway, I’ve been meaning to write about how I’m managing at the moment—I mean the nuts-and-bolts of it. Now seems as good a time as any.
First, here’s a look at my work schedule:
- Sunday: Cirque Rehearsal, 12-2
- Monday: Cirque Rehearsal, 5-7, partnering class 6:15-7:30 (in practice, to actually do both, I have to leave cirque rehearsal at 6 and miss the first 45 mins of partnering class, due to an hour long commute)
- Tuesday: Ballet, 10-3:30; Teaching, 4:40-7
- Wednesday: Ballet, 10-3:30, Teaching, 4:40-8:15
- Thursday: Ballet, 10-3:30
- Friday: Ballet, 10-3:30; GFD rehearsal, 5-7
- Saturday: Ballet, 10-4
My shortest commute is about 30 minutes. My longest (home to ballet) is about 90. FSB is on the way home from the ballet, which is helpful, but it’s still a good hour from FSB to home. (I actually rather like driving, but it’s also physically and mentally stressful, so I’m profoundly grateful to finally have a couple of days on which I don’t have to drive at all.)
I’ve also been working a good many one-off cirque gigs and substitute-teaching fairly frequently, which is good for my income, but obviously means more driving and more time away from home.
The upshot of this is that I have very little time to do household stuff, which has been a challenge for me.
I’m not going to say that I’m on top of everything at this point.
I’m so not, especially not when I’ve planned my week around having most of Monday free and I get called in to sub during the day. I’m not great at switching gears, so things get a little bumpy when that happens.
I am, however, hanging in there better than I anticipated.
With that in mind, are the tools I’m using to at least keep us mostly ticking over:
- The Magic Of The Slow-Cooker: It would be hard to overstate how handy a slow-cooker is in my current situation. D doesn’t really cook, and I often don’t really have time to really cook, either, right now. Our slow-cooker has the standard low-heat setting and a higher setting, so you can throw a bunch of stuff into it and come back 3 to 8 hours later, and you’ve got food. It’s also huge. In practice, this means that I can dump some stuff in on Sunday and Monday afternoons, jet off whatever rehearsal, and return to dinner already sorted. It also helps with the next point, which is…
- Batch Cooking: D doesn’t like to eat the same thing for more than a couple of meals in a row, so I used to regard batch cooking as fairly impractical for our situation. Then, it dawned on me that I can make different batch meals on two consecutive days and stick the leftovers in the fridge, and D can alternate between them when I’m not home (or when I’m just too cooked myself to bother). Fortunately, D is a man of fairly simple tastes, and is generally quite content with things like chili, stew, pulled bbq chicken, and so forth. When I’m actually home for dinner, I serve them with…
- Bagged Salads: …Which are also my go-to lunch. At any given time, at least one store will typically be running a special on the “chopped salad” kits that include lots of crunchy vegetables and come with dressing and toppings like sunflower seed kernels, freeze-dried sweetcorn, raisins, and so forth. Often, I find them on clearance for less than $2/bag. They don’t hang around in my fridge long enough to go off, so I grab lots of those. Usually, one bagged salad can feed me through two rehearsals, which means that a fairly healthy lunch runs between $1 and $1.50 per day. A second one usually makes up the bulk of my supper. I also go through a ton of…
- Greek Yogurt and Frozen Fruit: I buy large bags of frozen berries (on sale, whenever possible) and large tubs of Greek yogurt, but I still get through about $8 worth of yogurt and $4 worth of fruit each week. Still, $12/week isn’t bad for a high-quality top-up between rehearsal and teaching.
- Frozen Burritos: I like to make burritos in batches and throw a dozen or so into the freezer. When you get home from a long day dancing and teaching dance, it’s easy to nuke a couple and actually make a decent meal out of them.
- Apples: I’m out of apples right now, and it has made me keenly aware how much I depend on them. I like really crisp apples, preferably tart or semi-tart, so I buy large bags of Granny Smith, Jazz, and similar cultivars. Normally, I eat a couple of them with some toast for breakfast, and they get me through to lunch. Without them, I wind up eating twice as much yogurt and twice as much toast. Apples are filling, y’all. They also don’t require any…
- Dishes: okay, so here’s where I’m flummoxed. I manage my own dishes by using as few as possible washing each dish as soon as I’ve used it and simply reusing the same two cups all the time: one for hot drinks and one for cold (they get washed once a day or so). D doesn’t adhere to that practice, though, which means I’m left with a batch of dishes to hand-wash on the regular (out dishwasher is dead). I haven’t found an ideal time for that, which means that at the moment they get done basically just whenever. It’s not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world, either. The slow-cooker also helps, since I generally only make one-pot recipes, which means fewer dishes to wash.
I’m still struggling to keep on top of laundry. The challenge there is mainly that D wants his work clothes hung up as soon as they’re dry, which means babysitting the dryer. Maybe simply hanging those things up to dry in the first place would help, though. Socks and the like could still go through the dryer.
D has taken over some of the stuff I was doing—particularly the yard work—which does help, and he doesn’t hesitate to wrangle laundry as needed. In the past, when I had no regular income, it bothered me if he did that, because I felt like as long as I wasn’t bringing in any money, that should be my job. At this point I’ve got a regular income, so I’m learning to feel okay with that.
We still have way too much stuff, which means that I never feel like the house is tidy, because it’s literally impossible to put everything away. We’re discussing how to deal with that—it’s not something I can handle unilaterally, because most of the stuff in the house isn’t mine. I have, at any rate, begun reducing where I can.
So, basically, we’re getting through. I enjoy working on cirque shows, but I won’t be sad to finally have Sundays off for a bit once our current show is done.
I’m actually managing better than I expected to, thus far. Ideally, going forward, I hope to eventually figure out a way too schedule my life so I have at least one regular day off, for sanity’s sake (two would be even better). Likewise, I am at present considering the best way to reduce the amount of stuff in the house and prevent more stuff from accumulating in its place: in other words, a way of solving that problem that will be equally motivating to both of us.
Life as a performing artist is unlikely ever to be as routinely-scheduled as almost any other life in a modern Western economy, and I’m rather glad to discover that capable of handling that.
Anyway, we’re back to ballet tomorrow, so I’d better go wrangle.my ballet laundry. I’m planning to post a couple of my go-to slow-cooker recipes some time soon, as well, and to get back to posting semi-regularly about technique.
I’ve finally given in and taken a day off to go to the doctor’s office, so predictably I’m bored out of my skull.
As such, it seemed like a good time to implement a quick organization hack.
I use chalk markers to label and date food storage containers. They’re visible on all colors and transparencies, come in cute colors, and are easy to wipe away. They do, however, really prefer to be stored horizontally.
My previous solution was to jumble them in with my magnetic basket of assorted dry-erase pens, but that resulted in:
- an overflowing basket (I’ll pause here for lowbrow humor of the kind that occurs to me every time a U-scan machine politely chirps, “Please check your basket!”).
- a giant pain in the tuchas whenever I needed to grab a specific pen.
*Any similar product should also work; these just happened to be on hand at Staples** yesterday.
**I should never be allowed to enter Staples without a responsible adult. I did manage to restrain myself from buying a purpose-built Headphones Pocket and about 7,000 Sharpie Pens, but just barely -.-
Technically, D-Wings are cord guides—and I definitely need some of those, because 2019 amirite?—but I noticed that the large ones were the perfect size for my chalk pens.
I stuck them on the side of my microwave, where they’re unlikely to be in the way but not so far out of sight that I’ll forget about them. It seemed less drastic than sticking them on the side of the fridge, which is more likely to stay here if we move someday.
Now my chalk pens will be easy to grab when I need to write “Breakfast” or the current date on a food container.
Better yet, I still have two large D-wings and a bunch of small ones, so my cord-containment needs will not go unmet.
Edit: PS—possibly because I actually remembered to take my Adderall today, I verified the fit before installing the D-Wings, which seems like a good idea.
First, a billion apologies. I set up a schedule and responded to it exactly how I typically respond to anything that’s more than I can handle: I missed a post, then balked at making the next one because I figured it would have to be really good, then just kept balking because I didn’t want to get myself back into something that was obviously kind of beyond me right now.
There you go.
I write best when I can be alone, and right now I have almost no alone time and I seem to spend 100% of the alone time I have doing laundry and dishes and otherwise trying to catch up on housework, which directly conflicts with writing since it involves using my hands. I’m not someone who can dictate into a voice recorder: my brain doesn’t work like that. If it did, I would probably be much better at actually talking to people, but maybe not as good at writing, so who knows.
Part of what makes it so difficult to write with other people around is that they don’t seem to understand that writing for me, requires a kind of uninterrupted focus that is literally impossible when someone insists on asking questions like, “What are you working on?”
Even if I don’t answer (which would be rude and would only invite even more questions), it takes my brain a long time to merge back into the stream. Likewise, the knowledge that I’m almost certain to be interrupted in this way makes it hard to establish concentration in the first place.
Today, we got out of rehearsal early, which is great for writing purposes. I also don’t have a rehearsal for The Other Thing I’m Doing (LBS’ Spring Collection), so I might even get some extra alone time tonight while D is at Trapeze and Acro (despite my fondness for combining them, these are two separate classes ^-^) … though I might go with him and do Acro instead. We’ll see.
Anyway. Add to the list of things I’ve leaned about myself this year: I might never feel 100% certain of myself during the rehearsal process, but once the curtain goes up it’s like I don’t know what uncertain means (except for the bit where I’m always vaguely paranoid that I’ll space out and miss my entrance).
Add also: I can enjoy the heck out of being a performer in an interactive game … but I’ll need a solid three days to recover afterwards. I could get through a multi-day run of that kind of thing, I’m sure, but the longer the run, the longer the break I’d need at the end. This past weekend was exactly that: Friday night, my Cirque company played the international spy collective in a spy game. Saturday, Sunday, and (to a lesser extent) Monday, I played, “Maybe if I squeeze my eyes shut hard enough the rest of humanity will disappear.”
I had a sore throat and a vicious headache on Saturday, so I used that as an excuse to spend most of the day in bed, aided and abetted by the fact that Actual Ballet Company wasn’t called for rehearsal and that I’d been exposed to Strep. Honestly, sometimes it feels amazing to do nothing for an entire day.
I came into this week feeling brighter and better rested than I have since … I’m really not sure when. My body hasn’t been running at 100% (as reflected in my worse-than-usual Petit Allegro), so I think I’m probably fighting off a cold or something, but dancing has felt pretty good. Except for Petit Allegro, and my inexplicable inability to do a balloté during a combination when it was just fine a moment before.
Or … well, not entirely inexplicable. I suspect that the balloté failure happened because we were running into it, and I have literally never done balloté from a run before in my life.
To make balloté work, you have to really brush the leading leg out as if you were going to do grand jeté, then snap it in through passé so it meets up with the back leg just as the back leg is at maximum height.
I kept running myself over, much as I used to do when running into Bournonville jetés. The result was more of a mutant pas de chat than a balloté, which was doubly annoying because balloté is a jump that I can usually do quite well.
Anyway, a mutant pas de chat is what happens when you try to balloté without brushing the leading leg straight out and jumping before you snap it back in. Or maybe more like a pas de araigneé morte.
There was also something that was supposed to be assemblé en tournant but became some kind of rotating pas de chat, so maybe I was just having a Pas De Chats Only kind of day. Except my actual petit allegro pas de chats were … erm. Not Good.
So that’s ballet for you. You never stop making mistakes, you just make fancier mistakes. You never stop having bad days, so you have to remind yourself that the bad day you’re having today would’ve been a fantastic day two or three years ago and a decent day last year.
- Like my lovely husband … to whom, it occurs to me now, I should explain all this, since he has this weird (but kinda sweet) policy of mostly not reading my blog because he wants it to be my thing.
- I can’t actually be more specific than that. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes; sometimes it’s hours. It Just Depends.
- Step of the dead spider. You’re welcome.
- I understand what happened there, at any rate. My thinking brain got ahead of my body, and I was thinking about the plié that was supposed to land the darned thing, and apparently attempted to plié in mid-air … because THAT makes sense! ^-^’
I keep promising to add photos to my Like Skillz posts, but then forgetting, so I’m going to try to stop making that promise. Maybe I’ll come back and add photos here, maybe I won’t.
This might be something you’re already doing. I might be the last person alive who hadn’t thought of this.
If you’re still wrestling with pillows every time you change your sheets, here’s something that might help.
When you fold your pillowcases, fold them inside-out.
(Since they’re likely to wind up inside-out when you yank them off your pillows in the first place, this can save a step in the washing/folding process, too!)
Then, when it’s time to put them onto your pillows, reach into an inside-out pillowcase and use the corners like hand-puppet mouths. (This isn’t as kinky as it sounds … but if you want to make it kinky, you do you, Boo!)
Bite down on the corners of your pillow. The pillowcase will probably bunch up on your arms: that’s fine; it actually makes the rest of the job easier.
Next, keep a firm grip on one corner while you use your other hand to start pulling the pillowcase up by its open edge, turning it right side-out as you go.
This is especially useful when you’re wrestling a really fat pillow or a floppy down or feather pillow. It’s also the easiest way to get duvet covers onto duvets, which is where I picked up the idea (which in turn transferred from putting on compression stockings).
Like I said, you’ve probably already figured this out. But if you haven’t, I hope it makes making your bed easier.
And if you’re in a place right now where making the bed and/or folding pillowcases isn’t really on the radar, that’s okay, too. There are way more important things in the world.
(With ADHD. Who Like To Write.)
You guys, I am terrible at using planners.
Every year, I buy one … okay, or more than one … and I try to make it work with my insane schedule, my ADHD, and my apparent allergy to anything that resembles a journal but not a blog.
The thing is, most planners aren’t designed for people who might work from 1000 – 1130, then again from 2100 – 2330. Most planners use sensible hourly formats designed for sensible people who sensibly work from 9 – 5 or, at the outer limit, 6. Everything later than that gets, like, two tiny lines labeled ‘Evening’ or what have you.
Enter Ink & Volt. I discovered them via Insta, then poked their website. I immediately vowed out loud that I wouldn’t buy their planner because their UI had serious problems, and in my darkest and most cynical heart-of-hearts I’m a cranky UI design crank.
And then, after fighting with the UI for a while and poking around and discovering that there wasn’t actually another goal-oriented planner on the market that suited my needs and that, G-d help me, I actually loved their product design, I sent them $40 (which is the most I have ever spent on a planner, but it seemed like a good idea now that I have gigs to keep track of and stuff).
Yeah, yeah. I know.
The thing is, I’ve actually consistently used this thing every day since it arrived, which is saying something.
It has catchy little guided-journal pages, like this:
… And this:
In addition to weekly scheduling pages, like this:
I like the simple schedule blocks. I like the lack of space-wasting hourly breakdowns. I like the paper that doesn’t bleed through.
I like the fact that this thing has some heft to it. It’s like a literal anchor for my day—I could probably tie it to a canoe and toss it overboard and expect to stay put for a bit, though then I would have to buy another planner. I like being able to sit down in the morning and fumble though it with my bumbly morning thumbs.
I like that it’s there, a solid and visible object that I can pick up when I’m bored, and that it has little ribbon markers so I can turn right to the monthly overview page or this week’s schedule (which is how I choose to employ them). Sure, a lot of the info in here is also in my phone and in The Cloud … but I can pick this up without getting distracted by Dots & Co or Google Now’s next suggested article about time-management (ironic, amirite?).
I like that there’s a little structure, but not so much my head wants to explode. Just enough.
I don’t think this is the perfect planner for everybody, because I don’t think that planner exists. It’s probably not even perfect for me—but it’s closer than anything else I’ve tried.
Will I stick with it? We’ll see. The $40 price tag is certainly an incentive—and I’m doing better than I’ve done with any planner since the free one I used to get at IUS, which had the advantage of also acting as an assignment book.
Sure—there are things I don’t love. My handwriting is sufficiently terrible that a spiral binding that really, really opens out F L A T T T would help. On the other hand, it wouldn’t feel as nice, and I secretly quite like the heft and permanence of the hard binding.
So there you have it.
If you, too, think you might like to go be pissed off by an irritating UI but still wind up buying a darned good planner, you can find both here.
Full disclosure: Ink & Volt doesn’t know me from Adam, and I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for this review, which they don’t even (yet) know I’ve written.