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Good Days, Bad Days

Today, we rang bells for the last time this year. For me, it might be the last time for a while, since next year I will be really drilling down on dance stuff.

We played three pieces, all of which were pretty easy for me with the exception of a small bit of very quicbell-juggling — and even that wasn’t difficult, just less easy.

So we rocked right through the prelude piece (one which, I’ll admit, I could ring in my sleep) without a hitch and came off feeling quite good about ourselves, and I expected the same from the communion piece.

And then we began to ring, and I was startled by a wrong note.

…And then I realized that I was the one playing the wrong note (egads!).

…And then I figured, “Oh, hmm, must’ve swung the wrong hand.”

But when next I rang that note — a G — I swung the correct hand (which was, incidentally, also the right hand).

And then a kind of horror broke through me.

I shifted my bells. Rang again.

Still wrong.

Grabbed the bell that was still on the table. Rang that.

Still wrong.

…And, finally, I just put them all on the table, looked down, and picked them up all over again, in the correct hands.

Needless to say, although my wrong notes somehow managed not to sound too off (my part, in that section, was practically a bagpipe drone), I was flustered. Mortified. Frustrated.

Much the way I felt in class on Saturday, when I dropped in on Essentials because Ms J was teaching and proceeded to dance well enough that my fellow students concluded that I knew what I was doing and that they should just follow me … At which time my brain decided it would be a good plan to start doing the turns on the left side of a very simple combination backwards.

…Thus leading these tender, innocent new dancers into error (seriously, Ms J remarked on that when my group finished).

I knew what was supposed to happen. I even knew how to do the thing that was supposed to happen. I saw the wrong thing happening: and yet, once again, I was forced to watch in horror as my Ballautopilot hosed things up — only, this time, said Ballautopilot generously hosed things up for everyone. (Father forgive me, for I know just what I do, but not how to stop myself doing the wrong thing anyway?)

As such, the lesson of the day for the Essentials class was, “Know the choreography, and the choreography shall set you free. Also, don’t follow that one guy just because he looks like he knows what he’s doing.”

The lesson for me, on the other hand … Eh. I guess, “Sometimes the power steering breaks at the worst time,” or something like that. At least I remained physically committed to my own special variation and made it look good.

My ego is salved (at least where ballet is concerned) by the knowledge that I, too, have in my time been led astray, sometimes by company members who presumably are much better at this stuff than I am :}

But, yeah. Ballautopilot: the struggle is real?

At any rate, it’s good to be dancing again. I shall be doing a great deal of it over the next few weeks in preparation for the Cinci workshop.

So, there you have it. Good and bad days at the same time, sometimes in the very same combination.


PS: After my ignominious defeat by the communion piece, we rang the postlude piece like professionals.

Turn, Turn, Turn

While usually I’m all about the jumps, today I managed to stay on top of the turns, but lost it in the traveling jumps.

We did another complex adagio combination with promenades en dehors that ended with a tricky one — promenade écarté devant en dehors into first arabesque, which is one of those things that seems really difficult until you do it right, and then it’s like magic (the promenade, especially). The cool part is that it’s easier to balance during the promenade if you bring your working leg higher (provided that you’re using your upper body correctly), so it automatically looks kind of amazing.

For once, I didn’t do any turns the wrong way. Going across, we did balancé, balancé, tombe pas de bourée thrice, with the final phrase ending in pique arabesque, failli, turn from fifth en dehors. It went rather nicely both ways. Staying on the music required using a different attack on the last phrase — it had to be sharper and faster than the first two phrases, which were very fluid and mellow. I liked that.

We followed (after the one zillion little bouncy jumps, which I do well as a matter of course) with a sort of medium allegro combination that should, by all rights, have been right up my alley — just sauté arabesque, failli, glissade, assemblé en menage … except my brain got going about port de bras and instead I bollixed it up rather completely. 

I could not both think and reliably get from failli to glissade to assemblé. I’m sure at least two repetitions ended with glissade, pas de chat, while still others turned into Sissons and even cabrioles devants as I realized, too late, that I was Doing It Wrong and attempted to correct myself mid-leap. FFS. The worst part is the I think my assemblé generally looks pretty rad, but missed it almost every time.

Inexplicably, at one point, the whole thing turned into sauté arabesque, failli, precipité, saut de chat, complete with an utterly appropriate port de bras which, nonetheless, had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual port de bras we were supposed to use. Oy vey.

It was a nice saut de chat, at least? It was totally one of those moments when you just have to completely own your alternate version and be like, “Bishes, pls— I’m the soloist, here, my combo is different.”

(Yeah … apparently mine was the turkey combo?)

And then, to cap things off, something weird happened in my ear going left (which is to say, I suddenly quite deaf in my left ear unless you count the fact that it was ringing), and instead of continuing as I normally would, I sort of froze for what felt like forever.

Right in front of Brian.


You have not lived until you’ve stood, frozen on one leg, confused panic writ large in your every fiber, blinking desperately, nose-to-dance belt with your teacher (he happened to be sitting down at that moment).

Oh, the humanity.


The saving grace was that I wanted to work on spacing, so I opted not to go first. Had I been in front, a tragic and disastrous nine-dancer pileup would certainly have ensued.

Instead, there was only one dancer behind me, and he’s still new to this class, so he was working slowly and carefully (he’s more the “drill it ’til ya kill it” kind than the “fake it til ya make it” kind, I think). There was a loooot of space between us, so I managed to come unstuck and do the right combination, like, twice.

At the end, we just did that weird thing whose name I can’t remember in which you basically run across the floor in attitude (usually with your arms in second). I’m really bizarrely good at it, so that was nice.

If ever they ask me to rename a ballet step, though, I’m going to take that one and rename it “pas berger des chats,” or perhaps “pas troupeau des chats,” because it looks exactly like what I do when I’m trying to herd cats through a door (which, curiously, I also do fairly well, all things considered).

Today’s reverence was also strange, but nice — sort of contemporary yoga ballet reverence.

Soooooooo … yeah. That was Saturday class this week.

For what it’s worth, it was a good class overall.

But I need to remember my own First Rule:

There’s No Thinking In Ballet.

Onward and Upward, By Fits, Starts, and Degrees

Sometimes, recovering from a bad episode of this depressive bipolar crap seems a bit like doing the hokey-pokey.

You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out, you put your left foot in, and then you go back to bed because frankly you’ve had enough for today and you’d really rather try again tomorrow, thank you very much.

I tend to make optimistic prognostications about my ability in moments that I’m feeling a bit more “up” than I have been (read: moments when I’ve taken my meds and downed something with a bit of caffeine in it, of late).

Later, when things shift back towards really deep end of the spectrum, I tend to sit there kicking myself about making said optimistic prognostications (which I tend to do publicly, because, in short, I never freaking learn, I guess?).

Right now, I’m somewhere between those two states: not at that point where I’m like, “I am going to do All This Stuff soon,” but not at that point where I’m like, “Yeah, I’m a waste of oxygen and I should really stop thinking I’m ever going to do anything.”

Instead, I’m in this spot where I’m able to see that the optimistic part of me that makes bold plans is okay, and the horribly depressed part of me that gets really angry when I fail to complete those plans is also okay, and that can be what they are, and it is, in its own way, okay.

Not always happy, not always fun, not always even remotely anything like pleasant: but valid, allowed. The human experience is rich with contradictions; with complications.

Today I did not even remotely attempt to get out of bed early enough to get to morning class. A part of me is really pissed about that — the same part that’s forever saying things like This is why you never amount to anything; you’re better than that; this is what makes the difference between people who succeed in ballet and people like you.

Another part of me recognizes that you have to work with what you’ve got. What I’ve got right now is hard to work with (though, on the other hand, I’m writing a fair bit, so there’s that).

I did begin my Great Office Rehab Project — or at least some of it (some of it will have to wait ’til I can buy some paint and some fabric). Denis brought in the replacement desk, so I set it up, installed the office air conditioner, and then became insanely, furiously frustrated because there are still Too Many Things In This Room.

The difficulty is that some of the things need to stay, but they need to live in or on other things that aren’t in here yet, and I don’t want to bring those other things in until the things on or in which the first set of things resides are out of the way, but I can’t get them out of the way without bringing in the things to put the things in…


My brain makes everything a thousand times harder than it has to be when I’m depressed (not like ADHD helps any of this, but depression makes it worse; when I’m manic, OTOH, I can organize anything to within an inch of its life, as long as something else doesn’t distr— SQUIRREL!).

So today I went to see my therapist (and rode my bike a lot, because I figured actually getting some exercise would solve one of the problems contributing to the severity of this depression — lack of exercise).

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll bring in the things into which I need to transfer the other things, so the things in which the things now reside can go wherever it is they’re going.

Maybe I won’t.

I’m not making any bold statements right now. We’ll see.

Perhaps that should be my motto for the time being: “We’ll see.”

Ultimately, it’s not like we can ever say for certainty what we’ll be doing at any given moment, anyway. Control is an illusion, and it seems especially illusory when you live with a mental illness that really rather prevents you being able to make long-term forecasts about your emotional weather.

If I have my head together well enough, my foot should hold up to at very least Essentials on Friday. I might give Intermediate class a try.

I do feel like I need to get back on top of ballet. I have missed so much. I don’t suppose I can do anything about that (water under the bridge, etc.), but I can work on putting the pieces in place to prevent it from becoming an established pattern.

Just going to class is one of those pieces — ballet is such an effective preventative and remedy; it seems to take the teeth out of my depressions when I can keep dancing.

This particular depression, though, has been a perfect storm of ballet-interrupting foot injury, stress, hormonal disruptions (blargh), lack of externally-imposed structure in my life, general lack of exercise, and the destabilizing effect of summer itself.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

More soon, maybe?

We’ll see.

Life Management: Two Bills Every Day

The Problem
In high school, after my life went off the rails and before it got back on the rails, I spent some time going to a private school for, shall we say, kids with Life Challenges(1).

At said school, we had a class called “Life Management.” Since we were Kids With Life Challenges, one of the goals of the program was to try to teach us, insofar as it was possible, the skills we would eventually need to move out of our parents’ basements live independently. Skills like grocery shopping, balancing checkbooks, and paying bills.

This should have been a Really Good Thing.

Unfortunately, like many Life Skills curricula written by people who do not have Life Challenges and thus cannot actually imagine what it’s like to live with them, our Life Management curriculum was not very effective in helping us to develop mechanisms for coping with our actual difficulties.

Like, I’m pretty sure most of us came into that class knowing that we would eventually have bills, that it was a good idea to pay them, and that it would probably help to keep them all organized somehow and come up with some kind of system for making all that happen — and, yet, those were the ideas the course focused on.

What the course did not account for was the reality that, for many of us, actually making that happen was a way more complicated ball of wax than it was for the average Jane or Joe. It wasn’t that we didn’t get the basic concept (“You will have bills, and you should pay them.”). It was more the details of the concept that were the problem (“Okay, but how do I put together a system to keep it all organized that’s so simple a Golden Retriever could do it?”).

By way of analogy, it was kind of like going to a watch-making class in which the curriculum demonstrates of a bunch of working watches, reveals how to wind old-fashioned pocket watches, and informs you that you need to build watches … but then doesn’t tell you how. You graduate and are installed in your seat at a watch shop, and suddenly you have this pile of gears and minute screws and casings and goodness only knows what else, and somehow you are expected to turn all this stuff into a real, working watch.

If you’re like most people with ADHD, you wade in, do your best. Often you turn out semi-working watches, with parts left over. Just as often, you turn out failures. Amazingly, you sometimes even turn out a working watch or two (in fact, if you’re like most people with ADHD, you do so more often than chance alone would predict — but not often enough).

Then the next batch of watch parts comes in, and they’re for watches built on a different plan, and no instructions are included. Oh, and did I mention that no two watches in the set ever use exactly the same plan? Instead, there are minute variations from watch to watch — and it’s up to you to figure out what they are based on the jumble of parts at hand.

So you’re back to square one. Perhaps you even try to design a “system” for building watches, only to discover that the system you design is horrendously over-complicated, or doesn’t account for exceptions, or is inflexible ad absurdum.

That was pretty much my experience with Life Management.

In short, I arrived at the threshold of Adulthood (such as it is) with a clear understanding of the fact that I needed to pay bills and keep my life organized (lessons I had already learned anyway both from previous schools and from my Mom, who is amazingly good at things like paying bills and being organized), but no clear concept of how to do so in a way that I — a person with ADHD and the time-sense of a not-very-bright Golden Retriever(2) — could handle.

Flash forward to now. I’ve tried everything, pretty much. I have designed so many overly-complicated watch-building systems it’s not even funny. And yet I still get confused and screw up. All the time. Because, you know: ADHD plus Golden Retriever Time.

The Idea
So this month I’ve decided to try a new non-system. I’ve decided, simply put, that every day I will try to pay two bills. Right now, I’m not even going to worry about which ones. If they’re on the top of the pile, they get paid … or maybe I should pay the ones at the bottom of the pile, to create a First-In, First-Out flow — wait, you know what? That’s too much complexity. I’m just going to grab any two bills from the pile and pay them. Et voila.

The idea is that this will make sure the bills get paid on time, and also that I don’t get completely overwhelmed by a giant stack of bills when too many bills arrive at once. (Sometimes, you guys, life is weirdly hard in ways that are, frankly, kind of annoying and stupid.)

The reality is that some days I will forget. That’s fine. There are thirty days in any given month, and we do not (amazingly enough) have sixty recurring bills.

I’m hoping that the act of sitting down in the office to pay two bills will also remind me to enter recurring auto-payments into the checkbook and Quicken. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. We’ll see.

So there you have it. A zillion words about a topic that should have taken, like, seven: “I will pay two bills every day.”

I’ll keep you posted on how it works.

That’s it for now. Pre-emptive make-up math class today (because I’m missing my class tomorrow); tomorrow I’mma hop on the Megabus and roll off to Chi-town for the 2014 ADTA Conference. Woooooot!


  1. In retrospect, I’m glad that I did. Some of us loved that school; some hated it. For me, it wound up being a good thing in many ways: it was there that I figured out how I learn; how to be the extremely hyper, textbook-case-of-ADHD kid that I was (and, I guess, am?) and still make good grades. It was also tiny, even compared to my previous school (which was pretty small), and that worked for me.
  2. Dogs seem to kind of understand time in terms of “Now” and “Not Now.” If it isn’t happening Now, it either happened or will happen Not Now. The concept of “a week from now” or “three hours from now” is, to a greater or lesser extent, lost on them (except in the sense that they can tell how long ago their people left home, quite possibly because the dwindling scent of their people acts as a sort of “clock” for them).

    Most dogs are actually a little better at time than I am — they’re like, “Ohai, dinar alweyz hapin arond dis taimz, Ai go sit at bowl nao.” Meanwhile, I am like, “Oh, crap! It’s 7:30 PM and I’m starving and I haven’t thawed anything!” Unfortunately, since I am not actually a dog, I am forced to be responsible for things, like feeding myself and my husband.

Department of Mood Retrieval

So I got my exam back.  I made the usual array of stupid ADHD mistakes that I make on any first-exam-of-the-semester in any math class, because I always forget how absolutely horrible I am at error-checking my own work (seriously, you would not believe the bone-headed crap I do).

Today’s winner?

On a question asking us to identify the equation representing the translations of a given graph, showing both the original (solid line) and translated (dashed line) graphs, I first wrote out the correct equation for the translated graph.

Then, instead of circling THAT SAME FREAKING EQUATION in the list of four possible answers, I circled the equation for the un-translated graph.


This is the mathematical equivalent, I am quite sure, of sissone-ing the wrong way in the combo.

Oh, I called this “Department of Mood Retrieval” because initially I was very depressed about this, but now I find it funny, and it’s improving my mood a bit.

Ballet Squid Chronicles: In Which I Can’t Even Even

I guess tonight wasn’t entirely a wash.

They say you’re only learning when you’re making mistakes.

Tonight I must’ve learned a lot.   I was like “MAKE ALL THE MISTAKES!”

My strengths were …  Um, well, my sauté arabesque always looks awesome.   All elastic ‘n’ ballonny and stuff*.

But I think I did literally everything else wrong at least twice.

Oh, I also managed like two good pirouettes out of, I don’t know, maybe a million?   As we’ve established, I can only count to four.  There were more than four.

So, um.   We’ll chalk this one up to experience.  Even Nureyev had bad nights, I’m sure.

*Oh, except got the part where I totally got called out for leaving my shoulder behind. My shoulder was all like, “Dude, just cause Mom makes me hang out with you doesn’t mean I’m not gonna pretend I’m with these other people instead.”

I also did full splits. Both sides. Unexpectedly. My legs were just like, “Oh, do you wanna go all the way down? Okay, no probs.”


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