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These Dreams

Dreams I had last night:

  • The hyperextension in my left knee had basically lost the plot and become so extreme that I was wary of doing anything with it
  • I was hanging out at my family’s Old Lyme “cottage” (now long since sold for no discernable reason, but that’s another story) in a dream that had no real plot or central conflict, but which was equal parts vivid* and perplexing, though can’t really recall why I felt perplexed
  • My left foot had been horribly broken and I was transported (in the back of a pickup truck, no less!) to a hospital for what a surgeon referred to as “orthopedic neurosurgery” as I attempted to explain to her that I am a dancer and needed to know how long I’d be off training, since I wasn’t even back from my previous surgery (the one I had in real life) yet

You guys. WTAF?

Also, in terms of emotional content, that last dream qualified as a full-on nightmare—it included the full-on emotional experience of being terrified that I would never dance again, but still keeping a brave face and holding it all together. STRESSSSSSS.

Addendum: that being said, in retrospect, it was also kind of funny, because the nature and extent of the injury got worse every time I looked at my foot, but during the dream I didn’t actually make note of that. In a way, it was very Monty Python.

I did notice that the toes in my foot looked weirdly long, but associated that with the injury.

*In fact, my dreams are always pretty vivid.

Danseur Ignoble: Practical Considerations

Yesterday, I signed up for the GRE, which doesn’t sound like it will be too bad.

It’s also possible that none of the programs for which I’m applying actually require it, but I might as well get it out of the way.

I’m not worried in the least about the writing and language bits; my only concern was that I’d have to do a whooooole lot of math review, but it looks like it should be very doable, provided that I don’t leave it all ’til the last minute because SQUIRREL!

As a matter of perspective, I’m much less worried about the GRE than I was about my audition piece.

Curiously, having done the audition has somehow made me feel much more confident and capable, even though the audition itself was kind of a mess due to the fact that there was absolutely no way I could be really adequately prepared under the circumstances. I don’t know, just getting up and winging it, doing it anyway, was a huge confidence-builder.

There’s something about actually doing creative work that is deeply edifying. I may not have had much of the work done in time for the audition, but the part that was done looked like … well, it looked like real dancing, if that makes any sense? And, since then, I’ve been rocking along creating and revising, which feels really exciting.

I’m learning to think of myself as an artist (not just in terms of dance, but also in terms of the visual arts), which is something I’ve always been hesitant to do. It seems somehow hubric to do so — and yet, at the same time, I’ve realized that you have to take your own work seriously, or you don’t give it the time it needs to get done.

…Or, well, that’s how it works for me.

I’ve also started organizing information about application deadlines and stuff for graduate school. Eventually, the most pressing details (application deadlines and materials needed) will go into a table or spreadsheet or something so I can just check them off as I go.

I’m not organizing cost-of-attendance data yet, because every time I look at cost-of-attendance I really rather feel like my eyes are going to explode. I know I’ll figure it out somehow, just like I figure everything else out somehow, so for now, except for looking into scholarship opportunities, I’m more or less ignoring that whole zone.

So now I’m contacting graduate schools, signing up for open-house days for their DMT programs (in this sort of devil-may-care, I’ll-figure-out-how-to-get-there-later kind of way), and so forth.

It’s a weird place to be, somehow. A couple weeks ago, I was all, I don’t know if I’m going to be ready for this; I don’t actually even know if I want to do this. A lot of that stemmed from being persistently sick for a rather longish period, though: eventually, I’ll write about what that does to me emotionally, but I can’t figure out yet how to put it into words.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, I woke up, remembered what I want to do and why, and felt ready to get started … so yesterday, I did.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that this happened within a week after getting back to class.

The structure that ballet provides is so essential to my life. While I actually do very much like being a homemaker, I seem to do best when I have a schedule imposed upon me from the outside. It forces me to organize my time in a way that’s really quite difficult for me to do otherwise.

Moreover, going to class is, for me, a signal that things are normal; that life is moving along in its usual rhythm. Not going to class is a signal that Something Is Very Wrong (usually, that either my physical or emotional health has imploded).

That said, I didn’t take Wednesday class yesterday because I don’t quite yet feel like my respiratory system is up to the demands of Brienne’s class. Lingering cough is lingering.

That said, I forgot that Margie now teaches a Wednesday morning class which I could have taken instead. Derp.

I’m hoping to be back up to speed next week, but if I’m not, I’ll do Margie’s class on Wednesday morning (I’m trying to avoid doing evening classes except on rare occasions, since this time of year it means getting home at 10 PM, which is problematic for a number of reasons).

I wrote in yesterday’s post about the relative costs of therapy and ballet as part of my defense of the cost of dancing — not to say that ballet should replace therapy, but it augments therapy rather beautifully. For me, the sense of structure and, I suppose, of belonging are an enormous part of that.

Dancing is part of what makes my life whole. For practical reasons as well as purely impractical ones, it’s terribly nice to be dancing again at last.

Quickie: A Hundred Pounds of Rocks in the Tour (Not So Literally); Ballet Dreams (Literally)

I’m taking a more conservative approach than I have in the past to managing my bipolar disorder.

This means that I haven’t returned to a three-classes-per-week schedule yet, or even a two-classes-per-week schedule. I wanted to go to class last night and did not feel ready, end of story. I need to learn to listen to that voice or reason, even though sometimes it feels like it’s standing between me and my dreams and goals.

I try to tell myself, instead, that it’s like not pushing yourself too hard on the bike when you’re recovering from a serious physical illness (like the last time I had pneumonia, or the time I broke my leg). You have to build back into it with a modicum of caution. Sometimes that means it takes longer to reach your goals than you had hoped.

Dottie (my therapist) and I talked about a similar thing yesterday. I found myself telling her about how frustrating and sometimes disheartening it is when this whole bipolar thing throws me off the rails, and how I sometimes really resent my difficulties instead of really appreciating what I can do; what I am doing. We also talked about how I tend to forget that I am living with a serious mental illness; one that can be really debilitating.

We wound up with this crazy Tour de France analogy: living with this is like riding the Tour de France with a hundred pounds of rocks in your chamois. The Tour isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s really freaking hard when you’re carrying a hundred pounds of rocks (or maybe when you’re the domestique and you have to carry … all … the water bottles?!)…

Terrible drawing of domestique hauling all the bottles.

Here is a high-quality graphical rendering, replete with cheering fan, to help you visualize this concept. (An oldie, but a goodie! You might remember this from last TourMonth July, in fact.)

Riding the Tour with a hundred pounds of rocks doesn’t mean you don’t get there. It does mean maybe you don’t ride all of every stage, or maybe sometimes you don’t ride a given stage at all. It certainly means that you’re probably going to finish each stage long after the crowds have gone home.

It means that, if you’re smart, you might be willing to accept some help — maybe a motor to get you up Mount Ventoux, maybe a partner to carry some of your rocks when you’re really struggling. Maybe an extra book of matches or two.

Maybe, sometimes, you even stop halfway through a stage and climb into the team car.

Maybe you try medication. That’s why they make medication.

In short, carrying a hundred pounds of rocks on the Tour takes a hard job and makes it harder. It makes you reassess your goals. When you’re carrying that load, there’s no way on Earth you’re going to win — not even if you ride the best eBike in the world and hop yourself up on so much EPO and caffeine that your veins stick out like the Alps on a topographical map. Instead, making it to the finish becomes a goal worth achieving — in fact, sometimes, just making it to the end of the day is a victory.

Anyway. I didn’t mean to wax on about that for quite so long. I meant to write about literal ballet dreams.

Lately I dream about ballet all the time — that is, about dancing. Literally, it’s like I’m practicing in my dreams on the days I don’t do class (and, in fact, these dreams often take place on the nights following would-be class days; I should say will-be class days, because I will work back into it). Last night I had a long, long dream entirely devoted to perfecting the very simple combination (demi-petite allegro? ;)) from Margie’s class on Saturday — tombé – pas de bourrée – glissade – assemblé.

It was kind of a dream about mastery, I guess, and about confidence. And also about the fact that my arms are a heck of a lot less awkward than they used to be.

It was, in fact, a pretty cool dream. I love dancing, and my dreams are extremely vivid, so it was like having the opportunity to dance for a long, long time on a day that I didn’t get to dance in my waking life.

It will be interesting to see if the dream in question has, in fact, acted as practice. There’s good evidence supporting the hypothesis that athletes (including, presumably, dancers) are not just exercising their egos (a nebulous concept at best) when they use concentrated visualization, but actually firing the neural circuits they would fire when performing the athletic task in question*.

Anyway, today I’m feeling fairly okay, I think. The challenge is not to tip myself back over into mania. People who do not suffer from bipolar disorder often imagine mania to be a pleasant state, and it can be — but for me, mania is often “black,” characterized by immense irritability, agitation, expolosive rage, near-psychotic paranoia (though I suppose I don’t really talk about this: because it’s only near-psychotic, I know it’s irrational, so I simply try not to give in to it), and a restlessness that prevents the completion of even the simplest tasks.

I know I’m not “better” yet, not quite back on an even keel, because I’m not feeling much need to sleep and I keep forgetting to eat (among other things). But I’m at least close enough to earth orbit to be getting stuff done, and the agitation and anger have passed for the moment. I’m into the kind of hypomania that can be very pleasant (Lots of energy! Reasonably positive mood! The ability to talk about things! Fast but not totally out-of-control streams of thought! Accomplishing lots of tasks! Wild productivity! Not so much total inability to feel the presence of G-d!) as long as I don’t let it get out of hand.

Okay, well. This is now much, much longer than I intended for it to be — but I guess it’s illustrative, nonetheless.

So far, I’m feeling kind of okay about being more open in this blog. Recently I had a long and awesome conversation with another person with bipolar disorder who seems to experience her disorder in much the same ways that I experience mine, and that was very heartening in a totally unexpected kind of way.

If even one other reader stumbles across my ramblings and goes, “Hey, this sounds really familiar. Maybe it’s not just me,” and it helps … well, that would be really awesome, and make it all very worthwhile.

*Non-athletes do this as well, as far as I know. I believe there have been some studies of this process in musicians. I’ll have to see if I can dig them up.

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