Obligatory Gratitude Post, 2018 😀
It’s Thanksgiving (Almost)!
That time of year when Americans come together to do battle with the groaning board, avoid discussing politics, and … oh yeah … give thanks.
I mean, it’s right there in the name!
And even though today was a Bad Ballet Day, I have a lot to be grateful for this year.
I’m not going to enumerate all the things. That would take forevvvverrrr. Instead, I’m going to focus on the weirdest thing I’m grateful for. So here it is:
I’m grateful for being totally out of my depth.
Struggle Is How We Grow
When we’re out of our depth, we struggle.
In the moment, that sometimes feels awful. In fact, it frequently feels awful. Especially when you’ve taken a huge leap from being a big fish in a small pond to being the smallest (and most incompetent) fish in a big pond.
And yet, in this context, struggle means opportunity. When you’re at the bottom of the climb, there’s nowhere to go but up. The challenge is figuring out how to do that.
It’s too facile to say that struggle means growth. Sometimes, struggle means that either someone or something is impeding your progress (you might even be impeding it yourself).
But I think it’s pretty fair to say that growth means struggle. Not all of the time, but at least some of the time.
We grow stronger physically by making a zillion infinitesimal tears in our muscles. We grow stronger emotionally by making a zillion infinitesimal tears in our hearts.
We improve our skills not by working on the things we’ve already mastered (though that’s important, too), but by cracking away at the things we haven’t mastered yet.
Struggle and Arise
Our roughest spots are where we can improve the most (and, sometimes, the fastest). It just so happens that working on them is often frustrating AF.
So the next time I’m in the studio feeling frustrated and like I should just pack it in and consider a career in, like, anything other than dance, I will try to remind myself that I’m frustrated because I’m struggling, and I’m struggling because I’m growing and learning.
And I’ll try to be grateful for the struggle, because it means I’ve been granted an amazing opportunity.
I’m learning how to be a dancer at a new level. Mr D chose to roll the dice on me, and I’m immensely grateful for that, and for all the guidance of my many teachers and friends who helped me reach this point.
On Monday night, JMG said to us, “Bring your back with you!” as we launched a waltz terre-a-terre. This clicked right into L’Ancien’s note from a couple Saturdays back, and the combination made for a really lovely run: the kind on which even I caught sight of myself in the mirror and thought, “Okay, this boy looks like a dancer.”
I also found the heck out of my inner thighs during that combination, which had a bunch of soutenus that finished in long sous-sus balances. They just basically cranked on automatically without the glutes overpowering them, which was lovely and yielded a hella steady sous-sus.
Last night, during modern class, I worked on continuing to use my inner thighs in relevés, especially when working in turnout. It’s making my balances quite a bit more stable.
Today we had JMG again, since Killer B is away with some of the kids at the SERBA Festival right now. We had a fairly large, lively class: my favorite kind.
I wasn’t on my A game—I somehow managed to make it out of the house without taking either my nasal decongestant or my Adderall, which should give you a general idea of where my head was (or wasn’t?)—but I was, at any rate, on my B game. I didn’t feel as strong as I did Monday night, but I did feel reasonably strong. I didn’t add beats to anything, but I did throw out an awfully nice saut de chat during the grand allegro.
Regardless, it all felt like progress: like my fitness is finally almost back where it needs to be, especially where endurance is concerned. I feel stronger. My turns were stable and my jumps were light and high (except when I was busy hosing up the second petit allegro because, for some reason, I blanked on the world’s simplest combination: glissade, jeté, glissade, jeté, coupé over to chassée, chassée, chassée-assemblée.
Like, seriously, how do you even get lost in that combo???
- I’ll tell you how: you THINK. I was busy thinking about my arms, and things got weird in legtown, and I failed to change the orientation of my hips on first side/first run, and everything went to Baby Giraffeland for a hot minute.
Some of the gains in fitness and strength almost certainly have something to do with the fact that I finally started hormone replacement therapy three weeks ago, and that’s probably starting to make a difference at this point.
I’m taking a fairly low dose, so it’s not going to result in Superhuman GAINZ!!! (which I don’t want: I am muscly enough, thanks)—the goal is basically just to be pretty much normal, instead of functioning with effectively no sex hormones at all. The upshot, however, is that it should somewhat increase my red blood cell count, which is useful for oxygen transport, which is useful for ballet (and for dance in general).
It will probably also make me a bit stronger, which is also useful for ballet (and for dance in general). I’m not sure how much stronger, though, to be honest: I’m not training for massive gains in strength—gaining strength has never been particularly difficult for me. I intentionally chose a low dose in hopes of avoiding unnecessary hypertrophy. I already put muscle on really easily, which isn’t necessarily helpful in many dance contexts (Pilobolus and its relatives are exceptions: compared with a lot of Piloblus’ guys, I’m a slender little wisp of a boy).
Speaking of Pilobolus, it turns out that my rehearsal and performance schedule this summer means I won’t be able to do most of Pilobolus’ summer intensive after all. I’m planning to go up for teacher training, however, since it’s a single weekend and scheduled when I don’t happen to have any shows.
Speaking of progress, it still really utterly blows my mind that I’m doing all this stuff at this point.
It’s amazing what the combination of focus and opportunity can create.
In May of 2016, I was in the middle of a post-baccalaureate redirect.
Last May, I was involved in my first professional work: just one full-scale show and a piece for PlayThink, but every career has to start somewhere.
This year, I’m doing all kinds of crazy stuff.
To an extent, this happened because I’m focused and dedicated and have a reasonable degree of natural aptitude for dance. Mostly, though, I’ve had amazing opportunities.
Focus doesn’t mean anything if you can’t afford to take class; if you can’t find good teachers who believe in you; if there aren’t any professional gigs to audition for or if your life prevents you from taking jobs if you audition successfully.
I’m blanking on who it was, but not long ago I was listening to a podcast in which a successful actor talked about how she got where she is. She recounted moving to LA (or was it New York? Argh, I’m horrible at this) as a young adult—in short, going where the opportunities in her field were—but offered this extremely-sage advice: “Move to LA, but have a sponsor—someone to pay the phone bill while you’re working your way up.”
- I’m sure I’ve hosed that quote up pretty well. Sorry 😦
Her sponsor was her mom. My husband has been my primary sponsor—but I can’t overlook the fact that Pilobolus gave me a scholarship; that Suspend has offered me a substantial discount from early in my training; that LBS created a flat-rate tuition plan that lets me take every single class in the open division program.
BG has consistently given me feature choreography in our Showcase pieces. Killer B and BW have dusted me off when I’ve come back from auditions with a bruised ego. K and BB have believed in me when I wasn’t yet ready to believe in myself. M bumped me up to Trapeze 3 when I’d only been training for six months or so.
I’m grateful for all of that sponsorship, direct and indirect, tangible and intangible.
There’s another piece of magic involved, there, also: when so many people have invested in you, whether tangibly or intangibly, you feel a responsibility to rise to the level of their belief.
That helps you keep moving forward when things get sticky.
I’m looking forward to seeing where the next year takes me: that, too, will depend on a combination of my own efforts (gotta go hit those auditions, amirite?) and others’ willingness to invest in me.
Impostor Syndrome is less of a problem than it was a year ago. I hope that as I continue to move forward, it will continue to fade. I’m sure I’ll always feel a little bit like an impostor, especially given that I’ve taken a wildly nontraditional path towards a career in dance—and I hope that I’ll never let it really stop me.
I mean, yes, it gets in the way: but it’s like a lot of forces in the universe. Gravity is a jerk, but you ride your bike up big hills anyway, even as your legs insist that you can’t.
Impostor syndrome is a jerk, but you go out and audition and create dances and teach anyway, even as your brain insists that you have no right doing so.
I mean, Turksgiving.
Wait, no. THANKSGIVING. That’s what it’s called!
Public gratitude posts are are a thing.
I don’t normally do them, but I’m (mostly) cool with people who do.
I’m kind of doing one this go-round, in part to take my mind off the fact that my throat has, since Tuesday, developed a wicked itching-burning thing that A) makes me feel like I’ve swallowed a snifter-full of angry fire ants and B) makes me cough, which makes the fire ants even angrier.
I suppose I should begin by being thankful for for the existence of of cough drops, because unprintable words this is driving me crazy.
Nice quiet day at home yesterday. I finally transitioned from Trim Painting hell into Trim Painting Purgatory. I’m grateful for that, because jeez.
Also, I am grateful for ballet, modern, and aerials, which keep me sane (fire ants notwithstanding), grant me membership in a phenomenal community of amazing people, and give me something to do with my creative energies.
I am grateful for my astounding husband, who manages to keep a roof over our heads despite my best efforts to completely drive this little train of ours right off the rails (note to anyone considering marrying an artistic type: we can be very responsible, but some of us are prone to long bouts of throwing ourselves wholesale into our work at all costs, and those of us who who dance can be expensive to feed), and the strange beast that is our family, with its many branches staggering off in different directions.
Also for mixed metaphors, without which it might be much more difficult to describe snifters full of fire ants, the glorious chaos that is family at its finest, or probably anything at all about dance or home maintenance.
Lastly, I am grateful that, at least at the moment, I still have medical coverage, so if these unspeakable, unprintable fire ants don’t GTFO soon, I can go see a doctor about about them.
Oh, yeah — and also for everyone who, for mysterious reasons, reads my blog, and for all the amazing and inspiring bloggers out there.
When your brain is wired bipolar-fashion, it’s not always possible to do the whole “attitude of gratitude” thing consistently.
But it does happen, for me, sometimes, and now is one of those moments, so I think it might be good to record here a few specifics, so maybe I can refer back to them later.
So here we go.
I am grateful for the strength and adaptability of my body, which allow me to do amazing things.
I am grateful also for the weaknesses of my body, which keep me humbler and more human than I could be without then.
I am grateful for the path my life is on, as strange and hard as it is sometimes, and for the messengers in my life who remind me that control is an illusion and that not all who wander are lost.
I am grateful for the path my life has taken, through dark places and through bright, because it has brought me here, and here is pretty good.
I am grateful that I am able to feel that way, at least right now.
I’m grateful for the knowledge that gratitude, like everything else, is fleeting and enduring all at once, and for the knowledge that I’ll lose my grip on it, but that’s okay, because I’ll get it back.
I’m grateful for the freedom to be as I am made, and to live this weird, liminal life, even though tomorrow I’ll lyrically complain both about the way I’m made and the life I’m living. That’s okay, too. I’ll get it back.
I’m grateful for having lived long enough now to know that this moment will pass, that harder ones will follow but that these, too, will pass.
I’m grateful fly the burgeoning ability to take both these kinds of moments and turn them into art.
I’m grateful for a life that lets me do so.
Tomorrow I might be ungrateful and irritable. That will be okay. It happens to the best of us.
Today, right now, in this moment, I’m grateful.for these things, and other things, and for all the people who have helped me see.
This time of year I tend to get a little frazzled — fall semester is short, and everything seems to be happening at once, and instead of preparing for the long cleansing breath of summer break, we’re preparing for the Frenetic Rush of Holidays (which we do much less frenetically, it would seem, than many, but it’s still more than enough for me!). I’m tired, overtaxed, and irritable because I haven’t been to ballet class in Way Too Long.
So it’s easy to lose sight of those things for which I’m thankful.
So I think I’ll plunk them down here.
First and foremost, the lovely people — both in “Real Life” and on The Innertubes — who make my life so amazing.
Second, ballet, ballet, ballet. I am so freaking ridiculously grateful to live in a town with a good ballet school, one where I can take class until my head explodes, one where our teachers push us and expect us to learn the material and to grow and stretch and challenge ourselves.
Third, school. I am grateful to have the opportunity to go to school and pursue my dreams. Heck, I’m grateful to finally have some freaking idea what I want to do when I “grow up.” I am grateful to my lovely husband for having suggested Dance Movement Therapy, and I guess I’m grateful to Dance Movement Therapy for existing … and I’m grateful for the opportunity to hit up the conference this year, and immerse myself in the world of DMTs, and walk away feeling like, yes, these are my people, who understand people like me.
I’m grateful for my bicycles, and my bike peeps (even though I haven’t been on a real ride in aaaaaages). I’m grateful for the capable body that lets me ride bikes and dance. I’m grateful for the bus system that carries my bikes around on longer trips, making the bike-and-bus intermodal option so practical. I’m grateful that between the bike and the bus I can get to ballet school, no sweat.
I’m grateful for my lovely husband, who has somehow managed to remain sane in the face of my highly-strung, hyperactive, bipolar nature. It’s been a tough year in some ways, and he has been there for me at every turn. And he also looks adorable in tights ^-^
And … well, there are a billion other things. When I’m feeling grateful, I feel immensely grateful, for everything — for all the miraculous beauty of the sky and the power of nature and for the fact that the ocean exists, even though right now I’m too darned far away.
I’m grateful for the unending act of creation that is the process of life; the fact that we are free to create and re-create ourselves over and over; that it is never necessary to stop growing and evolving.
I’m grateful for my cat, who keeps my knees warm when I’m not dancing and uses his vibrating massage feature to keep them comfortable ^-^
And. Yeah. All that other stuff, too. Everything. All kinds of stuff. I’m grateful.
So there you have it; my ridiculous mildly-tipsy stream-of-consciousness I-had-a-really-great-day-today Thanksgiving post.
And thank you, all of you who read my ramblings. You’re great, too. Thank you.