Today I was going to write about choreography, but instead I’m going to write about depression again.
In fact, I have an entire post about choreography almost ready to go, but I don’t feel up to finishing it.
So here we are.
This morning I woke up, which is to say that I finally and begrudgingly relinquished my grasp on a 10-hour sleep marathon, in a bad way.
Not that I’ve exactly been in a great way, so to speak — though I keep sorta faking it on facebook and in other areas of my life where it doesn’t make sense to let the depression leak on too many things, as one does.
It’s just that the sheer calibre of this particular depression has shot from “fairly mild” to “crushing” overnight.
By way of analogy, it reminds me of a thing that happened a couple of years ago. One day I was riding my bike up to the Highlands for one reason or another and was flabbergasted to discover that, literally overnight, an enormous sinkhole had swallowed someone’s front yard, a mature full-sized tree, and about a quarter of a fairly large intersection. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.)
Needless to say, it was a shock. I had ridden past the same spot the day before, and everything was normal. This happens here, from time to time, thanks to a highly-porous limestone substrate and lots of underground water.
That’s kind of how this thing is going for me. Like the forces of whatever have been gnawing away at me from underneath, silent and unseen, and at last the surface has given way. So now I just wait it out, I guess.
The upside is that I wouldn’t say that it’s quite reached the “crippling” point. I am still capable of getting up and going to class and dancing. I thought I was supposed to teach today, but it turns out we didn’t have class because my co-teacher is in Massachusetts (should’ve known that; didn’t think to offer to teach class by myself — that’s probably okay).
I spent this morning at Open Fly making dances: one to Adele’s “Hello,” one to Jeff Buckley’s stellar cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” one of the few covers that I like better than the original artist’s version or, in this case, versions. The dance-making went well (if less modern and more ballet-influenced than I intended). I could move. I could balance. I could create. I could write stuff down, which I did a bit at the end. For a little while, I felt rather more … I don’t know, alive?
It’s weird how that works. The depression makes my body not want to move (which, btw, is the way you can tell when something is really, definitely, seriously wrong with me). Even speaking is hard right now. Dancing brings the body back to life for a while.
It’s like depression rolls a thick slab of glass across my experience of the world, and dancing pushes it back. As long as I dance, the glass stays gone. When I stop, it returns.
To be clear, though, dancing doesn’t eliminate the haze of pain that is forefront in my emotional experience. It’s just that I’ve learned that you can dance from the heart of pain the same way you can dance from the heart of joy.
And then, perhaps, sometimes you should dance from the heart of pain.
After, Denis collected me from the outdoor bench where I was slowly dissolving into inarticulate tears and took me out for brunch. While he was using the men’s room, I wrote myself a note:
When there’s joy, create from joy. When there’s pain, create from pain.
It’s not a profound thought, just kind of a reminder. Both joy and pain can be fuel.
I find all this comforting. Last night I was busy worrying if bipolar is going to derail my efforts to work in dance; if I am, in fact, a poor investment for any company, no matter how small.
But I think I can do this.
I can’t go work a desk job when I’m here (and definitely not if that desk job involves phone-based technical support … eee). But I can get up and make my body work; I can get up and be nice to the humans who dance with me and the humans who direct me as a dancer; I can get up and make art, somehow, with my body.
I can plumb the depths of my despair for dances the same way I sweep them from the heights of my joy.
And I can feel this without fighting it; without resisting.
In the car on the way to Open Fly, I think I apologized to Denis for falling apart or something like that.
He said it was okay; that maybe a huge part of the problem is that I work too hard to hold it all together. He said something similar the other night (last night? the night before?), when I couldn’t stop crying on the way home from a movie — that he loves my feelings, that he’s glad I have feelings.
I’m not always glad I have feelings, and I don’t entirely appreciate the fact that my feelings are all about the guerrilla warfare. On the other hand, maybe he’s right: maybe if I would just let go a little more often, there wouldn’t be so much of that.
For what it’s worth, dancing helps with the letting go. It’s hard to imbue your dancing with any kind of real emotional presence if you’ve got your emotions sealed up in some kind of sous-vide container and locked up in a freezer somewhere.
Hell, maybe they don’t call it “release technique” for nothin’, eh?
Anyway. So that’s what’s up, over here. Part of me feels like this is basically so much emotional exhibitionism (but, erm, if that’s so, then what the hell is basically all of modern dance?); another part of me feels like I’m still writing this at arm’s length because being entirely human in so public a context still basically freaks me the feck out.
So, yeah. Not sure if this makes even a modicum of sense. It’s just stuff. But, on the other hand, like Denis always points out: “If they were rational, we wouldn’t call them feelings.”
Soundtrack for My Depression:
Adele, “When We Were Young,” from 25
Adele, “Hello,” from 25
Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah,” from Grace
Jeff Buckley, “Corpus Christi Carol,” from Grace
Leonard Cohen, “Bird on a Wire”
Leonard Cohen, “If It Be Your Will”
Leonard Coehn,”Who By Fire”
Hozier, “Take Me To Church”
Hozier, “Work Song”
The Beatles, “Julia”
…Oh, and basically the whole of Faure’s Requiem, but that’s a playlist unto itself.
…And also, if you haven’t heard Buckley’s version of “Corpus Christi Carol,” OMG, go listen to it. He sang most of it in an exquisite falsetto, clear and expressive and breathy only in exactly the right moments and sometimes tremulous; the rest in the upper part of his range, beautifully raw. Listen to his cover of “Hallelujah” while you’re at it, because holy. The man was a treasure.
And also, I so need to add “If It Be Your Will” to the contemporary ballet project I’m semi-secretly working on.
Edit: and “Who By Fire.”