Yesterday was really hard for me, but I felt some personal growth throughout the strains that I want to share.
Life is hard. We are 3 months into this program, with 6 more to go. I’m training and working beyond the point of exhaustion almost every single day. But you’ve heard this before. Basically, my life hasn’t changed much in the past 3 months. I train, I eat, I work, I shower, I sleep, repeat. It seems that this is going to be my routine until next summer. Most days, I’m excited about this.
Yesterday, however, a series of events occurred that had me fighting to keep my emotions under control for much of the day.
Everyone in the program takes their training very seriously. We each have specific things we want to gain from it – enough so that this was our homework over our holiday break. I am not a soloist, for one. Also, at some point in my teen years I learned I had a knack for making people laugh, and that when they laughed, I was less self-conscious. My natural tendency is to become a clown, and this is something I enjoy doing in the air. When I was taking a musicality class with Destiny Vinley at Aloft in Chicago, we were given scores for our improv. I felt really awkward when I tried to be edgy or elegant, and totally relaxed when I was pretending to be awkward. My creative process is to turn off my brain and find a flow in my movement, and I have the most fun and feel the most inspired when I’m being silly with other people. This group I’m training with isn’t very silly, and it hit me in the morning during a conversation about our final showcase. I became very frustrated. I want to mess around, try new things, and maybe we create something and learn through the process, and maybe we don’t create something but we still have fun and learn from the process. But what I see are the students working independently and offering critique and advice to each other, but no teamwork beyond that. I want to run around the group, putting clown noses on them all and shaking them until they start to laugh. You guys! Loosen up! We need it. We’re getting too narrowly focused on our end game and not creating enough while we have the chance. We’re constantly learning vocab and trying to recall it the next day, but not applying it to anything outside of class.
This conversation and the resulting frustration led me to feeling like I was on the outside of the group – the sad, lonely clown watching a party through the glass, knowing i can help but the door is locked. This is going to take some serious strategics to find a sliver I can fit through.
Already feeling on the outside a bit, when I arrived at the studio, I found out about an impromptu gathering that would be happening after class – nothing major, a clothing swap – and I think I lost it. While I was invited, work prevented me from joining. I was angry, I was lonely, I hated everything about my situation. I felt like I was missing out on so much because I was so focused on being able to be here – the working constantly and being a mother and trying to train hard. I know that being a mother has set me apart from the rest of the girls in this program, that my responsibilities are heavier and my time not as spontaneous. And, in the past, the fact that I am a mother has prevented me from participating in so much, and people stopped inviting me places because of that – I started to worry that it would happen again.
All through our first class, I was struggling to get a grip on my emotions. The tears were right on the edge and I kept trying to blink them away. Our next class was ballet, and that has been a struggle in itself for me, and the frustration over the fancy footwork brings me to tears, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it. In between classes, I mentioned to the teacher that I was having a hard day, and I was drained physically and feeling lonely, and I didn’t know how the class was going to affect me. She gave me a hug, let me vent a bit, and offered encouragement and support. From there, I sat down between two students and began to talk to one about how I have been feeling.
The personal growth is that the rational understanding of events was right there as I was allowing myself to feel upset. I knew the bulk of emotions was coming from being tired and feeling drained. That was making me feel disconnected. I also know that the others in the program are feeling similar, and no one really has time or energy to get together outside of the studio. I also felt like it was ok, if not necessary, to cry and let out all of those frustrations, that there was nothing wrong about those frustrations.
Human beings are interesting creatures when it comes to our emotions. We have a hard time facing them, dissecting them, and coming to terms with them. We would rather tuck them away somewhere, guarded and then forgotten. When we finally start to open up, we are surprised by where the emotions have been hiding and the flood that accompanies their discovery.
Several times in this program, we have had students burst into tears unprovoked. Sometimes all it took was a push against the shoulder blade to open the chest, a stretch of the spine or relaxation of the hips. We dropped some physical wall and the deluge of tears was waiting on the other side. I’ve spoken to several people about this – athletes, body workers, massage therapists, trying to understand why it happens. No one really knows why – just that it happens. A lot. And, when it happens, YOU HAVE TO LET IT. GIVE IN.
For me, trying to relax into my center splits has been making me feel both nauseated and inconsolably depressed. It doesn’t hurt to stretch into it, but once I’m down and leaning forward, the pit of my stomach feels heavy, like a water balloon is sitting in my pelvis. The more I relax my hip flexors and psoas, the more I want to cry. And others have seen it and urged me to let go. Relax, whimper, sob – do what your body is telling you to do, because it knows what it needs.
If you don’t let yourself cry, the emotions are going to get stored somewhere. You can’t rationalize them into nonexistence. You can’t push them aside and expect them to leave willingly. Your mind puts them somewhere else until it’s ready to handle them, or until you cannot contain them anymore. But really, you have to ride them out. Revel in the nuances of them, the ups and downs and backwards.
What I find the most interesting is that this program has been pushing me past all of my limits, but I’m still standing, excited and inspired, albeit exhausted now and again, and I think it’s because I am not pretending to be strong. When things get hard, I let people know. I look for a hug and I hold on tight, squeezing out all of the stress. When things go well, I have people to share my accomplishments with. When my body says STOP, I am learning how to listen, and when my body says THIS IS TOO HARD, I let myself cry and feel pitiful. And only then I can mop up the emotions, wring out the sponge, and face another day.
Don’t think of crying as something weak, selfish, or unwarranted.
Think of crying as cleaning your brushes, so you can start a new painting.