The Art of Crying

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.

NaKniSweMo Finish Line

You guys, I’m so busy that when I don’t need to be working on something important, my brain shuts off.  At that point, I need to zone out and work on something frivolous, or sleep like the dead, to wake up and do it all again.  Luckily, one of the mindless activities I was engaged in was this sweater, which was finished well before the deadline, and then forgotten about as soon as these photos were snapped for the forum.

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It’s big and cushy, and the colors are the right level of crazy for me.

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We had a week “off” of training, but I was still working as many hours as I could and doing training I don’t normally get to do.  At least following this sweater, I’ve got a good case of Finish-it-up-itis and other projects are starting to fall off the needles.

NaKniSweMo Day 22: Blocking and Bleeding

My back has been hurting for a couple weeks now, and the pain has only been getting worse.  At first, it was fairly manageable and easy to dismiss.  I’m always sore – this program is hard.  Over the last few days, it felt like something was sliding around a bit, and the pain became sharper.  I needed to slow down.  I’ve been pushing myself so hard, hell bent on taking advantage of every opportunity presented to me so that when I launch my career at the end of this program, I will have more knowledge and technique to pull from and a better foundation to build my acts.  The downside is that I haven’t left time for rest.  Friday I decided to sit out and observe class rather than participate physically.  And today, instead of going to the workshop I had signed up for, I stayed home (and had quality time with Ellette, which is fantastic), and I blocked my NaKniSweMo sweater.

 

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In total, 57342 stitches were knit.  I tried it on before throwing it in the water, and it fit just about the way I had intended, and I hoped the bath would help ease the areas that needed to be stretched.  When I pulled it out of the water, the body of the sweater started expanding.  I squished the water from it and held it to my torso briefly – I had somehow made a dress.

And then I noticed the sleeve.

I knew I was taking a chance by knitting a white sleeve, but I didn’t really consider it to be a problem.  I had worked with all of these yarns before.  But this time, the hot water and the purple decided to have a quarrel in the tub, and the purple bled onto the sleeve.  I tried to rinse it out with cold water, but it just wouldn’t work.  I’ll try another quick rinse when it’s dry, but fear my sweater may bear the curse of Sweaty Smurf in the underarm.

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While the sweater is drying rather conspicuously in my bedroom, and I am trying not to pay attention to the imperfections, I have picked up the sock hat I am making for a good friend of mine.

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It currently measures 52 inches in length, and when it is complete will be about 6.5 or 7 feet.  It’s a simple little pattern and uses up a lot of my odds and ends.  It’s the perfect mindless project right now.

Determination: A Definition

Can’t

That’s not a word I use often, unless it’s in a phrase such as “I can’t resist this temptation.”

It is easy to give up, or refuse to try, using the blanket excuse “Can’t”.  It’s a giant stop sign over your life, and most commonly it is used for little things like “I can’t afford to take this class” or “I can’t do a pull up.”  Yet stories of sheer will overcoming obstacles are numerous – people who are told  they may never walk again that grit their teeth and say “Oh, yes I will” – and do it.  One of the girls in the training program with me literally broke her back and was told she would never dance again, yet her determination to prove them wrong not only turned her into a professional belly dancer, it has gotten her into an intensive training program.

I have had many things happen in my life where the word “can’t” was used by many people in my situation.  I come from a kind of messed up and dysfunctional home life (although we try to forget that that’s what it was like) – my parents split up when I was a toddler, both struggling with personal demons, I had experienced the pains of growing up between two households below the poverty line.  As a child, I dreamed of taking ballet classes, but we couldn’t afford them, and we tried every avenue we could think of.  I have 5 siblings, and some dreams had to be put aside to make ends meet.  (As I got older, I started finding ways to do what I wanted, working as much as possible to fund my school trip to NYC on my own, for instance).  When I was 16, I became a teen mom.  I was told by many people in my life – even the social worker – that I would have to drop out of high school.  Instead, I gathered up my paperwork and went to my school office and asked “How do I graduate?”  Not only did I graduate, but we found a way for me to do so at the end of my junior year.

And, instead of thinking I was done with my education because I was a single teen mom, I was determined to go to college.  I found scholarships and loans that would cover most of my tuition, one of which provided a life coach to help get me through and on to the next chapter of my life.  I received my degree with only a small amount of student debt.

None of this was easy.  There were times when I would sit in my room and cry hopelessly because the challenges I faced seemed insurmountable.  I remember sitting down with a friend and having a rather frank discussion about how I didn’t think I could be a parent, and how I was thinking I should have put my child up for adoption.  There were many points where the thought “I can’t do this anymore” crossed my mind, and I swiftly pushed it out.  In my teen years, I didn’t think I had a choice.  It felt very much like something I simply had to do.  I think a great deal of that push came from societal values of going to school and getting a well paying career.  Emphasis was on education and not on happiness.  I do not regret my decision to go to college at all.  I met so many people through my years in school that I am very close friends with today and people who helped shape my career as it is now.  If it hadn’t been for university, I wouldn’t have met the juggling club where my circus path started, and I wouldn’t be on this great adventure right now.  But I have learned that years of unhappiness doing what I thought I had to for stability and an uncertain future wasn’t worth it.  Three months into living in Boulder, working my little tail off to pay my bills, and spending every other moment enveloped in the circus world here has made me incomparably happy.  I look forward to every day, as hard as I know it’s going to be.

This is where I could use some help though.  Tuition for this Aerial Dance Professional Training Program isn’t cheap, and I’m supporting myself and a child through it.  I’ve set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover tuition and equipment costs.  I can do this, there’s no doubt for me.  But having some of the costs covered through this campaign will allow me to focus on training, act development, and necessary rest.  Consider this – a $5 donation covers one of my drop in classes.  $60 covers a private lesson.  Can you help?

http://www.gofundme.com/AnnasAerialDance

 

I am determined to see my dreams to the end.

And I challenge you: remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary, and surprise yourself with how much you actually can do.  Start small – don’t try to climb a mountain if you’ve never walked a mile before.  Find tasks that challenge at the appropriate level, and don’t be afraid of falling.  Sometimes, you grow wings and fly.

NaKniSweMo Day 18

Day 18 dawns, and I’m inching along on my remaining sleeve.  The first sleeve was completed at a Sunday rehearsal, where I spent half the time sitting on the sidelines knitting away in circles.  I tried it on just before starting the cuff, and the sleeve is a couple inches longer than I want, but not so long  as to be annoying, so I left it.  I don’t have the energy to take steps backward anymore.  By the end of the day, I was casting off and beginning the next sleeve.

I’m so close to being done!  The only problem I face is that my schedule has just exploded.  I picked up seasonal work, intending to keep the two jobs I currently have, so that I can cover tuition and rent more reliably.  The financial stress I was facing has been replaced by working 18 hour days.  I hope this is only temporary, but it’s hard to think too far into the future when all of your brain power is being spent just getting you to the end of the night.  Despite the exhaustion, I am still looking forward to the next day.  I can see myself improving, and that is enough to keep me going.

 

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Day 18: 51,518 stitches knit to date, 90% complete

12 days to go!

NaKniSweMo Day 12 (And Snow)

12 days in  and I’m making better progress than I imagined I imagined I would.  I’m almost done with the body of the sweater.  I’m facing a yarn shortage predicament and trying to figure out how to proceed.  While I’m stewing over that, I’ve started on a sleeve.  Stephen West designed this sweater to be a mishmash stash bust, and it has been for me, and I love how the colors are coming together.  I think colorwise, the sleeves represent the hardest decision.

The sweater currently stands at over 46,000 stitches, approximately 77% of the sweater being complete.  My estimation is that each sleeves is around six thousand stitches, so hitting the 50K mark should be a piece of cake.

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In the meantime, this is what Colorado looked like on Saturday:

 

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And this is what it looked like this morning:

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It’s sweater weather.  Brr.

Time – NaKniSweMo Day 5

Day 5 and I am over 20k stitches into this sweater.  I cannot get enough of it right now.  The colors are surprising me.  Initially, I was going to make the sweater more gray and red, with a pop of the baby blue, but when I realized that the red looked more pink next to the blue, the only thing I could think to do was bring the purple into it.  I’m considering adding a pop of lime green towards the bottom.

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In our improv class today, we discussed and played with the concept of time.  This is something we explored last week as well.  We were asked to bring in something that represented “time” for us, and for some reason, I was drawing a complete blank.  I ended up bringing a metronome, because working with a metronome, having the staccato indicate your movements and making you stop in strange places, has been inspiring for me.  It’s a challenge to do, but I think it helps broaden the movement quality and change the focus.

What didn’t occur to me was to include a swatch.  Now that I’m at the body of the sweater, and it’s round and round of plain stitches, I’m sucked into that black hole.  I just keep knitting, and it’s not getting longer.  I’m pouring so much time into it, and not seeing a result.   And the beauty of this, and why I think it is relevant to the aerial training, is that I keep going.  I do the same maneuvers over and over again and give all of my free time to it, stitch after stitch, plie after plie, climb after climb, and oftentimes it’s really hard to see any progress.  Sometimes, I even feel like I’m moving backwards.  And then, something changes, and suddenly I have a sweater, I have good form, I have a decent turnout and I’ve added repetitions to my pull-ups and leg lifts.  Somewhere in the sea of 50,000 knit stitches, I have created a sweater, and it took stacking the same movement on top of each other to get there, and that takes time – a fraction of a second to create that little movement all combined into a month of work, and I have created something beautiful.

This morning, I went into the studio with the intention of blasting my music and knocking out some trapeze conditioning.  I worked on my long beats, I worked on my drops, I worked on tricks and transitions that I felt I was fumbling through.  I pushed myself until my forearms were sore from gripping.  I didn’t try to create new and elaborate work, which is what I did Monday morning and the lack of inspiration and the resulting clunkiness were frustrating.  But, working on the repetition of what I know, and layering it all together, helped me feel more confident in what I do know.  Each time I touch a trapeze, even if I feel like an idiot just hanging in the air, I know that I’m stacking stitches and making a sweater.

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