The Right Motivation

Week 7 started (I think it’s week 7, but time is kind of blurred because it’s going so fast).  Also, session 2 of the program, which means that some of our classes have changed.  Technique changed from slings to rope and harness, nutrition to kinesiology, pilates to modern dance, and contact improv to handstands.  I’m still putting in extra training, dealing with sore muscles and stiff joints, and wanting to cry at least once a day.  I never thought I would call my life ordinary, but what I’ve been working on has reached such a point of familiarity that I forget there are others who might be interested in hearing about it.

Recent highlights and realizations?  In no particular order:

* Last week, ballet did not bring me to tears.  This is a huge accomplishment.

* It has been amazingly easy for me to make friends – I can’t even tell you.  I am full of gratitude, love and awe for the people I’ve been meeting since arriving in Boulder.  I have honestly never felt this integrated in a community.  Not only integrated, but a part of the community that helps it thrive, and a part that is missed when it is absent.

* I know our final performance is still 7 months away, but I found my song.  It’s still a secret, but I’m excited about choreographing for it.  I’m stuck between static trapeze and chains for my showcase.

* I have to do an assignment involving “space” (i.e. spacial awareness, movement through a space, etc.) and I have no idea how to show my interpretation of space.

This will all be elaborated on later.

My desire to feel like I am good at something, to feel accomplished at something, created an interesting case of finishing-itis.  That is, taking all of my knitting projects and trying to finish them.  I have had no desire to start anything new, just wrap up what’s been left on the needles for who knows how long.  This is partly spurred by the desire for a clean and organized house (nevermind the fact that all that is happening is a project is getting moved out of one box and into another location – nothing is actually freeing up more space).

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So, since Friday, I have been adding the last little details, weaving in ends, and blocking projects.  Last night, I finished an afghan I’ve been working on for nearly two years, and I can’t tell you how proud it made me.  I had been gifted a lot of a mystery yarn by a friend, and had no idea what to do with it, and it slowly became a blanket.  A rather large blanket, that ate up some of my scraps as I went.  Ellette loves it and doesn’t want to snuggle with any other blanket.

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I also realized that I have given away most of my hats – so I need to cast on for one, but can’t decide which.  And, October is almost over, which means NaKniSweMo will be starting soon (National Knit a Sweater Month), and I want to participate but don’t know which sweater to chose.  I’m stuck between Enchanted Mesa and Belle.  Thoughts?

Shhh….I’m Only Pretending

I’m only pretending to be an adult and do those adult things like “having my life together.”  But I’ve come to realize that it can only take me so far before my imagination falters as I tack on one more restless night to a string of sleepless nights.  I can’t keep up with my own charade.

The truth is – I’m sitting over here freaking out.  I have been running on high power for the past 7 weeks.  Scratch that – since JUNE!  And I just don’t have the brain power for it any longer.  I’ve been cracking around the edges, and this week I shattered.  It’s not that anything bad has happened, it’s just that I’m too exhausted and worried to get myself under control again and the slightest worry is bringing me to tears.

I love my life.  I love my life.  I’m doing amazing, inspiring things every single day.  I’m waking up to the mountains in all of their stoic beauty.  I’m in the best physical shape I have ever been in.

Let’s repeat that.

I love this.

So, what am I freaking out about?

I’m tired – physically.  Everything is sore and my brain is dead.  I’m trying to keep track of training, homework, two jobs, and trying to stay engaged in the world of my 9 year old.

If I don’t blog, I’m probably ripping out my hair and scribbling a million lists to feel like I understand what the heck is going on in my world, because I truthfully have no idea right now.  I’m in the air a lot, and I don’t sleep much, and I haven’t been on a proper date in ages, not counting the Playa date at Burning Man, and I interact with the same 20 or so people every single day, which is kind of surreal.

Please, follow me on Facebook (facebook.com/littlegreenpixie) and on instagram (LittleGreenPixie) – updates are much more reliable on those sites.

So Many Ideas

A lack of knitting over the summer combined with finally feeling a rhythm to my new life has led to a flurry of knitting and designing that I can’t seem to control.  The people I interact with on a daily basis have been a well of inspiration for the things that can be born on my needles, and when I’m not sketching out designs, I’m working them up.  I’m afraid to stop knitting because I don’t want the designs to float away.  They have to be made NOW.  So, when I’m not in the air, at the coffee shop, or at the computer working, I”m knit-purling away at a new design.

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I’ve been inspired by necessity.  The trapeze boots that I made (and currently in their test-knit phase), were created out of a need to have my shins and ankles covered for my ankle hangs on the trapeze.  Other sketches include shorts, rib warmers, legwarmers, cowls, sweaters, and costume accessories.  My only problem is that I can’t knit it all at once.  I have dozens of sketches, but not enough hands.  Also, the stash busting of the past two years means I am starting to scrape the bottom of my stash.  I don’t have enough of what i need for some of my designs.  I’m still trying to knit through what I have, so I’m sticking to the designs that can utilize what’s available, while devising plans for the other things.

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More designs are coming!  My main goal at the moment is to compile enough to put out a short e-book, so you may not see finished items until that point.  I’ll give you teasers when I can!

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And, if you’re interested in test knitting anything, head on over to the Little Green Pixie Rav group for updates!

Catch

We are wrapping up week 4 of the Professional Training Program, putting us at the one month mark for the nine month program.  Let’s check in:

Do you remember that shoulder injury I suffered in November?  The one that took me down for 3 months?  And how joyful I was when I was allowed back in the air?  While my previously injured right shoulder doesn’t feel at risk in the slightest, although it does have a tendency to get tight, I found myself overcompensating and trying to protect my right shoulder, and starting to injure my left shoulder.  This mentally pulled me back quite a bit.  I don’t muscle through push ups anymore, and I spend a lot of time massaging my left shoulder and working on stabilizing exercises.  This has been a frustrating process.  I want to remember what it means to be injury free, but I fear that may never happen again.  The only thing I can do is learn as much as possible about muscles, tendons, and proper stretching technique, and LISTEN TO MY BODY.

Physically otherwise – last week I was in a pretty doubtful state of mind.  I felt like I was going backwards.  I could do leg lifts up until my audition, and I could knock out ten pull ups like it was nothing, and spending 10-15 minutes in the air in one go was a piece of cake.  Since the program started, emphasis has been on technique and detail.  Sure, pull-ups were easy, but  was I engaging the right muscles in the correct order?  I was being forced to slow down and think about my movements more.  I’m developing muscles I wasn’t aware of.  Last week, I was having a rough time making it through 3 pull-ups, but that’s because I was very slow and controlled through the movements, engaging the muscles carefully, disengaging ones I didn’t need, preventing swing, arching, and other potentially hazardous efforts.  But last week, this wasn’t how I was thinking.  Last week I was holding back frustrated tears and tearing myself apart for taking a step backwards, as I felt it to be.

Since then, there have been a couple of light bulb moments as I learn in even greater detail how to engage muscles for efficiency of movement, and while I still can’t do a straight arm straight leg straddle up, I’m feeling the progress.

All month I was also struggling with my nutrition.  A pro-athlete diet is complex, and I can’t seem to eat enough food.  So, I started looking at what I was eating every day, and trying to figure out why, and what my body really needed.  I calculated my grocery bill for the last month and nearly fainted. Being vegetarian and athletic means paying extra attention to food.  In an average lifestyle, it can be difficult to get the proper nutrients daily.  I was becoming lethargic, moody, and starting to experience tummy issues.  I needed a change.  I’ve increased my protein intake and lowered my fructose consumption, and I’m adding a little more carbs in the morning.  My favorite snack has become peanut butter and apple sandwiches.  So far, my energy has been returning, but I still have a few kinks to figure out.

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Emotionally, I’m still a little bit of a roller coaster.  I’m reminding myself to breathe deep and that I am my own worst critic.  The major thing that is getting my through it is the group.  There are 11 of us, and everyone is sharing their frustrations, fears, excitement, and energy.  When I’m getting down on myself for my ballet work, I turn to another and say “I don’t understand.  This sucks,” and there are sympathetic looks and words of encouragement.  We are all bringing unique gifts to the group, and from the start created an open atmosphere, so sharing those negative feelings doesn’t feel wrong or embarrassing.  What I love is that we recognize the small victories in our classmates.  Joanna is really working on her pull-ups, just to get one.  And every time she tries, people are cheering her on from across the room.  Progress is not unnoticed, and that is vital in keeping our faith in ourselves.

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I’m sure we could all do this alone, but I’m also pretty sure I would be more burnt out at the one month mark if I didn’t have them beside me.  Having a strong group seems to be everything right now.  I trust them to catch me.

This Word – I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means

Relax

This has been a word that is used repeatedly over the past three weeks, primarily in my improv classes, but at least once in every facet of my day-to-day, both training and at home.  “Relax your neck, relax your shoulders, relax your spine, relax your mind.”  When you are learning to move with grace and efficiency, every bit of tension becomes obvious.  And, as things get harder, more of our bodies and minds tense.  I can do three pulls up, and then I’m told to relax my ribs, and my neck, because I’m straining through those parts of my body as though lifting them higher internally will raise my entire body to the bar.  During improv, if I hold emotional or physical tension, I cannot give in fully to the graphics being dolled out to us.  There is too much internal clatter.

The idea of relaxing so much of my body – you would think that would help me feel at ease elsewhere; that I would exist in a floating state as I leave the classes.  Instead, I feel drained.

I want to relax.  Lately, I have been feeling like a ball of rubberbands – each idea or task stretched tightly around another, and if you fumble at all, I’ll go bouncing around the room.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I come running home between classes to make dinner for the youngster.  I’m out late for training, and when I return I’m exhausted, starving, and unable to sleep.  My mornings are either spent at the coffee shop, or now doing marketing research for my other job.

I desperately need time to myself, and find myself snagging minutes of it whenever possible.  For instance, this week, I have taken short breaks while doing my research and homework to begin knitting something new.  (The trapeze boots have been finished, and the pattern typed – on to the testers!).

 

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This business of relaxing – it’s awfully hard!

Why I Quit my Job and Moved to Colorado to Become an Aerial Dancer

Here I sit in Boulder, were I have been calling home for the past two weeks.  I unloaded my possessions and launched myself into the most intensive training regime I’ve experienced yet.  I spend around 30 hours each week in the studio, and more in my own home continuing the conditioning, as well as 15 hours each week working at a coffee shop that requires me to be up before dawn, and add to that the marketing I am doing for another performer, and I’ve got a full load.  It’s wearing me down – my muscles almost constantly ache, my mind is persistently active, considering the next task at hand, I cannot eat enough, and I still have a child to take care of.  When I’m not running a mile a minute, I’m a complete zombie.  And somehow, with all of this activity, with the pain and exhaustion, I find myself happy.  I feel strong, I am gaining confidence, I am in love with my new home, and I have faith that the end result will be completely worth it.

The training schedule goes like this:

Monday: 1.5 hours Ballet, 1.5 hours Open Gym

Tuesday: 2 hours workshop (nutrition, and later will be kinesiology), 2 hours technique (currently Sling), and 1.5 hours Fabric 3/4

Wednesday: 2 hours improv (Skinner Releasing), 1.75 hours Fitness, 2 hours Performance Seminar, and 1.25 hours Student Company

Thursday: 1.5 hours Aerial Fitness, 1.5 hours Pilates

Friday: 2 hours Improv and aerial dance history, 1.75 hours Partnering (Contact Improv)

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 1.5 hours Advanced Static Trapeze

Danielle, our sling instructor, has asked us all to keep journals throughout the next nine months of training.  I have a personal journal, as well as this blog, so I thought adding another one would be too much.  So far, I have written one entry, but it turned out to be a pretty powerful entry.  Danielle asked us to think about why we are here – why aerial dance?  Why do we care this much?  Why are we willing to test our physical, mental, and emotional limits for the sake of dance?  And for each of us, there would be a different motivation.

That evening, I opened a new notebook, and the lined page stared at me for a good long time.  I picked up my pen, wrote the date and prompt at the top, and put the pen down again.  Why am I here?  Why did I quit a stable job in Evanston, Illinois – a job that was less than a mile from my home, with benefits and paid vacation, that allowed me to bring my daughter in when I needed to, that paid reasonably well and in which I got along with a fair number of my coworkers – why did I quit?  Why did I quit, pack up my entire life, throwing out or giving away 90% of my possessions, break my lease, and decide to spend the next two and a half months on the road, searching?  Why did I have a plan for every letter of the alphabet, but really only cared about plan A, which was to audition and get accepted to the Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Professional Training Program?  Why did I give up familiarity and stability to become what I have always attested I wasn’t – a dancer?

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I sat there thinking about it, with the quiet pressing in around me, at my glass dining room table, with my notebooks and papers spilling out around me.  And I thought about something I wrote in my application essay.  People listen to music; it’s an auditory experience for everyone.  But for me, I see it.  I see how I could twist with the melody, the rise and fall of equipment with the crescendos, transitions from the ground to the air and back.  The bodies rigid lines and writhing grace.  I hear the music and the music paints visions on my eyelids.

I am here because I need to move, because every time dancing has been taken away from me, I find myself falling into a spiral of anger and depression.  I never considered it dancing – it was moving.  It was an extension of what I needed to be doing.  In Milwaukee, just before I turned 21, I saw an advertisement for swing dancing at a restaurant/bar downtown.  I asked my friend, Liam, if he would be interested in trying it out with me.  He was thrilled.  Together, we leaned on each other through the struggle with time, feet, and dancing with a partner, and we both fell head over heels in love with not only swing dancing, but the community that came with it.  We started dancing as often as possible – a minimum of 2 nights each week, but sometimes as many as 5.  I loved the energy and the release from dancing.  I laughed often and created a circle of friends that was the strongest I’ve ever had.

When we moved to Chicago, I felt really disconnected from the swing dance scene.  I found most of the venues to be pretentious and uncomfortable.  I would occasionally head back to Milwaukee for dancing, but that eventually phased out.  I spiraled downward, into a bad bout of depression.  It was in this time that I discovered aerial arts.  Initially, it was a method for staying fit and meeting people; I never dreamed it would become such an integral part of my identity.

After my breakup, when my depression was at it’s worse and I was getting fed up with myself (not to mention how fed up with me my friends were getting), I needed a change desperately.  I allowed a friend to introduce me to blues dancing.  After my first night out, I was hooked.  This was it!  The music was soulful, deep and resonant in me, and I could move softly or dramatically, pull in elements of swing or allow it to be an entirely different manifestation of movement.  I was only dancing once a month, but it was the perfect anti-depressant.  I brought a couple friends along, and soon I had built another circle of dancers I could connect with, laugh with, and most importantly, share a moment in movement with.  It was then that I started dancing with my eyes closed, when I surrendered completely to the music and the dance.  There were a few leads I craved dancing with, because they would put their hand around my waist and we would be so close I could feel their breath on my skin, and I would close my eyes and trust the communication through our bodies to carry us.  It was the perfect moment when everything else ceased to exist, and more importantly, a moment in which I wasn’t alone, but had someone sharing it with me.

It’s only in the past year, perhaps having something to do with blues dancing, perhaps just a natural progression of my need for movement, that I started to stray from the “circus” path of aerial.  I would spend hours searching YouTube for videos of aerialists, looking for inspiration for my own choreography.  But I was bored with what I was seeing.  It puzzled me.  The aerialists I was watching were technically magnificent, they were graceful and articulate in their movements, but something didn’t pull me in.  And then I would find the video that I would watch over and over and over again, seeing new things each time and coming away with reams of inspiration.  What was so different about them?  i would watch their fingers and their toes, the way the small appendages were given as much intent as the large ones.  The “ta-da” moments were almost imperceptible, to be replaced with a languid fluidity that said to me “My apparatus is my limb and not my tool; it is a part of me.”  That, I thought – that is what I want to do.  I want to dance like that.

Really, it wasn’t until I was choreographing my audition piece for the Frequent Flyers that I understood the potential of what aerial dance could be for me.  Aerial dance being different than circus in ways that are still be defined – in ways that I can help define with my work.  I had recently been dumped by my partner of 5 years – and granted the last 2 of them were really shaky – it was still a shock to me.  I felt like i had nothing left to be in Chicago for – no partner and my job was making me miserable – so I packed my bags and resolved to go “ELSEWHERE,” and the only thing I knew for certain then was that I wanted to be an aerialist, and more importantly, an aerial dancer.  My audition piece was crucial.  So, I channeled all of the heartbreak, the anxiety and fear and depression, into my piece.  I work-shopped the crap out of it, until I was a huddled mass of human puddy on a mat, trying not to cry too hard.  I put my trust in the fabric, and by doing so put it into myself as well.  It was the moment when I needed it – I needed to fly, to move, to dance.  I could close my eyes and breathe, and in turn began to heal.

By the time I completed my audition, the heartbreak was mostly gone and a brand new direction had been found.  I was on a path that made me feel strong.  Not entirely secure, but my existence and happiness is literally tied up into the air.

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I am here, I am flying and dancing, because I allowed myself to finally surrender to what I needed.  I need to move, I need to stop thinking and stop feeling and find the moment, the tension and resistance and completely give in to it.  My apparatus is my partner, supporting me, loving me, sometimes hurting me, but always teaching me to be stronger, to be supple, and giving me a means for movement.

After what I’ve been through finding this about myself, the next 9 months seem like a walk in the park.

(Now, ask me in two months if it’s still a walk in the park, and the answer may be *slightly* different)

What Does an Aerialist Knit?

Circus is pain.  There really is no way around that.  It hurts.  As an aerialist, when I watch other aerialists perform and I see them do certain tricks, I visibly and uncontrollably cringe, knowing how painful it is.  The first time I saw Cirque du Soleil live, I watched the cord lisse artist do something that I absolutely hate doing, and then she took another step toward masochism, and I received an annoyed look from the audience members in my vicinity as I shuddered and said “No! How can you stand the pain??”  (Not loud enough to disturb the show, just loud enough for anyone within a 3 seat radius could hear my commentary).

So – it hurts.  I am constantly covered in bruises and burns, many of which I don’t remember acquiring – which goes to show how desensitized to physical pain I have become.  This is the norm.  I frequently have people give me weird looks, like I’m either into something more kinky than they can imagine and don’t really want to, or I’m the victim of abuse.  Yes, if you consider my significant other a static trapeze, that alternately tries to concuss me and suspend me in ropes, then both assumptions are accurate.

Some apparatuses are more painful than others.  For instance, cord lisse and I do not have a good relationship.  Every time I climb the thing, I return to the ground covered in bruises, and I’m not about to attempt that climb where the rope gets wedged between the toes.  Nope.  Not my style.  The lyra and trapeze are also painful – you are pushing your body into steel most of the time, with fabric being one of the more comfortable apparatuses, albeit the easiest to burn yourself if you aren’t careful.

But what does this have to do with knitting?

I’m giving you a little background into my motivation for circus inspired knitwear, specifically for something that I cast on Monday night and hope to have completed by noon this coming Sunday (such lofty goals I have).

Monday afternoon, I was at open gym, following a Sunday afternoon static trapeze class.  A classmate and I decided to – how do you say it – accustom ourselves to certain positions on the trapeze.  This type of masochism is best described using a phrase a lyra instructor gave me – burning the pain away.  You put yourself in the most painful positions you know of, and hold them for as long as possible in order to consciously desensitize parts of your body so you can do those maneuvers gracefully in a performance.  Circus is pain, right?

So this classmate and I decided to hold our ankle hangs as long as possible so it stops hurting so much.  We took turns hanging by our ankles in minute long segments, cheering each other on and pushing each other to that minute mark each time.  She had ankle guards on, and I was barefoot.  I made it 1 minute and 40 seconds before I couldn’t handle the burn anymore.  My ankles are still a bit red and raw from the attempt, and wearing shoes the next day was excruciating.  There are these things called trapeze boots that a lot of trapeze and lyra artists wear to protect their ankles and feet, particularly for things that ankle hangs.  I’ve always felt like it’s cheating, but have started to realize that I don’t always have to muscle my way through things.  My technique shouldn’t be solely about strength, but also about efficiency, and I can continue to “burn the pain away,” and I can also work on fluidity of motion.

So, what does an aerialist knit?  Not having a lot of money right now, but more yarn than I really know what to do with at my disposal, I am attempting to knit a pair of trapeze boots (normally made from leather), in hopes of protecting my ankles next Sunday, in which class we learn none other than drops to ankle hang.

 

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I’ll let you know on Monday if my attempt works – am I hobbling or will I have a new pattern to reveal?

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