Tied In Knots

It’s been awhile since I’ve released any sort of knitting anything, so I’m fixing that today!  I’ve had a few things sitting around, totally finished, tested, and proofed, ready to be published, except that I was missing something – pictures!  When I went home to Wisconsin last month for the funeral, I set aside some time for a photo shoot with Dark Moon Photography, one of my favorite people to work with behind a lens.

We have a few things we’re working on to be released soon.  I’ve also got a couple more patterns in the works that need to be tested before I can do anything more with them.  I’m so excited to be releasing this one, since it’s been sitting on the back burner, lonely, dusty, forgotten for the past 8 months or so (yikes….)  I’m wearing it right now as I write this post.

DSC_6733It’s like being wrapped in a hug all day.  I first saw a rib warmer in my lyra class a few years ago.  It seemed like the strangest thing to me.  The one my instructor was wearing was white, and looked more like a medical bandage than anything.  She wore it every class.  After a few classes, I had one mapped out in my head and immediately put it on the needles.

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I wanted something a little more interesting though – twisted and intricate.  Thus, the Silk Knot rib warmer was devised.  I called it Silk Knot because the cables reminded me of the knots I would tie in the silks I was teaching with.  Since this was the first of my circus-inspired patterns, I felt it very appropriate.

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This is the second of many circus and dance inspired patterns (the first released was the Lyra Legwarmers).  There are more in the works, and I finally have some space here to take pictures in, so hopefully it’s not months between releases.

Find the Silk Knot Ribwarmer by going to the Patterns page of this blog, or by going to Ravelry directly.  Remember to link your project to the pattern page so we can see how it goes!

Grounding

After running hot for 6 months – the last month especially – I feel like I’ve clothes-lined myself.  I was pushing myself as hard as I could, determined to get as much as possible out of this adventure.  I had to achieve a certain amount of physical success, create these amazing pieces that would define the rest of my career, and experience all the joys of friendships that I could.  I hosted friends for the past 5 weeks.  One weekend I went back to Wisconsin to spend time with my family as we mourned the loss of one of our own.  Writing, knitting, “me-time” all lay by the side of the road, forgotten, despite recognizing the necessity of making room in my busy schedule for them.  These are not things I can go long without, but I did.

The past week, I struggled to find the energy to care anymore.  I was drained.  Yet I was still pushing myself.  I started feeling sick on Monday, and still I “sucked it up” and worked out for four hours.  My body had other plans.  I woke up Tuesday morning with a sore throat and a slight fever.  I dragged myself to class, where I spent the day laying down on the couch observing and taking notes.  I’ve had to observe before, when I thought my body was on the verge of a break and I didn’t want to push so hard, and I was impatient and frustrated with my inability to participate.  But this time, I was grateful for the respite.  Today, I didn’t even bother going to the studio.  I’ve stayed home, making cup after cup of tea, miso soup, and laying around not worrying about doing anything.  (For the first time in a long time, I’m looking around at the mess of my living space and don’t even care.  I could rally myself to clean.  I could.  But I think I need the mental break knitting and sipping my tea is providing just as much as I need the physical break of laying in bed all day.)

I let myself get a bit shaken and uprooted lately.  It has been so easy to keep pushing, going through the motions.  So easy to convince myself that I need to take full advantage of what’s being offered to me.  I made my mantra “can’t stop, won’t stop”.  Slowing down wasn’t an option.  It’s taken my body pushing hard on the brakes and a few insightful questions posed by the people in my life for me to realize I need to ground myself again.  I can fly as high as I want, but I have to remember what it feels like to have the ground beneath my feet.  I’m going to hang out here for a minute, lounging on the grass and finding pictures in the clouds.

2014: The Year I Learned to Love Myself

The first week of 2015 is almost over, and i realized I haven’t even attempted my yearly update.  I have been doing my annual posts since before I started this blog – first, when I was in high school and had a Livejournal (mmhmm, I was one of those kids), and then when I was in college and traveling I would send out a mass email.  In comparison, this year’s update has me the most excited.  I have seen the most personal growth in 2014 than I accomplished throughout most of my childhood/adulthood.  Something, a lot of things, happened in 2014 that challenged me, inspired me, and ultimately changed me.

At the start of 2014, I posted a video about this Circus that produced a knitting show, declaring hopefully that my year would be based on that video.  I started 2014 with bright eyes and a plan.  Firstly, I wanted to minimize my possessions, and the start of the year (as well as several times throughout) saw a great purge of unnecessary belongings.  Secondly, I knew I was going to be leaving Chicago, and had set a pretty fool-proof plan to make that happen.  Third, I was in (what I thought at the time was) a fantastic relationship that had a solid future.  Over the year, I watched and facilitated the great purge, taking the good and the bad that accompanied it.

So, in recap:

I wrapped up my last semester teaching my kids at the Brookfield Dance Academy.  I knew it was going to be my last one, our last recital, the last group of students.  I was teaching 5 classes and 35 students, and loved every single one.  After two years of teaching, I felt like i was a fully functioning member of the BDA family, and a worthy mentor of my students.  This opportunity with BDA was what showed me that I needed to leave to do intensive training.  I was a competent teacher, but I wanted to be more than that.  I wanted to be inspiring and knowledgeable.  I wanted to be at the top of the game, to be able to provide the best possible instruction.  (I love you girls, and I miss you every day!)

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I knit.  A lot. A heckuva lot.  It has indeed been interesting watching my posts transform from craft dominated to circus and reflection dominant.

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Ellette turned 9!  And we surprised her with a trip to Seattle to visit her best friend.

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In April, I hosted the last Aerial Dance Recital at the Brookfield Dance Academy.  It went fantastically, and I was the proud teacher in the back of the room crying because the girls never cease to amaze me, and I was about to leave them.

It was about this time that something clicked in my attitude and I decided I was finished “putting up with” things that made me unhappy.  I was done worrying over everything and everyone.  A casual conversation with a friend led me there (and I have since thanked him for his unwitting insight.  He continues to be a source of positive energy and inspiration.  Thank you, Colin!).  I started doing things for me more, taking more time to myself.  I also learned how to talk to strangers again, and was surprised by the way they touched my life.  I shouldn’t have been, but it was further evidence that I had become too stagnant and introverted.

May and June were the hardest months for me.  It was in this time that I had reached the edge of the cliff that could call my bluff.  I grew more and more agitated and nervous.  The “What ifs” crept in and wrapped their poisonous tendrils around my relationships.  I felt like everything was starting to fall apart as I stood on the cliff edge, trying to convince myself that I did in fact want to leap.  I was scared my wings weren’t strong enough, scared that I’d forget something I couldn’t go back for, scared of what was actually on the other side.  I was frightened of uprooting my child, worried I would be a terrible parent.  I felt like I had support, but not solidly – no one was there to help pick up the pieces if I should actually fail.  For the first time in my life, this was a decision that I had made for me; no one was coming with (unlike the move to Chicago), and everyone was going to be so far away.

And then I jumped.  It didn’t take long to realize that it was the best decision I could have made.  I quit my job, I packed up my apartment.  I said goodbye to my friends.  My boyfriend dumped me.  I sent my daughter to live with my parents for a couple months while I finished the work that remained.  I was alone for the first time in a long time.  I was homeless, and learning to depend on the kindness of strangers.  And I was filled with so much hope.

The first stop was Austin, TX, where I met up with a lovely group of people to build an art car for Burning Man.

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It was only 3 days, but the work was pretty constant.  I spent the entire time on the roof of the bus, using my fiber knowledge to lash the railing into place.  Even with heavy gloves, my hands ended up rubbed raw, blistered and bleeding, and it hurt to hold anything at the end.  But it was a fair price to pay for so much laughter and camaraderie.  it was a wonderful way to kick off my adventure.

Immediately following my return, I simultaneously packed up my apartment and put my life into a shipping container, and prepped for Lakes of Fire (which, looking back now, I somehow failed to write about).  I was so caught up in the group that I didn’t take many pictures.  The only ones i have me were taken by others.  I spent a good deal of the weekend wandering around with the 8 foot squid I had made for the occassion, putting him in different camps.  He was a hit!  Everyone loved him and wanted a picture with him.

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When the weekend was over, I made my way to Milwaukee to teach the 4 weeks of summer camp.  I loved it, but also realize that general summer camp is not my forte.  I can teach aerial arts to kids, but ask me to manage anything beyond that makes my head spin and my patience run thin.

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I auditioned for the training program, biting my nails through the whole process.  This was it – the thing that I wanted most, and all I could do was dance my little heart away and hope the company accepted it.  By the end of July, I received an email inviting me into the training program, and phase 3 of my adventure began.  I once again packed up – fitting everything I needed immediately into a mini cooper, and drove to Boulder – my new home.

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I attended the Aerial Dance Festival for two weeks, taking classes in Cyr, Invented Apparatus, low flying trapeze, handstands, and traveling rings.  I started pushing hard, and risked re-injuring my shoulder.  It was hard to admit that I needed to slow down and take care of my body, but a necessary lesson indeed.

Immediately following the festival, my daughter and a friend flew out to Colorado, and we began a roadtrip to Burning Man, and the last piece of my transient adventure.

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I had never felt more free than when we were driving across the Southwest with nothing but time to kill.  I was breathing deep and laughing often.  I could hardly sit in the car long enough – I wanted to run, to fly.

The drive back to Colorado was more frantic.  I had two days and a really high fever to get back before orientation. I was the only one that knew how to drive manual transmission, so I was knocking back energy drinks, electrolytes, and coffee like crazy, trying to kick the fever and maintain the energy for the intense drive home.

And then the program started, and my free time went out the window.  It has pushed me incredibly, and every day I am grateful to be living this adventure.  I see what I think are my limits, and then this program says “Nope, push harder.  You can do more” – and with a deep breath and a little faith, I push harder.  Ballet made me cry (and that really hasn’t changed), trapeze made me excited.  And my classmates make me feel loved and supported.

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Through this program, I have been luxuriating in much needed self-reflection, questioning everything I think I am and want to be.  My ability to blog has quite gone out the window as I work every day and train to the point of exhaustion, but there are still so many things i want to say.

And now i look back on the blur that was 2014, trying to bring it into focus.  What was it?  What happened?  What changed?

I did.

My friends that new me before look at me now like they do not recognize me.  And I do not feel at all like the girl I was – she got left in Chicago, along with the remnants of the cocoon I tried to hide safely inside.  I do not quite feel like a butterfly yet, there are still a lot of things I’m trying to figure out.  That knot that lingers in my core is loosening, but I still feel it resting there some times.  I’m still scared of failure, scared of wasting time, and I think perhaps most days i push myself too hard in an attempt to take advantage of what I have at my disposal right now.  I’m learning how to cry and not feel embarrassed, I am learning how to work in a team and trust them.  I am learning how to take chances.  I am finding a solid strength in being me – being alone, being surrounded, being pushed and pulled by everyone.  I feel grounded, yet light, as though the decision to fly away is entirely mine.  What I do has a purpose, and it doesn’t matter exactly what that purpose is, so long as there is intention.

Most importantly, I wake up every day, knowing that it is going to be hard, just as hard as the day before, if not more so.  And still, I wake up excited to take on the challenge.

2014 was amazing – filled with fear and tears and hope and growth.

So, 2015 – what are you bringing to the table?

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?

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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.

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