Hanging in There

I am the type of person that needs to have a physical day planner to survive life.  Not only do I need a physical book to log and look at, everything within it is color-coded, so that at a glance, I know exactly what is happening and what the priority is.  Blue is for school, green is for work, yellow is for due-dates, purple is for pay days, and pink is for extracurricular.  My book is mostly blue, followed closely by green.  And pink and purple feel almost non existent, while the yellow is always surprising (my rent is due today? what?)

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I’m not complaining though, because seeing all that blue means most of my time is spent hanging around – quite literally.  Out of curiosity, I counted how many weeks we have left in the program – this epic 9 month adventure we undertook.  The quickly dwindling number was bittersweet.  Nine months is not a long time at all, yet the days have all blurred into one and I feel like I have been here for ages, so having a blank schedule again sounds rather appealing.  On the other hand, aerial dance gives me so much inspiration and appreciation, I cannot imagine doing anything else.  The completion of this program results in our mama bird coaches pushes us out of the nest and telling us to fly with our own two wings, yet I still feel like a baby aerialist.  I have started putting together my promo material, updating my CV, and tentatively stretching and spreading my baby bird wings in hopes of landing a summer contract.

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While I am currently in the process of creating work (a chains routine and a static trapeze routine), I feel like I spend a lot of my time actually doing this – hanging off of my equipment comfortably as I socialize and contemplate what I’m doing.  I filmed one of my practices a week or so ago, and laughed myself silly at how I spent more time casually sitting on the bar than doing the conditioning I had come for, as well as how much more comfortable I am hanging out up there than on the ground.

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Ten Years – I Promised Myself I Wouldn’t Cry

On this day, 10 years ago, I was in a hospital room sucking on ice chips as my world was about to change permanently.  10 years ago exactly, I became the mother to the most amazing human being I have ever known.

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This journey has been far from easy.  In fact, it has been more difficult than any other dare devil task I have undertaken – from jumping onto moving trains, to jumping out of planes, to launching myself backwards off a trapeze.  When it comes to risking my life, it’s a shrug and a smirk on my part.  But, creating life, nurturing life – that causes so much more anxiety.

Before she entered this world, I was angry, depressed, and lonely.  I was eager to run away from the world.  At 15, my only goal was to finish high school so I could spend a year backpacking in Australia, with the determination that I wouldn’t stop traveling after that.  At 16, I found out I was pregnant.

It took two years and a few thousand miles of separation before I was able to be a mother.  I was trudging through the routine, going to college and working, and still trying to remember to feed her, get enough sleep, and still be attentive.  When an opportunity to study in Ireland presented itself, my parents urged me to take it.  They insisted they could handle things, and that I needed to be do it.  So, I submitted my application and found myself living in Derry for 6 months, and doing archaeology on Achill Island for 2.  In the middle, Ellette had her 2nd birthday and I realized that I really wanted to be a mother to her.

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Ellette is my counterweight – she pushes when I am still and digs her feet in when I move to fast.  She has always shown compassion for everyone, and constantly reminds me to see the good in people.  She helps me remember to be silly – from walking like cats down the bustling streets of Chicago, to singing about pink pajamas at the top of our lungs as we walk home from school, to building snow day forts and making silly faces.  She is my light.

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My adventure never stopped.  I have criss-crossed the country with her at my side.  We have had spontaneous road trips and meticulously planned trips, and she has been eager for every one.

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She has never asked “Are we there yet?”  She is the queen of 15 hours in a car – packing books and sketchpads and music and games to entertain herself.  She tells me to cool it when I feel road rage and is entirely game for detours to junk yards with rusty planes and vintage bikes and museums for obscure artifacts.  She can run across the fields with me and sit in the shade eating ice cream cones.

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So, 10 years have gone by so quickly.  And we have managed to pack a hundred adventures into them.  Let’s take the next 10 by storm.  Happy birthday, munchkin!

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Progress is a Sneak

Tunnel Vision – we all suffer it occasionally, especially as we work hard on specific goals.  Sometimes , it’s really easy to identify the headway you are making – a swath of fabric becomes a shirt, for instance.  And sometimes, it’s really hard to see the growth; suddenly you’ve arrived at your destination after a flat landscape and countless miles.

Twice a week, I’ve been taking a fitness class.  Pair that with how much dancing, biking, lifting, and general circus skill training I’ve been doing, and one would think my physical strength would grow in leaps and bounds.  But, over the past six months, my strength, and lack of, has broken me down in the middle of training more than I care to admit.  The frustration of doing the same exercise over and over and still seeing no progress would alternate between making me incredibly angry with myself and have me biting my lip so I don’t burst into tears then and there.

The support of my peers and instructors did nothing to temper this frustration either.  “Be kind to yourself.  No judgment.  See where you are this moment.”  I have started to resent these words, resenting living in the moment and being kind to my body, when I had been kind to it for so long but the strength wasn’t improving.  I would jump down from the trapeze in irritation because my long beats just weren’t working, and I growled at my skin the cat maneuvers because I couldn’t get my shoulders to engage.  I would work my core as often as possible, and still could only manage one knee hang sit up.  I had given up being kind.  There was no progress.  It just wasn’t working.

At the suggestion of one of my primary instructors, I scheduled a private lesson with the pilates instructor in hopes of finding out why I wasn’t progressing.  Was it a strength issue?  Was it how I sequenced my muscles?  Was I even using the right muscles?  After an hour of trying out different things, taking through how my body was feeling in each exercise, and a bit of poking at different muscles, we had come up with a plan.  Turns out, I wasn’t engaging the right muscles at the right time, my breathing was off, and I had to learn how to turn off over-eager muscles.  The next day, I added an extra knee hang sit up.

At the start of this program, we had a fitness assessment.  A page of exercises and stretches, along with a number, that we had to be able to achieve by the end of the 9 months.  The requirements were taken from audition requirements for some of the top schools/companies in the industry (National Circus School in Montreal and La Reve, for instance).

Our first assessment was in September – 6 months ago.  Our mid-term assessment was yesterday.

image In September, I threw myself into this program and risked injuring my shoulder again.  A lot of exercises I was unable to complete for fear of tearing a tendon or bringing back the intense inflammation.  My hamstrings were really tight, my body was compensating, and my back muscles wanted to engage when my core couldn’t.

Yesterday, I had biked 13 miles before arriving at class and I was still recovering from the chest congesting plague.  But at the end, I looked at my numbers and was amazed.  It was not only exciting because I was able to complete most of the list, but primarily because my shoulder isn’t twinging anymore.  I did 8 push-ups!  I sat on the floor for a moment after, marveling at the fact that for the first time ever, I stopped because my muscles were tired and not because I thought I risked tearing something.

I feel like Progress is sitting back on his heels now, chuckling merrily at the prank he pulled on me.  He withheld all hints of progress and then unleashed them at once, watching my eyes bulge in astonishment as I complete each task.

The Art of Active Rest

I caught the plague; this horrible, icky, chest racking, cough laden, sinus pressure plague that I tried to ignore all weekend so I could go out and explore on my precious days off. Come Monday morning, I was wrecked. I had absolutely no energy and could not rally to accomplish anything, but could not sleep either. So, I knit.

I spent the entire day laying around, drinking hot ginger tea, and knitting until I lost the energy to move my hands.

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My project is the Daisy Stitch Tunic in Cascade 220. I promised my friend this top last summer. Let’s not count how many months have passed since then, shall we?

This was the perfect sick day project, alongside the proof that I need to knit as mental recuperation after an intensely physical week.

This morning I woke feeling much better, relaxed mentally, emotionally, physically. My sinus are clear and my cough isn’t painful anymore (though it lingers).

Active resting, it’s a thing.

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?

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