Sometimes I Adult

(OR)  Randomly on Friday

Randomly on Friday – I am proud of myself for my mad adulting skills.  (Also, I honestly appreciate that “adult” has become a verb.  I know there is the camp of people who dislike it, but I think it is more accurate than calling oneself an adult.  We are not truly, completely, “adult” – we have moments of childishness and immaturity, and moments when we buckle up and take care of business.  I have moments of being an adult, but I am not one every moment of the day.  Therefore, “adulting” more accurately describes my pattern.)

Randomly on Friday – I completed my daily French lesson early, in the time I had between getting the child on the bus and getting myself to work.  I felt really productive first thing in the morning – and that rarely happens.

Randomly on Friday – A friend added me to a Denver based face and body painters forum, at which I squeed audibly because this blows my mind.  I am constantly surprised by how connected this community is, how supportive, and how there is a group of people that do everything I want to do.  Cyr – yep, there’s a group jam.  Juggling – group jam, preceded by game night.  Dancing – so many groups for that.  And now, face painting.

Randomly on Friday – I have been networking my little tush off, putting in bids for gigs and sending out promo material – kicking butt and literally taking names.

Randomly on Friday – a Chicago blues dancing friend is in town for an audition, and tonight we are going dancing.  I have been excited about it for days.  I need to dance – not the choreographed group stuff I have been working on, but the deep and soulful, intimate dancing that I miss about Chicago.

Randomly on Friday – one of my best friends booked his flight to Boulder for my showcase next month.  I may have jumped around the house for a few minutes when he confirmed his plans.  One thing I dislike about being an adult is having my friends spread around the world.  While it means I have friends in cool places that I can visit, it also means I don’t see the people I am close to very often.

Randomly on Friday – I still need help funding the tail end of my tuition and gear payments.  If you have anything to spare, I would appreciate it so much!  I have literally been scraping the bottom of my bank account for the past two weeks just to put food on the table.  Visit my GoFundMe page by clicking on this link: http://www.gofundme.com/annasaerialdance

Randomly on Friday – Tickets for our showcase have gone on sale!!  If you are in the Denver/Boulder area, you should come.  Buy your tickets now, because we are going to sell out.  There are eight aerialists each with iron wills and amazing routines – we are totally selling out.  Here’s the event page, and this is where you BUY TICKETS.

Randomly on Friday – April has been kind of a crummy month for me.  Anything that could go wrong did.  I’ve been struggling to pick up the pieces, create some semblance of order, and continue moving forward.  And I mean really struggling.  I’ve plastered on a smile when I’m in public and broken into tears as soon as I get home, or as soon as someone has been nice to me and asked me what’s going on.  Yesterday was a fairly good day, and it feels like today is going to be as well.  Chin up, Buttercup.

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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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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)

Decompression/Recompression

My life is best described as a flurry.  Not quite a full-force blizzard, but close enough.  It’s just hectic enough to make people wonder if they should come out and build a snowman with me, or huddle under blankets by the fireplace, safely in their own abodes, letting me rampage on my own outdoors.

Today marks the one week anniversary of our official arrival in Boulder.  One week into classes, into work, into my new life.  I came off the tail of a grand adventure with no time to breathe before launching into the next – but if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably already guessed – this is how I roll.

I hate being bored.  It drives me bonkers.  Makes me angrier than if someone ate the last of the ice cream the day that a bus splashed dirty street water on me as I was walking toward some really bad news.  Boredom is generated and controlled by no one and nothing but yourself, so I take it as a personal failure when I feel bored.  The world at my fingertips, and I can’t figure out what to occupy my time with?  That’s ridiculous.

I’m almost settled into the new place.  I have to figure out how to get my desktop hooked up to the wifi in the apartment, and there are a few lingering boxes, and I’m not quite sure how to store my yarn with the limited space that I have, but I have to think that I’m almost finished settling in, or I think I might just snap and spend the rest of my “free” time sitting in a corner chewing on boxes.  I went on a tear through my boxes, knowing I saw the cord for my cameras and tucked them somewhere that made sense, but now I can’t seem to find them in any of the places that make sense, nor any of the places that the Mad Hatter would consider appropriate.

I’ll edit to add pictures when the item is found, but until then – stories, because words are still important to convey my experience.

I had one week between the end of the Aerial Dance Festival and the start of Burning Man.  One week, with no obligations, very little money available to spend, a child, and a car.  There is a lot you can accomplish in one week, and still I wish we had more time.  Ellette and I picked up our friend Ari from the Denver Airport on Thursday, which was the earliest he could fly out to meet us, and we started driving West.

Excitement was high at this point.  Freedom and a roadtrip have a habit of creating that feeling.  (4 days later we were extremely happy to have arrived at our destination where we could take a break from being in a car, and being stuck with no one’s company but our own).

We drove through the mountains towards the Grand Canyon, because I gave Ellette free reign over our destination, and that’s what she chose.  Knowing we had time to kill, however, led us to stop when the desire took hold.  Utah is a beautiful state, and I highly recommend taking a leisurely drive through it.  There were so many view points, that we eventually had to put a cap on how many we would actually stop for.  They were gorgeous.  I really don’t have any other words to describe it.

To break up the immobility of sitting in a car, I tried to handstand my way across the country.  I did a lot during the trip, but completely forgot once we got to Burning Man.  I did remember to do one when the man burned on Saturday, and had someone photograph it for me, but that was the only handstand accomplished.

The Grand Canyon was more breathtaking than the last time i was there in 2009.  That time was just me and a guy was I on-again-off-again dating, and the experience was just not very enjoyable because of outside emotions.  This trip, i had a clear head and a clear heart, and Ellette and I loved exploring together.  We climbed everything we could get a grip on and resolved to return in the future for a longer stretch of time, with better gear, so that we can hike and camp and experience it closer.

We continued driving West after that, through Nevada until we reached Black Rock City.  We had a minor detour at a town called Rachel, which is located on Extraterrestrial Highway and caused us to stop by the presence of several flying saucers.  The town had a couple of trailers and a bar.  We stopped for a drink, chatted with the bartender, and left a dollar bill taped to the ceiling with our names written across it.

And then Black Rock City.

My birthday was spent in the line, waiting to get in.  I enjoyed meandering up and down the line of cars, offering chocolate covered doughnuts to other burners.  It wasn’t until I received my first hug on the playa that I realized what I needed this year.  It was a long and close hug, each of us holding on tight and welcoming each other home, and I settled in to it.  All of the anxiety, jitteriness, and excitement started to quiet, and I could feel my breathing deepen.  This was to be the burn of hugs.

It had been just me for the summer – no significant other, physically removed from my close friends, and constantly bustling through my adventures, that I had forgotten how nice it is to share a moment with another individual – a hug, a handhold, a side lean.  And here I was, tossed into a crowd of 60,000 people all ready and willing to hug the breath out of me if I just asked for it.  I found myself seeking out that contact – giving camp mates hugs every morning, holding on long and tight with each one.  I wanted to forge connections, I wanted stories and laughter that would sustain itself off the playa.

Ellette and I didn’t leave camp as much as we did last year, but I’m alright with that.  I got my chances to explore, even having an entire night out on the playa, as an adult, jumping from camp to camp, meeting new people, biking into the deep darkness, chasing a vision of people and lights, and falling asleep briefly inside of a giant genie bottle, only to be woken by gentle chatter just before sunrise.  My companion and I wandered to the 7am burn, where we watched two larger-than-life lovers locked in Embrace turn to dust and smoke as the sun came up.  I wandered back to camp, only to doze off on a couch on top of a school bus before making it to my tent.

We had such a brilliant time and built a few lasting friendships, along with meeting more lovely people than we can ever keep straight.  We have little stories tucked into our arsenals that simply cannot exist in the blogosphere appropriately, and we’ve come back very satisfied.

Now, entering the default world on our return.  I had been curious how decompression would strike us.  Ellette is like puddy, adapting fluidly with the changing situations.  I have been keeping my focus pointing forward as I knock to-do’s off the list, hoping that the brunt of depression would be deflected by being in the studio 30 hours a week working on what I love.

And then I realized that I’m craving human connection.  I’m craving sitting in the dust watching the sunset, a cold beer in my hand and good conversation afoot.  I’m craving quiet moments standing close to people as we share our thoughts on a towering art structure.  I’m still finding my footing here, carving out my place and setting my schedule so spontaneity is a possibility, and lacking the freedom I had all summer is taking it’s toll.

I realize also that I haven’t knit in over a month.  This could be contributing to my feelings.

Photos to come, I promise. I see that reading through this all a second time isn’t quite adequate in describing the thoughts and feelings coursing through me right now.  If only I could think like the March Hare for a little while to find that elusive cord…

Messy Endings, Fresh Beginnings

The past 10 days have been some of the worst I’ve had to face recently.  Decompression from Lakes of Fire didn’t really hit, but was masked by the head first dive into packing and purging, followed by problems with both U-Haul and my landlord, and losing a friendship that means the world to me.  I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now, trying to think of what I need to take care of next.  I’m essentially homeless, jobless, and right at this moment, I feel kind of lonely.  This morning, I was sitting in the car getting ready to take care of the loose ends, and instead started thinking of places I could drive to to escape it all.  Tying up these loose ends is like tying your shoelaces with buttery spaghetti noodles and a pair of broken chop sticks.  I feel like a fumbling idiot.

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In the end, my worldly possessions are packed in a box that measures 8x5x7.5 feet.  Everything that means anything to me is in there.  It’s exciting and terrifying all at once.  I can do anything, and with that comes the niggling fear of failure I’m constantly trying to buck.  I’m trying to patch up friendships and frayed nerves, knowing that if I don’t do it now, the chances of accomplishing it when 2000 miles lies between us is nearly impossible.

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My apartment lies empty save for the painters’ gear.  It no longer is mine.  Four years ago, I signed the lease and started moving in, thinking it would only be a year, it would be a blip in time when I learn amazing things and then go off to bigger and better things.  The first two years were a struggle to stand on my own two feet, being away from my family and friends.  I got stuck, and the last two years have been a massive struggle to keep my head up.  Hence, this year I decided it would end.  I had nothing keeping me here – I hated my day job, I had no family or significant other in the area, and the things I wanted to do were far away.

Sitting at this crossroads now, right on the cusp of change, still a small amount of quickly dwindling time to change my mind and my plans, I am heaving a huge sigh of relief.  While this may be one of the hardest, most frightening decisions I’ve made, I think it is also one of the best I’ve made.  It feels more right for me than any choice I’ve had to make to date, and that gives me hope to keep looking forward.

Talking To Strangers

As a traveler, it is difficult to be shy.  There are so many people you encounter along the way, how can you resist making friends?  With social media and faster technology, it becomes even easier.

Having grown up in theatre, talking in front of people has always been natural for me.  That has translated into being able to create small talk at the drop of a hat; elevators don’t get quiet, train rides become entertaining, and I come away from these encounters with interesting stories and sometimes small tokens of the accidental friendship.

Last night, I left my cyr class and walked to the bus stop.  There was a fella standing there when I arrived, and he asked if I knew when the next bus was coming.  I replied “Nope, but at least it’s warm tonight.”  This seemed to spark something in him, because he replied about how cliché it is to talk about the weather.  I laughed and asked if he would rather talk of something else.  This was the beginning of a conversation that lasted the entire bus ride.

In the middle, he pulled a box out of his backpack and asked if I would like a paper crane.  Delighted by this, I selected a brightly colored one from the box.

I was on the bus heading towards a Couchsurfing meet-up.  Couchsurfing is my preferred method for traveling – you search ahead for a couch to crash on with a local in the destination town; it’s free and opens up a side of the city you may not have seen otherwise.  My network has grown over almost every continent because of Couchsurfing.  The Chicago meetups happen regularly, but I rarely get to attend.  A few beers, an amazing cashew butter and jam sandwich, and belly-aching laughs later, someone dumped a handful of origami on the table and offered them up for grabs.

Amused, I extracted the tiny little crane I had gotten on the bus just two hours earlier and showed them.  The gifter chuckled and plucked a large turquoise crane from the pile, offering it to me, a mate to the little one.  I don’t even remember her name, but I remember her face and smile, and the smiles on the faces of other giftees.

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Now, the two little cranes sit atop my computer monitor, brightly colored and about to take flight.  Each reminds me of the people I met with a simple salutation.

This is What 2014 Will Be

When a friend shared this trailer with me, my eyes went wide and I thought to myself: THIS.  This is me, to the core, and everything I am aspiring to become.  This.

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