As I start to sit into my thirties things are starting to slowly become clear to me. Slowly. As in most things are still out of focus but today I realized a little bit more.
As a performer, we all know it is socially understandable and expected that the body has a performing expiration date. For some reason throughout my twenties I made this my sword of Damocles. Like, I lived my life as a performer feeling the scarcity of time. I always berated myself for starting later as a serious dancer, having not a dancers body and I spent most of my energy in and out of classes apologizing for all I lacked and trying to make up for it with heart and hard work. I thought if every knew I didn’t think much of myself and I knew what I was missing, acknowledged I wasn’t great, that I’d be honest. Even with all I lacked my drive towards art and dance specifically was so great that not even daily humiliation could keep me from participating. Silly girl. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still feel that squeeze, that immense disappointment in myself and all that I “lack” as a performer, as a dancer, as an artist. My lack of “focus”, long legs, an early start and choreographic abilities still makes me mad. There seems to be no known certainties on the horizon, not even any vague possibilities, there’s just a veil that covers tomorrow. I hate free time on principle (nothing’s free right?) and I’ve had an abundance of limbo-like in between things times where it seems I can do nothing and yet I feel like I should do everything. And then everything is overwhelming so I want to stay in Ben but then if I do that I feel lazy and worthless because essentially I have been worthless, I did nothing of worth… Are you tired of being in my head yet? Whenever I let myself free write like this, I read back over it and think “dear girl, who knew such a deep vein of asceticism ran through you? Where did it come from? And, God, what is it doing for you?” I want to pat my own hand, pour myself a cup of tea and give me a hug.
So, tired of relentless self flagellation and since driving myself with a cruel battery of insults hasn’t been garnering the results it used to (where’d my damn 6 pack abs go? Self deprivation and discipline used to at least result in abs!), I decided to give myself some new exercises to suss out what the hell I’m going to do with the big beautiful life that stretches before me now. Because, despite my own cruelty, I have a big beautiful life. One of those exercises is to write out my life on paper because looking at it like someone’s Facebook page makes me realize it must seem great to be me. And so it must BE great. It looks like this:
“Small town girl from Ohio grows up in tumultuous home, struggles in her teen years with anorexia, depression and extreme Catholicism. Trains and works hard to become a professional dancer despite being told by many people including herself that she didn’t have what it took (technique, body, look, assertiveness, contacts) while going to college early and working full time. She gets into her dream college by the skin of her teeth, struggles relentlessly with eating disorders and never progresses through the dance levels rendering her feeling not good enough as a dancer and directionless. During which time she meets the girl who will become her best friend, has many crazy adventures and lives paycheck to paycheck while still finding ways to dance. Accidentally becomes an aerialist and gets a job abroad during which time she sees most of Asia is introduced to new art forms and cultures and meets the man who will become her husband. She continues with various performing jobs, gets married maintains best friendship, travels to more places than she can recount, dances for a living on a cruise ship, sings in a show, does a burlesque show in China and gets to see heaps of cities in the Mediterranean. After which, she decides it’s time to move to the next phase of life with her adoring, handsome, Australian husband, her still bestest of friends, her beautiful baby sister best friend all loving and supporting her.”
Sounds pretty great doesn’t it?
Have you tried that exercise? I hadn’t before today. I’d been trying to do manifesting exercises and law of attraction stuff. But you know, it’s hard to skip steps and I don’t recommend it. Manifesting out of a lack of direction won’t do you any good. The problem I kept running into is I don’t know what I want to manifest yet other than “skinny” since that seems to be ever present in my brain- I’ll always be honest here, even when it’s embarrassing. So I’ve been stuck and frustrated and what I want is, if I have this “free time” I want to use it wisely (waste no, want not), but I don’t know what to throw my energy into. So I need to start at the beginning. I need to feel good about who I am. It’s easier when I see it on paper. I have to believe I have something to offer. If I don’t then I might as well stay in bed and who cares if I get chubby so bring on the cake. I want to know I have worth. I want to know my time is not wasted. I’d also like to take a chill pill.
It seems like everyone else in my life is busy bustling along on their own unique purposes and I’m like the lazy baby sibling that doesn’t know how to manage their time. I hate that. Though I’m immensely happy for and proud of everyone I love doing their thang- which really is everyone I love. Great job guys, you’re all stellar. And great job me for surrounding myself with ambitious people.
So, what did I realize today?
One of the things I’ve always said about myself is that I’m not a choreographer. I’m not a very good dancer but I have experience now. But as for choreography, not so good and I’ve never really pushed myself to do it because…yeah, don’t make me say it again. It’s not until I start writing that I realize how negative I have been, what a bitch that inner voice is. I’d never speak to anyone the way it has spoken to me, I don’t even think those things about other people! Anyways, I want to be good at choreography or something anything! I want to feel that spark of flow, that creative dump when you’re writing things down so fast because it’s pouring out of you. But today I was reflecting on my meager choreographic past. When I was in college and then a few times in my professional dancing career I’ve been asked to choreograph something. I have great ideas that speak to me when I’m listening to the music but when I try to start transcribing it into a dance it’s not cohesive, I get really frustrated and impatient, nothing seems to flow and every time, EVERY TIME I end up improving on stage. And to be honest, every time it’s turned out brilliantly (but not repeatable). Now I’m type A. I would never say improv is my jam. But you know what, I can choreograph, I have and I can. It’s just my style looks different than someone else’s. I connect with the music more as anchor or a conduit for expression. I’ve always known that was my secret super power. What has moved my along in my career has not been my long lean lines or my classical form- those don’t exist on me. Nor my perfect execution of turns and leaps. It is my “Je ne sais quoi”, my ability to express with tendons and bone and contraction and breath, that made me a dancer worth hiring. And that is what makes my choreography real. And for some reason I express that best when I’m frightened, the music is on and people are watching. I can feel them. I can hear their private thoughts and experiences. It may sound weird to you but I have built a career off of my intuition of people’s individual pains and joys. I hear others needs really loudly. When sitting in conversation I utilize it. But nothing comes close to the instant drive I feel when I’m onstage and there is an audience. With an audience I can give them what they don’t know they want, but I do. Sometimes it’s just silly unadulterated happiness, fun. But often it’s darkness, it’s the notion that someone else has felt the twist of the gut that they have suffered, or the fear or disillusionment or even the breakthrough they know must be around the corner. So why do I try to shit all over this? This is my gift. This is what I have to offer. But how? Where, when? That’s all out there in the ether. I’ll get back to you as I take one step at a time.