Friday, December 16, 2011

Thrown Off my Game

Yes, I have disappeared. Sorry about that. 

It all started with the dreaded ankle twist in a rehearsal two weeks ago for MeCo.  Ugh. I didn't think it was that bad, until then I realized that an ankle sprain can always turn chronic if you aren't careful.  I did what I thought was the prudent thing and took a couple days off from walking on it entirely.  It was a good thing. But, I realized that being sedentary for two whole days (except to use the bathroom) is absolutely awful for my brain chemistry.   I felt like I was living in a fog, complete apathy, horrible verbal skills, fatigue, the works.  So, I got myself to the gym the next day for a swim. Much better. Until. The sore throat struck. 

Not strep, just a cold. But, in a week where I was struggling already and was just bouncing back, this was not what I wanted to face.  I even cried. Over a sore throat.  It's true. Tears.

But, I pushed through. Got through the ACDF auditions, Chicago auditions and another MeCo rehearsal. The ankle is doing much better. I still have a few moments when it catches, but for the most part, I can walk and move around. The cold has turned into a terribly annoying cough, and I find myself very tired and still very messy in the mucous department.  The end of the semester is a tease, because it is both lighter in terms of time commitments yet more stressful with student crisis right and left.  There is still work to the be done and lots of it.  But, I am caught without a lot of motivation.

I can't tell if I am just sick and fatigued from pushing over the last couple weeks, or if I am just lazy.  I feel the guilt of being lazy, but that is not enough of a motivating factor to illicit change.  All I really want to do is to do nothing.  But, that isn't entirely true either.  I want to be well.  I am tired of being injured then sick.  These two weeks have been tough on me, and it has really thrown me off my game.

I have continued to tweet, but I haven't blogged because. . . I don't know. "I hate complaining. I don't have the energy. I don't really like myself being injured and ill. I don't feel inspired. I want to just go to sleep (again).  I don't even want to drink coffee for a little pep (bad sign)."  I don't think I am depressed. I don't really know what to think. 

But here is a list of what I do want and want to feel:
I want to feel well.
I want to feel energized.
I want to feel rested.
I want to feel accomplished (with getting my grading done).
I want to feel well. (Did I say that already? Well, I really mean it).
I want to go through a day without coughing.

I know this illness and downturn could be a result of my chronic over commitment.  But, it's not that I want to do less. It is that I want to feel well enough to do more.  So, when I feel bad I want to do nothing at all. 

Hopefully tomorrow I will feel better.  Thanks for hearing me out.

PS Expect some book reviews coming up. These past two weeks have been good for reading.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Poems from various journals

So, I have a tendency to write little poems in random journals. Basically I will write in whatever journal is at hand. And did I mention I have more than one journal? I have at least three.  Don't ask me why.  But I do.  One my the bed, one in my backpack, one laying around the house or taken on trips or lost and then found at various times.

I decided it was time to type out the poems for one of the journals.  These are largely unedited/unrevised, but let me know if any stand out to you.

Thanks for reading!

Johnny Varble (12-1-11)
Big slick file folders
full of notes that were once important
But now he is gone
and their hieroglyphics are yet to be deciphered
Will they ever?
So, we look through sheet by sheet
saving what we can,
what is discernible,
what reminds us of him without making us cry,
His notes on how to make an excel sheet,
a brochure for last season's performances at the local theater.
It's all gotta go
as he is gone,
but without the surprise of his leaving
over the edge of the road
with his dog in the passenger's seat.
We can't hold on to these papers forever
but we can't help but feel guilt for ripping his memory apart
page by page.
We shred the once valuable stacks of information
one file cabinet at a time.
Keep or throw?
These items with his handwriting scrawled in the margins
old papers worn at the edges and yellowed with years
and accidental stains of morning coffee.

This paper on which I write is his
top sheet of notes and memories already discarded.
I couldn't let the last few pages
go to waste.
Office papers, were not the heart of Johnny.
His heart is outside
with the horses in the barn and the cattle in the fields.
This cowboy forced to fill out the forms
we now hold in our hands
our young hands unwrinkled with time and still warm
from the afternoon coffee.
We make the decisions
paper by paper
memory by memory
making sense of what he left behind
making sense of his lost time
and our days ahead.

Spinning not unlike the earth
Spinning not unlike
the earth off kilter on its axis.
Round with rounded edges
smoothed by years of seasonal rains.
This stone looks more like a button on my nubby, woolen sweater
my favorite, not itchy at all
The shiny buttons of which pull against the the thread bare seams and the
deep pockets, in which I warm my hands
away from this frigid night air.
My palms press deeper into the cloth
closer to the warmth of my skin
I spin.

In time, keeping time
with the seasons as my metronome
each revolution brings me in closer
until I can feel the warmth of my own breath bounce back at me
with each exhale
It reminds me of snuggling up to you from behind
so close that I can breathe in the scent of your neck
then exhale the warm moist air onto the fine hairs at the base of your scalp
tiny droplets forming on each one
Tonight there is a chill and your body heat is a sweet treat.

Along the road
dried tumbleweeds from last summer
scamper across the lanes
the wheel softly turning
I roll, along gentle curves into tomorrow's night
Looking up I swoon
the stars spinning before me
and inside my head
As they shine
I can see the mist of my breath
in an icy fog.

This night will spin and turn to day
just as it did before
and I will wait and watch my steamy breath turn cold.

There is a point
There is a point
when blue turns black
where today becomes tomorrow
and today becomes yesterday.
There is a point
when smiles turn sour
when laughs turn dark
and he begins to turn pale.
There is a point when blood stops flowing
and the heart stops pumping
and the sky yawns
and the stars fall.
There is a point
where I end and universe begins
where hopes turn to lost opportunities
and shame to cancer.

Suddenly (No. 1)
I catch a whiff of my mom's apple pie
a boom of sweet sugar, cinnamon and apple
It's almost time to enjoy, but first
I put my nose back in the book
words whizz by and I evaporate
into the story of magic lands and unlikely characters.
Encountering myself in each chapter of fantasy,
I flip page to page
until it is time and my mom calls me back home

Suddenly (No. 2)
The lights went out and my sister sang
her voice carried through the darkness
accompanied by the click of the grandfather clock
wound to its coil and unnoticing of the dark
I lay in the still-warm bathwater
not sure whether it is safest to stay put
or risk a slip on the tile floor
to find a light.
Her voice soars up the stairs
unharnessed, unknowingly beautiful
She sings melodies
calls out to the shadowed corners and pitch black of the living room.
My mom lights a candle
I see the flames flicker in the bathroom mirror
"Charlotte, are you OK?"
I somehow want to blow bubbles in response
instead I lift my head and call
But, as I resumberge my chest and chin,
I hardly know.
And, my sister still sings
still haunting me with her memory.

Suddenly (No. 3)
I put in another coin
and roll the ski ball
Perfectly timed, angled, released
Lights blink as I win
tickets pour of the machine's mouth
vomit for useless coinage and cruddy "prizes"
neon green sunglasses I will never wear
a coloring set, a squishy ball with no purpose
The bells and dings and rings and beeps
are all beeping and ringing and flashing
An ADHD fantasy of rushed moments,
forgotten focus and
new beginnings without endings
The hush, then quiet
then suddenly we whisper into the dark
the world stopped around us
We stand and sit with ourselves in the dark
afraid to move
for fear we might break our bones
or our timeless sense of immortality.

Thursday Night

Hushed sounds
whispers out of chapped lips
once painted bright
It could be time to call it quits
or not
I put in another coin and
a fresh tune starts up.

Oven Timer
Gosh darn it! I want to do something
Like to sky dive, get drunk or
actually use real profanity!!
Instead I tell my stories in rhyme and stanza
stories of adventures never had
and words never spoken.
Could I bother you to allow me this one,
very small,
Fuck You!

Oh, no.
That doesn't make me feel better at all.
Excuse me. I'd better so see if
the casserole top has browned.

Notes on a Nightstand
In a book in the drawer
next to the meds
which hum tough tunes
of reality.
A cage for thoughts,
this journal's pages include the
important details
dates, but no names
sentiments and expletives
circled, underlined and in caps.
The book is sinking, sunken and drowned in thoughts.
Notes hide under the water's reflective surface
mirroring life's day that plays above.
How many journals live in drawers like this?
Notes on a nightstand
trying to explain away the need
for the little, plastic orange container
that lives there too.

Dear Lower Back,
You are so sweet to call me up so regularly.
Well done, I'm listening.
Oh, how you love to talk,
and talk and talk and talk
Which I appreciate,
But, I asked you here today because
I am feeling ready
to let you go.
For us to go our separate ways.
You don't need to check in on my quite so often
I feel ready to forget you.
Is that too harsh to say out loud?
I don't mean to be mean.
Its just that
I could really do
without your constant reminding.
Like a parent you hold me back and
warn me against my instincts
Don't do that! Don't go to far!
Let's be reasonable.
Can't you just let me be?
For a month or so? a week? a day?
I don't think I can handle it much more.
You shouting at me daily as I wake up and when I go to bed. 
Each time I want to do anything
you are right there to stop me.
Don't you think it's getting a little old?
Don't you have something better to do?
Because I do.
So, go ahead. and take a long
extended vacation.
and let me be for a while
unconcerned, uninhibited and unrestricted
for once.

Evening Happening at the Oak on Peppertree Lane
A long, blue-green feather on the road
Harrumph! I flutter to the bottom branch
Grip and claw into the rough bark,
pull myself up, through the maze of branches up to the canopy
where the acorns are still green
I settle in to roost for the night.

Footsteps fall below
Two of them, one stoops to pick up the feather.
How odd, don't they know?
That's no longer good. Shimmering green, gold and blue.
Those feathers were only in good fashion for last spring
Clearly they won't do any good now.
Once a part of a corona
Peacock pride
meant only for one reason
but that is all done
they are now abandoned
Deemed useless.
As it goes with we who are luckless in love
I now have to wait for next spring
To try and find her again
To show off my four foot tail of brand new feathers.

Eee-ahhl! Eee-ahhl!
Don't mistake my warning for a serenade!
They jump and laugh in response
clinging together now holding hands.
It seems this couple must mate in fall.

Being Blue
Stunned Blue in silent thoughts that
have no end
a shade of near gray that washes over my ears, cheeks and chest
blood drained from my cheeks
empty of their glow
Like a match that can not be unstruck
the blue burns out all the kindling it can lays hands on
My worries catch fire with ease and burn
in unforgiving pyres
Being blue is not a mood, nor emotion
nor a feeling
Blue is a way of existing
as mornings wash into afternoons wash into evenings
onto darker nights
Blue is a shadow waiting patiently behind me
a faux friend with a false promise to keep me company
Blue sits on my brow,
making it hard to keep my eyes open,
even when I want them to.
Blue hangs from hooks on my cheeks pulling down,
pulling, pulling down
Blue calls me to close my eyes
close out the world
sit in the blue darkness.
Heavy lids bind this bright afternoon to Blue's gravity
Today's particular shade is steel blue
tomorrow's is not yet announced.

I'm resistant
I am resistant
and the resistance clings to me like an oily residue that won't wash off
knees refuse to bend
Hips stick
full of loud pops
clicks and crackles
But I have to sit
the work is in the staying,
sitting in the thick of it
enduring the winds that threaten to topple my folded origami legs.

I'm resistant
despite myself and my desires.
I'm looped with the lasso of untamed fears
to stay despite it all
despite your leaving, again
after how many years of coming and going?
I stay, cross legged and resolute
despite my want to run
so many "aways" to go to.
Vacancy signs in neon pink and blue
tempt me with their playful blinks
like batting eyelashes.
The backs of my knees and creases of my armpits get sweaty.
The familiar heat rush of anxiety
washing through me in waves.
I feel sweat beading at my temples but
my eyes remain half closed in inner reverie
turned nightmare.
I sit.
Hands folded into each other
against all odds
against the odds that you'll come back
be gone forever.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All Riled Up and Ready for the Big Push

If I were pregnant, the title might mean something entirely different, but thankfully I am not pregnant and I am referring to the big push that happens twice every year. It is called "finals" time.

The "finals" themselves are not the problem, the problem is all the loose ends that have as of yet gone untied or un-severed and must be either tied or severed by the end of the next three weeks.  And, the process of tying and severing as it goes (even when it goes "well") just plain sucks. It the worst part of teaching as many teachers know and agree.

What happens is: all the students realize 3 weeks out that they are screwed, and they all want you to do something about it.  It is rough being the one to explain that they dropped the ball, that they did it to themselves and now they have to live with it. Not a fun conversation.

True, I am a softy. But, that is because I believe that I need a break every once in a while and therefore my students probably need a break too. I draw a hard line where it "matters."  but I am basic just too darn empathetic.  And, even if I don't give them leeway, I still find myself continually barraged with email or unsuspected visitors to my office hours who are desperate for an ear if nothing else.

I was a good student. Truth be told, I was an excellent student. I only ever got one B+.  Ever.  That is how determined to succeed I was. It has less to do with smarts and more to do with conviction. I wanted it, I wanted the information, I wanted to learn I wanted to grow and change and explore and write. So, the A was a natural result (most of the time).  So, when it comes time to give out my grades. It hurts me to give out B's in a tap I or a modern I class, but I have to get over that.  Not everyone tries as hard as I do, and frankly not every one gets the required results from their effort.  Not everyone is "natural" at math and not everyone is "natural" at dance.

What am I doing here?  You don't really care about this, or if you do (because you are a teacher) you already know exactly what I am talking about, and therefore I am preaching to the choir.  The reality is, that I am writing this for my own benefit. As I write this blog, I am trying to convince myself to let go.  To ride the last wave of the semester like a relaxed surfer instead of a nervous and rigid grandma.

I have a lot to do. And tonight, I calendared out the rest of the semester. Probably not the best thing to do right before trying to go to bed.  Now, I am all riled up.  Anxious to get the work done that has to get done whether there is time for it or not.

I tell myself: "Everything I do now, I don't have to do later." And, this motto helps.  But, at 11:30 pm when it is time to sleep, I shouldn't be considering going online to grade.  I just shouldn't. Those papers will have to wait another day.

But those days are running out.

Oh, the sound of the ocean.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Healthy Obligations

I have a feeling I might not get anything done if I weren't obliged to get it done.  For example, I am very lucky to be a part of the Language of Dance® family (LOD®). This group of amazing dance instructors and pedagogs have included me in their adventures toward changing the face of dance literacy.

I sat on their panel at NDEO (National Dance educator Organization) and presented my findings, focusing on using dance theory and notation in an online dance appreciation course, with humility as I was surrounded by these women of profound knowledge, passion and dedication to dance and dance research. I am honored they consider me a colleague. But, this honor is the best motivator for work.  In being included on this panel, I have become obligated to them.  I feel a duty to them because they believe in me. They push me to make steps in my thinking and research that I otherwise would not take. 

I am very fortunate to have tenure at my job, and, because I am not at a research institution, I don't have to publish or present at conferences in order to keep my job.  But, these women motivate me to keep going. I want to make advances in dance research and dance literacy, and the best part is that I am not obligated by survival but by an inner sense of duty and obligation. Clearly there is no money to be had from these hours of pouring over a computer. But, there is honor.

I enjoy being obligated to them, because they challenge me to be the best I can be.  In the past two days I wrote up my portion of the panel presentation and it turned out to be 8 pages single spaced (about 3,000 words) plus graphics.  I would never have done that if I weren't obliged to do it.  Trust, me, my crochet project, tv and latest book are all calling my name right now!  But, I am glad I put in the work, ook the time, thought through the ideas, made something out of nothing. 

It feels good.

I am similarly obligated to my dance company (MeCo), (again NOT for the money-- no money there either-- do we see a trend developing?!?).  I am obligated by my fantastic dancers, their dedication tot he projects and their unending trust in me. I won't let them down because I am honored to work with them each week.  In a similar way I am obligated to my students (but that gets messy because that is my job-- but still, I am obligated and committed to it heart and soul so it too pushes me to be better).

People talk about "self-motivation," but I am not quite sure there is any situation that solely allows for self-motivation.  I think it is healthy to be obligated to others.  If I waited to do things out of self motivation, I would get half as much done.  It is easy to waste away the days. 

So, thank you to everyone to whom I have been obligated at one point or another.  You have pushed me to become a better person, to do more than I thought I was capable of and grow in ways I never expected. 

Still, obligations (good or bad) can make you sleepy, which I am right now. So, it is time for me to say goodnight!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Update on the Spending Moratorium

( If you have not already, please read my previous blog Holidays are near: Time to stop buying stuff!! of which this is a continuation. . . )

I will be honest: this Spending Moratorium is hard!  I am surprised at how often I think about buying things.  It turns out that I think about buying something 3-4 times a day (if not more). I really had no idea it was this bad.

Now, that doesn't mean I used to go shopping 3-4 times each day before making my decision to stop purchasing. It just means that even knowing that I won't be buying anything, I am shocked at how often I entertain the idea of buying something.  I contemplate buying things all day long.  You probably do too. And, I didn't realize this until now when I have drawn the line and said "no" to spending any money on things for myself. 

My thought process is incredible:  I am purchase occupied at almost every turn, all day long, big and small things:  A new pen because I don't have one in my purse, and I am going to a meeting, a pack of gum while out when I have a pack at home and in my work desk, a new holiday CD I came across unexpectedly, a new book I was told about, a new hair clip because I forgot mine at home, a cute candle that happens to be on sale, fabric for holiday card making, when I know I have equitable materials at home.

It sounds absolutely ridiculous when it is listed out. I am embarrassed by it. But these are the types of things I would be purchasing on a day to day basis, here or there, not all at once but as the "need" arose.  I have realized over the past 4 days that I already have too much cute stuff and the world is filled with more cute stuff. It will always be filled with cute stuff.  I have to just deal with it.

I was blessed to have a friend ask me to go shopping with her (for her) on Tuesday.  I shouted YES! I love shopping.  And, this way I could enjoy it without coming home with anything for myself. It was the perfect opportunity to practice NOT BUYING.  I purposefully left my purse in the car.  Not because I really thought I would have bought something, but because I didn't even want the option of it.  We had an absolutely great time. This friend hates to shop for clothes for herself and hates to spend money.  She had gift cards and was in need of a new work and winter wardrobe.  It was a perfect situation for me.

I glided around the racks, finding shirts she overlooked and choosing colors that she would have never picked up.  She tried them on and one by one was amazed at what I pulled for her. I felt like I was on one of those Style shows.  I choose dresses, blouses, blazers, sweaters and quickly dismissed her glances at horizontal striped sweaters and baggy shapeless tops.  She really liked what I picked out and ended up purchasing some beautiful garments that were sophisticated and well fitted. 

There were only a couple times I saw things that tempted me.  But, I enjoyed them while I looked and then asked myself: Would I come back for this?  Would I go out of my way to purchase this or ask for it as a gift?  Do I already own something similar?  The respective answers being: No, No, Yes.

The reality was I was happy to be able to shop and enjoy the stores and the styles. But, it felt great to leave without bags in my hands. I didn't need anything. I didn't buy anything.  And, I didn't have to make space for it in my closet when I got home.

It was a good day. 

I should leave my purse in the care more often. 

The Spending Moratorium happily continues. . .

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Twitter for Mindfulness

Perhaps you have read or heard about Mindfulness. If you have read any of the more popular Buddhists texts by Thich Naht Hanh or Pema Chodren, then you have certainly encountered the idea even if it was called something else.  Likewise, if you practice yoga and have ever performed pranayama (breath control/meditation) or seated meditation then you have practiced being mindful. 

But, the practice of mindfulness in daily life amidst work drama, family crisis, personal health issues and the rest of life's curves balls takes practice and discipline.  I would like to present an unexpected mindfulness tool I recently discovered: Twitter.

Yes, I was one of those people who "didn't get Twitter" and scoffed at the ridiculousness of "saying something in 140 characters or less."  I only got my Twitter account (@BethMegill) a couple months ago because I was feeling desperate with my dance company, and knew I needed to try something new to broaden Megill & Company's (MeCo) exposure.  So, I created a Twitter account in my name.  No hiding behind anything, no ulterior motives. Everyone would know who I was, and I had to be ok with that. 

I didn't really post anything until about two months ago. I didn't know about RT (retweets) or hashtags (which I always knew as a pound sign). The, I drew the line and made a decision: I will tweet despite all my concerns and misgivings about it. I have to at least TRY it.  At first, it felt weird to post what I was thinking, what I was doing, and what I saw at any given moment, but it gradually became part of my day, and I found that you can say a lot in 140 characters. And, sometimes it is just a pointer to more info which is often very useful/entertaining/interesting. 

But, the best and most unexpected benefit of Twitter has nothing to do with my initial motives at all. I discovered that in making Twitter a part of my day, I was making reflection part of my day.  Twitter was helping me become more mindful! 

I find that Twitter helps me to put things into perspective as I find myself in sticky situations or frustrating states of mind.  In deciding what to post, I have to make a decision about what I want to say. And, in deciding what I want to say, I have to make a decision about what is important to say.  And, in order to decide what is important to say I have to decide what is import (period!).

This has become an excellent practice of mindfulness. I often wonder what I will tweet next.  "Is this important?" "Is this interesting?"  "Is this worth sharing?" I realized that these questions were not for any of my "followers" but for myself. Through this reflection, I am really asking: "What is important to me?" "Is what I am doing interesting and worth doing?"  "Am I making decisions that I am proud of and will feel comfortable sharing with others?"  Twitter makes me accountable to myself.  It helps me lead the life I want to live by reminding me to stay true to my beliefs and values.

I find that I have been more relaxed, more productive, more playful, more joy filled, and more interested in general. I see the world as more real because I have my eyes opened.  Of course I am excited when someone responds to a tweet (just as I am when you respond with a comment to this blog). It is exciting to think that something I have shared has given someone else joy or a moment for pause and reflection, but ultimately I tweet for myself and what the practice gives me on a daily basis. 

We shall see how long this trend lasts, perhaps it is just a phase that will come and go as so many things do.  But for now, I am grateful and appreciative of how this program (that I bad mouthed and snickered at for so long) has actually deepened my practices.  Thank you Twitter. And, special thanks to those who follow and share in my practice. You are my sangha

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If you have a moment. . . I could use your help

So, as I have previously explained in this blog, I am committed to a poetry group, and we are going to take a show on the road in May.  But, unlike the other more prolific writers, I am the newbie, writing here and there, inconsistent at best (but passionate!).  We have a reading in Dec at the local mall. Oh, yes. It will be epic and you should come.  But, first I need to write, write, write and then I need to pick something to actually read.  The writing part is less intimidating, I mean I can write stuff if i sit down and do it. Whether is is good or bad though needs to be determined. My current challenge is figuring out what poems are worthy of performance.  This is where you come in.

I just wrote these poems this morning.  Let me know if one speaks to you. You don't even have to tell me why.  Just let me know so I can get a sense of what might be good material to further work on. And, if you don't like any of them do not worry. I will try to post more and maybe there will be something you do like down the line. 

Thanks for your help!
Write on!

Midnight Dance
It starts.
slow and fast
hard and soft
all at once
in time
without a moment's hesitation
anew and glorious
silver and gold
Another night of applause
effort expended and sweat perspired
costumes worn thin
showing bare threads
like spindles of muscle fiber
feet and ankles crack and pop
a chorus of aching joints pushed to their limit
Music plays inside the soul
melodies unravel stories to be danced
I hum and lull myself into the trance
in time
anew and glorious

Three months in
Three months in
I notice
a depression on my finger
a ring of commitment that lies pale underneath
the promise ring
even with the thin band
I notice
its weight on the tissue of my finger
daily impressions
wearing memories of our partnership
And this three months in
just three months
so powerful is love
and the promise of forever

Inside the skin
There is a grumble
something has changed
i notice the body behaving like
and intractable child
yelling at me in response to my abuse
waking me int he middle of the night
to scream and shout and cry
it can't be calmed
Inside the skin
inside the tissues
there is rebellion
I don't know when the demonstrations started
I don't know when the body first began talking back
Was it always shouting and I just never
stopped to listen?
Now like blown out speakers I can't shut out the
Powerful messages inside
the knots of my core
wondering when their cries will finally be heard

Other poems from former posts. Bugs. Another Garden Poem.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Holidays are near! Time to stop buying stuff!

The holidays are coming, and it is time to start buying gifts and presents. I love to buy gifts and presents, probably because I love to shop, and I love a good reason to shop. I like finding treasures to give my loves ones. It is fun to think of something (big or small) that might give them a smile or be useful to them.  But, over the last decade or so, it has become near impossible to buy something for someone that they need but "haven't been able to get."  I'm sure you have experienced it the same as I.  If you like me, we already own what we want. We buy what we need and don't think twice about getting what we want as soon as we want it. 

The thing is, I am creative enough to find something fun to buy, make or share as a gift for my loved ones even when it seems they have everything.  But, when asked what I want for the holidays by my sweetheart husband, I realized that it might be near impossible for someone to shop for me, because I don't wait to buy anything. If I want it, I usually buy it. (Let me clarify that I don't buy in egregious excess. But, I do shop and do buy stuff I don't need but I still want).

Just the other day I heard an interview on NPR and promptly went home and purchased the kindle version "before I forgot the author and title."  It was only $10, so it seemed like a reasonable purchase.  But, seriously. I just bought a book 5 minutes after I heard about it, in part, because I didn't want to forget the title.  I paid ten dollars for the convenience of not having to remember or, oh say, write down the title of a book someone might be able to buy me for the holidays.  Sure, I will read it, and yes it will be a worthwhile purchase, but I need to show some restraint, otherwise I will buy the world before December!

So, I have made a decision.   I need to go on a buying moratorium.  More specifically, I can't buy something for myself that is for pleasure.  I will still buy food and groceries. But, no more scarfs, shoes, books, socks or candles.  No more.  First of all, I don't need it anyway, but secondly, I want to feel the joy of receiving when the time comes.  I am too accustomed to getting things without a wait, without a struggle, without a moment's pause.  I want to feel the joy of waiting and receiving with relish.

Honestly, I am a little worried that I won't make it until the holidays.  I know it will not be easy for me.  I am embarrassed to say, I am THAT spoiled.  I lead a luxurious life, where my cost of living is low enough that I can afford little things here or there, and so I buy them.  It will be a challenge to not buy.  But, I have to do this. It is time to scale back and to rediscover the pleasure of receiving a gift.

Expect updates. This might be interesting. . .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: Women, Food and God

I have recently been sharing with friends the concepts in a book I just finished called, "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth.  My mom read the book first and recommended it to me. I then saw the author on Oprah (before the show ended) and put it on my kindle reading list.  I then promptly forgot about it for a good 4 months.  Turns out, it is a great book and gave me a new perspective about compulsive eating and food addiction.

As a tall dancer, I have often been dissatisfied with my body composition.  I have never been seriously overweight, but by dancer standards I carry more general "insulation" than most in my field.   I naturally have a long, muscular build, a proportioned torso and nice legs (so I have been told).  But, my 5'11" frame always skewed my sense of size.  Being taller made me bigger in a world of smaller and thinner.

Im result, I always felt big, being placed in back and selected as the dancer to lift others and rarely the lifted one.  I always got the largest leotard and could never squeeze into the cute, vintage outfits we borrowed from the theater department.   I abandoned ballet because being partnered by a ballet boy of 5'7" was not an option.

So, needless to say, there has always been a shadow of disapproval of my body shape, a nagging feeling that I shouldn't eat that last roll, second helping or second cookie. 

Roth's book was a refreshing take about interacting with food in a way that really made sense to me.  She stresses eating what you really want, eating when you are hungry and quieting the body enough to know when you are full.

Sounds overly simple perhaps, but the magic lies in the fact that following these simple "rules", you take away food's power and the the connotations you have tied to it over the years. 

By constantly depriving yourself of the heavenly piece of chocolate cake or yummy plate of spaghetti, you have developed a system of guilt associated with food. In other words you begin to believe that eating the cake is "bad" and therefore you are "bad."  Likewise, we have learned to reward ourselves with a food "I've been so good. I can't break the rules this ONE time!"  Again, this is giving undeserved power to something that is fuel and might be tasty, but certainly doesn't revolutionize the world.  Finally, we equate eating with self sabotage or loss of control. We numb our mind and hearts by stuffing our stomachs.  But, that just leaves us in no better place.  On the other side of the bag of Kettle chips, we feel just as troubled and now additionally guilt ridden.

No food should have power beyond the enjoyment of its taste and the nutritional value it provides.  By trusting in Roth's system, you can relearn these basic facts.  You step outside of the diet game of chutes and ladders. By taking away the power of the food as a slave to soothe you or a weapon to punish you, food finally loosens its grip on you and (gasp) can even become undesirable when it is not needed. 

This was a hard thing for me to relearn.  I had become so attached to food that leaving anything on the plate seemed crazy.  How could I possibly leave something that tasted soooo good?  It turns out, that I can and should.  Not to deprive myself, but as a practice of being honest with myself. 

I realized that I have been clogging my system with excess and that is part of what has been making me feel bad periodically.  Too much food physicality makes me tired and exacerbates my depression. 

But all of this is just a precursor to the most insightful thing I learned about myself by reading the book.  Roth challenges us to identify when we are physically hungry and when we are hungry for something else (eating for any other reason).  In thinking about my own life I realized that I have been eating for two main reasons other than being hungry:

1. Fatigue
2. Fear of future fatigue

I thought eating would help me stay awake and alert, but what I really need to do is rest (or at least let go of the fear of being tired).  Strange that just the fear of being tired is enough for me to eat.  But all that excess was just dragging me down.

The best part of all of this is that I am getting over the guilt of eating.  Eating is becoming more enjoyable because it is no longer forbidden.  Now the candy bar sits on the table because I am not forbidden to eat it. It holds less sway over me and doesn't taunt me with its presence.  And, when I want to eat it I will and it is no big deal. 

It feels good to let go of all the anxiety surrounding this aspect of my life.  It frees my mind and energy up for more productive endeavors. 

A welcome change and one I thought I should share.

Have you read the book? What did you think?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tech Week Tantrum

Part of my job at Moorpark College is directing the fall dance concert.  As with most projects, I love-love-love the creative process. The brainstorming of ideas and excitement of new creative possibilities.  I love the promise of potential that fills the air at the inception of a project or concert.  I dream big.  I like to revolutionize myself and the process each chance I get.  I can't help but want to push the envelope, push my limits and try something I have never done before.

But, this stage of the concert process is long gone.  And, when I reach this point of no return (7 days before the concert) I can't help but think.  "What was I thinking?"

This concert I have choreographed a fun and ridiculously fast tap dance, a physically demanding and powerful modern dance trio and a crazy, large ensemble piece (complete with strange walks, trench coats, boots and screaming). 

Did I mention I dream big?

The thing that I am learning is that my creativity is in some ways its own vice.  I can't help but get excited about new ideas, creative trains of thought, and potential "awesomeness" in general.  I love to generate ideas, ways of working, aesthetic systems, choreographic projects. 

But then it comes time to do it and actually make it happen.  And, I find myself here in "Tech Week"!

For those of you outside of the performing arts, Tech Week is the time the production uses to move into the theater, set lights, practice with costumes and generally go mad from fatigue at that same time.  

Admittedly I write in anticipation.  Tech week technically starts tomorrow.  But, as always, it promises long hours in a dark theater, after which your butt is numb, and you can't quite remember what day it is, if you need to eat, nor if you went to bathroom in the last 5 hours.  It is not all that terrible. It can actually be fun. But it is (or at least has been) always exhausting.  Imagine functioning on adrenaline and caffeine for 12 hours straight but not being able to go any where or see the light of day for three days straight. 

And, who am I to complain? The technicians do this all day long each and everyday, project and project, production after production.  But, I am to a point in my life where I have become more protective of my energy and health.  I am less willing to burn myself out the way I used to.  I guess I have learned that the production "hang over" just isn't worth it.

Life goes on after a dance concert just as it did before.  Yet, the show will not make itself.  It takes time and energy, focus and patience.  It takes hope, creativity, and diligence.  Perseverance perhaps most of all. 

I want to find a way that I can enjoy Tech.  Am I crazy to think it might actually be possible to put on a dance concert and not lose my mind or sacrifice my physical health?  I have reached a point where I no longer want to push through. I don't want to just "make it happen."  I don't want to live my life wishing these next two weeks were already over, when this is what I love to do.

I want to love it while I am in it.  Not just before and after. 

It is time for me to make some changes in how I work.  I want to teach the dancers that it feels good to work, create and perform (and it feels best when you don't kill yourself in the process).  The reward needs to be in the process.  My students run themselves so ragged that I am afraid they miss the entire experience.  Sure they always "get through."  But they are sleep walking through it all. 

I know because I was too. 

It is time to wake up.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Childless in Suburbia

I am 31.  My new husband is nearly 41.  We do not have children and so far are not planning on having them.  But I am realizing that not having children is tougher than it looks and not just for the reasons you are imagining right now (haha!-- You!).

Being childless and specifically choosing to be childless is not the norm. Perhaps we would fit in better in Germany where birth rate is way down or a big city where all the people are career driven and "independent." But, here in suburban America, we are the oddballs, and because we are the odd-couple-out in family oriented Simi Valley, it is highlighted most every day. 

For instance, yesterday was Halloween.  And, up go all the pictures of all the children in their (ridiculously) cute costumes in emails and on facebook.  Scrolling down my fb news feed, I see picture after picture of cute toddlers romping around in cozy costumes.  And, and I can't help but think. "Wow. . . I am living a very different life." 

I don't want this to be misinterpreted as bitter.  It is really much more of an observation about my life, where I live, my relatives and their life spaces.  I realize that I am not experiencing life the way so many couples are living life right now. I am not concerned with the elementary schools in my district, whether there is a dress code, how I am going to afford a child's tuition, nor how I am going to keep them awake and smiling through their drowsy-tantrum time before bed. 

I have to believe I am just as busy and concerned in my daily life, just about other things. But, because I am not experiencing life in the same way as my friends and family members, it is hard to create a feeling of being "in it" together.  I am realizing more and more how friends are born out of enduring the same or similar life challenges. Getting through undergrad or grad school, putting on a performance, competing in the same bowling league.  When you are in it together, you can't help but connect.  The same enemy drives you together whether it be, late night papers, lack of sleep, giving a shouting kid a time out or losing on a 7/10 split to your rival team. 

So, it is hard to hold a conversation about feeling depressed or stressed at work when your poor friend or sister is up to her ears in dirty laundry, a screaming child, dinner burning on the stove and a child coloring the walls.  And, likewise who am I to offer her advice or comfort! 

It creates an unfortunate gap that takes more effort to overcome than I expected.  I will go so far as to say that it takes more effort to maintain a long and established friendship with someone who is currently not "in it" with you than someone new who is "in it".  Being "in it" together makes the here and now relevant for both parties.  

We shall see how things shift as toddlers become children, become adolescents. . . But according to my mom (who is both wise and observant) life with children is always about children. (Perhaps it would be less so if my sister and I didn't call her so regularly through out the week! Love ya Mom!)

I say all this with the full knowledge that I may change my mind and that Dan and I may decide that we will have children.  But, for now the decision and the observation stand, and I am left to wonder who else might be in my life space so we can be "in it" together. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Stress or Depression or Both

I am feeling (to say the least) overwhelmed. Since returning from the National Dance Educator's Organization Conference last week, I feel like I can't catch up.  This is the time in the semester when all the "good" ideas are coming to a head, and it is time to pay up. 

But even that isn't entirely true. I don't have THAT much to do. I certainly could achieve most of what I have to get done, but the truth is I am feeling spent.  I was so careful during the first part of the semester to take care of my time and energy, but this still happened.  I still ran out of gas.

I am griping. I guess I am in the mood to gripe.  I am bitter because I have so many ideas going around in my head. Creative ideas that are full of potential. Dance ideas. Teaching ideas. Writing ideas. But I don't want to do the work. I don't want to take the time and energy to actually put my pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  Even this is feeling awkward. Mostly because I feel like I have some very cool experiences from the NDEO conference which are great blog material, but instead I am caught in this cloudy mess of fatigue, apathy and dejection. 

The stress (which apparently snuck up on me without me knowing it) is taking its toll.  I am feeling depressed.  And, that is the crux of all of this.  I have great things to do, great insights to share, ideas to follow, but I am anchored to the typical symptoms: fatigue, sorrow, obsessive thoughts, anxiety dreams, the desire to just sit for hours on end, preferably with a stream of movies going on end to end to end. 

In the scheme of things, the symptoms are not terrible and will hopefully go away soon. But it is a reminder that even when things are good, stress takes it toll, and for me stress results in depression.  I think it is a chemical thing because there is really nothing wrong. I just feel bad.  Sub-par. 

Good times and a stable life, and I can still get caught in the cloud.  It happens less and less.  But it is a reality for me. Chronic depression doesn't just disappear when things are good and you have a good week, or two or three.  It is a constant practice. 

Side Note:  It doesn't help that my office printer is broken.  It is throwing of my groove and making everything harder.

Perhaps tomorrow the cloud will lift like coastal fog that finally burns off after you have given up on a sunny day.  But at this point I am still hoping for sunny skies.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another Garden Poem. . .

First Garden

Visions of orange, red and purple roots
lying just under the surface
green sprigs jumps at my ankles as I walk
along the rows
and my feet sink into the soft soil
soft calluses swaddled with each step

Hot days leave my gardenia drooping
but my sunflowers keep smiling
afternoon sun no match for their joy of summer
drinking up every last sip of sunlight
before the fiery sphere slips behind the mountain
yellow petals nod in approval of the breeze

The pear trees are still young
no blossoms this year
perhaps next year will surprise us with soft white blossoms
the closest thing to snow as they fall lightly
on the southern California ground
for now, the green leaves themselves
are a blessing to be enjoyed
filled with promise for future harvests

The marigolds came free in the mail
one plant a lone survivor from the pack
vibrant yellow, orange balls like ornaments
small suns hanging on the leaves in cheerful celebration
grown from seed
predictable miracles proving the debate for both sides

The cucumbers were an unexpected success
a shaky start and a mid-season fallen tree branch
pruney, spikey, dark green
sweet white insides make for perfect sandwiches
add avocado, sprouts and nutty bread
I think there's still another on the vine
for tomorrow's eating
 to taste summer again in each bite

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Over My Head. Again.

I agree to things before I realize exactly what that means.  I throw caution to the wind an say yes regardless if I am either:

a) am capable
b) have the time

It is my modus operandi really.  It seems to be what makes me tick (and go crazy all at the same time).  So, while I am prepping for 3 presentations I will be giving at the next NDEO conference (National Dance Educators Organization), producing a dance concert, choreographing 3 pieces on my students, planning a special halloween tap dance performance for my Tap I class, and finishing a 52 minute dance piece for my company. . . .


I have also agreed to go on a poetry tour.

Let me remind you that I am not really a poet. Sure I call myself a poetess. But that is more of a dream identity that an actual one.  I write poetry because I know nothing about it, how to do it, history of it nor whether I am making a complete ass of myself. Basically, I do it because I can write really bad poems and have no real-life repercussions.  It is just fun.

Well. Until now.

Now, I am obligated.  I am actually going to have to write something that I will then memorize and perform in front of unsuspecting audiences in the Bay Area next May.  I hope they aren't paying. But I am getting ahead of myself.

What plague me currently is a project we poets are organizing to raise funds for the trip.  A Poet/Pinup Calendar.   Yes, you read right! We poets from the ages of roughly 20 to about 70 will be dressing up for your pleasure (and belly laughter) in a brand-spanking-new 2012 calendar.  Oh, yeah.

Alas, our theme is fantastic: S/heroes and Villians.

I have decided to be a Garden S/hero. Mostly because I like dressing in gingham and like getting dirty.  None of this troubles me. I can put on fake eyelashes and hold a bunch of carrots, no problem. The hitch comes in that I have to write a garden poem to go along with my Garden Hero character.  And, I have yet to even try. 

So, I hereby dedicate myself to writing at least one garden poem a day and posting it here for your reading pleasure (and daily laughter medicine -- because it may be funny or more likely so bad you will have to laugh out of pity).  I promise they will be terrible, perhaps ridiculous, funny if I'm lucky, irrational and only maybe good. Read because it will make you feel good about yourself and your own art. Let me be your sacrificial lamb to the creative gods. I don't mind, really.

The poem needs to be done by Halloween.  So, I had better get crackin'.

Garden Poem #1

They seem to be of a different variety
Not quite the usual white aphids or black beetles
Brown spiders of Black widows
I like the tarantulas I see every once in a while.
Fuzzy. Kind of Cute.
No, these bugs are blue.
Unlike any bug I've ever seen.
Creeping in
Nesting under leaves in invisible webs of confusion
The garden soil gives them all the nutrients they need
Fertile, dark, moist and healthy
They feed on whatever crosses their paths
But I never see them swallow
They grow and multiply whether I ignore them
or expose their bellies to the sun.
It doesn't make sense
Sensing time pass
They are blue
But blue sometimes feel closer to black
Patterns obscured by morning moods and recently upturned soil
Deep blue.
Blue of a time that does not fit in today
Shiny exoskeleton, armored from my pesticides of care
This bug,
Bugging me
On days
Making days I don't want
Days that make my Hydrangeas wilt and my zucchini leaves turn yellow
I take my spade and fight them off
Falling through the finger of my rake
Not to be captured
Not to be tamed
I feed my plants with extra Nitrogen
but even the lavender grows crisp and brittle from their bites
Blue bug
Deep blue and shiny
Hiding in shadows
Mocking me on my sunny sidewalk.
I throw down the shovel
I dedicate tomorrow to stamping you out.
But today
is blue.

(Didn't expect it to take that turn. Did I mention I just write poems without editing them? Well, I do. I just let them flow. So, this is what you got for now.  But. . . at least the poem is done for the day.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ich kann nicht mehr. Ich brech' zusammen

Ich kann nicht mehr. Ich brech' zusammen

There is this fantastic phrase in German.  (My German friends who read this will promptly tell me what I have misspelled; I am sure. But, having learned this phrase over a decade ago and still remembering it as well as I do, I give myself props.)

It means: "I can do no more. I break together." 

Well, that is the literal translation. The meaning translates into. "I am done. I can't do anymore."

But it just doesn't sound as good in English.

I have been ill with a cold and today I stayed home to rest. While I committed myself to resting physically, today quickly became a guilt ridden day of following up on old emails that have long since been pushed into the "next" pages of my Yahoo mail, catching up with grading and following up with work emails that needed to be addressed in a timely manner regardless of whether or not snot is running out my nose.

So, I spent the day "resting" in front of my computer screen, in a hard backed chair with a wicker seat that has left permanent imprints on the backs of my thighs.  I don't own a computer chair.  Why would I when I can enjoy the ripples of red indentations for hours after a computer session? Sexy.

I got a lot done today.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that I have nearly given myself an anxiety attack in the meantime.  Sometimes being less reminded of your commitments and obligations really is better for the mental health.  But, alas, then on your day of rest you can't rest at all.  Hence today. 

I tested my conviction for getting things done on the computer by NOT opening up Twitter, Facebook or this blog until the end.  That wasn't the hard part for me.  The hardest part (beside the wicker seat and wooden chair back) was knowing that some people sit at their computers all day everyday.  I would probably die. Or at least gain 400 pounds. As it was I ate, 2 slices of PB toast, coffee, a pot of Rostaroma tea with soy milk, two HUGE steamed artichokes (with mayo of course),  and four healthy sized pancakes with maple syrup for dinner. All while sitting at the good ol' computer.   Oh, and nearly the whole dish of raw almonds sitting to my left.

Side Note: Artichokes are not the best food to eat at the computer because you can't type and eat them very well at the same time, and if you alternate the keyboard gets all messy.

With all that said and done, Ich kann nicht mehr.  I think I might actually break together. Right onto my bed. Teaches me to try to stay home and rest.  Good riddance.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Political Shadows

I am not a particularly politically minded person. Meaning: I don't follow the daily news on who said what to whom and who is denying or apologizing for saying something they "didn't mean".  I generally don't talk about politics in my social circles or at work where I teach.  But, every once in a while, I get a hankering to dive in and see what I can discern from all that is American politics.

Unfortunately, this time around the investigation made just as depressed as it has in the past.  (And, I mean I really am experiencing some symptoms of depression, and I think it might be due to my recent political undertakings. NOT a good sign.)

Because I don't really have time to devote to researching the political scene and the historical background, I don't feel confident in discussing politics with many people.  I often feel that I simply don't know enough to make political decisions at all, so when voting time comes around, I struggle. I know lot of wonderful and smart people from both major parties as well as a smattering from the libertarian, green and independent alternatives.  I see their passion and conviction. I witness their care for the people around them and the health of their world.  I believe they all mean well.  I know they all believe they have the best answers and solutions. 

I mostly stay quiet or ask basic questions on their understandings but never make declarations of my own.  It seems to keep my personal interactions healthiest while I get more information to unobtrusively file away in my rusty mental file cabinet of national politics. 

I write about this only because, this occasional hankering to connect with the political world inevitably makes me a little sad and makes me wonder what I could possible do about it.  I try to stay unaffected, but I am too sensitive to steel myself from the conflict I see and feel in the political arena.  I see people shouting at each other, frustrated, angry, and defensive, and I can't help but recoil from the whole situation.  I can't watch smart people turned into animals fighting over the last scraps of a carcass. 

I realized today that I feel powerless in politics.  That's probably why I donate to charities like Heifer International instead of political campaigns.  I mistrust politicians, and mistrust is not something I experience very often. I am really a rose-colored-glasses type of person so when it comes to distrusting politicians (while it doesn't seem outrageous to most) it does to me.  I fear double talk and pandering at every turn.  I see everything as a potential stratagem for reelection rather than a choice of integrity and values.   I suspect everyone of making deals like I saw on the West Wing.  "I will give you this, if you give me that."  "Compromise" done behind doors and for political gain. 

I do vote. I do encourage my students to vote. But, as a constituent, I don't feel heard, and I don't have the wealth or clout to buy my way into being heard. 

The only way I feel empowered is knowing that when I teach my classroom of students, I can encourage them to live with integrity.  I can encourage my students to be strong, independent thinking individuals who make choices that maintain their integrity and the integrity of others.  Honest. True. Just. Compassionate.

As far as dance and the arts. I want to know:  Where is the Kurt Joss of our time choreographing "The Green Table"? Where are the dances of protest from the 60's? Where is our Doris Humphrey and her "New Dance."  The arts have become an escape from reality. And, I like everyone, love that dance can be an escape from the demands, drudgery and disappointments of life.  But, I want a Josephine Baker who wouldn't dance in a club because it was segregated.  Bill T Jones is here and for him, I am grateful. Perhaps there are others I just can't think of right now. But, what I see on TV, in dance films and the touring repertory of many major companies is missing the mark. 

I see is how the performing arts can't make enough money to get by and make ends meet when they deal with these difficult and controversial issues. They can't take a stand because they can't afford to alienate their audience.  We (the audience) don't seem to want to pay for anything but entertainment.  Times are tough and we want the break.  I know I do. But then every once in a while, like this week, like tonight, I regret my choices and I feel ashamed. 

I have not lived up to my own expectations and my own standard of integrity.  When I see audiences stay home for the risky politically or socially minded work, I see myself not coming out and supporting the risk takers.   I don't even know where the risk takers are right now. 

I want a choreographer to make a dance that chills me to the bone. I want to see a dance or hear a song or a discover painting that dives in and calls the country to action, that wakes me and the rest of my block out of our slumber.  I want this piece of art to be so powerful that we as a country are ashamed of our collapse away from integrity, unity, patriotism and confidence in each other and have no choice but pull together and interact with the highest level of respect, trust and belief in one another.

I believe in people, and I want people to believe in one another a heck of a lot more than they seem to right now.  I don't like feeling sad about the state of affairs in this country. I would much rather write about horses on a hike or the joys of marriage or teaching.  But tonight I only see these political shadows cast over me.

I don't know if I am the one to make this dance I am talking about.  I am not even sure what such a dance would look like or what exactly it would need to say.  But, it has to be out there. 

In the meantime, I will keep at the daily grind with one eye out for an answer. 

Maybe there is a resolution just beyond the hill.

Maybe it is just around the corner.

Maybe I can learn to trust that integrity can be reinstalled.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Being put to use

I have had the joy of feeling very helpful for the past few days. And, let me tell you. It is great!

It started when my sister who is directing a show with tap in it called to see if I knew what "double up" meant (I think they meant double time). She was blocking a scene in which the tap dancing character is demonstrating toe taps while calling out "double up and switch sides."  I told her to see if it worked and if not just change the step (or she suggested the dialogue) to make it match. The audience won't know.

Then my dear (and ever inspiring) choral conducting friend Vail calls me up to see if I can decipher a dance step from a video of gumboot dancers which she is having her students perform in the next concert while singing a South African song.  It took me all of ten seconds to watch the video and figure out the stepping and slapping pattern. Success! I broke it down for you her, and within 3 minutes my job was done.  I am on fire!

But, the greatest experience of feeling helpful was last night as a guest speaker in my friend Joelle's English composition class.  She had invited me to speak on dance and my creative process. Her students are preparing for a field research paper including a personal interview and my visit was to demonstrate how to interview someone (in a group setting) as well as shed some light on how making dances and writing share a similar creative process.  First let me tell you: I had a straight up great time. Perhaps a better time that some of the students.  I felt like I was able to really share.  No restraints or inhibitions. Because I wasn't their primary teacher I could speak openly and freely without worrying about whether they liked me or not (Yes, it does matter to me whether my students like me or at the minimum respect and trust me). I would never see most of these students again. It was time to let her rip!

As I was talking about dance, my company, depression, dance notation, time management, hitting a slump, working through challenge, taking time to reflect and observe and other bits and pieces of my dance and personal life, I realized that I actually knew a lot. I was impressing myself in the process.  The thing is, after pushing against the constant struggle of the daily grind, feeling always overwhelmed and underwater, I still feel like I need to learn more. I still feel like I am somehow behind or uninformed in my field.  So, this was a great relief to feel like I possessed useful information that was both exciting and interesting for this class of English students.  I felt like an expert. Strange but intoxicating.

I was putting my years of dance education and experience to use in a single situation all at once.  I answered questions without missing a beat, jotted down Language of Dance© symbols on the board without hesitation, performed mini improvisations from a spontaneous score and made the students laugh and be playful in their inquiry and learning.

I liked seeing them lean forward in their seats. Their eyes focused and alive.  I admitted that making dances (like writing) is tough at times, but worth the challenge because of the long term pay off.  Something we do "only for fun" or only "when we feel like it" usually yields flimsy results that are as fickle as our approach.  But, when we return to something again and again, we can experience moments when it becomes so powerful and real that we know we have created something valuable and precious. 

I wish I could recall everything I said to this class. It was like all my wisdom poured out of me at once.  It all seemed so perfect, true, exciting and urgent. But, my memory fails me as I try to recapture it all now.  It was a stream of consciousness experience never to be exactly recreated.


I do remember this one point with great accuracy: They as artists need to trust themselves because what we feel as normal human beings in our humdrum lives and/or creative endeavors is truly unique and can be fascinating to others. I reminded them that only we live in our own skin and our own lives.  We must share what we know and what we experience, because it opens a window for others to peek inside to our inner workings, and it invites them to reflect on their own. Complex, intricate, spastic, fragile.

I hope that this blog serves you in this way.  The window into who and how I am is open.  I won't always be fascinating, but I promise to always be true.  And, when I can, inspiring. . . or at least funny (every once in a while). 

Some very cool gumboot dancing
(no this is NOT the one I figured out. If it were I should get a prize. But it is still way cool and worth watching):

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Trying out that Twitter thing. . .

It's true. I now have a twitter account and plan to use it. And I am certainly having mixed emotions about it all. One thing I do know is that this social networking stuff is hard work! Time consuming and mentally taxing if nothing else. And, I have the feeling it is harder at the beginning before it becomes a more self perpetuating mechanism. It is like having time for your friends. When you move to a new place you have all the time in the world but no friends to hang out with. But, once you get embedded in a group of friends, then your hanging out perpetuates itself and if anything you don't have enough time to see everyone you want to see.

But, I have to believe that this work will be worth it. My dance company Megill & Company takes my breath away. The dancers are unbelievably beautiful, passionate, easy to work with, funny. . . the list goes on. Bottom line is they need to be seen. They deserve to be seen and enjoyed. The more I see what is happening in the dance world the more I see that we fill a particular niche. Dance theater. Not quite Bill T. Jones. But in concept not too far. We enjoy being playful, making commentary, challenging the line between entertainment and art but working on the other end of the spectrum from the entertainment industry. We tell stories through movement (and sometimes words). Those who have seen us seem to like us. At least that is what I have heard so far.

So, I need to make the effort. Twitter here I am. Subject to your madness and hash tags (also known as a pound sign by the way for the rest of us who are not up to date on the twitter lingo). I want to get the word out, because the work is being made; it is coming together, and before we know it, we will need an audience. Someone to listen to our stories and see us give away our hearts in movement.

Dance, like ensemble music, is a communal phenomenon. It was born out of people coming together and sharing; it thrives under those conditions. Dancing can't be written down in a journal or book to be discovered posthumously. A choreographer can't lock herself up in her room to make dance after dance without any one knowing. Such dances would be lost to the world. Even a video of the dance would be a shadow of its real effect and power.

Dance is a living art and a performance art that is still largely passed down orally, an oral tradition that needs to be seen and experienced in the flesh. Where you can feel the music from the speakers, hear the breath of the dancers, hear the sound of their skin on the floor, and see the beads of sweat that even HD can't fully capture the way it really is.

So, now I tweet. At least I aspire to tweet. And if you would like to follow then I will know that all this Social Networking madness does have a purpose and will pay off in the end when Megill & Company gets to thank its audience with a bow.

twitter: BethMegill
MeCo on YouTube

Friday, September 30, 2011

eMegill: Hire a friend, grass roots employment

eMegill: Hire a friend, grass roots employment

I think we might be onto something here!

Married Life

Now that I have been married nearly a month, I get the "how is married life" question about once or twice in a day. It is sweet; my friends and coleagues want to make sure I am ok and happy in my new marital status.

The good news is: I am. In fact, I have been "happier" in general for the past 2 years I have known Dan. And, I do attribute it largely to the grounding elements in my relationship. On my wedding day my sister approached my new hubby and thanked him because "Now when my sister calls me, she has happy things to share instead of sadness." It's true. I can't think of the last time I called her crying-- which was a normal occurrence in former years. Heck, during the entirety of my adult life.

I have a vivid memory from only about three years ago, just before I met Dan. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at school (where I teach) and crying to Heather because I didn't know how I was going to pull myself together for my next class. It was a seriously depressed moment, but not uncommon in my experience. She prompted me on how I could take a back seat in the class and still give the students a valuable learning experience by working in groups. I did it. It was rough, but I did it. Thank you Heather.

But, those moments in which I have been really down have become less a part of my daily life. Instead, my biggest worry is a wilting tomato plant or an achy back. I haven't fallen into the depths of despair for a while, and it has been a welcome relief.

Dan's role in all of this is indirect. I would say his presence more than anything is what gives me solace. He is grounded, stable, relaxed, playful and joyous. He is a hard worker, but never gets too riled up when things get harried. And, when my artistic temperament flares and I spaz out, he still loves me. I think MBA spouses are good for artists. But, Dan is particularly Buddha like.

In reflecting on my new life style, I realized just how much time I had been spending on relationships in the past. I was always busy, busy either finding one, maintaining one, suffering through one, or ending one. It seems society's general view of relationships is that they are work, so I didn't think twice that I was working really hard at them. And, I am a hard worker. I don't give up so easily. But, now I am in a relationship that isn't hard work at all. It is easy and makes the rest of my life easier and more enjoyable. Imagine that.

Now, I am free of the mental, emotional, and energetic burdens of difficult relationships, and as a result, I am more balanced, more energetic and more lively. Married life is great! But, it isn't being married, it is being with the right person. The person who not only allows me to be who I am but celebrates and encourages who I am. "Should I go to meditation tonight?" Yes, he responds emphatically. "Should I go to yoga?" Yes! "Want to go for a walk tonight?" Yes! "I have rehearsal today." Great!

For once I am not stifled, nor cramped, nor dragged down. I don't have to compromise. Or at least it doesn't feel that way. It makes sense and feels natural. So, now I am doing more (not less) in my life. I can commit to things because I have a foundation to stand on. I feel more productive and more accomplished. And, I am happy.

What, you might ask, does he get in return?

Showers and showers of affection and love.

It works.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anecdote on Pastoral Living

This entry has absolutely nothing to do with either dance nor poetry. But it is a recent experience that I would be remiss not to include in this blog because it deserves to be written down so it will not be forgotten.

This past weekend I went on a lovely little hike with my friend Lesa. We hiked a commonly hiked path behind my house on a special property called the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of AJU (American Jewish University). We started the hike passing a field of hay that had been harvested and cleared over a month before. The goats had been let into the field to munch away any and all of the residual growth so the field can be fully tilled and replanted in the next season. The goats looked at us with their floppy ears like velvet, framing their brown and white faces as if made just for this portrait of pastoral life. The next field housed a cow and her growing calf and they didn't pause or even look up as we passed along the fence within feet of them. They too were busy feasting on the forgotten grasses and weeds. It had already been an unforgettable hike and we hadn't even gone a half mile.

We continued into the hills along a path that follows a dry creek bed. The creek had rushed with water earlier this year, feet high in March when the rains had saturated the hills so fully that the run off rushed down in rivulets before gathering in this creek that goes through the entire property and dumps into the Arroyo wash of Simi Valley. Now the creek bed was dusty and dry, and it was a wonder any water had passed there at all. The seasonal wild plants have long dried up, left to the sun in light browns and tans, violet and grey at their most exotic. These hills are a study in subtle tones and hues, perhaps Monet would have enjoyed painting them in the afternoon light before it dropped behind the hills.

My friend and I chatted away as we watched lizards skitter across our path and into the safety of holes and dried shrubs. But, the real magic began as our conversation halted when we noticed a group of 1, 2. . . 4 no. . . 6 horses before us, unbridled and looking wild, standing right on the path where the dry creek crossed our path. The tall reddish brown one looked up first, having heard our voices. Then one by one they all looked up at us. Curious and calm. The sun edged their backs and manes in halos of light.

We watched. They watched. I knew these horses were from the property, let out on the hills to graze in their off season when there were no programs and riders. I see them most mornings outside of my kitchen window on the hill across the field. So, I knew they were not wild, but still not knowing how they would respond to the likes of two chatting women encroaching on their afternoon of they grazing was unknown. My friend and I weren't going to risk it. We decided to watch for a moment before then turning back. But no sooner had we decided our plan of action, that the red headed leader started toward us. Slow and calm. We stood uncertain. If they spooked we knew we couldn't out run them. There were no immediate climbable trees. So, we stood still and waited, letting them take the lead.

They approached in a line following the red horse's lead. I started to get nervous as I realized they weren't just walking past but aiming toward us. Toward me. We stood on the side of the path where there was a mound of dirt which gave us a little more height. The animals were beautiful and big. The leader came right up to me. I didn't dare reach out. I felt its soft nose against my arm and its warm breath in short bursts as it sniffed me and probably smelled the salt that had collected on my skin from dancing earlier that morning and the hike so far. It wished I had a treat to give it. It probably wondered why this human wasn't sharing an apple, carrot or something yummy like humans tend to do. I could have petted its nose, but not sure what that would lead to left it alone. After she determined I was treatless and harmless, she continued on the path where we had just come from. The others came next in single file: light blonde, black and white speckled, another darker brunette. . . They each approached me smelled my skin and clothes briefly before following the leader in a slow walk, one after the other.

It was incredible. Magical. Unreal. I felt like I had just experienced the wild world in a way that that has become obsolete, as we sit in our cement houses situated on streets and blocks lined with stucco houses. For just a moment I was experiencing the world unbridled and free. Calm and peaceful. Exciting but safe.

We reached the farthest point of our hike at a destination called Old Well. The entrance to the small camping area was blocked by a large tree branch that had recently fallen. The branch was dead and bare. It had clearly died on the tree then having lost its tensile strength collapsed into the path. But, the way it fell, it became an archway, a gate into the camping area and we were able to walk between the branches at nearly full height. It was as if it were meant to be there. A reminder that this world is sacred and beautiful. Our time precious and finite. We stood for a moment in the shade before starting back.

Lesa and I enjoyed more stories with each other as we returned along the path curious if we would meet the horses again. Which we did half way back at another place where the dry creek crosses the path. This time the group of horses just watched as we passed. Unconcerned. We continued past them and were surprised to then hear their footsteps behind us. Following us slowly. My friend got nervous. I didn't mind. I only felt bad that I didn't have water and an an apple to share. We didn't change our pace and they stayed a good 10 yards behind us. We passed the gate where we climbed through easily, but it was there that the horses had to stop.

I couldn't help but feel a bit sad as I saw them collected at the gate behind us. In that moment I loved them. I still love them. And, this magical memory will not fade. I cannot let it fade because it was so pure and sweet, wild and free. An unexpected blessing and a reminder of all that is precious in the world.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Reminders of Old Loves

Last night I attended the last weekend of the NOW festival at RedCat in Downtown LA. The three week festival is sponsored by Cal Arts and this evening of performance was no exception to my impression of the CAl Arts performance aesthetic.

Thank God, there are still artists who are not giving in to the commercial aesthetic. I was getting worried. It was so refreshing to see two dance works that required patience, taking time for intellectual and emotional investment from the audience. To think that I have been considered "out of the box" in asking my students and dancers to do performance based pieces that border on theater as well as movement, is ludicrous in the light of where other choreographers are going. This evening, including works by Michel Kauka?? and (my favorite of the night) Victoria Marks, was conceptual yet non-pretentious and it reminded me of why I fell in love with choreography in the first place.

How had I ventured so far away from my choreographic center? Over time and through the repetition of "serving" my students with the basics of dance, I had severed my cord to new ways of moving and designing dance from the "Ursprung" (the origin). I have been creating pieces for pedagogy, sacrificing the artistry in order to give the pedagogical experience I believed in so thoroughly. But, putting the physical experience first I have been creating dances that keep the dancers' emotions at bay. I was giving them physical challenges, like an obstacle course and not getting them to connect internally first. While my heart wants to give them the emotional connection, two things stop me. First I am aware of the dancer's fear and in order to keep as many of them engaged as possible I give them more of what they want (a physical challenge) in order to give them what they need (a taste of internal connection). Second, I am scare too. I am scared of alienating the dancers or revealing more of my creative struggle when the experience is NOT about me but about them and their growth. As a result, I have become a proficient craftsman. I have proven myself effective in creating marginally entertaining and pedagogically sounds pieces of choreography. Well done! I say to myself. But, this leaves me with two concerns.

1. When do I create the dance I want and need to create?

2. How can I let go of my fear of creating new dances that surprise even me when it puts me in a vulnerable place that I have essentially trained out of myself?

I realize that my disconnect is partially due to a disconnect I feel within myself. In trying to find balance in my life and stay physically and mentally healthy, I have had to incorporate more rest into my life. This leaves little time for me to participate in physical/ dance experiences that push me both creatively and physically. In feeling so taxed I am drawn to more recuperative physical experiences, but in those situations creativity is not always invited to the party. Yoga is great example for this. It ground me and keeps me healthy, but it is a system that is meditative and recuperative rather than creative and intellectually or creatively inspiring.

So, where to go from here?

Gratitude. Thank you to these choreographers who woke me up and reminded me of my primary love of dance as an art. I will do my best not to forget again.

I am ready to tackle "Being Blue" with new eyes and a connected heart.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Fascination with Madness

As previously mentioned in this blog, I have lived a life shadowed by the stormy cloud of depression. Starting with childhood I was always sensitive. Moving through middle school I spent most nights in tears. But it didn't really manifest until high school and then more pointedly in college. Now, it lingers only at times and is more of a nuisance than anything. I see it. I feel it. I try to get through it as painlessly as possible. And, I come out on the other side with no big revelation or deeper understanding than before. It is more like someone finally turned off the fluorescent lights and you realize then that their high pitched buzz had been grating on your this whole time. Coming out of depression feel like a relief.

I have been fortunately enough never to have had a "break with reality" or a dangerous manic period that is so common with even slight chemical imbalances. I have seen others around me suffer from those and in some ways it makes me embarrassed that all I suffer from is the occasional blues.

But, I write only of this as an introduction to something on which I have become acutely aware in the past couple years. People are fascinated with madness and for some reason people gravitate toward madness, and I wonder why exactly that is. I see it all the time in the dance world. Dancers subjugating themselves to abusive choreographers in hopes of proving themselves worthy, as if there was something noble or romantic about this path to artistry or recognition.

The movie Black Swan gives the perfect example. I hadn't seen the film when it first came out in theaters. Of course my students gasped when they heard this, amazed that I hadn't seen it even once when they had seen it four times already. Now, having seen it, I want to go back to them and say "But she is crazy!" It makes my skin crawl that only through a horrible psychotic episode can the main character access the "depth and passion" of the black swan's character and give herself completely to the role. This movie isn't about dance; it is about a young girl who is ill and is addicted to dance. She uses dance like a drug to push herself over the edge. But rather than be seen as someone who is sick (and potentially dead at the end of the ballet), she is hailed as a heroine who finally broke through her chains and became the artist she always wanted to be.

Stop! I can't believe that an artist must be crazy to be good. And yet, looking at past artists, it seems time and time again that those who go down in the history books are those who were cursed to suffer and cause others to suffer in turn because of mental instability.

Of course "Madness" is just a label with no finite edges. The human experience is so diverse and varied that normal is relative and suffering is subjective. No one can concretely identify where reality begins and ends anyway. But, those who suffer the extremes of the human condition and ride the fine line between sanity and madness have a way of drawing us in. Perhaps because we all bump up against the line every once in a while and knowing someone else has been there gives us solace or hope that we can navigate our way through it. Or conversely, we see those around us in a manic state and we mistakenly think: "I too want such incredible joy and passion for life" but in fact that state is only temporary and behind the luster of the moment hides the dark shadow waiting its turn.

Most of my students are between the ages of 18-22. And they want it all. They seek out the pain with fervor and in turn flaunt their joys for the world to see. They celebrate the emotional roller coaster that is becoming an adult with each Facebook status update and mobile upload. And we, the sentient beings we are, must respond and thus continue this fascination with extreme emotionality.

I am not devaluing the challenges and joys of life. Those exist as they do, and we must ride those waves as they come and go. But, to seek the extremes that are home to those who are ill is not where I believe we need to go. Nor should we be told (through media, the advertisements on FB nor history books) that only through becoming crazy will we be able to attain a deeper understanding of who we are or the art the we create.

I want to believe. I have to believe that being normal and mundane is quite enough. There are enough miracles and sufferings to learn and grow from. The challenge I face from my history of depression is that I can't always tell what is real joy and real sadness or what is my "adrenaline high" and the " inexplicable blues". I don't want to think that my creativity comes from my chemical or electrical anatomy. So, I write this because I am concerned. I am concerned for the health of artists and the world as we continue to celebrate madness as a key to something beyond. It seems we are all capable of going crazy if we really wanted to. But, staying grounded in the here and now of the world seems like a much greater success.

A work of art.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tall for this world

I love visiting Mexico. To see the diversity of this country reminds me of the variety of life and in the importance of history, beauty, hard work and good food. However, being a 5'11" Caucasian in Mexico is nothing short of difficult (no pun intended). Not because of the pinpointed approaches of beggars or street vendors, but rather because my ruddy skin was not intended for such sun exposure and most importantly because my statuesque height at 5'11" was not meant for the dimensions of this city.

I constantly find myself looking into mirrors on walls and instead of seeing my face, I see a clear display of my chest (a bit sunburned but not painful). I have to hunch more than usual to spit in the sink after brushing and of course find my knees bumping into the bottom of every table while my feet hang off every bed.

It is a challenge to stand up straight only to find your gaze thrown downward over the nose in an unintended glare. That is not the way to look at a friend or generous host. Of course there are the perks of being tall, namely the ability to see over everyone in a crowd. But, aside from that, The toilet seat seems miles away, and the ceiling much too close. In fact I can touch it, and I often do.

All of this does not diminish the enjoyment of my time here. But it does make me grateful for the luxuries of space I enjoy at home in the United States. I am a sucker for shoes, however stores here simply don't carry my size. And even the largest women clothing, is not made for my height and general girth. A bummer to say the least.

Being tall changes things. While it literally changes one's perspective, it also shapes one's understanding of one's place in the world. You can't help but feel a little like an outsider knowing that everything around you was not made for you or your proportions. It sends a subliminal message that you don't fit and perhaps even don't belong. While I don't feel depressed by this (because I am not Mexican), it is a constant reminder of how we as individuals are constantly faced with challenges in which we have the option to mold ourselves in order to come out on the other side.

In this way, life's situations are not unlike getting into the back of a two door chevy. One has to bend and fold, reach and angle, balance oneself gingerly between two sprawled legs at awkward angles and then duck and cover before finally becoming situated and for the time, measurably comfortable (knees apart to accommodate the seat back in front of you and avoid unnecessary bruising when riding over speed bumps or potholes).

We are constantly uncomfortable yet we are incredibly malleable. And, we put ourselves in awkward positions because from there we can discover new and exciting things about ourselves and the world around us. In fact, I will go so far as to say, we seek discomfort because through that process we are forced to grow (thankfully not literally in my case).

But being in difficult or awkward positions or situations is a reminder for us to acknowledge how and who we really are. It is a chance for for us to choose to adhere to our ways or to invite change. Just tonight, while brushing my teeth I noticed again that I was unintentionally hunching forward and jutting my chin forward and down just to see my face in the mirror. Here is a glimpse of my mental process:

". . . Wow. I really have to slouch down to see myself in the mirror. My neck hurts. My back too. Why am I slouching? So, I can see myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth. Why do I need to see myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth? Well, I don't. . . (straightening up). . . Wow. I am really much taller than this mirror. Perhaps 5-6 inches past the top. Past the lights at the top of the mirror. Look how far down the sink is from here! If I spit from here it would splash all over. Gross. And look how far away the towel and towel holder are. Was this all made for children? I can't reach it while standing straight, hands at my sides. I could pitch forward from the hips and keep my back straight. . . . Or not, because then my butt hits the door. Ok. Well, then I will stand as straight and tall as I can until I have to spit. Which is right now. . . "

I can only imagine how this place feels for my burly boyfriend. Lots of challenges for him to say the least. He seems to be taking them with remarkable equanimity. I admire that in him.

Off to bed (with sock covered feet to keep them warm off the edge). Hehe.

Life is funny.