Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How old are you now?

I had another blog lined up to share, but a dear friend asked me to post something regarding a conversation we had surrounding age and old thinking habits.  So, this is for Kathy and for anyone else who has ever found themselves acting like a juvenile when they are 30 (or 40, or 50, or 70!).

I'm 33 going on 34.  But this past weekend I found myself feeling 14!  And, not in a good way.  If I took an objective snap shot of myself at 14, things would look pretty good. I was tall, slender, talented, smart, accomplished, well spoken. . .  and horribly insecure.  I just wanted to feel pretty. I just wanted to feel smart. I wanted people to gush over how wonderful I was.  (Man, this is embarrassing to admit).  I wanted to be the best, and I wanted to feel like the best.  I wanted to feel like enough.  But of course. . . I didn't.

So, on Sunday I hosted a preview of my dance company's newest show "Dance Adventures in Stripes and Dots" in order to get feedback from a small test audience and see how the show worked as a whole.  The evening went well.  People enjoyed the dancing. I was able to actually perform (last year I was injured, and I really haven't danced that hard for 2 years!). It was a success.  And, my 34 year old brain new that.  I knew that it was a huge deal that I was able to dance fully for the 55 minute show and not end up crippled in back pain!  This was great!

And, yet.  It wasn't enough.  

The 14 year old inside me was not satisfied.  I wanted people to gush over me! I wanted to feel amazing and beautiful! Instead I felt insecure.  I wanted overwhelming praise, and I wanted it now.

Knowing something in our head doesn't made it easier to know it in our heart. The only way I know to process through these moments of old thinking is to feel them fully, to feel them in a way that I didn't let myself feel them when I was younger.  And, then get to the root and dig it out.

In my case, I want people to praise me because I want proof that "I am good enough." I wanted people to tell me I amazed them so I could feel like I had met my goal and accomplished my dream.  But, of course the reality is that no matter how good I am, the 14 year old belief set won't let me believe it.  Somehow at that point in my life I had already convinced myself that only praise from others was going to convince me that I was good enough.  I don't know exactly how I arrived at that conclusion (that part doesn't really matter), but the reality of those feeling were there.   

And they will continue to live inside me until I change my 14 year old way of thinking and feeling.  Until I believe I am enough (pretty enough, talented enough, creative enough) I will continue to encounter the irrational thinking of the 14 year old girl.

So, I get to start on the path by first confessing here in public that this is going on.  It isn't pretty, and it isn't fun, but it is honest.  And, by sharing this truth it demystifies it for my nervous system and its grasp on me loosens just a touch.   This is where my 34 brain gets to help me out. My 34 year old self gets to watch with love and compassion as my 14 year old comes barreling into the picture unannounced.  I will observe myself, see the hurt, fear and grief that I experienced before (as irrational as it seems now) and let it dissolve.  The grip will loosen a little with each moment, with each encounter, and, once I own that I am good enough, it will disappear all together.

But, I can't rush the process. I can't intellectualize my way out of it. I can't stuff it back into the closet or sweep it under the rug and expect change.  I get to own my story (as embarrassing as it is at times), and heal.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

You cannot run on empty forever

I often feel like I am just barely getting by. And, then even when I do everything I am supposed to do or have agreed to do, I still feel like I have barely done enough.  I have done the bare minimum.  However, I often have people around me surprised (and impressed) that I do so much and that I have so many successes and achievements in life! This reaction I get from people is both flattering and problematic because it tells my brain that this mode of operation (force feeding myself a schedule that is perhaps unreasonable and unsustainable) is a good thing.

I love making people happy.  And, I am usually pretty good at it.  My high achieving way of life reflects that skill and value.  However, it comes at a cost.  I feel perpetually behind, guilty when I watch 2 hours of TV and a general malaise of anxiety at most times.  This is not the quality of life I want. But, how can I do less?

What I have done is equated my self-worth with the worth of my achievements.   If I accomplish a lot, I am fine. If I do not, I am sub-par.

My next step is to untangle my self worth from my ability to achieve.  This doesn't mean I stop trying to do what I want to do in my life. It means that I get to make choices about what I want to do and how much I want to do in a given, day, week, month.  My worth as a human is the same whether I win a Nobel peace prize or just visit with a lonely friend or sit at home reading.

My student asked me the other day, "How do you do it?!?  You always have so much energy!! How do you rehearse til 10pm and then lead a class the next morning at 8am with a smile on your face?!?"  

And, I took that moment to respond because I couldn't let this misperception of me continue. I explained, "I don't always do it well.  I have to really organize my time and energy to pull off that schedule.  I have learned that I can really only do one or two 14 hour days a week.  And, after I manage my way through those longs days, I take huge naps on my off days.   I don't have super human powers! I can't run on empty forever.  No one can!"

My real secret to showing up to work rested and ready to work is a 3 hour nap followed by a nice meal.  No magic. No tricks. No energy drinks.  

People think I am always sparkly and bouncy.  I'm not.  I am only occasionally sparkly and bouncy when I am not passed out on my bed or sitting down to enjoy a nourishing meal.  My students in the spring musical are burning the candle at both ends.  Some may say "They can do it; they are young!"  But, I disagree, no one at any age can push through forever.  There is a cost to behavior that is forced.  So, what do I recommend my students do? They have to complete their school work, likely keep a job, prepare their role for the show, learn their lines and harmonies, recall the dances and be able to focus for 4hrs straight in rehearsals 4x/week.

They really have two options: pull it out at all costs, or make the tough decisions about what behavior really serves them and what doesn't?  When are they most authentic to who they are and the person they want to be? What do they really need right now? More flappy birds? or a nap? or a meal? And, are they willing to give themselves that?

I am learning that being exhausted because of overwork is not an achievement.  I no longer want to live that life. What I decide to do, I want to do well, with energy and focus and clarity.  And, however much that is, however little or grand, is enough.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Awakenings & Beginnings 2014: Review

Tonight I enjoyed an easy drive into Los Angeles to the Diavolo performance space to see the evening performance in the Awakenings & Beginning Dance Festival 2014, produced by Rubans Rouges Dance Company.  The audience was willingly packed in the small space to see some of the top contemporary dance groups perform their work. 

The show opened with a visually elegant work entitled Phoenix, by Michael Nickerson Rossi of Nickerson Rossi Dance.  This ensemble piece included sweeping port de bras, as the dancers adeptly moved through the space with turns, extensions, floor work and more. The imagery of flying surfaced at times throughout the dance which included well crafted and technically demanding modern dance phrases performed by beautiful movers.  The performance possessed a hypnotic quality as the dancers organized and reorganized in various pairings and designs in the space sometimes feeling like one bird sometimes feeling like many.  

The second piece in the show, Winterreise, was a classically based pas de deux choreographed by Judith FLEX Helle of Luminario Ballet.  It was so refreshing to see the simplicity of the classical ballet line included in this show.  Both performers were excellently trained with solid technique and a convincing ballet demeanor.  I was pleased with the German title (Winterreise means Winter Trip), because it allowed me additional insight into the narrative of the danseur who slowly goes insane over a lost love.  The shining moment of this work existed in the first few moments in which the ballerina was lifted and turned as she gestured with her leg in perfect timing to the musical phrasing.  Such manifestations of the music are gems for the audience member. 

The first act of the show closed with a piece choreographed by Deborah Brockus of Brockus Project Dance: RED.  Excerpted from an evening length work, Quest, this selection was titled Famine Solos and was beautifully performed by three dynamically different females who were deeply connected and passionately invested in the narrative of moving on from the pain of loss, grief and war.  The variety in the selection of performers had a profound effect on the nature of the work, one was young and played her part with both sensuality and ferocity.  The second soloist embodied a maturity in her opening moments of emotional collapse before she powerfully moved through the space.  The last soloist had a quieter essence, that resided in her stable presence. 

Act two opened with Noelle Andressen's company, Rubans Rouges Dance Company.  This was also a short series of dances excerpted from a larger work about her battle with cancer, Let This Be My Last Battleground. I had seen the original solo, STORM, last year and was interested to see the next stages of the story being told.  With a brand new set of company members, the work is representative of the continual growth seen in Andressen's work.  The intermittent video projections included photos of other cancers survivors as well as cancer victims and added a reality to this social issue that has or will effect each and every one of us in some way. 

Ken Morris presented a sweet duet, Conflict/Resolved, in which these young lovers experience their first fight, but manage to resolved their differences as they find each other rhythm and mutual balance.  The rhythm driven music was a refreshing shift from the more minimalist scores of the former pieces. In addition, the West African, Samba and playful club-dance vocabulary changed the tone of the evening at just the right point. The audience was able to laugh at the couple's follies and smile at their reunion.

The final work of the evening was Waiting at Home for the Witches, by Invertigo Dance's Laura Karlin (in collaboration with dancers). These powerhouse male performers stole the show!  Zsolt Banki, Chris Smith and Cody Wilbourn, jumped, rolled, floated, lifted and inverted their way into the hearts of the audience with this dance theater work inspired by the opening scene of Macbeth that answers the question: What toil and trouble is going on at home with the husbands of Machbeth's Weird Sisters?  The humor of the work was balanced with the sheer brilliance of the dancers' technical and dramatic performance.  The audience participation and beer bottled were just added bonuses to the satisfaction found in the piece due to Karlin's intelligent craftsmanship of this dance.

I overheard an audience member say (and I paraphrase) "There is a ton of great dance going on in LA this weekend." And, she was absolutely right. A sold out performance such as this should inspire you to get out an see what is available in the upcoming weeks.  Discover the work that moves you and then do all you can to support it!  Our LA dance community has everything to make a concert dance scene a real part of LA culture.  Now, we just need to make it happen, together, as a community. 

Did you see the show?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below.