Almost a year ago, I posted my own personal dammit list. It was a revelation for me to seize my Flag of Weirdness and wave it high and proudly. And it led to all kinds of things like rewriting my “about me” page and revamping my business plan.
In my list, I call myself a Dancing Ninja.
A Dancing Ninja dances EVERYWHERE and ANYWHERE. Parking lots, malls, parks, street corners…it’s all a potential dance floor if the mood strikes and the music is good.
…but even though I claimed that title as my own and I had dreams of starting a Dancing Ninja Army…I felt like I never really followed through. OK, I did a bit. I bobbed in the grocery store and boogied in the car. But I was afraid to do more than that. And I knew there was more my soul longed to do.
Enter this video. On Sunday, we went on a family outing. I was The Dancing Ninja all over the place. And you know what? IT WAS FABULOUS. When I finally let myself do it, there was nothing to be scared of. It was a beautiful feeling.
Moving forward into 2012, the word I choose is Shine. Having come home to myself again and realized my own awesomeness in 2011, I wish to shine my light into the world and be even more of my beautiful, glowing, radiant, dancing self in 2012.
Sounds good, yes?
I thought so until earlier this week.
A couple of days ago I started rethinking. All of a sudden, “Shine” felt “should-y” and heavy and not-right. I felt like I would be stuck constantly feeling like I “should” be “shining” and berating myself for being too shy or cowardly or whatever. Like the way I felt at my husband’s office party last month…shy as hell, paralyzed with awkwardness, very guilty about not being outgoing, should-ridden, and not shiny at all.
So I set out to look for an alternative. I wracked my brains, going through word after word after word. And after many many (many many many) discarded words, I finally settled on my word for the year.
And the word is…
…wait for it…
Yes, that’s right. I ended up back where I began. Oddly, I’m 95% sure that this same exact thing happened with “Home” last year.
What happened? Well, I remembered why I chose that word in the first place.
I picked “Shine” after I rewatched Stardust back in November. One thing I’d forgotten from previous viewings that really caught my attention this time: whenever Yvain (a fallen star) is happy, she starts shining. It’s beautifully done, really.
And that was what I was thinking when I first chose the word: glowing, lighting up from the inside. Somewhere over the past month it got twisted up in my head, but that’s what I really wanted it to mean. And it has all kinds of applications:
-practicing self-care to keep myself glowing
-recognizing and valuing my own unique light (this one is all about self-worth)
-doing what lights me up (trusting my instinct and going with the joy, even if it’s not what I had planned)
It also feels like the perfect continuation of last year’s intention. Like, I came home last year, and this year I’m finding ways to keep the home-fires stoked and burning brightly. In short, I’m back where I started, only with even more understanding about my choice of word, plus a lovely photographic illustration.
Now that I think about it, how could I NOT stick with “Shine”?! It was clearly meant to be. <3
It’s late fall here in Nova Scotia, and the weather (apart from some freakishly warm and much-appreciated days this week) is getting chilly. The other night I was getting dressed for a coffee date with a friend of mine, and I pulled out a scarf.
And it made me smile. Because the scarf has a great story behind it.
Over the summer between my first and second year, Skidmore College’s campus sprouted an art museum. The Tang museum opened its doors in October with an exhibit called S.O.S. Scenes of Sounds, and it featured all kinds of exhibits that made noise.
I don’t really remember being all that excited about the museum or the exhibition. At the time I’m pretty sure we all thought the museum was kind of funny looking. But then one day before the opening, this man came to watch our improvisation (dance) class. Our teacher told us that his name was Nick Cave and that he was looking for some dancers to wear his sound-making costumes during the museum opening.
So we danced. We danced our hearts out. And he watched. And at the end of class he picked 3 students to wear his costumes. I was one of them.
On the day of the opening, when the museum was packed, we got into costume and went outside. We started out on this big exterior staircase leading down to the main exhibit room. We walked down slowly, wearing our full-body soundsuits. Very slowly people began to notice our approach. And then we entered this narrow area enclosed between two walls (and doors) of glass, and we just went wild, improvising all kinds of movement in the giant, rustling costumes as the museum-goers watched. It was incredible.
Several weeks later, I got a package in the mail. It contained a note from Nick Cave thanking me for dancing for him and presenting this scarf (from his fashion line) as a token of gratitude. I’ve treasured it ever since.
When I went looking for video of these soundsuits, I found out that he went on to make many, many more of them. He’s had exhibits around the world. Hundreds of people have seen them and performed in them. And I danced in one of them 11 years ago, right near the beginning. That’s pretty effing cool.
I think we all have stories like this one…not necessarily about dancing, but about a really awesome experience and a memory we treasure. Sometimes I feel like we don’t like to talk about them because it feels too much like tooting our own horn.
But you know what? Forget that…I say let’s share our awesome stories proudly. Let’s tell the world. Because the world needs to know that cool things like this happen to “normal people” (whatever that means). And stories are important. Your story is important.
What’s your awesome story? And don’t tell me you don’t have one.
This is a piece of music from the soundtrack of the movie Pi. The year after I graduated from high school, I began to choreograph a solo to it. It was the most technically challenging and choreographically intricate piece I’d ever done. I worked on it for hours. And then I showed it to the wrong person.
And their comment was “Huh…it’s kind of sloppy, isn’t it?”
…I never worked on it again.
13 years later, I’m still sad about this. I’ve been through all the stages on this one: anger at the commenter, insecurity about my abilities, feigned indifference, anger at myself for giving up, and sadness at the entire situation.
Here’s what I know now: Of COURSE the piece was sloppy. I’d only just started…I only had the first third of it done. But it could have been great. I know it could have been great. I remember the very beginning, and it was amazing.
But I forgot all of this. I was so overwhelmed with pain and self-doubt that I gave up on it. I didn’t stand in my own power. And I have regretted it for more than a decade.
I am not alone in this experience.
Do you have a project you loved but stopped working on? Do you have a project you’re nursing tenderly and worried about sucking at?
Just do it. Trust your vision. Finish your project, no matter how many people tell you it sucks (or, alternatively, don’t show anyone until you’re done, that could work too). Trust me, “doing it anyway” sucks WAY less than regretting something for 13 years.
It’s NEVER too late.
I thought it was too late for me to finish this piece because I can’t physically do the dance steps any more. But there are always possibilities. I have a friend who can do the steps for me. It is never too late to finish what you started.
I’m going to do it.
You can do it too.
Please, just do it. Create that thing that calls out to you. Listen to it, bring it out into the world. The world needs your creations. Do it. Don’t let it hang over you forever.
Two weeks ago, Michelle Ward asked “What do you wanna erase?”
I’ve given this a lot of thought. And here’s my answer:
If I could erase one thing from my life, it would be the idea that my body needed to be a certain size or shape in order to “be a dancer.” It would be the feeling of shame, anger, and sorrow when the audition judges told me, “That was the best audition piece we’ve seen…but if you want to come to this school, you’ll have to lose some weight.” And I’d probably chuck out the years of fall-out from that experience for good measure.
Going through life without being told (essentially) “Your passion and talent are insignificant in the face of your inability to maintain a body weight which meets our standards” would have been pretty effing sweet.
And, regardless of whether I became a professional dancer or not, I would have had a lot more room for creativity and passion in my life if I hadn’t been constantly hating my own body and thinking things like “If I get up to a size 12, I may as well kill myself.” (Yes, I actually thought that. And that makes me sad.)
My body was never meant to look like what our society as termed “a dancer’s body,” but it was strong and flexible, and my dancing has moved more than one person to tears. And it made my husband fall in love with me. For real. That’s what’s important.That’s what really counts.
What if you could be happy with your body right now, as is? What if you could be a dancer at any size? What if you could put on some music and move and just be happy in the skin you’re in?
Pssst…you totally can. Because size is just a number, no matter what the ballet teachers say.
Up until the end of Grade Eleven, I had very little experience with modern dance. I’d taken one term of modern classes, and I’d found the technique interesting but slightly uncomfortable. And then I went to Walnut Hill…and everything changed.
This technique was completely different —it flowed. It was all about breath and weight and swinging the body like a pendulum. And it felt completely right on my body. I can’t express in words how much I adored (STILL adore) this style. I took every class I could get…and 13 years later, I still remember half the warmup exercises.
This is the only real example photo I have…but you can kind of see the swing and get a sense of the release, I think.
I have a great memory of a modern class where we were doing a difficult combination across the floor. I threw myself into the final turn…and fell on my butt. I got up, bright red, and looking at the teacher in desperate apology for “failing.” She smiled at me, turned to the class and said “See? Meg threw so much energy into the dance that she lost control. And that’s good. I want you all to attack this phrase with as much passion as Meg.” (OK, fine, I just paraphrased, but you get the idea). She gave me a suggestion about form and how to harness the energy more efficiently and told me to try again.
And suddenly I was on top of the world. I ran back to try the combination again, and this time I danced with all my might…and didn’t fall.
How often do we make mistakes and then beat ourselves over the head with them? How often do we avoid trying something for fear of making a mistake or failing (however we define that failure)?
What would it be like if we could approach our own dances —physical, mental, or emotional— the way that my modern teacher approached my dance? What would that look like to you?
To me it would look like trying 100%, really leaping in with all of my might. It would look like expressing myself with passion and flowing through the movements and not worrying so much about the “scary” parts…just…MOVING JOYFULLY.
It would look…a little scary at the start…but pretty darn awesome once I got going.
And if I fell…at least I’d know that I was dancing with all of my might.