frustrations & fixes

Ugh, January, man.  Am I right?

The mornings are dark, the days are short, and the nights are cold.  The wind makes up for all that whipping it spared us of in August with a ferocious vengeance.  What did we ever do to you, January?  We tried to pretend this was the start of a new year for you (even though deep down we all know September wears that honor).  We made resolutions and bought healthy ingredients and mixed up a big batch of excellent intentions for you.  We even vowed to go easier on ourselves if you chose to disapprove of our freshly reconstructed goals for betterment.  So what gives?

These days I’m feeling TIRED.  Not just normal sleepy, but the weird, haggard, larthargic kind that leaves you feeling unmotivated to push yourself during the work day, let alone cross training when rehearsals have ended.  My energy seems to have been packed up with the Christmas decorations, dashed away with Dancer and Prancer and the rest of the holiday jazz.  Despite my energy’s lack of participation, though, the days keep rolling on (is it really January 22nd?), and a girl’s gotta get going.  So with the grievances of dreadful January (wait, wasn’t it dreamy just a few weeks ago?) officially aired, it is time for a few fixes in the form of things that are making me smile on these dark and chilly days…

this baby’s breathDSC07341…for allowing me to channel my inner Tatte.

these eggsDSC07493…because they are some of the first from my brother’s chickens and the cuteness of that little blue one makes me feel all gooey.

this monday morningDSC07468…because I moved my bed to a new wall and the morning light is magic.

this roseDSC07462…because I smile every. single. time. I see it.

this homemade granolaDSC07506…because it’s the season of treats so dang it, treat yoself and yo friends.

cracked

IMG_7896

I start almost every week day with eggs.  Anyone close to me knows I’m “weird about  my eggs” (re: not always a huge fan), but I know their protein is valuable to my vegetarian diet, they’re cheap, and incredibly easy to prepare, so I’ll do just about anything to make them more appealing.  I often eat hard boiled eggs with spicy mustard and lately I’ve even taken to treating my fried eggs like pancakes- fresh blueberries and little maple syrup go a long way for this egg-hesitant lady.  I know, I know, it’s weird.  But I’m deviating from the point, which is that on most mornings, my egg tricks are a success, and I fill up on protein before my body has even fully woken.  Win-win.

This morning started like any other.  I was completing my usually morning routine with the heating of the tea kettle, the sipping of the lemon water and the cracking of the eggs.  Despite my best efforts, often times my egg-cracking skills are…sub par; The shells break jaggedly, yokes pierced and unruly and I’m picking teeny shards out of the gooey egg whites.  But this morning, something strange happened.  I picked up my first egg and, tired morning hands gripping with the strength of a lazy goldfish, promptly dropped it onto the cutting board.  The shell broke, not in the shattered, messy way one might expect, but in a perfectly straight line circling the diameter of the egg.  It was a clean break, yoke intact and whites just baaarely spilling out…and it happened completely by accident.

I can’t help but see this “egg incident” as some sort of a sign.  A sign to just let go.  To relinquish control and let things fall apart on their own.  It’s counterintuitive for my type A personality; a planner, a list-making, superstitious, organizer.  But when you attempt to oversee every aspect of your life, you make it impossible for the new, the unknown, and the accidentally perfect to enter it.  Surrender this power, and give it back to life.  The results may not be what you expected, but they might just be perfect.

on negative thoughts

photo

“Live through consciousness, not through emotion.”  -my Yogi tea this evening

Everyone has bad days.  You know, those days where you sleep through your alarm, you spill your coffee, and you search for your keys for 15 minutes before realizing they have been in your pocket all along.

For dancers, though, a bad day extends far beyond the typical coffee stain.  When a dancer is having a bad day (and believe me, we have plenty!), it usually means we are hyper focused on our flaws, tearing our technique apart, and subsequently hating what we see in the mirror…ultimately, as you can imagine, this is completely crippling.  But not surprising, considering we spend our days and nights striving for perfection, fighting physics and forcing our bodies to move, balance, hold, turn, twist, and stretch in ways that seem impossible upon first attempt.  Popular belief states that dancers possess a superior mental and emotional strength which permits tolerance of this extreme discipline, and I agree, but even within the confines of these “thick skins”, weak moments do exist.  There are times when we feel that all of these efforts are in vain and negative thoughts swirl around like angry wasps, stinging at our pride.  My feet are too flat, I’ll never have her extension, my boobs are too big, I can’t land a triple…these wasps are vicious and completely detrimental to any possibility of improvement.  So what’s a dancer to do when they come swarming?  Here’s my advice…

1.)  Stop comparing yourself to others.  I recently received an email from a student wondering how to boost her self-confidence in the studio.  One situation in which she feels especially negative, she noted, is when she watches older students in her class, attempts to replicate their movements, fails, and ends up in a downward spiral of self-hatred.  If this sounds familiar to any of you, please remember this: ballet is not a “team sport”.  It is a highly individual practice, and your training is a constantly evolving journey that you are on.  Sure, your teachers, parents, peers and muses are there influencing you along the way, but your dancing concerns you and you alone.  We tend to see the best of talents in others and the worst aspects of ourselves, so comparing yourself to other dancers (especially older, more experienced ones) will only serve to hurt your ego.  So stop that!

2.)  Try changing up your look.  The easiest way to trick your mind into cheering up?  Give your eyes something you know they’ll enjoy seeing in the mirror- maybe a new leotard or a pretty headband– to turn turn those pesky wasps into butterflies.  A few days ago I was having the worst class I’ve had in a while.  Before rehearsal began, I took down my hair from its usual high bun and slicked it into a deeply side-parted one and instantly felt like a new person.  Try it.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

3.)  Give yourself a break.  As I mentioned earlier, technically speaking, ballet is outside the human body’s natural parameters.  If you don’t get it right away, don’t stress.  Some things will come easily, others will require hours of focus, stretching, practice, and yes, repetition before they feel remotely doable.  Be patient, and don’t beat yourself up.

4.)  Make small goals.  I learned this trick in my kickboxing class.  Instead of deciding you simply must nail 32 fouettés by the end of the week, start with 8.  Then 16.  Then 24…by breaking down the process, your goal won’t seem so frustratingly unattainable, and each checkpoint will feel like a major accomplishment.  The small successes will bolster your spirits, providing you with the fuel to reach higher and work harder.

5.)  Practice affirmations.  I have a very good friend who swears by self-affirmations, also known as sweet nothings whispered (or better yet, spoken loudly with conviction) to one’s self each day in the mirror.  It may feel strange at first, but studies show that sending your brain these positive reinforcements triggers a growth in confidence and an improvement in overall mental health.  You is kind, you is smart, you is important…

A dancer’s most important relationship is that between the dancer’s mind and body.  Maintaining a healthy balance of love and support between the two is vital.  I’d love to know, how do you stay positive when things aren’t going your way?

zzzzz

cw1a6096

For the past few days I have been a ghost of myself.  Just a shadowy version of me, zombie-walking through life with sore legs and a blank expression.  But physical exhaustion will do that to a person, right?  It’s starts with a tired body, then the mental slump kicks in, and before you know it you’re surrendering to a meltdown and it’s complete emotional defeat.

It’s strange how bad things can snowball quietly somewhere in your spirit without you even knowing…and then explode in an instant.  Ballet has a way of creating these inner blizzards.  And when they surface, staying positive seems damn near impossible. 

Yesterday hit me like a ton of bricks.  Preparing for Boundless Plotnikov next weekend as well as our spring Up Close On Hope series (opening in 3 weeks) has me working overtime, and it’s been utterly consuming.  I flip from organic Orchis to comical Sharps and Flats to turbulent Surrender to Balanchine’s romantic Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux to the sultry La Esmerelda pas, learning even more choreography in between and leaving little time to just  be me.  As is par for the course in this profession, the drama of so much work eventually caught up with me.  And I got upset.  And then I got frustrated with myself for being upset.   It’s like what I said before about perception; I should be thrilled to be working so much right now, but I’m so caught up in my own exhaustion that it’s difficult to actually enjoy it.  But a wiser, calmer me once preached of the importance of rest and relaxation.  So for the rest of the week I’ll be taking my own advice by noticing the positive energy all around me, smiling, and getting to sleep extra early.  Sleep tight, all.

photo by A. Cemal Ekin

on my nightstand

DSC02631 DSC02641

Currently on my nightstand: fruit salad and english breakfast tea, and souvenirs from Paris- a Diptyque candle and eau de toilette from Merci

One of the most important aspects of returning from an extended vacation is slipping back into your real life without feeling like a visitor in someone else’s.  To make that fateful shift from holiday to home, there are a few simple steps I always take in that first week back in my own, now-slightly-foreign, element.

1.  Unpack.  You don’t have to do it immediately after stepping off the plane, train, car, boat, or bus like I do (there’s that OCD again!)…but unpacking within the first two days of returning home is a crucial part of adjusting to home life that cannot be overlooked.  Living out of a suitcase subconsciously gives the impression that the vacation has not yet ended, and as you can imagine this is extremely confusing in terms of inner motivation.

2.  Integrate new possessions into your daily life.  Whether they be material or mental, going away to someplace different always rewards us with souvenirs.  Find a home for everything.  Settle physical memories in places around your home that soak them into your pre-existing decor, so they don’t feel like a temporary art exhibit in your living room.  Apply knowledge acquired on your trip into your home life, and see how it applies to your daily activities.

3.  Give yourself a schedule.  Jumping back into the stresses of life at home after a vacation can be intimidating, but getting back into a scheduled routine can be an absolute life-saver.  Even if you are still healing from a back fracture and your only plans consist of physical therapy, acupuncture appointments and the beach, carving out time to do these things is an essential step in adjusting to home life.

And with that, it’s off to the beach with me!  What are your tricks for shaking the vacation vibes and getting back into the swing of things?