Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This Macauly Culken tribute was made using every last ounce of energy I have left:

Merry Christmas, wet bandits! And hallelujah to finishing finals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Resisting Being Blown Away

On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day. - Rumi

Every Fall since I can remember, I have felt a sense of rebirth. I am sure it has something to do with the fact that, traditionally, this is the time of year when school starts. As a kid, the beginning of the school year is the chance to be born again. New teachers, new classmates, new clothes... changes are opportunities to recreate oneself, or at least to reassess. Now that I am older (and still in school, I might add), the autumn wind kicking up sends my brain and body into a whirl. Each leaf that gets sucked off of its branch and into the wind flies through the air like my thoughts - out of control and carried along by forces seemingly stronger than they are. And amidst all of this imbalance, I still feel the necessity to recreate myself because it is just that time of year. Whew.

So how is a girl to handle all of this?

Last week I had an especially chaotic day. I packed my lunch, for the first time all semester I might add, which consisted of a half empty plastic container of triple squash soup. As I packed it up at home before dashing off to school, I tied a green rubber band around the container, sure that would keep the contents safe inside until I arrived at school. I went about my morning travel according to plan and was even early enough to stop for a cup of tea. As I blindly reached in my backpack to pay for the tea, my hand was greeted by a cold mush. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, in the twenty-five minutes between home and the Whole Foods tea counter, my soup leaked all over the inside of my bag. With a deep breath, I accepted the morning's challenge, paid for my tea, and left the counter to search for napkins. As I did, a kind woman said, "Miss, there are things falling out of your bag. Your wallet is on the floor." Indeed, half the items in my bag were starting to trail behind me due to the now broken zipper up the side of my backpack. Now, not only did I have a backpack filled with squash soup, but I no longer had a functional bag to carry my books, binders, laptop, cords, and all the accoutrement teachers and grad students have to carry around on a day-to-day basis. This was only a prelude to the day that followed: faulty school internet connection, whiny (squirmy, loud, uncontrollable) high school freshmen, a lost earring, unreliable tech resources guy/botched lesson. The autumn winds were kicking my ass.

As I got to my last period of teaching and was beginning to see the four hours of my own grad classes on the horizon, I almost lost the ability to form a sentence. I was standing in front of my third group of freshmen trying to explain a complicated activity, talking over their side conversations and wiggly butts, and I lost my train of thought. In the middle of giving instructions, I could not get my mind back from the black hole it was spiraling into. Instead of fighting the absence of sense, I just sat down.

I sat down where I was on the edge of the stage. A few moments later, my body calmed and my mind graciously crawled back into place. The physical act of lowering my center, as my head was nearly swept up into the breeze, caused me to ground myself for a moment. Just sitting down provided a reprieve from the chaos, giving me balance when the world was feeling off-kilter.

Just like this act of sitting down, little grounding elements of my day can provide the opposition to the chaotic (exciting, thrilling, amazing) changing winds. My morning rituals, a phone call to my mom, a cup of tea, walking the same streets to school... When changes abound, I can keep my balance by recognizing the parts of my life that keep me on the ground, even if they are simple, physical acts like sitting down. By not allowing myself to be completely carried away, I have more choice about what I open my sails to when the wind whips up and threatens to whisk me away.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leave all your envy behind

I'm back on the bandwagon: I'm dedicating myself to letting go of jealousy.

Last night I saw the fabulous Florence + The Machine at Terminal 5 in NYC. I spent the summer listening to her belt in my ear as I traipsed through Europe. I used to get a charge from her everyday while running on the treadmill - there's nothing like hearing...
"Run fast for your mother, fast for your father
Run for your children and your sisters and your brothers
Leave all your love and your loving behind you
Can't carry it with you if you want to survive" make you want to RUN. (As a side note, last night she asked us all to jump up and down in unison at that point in the song. It's been a long time since I've been a part of such communal joy as I felt in that moment). As I watched her wood-nymph-body, long and slender, waif-like with a mess of fiery red hair twirl around the stage, my first thought was, "I want to be that. I will never be able to BE that." 

She was beautiful and genuine, enthralled with the present moment and an image of self-assurance in her talents and artistry. Instead of rejoicing in all of this, I instead felt badly for myself for the simple fact that my legs would never be that long and lean, I would never be able to wear the shimmery onesie in front of a thousand people like she could, and my voice would never allow me to belt out notes like that. I was mourning the attributes I would never have, the Florence I could never be.

As I looked around and saw the faces around me, I noticed that everyone around me was swaying, smiling, holding the hands of their lovers, singing along. There was a young man in front of me, probably 18 years old and oblivious to his youth, jumping up and down at the recognition of each new song played. Everyone (except the lame people who like to push and shove their way closer to the stage) was having a great time! That's when I realized: It's not always about you!

By allowing myself this jealous feeling, I was robbing myself of the pleasure of the moment. I remembered back to a couple years ago when I was participating in Choreolab with Monica Bill Barnes. She asked us to bring in a list of people who inspired us. At the time I think James Thierree and Miguel Gutierrez were on my list. I admired their work and thought that if I could figure out how to do what they did, I could be a successful theatre/dance-maker. Monica shared her list with us and said something I, unfortunately, often forget: "I will never be like some of these people. It's OK for me to love their work and admire them, even be inspired by them. That doesn't mean I have to be them. They do their thing and I do my thing. I can find joy in what they do because I can't do it." 

This thought blew my mind at the time. It is so simple, the fact that it is possible to find joy in someone else's beauty and talent without feeling the need to have it myself. Florence was the perfect example, and when I saw the happiness she imbued to the sweaty crowd around me and I remembered Monica's words, I was able to release the jealousy and love her because I can never be her and she can never be me.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Walt, Ashleigh, and finding the perfect

I always love going to Ashleigh's yoga classes at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center. She and I went to Emerson College together, back when we were just wee babes, and I always looked up to her then. She is a breathtaking actor and a beautiful person, so when I walked into a Sunday afternoon class at my favorite yoga studio a year ago and found her smiling face at the front, I was thrilled. Last Tuesday I found myself in her Vinyasa class once again.

Monday night I had come across an old journal, which I had started when I was just out of college and having many new adventures. I was writing in it at a time when I was discovering the things that are now the bedrock of my life. I was traveling to Europe each year, meeting new people, learning about dance and theatre in new ways, having beautiful love affairs... and I was so excited and grateful for each new encounter. Every experience had so much weight and importance and as I was reading the stories I had written, I was blown away by how poetic and romantic my outlook was. When I finally closed the journal, feeling nostalgic and blue, I couldn't help but wonder, "What happened to that girl?"

Ashleigh's class was a much needed spiritual check-in for me at that point in the week.  I am going to grad school full time, student teaching in a high school, and co-choreographing a musical through my department. Almost every hour of my life is accounted for and scheduled and, despite the new challenges and things I am learning everyday, that sense of discovery I found in my journal doesn't seem to exist for me right now.  I felt I was mourning my 23-year-old self that once reveled in the beauty of every moment and resenting the 28-year-old self that can't think past her lesson plans and research papers.

As I set out my mat last Tuesday afternoon, wanting to surrender my worries over to downward dog, I tried to will myself to let go of the feelings I was having about losing my 23-year-old self. How was I going to come to terms with the fact that time will continue to pass, no matter how much I wished it wouldn't? How was I going to start to feel like celebrating my experiences again instead of feeling jaded or judgmental?

"What is called good is perfect. What is called bad is just as perfect," Ashleigh said as we started class. It is a line from a Walt Whitman poem, To Think of Time (excerpt below). She repeated this a few times more, especially in the moments when  one might be prone to judging herself and her abilities (damn you, headstand! I will get you someday). "What is called good is perfect. What is called bad is just as perfect." When I left the class, I found myself repeating the line like a mantra. The line reveals the perfection, the yoga, in every aspect of life. You don't need a mat to practice yoga; yoga can live in each step as you walk down the street. Awareness of the movement in the world and accepting the perfect-ness of the present self, first and foremost, can open me up to noticing the beauty in each moment. The trick in finding the excitement and joy in life I once knew, to make each experience new again, is to release the judgment (even if it is hiding in the quiet room of reflection and self-assessment). Thank you, Ashleigh!

Since this is my first attempt at writing a blog, I thought I would name it after this Walt Whitman quote. Good or bad, this blog is just as perfect. As my quiet storm of growing up is passing, I am trying to check in with myself, to find the room to insert new experiences and adventures, and to be as grateful for life as I once was.

You can read the poem here:
Do you suspect death? if I were to suspect death I should die now,
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation?
Pleasantly and well-suited I walk,
Whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good,
The whole universe indicates that it is good,
The past and the present indicate that it is good.
How beautiful and perfect are the animals!
How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it!
What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect,
The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable
fluids perfect;
Slowly and surely they have pass'd on to this, and slowly and surely
they yet pass on.