Two days notice. Stupid cancer diagnosis gave us two days notice, then took Meala Caimbeul — on her birthday. I can just hear her rant in my head against the unjust situation. Shock and loss, that’s all I feel. (full album on Google+)
It’s been a tough 48 hours around my world lately. A friend died Saturday. She was diagnosed with acute leukemia on Thursday, and they first scheduled chemo to start Monday. Then she returned to the hospital Saturday, was put on oxygen, was supposed to start chemo that day, and died by evening.
And now we are learning that for weeks she was talking to her doctor about knee pain and exhaustion. As many would not be surprised to hear, they just said, “Lose weight.” She was an active fencer, practicing 2-4 x a week for easily 10-15 years now. But the tests that uncovered her cancer were not administered until too late.
But as much as I want to be angry and tag things #fuckcancer, and I legitimately feel sadness and loss and grief, there’s a heavy layer of complications. She was sometimes a tough friend to love. We had our struggles. We had our distance later.
No one is universally beloved and adored. All of us make friends, make mistakes, have loss, and make changes in our lives. We fall in with friends, we fall out from friends, we move on. And we can never know who will be gone the next time we turn around.
It is so complicated to process everything about losing her. The suddenness of her death just makes things that much harder.
I’ll never see the color pink without thinking of her a bit. I’ll never think of the 3 Drunken Celts without remembering her appreciation for, and love of, whisky. She was one of the regulars who used the Google+ group to keep writing new posts, new reviews, new event invitations. She was also in the same professional field as me, technical writing, so even in my business world I think of her on occasion.
She could be brash and forceful. She could be selfless and caring. She wanted so much to fit in and have a place and have friends who loved her as fiercely as she wanted to love back. She was human. She burnt some bridges. She was unapologetic about what she felt strongly towards. And she was still trying to go full-steam up until the very end.
So many of us hurt at her loss. And I’m fairly certain she would be shocked at how many people she touched. She really felt so under-appreciated for years.
If you have strong-willed people in your lives, don’t assume they have it all together.
No matter who it is that you love and appreciate, please try to let them know.
I posted this summary in several places yesterday.
Okay, something crazy I have to warn you all about. Apparently, when someone challenges you to do something you thought you couldn’t do, then you successfully DO THE THING you thought you couldn’t do, and then YOU’RE NOT DEAD afterwards, you JUST MIGHT start thinking afterwards about other crazy things you thought you couldn’t do and now you’re gonna DO THEM.
You know. In case you needed a warning. Doing stuff makes you start to believe you can do stuff.
So, go do stuff! ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤
I feel it deserves a longer journal post to describe what I’m talking about.
It started with an off-the-cuff conversation with a friend and peer within my dance community. I was helping consult with some web design things and we were comparing notes about our local communities of students, troupes, and fellow dancers. I conveyed that I was impressed with the travel shows that she and her students had been performing at and how I’d love to join them someday. So she said, “Dance with us in Los Angeles in February 2018.” And I thought, “Oh cool!”
Then she sent me the music and the plan for the show: 13 songs, 45+ minutes on stage.
FORTY-FIVE MINUTES ON STAGE.
Maybe this doesn’t resonate with the uninitiated. Up until now, performances I have participated in have ranged from 6 to 15 minutes long, max. And those are exhausting. We put our whole selves into the show, partially BECAUSE we do an improvisational dance form. We cannot let our minds wander. We have to stay alert and ready and thinking, as well as performing physically.
I’ve also only participated in a specific class-format called “Flow” a few times. It’s set up as 60 minutes of non-stop dancing, in sets of 15 minutes (with short breaks to grab a drink of water). The first time I tried to do flow, I barely lasted the first 15 minutes without dropping my arms. By the last set of 15, I was sitting on the floor, crying, and trying to keep up with some of the arms work. (Granted, my knee was in the worst shape possible at the time and I’d just danced for 2.5+ days of workshops. But still.) A year later, I made it through most of Flow without dying. But my new job has a long walk between parking and my building, and I still don’t like to do the entire walk without stopping at least once to give my knee and back a moment’s rest.
How in the world was I going to keep up with 13 songs and 45 minutes of dancing, no breaks, with a troupe of dancers who practice together all the time? I started with an ambitious plan to practice my stamina building every day for the 70-80 days before the performance when I was first told about this. But like many “grand ideas,” I let other tasks in life take precedence and I really did not train much.
But I do teach 60-minutes at a time. So I kept telling myself that 45-minutes of dancing is still less than 60-minutes of teaching dance, so I would be able to do it. I brought a chair to ensure I wasn’t in pain from standing around for the 1.5-2 hours before the show. And I made certain to take ibuprofen, hydrate sufficiently, and just sweet talk myself into believing I could do it.
To be honest, I really was frightened I was going to collapse in tears and pain.
And in the last 1-2 weeks or so, my friend the troupe leader sent me the other details: I would be in the chorus for X, Y, Z songs and on the stage center for A, B, C songs. Oh!! There was a plan!! There was a shared burden between all the dancers! No one had to be out in the center for every song! I wasn’t going to have to guess when I needed to be on stage! (And for those who are curious, I was slated to be in songs 1, 4, 5, 6, 12, and 13.)
Obviously, I didn’t die. I didn’t collapse. I didn’t drop out when we were on stage.
Marie believed in me. Her whole troupe believed in me. Then I believed in me, and I accomplished something seemingly impossible.
The story doesn’t end there. I had to teach the very next day, and I was more than a little nervous about how exhausted I might be. And you know what? I wasn’t any more tired or sore than usual. Class was wonderful, my students were awesome, and again, I did it.
Now I’m thinking about an impossible challenge I’ve been wanting for a while now: I want to host and teach/lead a Flow class regularly for any ATS dancers in my area. The “class” is not an opportunity for instruction. It’s just dancing, just following (the leader), it’s just a time to let your body take over and your mind to take the back seat. I’ve been so intimidated by my inability to keep up in Flow at earlier opportunities that I thought it would be years until I could host/lead such a class.
But this experience has taught me that I am far more capable than I thought I was. And my students are in for the notion that they would attend Flow and dance for the entire hour.
So I’m going to make it happen. All because someone thought I could do something that *I* didn’t think I could do. And I did it.
This post is a little more personal and difficult than I thought it would be. But then again, core values shouldn’t be treated lightly.
Some quick background: There are amazing and beautiful designs in woven goods that are found in archaeological sites. And while we might think we know what a symbol meant to a people over a thousand years ago, symbols morph over time. Our modern history and modern climate only has one interpretation of a swastika or any host of similar bent-armed, four-prong symbols: It only means support for white supremacist and nazi group values.
And while highly advanced weaving techniques are admirable and worthy of pursuit, weaving any type of swastika shape and using that woven item in current day America will *always* carry the stigma of Nazi history.
Some people did just that: They commissioned hand-woven and hand-sewn clothing. Someone wove an accurate representation of a grave find from the 6th Century. Someone else hand-sewed some garments and attached the woven trim. And the recipients of the clothing and weaving wore the outfits and were photographed in them.
And then people started asking publicly (on the internet), was this a good idea? Should the ceremonial face of our group be seen in outfits adorned with swastikas?
There were several types of replies, also posted all over the internet (primarily on Facebook).
(a) I’m personally hurt because I identify with a group that was/is discriminated against by those who still carry swastikas.
(b) HELL NO, we should never look like we endorse racist and hateful symbols that are currently in use by groups that advocate violence and the eradication of other humans.
(c) Wait, why is everyone so upset? This symbol is from *history* and we are an historical club that values learning and research! We didn’t mean anything racist, we just wanted to do *ART* for art’s sake!
(d) Hey, stop picking on the artists and calling them nazis. You’re being a nazi for picking on them.
It went downhill from there.
But what really surprised many of us is that it seemed like a painful ripple locally, and then we were working towards solutions that would make most everyone happy again. (Well, maybe not “happy” but at least satisfied with the response.) Then the impact of our local ripple came back from the far reaches of *every* known “kingdom” throughout our society.
And the ripple that came back? A complete tsunami.
Screaming voices on the internet were DEMANDING the resignation of the two leaders in question, and even calling for their absolute ban from the group. Rumors abounded. Accusations flew. And the regional leaders resigned.
Then we had a new response group.
(e) See what those terrible whiners did to us? They made this happen! Those whiners ruined everything! I hope they’re happy now that everything is ruined!
Um, excuse me? The people who first asked, “Um guys? A swastika? Really?” are the ones who ruined everything? No. Bad behavior ruined things for a while. Rumor and internet comments ruined things for a while.
You know the rule of thumb that says, “Don’t read the comments on the internet” because that’s where the worst of humanity shows itself? Here’s the fatal flaw when you apply that to Facebook: The entire premise of Facebook is in the Comments. You *could* try to avoid reading the comments, but then you’re not actually reading what’s going on in the discussions.
Now I’ve had some time to reflect on what happened. And I’m trying to find the love I had for my hobby. I love making yarn, spinning, weaving, and natural dyeing. But I was soured against some of my old textiles acquaintances. Some of them did not impress me “in the comments” on the internet. I chose to unfriend several because I was distressed by their conversations and did not want to have to emotionally bear the weight of their behavior anymore.
There were a lot of people for whom I used to enjoy doing event planning and administrative tasks so that everyone would enjoy the events even more. But I was soured against their accusations, defensiveness, and their anger. I watched a lot of arrogance, white privilege, and ignorance play itself out in the arguments. I don’t feel charitable toward whole groups of people, and I feel the loss of that old innocence of mine.
So, if I don’t want to spend time with some specific people anymore, do I even have it in me to spend time with the other people still there? There were FAR MORE people for whom I lost respect than I ever expected. Sure, some of them I wasn’t surprised at all. Some behavior was consistent. But other behavior was a surprise to me.
It is very likely I need to take up my own blame: Sometimes I assume that just because we’re in the same hobby, the same club, that we share some of the same values. And it hurts when that illusion is shattered.
I don’t know if I can find my way completely back. This entire experience will never leave me. I will never be the same.
My childhood best friend reminded me yesterday that the Word of the Year for 2017 I had selected was GOALS. I couldn’t remember that a week ago, and then my Facebook memories popped up today with the original post from last year. Kristina was right: It was GOALS. Oddly enough, I attended a workshop called, “Goal Setting for Artists” and came away from there thinking that I should focus on TIME and SPACE in order to achieve my dreams and goals. So I’m comfortable combining them all in my records for 2017.
Revisiting, these have been my theme words.
2017: GOALS: achieved by finding both TIME and SPACE
2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
Today, I’ve found my theme word for 2018: PRACTICE.
Thoughts about PRACTICE
There are so many ways to interpret this. When skill-building, one needs to practice the newly acquired skills. You could ask yourself, “What are the habits I’m in the practice of repeating?” Am I practicing compassion? Do I practice patience? Have I practiced forgiveness toward myself or others? Could I practice better habits? Should I change the practice of being hard on myself? Do I practice financial responsibility? Have I practiced good community building skills?
When I think about the various themes I’ve sought to embrace–Dance, Focus, Create, Mastery, Habits, Goals–it’s easy to see how I would then expand this into making regular practice of my pursuits. I want to practice my dance skills. I want to put focus into practice more frequently. I love practicing my various creative pursuits. Practice is the primary method for aiming for mastery. Practice must become part of my regular habits. And I can best narrow down *what* to practice if I have established my goals.
Setting my various priorities in place before me, it’s time to then practice what I preach.
For several years, I spent the end of December coming up with a “Word of the Year” or a theme that could be used in place of resolutions in the New Year. I managed to find my notes in Dec 2015 for 2016 (it was the word “Habits”), but I wasn’t having any luck finding what I had selected for 2017.
Facebook doesn’t have an easy way to scroll backwards or search. And I hadn’t posted a blog about the issue. So I tried scrolling backwards on Twitter (love that Page Down button), and it stopped in January. And that’s when I realized why I probably hadn’t come up with a Word of the Year.
Because it took me a full month to get over my initial dismay of the election results. I wasn’t functioning emotionally for a month. And then we were well into December which meant supporting my Partner in the efforts of the season (as Santa) took all my brain power. Then in January I was quickly whisked off to dancing at ATS Reunion, and never noticed the lack of a word for the year.
Now I know why 2017 has been a little more scattered than some years. I did attend a workshop called “Goal Setting for Artists” in early January, where I probably set the closest thing to a word of the year as any. In my “dream big” assignment, I was able to boil down that the things needed to pursue my big dreams was “Time” and “Space.” Any of the efforts that interested me need me to prioritize how I use my time and to clear the clutter and make space for them.
I also had spent some considerable efforts in Daily Movement Prompts for most of the year, which I miss spending time on. It’s an effort that I would like to return to.
So, in retrospect, here are the theme words I’ve had over the years.
2017: TIME and SPACE
2015: MASTERY (and COLOR) + “Finish the Unfinished Objects”
I’ll be thinking about what my plans are for 2018, so it’s nice to finally have some understanding of 2017.
And when you’re tired and not sure you can continue, you can do what I did in this photo here. Sit down and strike a pose.