R is for Restless

Photo by flickr user "David Noah1."

Photo by flickr user “David Noah1.”

Okay, it’s time to level with you all. The past few weeks have been hard. They’ve been hard because I’ve been feeling restless—and to be completely honest, a little depressed. Which is weird since it’s supposedly “the most wonderful time of the year.” It’s been hard to get excited about giving the important people in my life “the perfect gift” (which is usually my favorite part of this season), hard to celebrate with friends and family, and hard focus on the true meaning of Christmas (Happy birthday, Jesus!) It’s been hard because my life is absent of creativity right now. And that’s…just…weird.

Quitting dance has been difficult. I mean, how do you give up something that’s been part of your life for 18 years? And not just that, something that’s been your biggest passion in life? I guess the answer is you give it up because it’s physically hurting you. But what’s next? Do you dare try to replace it with something else? What if it can’t be replaced? It’s really hard to get excited about new endeavors, because I don’t think I’m completely ready to let go of my past as a dancer. I keep comparing new opportunities to it. “Painting will never be dance.” It’s like a bad breakup. I want to move on and I know that I need to, but how the hell do you do it?

And don’t get me wrong. There are amazing things in my life right now. Jonny Church Band has given me a sense of community that I haven’t felt in a long time, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. I’ve had more time for friends and family lately, which has been wonderful. Writing will always be an outlet for me, but 1) it’s not social and this girl is an extrovert; 2) I sit in front of a computer for close to eight hours a day at work, so it’s hard to get motivated to spend more time in front of a computer screen when I get home; and 3) the rejection emails from literary magazines are starting to get to me. A writer’s end goal is to share their work, and I’m not really getting that opportunity right now.  

I’m craving the chance to CREATE and SHARE something. Dance provided that tenfold. I loved teaching, because once a week (or however often I was teaching) I had to come up with something from scratch. I had to pick music, a mood, steps, and then teach others how to execute a routine. With burlesque performance, I came up with wild concepts, music, costuming, and then made it come to life onstage. Choreographing for community theater is still a viable option for me and I absolutely adore it, but when I’m in between projects…um, how do I fill that time and still get my creativity fill? Yep, R is for restless.

I need a new letter, people. I’m realizing this. And I might be ready to consider something new. Instead of R or D, perhaps I’ll consider…  

T is for theater. Like the performance side of it. I do miss acting. Maybe it’s time to sign up for an acting class or five.

S is for spoken word poetry. I love this community. I love the way spoken word makes me feel. And I have some pieces that I think are good enough to share. I’ve just been too chicken shit (or busy) to actually get on a mic.

S is for singing and songwriting. I’ve neglected Lucille, my guitar. It might be time to pick her up again and see if I can figure out some strumming and some song lyrics.

I guess I really just need some inspiration and some motivation to start moving away from what I used to do. I need a fresh start. I need to build a new identity that’s at least a little separate from dance.

Maybe it needs to start with a conversation that goes a little something like this…

“Dance, it’s not me—it’s you…”

 

Photo licensing – David Noah1

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Happiness v. Joy

Photo by flickr user "Shakespearesmonkey."

Photo by flickr user “Shakespearesmonkey.”

I went to church on Easter Sunday. It’s been awhile. I’m one of those bad Christians who really only goes twice a year – if I can even commit to that. I had a bad break-up with the church years ago, so these days I tend to consider myself a person of faith – not just of Christianity, but spirituality altogether – Buddhism, Judaism, Islam – they all have some messaging I can hold onto. And the whole “person of faith” thing – that’s only on a good day. I just try to strive to be a good person who understands right from wrong and only fucks up every once in a while.

Even so, I’ll go to church. I’ll admit that I tend to feel a little uncomfortable, like I’m the puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit. But I always seem to find some sort of inspiration or lesson that fits into my life, too. I’m happy to take that.

Easter Sunday was no exception. The pastor at Deer Valley Lutheran was starting a session on joy. And I learned a little something – or rather was reminded of a little something. And that’s the difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness is temporary, fleeting, usually material. Joy is something that’s constant and needs to be nurtured and lives within.

I needed that reminder on Sunday.

When I chose to quit dance performance in January, I knew it would be hard. I’ve dedicated my life since the age of 10 to showing off onstage, inspiring others through movement, sharing stories through performance. I placed most of my energy into training, costuming, building my name, taking chances. Dance makes me joyful. It isn’t temporary. It’s an identity, a way of life, something that satisfies my soul.

When you leave that behind, what’s left?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I stacked my world with future opportunities back in January – a couple of choreography gigs, intention to learn how to play the guitar, those sorts of things. But I had to wait a few months to get those projects started – and I also had to take some time to heal from a back injury in November. In the interim, I started to lose some joy.

I turned to happiness – in the form of new clothes, manicures and pedicures, lots of food, those sorts of thing. String ‘em together and there’s a hell of a lot of happiness there. But not much underneath it.

Listening to the pastor Sunday, I realized what was missing. Here’s the deal. I need joy in my life. It’s that simple.

Since Sunday, I’ve been rethinking and refocusing.

This is what joy looks like. Photo by the wonderful Devon Christopher Adams.

This is what joy looks like. Photo by the wonderful Devon Christopher Adams.

Here are the things that make me joyful:

  • Teaching – sharing my knowledge and talent with others
  • Helping others – philanthropic efforts where I make a difference
  • Making my boyfriend smile and laugh
  • Being surrounded by people who inspire me and who are simply good people
  • Artistic expression
  • Projects that require dedication and work

Yes, I’m a work horse- people pleaser-hopeful romantic with kickass friends. And I like it that way. I need it that way, because it fulfills me in ways that ice cream cones or a new cardigan never will.

And now that I’ve taken some inventory, I’ll be searching for joy daily. That search has already yielded some pretty fantastic results.

Last night marked my second night teaching choreography for a youth production of Aladdin that a good friend of mine is directing. Rehearsals are three hours, but they feel like five minutes. The kids are amazing and willing and sweet. I feel useful. I’m creating another world. I’m making a difference in the lives of these kids and if I can affect them positively in any way, I’ll be ecstatic. Last night, I happily stayed up till about 11 working on more choreography, sipping wine, and giddily rerunning the song “One Jump Ahead.”

I’ve started posting one thing I’m grateful for every day on my Facebook, so I can keep in mind all of the things that make my life so beautiful.

I’ve scheduled philanthropy projects with good girl friends, so we can give back to the community together…and dish some gossip at the same time.

I’ve been flirting shamelessly with my boyfriend. I can’t wait to see him again.

The past few days, I’ve felt full, brimming over, positive. I suddenly have so much energy and optimism. Rediscovering joy is a beautiful thing…And I’m beginning to feel like I’m back.

The Allen Stone Effect

Photo by flickr user laviddichterman

Since purchasing my record player, I’ve taken to listening to Aretha Franklin’s album “Live in Paris” while baking, cleaning, enjoying a glass of wine…okay, doing damn near anything around my house. I own a number of records, everything from Johnny Cash to Pat Benetar to Butch Walker–but Aretha’s record gets more turntable time than any of them.

This past Tuesday night, I finally realized why that album resonates with me to such a great degree. My Tiffany epiphany was had thanks to Allen Stone.

Tuesday wasn’t the best day. Monday wasn’t too fantastic either. In fact, this week has been looming over me like a dark cloud. Just call me Eyeore. Work is challenging, my body is not playing nice (hello, runner’s knee, I hate you), I’m feeling inadequate, and my hormones are pumping exorbitant amounts of estrogen through my body. Go me.

Of course, there’s always a silver lining and little victories; for me, they were in the form of tickets to go see Allen Stone Tuesday night at Martini Ranch. And I was excited, to say the very least.

I was introduced to Allen Stone close to a year ago via YouTube videos. Yeah, I wasn’t ready. Because there he was, a hipster-looking son of a preacher man from Seattle, Washington, who crafts lyrics (poetry really) that speak openly about politics, society, love–and the boy can hit a mean falsetto that rivals the likes of Prince and James Brown.

Photo by flickr user ChunkyGlasses

His performances are chock full of passion and charisma (check out his rendition of “Is This Love”–he looks like he’s ready to take off into space at any moment!). He appears to have literally been taken over by the music, like B sharps and sweet guitar licks have invaded his limbs and he’s creating sound with them.

There’s something spiritual about his performances, which makes sense given his upbringing in a religious household coupled with his obvious devotion to music. It’s a potent combination, one that is both beautiful and unique.

Tuesday night, watching Allen Stone and his band, along with Tingsek and Yuna, his opening acts, it was like a baptism. I was covered from head to toe in passion, talent, heartache, and joy. The music made me move, made me sing along, made me happy. All that negativity that had been clouding my life was banished, and I reveled in great music and great company.

Photo by flickr user toolmantim

So what’s the connection to Aretha? Soul. And the ability to convey emotion and passion and life force and something important through music.

To me, soul is what’s missing in today’s mainstream music. It’s not elusive (ahem, Adele), but you don’t find it competing neck-in-neck with dubstep and the club bangers that frequent the airwaves.

Here’s the thing – soul is something I crave in my life.

I turn on Aretha, because I want to feel something. And I do. I feel something every single time I listen to the “Live in Paris” record.

I realize that I went to Allen Stone’s show Tuesday night, because I knew that he would make me feel something deep in my belly, my heart, all the way down to my toes.

Mission accomplished.