Wednesday, March 31, 2010

White Chocolate Space Egg

Some things are a little easier than they look. A double pirouette -- turned in and in pliƩ -- comes to mind. A little momentum goes a long way.

Some things are as hard as (or even harder) than they look. Like training and running a marathon. Or, dancing the jazz combination in A Chorus Line.

I have not run a marathon. However, the first time that I was taught a part of the jazz combination from A Chorus Line (watch at 1:00 in the video), I decided it was the hardest 25 seconds of jazz I’d ever learned. I also decided that dancing professionally – on Broadway, doing eight shows a week – might be equal to running two marathons a month. Physically speaking.

I didn’t think about the mental or emotional equivalents of dancing and running – until recently.

My friend Red, a born-again athlete who is now 44, is training for the Boston Marathon in April. She blogs about the stresses of combining training, working, mothering and being a functioning human being, and I deeply appreciate her perspective. She loves to run. I recognize the yearning and the satisfaction she gets from it. Looking at her, I never doubt that she was born to run, with her long legs and lean, narrow physique.

Which is why I was surprised to read about her doubts a few weeks back. “Sometimes, life gets in the way of training,” she wrote. “People get tired of the schedules; the planning, the getting up at ridiculous hours to get runs in; the need to eat at an earlier hour than normal.”

Fueling the doubts is her recurring race-day demon: an urge to quit. And he sneaks in around Mile 18, apparently.

And I know him, too. That little devil came to see me two weeks ago, and the bastard hung around for a whole week. He sneaked in during class -- a class that I love. I began class with zeal and energy. I bounced into the studio eager to see what would happen next. I wanted to trade my intensity for a little levity, to “lighten up, find the joy.” So I opened the door to let in some Joy, and guess who walked in? The demon – and he Didn't Give a Shit.

He swaggered in with a mean question: What’s the point?

He knows that I put a lot of energy into getting to class, being in class, thinking about being in class, thinking about getting friends to class with me … and when the class experience doesn’t return the favor, I’m spent. My tank was empty that night. A little bit of Joy doesn’t stand a chance against the emotional heavyweight champions, the Demon and the Quitter.

And that jerk stuck around for a week, in the middle of training for my own musical marathon. I am one of 60+ cast members in a four-show run of a community theatre production called “100 Years of Broadway” at Ballet Austin on May 1 and 2. Nearly 50 musical numbers, and I’ll be on stage for almost one-third of them. It’s a lot to remember, and a lot to do well. Last week, during a three-hour rehearsal, I moped. I’m only a dancer, I thought. I can’t sing. I’m a middle aged chorus girl. I’m ridiculous. I have nothing to offer. I have nothing to say. I’m a mediocre amusement.

(And, of course, this gem: There are 100 other things I should be doing. I don’t have time for this!)

While my friend Red’s marathon demons curse her in their own uniquely evil way, I suspect they get their fuel from the same place: Guilt and Fear.

Guilty for arranging your life around your pleasures.

Afraid of failing -- no matter what sacrifices you gave it.

Failing what? Whose judgment?

So I found a solution: Hey demon. Go to hell.

Though I won’t be dancing choreographer Michael Bennett’s torturous (and thrilling) jazz combination in May, I will put myself Out There -- physically, mentally, emotionally. Even, spiritually.

Because that’s where the Joy is. And I’ll be the judge of that.

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