Monday, July 31, 2017

Fat Girl On A Bar: Get Back on the Damned Bar

July's goal was to write Fat Girl on the Bar: The memoir. It hasn't happened, well it hasn't been completed. I hit setbacks with unexpected emotional shit making the writing get really heavy. I'd write a few pages and found I needed to step away to process so much from my shitty body image issues to my grandmother's death. And of course the whole time, I'm writing, I'm also getting ready for our second show. My class loves to perform, and I was reluctantly drawn into the annual Festivus show last December (a great way to mark my year long journey). I figured we satisfied that itch and that would be it for awhile but then the annual summer show started getting bounced around and the next thing I know I'm negotiating us a page from a booked called Juniper Gets Wet.

Now don't get me wrong, Debbie's idea was sheer genius. She fell in love with this artist Jacob Wenzka's work whose art currently graces the walls of Canopy's icon hallway to flying. His art is whimsical and lovely with just enough of a dark edge to keep it deliciously creepy. Very fitting with Canopy, I think. Debbie comes up with this grand plan to have every act reflect a page of the story. We get the umbrella page.

Thing about umbrella page is props. And after we pick out a song (this great and yet awful mash up from Glee of Singing in the Rain and Rihanna's Umbrella), it's clear we're going to need some floor work as well. Yeah. Floor work. Oh and umbrellas which ends of hilariously disastrous.

Now I've come a long way from the girl who only danced when drunk usually at shows and when younger at gay clubs. I did a solo piece in March (totally life transforming) to a Lady Gaga song and I, get ready for this, danced with my bar. It was symbolic because the bar has become a partner to me, and in some ways almost not an inanimate object (I know, I know, woo weird here). Even though I only performed in front of my class and a few of their friends/family, it was a super big deal for me. This is the girl who at one point couldn't even perform in front of her beloved classmates. During the whole performance, I, for the first time, believed myself to be strong, graceful...a dancer.

But performing with a group is a whole different dynamic. It means following ques so you're in sync. It's impossible to just let go the way I did with a solo piece. I knew this going since we had done our Festivus piece which was pretty amazing and iconic (we were wrapped in lights). But it's a good different. I think forcing myself to think of my classmates, work with others, choreograph moves that work for everyone is a really useful exercise. It brought out the best of us for the Festivus show BUT things were a little different this time around. Three of original members had moved on, and another member was sidelined due to a shoulder injury (leaving me as the oldest member of our class).

And of course I was about to find out I have rheumatoid arthritis. June went by fast, and in relative peace. We spent a lot of learning this horrible mount called Lion in the Tree. Adrianne and I discovered that landing the wrong way feels like a kidney punch. We all got bruises on our sides from landing on the bar. It's a beautiful mount, and perfect for the piece since we all run, swing out and click out heels together before flying back to hop on the bar. By July we can do the mount but not at the height needed to do the other moves. I come up with an idea of raising our bar while we do our floor work. Oh the floor work.....yeah. I'm awful at it. Stiff and weird moving because not only can I not really dance, I can no longer walk normally. But I persist along with everyone else cause it's so damn cute to see us all strutting to the middle with our red umbrellas.

Of course July is when I started writing so I'm hashing over my first year of trapeze and interconnecting those moments of pain and revelation to my grandmother's death, Jude's diagnosis, my struggling feelings with my incredible failing body, and aging. I sometimes go to bed crying, and I always leave my writing feeling this intensity of emotion that I can't quite put a name to or even want to really deal with as the dark closes in on my room. I go to trapeze every week in varying degrees of pain but once I get into the air all this shit leaves. I am thankful after every class that trapeze only hurts me in the normal way. When I first got the actual "You have RA," I cried against H's shoulder scared I'd lose the bar. But so far I am okay....except we have to perform, and I know I have a flare coming up. I can count on them.

Monday before the show weekend, I felt utterly amazing. I haven't felt this good since I saw my mom back in mid-June. Feeling encouraged, I take two ten minute walks around our neighborhood. By Monday night, my right ankle is severely swollen and my left aches as if in sympathy. By Tuesday, I can't walk, can barely get out bed, and am in tears from the pain. I ended up calling my doctor. Wednesday is her day off but I see another Dr. in the practice who takes on look at my RA Factor test and offers me a steroid shot. I haven't seen the number, and now I'm worried it's high. I readily agreed to the shot because before they kept me pain free for a week at least. Foolish me gets it in the arm, and I'm aching by the time I get into class on Thursday but I have two perfect runs. My ankle only aches in a tiny way.

I needed Thursday, two perfect runs of our routine. I fall during dress rehearsal and that haunts me. But two clean runs leaves me feeling good. Being pain free increases my euphoria.  Friday I am nervous but pretty excited. There's always this kind of calm that hits me right before we go because at this point you're left to the fates. You're either going to nail it or not. And that run ya'll. It was perfect. I hit every move. I sauntered to the front. I leaned into mermaid with strength and grace. I could feel the lines of my body. I held spear and split with ease. I got back up in mountain climber. I left that floor high and bouncing. I'd done it. No pain either. All I could think was that if the second show was better, I was going to fucking shine.

And then I woke up Saturday morning with some stiffness in my right ankle.

It wasn't too bad, and I managed to get some shopping done. I would have skipped the shopping and likely should have skipped the shopping but we needed food. I needed glitter. I'd done mermaid scales on my head for the show, but wanted something different. I took a nap and things felt okay when I got up. By the time we got on the floor, I knew it was going to be hard but I still didn't feel too awful. Music ques, we get out there, third in line, and everything starts fine. I do my double piece: hip balance (of which I'm inordinately proud) with Adrianne above me in angel. I grab my umbrella and hold it in front of me. Perfect. I roll out and get over to my bar. I see Horacio and his sister. I want this to be a perfect run for them. I do my little hip shimmy with a big grin at H, and I run forward and hit the heel click but I falter because there are some little kids right there. Then the bar swings out of my arm, and when I step on my ankle to swing, it buckles. I miss the mount.

MISS THE MOUNT WITH ALL THESE PEOPLE STARING AT ME. I want to cry. I want to crawl of the mat to Ashley. But I don't do any of these things. "GET ON THE DAMN BAR" I tell myself and then I do it. As my bar careens wildly, I hop into the mount (no small feat) and throw my arms out even as I crash into one of my classmates. I stumble off, miss our que for the umbrella but still damn it, I'm going to strut to my place. I get through it all. The second part is flawless which is hilariously where I had placed all my fear. We get out and everyone else is high. Thrilled with their performance. I'm in tears. They assure me that likely no one noticed but it's such a downer for me because I had such a great run on Friday.

Of course no one but those in the know noticed. H had no clue I had missed the prompt. Neither did his sister and I doubt if most of the audience noticed. But I noticed.

Here's the thing. I'd just been writing about this aspect of myself in trapeze. Seriously the last thing I'd written about was this thing I have about being good enough. Or I should this thing about not ever being good enough. My kids' art club did an art show last summer, and one of the things they did was create a wall where you could write what you fear. I wrote "Failure" and their teacher called me on it.

"I don't think you're afraid of failure," she challenged me.

I thought about it because I thought it was a pretty accurate description of my life.

"I'm always scared to do things," I tell her.

"Really?" she says, "You have an MA, you applied for a PhD. You took my creativity class and you're doing trapeze. These are all things that could have lead to failure."

After some thinking, I realized she was right. What I was actually scared was not being good enough at these things. I've spent a lot of my life worried that I wasn't enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. Good enough. And because I wasn't enough, I didn't get love or nice things or comfort, etc. And because I always doubt if I'm enough, I end up quitting a lot of things. I take rejection ridiculously hard. Trapeze has pushed me in this area. I am not naturally good at trapeze. In fact at times I'm pretty awful. I am not the best in our class and all too often am the last person to learn a new move. I almost quit a dozen times but I love trapeze. I do it because I love it and I almost need it. It doesn't matter if I'm good enough or the best. The bar doesn't care. It just calls me to get back on.

Sunday was a shit too but it was okay. While it was the only we got video, and I could see all my mistakes, every wince, every limp, I also could see someone who stuck it out for one more show. I was in excoriating pain while I performed but I did it. I did it for me. For my wonderful classmates. For the audience. For Canopy. Because when you commit to a show it's not just about you. It's about your community.

And man does a show reveal the intimacy and strength of that community. We all cheered each other on beyond our own classes. We joked and hugged. We shared glitter. On Sunday, while I suffered, everyone checked on me. Everyone made a point of making sure I was okay. I got lots of hugs, lots of encouragement and lots of cheers. And even better was I saw the show with new eyes. When I'm feeling wrapped up in myself, that feeling of not being good enough, it's easy to let jealousy creep into my life. I looked at the other pieces on Saturday and compared. They had more complicated moves. Their make up looked better. I would never look like these women. On and on. But on Sunday, I watched with appreciation that I got to be a part of all this wonderful and light. I could openly love the submarine piece (my favorite) and feel pride in the performers. The silk piece took my breath away with it's beauty. My teacher Ashley shone on the bar. And the Lyra stuff always just makes me gasp at their strength...and so on. It was a wonderful end to an amazing show weekend, and while I am looking forward to a nice long break, I also know that showing is really essential to this experience.

(Side note: Best part of this show was walking out for a final bow hand and hand in with my daughter. This was the first time Camille and I were in a show together, and I hope it won't be the last).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Life Kind of Happened. Again.

So life got interesting for us. Again. As usual. The way it goes.

(This is going to be one of my chatty update posts but I have a bunch outlined on various political things happening in the good ole USA).

Last summer, H and I decided we wanted to make Athens our permanent home. We love it here. Our kids love it here. Canopy exists here.

 H took a job at a local Middle School (where's he loved and appreciated like you wouldn't believe). I decided at that point that I was too old and too tired to keep homeschooling the younger two. Jude is so curious and so bright and I really was failing her at homeschooling. She just needed more. Between my depression, anxiety, and burgeoning health issues (more on that later), I had nothing to give. I enrolled R first, then Jude, and then Piper decided she wanted to give it a go. What a year ya'll. R had an amazing year with about the best K teacher I could have picked for her. She loved school, loved riding the bus, loved making friends. Academically she took off going from barely writing her her name to reading at a second grade reading level by the end of K. Piper has a rocky start but once she settled she sailed through the year. She made friends, joined clubs and band, and got incredible grades.

Jude was...well a lesson in how far our district has to go. She started as do all three years with special needs in the Early Learning Center. Three days a week for three hours each day. Jude loved school. She got her backpack ready the day before, and waited eagerly for her bus. I had issues. Expectations were too low. They didn't want to give us a seat in the PreK program. On and on it went. We ended up with a compromise with Jude still being in a separate program that meets all day five days a week. I'm good with it because it's a small class with two aides. But I let them know up front that we would accept nothing less than a regular classroom for K. We'll see if they honor that request. If not...well we'll lawyer up.

I thought that being home without kids for a chunk of my day would mean so much writing. But no. I got this awful rejection last summer which put a huge hole in my confidence. I haven't really written anything since November. And even that I second guessed every word I put on paper. Mostly I read a lot of M/M romance. Some paranormal. Some not. I exercised a lot. Did lots of trapeze (including my first show in December). And I cataloged my body falling apart.

My body became the focus on my life. Or more accurately my body in pain became the focus of my life. I started running again in the spring of last year. I ran all summer until I was easily doing 5k three days per week. When I decided to improve my speed, my shins went so I stopped. When I started again, I developed intense pain in my heel that radiated up my ankles. I stopped running, did the stretches, the rolling etc. Nothing helped. The pain would go away sometimes for weeks and then return. The flare ups weren't predictable. When they hit I couldn't walk and sometimes couldn't even get up. Over Christmas, H had to pump shampoo and conditioner into my hand because I didn't have the strength to do it myself.  Dr visits were exercises in frustration. I was diagnosised with bursitis, plantar fascistic, gout.  Xrays on my hands which swelled up like balloons showed nothing. I mentioned RA a few times but was dismissed. I thought it was fibro but since steroids cleared up the pain it seemed unlikely.

Your life gets interesting when it centers around pain. Pain that is unpredictable wrecked havoc with my need to feel in control. It's hard to plan anything when you don't even know if you'll be able to walk. People don't believe you with either. Not just doctors but people around you. And when you're saddled with exhaustion and fatigue it's meet with even more disbelief. Sorry I can't do my kid's field trip like I promised but I'm so tired I literally can't get out of bed. Or maybe it's I feel like I'm walking on glass with every step I take. Mentally it's hard too because I live in this constant of anxiety that the pain will hit. I wake up in the morning not knowing if I'll be able to get up without help.

Last month, I had the worst flare up yet.  H and I went to Ikea even though I was having a fair amount of pain. I stopped to rest a lot but still it was bad by the time we finished. As we moved our furniture onto the van we rented, every step yielded excruciating pain. I foot felt broken. After the hour and half drive home, I couldn't even walk into the house without help. The joints were stiff, swollen, red, hot, unyielding. Nothing over the counter touched the pain. I lay in bed that night shivering with a low grade fever in agonizing pain. When I went to see the Dr. two days later for my establishment visit, both my ankles were still swollen. Luckily this Dr. took me seriously. So anyway it looks like I do have RA. I can't see the rhumey until October. Meanwhile the flare ups are coming monthly now and the pain is pretty constant no matter what I do or don't do. I'm still doing trapeze, still moving my body cause it I stop things get even worst.

I've got a lot to write about with this new stage of my life. It's scary. Daunting. I've had more than one melt down. But I think the activism I started with Jude makes a huge difference in how I see what's happening to my body. So I'm going to write about that as well as why the new healthcare bill scares the shit out of me as I look towards my future. And of course there will be stuff about trapeze, Jude, other beasties, and all the things you've come to love about the blog.