Filtering by Tag: findyourlight

Dance Diary: High Anxiety

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I worry therefore I am.

I am an anxious person.  I always have been. I make light of it, but the fact is, I do not know what life is like without chronic, on occasion, nearly debilitating anxiety. I cannot remember a time in my life where this wasn’t so. Whether this is nature or nurture I could not tell you. Certainly, circumstance has influenced it, but I suspect that mostly it’s part of the peculiar genetic map that is me. As I have gotten older my anxiety has intensified. It is a low thrum constantly humming in the background of my day. If it was a sound it would be the theme from Jaws.

I know that there are medications for this, but I am not inclined to go that route. I have taken Xanax in rare and (to me) extremely fraught situations - Flying (are you surprised I’m phobic?), and things medical related like tests, physicals, sitting in the waiting room... But a familial history of addiction is also part of that genetic map so I must be extremely cautious.

Which brings me to dance. One of the most unexpected side effects of dancing has been its effect on my anxiety level. I have consistently found that going to a lesson or class significantly reduces it. For some people this might be counterintuitive.  This was a surprise. The reason I took up dance is that it has always been my weakest point as a performer and a cause for angst. How could it possibly cure it?

The short answer is - I don’t have any idea. It might be that the effort to follow the steps, keep up and retain the information disrupts my brain enough to derail the worry loop that it gets stuck in. It could be that the rhythm and vibration of the music act as a natural Reuptake inhibitor, altering my serotonin and lifting my mood. (I have read quite a few scientific studies that bear this theory out.) Singing has a similar effect on me. It might simply be that the music drowns out the Jaws theme replacing it with a happier ear worm.

This week has been a particularly  difficult one in many ways, and last night I found myself wanting nothing more than to crawl under the covers and hide. So what if I had a 7:00 class, and I had promised the instructor I’d be there? It’s not like she’d notice. Did I really want get dressed, put on makeup and earrings and venture out into the freezing cold? “Are you nuts? Do you know what could happen out there?” The little red Demons Of Doubt were whispering in my ear. Nevertheless I put on the outfit, got in the car, drove to the studio and put on my shoes all the while thinking the demons were making some pretty good points. I danced anyway, and after I danced I felt better.

If this were the first or even fifth time this happened I could say this was a fluke, but I have felt this over and over again. Dancing and singing are not just what I do for a living or even merely how I view myself as an artist, they are my drugs of choice. They provide a bulwark against the chaos of the fear that threatens to topple me. The demons will most likely always be there, but now I know how to put them to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Knew...

Photo by Denise Medve -  Penguinmoon Studio

Photo by Denise Medve - Penguinmoon Studio

Once a teacher said to me after a performance, “Well, who you knew you had that in you?”  And then went on to wax rhapsodic about all they had done for me, and how lucky I was that they gave me this wonderful gift. I smiled sweetly, said thank you, and walked away. But it nagged at me for a long time afterward. Because I didn’t answer the question. 

I did. I knew. Let me preface what I’m about to say by saying that I have been extremely fortunate in having teachers and mentors who have nurtured me and believed in me, and to whom I owe more than I can possibly say. Their advice and instruction was invaluable, but it was I who did the work. I who chose them because I knew who and what I wanted to be, and then sought out the people who could help me become the performer (and human being) I knew in my soul I was. 

It was I who took every lesson home with me and thought over it, and cried over it, and then put in the hours of practice it took to master the material. I was the one who sacrificed the time, and money (oh, so much money) to learn as much as I could to be as good as I could. It was I who ignored friends, and family and housework (not the greatest sacrifice) to devote time to my craft. I was the one who tormented myself by constantly wondering if what I was doing, what I was, was enough.

I didn’t do it because I needed a hobby. I didn’t do it because I wanted attention. I did it because I had a vision. I was called to it. And. I. Knew.

On Worthiness

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There are days when I struggle with the idea of being worthy. I was not raised by artists, my family didn’t know anyone who made their living from art and so I was a bit of an outlier. “It’s a nice dream, but not many people make it, what makes you think you’re talented enough to do it?”  I’m not blaming them, the world is a scary place and the last thing you want is to see your child struggle. You want them to be safe in an unsafe world. They were voicing the same ideas that many people have about pursuing a career in the arts. “Who are you to  think YOU are enough to do this”?

Even now I get comments from “well meaning” friends and complete strangers - “Well, it must be nice to.....” or “aren’t you lucky...” Luck has nothing to do with it. I’ve worked and I’ve sacrificed to be able to do the things that I do. It’s taken me the better part of three decades not just to be good at what I do, but to look another human in the eye and admit it . It is false humility to brush off compliments and pretend that the things I am able to do came about through any means other than sheer toil.

Truthfully, I wish I had learned this year’s ago, but maybe I wasn’t ready yet. My career path hasn’t looked like anyone else’s and most likely never will. There have been times when I’ve made it harder on myself than it needed to be, and times when I allowed someone else’s opinions to divert me. For a long time I refused to use the word artist in reference to myself because I thought it wasn’t up to me to declare myself one. It turns out I had it backwards. 

I am an artist, and I am worthy of a career in art. This is my declaration. I have put in the time and the effort to become one, and no one can take that away from me unless I let them. And that ain’t gonna happen.