Friday, July 30, 2004

I have a gig tonight with my samba group in Austin. We're heading up this afternoon after work.

I've been toying with the idea of quitting the group. There's nothing more that gives me an immediate, joyful rush as does dancing to live drumming, but I can count on one hand the times lately that I've actually had that opportunity. Because I'm in the second tier of dancers in the group, we rarely are asked to perform. We are the "understudies". Permanently, apparently. So without the chance to dance with the drums, there is little left that I get pleasure from. I hate the long rehearsals, I hate the expense of the endless costumes, I hate the fact that the choreography hasn't changed in years, or the rehearsal CD, or the stretching routine, etc.... Mostly, at our twice-weekly rehearsals I'm profoundly bored. The only exciting, fulfilling part for me is the live performance, and I never get that chance.

I think, too, another issue is that the choreography doesn't challenge me anymore. When I first joined, teaching my body to bend and contort in these undulating Afro-Brazilian ways was a huge puzzle for my brain. But since then, I've practiced, I've taken outside classes, and while I am in no ways particularly talented, I feel like this group is stuck at a plateau that I'm now beyond. In the last two years I've only gotten a creative charge from guest instructors, not from anything I've learned with my group.

But being part of this group has helped me develop my physical identity in significant ways. Before, I identified myself wholly based on my brain, on my intellectual abilities. Learning how to dance was a fearsome thing, because there comes a point when body movement resists analysis and a different kind of intelligence takes over. I feel so much more grounded in my body now. I appreciate it and am more aware of it -- before, I hardly thought about my body, and covered it in swaths of clothing. Now, there's nothing more I like than to show off my ass and I feel much more respectful and conscious of my physical health. Thinking about leaving this group feels in some ways like a betrayal of a faithful friend.

Last year, I was very aggressive about moving up from the beginning level dancers to the second tier of performance dancers. I thought for sure that my apathy would lessen once I had the rush of steady performances to look forward to. But that hope hasn't materialized, even though objectively, I can say I'm one of the better dancers in this group.

Even tonight, when we are only performing for 15 minutes, several of us were cut from one of the dances for space consideration. I understand from an artistic standpoint, but when such cuts become a pattern, it's discouraging. In order to move up to the first tier -- the tier that regularly performs -- one has to put in a certain number of years, schmooze with the directors and play politics. I don't have the patience or inclination or the deep pocketbooks for that.

Truthfully, I have a bad attitude about the whole thing. My fear about quitting, though, is that in doing so I will become a less interesting person. My involvement with this group over the last 4 years -- as both a drummer and a dancer -- has been a point of interest for other people. I am unusual and artistic and a little bohemian because of this group. I like that association, even if admitting so makes me shallow and vain. I like the shimmery patina of having some small local fame. But, oh, the glimmer is thin and less sparkly now. I know this fear is irrational and is only so dominant because it ties in with my general social anxiety issues. The women and men in this group are a large part of my weekly social interactions, even if few have actually become friends, and I worry that without them, I'll revert to old, hermit-like behaviors.

Regardless, I'm going to treat tonight like a swan song, and just dance with bountiful energy, responding to the drums with my body, and letting the joy course through me. Because, in the end, I still don't know anything other than dancing to an irresistible rhythm that can snap me to vivid awareness of the moment or that can give me a sense of grateful connection to an elemental, global heartbeat.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Last weekend was jam-packed with physical activity. On Saturday, I rode my bike to the Police bicycle auction. Every few months, the local police department auctions off abandoned or seized property, including bicycles. I rode up to the courthouse right as the auction began. There were maybe 70 bikes up for auction and maybe 40 people gathered. I walked over to the pen where the bikes were being held and looked them over. Most of them were Walmart brand bikes, and mostly kids bikes. It was perplexing to see all those kids bikes, though. I couldn't figure how all these kid's bikes ended up in police custody, as if there was an outlaw band of kid criminals on bikes terrorizing the city.

There were a few road bikes up for sale, but they were unrecognizable brands, needing work, and appearing to be more than 20 years old.

The auctions started at $1 or $2. Most of the bikes sold for less than $20. There were a ton of kids wandering around excitedly, obviously brought by parents promising bikes. I watched two boys hanging on their father, their eyes bright with anxiety and longing as bike after bike went up for sale. Several men were buying large quantities of bikes; I asked one if he had a pawn shop or something. He said he just likes to fix bikes and re-sells them in his neighborhood.

For a while, I watched a tense couple continously being outbid. They were buying for their children, or so I imagined. A bike would come up on the auction block, starting at $2 or $5. The wife would nudge the husband, and he would raise his hand to bid. Then someone outbid him. The man kept bidding until another nudge from his wife stopped him and the bike was bought by someone else, or either the wife would give the signal to keep bidding and the husband would raise his hand a second after the auctioneer closed the sale. I was really rooting for them. Finally, they got two bikes, but not for a cheap price, relative to all the $10 sales being made, but I was glad they finally won some auctions.

The last bike sold was a Trek bike, sized for a teenager. There was a considerable flurry of activity for that one -- it sold after a bidding frenzy for $90.

Later, I rode around downtown. I realized after a while that I was singing to myself. The song was "Happy Trails" and even though I only know the refrain to that song I sang it for several miles, just happily peddaling along.

That afternoon I had a double dance class -- first samba reggae and then samba. It was taught by a visiting teacher I truly admire in an almost crazed fan way. On the bike ride over to the studio, my stomach was alive with butterflies, hoping that this teacher might notice the improvement in my dance technique, hoping that I might not insert my foot into my mouth as I am wont to do with people I admire. The class was a sweaty, polyrhthmic success, even though some of the jumping did bother my knee, and the teacher did greet me warmly before I scooted off to a safe corner where I could admire her from afar. I rode home on my bike, in some pretty hot 4 o'clock heat.

That night, I took a walk around the neighborhood with Rainey. She was feeling dizzy, and we kept having to sit down because she was afraid of fainting. I bussed it home from her house, but not before receiving my usual youngish-girl-sitting-at-a-bus-stop harrassment.

Sunday, I did my Couch to 5K run in the morning, met Rainey for a 12-mile bike ride and then went with Mac to a nearby state park for some river swimming and rock hunting for his new aquariam. By the time Sunday night rolled around, and after hauling my basket of laundry back and forth from the laundromat in the afternoon sun, I was dehydrated and feeling ill. Which is, of course, a lesson for me!

I am on Week 2 of the Couch to 5k training plan. Earlier this week I lay in bed looking out my windows, waiting for the first sign of a lightening sky to haul myself out of bed and into the task of changing clothes and finding shoes, etc… I was late for work, so will have to consider beginning my run in the dark, which worries me.

This week, the training plan has me running 90 seconds and walking 2 minutes for a total of 20 minutes. Sometimes my knee aches and other times it doesn’t. I'm only hoping that I will be strengthening my muscles with this exercise and that eventually the ache will fade.

I have likely set a personal record this week by riding my bike to work 4 days in a row. I like it best in the morning, when traffic is light, the air is cool and the world seems sleepy. I had to vary my route a few times due to packs of stray dogs, but I didn't mind. Also, I think some of the drivers on my route must be getting familiar with me, because lately lots of drivers have been staying in the lane when they pass me, rather than granting me wide berth, which means that the cars pass me less than a foot away. I can't say I like this very much.

Currently, I am trying the following things in my quest for a non-food obsessing way to become healthier: (1) I'm following the journal prompts in "The Solution", (2) I'm following the Couch to 5K training schedule, and (3) I'm fitting in as much as I can of the daily strength training routine prescribed in "8 Minutes in the Morning".

This weekend I've got another dance class, and hopefully some biking and running as well, though I'll wear my knee brace this time around and see how my muscles and bones feel.