Monday, April 23, 2012

Dance Bench

.. by jpnuwat
.., a photo by jpnuwat on Flickr.
We buy their first ballet shoes and the dozens thereafter. We buy their leotards, their tutus, their warm-up’s, their bags and their gear. We take them to classes. Some of us lots and lots of classes. We do their hair. We volunteer at their performances, doing makeup, folding programs, ushering patrons, sewing costumes. We are the drivers, the cheerleaders, the shoulder to cry on. We get nervous before performances and auditions. We’re there for the triumphs, the heartbreaks and the drama.

And then the music starts and we start to ask questions. Where is my place now? Is it waiting in the wings? Watching from the audience? At home clearing away the dishes from dinner? Sitting at Tim Horton’s until the class is over? Sometimes we get it right . Sometimes, we miss the mark completely because, like most things in childrearing, there are no operating instructions. We are, once again, clueless.

Then we see the bench. This place is as good as any, we think to ourselves, and so we sit down and watch. And watch. And wait. Soon, we are joined by others. Some bring books. Some bring conversation. Everyone, though, brings a child and, before we know it, a community is formed. A community of watchers.

And watch we do! We marvel at what their bodies can achieve and secretly wonder where they go when the music transports them to another place. We watch as they grasp at opportunities to learn. About setting and achieving goals. Missing out on the audition. Or, not getting a mark or a role or an outcome they had hoped for. For some watchers, these last few lessons are the hardest ones and they find themselves fighting some difficult urges. They worry over every disappointment while they are watching on the other side of the glass. They wish for magical cloaks that might protect their precious charges from heartbreak. They want to slip off the bench and fix their problems. These are the moments of pure opportunities for them. And for us.

But if you sit on the bench long enough, a revelation will occur. The bench will reveal itself. But here’s the catch: you have to be prepared to stay seated, to quiet your mind and let those who are being watched truly be watched. Only then can you know the secret. And it’s this: This is the place where you end and your child begins. You made those wings their flying with. Let them soar.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Awkwardness 101

Once, while staying for an extended period on the 20th floor of a high-rise building, I rode the elevator with a middle-aged man who seemed to be particularly intimidated by my presence. As I stepped in to the enclosed space, he smiled nervously and then, for the entire length of our ride, spoke non-stop. He shared his entire medical history, complete with symptoms, diagnoses and treatments, all before we reached the ground floor. Now, I doubt very highly that this dude expected to receive medical advice from me. I wasn't wearing a white coat and stethescope, was I? But I understood his impulse of going off at the mouth like a house on fire: he was nervous. Had he not stepped off the elevator and run away like a little girl being chased by the Big Bad Wolf I would have yelled out, I know why you're doing this, bro, but fear me not! I, too, am a member of the verbal diarrhea-when--nervous set! But I didn't get the chance because I was too busy trying to figure out whether the gout he'd been diagnosed with was contagious. (FYI. Contagious. Nope. Painful and gross? Definitely.)

For the most part, being socially awkward is a stigma. The media stereotype depicts it as someone who lacks self-confidence, reads a lot of manga, lives in a basement and takes yearly trips to Comic Con. But is being awkward necessarily a bad thing? According to today's media, I would say absolutely not. In fact, awkward comedies are this past decade's fundamental source of humor. Think of the title characters in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", "Zoolander"... basically any character on The Office.

While we've all found ourselves in horrifying social situations in which something occurs unexpectedly, I have always personally felt the feelings that result from not being able to recover from the awkwardness that ensues can have their benefits. Lucky for you, I have spent a good portion of my life staring moments like those square in the eye, and know that, in my soul of souls, this is what makes me who I am and - Goddammit!- I'm good with it.

Here are a few choice examples of awkward moments that I played out personally. Some effed me up for days afterwards. Several have made me want to quit the earth immediately afterwards experiencing them. And, sadly, a few may be familiar to you. If so? Welcome to the tribe!
  • My daughter corrected me recently whilst helping with her math homework. She is in the 3rd grade.
  • After a hearing a great track in a film we were watching, I spontaneously predicted that the song was "gonna be huge". My husband turned to me and revealed that the song I was hearing was Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp.
  • I fell up the stairs at Massey Hall after a concert. I had drunk water all night.
  • I laughed at a joke about oral sex while watching a film with my 65 year old mother.
  • I realized too late that I had been imitating the accent of an English friend. Poorly. Yes, she was in the room with me at the time.
  • I frequently have to hold up the index and thumb of both of my hands in order to determine right and left.
  • I had a conversation with a woman at a barbeque who was breastfeeding her 6 year old.
  • I sat on a friends leather couch during a heat wave and then had to explain that I wasn't farting every time I moved.
  • I referred to a woman who I have worked out with for going on 4 years now, "Erin" when her name was actually "Emily. 
  • I referred to a hockey player as an "Arse Wipe" to someone who was wearing his signed jersey.
  • In order to get out of sidewalk conversation with someone I didn't want to talk to in the first damned place, I concocted a story about meeting a friend. I ran into them 5 minutes later in the butcher shop.
  • The hygienist asked me a question while I her hand was in my mouth. I drooled on it by way of reply.
  • My daughter asked me once why I always whispered for people to "Slow the puck down!" while we were driving. I told her it was playoff season and I was thinking about hockey.
  • I checked myself out in the window of a parked car only to realize that there was someone inside.
I could go on for days here. I'm gonna stop now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sleep Damn You. Sleep!

Fox Searchlight

Three weeks ago, my husband and I watched a creepy little psychological thriller entitled, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Or is it Mary Martha Macy Marlene? Did I make the Macy part up?All I know is that there was one girl, four names and me left without sleep. For a three weeks. To the director of this opus, I have this to say: thanks for parking the horrible idea of having me, or someone I love, getting sucked into a murdering back-to-nature sex cult into my brainstem and not letting go. Oh, and also: go jump off a bridge. So, now, despite the fact that the film was excellent and very well-acted, I can't sleep and no amount of wine-drinking or watching Tootsie on a continuous loop 'til the sun comes up seems to be solving the problem.

While waking up 11 times per night for three straight weeks may not sound ideal, I have used the time wisely. I have discovered that when I’m under stress of any kind, my body prefers to be conscious so that it can fret, fret, and fret some more. Good to know, right? So to counter that, I've done my level best to come up with some strategies to get my brain to turn off with the hope that normal sleeping habits will return in enough time for me become the normal, endearing and self-deprecating chica that my family has come to know and love and not the twitchy, "spazing out" Martha-Marcy-Mary-Marlene wanna-be with which she's been replaced.

 These are the top ten tricks that have worked for me so far:

1. Stop watching movies that scare the living poop out of you. Fairly self-explanatory. This leaves out early Darren Aronofsky films, anything by Michael Hanaeke or David Fincher, anything with the word "silent" or "dare" in the title and Jennifer Aniston vehicles of any kind. My eyes are drooping just thinking about it. I better write this down. Speaking of which…

2. Keep a pen by the bed. There will always be something you forget to write down. Something so pressing that it jolts you from sleep at 3 a.m. Don’t regain consciousness while you worry about remembering the important thing. Write it down and roll over.

3. Get off the couch. Exercise, mofo!. Harder than you usually do if you’re athletic. One of the less-touted benefits of strenuous exercise is that it exhausts you. Perfect.

4. Stop the nightly grind. Not coffee or tea (that's No. 7) I'm talking teeth. The last one isn't an issue for everyone of course, but I grind my teeth in my sleep. I did it before MMMM and I didn’t realize how much it was waking me until I was fit for a mouth guard, and so I mention it here. Consider it, my stress-ball friend.

5. Clear out electronics. They say you need to remove even the tiniest lights if you don’t want to mess with your circadian rhythms, and maybe that’s true. Illuminated clocks are so accusatory they might as well have an exclamation point after the time. But the little charging lights on my computer, phone, iPad, camera? Those are more of a problem if I’m already awake in the dark. Each one is a tiny siren song, coaxing me to conquer another Scrabble opponent. Not to mention how often my phone wakes me with a late-night text or call from one of the many inconsiderate louts who I have come to love. So when I’m having trouble sleeping, all the gadgets go in the living room.

6. Don’t play dead. When I’m up, I just get up. I won’t stay in bed awake for more than fifteen minutes because I don’t want my bed to become a place where I worry about not sleeping. I’ll take a bath or go read on the couch, any activity I can do supine. And if you fall asleep in the bathtub? Success.

7. Stop taking uppers. No more caffeine. If I can’t sleep, I stop ingesting stimulants because they are chemically designed to keep me awake. (I’m wacky that way.) I’ll take a two-day withdrawl headache over a month-long stint as a zombie.

8. Shower before bed. The warmth is supposed to sleepify you, and maybe it does, but I find it relaxing just to climb into bed clean. Sleeping with freshly shaved legs is also a nice bonus.

9. Get stuck. I get acupuncture once a month, and I almost never have trouble sleeping on days when I have a session. The effect is similar to a good massage.

10. Powder your nose. When you finally do get to sleep, the last thing you want is to be woken by your bladder. Use the bathroom right before bed, and limit liquid intake an hour or so before you (hope to) go to sleep.

Also, think twice before you watch a film that explores the mental and emotional anguish that befalls any person who gets sucked into a cult. Cult films? Fine. Films about cults? Only if you're looking not to sleep for a few weeks.