Last Wednesday night I was having a particularly bad time in ballet class. Half a count off, balance not so good, and when the teacher had us close a simple step with the foot in front instead of in back I just couldn't get it right. It takes me a long time to get something in muscle memory. Maybe it was just illogical paranoia but it seemed like the teacher looked past me as she gave corrections. It was as though it was just too painful for her highly trained eye to watch.
then that I remembered a few sentences that Albert Einstein's second
wife Elsa used when she was trying to get people to understand her
husband as a complete human being. She wrote in a letter to a friend,
"Such a genius should be irreproachable in every respect. But no, nature
doesn't behave like this. Where she gives extravagantly, she takes away
extravagantly." A great theoretical physicist and a guy who couldn't
drive a car because it was too complicated.
I'm certainly not
saying that any part of my life as a scientist involves genius. I fought
just as hard in calculus class as I fight in dance studios to get it
right. But it brought me a warm fuzzy feeling about myself as the mirror
in front of me was trying to kick my ass. I might be dance "challenged"
but there are other things. Learning to dance in middle age has its
drawbacks. I'm certainly not as flexible or resilient as I was at
thirty. Let's face it, when you dance you put it out there. I don't know
of a more self-critical group of people than dancers of all kinds.
Ballet is particularly ugly and pole is a total killer whether we want
to admit it or not. So when nature gives you wrinkles, extra pounds, and
ever tightening muscles what does nature give back?
transitions. Changing majors, getting fired, children, divorce and the
passing of loved ones. You start to understand that when one door closes
another one opens. The linear, "I gotta get there in the shortest
amount of time" thinking gets reviewed in your 40's and 50's. You've
been burned a few times and you are more likely to hesitate if something
looks too good to be true. At some point it gets to be ok to stand
still or not have every moment filled with words. Victories get just a
little sweeter because you have lost more than one battle.
Lately in the pole studio I have been working with a piece of music I
have talked about before by Dinah Washington and Max Richter, "This
Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight." It's a song that pulls me
inside really hard. Four people have watched me dance it and their
comments have been really wonderful. A year ago I couldn't dance it with
the emotion I can now. Motion in stillness is easier now. Slowing down
the steps and feeling each articulation of my body after a month and a
half of not being able to walk without pain is a simple joy. I'm not
ahead of the music, I wait for the clues.
Nature always gives you something for what she takes away. Because this bitter earth is not so bitter after all.
Earth Day and the March for Science
3 days ago