Grace.

In my youth I was a ballerina.  I spent minutes, upon hours, upon days, upon years criticizing myself in a mirror.  Watching for the slightest flaws and imperfections, striving for an ideal of beauty and a grace that I would never find.  That was the nature of the beast, each one of us pulling and twisting at the bar, pushing ourselves harder to give even more effort across the floor, never having a chance of achieving our absolute goal.  Eventually, at one rehearsal or performance we would be at our best. Maybe that day we would know that this was it, the moment that all the work had been for, the top of our peak. For most of us it snuck up and away quietly, we collected our “good jobs” as we iced our feet and packed our bags ready to go back to the studio to continue our chase towards the perfection that we would never come that close to again.  Whether we had already reached our peak or not we realized that we would never actually perform a dance impeccably. There would be a turn that we came out of a hair too early or a jump that could have been higher, such is the life of a dancer. You wonder why we’re all so wound up. Over time I learned to create lines with my body that would give an illusion of fluidity and ease. I would grab my legs with my hands and pull them into angles that would make them appear more beautiful to my audience, meanwhile stretching my joints to a point that they would never fully recover from.  I learned to balance myself only on the very tip of my toes breaking nails and skin in the process. In the beauty and grace of my dance was the somewhat morbid underside of the cause and effect.

I now have a daughter who is striving for the same ballerina perfection.  She spends most afternoons in class pushing, bending, sweating. She watches the girls around her and uses their success to drive herself forward.  She wants the long high extension, the clean triple pirouette, the over split in the grande jete. Her weekends have been sacrificed for rehearsals, and her social life now centers around the other ballerinas she spends all her time with.  She too understands that she will never be one hundred percent perfect but continues to strive to get as close as possible. Her blisters and muscle pulls battle wounds she shares proudly.

Outside of the studio two of the traits most often attributed to this daughter are grace and beauty.  People watch her because she is, in fact, beautiful and as human beings we enjoy things that are aesthetically pleasing.  Even her movements are beautiful, she holds herself and moves through her world in a way that only comes with years of ballet training.  We tease her regularly for running into walls and tripping over stairs, but watching her tell a story with her hands is like watching an art form.  I supposed that would make sense, dance being a performing art. An art that has been slowly infusing into every aspect of her life. I wonder though, what if the focus on the ideal beauty and the grace she and I have spent so many hours trying to achieve is blinding us to the beauty and grace inherently in our lives?  While this daughter is being complimented on encompassing the ballerina archetype, I look at my other two children and see a beauty and grace in them as well. Just not the versions you are going to find in an opera house on a Saturday night.

We all have our own definition of both Beauty and Grace, most of which are inherently intertwined.  Sometimes we find examples of these qualities it in movement, such as in the ballerinas mentioned above, or in the way a gazelle runs across an open plain.  Daily examples are found in the sky when the wind blows shapes and spirals in the clouds, or when it causes the sway of leaves and branches on a tree. I find grace and beauty in words.  Words that hit me deep in my core. I find examples in books and poems, in some works the entire story or prose striking me, in others just a phrase. At times I find these traits in words that are simply said aloud.  Those perfect pairings shared with you right when you needed to hear them. Some religions find grace and beauty in forgiveness. While I am not someone who tends to find any peace in the act of forgiving and forgetting, I can appreciate the allure.  I imagine this like a grace and beauty in the soul that, much like the ballerina, they are working to consistently perfect.

In our attempts to find and quantify grace and beauty in our lives we often overlook some of the most obvious sources.  Are grace and beauty not inherent in the older woman who has learned from her experiences? She has lost and laughed, watched the world change and observed the people around her as she has lived her life.  Maybe these traits are found in her attempts to share the lessons she has learned, with anyone willing to slow down and listen. Maybe they are in the feet and joints of the dancer. The pain and bruising a simple reminder that she is human, and not invincible.  Perhaps they are in our day to day lives, the warmth we feel when we first sip our coffee in the morning. In the way that I as I sit and edit I wonder if my words are too contrived, then having to remind myself that I have promised to freely write releasing myself from the fear of judgement.

Perhaps we are trying too hard to achieve the ideals of grace and beauty and in the process are losing out on the pieces of these traits we are granted as we live our lives.  Perhaps if we listened to the old woman this is what she would tell us. Her message warning us that in every moment we live and every emotion we feel holds an opportunity we are usually so quick to overlook.  Hopefully we can remind ourselves to pay heed to the little occurrences and observations that hold the beauty and grace we need, while we continue to strive for the ideals and perfections we want.

Sticky.

It’s sticky today.  One of those early spring days in the south where the chill has left the air and the thick atmosphere of summer is beginning to creep back up on us.  When I threw my phone across the room turned off my alarm clock this morning the humidity hit me, lingering even in the house despite the air running all night.  It made me question my decision to wear a sweatshirt to bed. However after dealing with a burst water filter in the kitchen at midnight I didn’t put much thought into my ensemble, I just climbed back into the comforting cocoon under the duvet and six hours of sleep.  

Even after tossing aside the old college sweatshirt, with the little bleach stain I like to ignore, I found little relief.  Hoping to be hit with a rush of cool air when I opened the door to let the dog out I was disappointed to find no reprieve. I stood in the doorway letting even more of the thick air in around me.  I itched to run over to the thermostat and turn it down to a degree that will make my husband complain and my son turn it back up, because after all he is his father’s son. No light should be left on, not thermostat set to a fully comfortable level.  Fine I will sit in the hot dark living room drinking coffee while I sweat. First world problems, I know.

I suck up my growing moist discomfort and wait for the dog who is getting old and slow.  She takes her sweet time sniffing the air and strolling the yard knowing she won’t have the opportunity to get outside again at least for a few hours.  I end up leaving the backdoor cracked for her, I can’t actually close it to preserve the cool inside because she won’t make a sound to be let back in. We trained her too well.  So well that two years ago after getting locked out for half an hour and patiently sitting by the back window waiting for us to notice and let her back in she cut her loses. Figuring we had forgotten her for good she took off to find a new home.  She knew she was going to die from hunger soon, despite having been fed an hour earlier. Understanding her very dire situation it made sense that she was found a few houses down in the neighbors garage helping herself to the bowl of food they had just put out for their dog.  I kind of love the old fart.

I feed groggy children and warn them it’s going to be warm and humid today, so of course they all come back downstairs in jeans and two of them in long sleeves.  I’m glad I say words to them. They clearly appreciate my attempts to ensure their comfort. Oh well. I still end up considering looking up a recipe to make them cookies using the giant costco jar of nutella my husband came home with a few weeks ago.  It’s Friday after all, cookies on the table after school is an acceptable luxury. Plus I don’t have to actually sign in to any job today, I have the time for such indulgences. Eventually I’ll reach my word limit for the day and need to take a break from writing.  Baking is a good activity for that.

Middle kid tells me that today she has a field trip to tour the middle school she is headed to in August.  Older kid is already at said school. I separately tell them to try and embarrass the other one if they see each other.  This might be purely for my own amusement, I hope they do it, because that would be fucking funny.

Water is falling from the sky off and on but not in steady streams.  Soon we’ll be back to the rolling thunderstorms of summer that cool off the afternoons making the choice to have settled here bearable in July and August, but right now its tornado season.  We don’t get tornados too bad here but we were on a watch yesterday evening. It was the main topic of discussion at older kids tech rehearsal for this weekend’s show. I remember again she has dress rehearsal tonight.  Mental note, five thirty at the theater, traffic was bad yesterday leave early. Heavy rain is suddenly pounding on the ceiling, but I hear it first on the chimney flute. Now I wonder if I remembered to shut it after the last winter fire we set.  I tell myself I’ll check later, but I probably won’t.

The rain makes people completely incapable of driving but it at least washes the pollen out of the air.  The pine tree pods haven’t opened yet but we’re probably only a week or two away from that, then the whole city will turn yellow.  We suffer under the haze of tree reproduction until more heavy rain comes through, on another sticky day, and washes it down the street.  We are able to watch cheering while it disappears down storm drains.

I wait in the drop off line at the middle school reminding older kid to embarrass middle kid even giving her examples, a how to guide, that she half heartedly chuckles at.  She’s not going to do it. She’s a dork. I realize that I’m either going to produce a totally traumatized adult or a hilarious one. If she ends up being a functioning part of society I guess I’ll consider my child rearing a success either way.  I only offered to drive her today because I have to drop the ageing dog off at the vet this morning and her stop is on my way. Judging by the line at the middle school a lot of the other parents are pretty sure their precious babies are going to melt if the ominous sky water touches them while they wait at the bus stop.  I fear for the future of my offspring’s generation. Older kid side eyes someone dressed in the school mascot outfit holding up a sign for some student election coming up. She’s not impressed. I feel for the unlucky kid in the stupid costume, this isn’t a day for outside mascots. The school could have been sympathetic and at least let the poor kid stand inside the front entrance.   A perfect example of the exceptional problem solving of our public education system hard at work here folks. I muse on the fact that my kids are going to arrive home sweaty faced and frizzy haired while I make my way to the vet in shorts and a t-shirt, still sticky. At least they’ll have cookies.

Introduction.

Introductions are awkward.  People make an initial judgment on each other during these exchanges based on things like a handshake and eye contact.  We notice someone’s appearance and scramble to fit them in a preconceived category of stereotypes in our heads. We use these groups to compartmentalize the people in our lives, to try to understand their choices and beliefs without them ever having to share with us.  This is how we learn who we can relate to, who we should seek out as friends vs. acquaintances, or who we think we should avoid. Fair or not it’s an inherent skill. Just like you have done with everyone else you’ve been introduced to through your life, you will inevitably place me in one of your segregated predetermined categories.  I will have to accept whatever label you give me. It’s okay, I’m an adult, kind of. I can deal. Probably.

I know a man who has this rule of thirds.  Disclaimer, it is very possible this is some well documented anthropologic theory.  I should probably google it, do my research so I sound like I know what I’m talking about, maybe later.  Anyway I heard it from this guy first, so I will always associate him with the idea. Rule goes like this: a third of the people you meet will like you no matter what, a third of the people you meet won’t be very fond of you no matter what, and the other third will be indifferent but can be swayed one way or the other.  Sounds like a political campaign theory. Win over that indifferent third, the registered independents.

Don’t worry I’m not going to try to win you over.  If I do, awesome, welcome to my club.  We drink a little too much here, both coffee and spirits.  We spend too much time chasing the errant thoughts bouncing around our heads.  We like Reddit to hone this skill, I mean who actually reads past the first few comments in a thread anyway?  You’ll fit right in I’m sure. Grab some coffee, it’s not 5 o’clock yet. After all we like to act like we do have some standards.  If I’m not your cup of tea, I get it. We’re not a compatible fit, good luck on your journey to find your people. The world needs all kinds.

I’ll tell you more about myself as time goes on and on a need to know basis.  Don’t be insulted, most of the people in my real life will know less than you are going to.  Thing is, no ones preconceived notion needs to be based on the fact that I have kids, or a Golden Retriever, what netflix shows I’ve binge watched, or that my major was technically communications.  You probably don’t need to know what cities I’ve spent time in, but you’ll hear about them eventually, they’re ingrained in me. You don’t need to know that the people around me assume I am really type A and extremely organized but in truth I am scattered, ADHD, and at times manic.  That I am afraid of failure and that spurs a constant stream of over commitment ebbing the deep rooted anxiety when I don’t allow myself the time to let it seep in, but instead builds up the panic of never allowing myself to stop. I’m not a martyr, this is all my own doing, but I’m sure I sometimes sound like I think I am.  Whoops.

One thing you should know is I write for myself.  I no longer use my actual name. Over time I have learned that the best writing I do is based on honesty.  The relationships I have with and observations I make from the people around me. No one I know needs to read my real feelings about them.  Even if I think my impression of them and the category I have placed them in is flattering they may not find it to be so. People for the most part are desperate for approval.  I really admire those that aren’t. It probably matters to some that I’ve been published. I don’t think it should though, if you find my work worthwhile who cares if someone else thought it was acceptable or not.  It’s been a few years since my work was out there, it became hard to write regularly when I didn’t have the time to do so for myself, but only for the people who expected certain work from me. If I can’t clear the thoughts of the day from my head I can’t work through the big projects that aren’t really for me.

I read a lot, and probably half of what I read is fluff with happy ever afters.  I don’t write happy endings though, because I don’t believe in them. Let me explain, see I think real life is gritty and messy.  I’m not saying there is never joy, there absolutely is, but it’s not a forever thing. If it is your probably high. You might want to stop reading and go google “rehab near me.”  Don’t do drugs people, D.A.R.E. and all that. Oh yah, I’m a product of the 90’s, my flannel and doc martins are showing. I write what I know, I write honesty, my reality. Take what you need from my words because I am sharing them for you to resonate with how you will.  I have no expectations that anyone else will see my experiences the same way I do.

Hi, It’s nice to meet you.  I’m K. looking forward to catching up with you again soon.