30 April 2016

Thought Bubble

Maybe I am crazy. What will this life give me in the end? Not money, that's for sure. Does love and passion outweigh money? Maybe I should stay here. Maybe I should move to the city. Can I really be happy doing a nine-to-five? How much long can I last in dance with my ankles the way they are? I should have picked up a second job. I'm chasing a pot of gold that doesn't exist. Now I won't be able to finish my degree. This degree won't pay for itself. I won't make that money back. Where will it come from? God funds the things that are of Him, right? Is this of Him? How do I know? Will He tell me? Do I just guess? How can I prove it? How much stock do I put in those tiny little signs? Am I spinning everything my way? Where is the money going to come from? Maybe I am stupid for trying to pursue this. Is art really needed? Does art really touch other people as much as it does me? Is it my place to try to encourage people who refuse to be? Why am I doing this, trying to help people if I can't even keep myself above despair? Who am I to say I have hope when I don't believe it? Why is money so freaking important? Why can't I enjoy my life without having to field these money questions? Should I get a student loan so I can continue college without having to take a second year off? But the degree won't pay for itself... Why do my thoughts never resolve, just keep running in circles? Why would God put this love for the stage in my heart if nothing could be done with it? What's the point? Was it to mock me? Was it to make other people feel better about their stupid ridiculous dreams? If I died everyone would bend over backwards trying to fulfil their interpretation of my dream without me but they don't give a rip about it now when I'm alive. Life would be easier if I was dead. I wouldn't constantly have to make these decisions and work my butt off for a dream that doesn't make money and a job to fund the dream. Although isn't that what people do anyway? They work their job to fund the American dream. All those hours and there's no money at the end of it and there's no strength left for the dream. Why is the world so stupid? You kill what you need. Or don't you need art? Is that a lie that I've believed in my desperation to avoid the nine-to-five? Is that all this is? Would the pressure be off if I gave up and worked as a secretary? Or would that be a denial of my soul and my God-given calling? But was it even given by God in the first place? How do I know? I should have applied for scholarships sooner. I should have... I should have... I should have... I don't know what I should have done. What is right? Is it right only for me or is it right for the plan of God to be fulfilled? Why do I have this burning need to avoid the nine-to-five? Am I just lazy and justifying it with art? Am I stupid? I must be or I would have applied for scholarships sooner... or given up this dream. Is it just that? Is it just a dream, a cautionary tale for my future self?

Round, round we go...
Another day, another 5600 revolutions of this circle, this thought bubble, this hamster wheel of the mind, spinning its tires and rehashing these questions to death, adding other more complicated questions when I'm least mentally prepared for it?

Welcome to my life.

29 April 2016

Music Day - Walk Between The Lines

A year ago today I heard this song for the first time.

It was the morning after my cousin's sudden impossible death. The day after God yanked the proverbial rug out from underneath me and I realised that it is possible for even the family of a dead child to pretend nothing happened and carry on as normal. I had never felt so betrayed in my life. I have never felt so much rage as I have in this past year, over that one incident. I hated God. I hated my family. I hated the platitudes my friends gave me in their efforts to shut me up or at least redirect my attention. I hated myself, for living while she died -- more people loved her than will ever love me; if someone had to die, why not someone who nobody would really miss? -- and for not being able to create any art at all after she died. It was like my inspiration died when she did. My one outlet for frustration was gone, and this only added insult to injury.

And somehow this song gave me something to hold onto even though my entire life was falling apart. It's kind of odd, as the song didn't really speak to my situation, but it just happened to be the only thing that my shocked, broken heart could hold onto without wanting to kill it out of sheer fury.

Maybe it was the mood of it. It was dark and moody and raw and emotional, and those were all things I was feeling. For once the lyrics didn't resonate with me (usually that's what draws me to a song) because they felt so far from what I was feeling. The lyrics are actually kind of hopeful, and I was not hopeful. I wanted to die too, just to get away from the nightmare that was suddenly my life.

Title: Walk Between The Lines
Artist: Russ Taff
Album: Russ Taff
Year: 1987
Label: Myrrh
iTunes here; YouTube here.

This album, by the way, is said to be hands-down Russ Taff's best. I haven't heard all his albums, but since this is the only one I like so far, I'm inclined to agree. (Although the reason I like it is mostly because it's more of a rock album while the others I've heard were country. I can't stand country.) The whole album is largely in the same raw, moody, emotional vein, questioning and yearning and hoping and pleading. It encapsulates my thought life in sonic form more than I think any album ever has. It captures, fairly accurately, the weight that sits on my heart nearly every single day of my life. It acknowledges that life can have pain and hard moments (or years, as the case may be...), and especially at the time it was released, this kind of gut-level songwriting was unheard of in the Christian music subculture. Russ Taff poured his heart and soul out for this album, and my soul is better for it.

24 April 2016

Lone Ranger

18 March 2016, 2.08pm.

Apparently I'm reconstructing my entire life right now.

I was re-reading my post about anger and motivation in my art and it occurred to me that the single biggest thing preventing me from going farther in the dance/choreography side of my art is the lack of a dance team. I keep telling myself that's because there are no committed dancers in this entire country (which is partly true), but it's also because I am literally too scared to ask the ones I do know.

I've become so used to working by myself, for myself for so long that the idea of working with another human being scares me. Human beings have differing opinions and human beings can hurt each other, sometimes deeply. And given the (lack of) acceptance I've felt about being an artist so far and the fact that I'm just coming off of the worst year of my life, emotionally, I want nothing more than to hide my fragile heart away. If just one more person dies or leaves us, my heartbreak may become irreparable and in a person with a history of depression, you want to stay as far away from that as possible...

Basically, I've locked myself in.

I never wanted to be a solo artist. I wanted a team to work with, a big, talented, expressive team that can do huge sweeping numbers in perfect sync while also showcasing the unique qualities everyone possesses. That has always been what I loved in dance and that has always been the sort of choreography I strived to create. But with no-one to dance it -- and with no courage to even ask around and risk the rejection -- it remains mere scribbles on paper. Poetry, music, and literature can all survive for centuries like this. But dance cannot. (I'm not going to get into lamenting that music has a more-or-less universal notation system while people seem to think that mere video clips are all that is needed for dance. You don't expect musicians to reconstruct an entire symphony by listening to a few garbled fragments...)

Point is, as of right now I'm a lone ranger.  I create by myself, for myself. And that's not who I wanted to be. But then who do I work with? I get the sense that no-one in the dance world has anything close to the same goals in dance and choreography as I do. In fact, as previously established, I don't even know what my own goals are. But I know what they're not -- they are to not be ugly, pretentious, and unrelentingly bleak, like modern dance.

19 April 2016

The Why

17 March 2016, 4.57pm.

Lately I've heard a lot of people talk about 'finding your why' -- why you commit to healthy eating, weight loss, dance, writing, or whatever else. It's something I've always struggled to define for myself as an artist. The closest I ever came to verbalising it was something I wrote on a scrap of paper what I hoped would eventually be a poem. The poem never materialised, but the final line still rings in my head: why do I write? I write so you can't see me cry.

Was that it? Was it simply my coping mechanism, my life support through the deepest recesses of depression? And is that why my inspiration is gone now? Has it served its purpose? Was that my 'why' -- to stay alive? It's very likely that without being able to use writing as an outlet for my suicidal fantasies, I'd be dead now.

Or was my 'why' to prove my relatives that I could do what they blatantly told me I couldn't? I got so tired of them squashing my dreams before they were even fully formed that I started doing exactly what they said I couldn't, for the sheer pleasure of proving them wrong. But now they've (more or less) realised that telling me 'you can't' not only means I will, thank you very much, it also means I get REALLY cross with them, so now they don't tell me I can't do things. But it's left me without moorings. Now they're so afraid of kindling my wrath (I don't blame them) that they have absolutely zero opinion whether or not I'm on the right track, even when I plead and beg for their opinion whether or not they think I'll like it. Basically, they quit telling me I was stupid in favour of ignoring me completely.

So now that the suicidal thoughts are gone, and my relatives don't even deign to tell me I'm stupid anymore, I have no motivation. My 'why' is gone.

The problem is, I still want to make art.

Now what?

I have to find something to strive for, some reason to keep creating things, some goal, however abstract. For someone with my upbringing, the obvious answer is 'to bring glory to God.' Indeed, most people in my realms of influence don't even ask why I dance or write or anything, they just fill in the blank with this answer. It actually irritates me a bit, because I know it's not true. Admittedly that's what it should be, but I'll freely admit I am not at that point. I can say that's my why till I'm blue in the face, but I know in my heart that it's not.

Lately I've been saying I dance because I love it.  This is a perfectly satisfactory answer for friends/relatives/the general public, but I personally need something more specific than that, if only for my own clarification.

Why do I dance? Why do I write? Why do I create? Without an answer, I will likely plateau. The fact that I can't even come up with an answer haunts me.

14 April 2016

One Week

Written 8 April 2016, 11.48pm.

Strange week this week.

Last Friday at this time I was in Saskatchewan, visiting my college friends, excited beyond belief to be able to see so many of them, despite the fact that most of my college friends are performance majors wrapping up all their final performances (and rehearsals) for the year -- to say nothing of all the major papers they were still writing.

This visit came after I stayed up late for nearly four straight days in a desperate attempt to finish my final history paper of the semester for my distance course before the trip.

Then we ended up staying an extra day (Sunday) in Saskatchewan. At first this was okay with me, but then Sunday afternoon my parents texted me: 'Grandpa has pneumonia. All they can do is make him comfortable. You should see him Monday when you get back.' Even through the text I could sense this directive was not a mere suggestion.

We bumped our departure time up to 8.30 (from 9.30) Monday morning and planned to drive straight to his nursing home from the college. Sunday night I went to the final choir performance of the year and all I could really think was 'Grandpa will hear real angels sing like this soon.' But I hoped he could hold on.

I woke up Monday morning to see a text sent at 3.30am: 'Grandpa is gone.'

No point in hurrying now. So we moseyed home. It had happened so fast that it didn't seem real. My friend and I laughed and joked on the way home in much the same way we had on the way to the college. In retrospect I'm glad I was with him that day and not at home -- as awful as it was to have missed saying goodbye by one day, being with my friend, stuck in a vehicle together for the better part of eight hours, was what I needed. Of course it wasn't really his decision whether or not to spend those eight hours with me, but he made the most of it -- making me laugh but also letting me question and ponder. He let me feel a lot of emotions but didn't make me feel guilty for feeling any of them. In spite of what awaited me at home, I genuinely enjoyed myself and I think that time of enjoyment cushioned the blow. I would never have taken it half as well if I had been at home, surrounded by it.

Then came the texts from my mother at the funeral home with my grandma and my uncle: 'We're thinking of having the funeral on Friday,' and 'Grandpa had requested that you sing at his funeral. Your choice of song.'


I haven't properly sung in a full year -- and even when I was actively training, I wasn't particularly good at it. Oh sure, I sing in the van when I'm driving to dance class, but somehow I don't think that really counts. And of course, I was in the throes of a full-on chest infection and could hardly talk without drowning in phlegm. Plus I knew my grandpa had never actually heard me sing. Who in the world had given him the idea that I could sing?

We arrived home. Since my grandpa was already dead I simply went straight to dance class that night -- the first class back after a week off for spring break. To wake up at your former's roommate's house in small-town Saskatchewan and end up at dance class in big-city Alberta over the course of one day always gives me a bit of mental whiplash -- never mind the realisation that I would never see my grandpa again, though he had been fine when I left.

Tuesday I drove my sisters to dance class -- which I don't usually do, but my mother was busy and couldn't take them. Wednesday was my only semi-normal day. Thursday I spent two and a half hours at the dentist's getting two of my front teeth essentially rebuilt and am still getting used to the feel of two teeth without any nerves in them whatsoever. And of course, Friday -- today -- was the funeral.

Because of all the divorcing and petty arguments and crap that's been going on over the past year and a half, I hadn't seen half of this side of the family since before my second year of college. I didn't even recognise my cousin. And we live less than five minutes apart from each other.

I've been to funerals before, but I've never been 'the family.' Some of them have been relatives, yes, but more along the line of 'great-grandmother' or 'cousin.' But when it's your grandpa, you are the family, you are one of the people who sits in the 'Reserved' pews at the front and don't have to stand for the hymns. Funerals are very, very different when you're the immediate family. You are the last in the sanctuary -- parading past all those standing people -- and you are the first to leave it -- immediately into the waiting limo to head to the gravesite. You are given first dibs at standing room at the graveside service and you are one of the people given a rose. The people at the luncheon wait for you to go through the food line first and as they leave they come and speak to you. Half of these people I thought I didn't know but then recognised them with shock. When did everybody get so old?

And to think last Friday at this time, there were no funeral plans. I was watching Doctor Who with my roommate, planning to visit our friends later in the afternoon and evening. My grandpa was alive and although frail and weakened by recent strokes, he was fairly well.

How quickly time moves. How quickly life changes.