Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In plié, but not in life (yet)

One of the things I heard over and over again as a ballet student was that you never got to a place as a dancer where you were "good enough" or where you mastered an element and could move on. I very clearly remember hearing Mrs. C say that you never get to just coast. "Even professional dancers do pliés and tendus," she'd remind us, "you can always be better than you are. Even at the most basic movements." All I could think was how boring... I want to get to the good stuff. When are we going across the floor?

As a type-A, people-pleasing teenage ballet student, I hated that. It made me feel like I was never good enough and I wasn't going to be. I'd really beat myself up about it. I mean, tell me what to do and I will do it. I want to master things. I want to take care of business and then move on and move up. I missed the message that what's important is that you're always working. It doesn't mean you're bad because you're not there yet. In fact what happens while you keep trying at something is that you get much better that you ever thought you could be.

Before marriage, life, kids, I'd say my view of life was this: There are good people and bad people. I don't want to be one of the bad ones. Seriously. I know it's lame. Stop laughing. Every decision made on the basis of trying to make the right choice and not be "bad." It's laughable and impossible, I know. I'm a little bit better at grey area now, but not as much as I'd like to be. I'd say I've grasped the concept as it applies to dance, imparting the same message to my students all the time (I find Mrs. C's words coming out of my mouth frequently when I teach), but today I was smacked in the face with the reality that I don't give myself the same freedom to be "in progress" in the rest of my life.

Particularly when it comes to worry.

I am a world class worry-holic. You know what people say to you when you worry? Don't. That's sooooooooooooo helpful. I have come to this conclusion. If you're not a worrier, you have no problem stopping because you never really worried in the first place. Those are the people who read "consider the flowers of the field" and they go oh, of course. I don't need to worry because God takes care of everything. The end. What's for dinner?

You know what I do? I worry, and then when people tell me that worrying is just bad, I worry about worrying because I know I shouldn't be. (I even remember somebody telling me once that it was a SIN to worry. Talk about messing somebody like me up!) I worry myself into a tizzy over the fact that I worry. I'm really good at it. People used to tell me I just worried because I was young. Then I got older and what do you know, it was still happening.

So about two years ago I decided I better "cure" myself of this or I wasn't going to be able to function. Counseling works. I'm not going to lie. It helps. But the thing is that you (or I, rather) can't afford to have someone follow you around every day and work out your problems. Sleep is a good one--it's impossible to worry when you sleep, but let me tell you, when that wears off the same things are just there waiting for you. Any-hoo, the point is that I got better at controlling it, and I convinced myself that I had mastered it. Wrong!

A few months ago I was talking to a friend about how I get so confident that I am going to pray about the things that are bothering me, let them go, and not worry about them, and then I find myself picking up the same worry the next day, or the next hour, or the next minute. She reminded me about the verse that says "cast your cares upon the Lord" and that sometimes we do cast our cares, but we immediately reel them back in and try to control them again. I hadn't thought about it that way. It's an interesting way to look at it. This was really helpful to me to think about--cast it away and let it lie. Let it go.

What happens to me always, as is inevitable, is that I fail at it. I'll be doing really well and then I will take on the worry all over again. And the hardest part--the WORST thing--for me is that I know that I know better. I beat myself up over the fact that I haven't mastered that part of myself. (That old world view creeps back in--black and white, good and bad.) I will tell myself that I am smart, reasonable, capable, but I can't make myself stop worrying. And the cycle starts all over again.

So what hit me today was this: why would I allow myself the freedom to keep working at something as a dancer and not as a human being? It's a daily challenge. Being "in-progress" is not bad. I have to keep working at it. I'm not going to master it. There isn't going to be a time in life where I get to stop working on myself and just admire my perfection and completion. I don't get to coast. But hopefully if I continue to work at it, good things will happen that I never even considered.

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