Saturday, June 27, 2009

Getting off the Couch: Part 1

The couch being whatever that place is, that magnetized, attractive, comfortable metaphorical piece of furniture that keeps you from doing what you know you want to do...

The other night I got an e-mail from KO who was talking about a movie she'd gone to see, Every Little Step*, a documentary which follows the journey of several dancers through auditions for the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line.

Here's what she wrote in response to seeing the film:
When I was about 13 to 16 my dad used to take me to Broadway shows, and when I saw A Chorus Line (I think in '77 or '78)—that's what I wanted....It was so great to see these dancers that weren't all tall, skinny, flat-chested ballet types. I started taking jazz classes...I used to play the parts of the show in my basement, I had the album and would sing the songs when no one was home. But, being horribly shy, with no self esteem and certainly no one at home encouraging me—I shoved it to the back of my mind and whenever I thought about it—it was with the thought of 'Who were you kidding anyway?'
That last sentence is the most moving to me and the most important. I thought this for years after I quit gymnastics (and I even got to have a little bit of glory before I stopped competing). I didn't get to live my Olympic dream. I considered myself a failure for not staying with it. I don't think that now because I have a different perspective (ie; my body would not have held out), but I do know intimately, as a lot of us do, the sometimes-painful realization that "you can never go back." The really getting that you won't be 15 again. Or 18. That my right hip hurts if I move it a certain in any direction besides straight ahead. That whatever I'm going to be or do has got to start right here with whatever I have and am.

Having said that, the present tense version of "Who were you kidding, anyway?" comes with the territory of living a creative life. For years, that phrase stopped me from doing anything. Writing. Dancing. Keeping a blog. Moving forward with creative projects.

I look at people who are successful—publishing books, performing, getting pieces broadcast on This American Life (ie; Things I Would Like to Do One Day...) And I'd get frozen in the mindset that that success, or even the "doing," was what other people did.

The belief is so specific that I used to imagine that those people all knew something that I didn't, that they got together at secret meetings, that they knew the "special people." But when I cleared all that shit away, I knew the only difference between me and them (in most cases) is that they got off the couch and did it. While I, more less, sat around just wishing I did.

This big, drastic couch period I am talking about for me was after a relationship ended. I was watching television, yup, on my couch, and it was some commercial with hip-hop dancers in it. And I felt the ache I usually did seeing amazing dancers. I want to do that! I could do that, too, if somebody just showed me how. But then "it's too late. I'm too old. I missed my chance." I heard myself. I thought: is that what I'd tell a friend if she told me she was aching to dance? No, I would tell her: go take a class! So that's what I did. I took a hip-hop class. The class led to being asked to be part of a group which led to rehearsing and dancing and competing and performing... it wasn't MTV. But there it was. The dream. (Did I mention I was not 18 doing this? I was 35. Just an FYI).

"Getting off the Couch: Part 2" tomorrow!



Pamelekh Klezmer Orkester said...

Great piece. Got me thinking about what couch I need to get off of. Thanks.

joyce said...

f'ing brilliant....and totally inspiring!!! thanks