you’re almost there.

I broke both laces on my dance shoes last night in class.  I’d never broken a single lace in my 16 years of dancing, so it was surprising and also extremely frustrating.  Nonetheless, I took laces from an old pair, restrung my new ones, and got back up to finish class.  Then I stayed after class… making practice about twice as long as usual.

On the drive home, I was thinking about dancing.  How Scottish Highland can really suck sometimes.  You’d think dance is just dance, but I tell ya… First, you have practice.  Long, long practices.  It’s generally the same dances week after week which means you’re working either on stamina, grueling details, or both.  And no matter what, you’ve got to be trying your hardest – even in a practice run.  If you don’t, you’ll either not improve or pick up bad habits or both.

Then there’s competition.  Most competition is done in the hot summer months.  Our costumes are several pounds, namely the traditional kilt.  I’ve got yards upon yards of pleated fabric, knee-high wool socks, and a long-sleeved velvet dress.  You sweat a LOT dancing outside in that stuff and you have to be strong enough to elevate with your weight plus the kilt.  Growing up, that was especially challenging for me because I didn’t wear a dance kilt but instead a heavy military one.

So what’s my point in all of this?

Well, I was imagining practice.  I was imagining competition.  I was reliving that feeling of keeping every muscle tense, every movement precise, every jump as equally high and perfectly timed, even maintaining the right look on your face (performing smile or determined countenance)… and I remembered the mantra that always plays in my head.  I never noticed it before, but I most certainly am constantly chanting to myself while I dance:

You’re almost there.  You’re almost there.  You’re almost there.

But sometimes I’m not really almost there.  I just have to tell myself that.  I get through the first half of Step One and I tell myself, “Excel through the turn!  You’re almost there!  You just have to do it on the other side!”  Step one, I’m saying this.  Then I say it for Step Two.  Step Three.  At Step Four, “You’re halfway done!”  And when Step Six arrives and I just want to drop my heels and lose my form, “You’re seriously almost there!  Pick up your elevation!  Make this the strongest step!”

I definitely hit a wall dancing.  Nearly every time I compete, I get to about the middle or 3/4-point of the dance and I just want to slouch, slack, quit.  I have to talk to myself to make myself pick it up, telling myself I didn’t work all this time and all this dance right now to quit.  I already dressed up and did my hair, too, and that’s a lot of work!  So go!

Then when I finish the dance, I feel horrible.  I’m sweating, I’m sore, I’m panting and I can breathe because my vest is so tight…but I walk off and feel such a wave of relief that it’s done.

And I tell myself, “You’re almost there!  Three more dances left.”

You’re almost there.

That gets me through more than just dancing.  It also gets me through the following:
-a track workout
-a XC workout
-a hockey practice
-a sprint
-a timed mile
-a 5K
-a half-marathon
-a hockey game that my team is winning when the score is really close
-kickboxing
-PLANKS
-basically any kind of physical labor
-musical performances
-driving
-a day with a long, time-sensitive to-do list
-work
-cleaning my room
-essays or reports
-a book, especially if I don’t like it much
-school
-anything checklist worthy
-anything I look forward to and write on my calendar
-etc.

Yes, any time I feel like my strength, endurance, patience, motivation, determination, whatever is being tested, it’s a matter of almost being there, of pushing aside walls, making up checkpoints, and constantly crossing them off as I reach them.

It’s amazing how much You’re almost there can help me get through anything.

rain.

Tomorrow, it’s going to rain. I’ve been through short blizzards, bright and sudden sun, frozen mornings, and incredibly strong winds just in a few short days on-site…yet we all dread tomorrow’s rain.

It’s not fun when you wake up in the morning, pick out one specific set of clothes to wear all day outside and which still meets safety regulations, then you get caught in a downpour. And your only set of clothes is wet. But it’s only the morning and you have sampling runs to finish all. day. long.

Haha, water falling from the sky. And I’m afraid.

Bring on the rain. Have you seen how sad the tree buds are? How desperate the ground is to thaw? The rain is a sign of warmth and spring, of life finally returning to the plants. The woods. The crops.

No rain means no life.

But rain is also a sad, humbling moment when the rooftops sing and you’re forced inside to reflect. Rain is music. It is a rhythm in life. It is necessary.

And like my friend Jo said, without the bad times the good times wouldn’t be so great.

That’s the same with rain.

We gripe about rain because driving becomes more dangerous, clothes become wet, we feel cold, we can’t run freely outside, and all nice things and hairdos become soggy masses.

Without rain, we would die. It is the vein in life. All things revolve around rain like the core of the planet.

I’m glad it will finally rain. Rain over snow. And I’m thankful for the frozen mornings because it’s their chill that makes the afternoon feel warm at 30 and the evenings feel refreshing after the “heat wave”.

So bring it, rain. I need you.

Is This Progression?

I just got back from a long day full of work, my first dance class in a new studio, and attending Market Garden Brewery’s Brews + Prose as I always do – this time with special company.  It’s the same old routine, a few new tweaks, and yet these are the moments when I feel like my “year of discovery” hasn’t progressed me in the slightest.

I’m still in the same dull town, one year later.  I’m working a real job, but it technically doesn’t answer my calling.  I changed studios because I am not cut out to be a full-time, successful dance competitor and am settling for shows.  I went to a favorite event at a favorite place with a favorite person and felt just as ORDINARY as I did with said favorite person a year ago.  Not my intentions.

While traveling the world changed me internally, these external qualities are depressingly static.

So depressing that I can’t help but feel another wave of depression.  It’s not because it’s winter; it’s because this is life, and life strikes at inconvenient times.

I’m exhausted from a day of internal struggle.  I long for freedom and self-expression.

I also long for a second of that last pale ale because, darn, that was good.

Coffee & Whiskey

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“Give coffee to change the things I change… and whiskey to accept the things I cannot.”
I saw this quote while surfing briefly on Pinterest and thought it was funny – and quite true.  Although I don’t condone turning to liquor as a way to handle your problems, I choose to interpret this silly meme with light humor.  I do like my whiskey, but I am a huge craft beer fan.  As a cook and an artist, I think craft beer is just another form of culinary art – and perhaps one of the most finicky.  Whiskey, too, is that way.  So there is no wonder than my two favorite places to be are in a fair trade coffee shop or a quirky microbrewery, one generally for work and the other for entertainment.
So, yes, I’ll take that coffee or tea as my moment of indulgence without interrupting a stream of constant work.  It keeps me alert and relaxes me at the same time.  It can be my motivation to get up and get going, and it can be as subtly a form of art at the hands of a barista as brewing alcohol is to the brewer.  Of course, when I’m not working hard at something or meeting up with people to plan, develop, and execute new ideas, I’m likely going with a group of friends or even venturing into a new city on my own and meeting all kinds of people at some kind of microbrew joint.  In a way, it is me accepting things I don’t want to accept, like unwinding after a long week that maybe didn’t go as well as I had hoped.  But instead of moping around, I make a treat out of my time spent experiencing new places and talking with new people.  It’s my way of realizing that there’s more to life than whatever’s been on my mind while simultaneously indulging with like-troubled people over a great glass of whatever the house recommends.
This week, take a moment to enjoy your coffee while you work, and don’t be afraid to brave a new bar seat, different conversation, and perhaps a drink you hadn’t been willing to try quite yet.

The Sacred Coffee Pot

Every office has one (except, maybe, Twinings): the sacred coffee pot.  This communal appliance hosts the gathering of co-workers like herds to a waterhole.  Whether it’s an 8am wake up, a 3pm pick-up, or any point inbetween, it is the universal donor of lifeblood to nearly everyone in the office.  So why is it always empty when I fill up?

I have come to the conclusion that, as soon as I make a pot, some coffee predator lurking in the bushes pounces on it as soon as it’s done.  This animal takes an enormous share, then sets the distributor on its shelf where it is quickly devoured by less aggressive creatures who witnessed the predator make its first move.  Like a million annoying sparrows dipping into a birdbath, these animals draw coffee until they’ve sucked it dry.  It is this wasteland that I find myself upon when I return for my hard-earned cup.  I angrily begin a new pot and find myself thrown into this routine, vicious cycle.

What is so hard about making a pot of coffee?  As we would say at the dining hall in school, “You kill it, you fill it.”  The person who scooped the last of the mashed potatoes was required to take it back to the kitchen for more.  Often, this meant no one would take the last hit.  But, no, not in an office… in an office, it’s every man for himself.  To me, it just seems morally wrong to tap out a pot and not make more.  I replay the thought in my head and can’t understand who could bear doing it: You go for a cup, pump the top, get what you can before an embarrassingly loud sucking-drops-through-a-straw sound emanates through the breakroom.  Then, despite this sound (which clearly indicates empty unless you’re a dimwit), you boldly walk away, declaring to the world that either A) I don’t care that it’s empty and you can fill it yourself or B) I am a dimwit.

Tell me this, office people: What is the rush?  Do you not have thirty seconds to refill the grounds and click “brew”?  Do you need so desperately to hurry back into your cool little offices where you can check your e-mail for the hundredth time today and dillydally on some project?  I might not be on salary as a student intern, but I certainly have my work cut out for me.  In fact, the research I do keeps the work on your desk.  That might sound unimpressive, but without that work on your desk, you wouldn’t have a job.  So thanks for taking minutes out of my day to refill every pot of coffee you drain.  Thanks for lounging in your airconditioned offices while I sit under the blistering heat of the skylight in public space next to the noisy breakroom, listening to the sound of you tapping every last pot I make.

Okay, the skylight is actually quite nice and they’ve installed doors now so the breakroom isn’t so noisy.  But that’s not my point.  My point is, rather, that something so sacred should be treated better!  Use some consideration!  And, if you’re a dimwit,… get a less demanding job!