Weekly Compliments Day; Journal Feb.23, 2016

Journal Feb.23

I think Mondays will henceforth be a self-compliment kind of day. Last week I got down on myself, really down on myself, to the point of borderline depression type down on myself.

Yet there was something interesting that came from it. As a very close friend and I texted Saturday night while I was away for reserve duty, God revealed something to me through her.

He revealed the idea that I don’t have to strive for perfection. I can try to live like Jesus, but I don’t need to strive to actually be him.

That’s a delicate distinction to make.

It’s enough, as she told me, to just try and be great. I don’t have to try and be perfect all the time. I just need to try and do as well as I can at whatever I do, and that’ll work. Or it won’t, but it’s ok, because I don’t have to be perfect. I’m not called on to redeem the entire world, that isn’t my sacrifice to make, even if I was tough enough to handle such a burden. No, I can do my best to live like Jesus, to emulate all that he did, but in the end, it’s ok if I fail, because I’m not perfect. This has been an unfair standard I’ve held myself to for far too long.

One of the great things about life is that we all have different strengths and different weaknesses, and we can choose whether we’ll beat ourselves up for what we wish we did better, or we can choose a day each week where we remind ourselves that we do, perhaps contrary to our own beliefs, have strengths. In Poetry, in Dance, in life in general, we all have strengths that we can flaunt like peacock feathers.

For me, that day of each week I’ll remind myself of them will be Monday.

Immune to the labors of the army reserve, Monday is the day everyone dreads. Yet it is the day that I personally find the most opportunity in. In Monday we find the equivalent of a writer’s blank page before us. Someone wise once said “The hardest part of writing, is starting.” The same is true with the week. The hardest part, the part when we most need to lock our minds in and not just accept but even decide to charge forward with reckless abandon at the week, is Monday. It is the blank page to the poet and we area all published authors who have gotten our poetry cards in the mail.

So on every Monday henceforth, I’m going to use it as a day of self-compliments. Not in a way that makes me arrogant, for it will always be a strength to be critical of myself, but as a day that I dwell on my strengths and remind myself to embrace them and enjoy them. Monday of each week will no longer be known as the day of dread that everyone else seems to see it as, but as the day that I stand up diligently and remind myself that yeah, I have flaws. Yeah, I hate making people feel awkward, and yeah, I feel like I do it all the time. Yeah, I feel like I force myself into people’s lives too often, and yeah, I know I come on too strong and have to learn to tone my personality back a bit, but I do have good things too.

As a Dancer, I bring passion and energy, and one day I’ll bring speed and skill to the mix if God wills it. As a poet, I bring passion, energy, sharp use of anaphora and sound, and an ecstatic tone to some of my poetry that just isn’t all that common in this world where so much poetry is considered sad and depressing and almost “emo.” As a professional, I bring public speaking ability that’s overrated but could turn into something I do for a living because it has been praised repeatedly throughout the years by bosses, teachers, professors, and academic institutions at every level from elementary school to college in some way or another. As a man, I bring a stubborn independence, almost to the point of arrogance, and a strict adherence to what many consider perhaps even an unreasonably-ethical code of conduct, and a mind that never stops working and never stops thinking abstract and never stops dreaming or seeing connections or thinking big. I bring empathy and positivity and a lack of judgement and an eagerness to listen and assist those I care for, regardless of circumstance or how those I care for perceive me.

Finally, as a romantic, I bring such passion, such resilience to the core of my soul that I can bounce back from all I’ve endured, including divorce and heartbreak by serenade, but can still endure false friendships, can handle the seas of hidden intentions, but can hold out and continue to dream and hope and believe in love and in others.

These are my strengths. They are proven, they are indisputable, they are the very things I need to remind myself of if I slip into the trap of thinking too much about my weaknesses. These are my niches in life: the roles where I thrive and can use to foster success because God gave them to me, and I musn’t let the tools He has endeared me with rust or go to waste.

I’d encourage you to think of your own.

My Week In Dance: Recovery, Rest, and Glimpses of Success

Over the last few weeks, I’d been experiencing soreness in my knees. A visit to my physical therapist and doctor revealed I’m wasn’t actually hurt, just tight. The story about that is rather funny, and can be found here.

In any case, this week in Tap 1, we were scheduled to watch “Tap Dance In America” as part of our education about the nature of Tap dancing. Our teacher loves that movie, and it is actually a great movie truth be told. Still, I was bummed we couldn’t dance that day. I was itching too.

One of our dance teacher’s habits is leading us through what she refers to as “call and response.” She introduces the concept to us very early on in the semester, like week three type “early.” Slowly, she starts to get us into leading it, first in small groups and eventually in front of the class.

Thursday morning last week, I was signed up to lead. We aren’t, traditionally, supposed to plan it, and I didn’t. What I did do, though, was go in knowing more or less what steps I wanted to integrate in there at some point, including a little three step sequence I had as my foundation. I’d been playing with it for a week or so on my own, and had discovered it was both simple enough that anyone could do it and versatile enough that it could become a great foundation for larger, more complicated sequences if done sharply and precisely.

I had no idea how I’d get into it though, or where I’d go from there or even if that sequence would stay in the same order or anything (which it did but it expanded), and I set my mind on avoiding thinking about it until I got up to lead that day.

As we went through warm-ups, with a prospective student and her mother off to the side of the floor watching, I felt my heart race and my feet get antsier than even normal to move.

I was ready for it, and it went well.

The reason I’m writing this though is to tell you about an interaction I had afterward with a classmate.

This classmate came up to me afterward and said something nobody had ever said:

“Dude, well done! You make this look easy!”

Let me reiterate: Nobody had ever said that before.

On the one hand, it’s to be expected: this is Tap 1. A great deal of it is stuff I’m already familiar with, and it SHOULD be easy for me, as I’ve taken this class before and am honored enough to be in the Tap Ensemble here.

Still though, getting such praise from a classmate, without team or even formal friendship bias, was welcome and rare.

I, of course, passed it off awkwardly, giving my appreciation for the compliment while telling them I have “brain-farts” all the time in Ensemble rehearsal, but the comment has still stuck with me ever since.

As the semester goes on, I go through the weekly excitement of dance class and the grind of trying to push myself to close the gap as quickly as possible the divided the experience and skill of the other dancers in the Ensemble.

That Thursday, however, brought a brief moment to smile at myself, not just because of how much I love this, but at how far I’ve come. My assessments in the class continually go well; the choreography isn’t as challenging, and besides the occasional step that confounds me on my first few attempts at it, I feel like I pick things up in this class fairly well.

Interestingly, I could have probably seen this coming.

At team dance camp (“Bootcamp”) in August, so many of my peers and mentors on the team told me that I would learn so much more in my second iteration of the class than I did in the first one.

They were right.

Last year, I learned how to do the steps. This year, I dare say I’m learning to dance. My peer’s comments that day were a reminder of that, an objective one that I couldn’t simply discount in the wake of my own focus on improvement. With that, and the many kind comments my teachers and my amazing mentors on the team have been giving me, I have all the motivation in the world to keep pushing.

That’s exciting!

It’s all so much more than I could have ever expected to experience so early in my life as a tap dancer. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t holding back on me when I screw up, and I continually beg them not to take it easy on me just because I’m older and starting to dance so late in life compared to when they did; but they’re giving out both praise and guidance at the same time, and it’s everything I want and need.