Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Pole Dancer I am Not... Yet

I wouldn’t say I’m an adrenaline junkie in the typical sense. I don’t jump off cliffs without a parachute, and I always wear my seatbelt, but I’m definitely attracted to trying new things that force me out of my comfort zone. I think that when we place ourselves in these positions we learn the most about ourselves, and those things we learn can help us to grow. Last night I placed myself out of my comfort zone, with nothing to cling to but a stripper pole.

Last weekend after having been asked by several different friends to join each of them for a different after-work exercise outing, I decided that for a month I wouldn’t turn down any exercise invite – I would just go – because, after all, doing something (regardless of what that something is) is better than sitting on my ass doing nothing, which I’ve been doing entirely too much of lately. On Monday I had a date to run several miles at the Lake, and last night was my debut attempting a pole-dancing class at Xpose fitness in Arundel Mills, where I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone.

Let me start with this: I am not a dancer. Yes, I am known to tear up the dance floor at roller derby after parties, Pants Off Dance Off nights, the Lith Hall, and the occasional gay bar, but I’ve also had some liquid courage and according to my recollection there are typically no mirrors around me. I actually really like to go out dancing, but when I’m there my goal is to have fun with my ladies. I’m not moving for anyone else but me, and I could give a shit what I look like when I do it. I feel the music and I move. While pole dancing may eventually be about feeling the music, it’s certainly not in the beginner class! It’s all about the moves, which are quite frankly extremely difficult to mimic.

I was pleased to find a very diverse mix of ladies attending this class, and I was even more pleased that the instructor didn’t live up to my idea of what a pole-dancing instructor may be like. Instead, she was funny and the opposite of what you think of when you think of most fitness instructors, who in my mind at least, are all peppy petite blondes with tiny voices. No, last night’s pole-dancing instructor reminded me of a rollergirl, which instantly put my mind at ease. Until she started moving.

I almost feel like I needed a pre-beginner class to teach me how to move my hips, legs, and ass in all those various swaying figure-eight motions I always just assumed I knew how to do, because in reality – in front of a mirror – I really can’t move the way I thought I could! But I tried, I kept moving, and I found that I really enjoyed and excelled in the more athletic moves like spins into back bends (you got to pick up those dollas somehow). Then we moved to the floor – hello, abs! The back bend transitioned into placing your shoulders on the floor, lowering your hips down, raising your chest up, and doing a bunch of shit with your legs in the air, constantly moving. This all resulted in walking on your ass half way around the pole and then strategically getting back up, all the time staying in the correct proximity to the pole. Wow. Just, wow.

I joked last night that I’m build for efficiency, not for the viewing pleasure of others. In all seriousness, I’m used to using my body to accomplish a task, whether that be running, performing offensive or defensive derby moves, or just doing some action repeatedly. I’ve always been able to get the job done, but I’ve never said it was going to look pretty. I’ll sweat, I’ll hustle, and I’ll push my body to accomplish seemingly difficult tasks, but what I am REALLY not used to is moving my body in a way that’s visually appealing. It’s difficult. Very difficult. So, hats off to strippers everywhere.

When I left last night my first thought was, “No way in hell I’m coming back.” Seeing myself fail miserably in a mirror was a big blow to my self esteem, but by the time I went to bed last night I realized that there’s no way in hell I couldn’t go back. Putting myself in an awkward position once did make me learn something about myself, but going back and working on improving the aesthetics of my body movements – something I’m not naturally good at – will build character. Since being retired from derby, I don’t challenge myself enough by trying to overcome something I’m really bad at, and I need that. I need to be knocked down a few pegs on a regular basis so that I have something to work on.

The verdict: I’ll be back on the pole next week, and in the meanwhile I’ll be practicing a lot of ungraceful body movements in the full-length mirror at night!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just a Job

As I get older I find myself asking my friends’ children some of the same questions that adults asked me when I was a child, especially “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I think my earliest answer to that question was veterinarian. That morphed into space shuttle pilot for NASA, which then became engineer (I had no clue what that was, but my mom thought it paid well), architect, writer, and English teacher. When I ask kids these days, I get answers like “I want to help animals” or an emphatic “skateboarder!” Maybe it’s a product of having been a child in the 80s, but I never had lofty aspirations – they were always really practical. When I hear the excitement or loving compassion that’s behind the answers I hear today, I start to lecture. “Don’t ever give up on your dreams,” I say, “You can do anything you want, and you can always find a way to make it work. Don’t settle.” Ten year olds don’t get settling, which is refreshing.

In college I settled on editor. Now, 15 years later I have a job. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like my company, I love my boss, and I enjoy the work that I do, but if I wasn’t being paid to do it, then I wouldn’t do it. This constantly causes a barrage of mind fucks. First and foremost I can easily slip into caring too much – so much that it’s detrimental to my health. It may not be my life’s work, but I spend 40+ hours a week focused on this one thing, and when shit goes wrong or gets held up, I can take it personally. Today I had a very sad discussion with a coworker who came to see me to confess that while the challenges in her department fall under her preview, her hands are tied. Above all else she was concerned what I thought about her professionally. It was heartbreaking, yet it’s something I see over and over again: the responsibility some of us assume is not proportional to what’s expected of us. Put simply, we care too much, and in many cases  those of us who strive to move forward and conduct business as if we actually had a personal stake in it get burned when we hit a wall and are unable to do what we know needs to be done. Forget the asinine reasons why we hit those walls – focusing on them will only give you early heart disease – instead, relax and find comfort in the fact that this shit happens all the time in every industry. Unless you own the business, you shouldn’t ever take it personally and you shouldn’t care so much that you do take it personally. Naturally, this is easier said than done.

While I appreciate the free market capitalistic society in which I live in that allows me the opportunity to live the American Dream (make shitloads of money and move to an island owned by another country), I feel like I’m neither well poised to take advantage of what it has to offer, nor do I know what the hell I would actually want to do if given the choice. So instead, I do what everyone else does, and I get a job that pays me to live my life on the weekend. I’m reminded of this each time I find myself caring too much about my job, and it makes me feel like I need to scramble to find something more meaningful and more personally fulfilling. That, or trick myself into believing that what I’m currently doing actually is fulfilling. I really don’t want to continue to do this for the rest of my life, and I can’t tell if that makes me a whiny spoiled brat or someone with a higher purpose.

Going back to that question asked of every American child, I don’t know what I could have been told that would have changed the direction I took. Part of me thinks it was unavoidable. I guess the bigger question is what now? 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I write, but I can’t finish anything. Everything seems complicated. Unresolved. Unhappy. Too many secrets. And no one wants a buzz kill. More time has passed than seems necessary to recover, yet recovery is not even imminent. What now?