Friday, September 16, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: My Incredibly Failing Body

Summer was good. I made all my trapeze goals. I got stronger, and it showed. I have definition in my arms and am starting to get that low line of hard muscle in my thighs. For a long time, I didn't feel strong and it was a strange feeling. While I've never been the poster girl for being fit, I've always found myself to be relatively in shape. I like doing physical things from biking to hiking. And right before I got pregnant with R I discovered the pleasure in conditioning my body. But then shit feel apart when we moved here.

Yeah, depression happened but other things too. My body hit forty and sputtered out. Once I managed the depression, my next step involved feeling strong again. But I hit roadblock after roadblock. I haven't talked much about this but I live with a bit of pain. My joints ache often and I have flare ups about three months that make it hard to even get out of bed.   When I started to run again my knees went first. I'd rest them but as soon as I started up the pain returned. I sadly realized I'd likely not be able to run anymore. Then I started having sciatica pain which put an end to all exercise. I tried to walk because I read that you should move. Holy hell the pain. I hobbled around our neighborhood feeling miserable. Where was the strong person I used to be?

Trapeze turned everything around. Well, that and PT for the sciatica. Sure I still have pain but trapeze helped me to seek ways to make it better. Stretching taking care of the hip stuff,  and I discovered that exercise actually helped the other pain. If I pushed myself everyday, the flare ups weren't as bad and the daily pain manageable. I wanted to be strong for trapeze and I worked for it. Worked hard. And it happened.

The strong woman returned.

I started running again with no knee pain.

And then a couple of weeks ago, I woke up with intense ankle pain. I iced it, taped it, and after a few days it seemed better. I went to trapeze. It hurt but I could push through it. A few days of fine and then I woke up and couldn't put any weight on it. Even resting it hurt. I tossed all night in pain. I hobbled around for a week. No exercise. And the other joints started to hurt. My fingers stayed slightly bent as straightening them hurt. My elbows. My shoulders.

After seven days, I figured out what I'd done. I collapsed my arch. The injured foot has a visibly smaller arch than the other. The tendon that runs along the inside of my ankle hurts a great deal. I'm going to need more PT and likely an orthic. I might be able to save what little arch I have left. I could likely train to run again but I'm not feeling so inclined. I'm just happy to get back to the elliptical and my weights.

All this set the stage for what happened last week in trapeze class. Like I said I've been in pain for about ten days. I missed a trapeze class already so I really wanted to make this one.  But I wasn't at my best. We practiced our individual routines put together a couple of weeks before. I could do all of my routine but the mountain climber. I needed it to move from candlestick to perch. Mountain Climber is this move that involves one knee hooked over the bar, you drop your straight leg fast so fast that in theory you propel yourself up. This involves grabbing the robe aka letting go of the bar on the upswing.

That night. Rough. Already feeling weak and in low grade pain, I did the move over and over. I failed over half the time. When I did manage to get the rope, I fumbled around barely able to get myself up. It was as Piper used to say "Not pretty. Not beautiful." And the whole point of class was working on making it look good. When we were done, our instructors asked us to perform for our classmates. I couldn't do it. I was the only member who didn't do it. But I knew if I got on that bar, I was going to sob. As we got ready to go, classmates tried to talk to me but I couldn't say anything. I knew if I opened my mouth the tears would come. I cried all the way home.

First, I thought about my classmates. How shitty that I hadn't performed when they all did? We were a class. A sisterhood. I'd let them down. Second, I fretted about the nature of trapeze. The kind of trapeze I do is called aerial dance. But I couldn't dance. And if I couldn't dance could I really continue to do trapeze?

But the real problem lay deep inside. A fundamental problem with how I see myself.  I'd called it failure but a wise woman pointed out that I'm not afraid to fail as I try new all things often. No. It's the fear of not being good at things. Not being perfect. Not being the best. Although there was a failure in this moment. I failed in my attempts to start see myself differently. That last one hurt the most. As I said, I've never really had a hard time seeing myself as strong. I'm pretty realistic about it, and I know I've been at lows in terms of strength. But when I hit the high points I knew it. And during the lows? I always knew the highs could be achieved.

Being graceful though? Nope I never have ever thought of myself as graceful. I love ballet. Have loved it since I was a kid and saw Baryshnikov dance in the Nutcracker. I longed to be able to look that beautiful. To move across the floor like a dream. Like I could fly. Funny dream for a child who tripped over her own feet. A child who once fell down a flight of stairs putting her knee through a glass plate window. I fell out of trees. Off my bike. Walking on stone walls. I had zero grace. Gravity ate me up. Still I watched dancers, all kinds of them, with a ravenous desire. The first time I saw the repertoire group at trapeze, that same stirring rose up once again. I wanted to glide through the air, take grace out for a turn while gravity tries to pull me down.

And that night I failed. All those feelings from when I was little rose up again. The pain of knowing I'd never be beautiful. Graceful. I could see myself strong but I could not see myself dancing. Ever. Funny thing is that I walk around all the time imagining myself doing various tricks to songs I'm listening too. I can see myself hitting ques transforming songs into expression. However on the bar, the self-doubt rests like a mantle. A heavy mantle. I knew that this was my next hurdle.

I am going to have to push past this self doubt. It's my next step. I need to get on that bar and dance. I'm going to push past self doubt and all those feelings of ridiculousness. I'm going to tell gravity to go fuck herself for a bit and I'm going to try on grace. I doubt if I'm going to be running off with the circus anytime soon but I am going to push through this wall. I've got a song ready (Mumford and Sons Lover of the Light), and I have some plans. Let's see if Grace has some mercy on my body if not my soul.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Trapeze Changed My Life

Last Thursday marked the end of summer session at Canopy. We worked hard on conditioning moves something that we'd been doing all summer with an instructor who worked with us a long time ago. At some point, she said "You all are so much stronger than when I worked with you last time." We all flushed with pride. And it's true. We are not the same eight women who started trapeze back in January. We've not just stronger. We're more skilled. We're more confident. And we're a lot closer. I didn't think that taking trapeze was going to include getting close with a bunch of awesome women. I also didn't think it was going to have such a dramatic effect on my life.

But here I am seven months later, a different person.

About three weeks ago, I meet my first summer goal which was simply to do a hip pullover. It was very anticlimactic. No one saw me. It came after a night spent in frustration and tears. We learned a new routine and I felt incredibly weak after not being able to complete it. The summer session gave me a taste of success as did the tail end of the spring session. I mastered surrender and the pinnacle in my mind, catcher's climb. For the first time in forever I felt strong. I started running again and could do four mile runs. Without stopping. And then this class came. Partly it was just that kind of day when you feel raw and turned inside out. Partly it was because not being able to do the thing meant that I wasn't as strong as I thought. I stood there in tears at one point just holding those ropes and I thought "Fuck it might as well try." I swung my legs up and they wrapped around the rope. No one saw me. No fanfare. It reminded me of that time I got to my "goal" weight.

Next class came and as we started to do the routine again, I did the pull over without even thinking about it. I'd already done it a few times in open studio. And the room erupted in applause. Tears stung my eyes again but this time because everyone witness that moment. Those women knew how hard I worked to get this point. "Nope," I thought, "This wasn't like my goal weight at all. This was a real victory."

As we stretched out, we talked about how we felt about this session. I told everyone "Trapeze totally saved my life." And I flushed a bit at how dramatic that sounds. But it did in so many ways. Not just taking trapeze but before that when I got to hang out while the girls did classes. Just being in Canopy made me feel better. The instructors welcomed me along with my children. Some days when shit just felt bad, going into the studio for a kids' class soothed me. I didn't get why it worked. Now I kind of understand. Now that I am working the magic too.

Canopy feels like it's filled with magic. It's all the wonder of my childhood with its bright fabrics hanging in the back and the big rusted red moon on the wall. The light pouring in from the windows by the ceiling halos the room like a spotlight. The bars down with the kids learning their tricks is like all my dreams of being in the circus. I didn't have to run away. I just got to be there. Excuse me for my mystical moment but I wonder sometimes if all the joy and wonder Canopy produces somehow soaks the place.

When I started classes, I got to add to that energy. I connected with Canopy in a different way the moment my hands touched the robes, my feet the bar. Suddenly I was in the circus. It felt pretty damn special.

My depression has shifted in many ways since I started trapeze as has my relationship with my body. I feel strong and beautiful. I feel like my body is light enough to fly but strong enough to lift itself into positions I didn't imagine possible in January. I knew trapeze shifted Camille's life in important ways but I had no idea it would do the same fore for me. My depression is never gone but it's managed and now just for the meds. Trapeze satisfies that restless, listless feeling depression brings me. I can't imagine a life without trapeze in it. Even with the frustration and the failure I wouldn't ever want to not keep at it.

Last week, I finally managed with a lot of help to get up on the circus bar. Circus bar is different than the dance bar with it's steel bar and two points instead of a single point. It's also higher. I loved it. Loved being that high. I sat up there and looked down at the studio. The air was my element. Joy. Total joy. I wanted to laugh and dance and weep. Being up there I saw a future filled with all kinds of new things to learn not just on the dance bar but on the circus bar, the slings, the invented equipment. A whole world of possibilities. Years of work ahead. Good work that makes the body grow stronger. As I sat up there, I realized I had no fear. The only thing I feared in trapeze I realized was failure. And now sitting on my couch and not on the bar, I know that even failure isn't something to be feared. Fail once. Fail again. Fail better.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Surrender

It's been a long time since I posted a status report on trapeze. I am still at it but there was this crossroads moment a couple of weeks ago that required some thinking through. I got home from that class beat up. I mean seriously just beat up. I had what turned out to be second degree rope burn under my knee from where my capri's rode up and my bare legs slid down the rope. I had lesser rope burn on my ankles and my fingers were so messed up I couldn't close them fully. H took one look at me and was "Like what the fuck?" I kind of felt like that too. It wasn't that the class was over the top hard or even frustrating. I still struggled with one sequence but I felt good about the other one. I just realized that I was the only person in the class who couldn't do both and it was kind of a whoa moment. Like you don't want to be the person who is holding everyone back. That's the struggle for me with group exercise. There's all those other people. I decided that night that I was giving myself the summer to get it and if it didn't click I was going to start over. Or maybe just stop.

Time only made my decision seem right. I've taken up running again and over the last few weeks, my time spent actually running (a loose term for my movement I admit) has increased rather dramatically. First a 5k seemed totally doable and the other day I realized that when I hit week 8 of Zombies, Run, I'd be able to easily run a 5k. Then I started to think about running the Athens Half. Second, I fell back in love with running. I always hate it at first but then at some point the joy hits. Being able to do it without my body falling apart like it did last year is even better. But also I loved being alone. I know I'm slow so I don't plan on winning any medals but it doesn't matter cause no one is going to lose shit if I'm slow. I'm just a good person for you to pass and maybe make you feel better about your pace. I'm super cool with that role. Oddly running just doesn't ever made me feel competitive. It's always been about the love of the solitude of it all.

I had a plan for trapeze. Yeah the summer. But I wasn't going to half wing it. I made arrangements to take a couple of private sessions with another classmate and an instructor who I knew could help me. I also signed up for a conditioning class with my trapeze guru Ann. Then I did thing I used to do when I fall in love with someone impossible. I did it with H. I backed off. If I could manage to build a wall around my tender emotional heart thingie, then when the person ultimately rejected me, I'd be sheltered a bit from the storm. It's never worked. Didn't work with H and of course ya'll know the end of that story. But falling in love is just sometimes painful and no matter what I did I just couldn't help throwing it all in the ring. I'm an all or nothing kind of person. Go big or go home. That's me when it comes to love. And yeah it doesn't matter if I get my heart  broken over and over. But I figured I'd try again. After all I had a lot of love already in my life. Trapeze didn't have to be that hill right?

Despite a week off to let new skin grow under my knee, I didn't feel any enthusiasm as the next Thursday rolled around. I talked about it with my friend who ended up not being able to go. I wanted to stay home and work on my novel which after having jumped the shark for a while was back on track. My friend wasn't going to be there and it would suck without her. I had a whole list of reasons to keep my distance but I ended up just sucking it up and going. And of course the whole night was a reminder of both why I love and hate trapeze.

The entire first half to the class was devoted to me failing. Move after move of Ginger just can't do the thing. I sat there at one point exhausted and right on that edge of feeling like a total failure. But I made that conscious decision I've mentioned before of not going down that path. "You're not out here to be a professional." And the whole while I kept up that studied indifference. Oh yeah hai bar I'm not really into you. But of course I felt my heart breaking a little as we learned another move that I couldn't do.

At some point, someone from the intermediate class called over "Nice hip hang" after I fell out of the move I was supposed to be doing and sent myself into a wild spin. I thought "Seriously?" But because I couldn't argue with whoever called out the compliment I was stuck with it. I sat on the floor for a minute to get my bearings. And then I thought "Someone just complimented you on the move that you hate the most in the world.  The move that you sucked at for so long. The move that you had to fight fear to do." I got up feeling a little dizzy. "You just did hip hang while spinning." I DID HIP HANG ON A MOVING BAR.

When Jo announced we were doing surrender, I was calm. I didn't think I could do it. And I still had that summer plan in mind but now it was different. I wouldn't quit. I might have to redo a beginner's class but I wasn't leaving trapeze. I worked hard for the little bit I knew and while it wasn't nearly as impressive as some of the other things people could do it was a pretty big deal for me. I watched Jo show us the movements and I thought "That's not as bad as I thought." I've watched all my kids learn surrender and every time I am always just like "Wow." It's a pretty move and it looks damn impressive from the floor. But watching Jo do it I thought "I can do that." And I felt my heart perk up. "Get down," I thought sternly, "We're not quitting but that doesn't mean we're falling in love either."

I got up on the bar with my ugly little half hop thing and I stood. I'm good at standing. I usually wait for the others to try it first but this time. This time I wanted this to much to wait. And I wanted to do it alone with everyone working on it. No eyes on me. I stuck my leg out toe pointed like a damn lady and I wrapped it around the rope. For some that tight feeling it left might be panic inducing but I liked the way it held my leg in place. I was trapped but it was okay. I made sure my ankle was against the elbow and then I kicked my free leg forward and back and I slid off the fucking bar. There was only a second hesitation, a moment when I felt a panicked "Oh fuck what have you done?" My lets slid down and the ropes snapped under my arms cradling me. I hung there with my arms out and my back arched held from the ground by the bar that I realized at that moment I couldn't help but love.

Surrender is the move that encapsulates my aerial dance experience. It's aptly named. I step off the bar and I release myself to the ropes. To my body. Trusting my body is not something at which I exel. And I suspect many of my problems with trapeze involve this fundamental mistrust. I don't trust my body to pull me over the bar. I don't trust my body to hold weight in my hands. But on Thursday night I step into the air and let the ropes catch me. I aung there suspended with my arms out and my legs bend with nothing between the ground and I but a bar and a pair of white ropes. It is a strange moment. A peaceful moment. An act of letting go. Of surrender. Kind of like when you fall in love.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Exercise Sweet Spot

I admit it! My running friends sometimes made me want to bury my head in a pillow and yell "NO MORE." Now don't get me wrong I am proud of their accomplishments and yes impressed at their dedication. What I couldn't get was the love that was so strong they wanted everyone to run.

Now I get it. Cause trapeze. I am obsessed. Officially. I read blogs about it. I read articles about it. I pin exercices that show how to prepare for the perfect inversion. I've got a scary recollection for the moves (doesn't hurt that I've watched trapeze for two and a half years). If you're around, I'm going to talk to you about trapeze. I'm also going to say "Hey if I can do trapeze? You can do trapeze. What are you waiting for? It's amazing. Go check out a show. Hey have you heard of Canopy? What? You need a place to send your kid? How about you? I'm pretty sure I'm annoying as hell. And I'm also certain my friends read my posts with the same "Oh god here she goes again" that I used to kind of thinking about the running posts.

I remember awhile ago having an online conversation with some women about motivating oneself to exercise. Most of us would go strong for awhile and then it would just taper off until we cycled back around to being the January gym people. I like running well enough (and yes I am running again) and I actually enjoy using the elliptical but neither activity created a passion that could push through mid year ennui. Once June hit, I was content to sit by the pool and read. Screw sweating. Screw making my lungs scream for air. What would motivate us? It's a question I've thought about awesome.

Here's a weird factoid about me. I'm an exercise science geek. I don't know tons but I've loved learning the little I know. I'm also utterly fascinated by sport psychology as well. I'm not so interested in famous athletes. It's a job to them and while they may love their job getting paid can no doubt push one through the ennui. What I'm into is why the average everyday person becomes an athlete. What makes a woman get up at four am to run everyday before work? Why does my friend bike for miles everyday? Why does that cool old dude at the Y swim laps for hours?

Is it the desire to be healthy? To fit a societal acceptable standard of beauty? Maybe but that certainly doesn't motivate me. And when I read these people's stories, there are these elements but there is also love and passion.

I'm calling this the exercise sweet spot. For me it's trapeze. I don't know what else but love could push me to get back on a hard ass bar when my knee pits are SCREAMING and then slam those said kneepits back onto said bar again. What else could make me wake up with rope burn and have me showing up the next week glad the old rope burn was gone because I was likely going to get some more? I've been doing trapeze since January and it's honestly been really hellish sometimes. Physically and emotionally. It's hard. The hardest exercise I've ever done. It's become a game to see where the bruises show up after class. I'll walk out of the bathroom from my shower and H just shakes his head. It's also emotionally hard. I am not a natural. Every move I do is hard earned. I've cried after sobbed. I've had to work through my perfectionist mentality, my insecurity, and my really effed up body image. I can't even imagine what shit is coming down the road.



I am in love. I love that feeling when a move clicks. When I'm doing something like holding all my body weight on my arms with my legs off the bar stretched out behind me. Or when I'm hanging on the bar with one foot on the rope and one knee hooked over. I feel beautiful and strong in those moves. And I'm starting to see that when I look at pictures of me on the bar. I don't see someone gross but someone who is seriously bad ass. I like that feeling.

Today during open studio, I practiced a sequence that involves a move that is not just hard for me but scares me. It's the only move that scares me. I'm not scared of the bar at all. I have a healthy respect but there's no fear. I don't mind being up a little high. I don't mind falling. But this move when I did it wrong drove the bar so deep into my thigh muscle I was in pain for a week. Every time I did it after that and it started to hurt I'd do a controlled fall. That wasn't going to work if I had to learn to go from that move to another move. Today I did it over and over and at the end, I slammed into the last move while my classmates erupted in applause. For a few seconds, I felt like a million bucks. And then I thought "Hell if you can do this one you can do spear." Which of course I couldn't do. But knowing that I can do the other one makes me feel like there is a chance I can do this other one too. I am never without motivation. Never without a goal that I need to pursue. Working for everything makes trapeze exciting and dynamic.

And trapeze drives all my other exercise. I am running and doing elliptical to yes lose some weight (I'm hauling a lot of fat onto those ropes) but also to increase my endurance and my cardio strength. I work on my abs and shoulders and my arms because I need these body parts to be strong. I'm excited/terrified because I'm taking an conditioning class with my trapeze guru, Ann. I think she may half kill me but I know I will be even more kick ass when she's done. It's all about trapeze baby I answer when people ask me what motivates me to go the Y almost every day. I'm in love and the honeymoon period ended after the first class. Bruised knee pits get you over any romantic notions you might have. Trapeze is a hard mistress but it's worth it when I feel strong, confident and beautiful flying with those white ropes and black bars.

When people ask me about motivation, I tell them find your exercise sweet spot. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. You may have limitations due to your body for sure but I bet that within those limitations there might be more options than you imagined. And if the first thing you try doesn't work? Try something else. It's okay I think to not love a exercise. Trapeze isn't for everyone. I totally get it. I can even get why. Sometimes I wonder what the hell is wrong with me that I love it so much. But there's likely going to be something else. It might be swimming, yoga, pilates, Tai Chi, karate, biking, that HIIT class at the Y, belly dancing, hooping, I could go on and on. But I think and believe that if you can find something you love it will push  you past the midsummer slump.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Two Steps Forward One Step Back

Some days I have to remind myself that even "normal" people have ups and downs.

Trapeze sucked tonight. Not because of anyone in the class or because of the teachers. It was the same group of awesome people. The same amazing teachers. It sucked because of me. I take full responsibility for the shittiness of the evening.

The whole week conspired against me. Things started off fine. I felt motivated to get shit done. Cleaned the house. Wrote an article. Made phone calls. But underlying this was some worry. Worry about my daughter's hip. Worry about my son's weaning from his epilepsy meds. And then the Wellbrutin left my system and things went to hell.

What I thought was a panic attack was actually how I feel when the hyperactivity hits hard. I didn't recognize the feeling because it's been a long time since I felt it. As in since I started taking Wellbrutin. I placed an order for my refill and hit the Y hard. That helped but it still didn't make things totally okay for me.

I debated going to trapeze. I hurt my knee a bit when I hit the Y. I was tired. But I also could feel that skin crawling thing starting to eat at me and I knew I had to do something to work through the itchiness. And I wanted to push the weight of all that worrying off my body. I needed trapeze for the relief it gives me.

I went.

It was a rough night. I felt like I was off for the whole hour. I couldn't get the moves. I felt awkward and weak. I tired to hold onto the small victories. Hey look I managed to do on ab/pull up thing one time. I ALMOST got spear when no one was looking. Look at that my foot touched the bar even if I didn't get up on the bar. Yeah yeah I sort of managed one hip hang without driving the bar into my thigh. But there was so much that just felt like failure. It's been twelve weeks and I can still only hop onto the bar. I'm the only person who still can't do spear. I never managed to go from one hip hang to catcher's hang because I used all my strength to get into the hip hang. By the end of the night, I was covered in sweat  and I ached everywhere but without any feelings of success to go with the pain.

Tonight I almost broke into tears during class. I felt utterly mortified as I told the guest instructor that I felt like a failure and I could hear the tears in my wobbly voice.

"Don't cry" I told myself sternly.

Tonight I just wanted to run from the class. I usually like hanging around and chatting. I tried to fake it, showing everyone the neat video I took of Jude. But it felt stilted. Fake. I just wanted to be alone. I walked home taking the long route so I could have some extra time.

The voices taunted me all through the dark.

"You're such a failure."
"What makes you think you're even remotely good at this thing? Why are you even bothering?"
"Here's another shitty thing you do that you can add to the list of shitty things you do badly."

I started to count my steps. Anything to just quiet them. I wanted to cry but nothing came because I felt a little numb.

I didn't cry until I got home. And then I sobbed. All this work and nothing to show for it, I lamented. My precious beautiful girls all told me about their own moments of feeling this way. H talked to me and hugged me. I felt safe. I felt like I could feel like a failure in my home and not actually be a failure.

The thing is that I think it's going to happen. I'm going to have days when I feel like a failure. I have to learn to roll with those punches. But I also decided it was okay to cry and rage. The frustration is valid. It does suck that you can work out every day, do tons of strength exercises and still not be strong enough to do what others around you are doing. I get the idea that you can't compare yourself to others but I also think that at times it's kind of a pretty normal thing to do.

What I don't think okay is holding onto that feeling. So I cried and I wallowed. I even felt sorry for myself and ate an extra Cadbury egg. I totally forgot all this shit and watched Supernatural.

And now? Well now, I'm like...

"You got what you needed from trapeze tonight."
"You are getting stronger."
"You overcame your fear and did a fucking one hip hang.
"You did some kind of scary ass pull up/ab thing more than one time."
"You totally nailed back float. Again."
"You know how to do candlestick and you like it."

Trapeze is something I love. I also love my class, and I don't want competition to mar how I feel about these women. I realized that part of what drives me to compare myself is that I have this fear that they're going to super out pace me and leave me behind. It's a ridiculous fear of course but that doesn't make any less valid. Tonight I realized I need to let it go. I am lucky enough to have these ladies on the road but really the journey we take is going to look different to each of us. I need to let go that we're going to share everything.

It's okay to have a shitty night. It's also okay to not how to do things. I believe I am going to get there. I believe because I can do shit that I wouldn't have even imagined possible in January.  I never thought it was going to be easy. But that was and is part of the appeal. The work is more important than the designation.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Fringe Benefits

When I first started therapy, I talked to the therapist about how I sometimes felt like I had bipolar disorder. I explained to her that sometimes I had these intense highs that made me also feel out of control. She said, "Maybe normal feelings feel so intense because your lows are so low." I thought about what she said and I saw some truth to this observation. But it wasn't quite the whole story. I carried her words with me because I felt like there was something there; right beneath the surface.

Enter trapeze.

Talking to a couple of the teachers about the pain, I realized I sounded nearly giddy. I did that embarrassed head duck thing I do when I realized how I sounded. One of the teachers just nodded and said "You're like us. You like the pain."

And the thing is I do. But let me back up a little now that I've likely caused a great deal of pearl clutching.

When I'm in the deepest pool of depression, I can't feel anything. I'm in an apathetic fog. Before kids those were the times when I couldn't get out of bed or shower. I just couldn't bother. At some point, when I felt like I couldn't take the nothingness much longer I sought out intense experiences. Usually ones that were not very healthy for me. As life progressed and I realized depression would be my constant companion, I started to seek out those experiences at the start of a depression. I could stave off the blankness for a bit of time if I hid inside something intense. Unhealthy intense. New relationships. Sex. Drinking. Sometimes even drugs.

For a long time after being married, most of my depressions proved short lived. But looking back, I can pinpoint the moments when I sought out breakthrough experiences. Starting my MA for sure was one of those things. I started going to shows during that time as well and live music definitely fit the bill. But the MA ended and anyway had worn thin as an experience by the time I finished.

When we moved here, and I started the journey to one of my longest depressions to date, I freaked out. Let me be clear. I wasn't in a continual fog. It was just long stretches of time. The love I felt for my family always lay so close to my heart but sometimes I felt like I could sense it but not touch it. Those days sucked. I felt worthless and unlovable. I thought they'd be better off without me. I didn't want to do anything intense either. I was scared of seeking it out to be honest. During one of my lucid moments, I decided to try antidepressants again.

This has been me since April, I think.  Things have been good and well okay. No I no longer feel apathetic. Most days I want to do things.But as always with antidepressants I am starting to feel like something is absent. I stopped writing my fiction. With a push I can churn out the blog posts and articles for the Body is Not An Apology but I the novels? It's just not there. I have all these ideas and zero ability to put them on paper. I can edit. But I can't create new things. It sucks. Before trapeze and after NaNoWriMo, I found myself feeling really down. The choice before me was be functional or be creative I hated that these were my only two options. I wanted to be creative but I need to function. Like I have to be a parent, a partner, a friend. That shit is important.

Enter trapeze.

Trapeze is my healthy intensity. This is what I mean when I say I like the pain. I do. But it's not as sexual as it might sound. I promise. Let go of those pearls. I've had rope burn so bad on the top of my feet that it hurts to wear sneakers. The bottom of my knees are speckled with dime sized bruises. My hands burn with calluses that eventually heal only to be reopened with more bar work. I wake up with sore muscles and aching joints. I love it every minute of it. Leaning into this pain is not as masochistic as it sounds. I've always been sensory seeking and sometimes I need something tough to cut through the emptiness.

Trapeze is that bit of sensory push I need to jolt me away from the gray tendrils of depression. But it doesn't make my black dog go away either like antidepressants. I'm companionable with my depression after nearly thirty years of having it beside me. I don't like the feeling of having it muffled. Like I know it's there but I can't feel its fur beneath my hands. Trapeze gives me something that keeps the apathy away but also lets me channel my depression into my art. And trapeze I think at some point will even give me a new way to express that art I feel inside me.

Last night's class was not one that looked successful on the surface. We started with a sub which always makes me feel tense but she was great. She lead us through some demanding conditioning moves that at first glance seemed impossible. But I managed to do most of them and felt pretty strong. Of course that all ended when I immediately failed at doing spear (which I have done before), and thus not even being able to attempt the new moved we learned called Harlequin. I didn't do much better with a move called a back float, and by the end of the class my arms just refused to do anything hard.

But I didn't feel bad. Some of that has come from all the shit I worked through last session but a lot came from my new perspective. In some ways trapeze has saved my life. I've heard this sentiment expressed by a lot of other people in only a half joking manner. No I wasn't suicidal but I was feeling like I was about to lose something. And now I feel like maybe along with therapy and keeping up with my vitamin D, trapeze might be what I need to keep myself functioning without the meds.

(I just want to note that I am not by any means knocking meds. I think they are life saviors for a lot of people including me. I also feel totally comfortable knowing that I might have to take them again someday).

Monday, March 21, 2016

What Seeing Looks Like

Today the two older girls started slings over at Canopy. H and I decided to turn it into a family event and walk over. As we crossed the tracks, Jude's feet started kicking and she yelled in joy. She recognizes the warehouse where one of her favorite places resides. When we walked through the doors, she squirmed in her dad's arms to be put down and immediately ran to Ann. Ann simply put is amazing. I love her. My kids love her. I don't anyone who doesn't love her. She's been working privately with Camille and Jude for nearly a year now on trapeze. She picks Jude up and kisses her. Jude hugs her tight making her special cooing sound reserved for those she adores usually just H and I. But Ann gets a coo while daddy gets a goodbye wave.

I could go on about how amazing trapeze has been for the girls. Someday soon I will write that post. Today what's been playing in my mind is the relationships between Ann and the girls. To me that holds equal weight with the physical/emotional rewards reaped from trapeze. 

Let me rewind. I didn't know Ann well when we began attending classes at Canopy. I saw her around of course but I didn't really talk to her. I can't even remember how we first started talking but I remember the first time she met Jude. She fussed over her and asked to hold her. For some reason it came up that Jude had Down syndrome. Ann responded "Oh my best friend has Down syndrome." I hear this sometimes. Or the other variation of my "insert distance relative relation here" has Down syndrome. But when Ann said it it was different. She meant it. She really did have a best friend with Down syndrome and it was no big deal. I liked that a lot. 

And that's how Ann is with both Camille and Jude. She's working with them as a kind of awesome therapy but she's also working with them because they all love to fly. Ann doesn't see either of them as a list of things to check through. There are no evaluations in this therapy. Instead Ann works with them based on their individual strengths and weakness. But she also works with them like they're people. This is an unusual thing to happen to children anyway but I am learning it's even more so when the child has a disability. Ann doesn't erase their disability either. She sees them and she works with them but she doesn't let it be the sole definer of the child before her.

I'm pretty picky about who gets to work with Camille and Jude. I won't tolerate disrespect for any of the kids but with Camille and Jude I am even more fierce. Camille for example is never required to look people in the eye. I also ask her teachers to allow her to have other means of communication for those days when verbal language is hard. Not many adults are willing to do this and thus they don't get to work with my kid. It's a pretty simple decision for me. You have to respect their nuerodiversity. 

Camille right now works with two adults. Ann and her art teacher and amazing artist Hope. They both love Camille not in spite of her Autism but because of it. They nurture, encourage her to grow, and often push her out of her comfort zones (although gently never forcefully). I am thankful everyday for these two amazing people. They've accepted Camie and I know that this simple thing will follow her throughout her life. Those early moments of acceptance shape us and set the map for how we allow ourselves to be treated. I remember clearly those adults who loved my quirky self and nurtured my weird spirit. I also remember the ones who stomped on me and tried to push into rigid molds. 

The other day I asked the owner of Treehouse Kid and Craft if Jude could take a class that was for older kids. "Of course," she said, "We love Jude." 

Once at Barnes and Noble as I ordered our treats and coffees, the barista exclaimed "Oh it's Jude! She's like a rock star around here."

We don't want to leave Athens because of these people. They don't love Jude or see her as a rock star because she's the "special" kid. They just like her because she's funny and pretty damn cute. Athens has become a place where my quirky children just fit in with everyone else.

"There's something about the kids here in Athens," Hope's boyfriend told me once while we watched Hope teach some young children about modern art. 

There's something about the kids because there's something about the adults. 

There's a video circulating around, and I won't get into it here. There's been enough excellent criticism already. I don't need to add. But I do want to say that being in Athens has shown me what real acceptance looks like. Acceptance looks like just another kid but also a recognition of that kid's disability. Maybe it's because Ann and Hope and others honor that difference instead of pretending it doesn't exist. Neither women has ever said "I don't see Autism in Camille" or "Jude doesn't look like she has Down syndrome." None of the awesome adults in my kids life from teachers to our friends have said anything like this either. They don't pity us or glorify what some see as our sacrifice. Our kids are valued as simply adding to the diversity and richness of this community's life.

What it all comes down to is that erasure of difference doesn't make us better people. It doesn't make us more accepting. Dangerously it can lead to us not seeing how prejudice operates. After all if we're all the same how can we point to  disparities in how we're treated? What I want for Jude is people who honor her difference and value her humanity. Because we don't get to treat people decently based on their similarities to us.