Friday, August 11, 2006

Rambling On About My Lists

About five years ago I wondered how I would I live my life differently if I lived alone, without children, without Husband. I obsessed about it for nearly a month and made a list. This was not an exercise in emotional terror, but an exploration of how I hem myself up. Do I live exactly how I want? The list used to throb in the back of my mind like a neon sign.

1. I would tattoo my entire back, more if I felt like it, with peacocks and the ocean and flowers -- all bright colors.
2. There would be an area in my living space only for painting and visual art projects. And I would have my own desk and a grossly comfortable reading chair with perfect lighting.
3. I would dance a lot again.
4. I would eat up books.
5. I would stay up as late as I felt like.
6. I would be a vegan like I always wanted to be.
7. I would volunteer my time.
8. I would write more . . .
9. I'd ride a bike everywhere.

The list went on and on until it was glaringly obvious that my notion of freedom was ridiculously paired with solitude. I could do all the things on my list if I cleared my excuses, if I didn't falsely accuse my family of being an obstacle. Every item on this list is a nugget of who I am truly. And if anybody loves those nuggets it's Husband and my girls. They don't hold me back. Only I do that.

Over these past years, I've slowly implemented my list. I add as I can. I don't force or rush it. There is a deep satisfaction in thoughtfully and so consciously placing each piece.

A couple years ago, this list transformed into a This Is Me List. It's sort of a life goal list but written as affirmations. Like, I eat 70% raw. Or, I submit my fiction for publication once a quarter. I am charitable. I paint. I dance. I am a good friend. I am grateful, always. The list is really long, sectioned into categories. And I read it a lot and I revise it sometimes. I keep a tiny print-out of it in my wallet. My birthday is coming later this month, and this is when I examine my list the most. Do I live how I want? Do I contribute? How can I soak it all up more? What is necessary and what is not. The mental stuff I work on a lot. The fine tuning of compassion is a worthwhile and never-ending topic for me. I am slower to diligently work on things like writing and painting and dance, things that take serious, physical time. Time is still my grandest excuse no matter how legitimate.

But since moving, I've been dancing a lot. I sought out a major dance studio in the area and just threw myself in a few days a week. The studio is classically weathered with a blotchy wood floor laced with a sweat smell. There’s a wall fully mirrored in front and a wall of all windows in the back that look out to a bumpy, brick courtyard. I dance in the back and when I’m on the floor in full stretch I look out to the trees in the courtyard, large leaves rustling against a marine-layered sky, and I thank god for my life.

I was pretty fearful and madly intimidated to dance at a real studio again, to be in a structured jazz or hip hop class along with more trained dancers. It's an environment that can be stiflingly judgmental and cliquish, but I realized that at 39 years old, I could honestly give a shit. It's so liberating. I dance all out, and I mean Fuck-It All Out. More than I did when I was younger taking class. More than most of the young dancers around me do, so self conscious of coolness and judgment. I dance strictly for the joy of movement to rhythm. My technique is so busted, but I feel music deeply. During a class I am able to hitch my body to my emotions and let them both fly. It’s soul-clearing. The teachers have been ridiculously encouraging and kind, and the other dancers can't figure out my apparent angle so no one has talked to me yet even when I lamely try to connect a little. Eesh.

Dancing again -- a glaring item on my list, a thing I thought might never happen as I grew older -- was the type of decision that made me wonder why I had given up on this side of myself. I had really blocked out how much dance ignites so much in me. I mean, goddamn, how do you let yourself forget that? I often grapple with the practicality of things. Like, what's the point if it's not actively contributing to something or if it doesn’t have solid end result? I’ll never be a professional dancer or a teacher. I may never get to an advanced level, but is feeling good and having joy in an exact moment without one goal attached to it enough? I testify that it is. Inadvertently this ignition, this release overflows into everything else. It also encourages me to keep working on my list no matter how long or wild or impractical or idealistic. Even if I never do the things listed perfectly, I am encouraged that the effort and the motivation and staying true to them are purely enough.


lovegreendog said...

"but is feeling good and having joy in an exact moment without one goal attached to it enough? I testify that it is. "
i second that!

acumamakiki said...

My friend, this is what matters and your words are inspiration for me today. How great that you went ahead and took the dance class. And isn't it wonderful to be a little older and really, truly know that it's alright To just not give 2 shits?? It's liberating I tell you.

Marigoldie said...

Oh hell yes. Dancing again, wherever and however, goes a long way toward saving the world. It's like Superman recharging above the clouds.

Laini Taylor said...

This is a fantastic post, Madness. I want to print it out and keep IT in my wallet. (but my wallet is really small, so I will just try to remember what I love about it) I'm also so in awe of the dancing -- I'm always in awe of dancing. I'm such a non-dancer and have always thought/known that if I was the kind of person who could really let go and dance... it would have a profound impact on my life. But I haven't tried to work on that yet. Maybe some day. But you, enjoy that movement!

michelle/weaker vessel said...

Madness, I love you. This post encapsulates perfectly what I love about you. Just this year, I entered unexpectedly, without warning, into my not-giving-a-shit phase of life. I woke up one day and coolness just wasn't a motive for me anymore. Probably not coincidentally, my real life started falling into closer alignment with my "dream" life than ever before. It has been amazing. The transformation isn't entirely complete; there are still some ragged edges and stubborn vestiges of the old, tamped-down-and-hemmed-in-by-fear me, but I'm shaking them off slowly and methodically. Thanks so so so much for the inspiration.

Melinda said...

I *love* the idea of a This Is Me list. I'm going to start one asap.

Ali la Loca said...

Hi Madness,

I thought I'd delurk a bit because this post totally hit home. I also love dancing, it is a fundamental part of my life. Everything you talked about here - being in your body, feeling the joy of movement, being non-judgmental - seems so aligned with my favorite kind of movement practice that I just had to comment.

Have you ever tried a Nia class? It's a mix of dance arts, healing arts and martial arts. I just recently became a certified teacher. Nia is incredible, the fundamental principle is to feel the joy of movement, and that through moving in the body's way we find health.

I know there are tons of classes in CA, and I think you would love it if you gave Nia a try.

madness rivera said...

Thanks everybody for the good words. So glad to hear that the Two Shits Theory is alive and kicking in others.

WeakerV - I love you too.

Ali - Yo, I'm gonna check that out. Thanks for the tip. I've never even heard of Nia.

Green Whale said...

Thank you. Thank you. What you wrote here gives me courage, and I need courage now more than at any other time.

Marigoldie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marigoldie said...

Oops, just deleted my comment. I wanted to tell you about a woman I used to know. She was in my aerobics class and was probably mid 40s when I was 25. She danced with abandon, with a relaxed smile on her face, obviously not giving two shits. Even then I knew it was cool & I felt inspired. So this sounds too dramatic to be true, but a few years later, I heard that she'd been paralyzed in an accident. How fucking cruel can life get. I think of her sometimes and I exercise, dance, whatever, as an honest to god tribute to her.

Anonymous said...

This is the best idea I have read in a while and you have fired me up to do this.

I also make the time excuse, and it just serves to keep me life small and keep me feeling like I am living in Lack.

I am tired of saying "no, no, no"...there has to be a way to start saying YES and I think you have shown me a way to do it.

Thank you.

degan said...

this is so inspriring! thank you! I too tend to hem myself in and am constantly reminding myself that this isn't beneficial to anyone...perhaps a wallet list would bring it home just a little more. =)
have a great day!

Ani said...

Wow! I just found you and this post was amazing. I need to take a hint from you and do some listmaking. Thank you for the inspriration!