2

Racing Against…

I know I’ve been a little scarce, but my prelims are due on Monday, and I’m leaving for Chicago tomorrow morning for ATHE, then back to Baltimore for a few days to visit family.

I’m finished one, about a paragraph away from finishing the second, and a few pages from finishing the third, and I really didn’t want to have to spend my time at the conference writing.

I think this deserves a Raven gif.

But the episode of The Golden Girls where they propose giving the Palestinians Greenland is on.

1

How Time Flies When You Fox-Trot Until 10 PM

I just needed a title, but mostly to say:

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, but hopefully things will straighten themselves out this weekend. Tomorrow, ready or not, I’m driving up to Eagle River, WI (a four-hour trek!) for an APO retreat. I am going to be the designated advisor. I hopefully won’t have to deal with any emergency situations, and will be bonding with my books, some work, and some junk food. Wish me luck.

1

Love in the Time of Google

I know it’s been AAGGEESS since an update, especially after mentioning that this month would feature some good content. And it will, I just need to get through a couple of projects first.

At least I’m down to just six major things: 1 paper for British Drama, 2 projects for Postdramatic, and 3 projects for Drama in Education. Mostly, I’ve spent the weekend worrying about the Drama for Education projects; two are just minor write-ups that I could probably do in a good sitting, but the other is a full-blown drama curriculum with theories, citations, etc., culminating in what will be a 90 minute lesson, led by me in 6 days. Fortunately, I just reread the syllabus, and I have probably been running around like a headless chicken gathering hundreds of sources for no discernible reason, since I only need a broad idea of an eight-to-twelve week curriculum, and just one detailed lesson plan (with references, citations, theories, activities, reflection questions) rather than all of the weeks.

I guess the problem is that I cannot decide which week I want to do. But before I go to sleep tonight I need to pick that one lesson, even if it means reading between all the lines of everything.

I’ve been doing a lot of index-combing in the library and citation-based detective work, mostly because I am an easily-amused academic idiot, when I Googled a few simple search strings and came up with several websites I could conceivably cite for a definitive game plan, full stop. I think I may have fallen in love with a guy named Joel and a lady named Miriam, who are writing on exactly what I’ve been desperately trying to find in the library.

It still doesn’t make me less nervous, but it’s a start.

Also, I’m sad. I should do something fun soon.

4

Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day

Every once-in-a-while, I have a day that I call Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day.

And today was one of those days.

A Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day is not a good day, a bad day, or a neutral day. It’s one of those days that starts out with some rottenness, is usually dreary, and something good happens, but it’s not enough to turn the day around. Well, the good thing that happened to me today will have some long-lasting effects, but I’ll talk about those another time.

The provenance of Lemonade and Jelly Beans Day occurred in October 2009 in Jerusalem, Israel. I can’t exactly remember what set me off, but I was still living in the WUJS apartment so it couldn’t have been a good day, period. I remember that it was raining, which is normally a bummer, but makes everyone calm and happy in drought-stricken Israel, and softens the rougher edges of the world. It’s more of an act of purification than anything else. Plus, it makes everything beautiful. That day, I slept in, and when I woke up, my heart was sinking in my chest, heavy like a bag of sand. Which, ironically, was heavier knowing that it would have to face the rain. I wasn’t tired, hungry, or motivated to do anything. And then a feeling crept up on me.

I needed lemonade and jelly beans.

Right now.

Even though those are two foods I don’t enjoy on a regular basis, I strolled through the rain down to the makolet, which, fortunately for me, had some Minute Maid bottled lemonade and Jelly Belly Sours. Double yes, went my brain. Back at home, I settled back into my bed, my computer in front of me, and cracked open the drink. The lemony goodness washed down my throat, and when I bit into each jelly bean, the sour tang tickled my taste buds, validating all the sour thoughts and feelings that were going through me, and typed “it’s a lemonade and jelly beans type of day.”

Though I didn’t end up getting lemonade and jelly beans today, I certainly felt a bit deflated as I went about my daily routine, even passing up gym time to go home and hit the studying, hard, which was kind of good, I guess, since it got me to get some of my stuff done.

Each time I have one of these days, some other odd compulsion comes out, and for some reason, today, it was 90s one-hit-wonder group Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” doubling as the soundtrack. There’s just something about Wendy, Chynna, and Carnie singing lyrics like “I know this pain/Why do lock yourself up in these chains?/No one can change your life except for you/Don’t ever let anyone step all over you/Just open your heart and your mind/Is it really fair to feel this way inside?” It’s like a damp dishcloth for your soul, complete with a wacky bass line and banal, inoffensive lyrics that essentially talk about nothing. Sometimes it’s a horrible song, sometimes it’s my jam, but today, it’s like my special friend, or guardian angel, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Everyone has a lemonade and jelly beans day once in a while, where you’re not at your best, and that’s okay. Again, it’s not happy, but it’s not necessarily sad – more like subtle, subdued, low-key, teetering between anxiety and calm.

I feel a little better now.

3

Let It Grow or Let It Go

As I opened WordPress on my iPad to start today’s (11:30 PM – crap) entry, the song to come through the earbuds amidst the chatter of the Saturday night crowd at Glass Nickel Pizza Co., is “Let It Go,” from Disney’s Frozen, AKA the best new song that everyone is (rightfully) going gaga over.

My Florida trip as well as the past 48 hours of being home without very much human interaction brought back my anxieties and fears, big time, preventing me from getting my work done (well, that and the fact that I left one of my textbooks in Florida and have to hunt down another copy at the library tomorrow). The usual fears; schoolwork, life, friendship. These are the anxieties that make me stare into walls, pick at a scab on my heel until it bleeds, pare my nails, and on the whole, take down my confidence.

Confidence is a tricky thing; it can help you reach your goals, but you shouldn’t have too much of it, only in moderation. Having a whole lot of inner confidence can help you shine on the outside, even when you don’t feel particularly positive. Knowing who you are, and what you love and why you love it, and allowing that feeling to emanate throughout your body, that’s true confidence and it’s tricky to achieve. Sometimes, people mistake a lack of outer effervescence for a lack of confidence or self-esteem, but sometimes you don’t need to assert yourself. It is okay to celebrate being you, because you are the best you that there is. When I doubt myself, it hampers my ability to function. But I just have to keep reminding myself to let it go, just like the song says, and focus on my power inside.

There’s a phrase that I heard somewhere along the line, what you focus on grows. It’s a corny phrase, and of course my dirty mind goes straight to the innuendo, but if you look at yourself in a better light, as a dreamer, a believer, a human…(now, “Under the Sea” is playing, so my thoughts are temporarily interrupted by singing sea creatures)..,okay, well the song’s not over yet, but grabbing back on to that previous train of thought, what you focus on does grow. The more I replay a scenario in my head, the bigger it gets. So if you just focus on being a good person, the positive attributes will grow and overpower the bad and sad thoughts, making them the plebeian, shoddily-made cloth finger puppets of your psyche rather than the complicated connections of bones, muscles, and tissues, that make up your essence as a puppet of your own design, controlled by all the processes that magically fit together to make a human being.

Taking a step back…sometimes that’s just what is necessary, to take a step back. Just today, A friend of mine posted a one-liner on Facebook that made me giggle, and I told myself “okay, I’ve gotta comment on this with a zinger.”

So I clicked.
And I thought.
And I waited for a thought to come to me.
And I started typing something…but then realized all the ways it could be misconstrued.
So I deleted it, and started typing something else…before retracting that.

Ultimately, I wasted about five solid minutes just staring at that dialogue box, “leave a comment” leering at me through the bared teeth of Facebook on iPad.

And I didn’t post anything.

Sometimes you don’t need to have your say on everything, mark your territory, get in the last word. If you have something to add, put it in focus and let it grow, or take a step back and let it go.

Exactly one post down was another keen observation made by another friend, and on that one, the appropriate response came to my mind fully formed, and took me mere seconds to post, without a second thought.

Now, that moment has come where I can’t think of anything more to say, so I’ll end this post for tonight with this message:

If you want to post a comment, do so, and let it grow.
If you’ve read this far and the moment doesn’t come to you, just press like and let it go.
I won’t be offended either way.

0

Getting Through Tough Times

For some reason, I’m having a hard time of it these days. In a lot of ways.

Mostly, I’m just not feeling the inspiration to write much. I get these ideas, think they’re good, and then think a little more and think that they’re kind of meh. Then it keeps going downhill from there, and then I’m back to square one.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a better story to tell, but for now, I should probably get started on the paper I have to turn in in like…five minutes. Hope it’ll be fine.

That’s something I haven’t written about yet – thinking about the worst possible consequences/globalizing/making too big of a deal out of things. Sounds like a good topic to build on in the coming days.

Oh great, there’s the conference proposal I have to work on.

Maybe that “what’s the worst that could happen” post will have to wait for a little bit.

But I want to get back to this, so don’t let me forget.

0

At The End of The Day, You’re Another Day Older

That pretty much sums up how I feel about my birthday.

Which is tomorrow.

As in less than an hour from now.

Freaking. Out.

Birthdays mean different things to different people. To me, it means that the other 364 days of the year aren’t.

And that bothers me.

It seems like some peoples’ birthdays go on forever, with tons of parties and events…and mine never does. It comes, twenty-four hours pass, and then it’s over, and the only thing that’s changed is my age. Some people count down to their birthdays. I can’t really fathom that. Last year, on my 25th birthday, all anyone could say to me was “wow, you’re a quarter of a century old!” Well, thanks, that makes me feel a lot better about the biological process of aging and the fact that I’m still single, childless, jobless, and pursuing a degree which may or may not help me in life. This also is the beginning of the end of me being in my mid-20s. Soon I’ll transition into my late 20s…not cool, not cool. Well, I mean, cool in the sense that I’ve made it this far in life and many others haven’t, that I’m alive and free and in control of all my faculties, but not cool in reminding me that hey, you’re getting further and further from being able to date a teenager anymore.

Creepy aside. Anyway.

What bugs me the most about birthdays is that they’re so final. Like, you only get one a year. Then you have to wait another year to go through the same experience. And the day after is the worst – it’s like everyone else in the world gets a birthday before it’s your turn again.

And then, there’s the added pressure of how to spend your birthday. Treat it like a normal day? Take the day off, eschew responsibilities, and commit yourself to pure, unadulterated fun? Eat crazy amounts of chocolate and cake and drink copious amounts of alcohol? Spend it largely alone, with your thoughts to keep you focused and sane, or have a big party with as many people as you can?

Looking back on past birthdays is something that I tend to do around this time of year. Most of the time, the memories are disappointing. Like in 7th grade, when I had a huge test on my birthday, or three years ago, when I got into a huge fight with my parents the morning of my birthday that soured my entire day. Some birthdays were relatively successful, like in 5th grade when my teacher gave me a poster of endangered species, or my junior year in college, when I turned 20, saw a Rosanne Cash concert, and ended up at a house party that turned out to be a surprise party for me. Israel was another fun birthday – a group of us went to Maale Film School and watched some short films and met up with the filmmakers, followed by dinner with Dayna and Abbie in Talpiot, and later bowling with Dayna and Anya. My last two years of birthdays, in Houston, were mostly just blah and upsetting.

But enough negative.

I enjoy that feeling of weightlessness when I wake up, and I can say, “Today is mine. No one can take it away from me.” I like the random “happy birthday” greetings from people I meet up with, and blushing when people say, “it’s your birthday, isn’t it?” I like it when people go out of their way to do something nice for me, whether it’s a present, a card, or a hug, but just a greeting and a big smile can make me happy. I like it that even if I stay up tomorrow past midnight, it’ll still be my birthday until I go to sleep (according to some birthday rules).

That’s not a lot of things to like about birthdays.

Now I’m sad again.

But it isn’t yet my birthday, so I can’t do too much worrying about it being a bad one; it’s a blank slate, a mystery, a day of promise.

Just keep yourself in check, Jacob – you’ll get through the day, one way or another.

And hopefully, it’ll be a happy day.

🙂

1

Confessions on the Dance Floor

Here’s the first one: I like to dance.

Here’s the second: I’m not that bad.

Here’s the third: I’m not that good, either.

Rhythm, a sequence in time repeated, featured ...

Rhythm, a sequence in time repeated, featured in dance: an early moving picture demonstrates the waltz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first real encounter with dance was probably as a child, in synagogue, of all places. On holidays like Simchat Torah, we would dance with the Torah in the social hall, an event that would go on until late in the night. One of the reasons I liked it was because I got to stay up late, and the other was that I got to be a part of something. The dance of choice was usually the hora; the faster, the better. It was a way of expressing my love for Judaism without having to eat special foods or spend hours praying in the sanctuary. I remember feeling so special when my dad would put me on his shoulders, or when someone like Mr. Reich would spin me around on a chair, using purely centrifugal force to keep me from flying into the crowd.

The only dancing my parents ever did together was at weddings, and even then, limited to one slow dance where they mostly stood in place and rocked back and forth. Some of my happiest childhood moments were when my mom and I would sometimes dance around the kitchen together, just the two of us, usually while singing or humming “Shall We Dance?” from The King and I. My parents never really knew where my interest in dance or sense of rhythm came from, as neither of them danced much growing up. My dad, however, did say that my grandfather (whose name is my middle name) was “rather light on his feet.” But since I never got to meet my grandfather, who died before I was born, and there was no video taken of him dancing, I’ll just have to take my dad’s word for it.

In middle school and high school, I participated in every single school musical. Most of them were terrible. I forgot exactly where I was going with this thread, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed being on stage and dancing with the chorus, especially when I got to use a prop, wear a fancy costume, or do a solo or a difficult step. Most of it was “step-together-step,” but since I mastered that pretty quickly where others were still watching their feet, I could focus on performing for the audience. In junior year, I even got to be Dance Captain for one of the numbers in that year’s show, Oklahoma!, which made me feel great – earning a leadership role rather than being voted on it by peers (read: popularity contest).

I had put dancing aside in college, but then a girl from down the hall told me about a beginner’s jazz dance class, and it fit right into my schedule that fall of my freshman year. I joined a few weeks into the semester, and learned that there were other people who enjoyed the challenge of memorizing choreography (I was never as good memorizing lines as I was steps) and enjoyed dancing as a fun hobby where we could burn some calories, make new friends, and get a chance to just jump around for no good reason in the middle of the day. I always associated dancing with being part of something, part of a community. If you dance by yourself, everyone looks at you and thinks you’re crazy, but when you’re dancing with a group (and even better, doing the same moves at the same time), everyone looks at you and thinks, “that looks like fun,” and “wow, I wish I could be dancing right now,” or maybe even “wow, I wish I could dance like him.”

Although my friend dropped the class, I kept on with it and moved to intermediate level the next semester, and did two semesters of advanced jazz until I switched schools and they didn’t offer dance classes for non-majors anymore. I did think about making it my major, but that’s another story for another time. All the while, I focused completely on jazz dance though, no other types. I wasn’t interested in modern dance, and I didn’t want the stereotypes associated with ballet, so jazz was a happy medium. I was always jealous of the tap class though, but I didn’t have the shoes or the courage to try, a choice I regret.

My favorite parts of the semesters were the end, where we would dance in a recital. The first semester, we did a number from the Chicago soundtrack. It was not challenging, but I got to dance front row center, which made me feel special. Next semester, we did a routine a la Center Stage to a Stevie Wonder song, “Higher Ground.” This was my favorite, because it told a little story: we walked onstage with our bags and started stretching as if we were starting a class as the song started, and then once Stevie started singing, some of us started the routine, and one by one we all joined in. Then, we had a mock “dance battle,” boys vs. girls. Since there were only four of us boys, four of the best girls “challenged” us and we danced them offstage in return. Then, we did a reverse of the beginning, with everyone coming on stage to do the routine one last time together before peeling off one by one until the stage was bare. The next semester, we did a jazz/modern combo to “Ngankarrparni,” one of my all-time favorite songs, sung by Peter Gabriel on the soundtrack for Rabbit-Proof Fence. The dance itself was a bit slower in pace and more technical than before, but I had a great time nonetheless.

I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated a good dance routine, and always kept songs in the back of my head for something I should make some sort of routine for, but I never returned to jazz. On my trip to Ecuador with DAT, we took a salsa class and learned Andean mask dance from a real Andean, in the Andes. I fell in love with a monkey mask in the market and tried to summon the spirit of the monkey to help me dance, but being cold and barefoot on a floor made up of jagged, pointy rocks made it hard to focus. In the show that we subsequently performed off-Broadway, my character got to lead the others in a dance, so I’ve technically danced in an off-Broadway show, which is a cool trivia fact even though I was in an uncomfortable lion mask rather than my happy monkey.

In Houston, I discovered the Texas two-step and regularly made a fool of myself doing it with friends on Saturday nights at Wild West. I was never that good, but I usually got a few girls to dance with me before the night was over and usually managed not to mess it up too badly. I was so jealous of the cowboys and cowgirls in their boots, moving gracefully around the floor. Usually the burlier the guy, the better dancer he was, which was always a surprise to me. No matter how much I watched them twirl, dip, and toss the girls, though, I could never get it quite right, although I couldn’t have been that bad at it considering that sometimes I got a second or third dance from the same girl. I also went out to a Latin dance club occasionally, and with very little knowledge of it, gave it my best shot. I could tell I looked awkward and wasn’t the best out there, but my partners usually said, “no, you were great.” Even if it was a lie, it made me feel good, or at least better than the guys who didn’t even try to dance at all.

Even though I have mostly only danced for fun (and in my kitchen), and haven’t had much training, I enjoy it. I like the way it makes me feel.  Standing still, I am alone, I am nervous, and I am vulnerable. When I’m in motion, nothing can touch me, hurt me, harm me; the faster I go, the more invincible and protected I feel, and no one can catch me, unstoppable and invincible. The planet Earth is hurtling through space at breakneck speeds, spinning and spinning on its axis; when I was younger, I could feel it moving beneath me. When I did, I would have massive panic attacks, convulsing, throwing myself on the floor, my body temperature turning white-hot and then very cold, issuing a visceral ululation from my throat the entire time. Usually they only lasted a matter of seconds, and when I was alone, I could usually cry my way out of it until I felt whole and still again. My father got used to it, but whenever my mother saw me entering this panic mode, she would hold me down flat on the ground until my body stopped shaking. I got used to it too, and through the years have had fewer and fewer episodes, shorter and shorter, until they stopped altogether for awhile. Over the past few years, I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve had one, how many times I’ve felt the Earth move under my feet. When I dance, I don’t ever feel the Earth move; move, on the earth, through space and time. I set my own course, and I am in full control of my brain, my skeleton, all the way down to my feet. I am a beautiful creature, strong, wild, and free. I feel special, inspired, and unique while at the same time a member of the greater human race, protected like an animal in its pack; gentle, like the willows in the field move together in the wind; and magical, spinning and flying high, following Peter Pan to the second star on the right and straight on until morning.

So, recently, here in Madison, I saw a flier taped to a pole, advertising free ballroom dancing lessons. I decided to give it a try, because it sounded fun. I went, and I had a great time. Since then, I signed up for regular classes, and I’ve gone back a few times since, including tonight. These guys and girls can really dance – I thought I danced okay, but looked and felt like a complete fool when stepping out on the floor. The people seem mostly pretty nice, except for a few who seemed stuck-up, but I’m not going to let their attitudes deter me from not going back. It’s so much fun and it looks beautiful, and best of all, includes the element of community, with partnerships not just encouraged but required for each dance. That’s what I liked about dance in the first place. Hopefully I’ll make new friends in the beginner class, and maybe even actually start to look beautiful while dancing these difficult, precise steps. Maybe one day I’ll learn enough to even choreograph a routine of my own, or be in a competition. Even if I don’t, I will try to have fun, and I will feel collected, coordinated and confident in myself on the dance floor of life.

But know this: you will never, ever see me twerking, that’s for damn sure.

0

Against the Wind

New month, new apartment, new school, new Hebrew year…basically, lots of new stuff. Even though September is in the middle of the year, it gets a surprising amount of street cred for being a middling month. Most schools, including mine, start in September. Rosh Hashanah usually happens sometime in September, beginning the Jewish year. Overall, it’s like a post new year New Years, or maybe a per new year New Years.

Although things are starting to even out, I still feel like I’m walking against a stiff wind. Every time I want to do something, something else needs to be done before it. And then when I do it, two other things come up to do.

After two weeks of living in what basically a cardboard box in the sky, the actual cardboard boxes showed up this morning, all fourteen, plus the furniture. Only casualties were a lamp and my television, which wasn’t properly packed in Texas. My empty apartment was suddenly full, with the previously clean and spartan spare room transformed into a giant walk in closet.

I feel like I haven’t done anything constructive in the past two weeks here. So far I’ve gotten my school ID card, bus pass, health insurance, employment forms, wireless router, parking pass out of the way. One more day, then class. I still need to assess my books and see what I need to buy, and also stock up on food and other necessities because who knows when I’ll have the time or desire to shop once school starts. Then figure out where to put my books and everything, and get back on an eating/sleeping/exercise routine.

The wind is blowing against me but in times like this, I just have to remember that not only is my sole option to face it head on, but that I have a small breeze at my back.