2.23.2011

Some Fear (and Frustration) Embraced...

Photo by Lindsey Tran via my lovely Karey...


I’m about to state the obvious… Ready?

Ballet is hard. Really hard.

But it’s not hard in the way that I expected it to be hard -- my body isn’t crying; rather my brain is. See (for me) it’s hard in the way that the New York Times crossword puzzle is. It’s a bit of a brain tease. I can’t remember the moves I’m supposed to be doing, I can’t get my feet to do the right thing at the right time, I am furrowed in thought and concentration (and frustration) during the entire 90-minute weekly class...

The upside of the situation is all that mental angst makes me forget that I’m actually exercising, which is a bonus given my history of hate re: the exercising. I’m all about being active, I just don’t really want to be reminded that I’m being active while I’m being active, so I lean toward the family bike ride, the living room dance party…all the things you sort of get lost in and forget that you're actually (yes) exercising.

So the mental gymnastics is good for that, but for my ego, well…not so good. I’m not sure what it is about my personality that expects I’ll “get” things right away. I am frustrated easily, and then I’m not very nice to myself. Remember "the summer of self-improvement"? Yes, making a Polish chandelier is hard too. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. We’d have a glut of Polish chandeliers out there waiting to be snapped up. But it’s hard; it takes work, that's what makes it special…a good thing, yes?


my new ballet shoes...

Last Saturday at my second (!) class (and I’m not sure why I felt I should be channeling Natalie Portman in just my second attempt ever at ballet, but alas I was), during a particularly tricky series, I was quietly chanting under my breath, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t…” I’m a real positive girl, clearly.

The incredibly lovely and graceful (and much older) woman standing next to me in class (and who is very much a beginner but somehow far more zen about the entire enterprise) leaned over and whispered, “say you can, embrace your inner-ballerina”.

Now a statement like that would have normally made me giggle and maybe even roll my eyes, but she was right, if I’m going to do this thing, I need to do it. After all, for the past year and a half, during the girlie’s classes, I’ve been watching the adult ballet class intently (albeit the advanced class) longing to be doing what all those amazingly graceful, strong people were actually doing (not thinking about doing).

So next class I’m embracing the inner-ballerina friends, full on. I’m not afraid...

30 comments:

Kelly said...

i took ballet as a kid, then decided to take a summer class in college. at the school of dance. perhaps a mistake. surrounded by tall, lithe ballerina-types i stood. short, chubby, and uncoordinated. but i had the best time. :)

Lovin That! said...

Good for you! I think it's fantastic you're doing ballet. Great for your girls to see that as well. Keep us posted how it goes...

megan said...

oh, you're such an inspiration, joslyn. my aunt is a former ballerina who now owns a ballet studio, and though i stubbornly resisted taking dance when i was little (i preferred writing stories), now (much to her glee) i'd love to take a ballet class. this might have given me the push to just do it.

but it's also given me the push to embrace patience--like you, i always think i'm a quick study for some reason, and i get really frustrated when i'm not. so thanks for the reminder that sometimes, good things come not immediately, but in time and with work.

Raleigh-Elizabeth said...

this is totally lovely. and just so you know - no matter how much you think you can't, you totally can't. it's not even inner-ballerina, it's just inner awesome. there's inner awesome in everybody, it's just about pulling it out all the time. i'm in a hip-hop competitive dance troupe (whitest, preppiest girl alive) and everytime we start to learn a routine, i feel like such a failure (and a poser, were i to use that weird seriously, i'd be using it here) because honestly, they make it look so. easy. and there's never anything so. easy. about hip-hop. especially for the whitest, preppiest girl alive. but somehow i'm there, and while it makes me concerned for the general intelligence of my teammates in that they approved that, i find myself, a week later, doing the routine in my kitchen while mixing something on the stove. i should tell you, though, i did ballet for 18 years... and i still get nervous saying the french words for the moves because what if i mispronounce it and look like an idiot? i balance this out with the fact that i'm a white girl in a hip-hop dance team so i pretty much look like an idiot all of the time anyway. so there's no point being nervous.

karey m. said...

oh, bunny! i love you! that comment right there, jos, is so genius! at the very least, you'll never be the white girl on a hip-hop dance team so why be nervous?!

i'm so proud of the ways {many many!} you're growing, especially of late. it's what it's all about, yes?

just say yes. and plie. and grande plie.

Taxidermy Worms said...

I am the same way when trying anything new, I have to remind myself every second that it's unreasonable to expect myself to be great at it right off the bat.

It may not sound like the most positive self-mantra ever, it's certainly not peppy, but I've taken to chanting "being consistently bad is the only way to get good". It has actually been really helpful! It's the only thing that seems to silence the inner voice telling me that trying isn't worth it if the results I want aren't immediate.

I think it's partly a personality thing for sure, but it's also very much a societal programing... at least in my case. Microwave mentality coupled with fear of failure, and a little perfectionism mixed in for good measure.

Good for you for doing it anyways!!

Sara said...

You already are a ballerina to me, friend! I am so glad we are undertaking this challenge together! :)

Casey said...

horray for ballet! three years ago, i started taking "beginner ballet for silly grownups who never got to take ballet as kids". i'm objectively not flexible, and subjectively not comfortable wearing a leotard. so i never would have guessed, but ballet has actually made me to be more happy with my body, in spite of the fact that (or maybe because) i'm never going to be long, lean, or turned-out. but if i try really hard, and keep at it, i can make myself do things that i couldn't do before. i focus more on what my body can DO, rather than on what it looks like, and thinking that way makes me so happy.

now when i take class, i don't think about how silly i must look - i get into my own head during the exercises, and focus on what i need to do to. it can be so confusing, but a large part of it is muscle memory, and that just takes repetition. then, one day, i do something right, totally automatically, and it feels amazing. :-)

Torrie said...

I started attending bootcamp recently (and I too am not fond of exercising) and I literally feel as if I wrote this entire post. It's hard, and it's part of my nature to want to be good at it right away (never knew you be "good" at bootcamp, but whoa... those other ladies in class, most older than I, are damn good).

After the first few workouts, I needed to step back and lighten up on myself a little, while also 'embracing my inner Jillian' (I know she's in there, somewhere!). =)

Good luck... You can do this.

London Lisa said...

I have been there. (Truly. I took an adult Ballet class a few years ago and talk about anxiety over being 'good enough.') Know that you are not alone and feel brave and proud of yourself for trying something that most people would only dream of.
Enjoy your next class!

erin said...

so happy you're doing this. i'm so bad at challenging myself when i think i'm going to be, well, less than perfect at something. glad that wise woman got to you!

tory said...

so i know this article (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201101/the-trouble-bright-girls) is quite possibly a _lot_ more psychology than is necessary right now, but it's something i've been thinking about lately.

being very quickly and naturally good at things makes it really scary to keep doing things that you're not immediately perfect at (my personal struggle with this ranges from learning the dance move 'the jerk' (impossible! ack!) to looking longingly at beef wellington months upon months ago, understanding the cost in time and money involved with potential failure, and avoiding the endeavour entirely (which is so sad, because i secretly suspect it's really easy.)); BUT! when you do finally get good at something, it's not just because you're smart and a natural talent, but because you were strong-willed enough and you earned it! which is an excellent thing to do for yourself, and an incredible thing for the little ballerinas in your life to see in their momma.

good luck, lady! your pirouettes will be wonderful soon enough, i'm sure (and channel lily from black swan; she's not perfect, but it looks soooo good!)

Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

joslyn ~
you did again...inspiring so many in the simplest way. thank you. no doubt, you will be a success by just believing you CAN DO IT!
bisous,
melissa

Rachel said...

Oh, Jos - I'm impressed! Ballet is intimidating and requires so much patience (um, I quit when I was only four, after hearing that I wouldn't be allowed to dance on toe shoes until I was twelve. No patience here.)

I'm considering one of those ballet-exercise classes and I'm a little terrified. I can do ballroom dancing, but I've always been a miserable failure at any kind of exercise class that requires coordination. Sigh.

saltandpine said...

I think it is so fantastic that you are doing it. Your struggle really resonates with me because I'm afraid of trying new things because I feel the need to perfect immediately. Thanks for reminding me to be courageous...

girloliver said...

*great* post. I too always expect to get things right away. That is why, I suppose, this is good for you! ;)

SmartBear said...

SO great that you are doing this...I am in awe of women who can challenge themselves this way. Keep it up!
Best,
Tina

Amanda said...

Joslyn, I'm so happy to read that you are enjoying your ballet class! I, too, am very much enjoying mine. And, I understand your frustration. I came home from class on Sunday beating myself up because there was one series that I just could not do. Lucky for me, my husband finds the bright spot in everything (literally) and pointed out the marked improvement in my mood and reminded me to just let go and have fun! And, I am having fun! So much fun that I decided to sign up for a hip-hop/funk class (where I will surely make a complete fool of myself)!

SHAYNA said...

oh, ballet is so hard. i always get intimidated by the super bendy ladies in their layers of torn leotards, tights, legwarmers, rubber pants, etc. good for you....let that inner ballerina strut her bad-ass self!

Pretty Mommy said...

Totally impressed and inspired (even the thought of putting on tights gives me butterflies!)...you rock lady!!

Johanna said...

You can totally do it! Ballet is hard but oh so rewarding. Best bodies in the biz...in my humble opinion.

DeAnna said...

So great you are doing this. I had over 10 years of ballet and pointe and after stepping away for a few years decided I would take an adult class to pick up where I left off. Needless to say I had forgotten the difficulty of the foot and hand movements. They move separately and it is much harder than it appears. I cried after my first lesson. Stick with it and practice outside of class when you can. You can do this!

Anna said...

As most little girls do, I took ballet. With enthusiasm. With relative ease.

A few years back, I decided to do exactly as you have and signed up for adult classes. With equaled enthusiasm and without any measure of ease. The muscle-memory was not there ... if you know what I'm sayin'...

However, the beauty of the craft far outweighed the cumbersome awkwardness of my adult body. Regardless of my (lack of) ability, it became a true joy.

You have me thinking ... perhaps I should try again.

Cheers and best wishes to you!

elizabeth / sophisticated pie said...

you have me totally inspired. I took a few adult ballet classes a couple of years ago and wish I had kept it up. Hm... perhaps I need to say yes and channel my inner ballerina too

emma@themarionhousebook said...

you're so right that it is as much mental effort as it is physical effort. i find the first few exercises in the class so challenging because my mind is still going a mile a minute thinking about all the things i have to do. then, i realize if i don't give the class my full attention i will be bending when i should be stretching or jumping when i should be extending.
i find more than anything that ballet has taught me to be "in the moment" and i relish those few minutes every weekend when i leave everything else behind and just focus on the pure joy of being and dancing.

Sandra said...

You classmate is absolutely right. I took adult ballet classes ages ago and our instructor told us that the best way to get the proper carriage (standing tall, head up) was to "know we were great".
Ballet is such powerful way to remember how beautiful you can be.

Elsa May said...

oh how wonderful and jolly good for you! believe in yourself, add in some positive pep-talks and you won't look back. ballet how utterly fab!

ali said...

I love that you are taking ballet now. I thought you might enjoy this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdylQeg5B9I&feature=player_embedded

Hopefully things are going better for you. :)

Joslyn said...

Ali -- Brilliant...I'm not too far off ;-) sadly!

ML said...

you're inspiring me to pull on my ballet shoes when i get home from this biz trip.

a reminder that, as with everything else, the key to growing is LOVING practice.