May 21, 2009 § 6 Comments
One of the things I value the most about blogs, even if their cultural moment has passed, is the window they provide into the parts of people’s lives that usually remain unspoken. I was reminded of this when I read Zura’s last post about her return to dance after an emergency sabbatical, which has stayed with me for most of the evening.
I didn’t know this about Zura, who is, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her, a powerhouse of a woman: intelligent, driven, and crackling with energy, not to mention strikingly beautiful. But reading the précis of her experience, I am not at all surprised by the path her passion for dance has taken.
Of course, I identify with Zura’s experience strongly, albeit from a vantage point that is as listless and sedentary as hers is hectic and physical. The relentless pursuit of a goal, no longer for its own sake but merely to prove to oneself that one can “hack” it, a process which then becomes slowly tainted with anxiety and resentment… Well, what’s not to identify with?
I think the experience that Zura describes is latent in the act of striving, which can be directed towards a thousand different goals but which is always, invariably, about the relationship the one who strives has with herself. And on a certain level, it is a relationship that is premised on bad faith. The belief that no matter how hard one works, it is never enough–that the body or the mind must be pushed to its limit, not only when it is absolutely necessary but as a matter of course—belies a mistrust of one’s abilities that can only be overcome by a level of commitment that verges on punishment.
Is that right, Zura?
Over the years, I’ve heard many confessions of bad faith from fellow graduate students, a number of which I suspect were inspired by this blog. Some have spilled out over drinks in darkened cafés; others in sudden bursts of tears in the middle of brightly lit hallways. In every case, the culprit is actually an Achilles’ Heel: a sense that the confessor is of the wrong gender, the wrong race, the wrong economic or cultural class, the wrong body or family or place, and, because of it, that she must hold herself to a standard of achievement she can never hope to achieve. I have learned to listen, to acknowledge, to offer fellow-feeling, but I’ve never had much in the way of advice to impart.
Next time, I’ll just paraphrase this:
In the end, the main lesson I learned was all about giving myself permission to move at whatever pace was appropriate for me, and who cares what everyone else is doing and how. I make my own rules governing me. When I returned to work, I allowed myself to work in 30-minute shifts, where I would concentrate for half an hour and just work, the rest of the time I allowed myself to relax and take a break, guilt-free. As I did this, I found I could do more and more chunks of 30-minute work intervals, and soon 30 minutes would expand to an hour. (Let me tell you, it’s amazing just how much work you can get done in a simple 30 minutes with zero distractions… )