Tag Archives: happiness

You can dance if you want to~

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Probably one of the biggest reasons that pushed me into dance was the realisation that exercise is extremely boring and unpleasant. I’d been telling myself I was too old to learn dance since primary school age, but really I think it just took me a while to learn how to handle the state of not already knowing how to do something. So I decided I might as well just toughen up and try it.

Dance is a lovely thing I like to call ‘incidental fitness’.  You end up concentrating so much on learning the steps that you don’t really realise you’ve been working your body that hard until you emerge at the end of the class covered in sweat. But dance also leaves you in a great mood. It’s probably a combination of endorphins, the excitement of seeing yourself improve, and the general creativity among friends. Fitness and happiness are both essential contributors to better health.

But I was also surprised by how much it improved my perception of my body. I actually spend a fair bit of time feeling terrible about my appearance. But even on my worst days, dancing makes me feel like I’m okay. There have even been moments during classes that made me feel, for the first time in a while, that I could actually be beautiful. Regardless of their weight, gender, age, etc., everyone finds their own unique grace and allure.

Since the beginning of last year I’ve been sampling dance classes. So if you might be interested, here is a quick run-down of a few popular styles.

Irish Dancing is the happiest dance ever. It’s about community, friendship and love. It’s simultaneously powerful and elegant, as well as wild and fast. I pretty much feel like a deer when I do it, and male Irish dancers remind me of stags. When you get into hard-shoe, you can really make the floor thunder beneath your feet. The dance is limited within its emotional range because it’s pretty much impossible to leap and skip in a sad way. It also rarely uses arm movement, which can feel a little rigid sometimes, but the complexity of the footwork makes up for it. This is also one of those dances that looks way more complicated than it is to actually do, so you’ll start to look like you’re good at it quite quickly. It’s very high impact and it will make your calves mega buff.

Ballet doesn’t feel as strict as it sometimes looks. Granted, any dance will feel more rigid when you start trying to perfect advanced technique and take it super seriously, but ballet can actually make you feel free. It’s fairly hard to get the technique perfect as a beginner; despite that, you can still look and feel pretty graceful from the start. The feet turnout takes a bit of getting used to. Ballet is perhaps not a very natural or instinctive way of dancing but it seems to be about transcendental strength, grace and nobility.

Contemporary blew my mind a bit. There isn’t much repetition or many patterns to follow and all of the steps kind of merge together. It’s very free and expressive – you can show a lot of emotions with it, though it’s generally got a bit of an angsty, passionate vibe. It looks great in ensemble or solo. One of its strongest principles is actually about efficient use of energy. Instead of controlling movement all the way, you relax your muscles completely whenever you can use gravity instead. That’s what gives contemporary that loose appearance. If you’re looking for structure I would look elsewhere, but a lot of people enjoy the simplicity of the movements and free expression.

Salsa is one of the few couples’ dances I tried. The trouble with couple dances is that you can’t practice without a partner, and you need to work as a team rather than just focusing on learning your moves on your own. But this can be a great benefit to some; you’re always in it together with your partner, you can learn from each other and laugh together. The steps and movements for this dance come more instinctively and naturally to me than any other, though everyone finds that certain dances suit them better. Salsa is really about flirting and showing off – in the best way possible. It’s fast, sexy and vivacious.

Belly dancing is surprisingly disciplined for something so exotic and sensuous. If trying all these dances at once was like trying to learn multiple languages at once, belly dancing was like adding sign language to the mix. While most dances balance movements within the body and show reactions all the way through the form, belly dancing emphasises isolation of body parts. Ideally, if you move your hips, no other part of your body should move with them. It’s a really interesting skill to learn and it looks pretty cool. Also, I never thought I’d be proud of any part of my body that jiggled when I wiggled, but this dance really makes you love your lady lumps. It’s low-impact but gently works your core, as well as your legs and arms. You also get to wear a coin scarf around your waist so that the chinking sounds help you refine your movement. Despite what you might expect, guys can do it too – look up videos online; they’re pretty amazing.

Hiphop makes an interesting combination of loose and controlled movements. It uses some body parts in isolation and makes some big slamming motions as well as almost robotically smooth moves. It gives you stacks of confidence and is a great release for anger and attitude. It seems to usually be about showing off and proving your point; it’s fairly masculine and has a lot of wide stances and posturing, but it does rock the hips and curves too.

Illness and negative perception of your body often results in perceiving your body as an obstacle. Learning how to dance gives you freedom of spontaneous self-expression that acknowledges your whole identity: mind, heart and body. Dance is the undeniable reminder of the implicit strength and beauty that lies in all of us.

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My Disturbingly Possible Eventual Motherhood

Every now and again, something on TV or the internet will remind me about my eggs. They’re dying. Did you know that girls are all born with their whole lifetime’s worth of eggs in their ovaries, and as time passes, they continuously die? So I’m feeling the pressure a little bit. I’m still studying and that’s all I need to concentrate on right now, but I can constantly feel how rapidly life is slipping away. And I don’t want inaction to make the decision for me.

There are other pressures, aside from my body clock. Choosing whether or not to have kids is like choosing between two significantly different ways of life – there’s no halfway point; you either commit to raising a child, or you don’t. I think my partner wants kids. He’s the loveliest person in the world and the only person I’d even consider having children with, so he insists that it’s entirely up to me, and he’d love a family with me, even if it’s just the two of us. Because he’s lovely. Which means the path both of our lives follow is entirely up to me. Oh god.

Most women like babies, but when someone shows me a photo of one I’m pretty indifferent. They seem to expect some sort of reaction though. It’s like we’re not allowed to not want children; maybe people see it as selfish or antisocial. But just because women can incubate babies doesn’t mean it’s their calling – I can drive, but that doesn’t make me a taxi driver. I’m not that fond of kids. I work at a supermarket, so I rarely see one that isn’t trying to hurt people with the sound of its screaming because it can’t get a lolly right now. But then you meet that one rare child that smiles at you genuinely. And this one is polite and selfless, and you love her instantly.

The trouble is, having a child is horrific. We begin with the continuous discomfort and indignity of pregnancy, when your body is stretched to breaking point, and then there’s the actual childbirth, in which a small human being tears its way out of your body through a very small hole between your legs. And then you actually have a kid, which means working with poop and vomit and old food; arguments with a resentful teenager; staying at home to make sure you show that you love them enough; inevitably messing them up somehow regardless of how you approach parenting; and losing your career aspirations, your hobbies – your life. When I think about having a kid, I can’t help but see it as my life sacrificed for theirs. And I don’t want to die yet. Life is short enough.

But then, love is the most important thing in life. Certainly more important than health or creative fulfilment, or ambition or vanity. I’ve asked a small sample of mothers why on earth they had kids and if they regretted it. They always give me a long list of why it sucks, and then one reason for making it all worth it: love. If I stop freaking out for a moment, having a child seems like it’s about giving someone exactly what I value most: life. Maybe someone else deserves that. Maybe there’s something nice about creating a person with the one you love most, who is a part of both of you… just so that you have another person to love and take care of. It sounds beautiful. And if the choice was taken away from me, I would be something beyond devastated.

I’ve thought of a solution. I will be the father. I won’t have to birth the child or be pressured to give up my dreams and stay at home. I’ll get all the rewards of children without the sacrifice. And if my uterus gets in the way of this plan, maybe my body will somehow still be functional after being torn apart like all the mothers I’ve met. Maybe my partner will be lovely enough to share the task of raising them. Maybe what I do sacrifice will be worth it.

Maybe.

I Have a Crush on Everyone

I have always found people beautiful. But until recently I’ve never been able to tell if it was objectively true, or if it was just my subjective understanding. My dad often scares people because he looks like a bikie – he’s a big guy with a shaved head, a beard and a weathered face.  But I think he’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. So I know there is a discrepancy sometimes between how I see people and how the majority sees people.

Whilst any assessment of beauty is subjective, I refer to ‘objective beauty’ as that which would be agreed upon by most people. Signs of health, for example, are objectively beautiful – like clear skin, clean teeth and bright eyes. These things are generally considered to be good. A subjective understanding of beauty is a result of love. Of course you think your friends and family members are beautiful. It’s even obvious that you’ll find strangers beautiful, if you assume whatever you see in them is good. You’re not seeing their outside appearance – or if you are, you’re seeing it bathed in the glow of who they are.

So I was resigned to never glimpsing an objective superficial understanding of people, until I enrolled in the first year art topic, Drawing and Design Fundamentals. During these classes, we were basically told to start drawing what we could see. We were encouraged to stop seeing people and objects as images to which we had attached significance. Rather than drawing an eye as the symbolic circle within an almond shape, we were to draw the lines and shadows that our minds would translate into an impression of the eye. When I drew a person, I stopped seeing her as everything I knew she was, but simply as a collection of lines and contrasting tones.

Three sketches of my tutor – can you guess which one was done with my left hand?

Now that I wasn’t acknowledging in my mind the personal significance of what I was seeing, I could focus more on an isolated understanding of aesthetic. That was when I realised that beauty wasn’t at all in my head. I started marvelling over the curves of wrists, brows and ankles – things that I would never have found exceptional before. I revelled in every new model, because by tracing all of their perfect lines I could pin down another unique form. I wanted to blurt out how beautiful they were, and why, throughout the entire process. The truth is, dear reader, people are just as gloriously beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside. Now I can’t help but swoon over everyone I see – and there is literally no one without something that makes them gorgeous.

A sketch of Daniel.

But then, if I focus entirely on a person as a group of lines alone, my drawing often finishes up not quite true to life. Somehow I don’t quite grasp the whole image; there’s no soul in it. So now, whenever I draw, I try to swap back and forth between seeing a person as a meaningless image and seeing them in their ‘glow.’ I try to impress upon the paper both their objective aesthetic and the identity that lights up their entire form. It’s the only way I can make my drawings work. It seems that, regardless of how superficially lovely a person can look, their spirit is an essential part of their beauty.

Another of my tutors. He sat extremely still; it was both useful and a little concerning :P

I am writing this article mostly because I want people to know how amazing they are. When I see a person and think about how great they look, I don’t usually say anything. I would be disturbed myself if a stranger approached me and gushed about the lines of my shoulders, or how the light makes the hair on my forearms look like sparks. I can tell a person that I like their clothing, or their jewellery, but there’s something very personal about commenting on a person’s body – even if it’s complimentary. I think it’s because it is proof that you have been looking at them more closely than they would like. So I ignore the impulse to vocalise my inner swooning. But you, reader, must know that you are beautiful. It’s too easy to forget.

So while I can’t talk to you personally and point out all the ways you look fantastic, I can talk about the one thing we all have in common: eyes. No matter who you are or what you don’t like about your face or body, your irises are two perfect circles in the midst of all the organic, asymmetrical lines of your form. Two perfect circles, filled with delicate mixes of colour that can be likened to the explosions of light found among the stars; to the delicate fibres of bright coral; or to whatever your conception is of magic. Eyes are beautiful on a phenomenal level. We express most of ourselves through our eyes. This means eyes are the visible connection between our physical beauty and our inner beauty. Your eyes are perfect. You are perfect. No one is an exception.

So if anyone comes up to you in the future and tells you that you have amazing ankles, please don’t be scared. Maybe she’s not a creepy stalker – maybe she’s just a creepy artist.