two-step

Going salsa dancing sans partner usually involves me standing in a corner, nursing a glass of top-shelf water in between dancing with men at least twice my age, who have zero concept of personal space, or alternatively, with boys who smell overpoweringly of thyme and superbly make zero eye contact during the entirety of a 6-minute number.

But I keep going because the music moves me. Because I feel alive. Because I can laugh at my taking the cues that weren’t given, and my partner laughs at his stumbling feet. I am far less self-conscious, or feel the sense of incompetency, when I move to something bigger than me. When it empties me out and fills me over the brim.

Heaven help the American-born boy with a talent for ballet.

Camille Paglia

I went to the Viennese waltz hosted by the Duke Woodwind orchestra for this year’s Valentine’s day, and my escort readily agreed to go even though he knew nothing of ballroom dancing. I thought him incredibly brave, because most guys shrivel from the prospect of being on the dance floor having no idea what’s going on.

Things have been pretty rough lately. I’ve stopped writing, made little time to read, dance, or even make music. And my spirit is dry: I have been losing who I am to be more acceptable in someone else’s book. And the harder I tried the more brittle I became: tired and small. I’ve forgotten–or at least neglected–the machinery that makes me tick and tried to re-vamp the entire system to please others who cannot be pleased. And the harder I tried the more vehement the accusations became.

I know I am imperfect. But no one should have to be perfect in order to be loved and accepted. And I only have one of me.

Writing after a hiatus is kind of like using a leg that’s been in a cast. Awkward and floppy and lacking all neuromuscular coordination. The sentences buckle when I put weight on it. Reflexive twitching of quasimodo thoughts. But writing helps me think and waters my spirit and word by word I walk back toward God. A funny two-step.

A dance of one in body. Two in Spirit.

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what happened to the joy of learning?

Regular Thursday night in grad school: brain to capacity, at all times. Evidently, the wonders of the central nervous system is not very impressive to my own central nervous system, as no more than 2% of what I was reading had been retained.

I remember when I would be fascinated by whatever I encountered: unnamed botanicals that I tripped over on a walk, the way certain consonants and vowels link together and becomes a symbol of a tangible object, the different shades that water and mountain take on the colors of a sunset, tracing out constellations on a clear night with my breath fogging up my vision. I craved to learn, to know more, to know deeper, and I’d flip through pages of atlases and dictionaries and chronicles until aha!, I find something that interconnects whatever was befuddling only a moment before.

The older I get, the less I am enamored with learning. The whole thing has become a chore because suddenly, my success is dependent on how I know what I know. It’s not good enough that I want to learn, but I have to learn certain things certain way, and re-demonstrate what I know on tests, responding accordingly to the way that questions are phrased. And if I learn something wrong, or not in the way the teachers meant for me to respond, then it becomes a hard game to play, because even though I may understand what I was supposed to learn, I may interpret the specific exam questions differently than the professor meant for me to understand and respond. The longer I have been a student the more I am learning for the sake of testing well, lest my self-image and sense of worthiness and potential future career outlook go asunder alongside my suboptimal exams.

I used to be captivated by learning and knowing things, understanding the whys and hows and whats. Now it’s just to pass the test. And I really hate that. During one of our woe-be-us study pow-wows, a classmate and friend stopped and said, you can’t be hungry for knowledge if you’re stuffed all the time.

I want to like learning again. The luminaries of science and arts, of any disciplines really, were often regular people who were in love with learning and knowing more, and that internal hunger leads them onwards, instead having of fear of failure driving them, which is, unfortunately, often my case. But I don’t think it’s uniquely my case: education in almost every culture has become a bargain: you learn this much, you receive this much acknowledgement, which allows you to attain something (a position, a degree, and so forth). Education has become such an agenda, one with desperate timeline. What if you fail and don’t get the grade/job/promotion? What if you don’t make it in time to submit the grant proposal? Where would you get the funds?

The What If’s freak me out and I lose the focus of why I am learning: because I like to know more about the body and how we live our lives in them, and how to make things better when things don’t work as they should. I want to make people feel better about having their bodies back again. And it’s hard to remember the why when I am inundated by the what, and even worse, the what if‘s. 

I want the joy of learning back.