Sunday, November 02, 2003

talking to Jill on the phone

So we finally got a chance to talk about what joining the troupe entails. I was at my desk surrounded by ATM receipts that need to go into Quicken, she was driving home from the dog park where she's trying to teach her new canine charge not to be afraid of larger dogs. A far cry from the shadowy, jingling, whirring, hip-dropping, ululating, rose- and amber-scented world of le danse orientale. As an American Buddhist titled his book, 'after the ecstasy, the laundry.'

She was trying to gauge my commitment. "Without burdening you with the whole story, and conscious of the fact that you're driving," I said, "there is a major transition going on in my life, of which bellydancing is an outward manifestation, and one to which I am committed to devoting my energy. I am definitely into it."

"That answers my question," she responded. "I didn't know. People have different reasons. Some people are dedicated to performance, some are just interested in it as a mode of expression. But you've been diligent, and you communicate well, and you seem well-adjusted [I am withholding the editorial comment in accordance with an effort to not keep undercutting myself, but it's wriggling pretty hard and I don't know how long I'll be able to hold it down] and those are qualities I want in the group." "My heart's in the right place," I told her, "even if my hips aren't yet." I'm proud of that last, it took a while to come up with. Jill didn't laugh. Oh well. Maybe she was changing lanes. Maybe it's just funny to me.

We spoke more, about the contract (not uncommon in troupes) and dues and rehearsal requirements, picking up troupe responsibilities, supporting the professional troupe, and the advantages of a group of new students coming in all at once instead of in dribs and drabs. I took notes. I told her not to pull over to get the business manager's phone number, I knew where to find her online. We said goodbye and went back to our prosaic days, she to get her house ready for a party, me to scheduling work.

Her comment, though, really stuck. The idea that I appear to have my shit together. Emphasis on the word 'appear', because there have definitely been some days in the past month (uh, call that the past year) where I felt like I was careening wildly, and especially when I first started training with her, I was often fighting back tears in her class. Not because it was hard (although it is) or because I thought I would never get it (I know better; aikido has taught me a lot about perseverance) but because I'd start thinking about E, and how supportive he'd been of my dancing, and the fact that we danced really well together, and how I had let that convince me (along with other things, of course) that we were star-crossed.

Yes, I'm one of those people who starts really focussing on a discipline when I'm recovering from a breakup--I'd been doing aikido for a couple of months when BowlCut moved out of our apartment, and my practice got a lot more serious right afterwards (I've talked to quite a few people of whom this is true, incidentally), and now to some extent the same is true of my break with E. Although I'd always wanted to study bellydance, my incredible desolation post-E was like jet fuel.

I mention this because I've written to him, and told him about being invited to join the troupe, and he has responded very warmly, and asked me to keep in touch. We may be friends yet. I'm not ready to see him, or meet his girlfriend, but we can email each other, gently.

An art therapist whose book I've been skimming talks about making a 'safety box.' You take, oh, a shoebox or cigar box or something, and put the things in it that remind you of whatever you're sad about. Not just to get them out of the way, I mean, you decorate the outside or some such crafty art therapist glue gun and glitter sort of thing, and you treat the object as a sacred receptacle. You have all this intentionality around it. You're not putting these things--or feelings--away for good, you're just sort of giving yourself a little breathing space.

I haven't made my safety box yet. Not for lack of materials, as there is no lack of cigar boxes in either my studio or my family's holdings, but I just haven't had the time. So I have an imaginary safety box in my head. And it's working pretty well. I mean, it's a great replacement for the current system, which is some sort of perverse aversion therapy thing I do where I just wallow. Not a safety box, more like an open strip mine. Anyway. The great advantage to the virtual safety box, besides the fact that it's a lot safer than trusting me with a hot glue gun, is that in my head, I can make it any size I want. Which is a goodness, in light of the past twelve months or so; I don't know that a cigar box would really do it.

And my virtual box has a lid large and strong enough for me to dance on.