The Return of the Dancer and the Need for Space

There was a smile in Vickie’s voice. “I know why you want to do capoeira. I’ve known since Sydney.”

“Okay, why do I want to do capoeira?”

The smile was still there as she said, “Because you want to show off.”

I laughed, but as Vickie turned to her computer, the idea stuck with me; a feeling refused to leave. An uncomfortable feeling. It demanded my attention.

Because what Vickie had said in semi-jest was true. And I didn’t like it.

Oh, there are a good many legitimate reasons to learn capoeira. It’s a martial art, for starters, and even in these enlightened times it’s not a bad idea to know how to defend yourself. It’s a fitnes aid, and I wanted to carry on with what I’d built up in last year’s bootcamp. It’s a dance, too; it looks graceful and bouncing.

It was also an idea that had come from my own enthusiasm – or, at least, that was how I looked at it; more mine than the bootcamp, which started because my step-daughter Deena needed a guinea pig for her personal trainer’s course.

I’ve known there was a capoeira class in town for a good few years. I’d called the teacher once maybe three years ago, made sure the class was still running (the web site looked like it hadn’t been updated in a while) but never done anything about it.

Deena had started suggesting that I started putting cash aside for another season of bootcamp, but I was sick of the quarter-to-five starts during the week and losing six hours plus travel time to the bootcamp schedule – much as I got on good with my fellow maggots, I wanted that time and money back to explore other things. (Maybe capoeira was as much an act of defiance as a decision to put my money where my mouth was.)

On Tuesday night, I packed a set of exercise gear into the black shoulder bag and took it in with me on Wednesday. got changed at work and then arrived at the PCYC.

At the end of the class, our teacher asked us said, “who wants to play?”

No one answered. We’d already played – a sort of sparring to music after the exercises where we’d learned the moves.

There was a point half-way – or was it a third of the way? – through the lesson when i was absolutley exhausted. I thought, “Enough. Sit the rest of this out. You’ve already done more capoeira than you have in your life. It’s okay to say ‘enough’.”

Drawing of a capoerista by Rob FarquharBut I kept going, and eventually felt better. I may have been staggering through the moves and looking, no doubt, completely uncoordinated (especially compared to the four other people who’d had at least a few lessons under their belt – at least two had all the leanness I’d seen in pictures and videos of capoeristas beforehand) but I was proud of myself for pushing through.

“Let’s her you say it,” our teacher said. “I want to play!”

He must have felt we weren’t exactly eager – and to be honest, I hadn’t been. Much as I was telling myself that I was only just starting out and had no business comparing my beginner’s skills with either my fellow students or some ideal in my own head, getting up in front of the rest of the class and actually implementing the moves I’d learned (?) was a confronting idea.

Yet, I’d done it anyway. Maybe I was losing my worries about “how I must look to others”.

Oh, what the heck? I thought. “I want to play!”

Our teacher looked at me.

“If I’m going in,” I said, “Why not go in all the way?”

“That’s the spirit!” our teacher said.

Thing is, though, it wasn’t. Not really.

The next day at work, I couldn’t wait to tell my colleagues what I’d done the night before. even the flopping-around-like-an-unco bits. I hung out for someone to ask me how I was so I could use my soreness and semi-knackeredness to lead into this awesome thing I’d started doing.

And last night, though it wasn’t her intention, Vickie had put my need to show off, to try and appear cool (I mean, come on – go look at some videos of capoeira in action and tell me that doesn’t look pretty damn frakkin’ cool), down in front of me where I had to pick it up and examine it.

I came back to how I’d felt during that session, especially at the end once the play was done. It wasn’t that I wanted to not play – that it was something I was actively trying to avoid – that made my response to our teacher a lie.

It was simply that I didn’t care for it.

My reply was a front. A way of getting him off my case.

Resignation in place of enthusiasm. 

Since the end of last year, I’ve been finding myself coming back to the various things that I’ve fixated on – roleplaying games, trading card games, LAN parties, Halo over Xbox Live, miniatures games, movies with spaceships and lasers and giant robots – and that haven’t really brought anything meaningful into my life. Most of the time, I used them to conjure in my head an anticipation of great times that never really happened. Connections to awesome people who I rarely, if ever, met and didn’t really connect with. Thety were sources of stress and disappointment instead of fun.

I realised that capoeira was the latest thing in this trend, albeit a more socially interesting one than half the things I’d picked up before. I wanted it as something I could show off to all and sundry, to make me into a dancer, all sleek lines, taut muscles and ass-kickery. (The same, shallow, badass action-figure ideal that has often drawn me to my various fantastic interests.)

Knowing that, would I still go back for a second session this evening? Could I set aside my need to show off and just do it as a way of keeping my stamina, the muscle I’d built in bootcamp? Was there a baby I was throwing out with the bathwater?

The answer came from my right arm. I’d caused it a sprain when I came off the Foxy Lady in December and after all the push-ups and floor-touches and attempted handstands and cartwheels in the class it had started to hurt – not badly, but enough to say “Hey, time to take it easy.” Vickie had suggested an elastic bandage yesterday, but no matter how she applied it part of my right hand would go numb.

Enough, I thought. Enough for now. This time, I meant it.

Suddenly I found myself contemplating other aspects of my life through this new lens, this new perspective on my need to Be Somebody. I’d installed HootSuite on my phone and computer in order to try and keep up with and manage my Facebook and Twitter feeds, but all it did was make them feel like a chore – half the Twitter lists I’d set up I never checked. LinkedIn was just another source of forum updates and connection invitations that didn’t go anywhere. I was investing myself in them for no real purpose. I wasn’t keeping connected with the people on my Friends list; I was just keeping up with their lives. All the streams coming in, but I didn’t know what to do with them.

My friends’ lives were turning into noise.

I felt like an addict, needing to check feeds every chance I had just in case someone had shared an interesting link or posted a status update I could like, comment on, share.

I was dancing again. (I wish I could link you to a post I wrote on the old IMAGinES web log about not missing the dancer some years ago, but that site is down right now.)

Was I as bad as some? Maybe not. But I still didn’t like the way I felt. 

Last night I realised I’d had enough of the temptation to try and prove (to myself?) what an interesting person I am. I felt the need to go cold turkey.

I cancelled my LinkedIn profile and the second twitter profile I’d set up for gaming. I put a note up on Facebook telling folks that I intend to shut my profile down on Sunday (I was going to shut it down immediately, but Vickie reminded introvert-me that hurting my friends by just dropping out of sight wasn’t fair).

I’m doing myself some damage, I suppose. My accountabilibuddy (check the concept out here) is giving me a hand with my Google Analytics and Facebook is the biggest source of my website traffic behind Google. Yet cutting everything off and starting again at the soil makes more sense than pruning a bush I don’t care for anyway.

I’d not made myself any specific resolutions at the end of 2013, but I think I’ve come up with one – give myself some space to figure out just who I am when no one’s looking; who I can be when I’m not trying to please folks or Make My Life Interesting. That’s the real reason why I set the capoeira aside and shut my social media presences down; I need space and I need to not try and fill it immediately with more stuff.

Right now, I’m starting this year with the goal of getting into the habit of writing for twenty minutes each day. I tried cramming another twenty minutes of sketching and yet another of exercise in on top of that, but even though that’s only an hour per day total, I’ve discovered it’s still trying to overload my wagon. Patience, I’m discovering, is worth practising, before I drive myself up the same wall that capoeira and Facebook are on with too much enthusiasm.

What about you?

What hobby or passion did you take on because you thought it would help you look cool / interesting?

When have you cut back in order to give yourself space?