One rainy evening, after a hip-hop class, I boldly asked to my then artistic director her opinion of my ability. For ten months, I had danced under her direction feeling less than. I sat in the dim lobby on the long backless bench overlooking a modern dance class, heart thumping on my tongue and asked certain her answer would magically turn me into the type of dancer she would approve. She was young and did her best to say it without being mean: “you can hit things sharp and you can be smooth, but flowing from sharp to smooth is a challenge for you,” she said. I nodded, thanked her and walked off, angrily grinding my teeth. What does that even mean?
At the time, it didn’t occur to be why I was so angry, but now it is so clear: she told me the truth and I knew it. I had no idea that in between movement was the most important part; the part that connects the story from one move to the next. Without this transitional skill, I was sharing choppy bits of choreography with the audience. I was young and new to this art form, not cognizant of my body’s ability–I thought dancing meant imitating choreography, not making it my own.
A decade has passed since this conversation and I now realize what my artistic director gave me that day. Even in dance, I was doing a version of all or nothing: Sharp/ Smooth. This translated to the way I lived my life then and even now, if I’m not mindful of it.
June 22nd, 2015, I began my sabbatical. At first, I thought I have to finish a book this year. I have to find my next step. I have to lose the weight I have gained. I have to go to India. I have to have a baby. I have to self-publish my poetry manuscript. I have to dance more. I have to strengthen my core. I have to fix up my house. I have to clean out my closet. I have to get back into cooking. I have to go for walks every day. I have to ride my bike. I have to swim regularly. I have to keep a clean house. I have to find myself. The “have to’s” piled up, weighing me down. The first three months, I dove into revising all my poems. I recruited friends to help me and worked daily for hours. The next month and half, I planned my trip to India. From shots to passports to trip agendas and bookings, I spent all my time on the pending gargantuan trip with my husband.
Early November, we landed at Dulles Airport from the most epic journey we have ever taken. We survived my motherland and a terrorist attack in Paris safely. Back at my second home, I sat most days inside a well of darkness mourning the loss my culture. My regular headaches returned. Commence the “nothing” phase. This was when my husband asked me when the last time was that I went a whole week without a headache. It was my wakeup call; I couldn’t remember. Like the perfectionist that I am, I began to research how to rid myself of these headaches. This year, this sabbatical was the perfect time to cure them, I told myself. So, I enter the “all” phase again. I found an acupuncturist, I found a massage therapist who specialized in headaches and I went to work.
Now I have received hundreds of massages. So when I went for my first session, I undressed and laid face down on the table, beginning my usual, expert, deep breathing. The massage therapist started with a few trigger point strokes and then stopped for a few minutes, did some more and stopped again. Every time he stopped, I tightened. I am paying a lot of money here, I thought. Why is he resting? My mind twirled in frustration, but being the people pleaser that I am, I didn’t say anything. When it ended, I made up mind to pay and never return. This guy was obviously a quack and I was not going to waste my money. We sat across from each other to handle the payment and he told me, he liked to do intense work on the body, but gave it time to integrate the work. If you don’t do that, then you are stressing the same muscles that work over time, he continued. So the rest periods are just as important as the massage itself, he finished. I smiled, nodded, paid and left unconvinced.
The next day, however, I couldn’t shake what he’d said. Suddenly, after years of ignoring the in-between, he forced me to breath through this space— where I believed nothing was happening. But something is happening! My body and mind are working to function at a better level. That same week, I went to Unity of Fairfax and the Reverend’s message was the same: we can tend to dive into the new full force without letting our body, mind, emotions to catch up with it. He advised to work a little and rest a little, but know rest is when your body, mind, and emotions merge the new with the old.
It has only been five months since I have started feeling comfortable in this “resting” space between productivity and well more productivity. When I practice this principle: work a little, rest a little, plan a little, draw a little, read a little, walk a little, lift a little, stretch a little, clean a little, watch tv a little, write a little, sleep a little; I am energized, feeling less pressure.
As a twenty-four year old, it was hard to see transition as the most important part of life. It’s when the new and old are creating a solid foundation. Nowadays, I make the “in-between’s” count more than the before’s and after’s.