It’s only Monday and already I find myself clawing my way up the stairs only to fall face first into bed and pass out for over an hour. You’re lucky I woke up at all because the only alarm I had set was for 6:30am tomorrow morning, and I wouldn’t have had a single qualm if I had slept right through. So it’s really only thanks to my impudent stomach and my noisy neighbourhood that there’s a blog at all today. Please forgive me if it ends up being brief.
Now I may pretend that my current state of illness and ruination came completely out of nowhere, but if I’m quite honest, I know exactly how it happened. I had a cold some time ago which I had managed to nearly vanquish but for a bit of a drippy, icky feeling round about the rear of my pharynx and an unpleasantly metallic taste in the back of my mouth. And then I introduced my slightly sickly self to this past week and the rest is history.
You see, Tuesday was purest hell. It was the sort of deadline day that makes me despair of the possibility of ever feeling calm and in control again. It was a nail biting rat race to the finish and the finish was hardly worth celebrating when all was said and done. In a way it was an intensely concentrated run-in with the general content of my 2018 all summarized and re-enacted in the hours that span 8am through 6pm from the first coffee to the delirious collapse. That alone might have been enough to do me in, and certainly would have if not for the comfort of phone calls with friends and delicious North Dumplings.
But that would not be enough to satisfy my hyperactive soul, so come Wednesday I was out again. My reading tutee was out again so I had a moment directly after work to race home through the pouring rain and scoop up an umbrella before heading back to Brooklyn for a discussion group. It was a group of tutors from the place where I volunteer and we were discussing some very interesting issues over pizza and wine. The prevailing discussion surrounded the issue of race, racism, and colourblindness in educational settings. It’s such a broad, deep, and complex series of issues, and they’re all so terribly slippery. I want to be able to engage with the topic but it’s not easy and the risk of a misstep is so great, I feel like a newborn foal on speed skates tumbling around an ice rink hoping only to avoid crashing my sharp, flailing limbs into anyone else. I guess the only way through is open hearted, open minded listening, and respectful, considered, compassionate action. I shall hope that I at least manage to continue stumbling forwards.
After the discussion group, I wandered into Washington Square to grab a drink with a westie before dance. The Belgian beers were divine, I’m told the fries were tasty, and the conversation was very enjoyable indeed. And thus I came to find myself rolling into dance sometime around 10 after nearly four full hours of generally stimulating conversation. It was an excellent evening altogether.
Thursday, I took my grant prep on the road and headed up to The Cooper Hewitt Design Lab for a symposium on accessible design. The day began with the most beautiful heartrending short film: The Commute. It broke my heart so utterly in two with its tragic, beautiful realism and struggle. If you have three unclaimed minutes in your day, give them to this film. It is worth every moment.
After that dramatic beginning, the day continued through a group of 4 inspiring lightning talks, the most awe inspiring of which was the talk given by Patricia Moore, one of the originators of Universal Design. Her consideration, not so much for design and aesthetics, but for people and their stories spoke to me on a far deeper level than expected. I am miles from being a designer, but when I heard her speak, it resonated with the very core of my being and, as I madly proofed proposal documents and scribbled out grant pages, I wondered what I ought to be doing to really make use of the deep seated humanism that sits neglected at my core. I’ve probably been wondering this for years, but I’ve gotten good at ignoring it, right up until someone brave and brilliant and compassionate is standing before me sharing how they’ve brought their fascination with and love of humans to bear on building a better world. I can only hope I’ll figure out where I fit eventually.
Having spent my day coming alive again, I then headed back downtown to grab a quick supper at a diner, finish my current novel–Mo Yan’s Wine Country–and head to a talk at NYU on the topic of slavery in Canada. We self-satisfied Canadian types like to pretend that our only role in slavery was as the promised land at the end of the Underground Railway, but to do as much, I learned that night, is to deny many years of our country’s early history and to deny the experiences of all those enslaved persons who found, not freedom but slavery in our Paradise North of 49. This history was woven with spoken word and stories carved out of escaped slave notices and advertisements of sale and it was powerful and poignant. As a western Canadian who had very little exposure to people of African origin in my childhood, it’s a history that seems so remote but is so important–and neglect. As described above, I continue to stumble along trying to learn and improve and be a little more woke everyday. I only hope that trying is enough.
After a day of listening and being inspired, Friday would be more active, if only for an hour and a half. Yes, after another long day at work, I joined another westie friend of tap dancing origins at an Absolute Beginner Hip Hop class. Yes, Absolute Beginner. This awkward monster needed it. On my last attempt at Beginner Hip Hop some years ago, the teacher eventually came to stand before me in dismay to shout, “No, DOWN! You need to get DOWN! Are you incapable of being down?” The answer was unabashedly yes. So this time it was absolute beginner.
The teacher was the best kind of crazy, she sang and danced and sassed all in equal measure while she brought us gently into the room and then ran us roughshod through a fun fast combo of basic moves. I was less incompetent than previously, but managed to get called out for: a) not breathing enough–apparently I looked like I might pass out, and b) pointing my toes. It’s always an adventure.
Saturday morning I bounded out of bed and charged head first into a very busy day. I began my day by cleaning the apartment and heading to my beloved broga class. It was slightly less hardcore than last week but still left me sweating and exhausted. Someday I will manage an arm balance other than crow. Saturday was not that day. After yoga, it was back home to shower and change before heading uptown to Alice’s Teacup. Patrick’s sister was in town so it was time for scones and after a few train adventures on both their parts and mine, we eventually found ourselves settled into a nook with three pots of tea and six spectacular scones. There are many worse ways to spend an afternoon.
I expected the rain to still be racing down when we left the cafe and had resigned myself to heading home directly after, but instead I was greeted by the most wonderful crisp, cool, misty evening air. So of course, I headed out across the foggy hillocks of Central Park to The Met. Half the city seemed to be there trying to get into the soon to close Michelangelo exhibit, which meant that the rest of the galleries were deliciously unpeopled. I finally spent some time pouring over the arms and armour section, before drifting through my beloved impressionists en route to The American Wing. I’ve never really spent much time in the American wing–much of it does little for me–but this time, I dug deeper and wandered onwards and found the John Singer Sargent section. His portraits of women are remarkable. They gaze upon or away from the viewer so confidently and with such spirit. They are seldom ephemeral, retiring beauties but instead proud, energetic, powerful agents who hold the viewer like an insect in amber. The Portrait of Madame X is, of course, spectacular, but I loved most of all Mr. and Mrs. I. N. Phelps Stokes in which Mrs. Stokes utterly overshadows the darker figure of her husband who nearly dissolves into the background while she pops energetically and proudly out of the frame. It really is all in the eyes.
After three hours or more of wandering through the galleries, I made my way home to eat, lighten my load, and refresh myself before another night of dance. It was a relatively quite night, but I was in good company and so we stayed out until the end anyway.
The next morning, despite the hour that I finally fell asleep, my body decided that 8:30am was in fact, the very best time to wake up. I myself, would disagree, but I apparently did not get to have an opinion on this and so was out of bed by 9am in an absolute strop. Exhausted is not a good look on me, especially when my day is intended to include a photoshoot. Nonetheless, I redyed my hair, put in my contacts, packed my mountains of outfits and gear, and headed into midtown to help out with a photoshoot. In a more rested state, I might have been more amenable to the sweat, but in my exhausted state that day, all I could think about as we dance cardio’d for photo after photo was how much I wanted to get to the yoga part of the shoot. I would not call myself a fan of dance fitness. But the yoga and the wcs shoots were fun and the mimosa that followed was much appreciated, so I marched onwards all the way until Contemporary at Ailey. We had a substitute teacher, but he was spectacular and I actually felt like I was really getting the combo. Yes, my awkward long limbs and I were almost graceful for half a second, in a studio class! I know. It’s barely believable.
Post-dance we headed down to Turnstyle for food. I finally tried Chick N Cone which might just be heaven in a waffle cone, before bidding the uptown folks farewell, piling myself into a train, and dragging my grumpy butt home to sleep. When even a beautiful contemporary combo couldn’t lift my mood for longer than a minute, I knew that it was a matter of sleep deprivation so I tucked my tired, ill-tempered self into bed, snuggled up to my quilt, and fell asleep at what I thought was an entirely reasonable hour.
Nine hours of uneven sleep later, I was rolling out of bed on a Monday morning feeling rested but still rough. I made it into the office and dove straight in, which I suppose makes it unsurprising that after 8 hours straight between meetings and my desk, I was stumbling towards my volunteering obligations feeling flushed and exhausted. I made my way through an hour and fifteen of literacy, dragged myself to the train, hauled myself up five flights of stairs, and with no word of a lie, fell face first into my bed and passed unceremoniously out of consciousness. Apparently, I’m not entirely 100% well just now? I only wish I had time to do something other than to keep on powering through, but what doesn’t kill you…
And on that note, I should probably put my keyboard away and crawl back under my covers in hopes that an hour or two of extra sleep might make mañana a wee bit more manageable.
Still kicking, if only barely,
The Salsa Girl