Broken

I’ve been in Chicago now for almost 8 months. As you might have noticed, my blogging stopped around month 2 and I haven’t uploaded many pictures or videos to Facebook. So what’s going on?

Don’t worry, I’m still doing circus! We’ve had some amazing lab weeks…and I fully intend to come back and write about those because they were so impactful, but this post is about struggle, so here goes:

It was easy for me to fall into negative thinking. After all, being injured sucks. I’m living in Chicago while my fiancé, my business, my work, my cat, my friends, and my home are in South Dakota. My time in Chicago has an expiration date…why bother with people?

I am depressed, and my body is broken.

Many of my days this year have looked like this:

  • Wake up at 3 AM. Go back to sleep.
  • Wake up at 4 AM. Go back to sleep.
  • Wake up at 6 AM to my alarm. Hit snooze every 5 minutes for an hour.
  • “I didn’t need to wash my hair today anyway.”
  • Log in to work for an hour and a half before school. Try not to get frustrated with never having enough time to find a good stopping point. I feel like I’m never doing enough and I long for the office environment where I get so much more done.
  • Go to school to do ankle and hip rehab, handstands, and whatever else my body can tolerate that day, and then sit on the side of classes, telling myself “letting your body heal IS productive.”
  • Limp home, eat my chili, shower, climb into bed at 7:30, and listen to an audiobook while playing Spider Solitaire.
  • Realize I haven’t been listening for 5 minutes - no, wait...2 hours?! - and turn it off.
  • Sometimes I fall asleep with the light on.

One Saturday I laid in bed all day because I couldn’t decide what to do. Nothing sounded appealing. I tried listening to an audiobook. I knew I needed to do laundry, but I just didn’t care.

My favorite Tank for doctor appointments. note my beautiful face.

My favorite Tank for doctor appointments. note my beautiful face.

In December, I sprained my ankle doing a back tuck on trampoline. I sat out of dance, tumbling, acro, and trampoline classes for over 2 months. I couldn’t climb the silks with my feet for about 8 weeks, and footlocks were out of the question.

It hasn’t been all bad of course! The good thing about silks is that I don’t particularly need both feet… so I modified my act and ended up performing 2 weeks in a row in February – once in Chicago and once in Sioux Falls. The showcase was awesome, and I am so proud of all the students and so grateful to the team that keeps Cirque Dakota thriving.

And the last week of February, I was having a GREAT week. I added a rotation to a drop on silks. I played with new material. I was slowly getting comfortable on trampoline again. I was able to participate more in dance, and I could kick up into handstands and cartwheels from my bad ankle..

But the next week I could hardly walk. Something is not right with my hip. And so I was back to sitting out of most classes, including silks this time.

It’s not the first time I’ve had hip issues, but this is definitely the worst of my flare ups. Finally ready to do something about it, I went to the doctor over Spring Break and got an MRI. Turns out I have a torn labrum (which I already suspected). That is the ring of cartilage between the ball and socket of the hip joint.

After talking to an orthopedic surgeon, it’s still unclear as to whether I will need surgery, but I am hopeful that with physical therapy, I might not need it. Labrums don’t heal themselves, but if I can get the muscles around my hip joint to fire correctly and build up strength in my glutes and low abs, my pain should decrease, and my range of motion should come back. With one session of PT, I’ve already seen quite a bit of progress. The PT did say “no silks right now, unless you want surgery.” So my handstands are getting really solid.

Pre-MRI selfie game on point

Pre-MRI selfie game on point

I will not be doing silks in the final show, but I am going to be in several group numbers. We are in rehearsal mode now. No more afternoon classes, just show creation, and it is exhausting, both physically and mentally.

I should also mention that while I was at the doctor over Spring Break, I finally got antidepressants and refilled my Adderall prescription. If you get nothing else from this post, I want to preach this:

Depression is an illness. Would you tell someone with cancer to “suck it up”? Of course not. Sometimes, no matter how much you exercise or how well you eat, you can be depressed. There is a chemical imbalance. And needing medication is not a weakness.

It’s still early in my course of meds. I have good days and bad days. Some days I don’t feel like getting out of bed, and I neglect responsibilities, which spirals me into never feeling like I’m doing enough. But I’m working on cutting myself some slack, and I’m going to get better. Physically and mentally.

I’ve got a big year ahead of me, and I’m going to make the most of it.

Chicago Week 7: The Engagement Story and Physical Theater

I got engaged last weekend. Say whaaaatttt?! Much like my last post, if you’re only reading for circus shit, skip down to the Circus Talk. Otherwise, buckle up for the engagement story.

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Last weekend, Paul and I met in La Crosse, Wisconsin because it's the halfway point between Chicago and Sioux Falls. It was a cold, rainy day, so we did an escape room. Alas, we did not escape, but it was still fun. Then we ate at a hibachi place (my favorite). At one point during dinner, Paul asked if I had brought an umbrella. “I thought we might like to go on a walk later.” (Subtle. Very subtle. :P)

But it was cold, and we ditched that idea so I could do my laundry at the hotel, and we watched an episode of Breaking Bad. After an episode, but before it was time to get my laundry from the dryer, we were just killing time cuddling and talking. I said something along the lines of "I want to be with you forever," at which point Paul asked, “do you mean it?” and then he pulled out the ring. He said a few mushy things (I’ll spare the details) and asked, “will you marry me?” I cried. Oh yeah, and I said yes.

We’ve had quite the year, especially the last several months. I ruptured a huge ovarian cyst the day I was supposed to move to Chicago for circus school (which I’d only had 2 weeks to prep for anyway). Paul recently started new job and locked down several freelance projects. He also inherited my cat and my roommate, Samara. And that’s just since September.

Life has been chaotic, but I couldn’t imagine a better partner through all of it. Paul has been my rock, and I know we will continue kicking ass together. Forever.

Alright. Mushy time is over. Let’s talk Circus.

On Mondays we have our Physical Theater class in the afternoon for 3 hours. Now, what exactly does that entail?

Good question. There's really no short answer. We often have an active part of class including games like foursquare. But since we are circus folk, it tends to get weird.

Our theater coach, Adrian, encourages us to take note of our reactions, both physical and verbal, in the games we play. And since we are circus people, we tend to feel more comfortable with the physical reactions.

So naturally, we spent the last 3 weeks on verbal - monologues to be exact. But not just any monologues. Each of us wrote a story from our past. They are all wildly different, ranging from a 5-year-old taking home 2 kittens to someone finding out their dad had died.

We swapped stories and have been making them our own by making choices about what we, the performers, want from the audience.

For example, the monologue I am working on is about having a crush on a dance teacher, working extra hard to impress him, then failing miserably during the performance. Each section could have a different want. During the first section as I describe the dance and the instructor, I want to be seen as shallow - maybe a little trashy. Then as the character fails, the trashiness and shallowness falls away, and I want the audience to pity me.

I could choose to be shallow the whole time, but that makes for a flat character. The more desires and choices, the more interesting the piece becomes. So those are two big wants, but it can even be done on a smaller scale. It could be the difference between two words, "SO neutral."

Why does this matter?

Transitions make or break an act. But what does that MEAN? Even the smoothest transitions and the best tricks can combine to make a boring act if there are no choices, no desires. You don't have to have a story, you don't have to be a character, but your act should make sense.

So that's what I'm working on, and my brain is reeling from so many ideas. I probably spent more time on silks this week than I have in the previous 6 weeks. It feels good to be back in the air. Here's to hoping for more inspired weeks like this one!