Thursday, July 27, 2017

Understanding My Limitations

This past weekend was the best that I have had in a long time. There were some definite highs and lows, but over all, I am thankful to have had the experiences that came along with it all. More than anything I learned about myself, more about where I am, what is holding me back, and where I want to go.

The Fierce! Queer International Burlesque Festival and the Pennsylvania Burlypicks brought me to Pittsburgh for 5 days. There's something odd about spending time with a completely different crowd of people in a place that used to be my home. It's a little surreal to visit the places that built so much of my life, almost unattached from the experiences that meant a lot to my formative years.

I'm from here.
But I digress.

During these events, I had the chance to examine aspects about myself both as a person and a performer, specifically my limitations.

A major limitation for me right now is physical. My heart wants to do the splits and learn aerials, to flip and jump, to make it through a full hour long class of dance with a legendary teacher. But the truth is that I can't, not at this point. I've spent the last several years in a job where I am sitting all day, and I rarely get up to stretch because I become hyper-focused and engrossed in my work. The stress level that comes with it leaves me wiped out at the end of the day, barely able to function some days. As a result of this, all of my once-flexible muscles are tense and in knots, I have poor balance, and quite frankly, I often feel physically weak. As I performed over the weekend, and on reflecting on those performances and viewing video, I could see how these limitations detracted from my numbers. Something that I could make into a signature piece is dampened by them. I know none of this is sexy, it's not something I am proud of, and it's hard for me to talk about this in any public way. I've known I have had these limitations, but this week really put a fine point onto it.

It does not impede my ability to eat glitter however
Saturday night was another experience that cemented my knowledge of my ability to handle things, specifically my anxiety when it comes to interacting with people whom I respect and when I care about their impressions of me. It was a tough night for me. The panic attack crept up on me gradually, then all at once. This is not the first time that being at a festival has given me a panic attack. It happened at my first, and again this spring while I was out of town. I thought it would be less of an issue now that I know a good number of people, at least as acquaintances, within the community, especially in a place where I knew so many of the home team crowd. I was quite wrong, and by the end of the first show, I had to leave the building, escape from people, and let the tears flow as I struggled to breathe. It took a long walk and a good amount of time for me to come down. Thank you to the wonderful humans who checked on me and showed me that they cared.

This sass face is a lie
I had a similar feeling invading my Sunday night at Burlypicks. I am not a competitive person, and I don't particularly like the idea of using this art form that has been an outlet of expression as a piece to be judged upon. I know some people love to compete, and earning a title gives them a solid sense of accomplishment. But for me, it's another level stress that I've learned I do not want. So performing a piece for judgment which I had created on a subject near to my nerdy little heart in front of a crowd that may or may not have understood what I was referencing, on top of being acutely aware of my physical limitations, sent me spiraling. I could not wait to get out of the smoky basement and the building, for the night to be over. I paced, moved from place to place, feeling unwanted in every spot. I didn't stick around for the group picture at the end of the night because my anxiety was on high and my skin was crawling. I was battling myself trying to stay friendly, I wanted to say my goodbyes to people, and it was so difficult for me to put on that face.

This fire saw some things
After Burlypicks, I decided I did want to visit the after-party, a relaxed space with a smaller crowd sounded more manageable. While this evening was indeed quite magical, it brought another vivid realization to a head. I'm not comfortable with my sexuality. I'm not sure when this happened, but somewhere along the way, I became uncomfortable with myself in a way that lost my ability to tap into the part my brain which allows me to engage in real desire. The entire weekend was full of beautiful, amazing humans who had me swooning. Between classes, performing, and mingling, being around people who seemed to be so in touch with their sexuality made me acutely aware of my fears surrounding disbelief in my own desirability.  When it came to me being desired even in casual or joking position, I deflected as hard as I could. I joke, acknowledge how awkward I feel, or just generally don't know how to handle myself. And I hate being like that.

"why am I like this" - me to me
My journey to self love has been a long one, and though I struggle like most people do, I am generally in a good place. I love myself, I earned this love after years of beating myself up, trying to fit an ideal created by industries looking to sell me products based on creating insecurities. What I do not understand is why this specific piece is not included under my umbrella of self love. I suspect some of it is that I am fairly recently out as pansexual, so I am going through some growing pains in coming to terms with what that means to me. I'm still very much intimidated in expressing those feelings to other people.

So where do I go from here?

First off, I am determined to spend more time practicing burlesque moves and techniques as well as building my strength. I have a tendency to want to do those things, but when it comes to making it a reality, I often fail. I'm actively looking for a rehearsal space, because I do not really have one. This goal is my top priority. The number one thing that's said to me, especially from other performers, is that they love my costuming. While it's nice to hear that because I've dedicated so many hours to my costumes, it also is sometimes the only thing I hear. So I will be working on leveling up my moves, choreography, and polish. I'll be spending the next year less on developing new acts, and more on the aforementioned polish of existing numbers.

I'll be neglecting you a bit, babies
As far as dealing with my anxiety in these situations, it's always going to be a challenge for me. But I will do my best to fight the voice in my brain that tells me I am unwelcome and undeserving. I make a lot of assumptions that people's view of me is negative until they tell me otherwise, and I'm aware that it's not a healthy way to deal with people. And I will also need to recognize when I should give myself some space. The fear of missing out is strong, but I have to remind myself that sometimes it's okay to not Do All The Things™  all of the time.

Stop that

On the last topic...I am not sure how to fix it. I need to spend more time in introspection about why I have this block. Advice is welcome here.

Overall, I've come away from the experience feeling a sense of relief in these realizations. I'm so grateful to have been included in such an incredible festival and to have made new friends along the way. I'm certainly looking forward to next year. Is it 2018 yet?

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