worryworryworryworryworryworry

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Can’t help it, pretty sure it’s in my DNA. The only thing anybody is talking about is the weather. If there is one thing that is sure to send me into a tailspin before you can say Bob’s your uncle, it’s weather. I get it from my dad. (Sorry, Dad. You know I speak the truth.) My dad can tell you everything you want to know and then some about the weather in his parts. And in mine. And probably in yours, just ask him.

The problem is that everywhere you turn right now–Internet, television, radio–you hear that the Worst Storm in The History of the Universe is bearing down on us. We’re all gonna die. I should keep the radio and television turned off and go about my business. And I would, but then I would worry about what I was missing. It could be important, and I might be really sorry were I to avert my gaze for a critical nanosecond. And there was also that text from Handsome Chef Boyfriend asking me to pick up a case of water on my way home from work because he had gone into another store earlier and they were all out of water. <Cue stomach ache.> Just to be perfectly clear: HCB never worries about the weather. Ever.

See what I mean? worryworryworryworryworryworry

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Probably best to distract myself. HCB made the kiddos their supper (snow day tomorrow, woo hoo), and then we got busy making our own: winter salad of spinach, baby kale, beets, garbanzos, olives, mushrooms, and flank steak. Sorry, vegetarian friends, but it was amazing.

Think I’ll go chew my nails some more. It’s sunny and warm somewhere.

Now, if I can just…figure out…how to…work this…thing.

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About a half inch of packed ice covered Vermont’s Route 7A between Arlington and Bennington on Monday morning after a tricky storm last weekend began with snow and ended with rain. A half-hour commute to work stretched into roughly fifty minutes, not bad considering. I still do not understand winter road conditions in New England, nor how it was possible to navigate that well-traveled stretch of highway, to say nothing of a few miles on awful looking secondary roads. On that same day there were five traffic fatalities elsewhere on icy roads in the country.

I did not slide once on the way to work Monday, my first day. I swear, I do not know how this was possible. Handsome Chef Boyfriend usually has an explanation, and sometimes I sort of get it. This time he told me the plow trucks leave crusty ice on purpose and apply sand to it, which is better than trying to scrape. Huh. Well, if you insist. I am happy whenever I can come and go in one piece.

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On Tuesday and Wednesday I drank in a gorgeous sunrise and sunset, my throat catching a couple of times at the incredible beauty of waxing and waning daylight bathing frosty ridgelines: the fleeting prize punctuating winter’s darkness. I tried to pay attention to the road, still new to me, along with everything else going on at the moment.

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The work week ended well. My world is upended again, thank the universe. I mean that. The biggest work is still to come and has everything to do with finding balance. I have always made bits and pieces work, but lately the squeaky wheel has gotten the grease. Every. Single. Time. The challenge as ever is making all the gears grind smoothly at once. Call it wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Or aligned planets, choose your metaphor.

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I leave you with the simple, stunning beauty of today’s sunset, and no metaphor, which it does not need anyway.

First Day Jitters

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Yesterday dawned clear and sunny and very cold in central Vermont, my last time to wake up in the loft, HCB at my side. We had the big work of packing and moving ahead of us, still time for a final cup of coffee before we pushed up our sleeves. The winter storm that is settling into New England tonight would wait a day, thankfully.

I told HCB the story of waking up for the first time in the loft, also on a clear and sunny morning, but sweltering. Clarence-the-Canine had slept near the bottom of the bed and sat up and stretched the way dogs do sometimes, bolt upright, lifting his muzzle skyward with a quiet vocalization. When he finished he froze and stared out of the south-facing windows, surveying the expanse of meadow below, the tree line just beyond. I swear I could see bewilderment on his fuzzy face, or an epiphany, or something that said, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

I have not been in Kansas since summer of 2012. Terror came with me first, then garden variety fear, and then just work and worry. Moving has not gotten any easier, despite the fact that I’ve done it three times in as many years. Yesterday I continued culling through belongings and thinking about what will be essential in coming days, what I will need in coming weeks, what can wait. Then there will be a few difficult decisions about parting company with some things (again).

I had already packed some books and HCB was poised to schlep them down to the car. But they were non-essential, so I stopped him. Instead I gathered and boxed my cherished reference collection, still only a piece of the whole thing. I don’t rely on them every single day (although I should turn to them more than I do). But I feel better knowing they’re there, and that I can put my finger on what I want right away, should the need arise.

Tomorrow will come early and I will start my new job a few miles down the road from HCB’s place–our place. I am a tad nervous, of course, but this particular transition has been a long time coming and the jitters are a welcome piece of that. As a trusted friend in the ballet world once told me before a pivotal event at my small ballet school in Knoxville, a few nerves are good–they make you sharp. 

I am ready to be sharp.

Pleasantly Neurotic

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One thing I’ve learned from hanging around with shrink friends through the years: everybody behaves neurotically sometimes–nobody is exempt. Getting a diagnosis as clinically neurotic in some way depends on where your behavior lies along a continuum–are you neurotic all the time, or are you a once-in-a-while, casual neurotic?

I have self-diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder–not every second of every day, but pretty damn near close, and I have been this way most of my life, I think. It manifests in all kinds of kooky ways, like how I fold clothes in neat squares (as if anybody besides me sees it or cares), or how I tuck in the corners of the sheets on my bed. Because everybody knows if you don’t tuck them in just right, the earth’s magnetic field will reverse and we will be wiped out as a species.

I have come a long way towards recovery through the years, though–parenting will do that to you. The singluar experience of child rearing will wipe that OCD right off your face, and sometimes make it impossible for you to do things like, say, take a shower in the morning. Personal hygiene tends to be rawther important to those of us with OCD. And right at this moment my car’s condition happens to be proof positive of OCD recovery. (When it is winter in Vermont, you might as well forget about keeping a clean car.)

So I figure it all balances out–the wacky and the normal.

When I am under any kind of duress, though–even the good kind, my OCD announces itself loud and clear, like the fruit on Carmen Miranda’s hat. Right now, for example, I should be getting as much of my stuff into boxes as I can ahead of this weekend, when Handsome Chef Boyfriend will arrive to help me pack every single thing we can possibly squeeze into two carloads ahead of my move to his place. And ahead of my new job. Which starts on Monday. We will be back in the coming days to get more loads, but it’s a long drive–we need to make the most of each trip.

So I am polishing silver (and blogging).

Seems reasonable.

Silver polish was on my shopping list last weekend, when HCB was here helping. Why do you need silver polish, he asked?

To polish silver, I said. Duh.

The real reason is that what little silver I possess is tarnished to the point of being unrecognizable and I can’t bear to just throw it into a box that way. (OCD.) Ditto textiles. They’ve got to be clean, and preferably packed in plastic bins (the inside of which I just washed with hot, soapy water, yes really). HCB brought me cardboard boxes last weekend, bless him. I was explaining that I could not pack textiles into them because I’d have to wash them a second time, when I unpacked them, because they would be touching cardboard.

That’s why I was careful to bring you clean cardboard boxes, he explained.

Nope.

Still, I admit to a bit of wackiness this week and last, and the week before. Which is why, I think, when my very sweet friend Rebecca announced this reading challenge I jumped right on it. At one time in my past when I had a disposable income I liked to buy books–lots and lots of them. I had bookcases on bookcases in every room of the house. (OCD, or possibly hoarding, definitely neurotic.) Weeding through them ahead of moving a thousand miles from Tennessee to Vermont was no small thing. I pulled a bunch of titles I’d never read thinking I would have plenty of time to finally dig into them in my new life. (Wrong.) But this challenge seemed like a great idea, and perfectly timed, poised as I am to take on extra projects.

January 2015 seems as good a time as any to start some serious reading. And a new job. And a new life with Handsome Chef Boyfriend.

Think I’ll go look for my fruit hat. Just as soon as I finish polishing silver.

Carmen Miranda

Lit Up Like a Christmas Tree

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It is an expression Handsome Chef Boyfriend uses when he trudges up the back steps to my place and throws open the door for a visit, chiding me for waste. The loft is beautiful, full of volume and warmth with its cheerful yellow walls we painted when I moved in. It was a soft spot to land after my first Vermont winter in an overpriced cottage with no insulation, where I could see my breath inside with the heat on. Clarence-the-Canine spent his twilight months here, happily, I think, and is buried on the property. The jaw-dropping beauty of the surrounding acreage is not lost on me, even though more than a year into this particular chapter of my Vermont adventure I’ve only explored the teeniest bit of it–the impressive network of trails on this land is difficult to reach in winter without equipment.

I like my home lit up at night because I have an issue with my vision which makes it challenging for me to see well without plenty of light. I will always have bright lights where I live, unapologetically. And somehow the lighting makes the place feel less empty in the absence of Clarence’s tail-wagging love, when I must occupy the space alone. But after a short winter day that is relatively bereft of light, it is also essential, elemental.

As is my Christmas tree, which rode home shotgun with my son when we went to pick him up from the bus station for his holiday visit–he made it very clear in the days before his arrival that we must have a tree. Last year I did not have one at all. Last year I did not even bring my Christmas stuff upstairs from the garage. I had no Christmas music, no Christmas stories (you can see the stack of them in the photo, on the right), no decorations of any kind, because I was too busy chasing my tail, trying to make ends meet.

I thought this year would be better, and then it got exponentially worse, without warning.

Winter arrived suddenly, or so it seemed; I felt myself flagging after a storm took out power for a few days. I felt cut off from the world (even if this was not really so) and began to lose the resolve that I dragged a thousand miles with me from Tennessee. More than once I told myself, and others, I can’t do this anymore. It was not any single thing–being isolated, or the biting cold, or dealing with an impassable and dangerous driveway, or barely making ends meet: it was the sum total of these things that felt insurmountable, and just plain stupid.

And at this really low point, where I questioned almost every single decision I’d made in my adult life, there was an unexpected rip in the atmosphere, like a piece of long misplaced sinew finally sliding over bone and settling once more where it belongs. And things were better, really better.

Soon I will say goodbye to the loft, and its land, and to Clarence-the-Canine for a final time. I will start a new job and a new life with my Handsome Chef Boyfriend, under the same roof. Finally.

There is no paradise, said a wise person. I know this to be the truth, but I am still lit up like a Christmas tree.

 

 

The Nutcracker is here to stay.

P.I. Tchaikovsky

I like to think Peter (Pyotr for purists) Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a rock star in his day, but I can’t say for sure. He certainly was an attractive man. One thing I can say is that his Nutcracker score (penned not long before his death) is tacky ballet music through and through. There, I’ve said it.

I can also say that I’ve made it through the entire holiday season (as defined by big box retailers) without hearing it a single time. Woohoo!

Before you declare me a Christmas curmudgeon and banish me from the kingdom, consider this: for dancers in big companies The Nutcracker represents hours and hours of repetitive work to that familiar, overwrought score, sometimes upwards of forty-plus times in a season (roughly defined as sometime around Thanksgiving and going right up to the New Year). Elsewhere in the world it is also performed at other times of the year. Waltz of the Flowers elicits the biggest eye roll with its embellished, saccharine sweet harp intro that is almost a caricature of itself, going on and on before the familiar oompah-pah oompah-pah heralds its start in earnest (listener alert! it’s a waltz!). To be fair, I have known dancers who actually like dancing Nutcracker. Not many, though. My favorite Flowers story: Daniel Ulbricht (NYCB Principal) has been known to stand in the wings and dance the “Y-M-C-A” dance for the amusement of the corps during that schmaltzy waltz. There’s one in each ballet in Tchaikovsky’s holy ballet trinity: Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. Evidently there was a rule in the late nineteenth century that a very big, showy waltz had to be scored to satisfy some sensibility of the day.

In truth, though, I have a huge soft spot for The Nutcracker. From the time I was about eight and for several years thereafter my mama and I were cast together in Memphis Ballet’s version (lifted pretty overtly and shamelessly from Mr. Balanchine, as the company and school directors were Balanchine disciples)—I was in Act I, she in Acts I and II, usually in Snow and in the Chinese variation, which had continuous pirouettes she could pull off like nobody’s business. She was always a work horse of a dancer, very reliable, and I think the company director really liked that about her. For me, as is the case with so many young ballerina wannabees, it was simply magical, end to end, even the year I had flu and almost vomited back stage when I overheated in my wool felt soldier costume. I recently quipped to somebody that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, which is true. But my memories of Thanksgiving growing up—aside from the food and Macy’s parade and all that—have much to do with Nutcracker rehearsals, which were a galvanizing thing between me and mom, something special that unified the two of us. Sharing the stage somehow set us apart from other moms and their daughters, and we will always have that.

Another truth: there is one part of the score I really, really like, and that is Snow (Act I, Scene II)—the whole thing, starting with the Nutcracker’s transformation into a prince. It’s also a moment in classical ballet where there is choral accompaniment, which does not happen often. The Snow pas de deux, danced sometimes by Snow Queen and her prince, other times by the Nutcracker Prince and Clara/Marie, is my favorite in the ballet, too. And I must say I am sorry to have missed the fifth and final year of American Ballet Theatre’s new Alexei Ratmansky Nutcracker, which ran at Brooklyn Academy of Music and will now move to the West Coast; I can only hope for a DVD at some point, or that ABT will resurrect it in the near future in NYC.

The reality is that for most ballet companies The Nutcracker represents revenues they rely on to get them through the rest of their fiscal year, without which they could not likely exist. It’s also a great recruiting tool for the art form, not unlike all those amazing air shows the Air Force and Navy take on tour to enthrall aspiring young pilots. There is always some discussion in some corner of the world about the waning of ballet as an art form, particularly since it experienced a boom in the 70s, the likes of which it has not really seen since. I submit that there is nothing to worry about unless and until companies quit dancing Nut: it is maybe the best-ever barometer for ballet’s health and well-being.

I leave you with some silliness I like to post every single year, although I am a little late getting to it this time around. Lots going on with me at the moment, about which more later. Happy New Year! (Oh, and if you want to know the Nutcracker Truth: the versions we bring our children in droves to see each year typically bear little resemblance to the original E.T.A. Hoffman tome; there is a nice translation illustrated by Maurice Sendak worth a look-see if you are interested to know just how far we have migrated from the original tale.)