Monday, January 8, 2018

Thoughts on the Threshold

There's a moment before you cross a suspension bridge when time gets weird. You can feel your heart beating at a rhythm and pace that seem all wrong and the world becomes uncomfortably clear.

Lately I've been thinking about liminal spaces. Maybe you've heard of them. The light rail station. A waiting room in a hospital. An airport. The moments after you put in your two weeks notice.

Liminal spaces are special not for what they are, but for the experiences they connect. They have a very specific, distinct feeling. When you're in a liminal space, you haven't entered into the next phase, but you're living at the threshold of the new.

That's where I find myself now.

I'm leaving a job I've been at since 2012. Though I have ideas and plans, I couldn't tell you exactly what's going to happen next. And that's terrifying, but it's also sort of exciting. I've learned that if an idea both terrifies and excites me, then I can't just leave it lying on the floor. I need to pick it up and see it through.

So, if you're finding yourself in a liminal space of your own, here is the main principle I'm trying to apply to this experience.

Have faith.

The restlessness is scary. Not knowing what comes next is anxiety-inducing. Shedding the old is... not easy. But it's necessary if we are to grow. And if we're resistant to growth, our work isn't going to be worth a damn.

So try to believe you are where you're meant to be and you're capable of doing the work you'll need to do. This is only one stop on the journey. Don't let yourself get pulled too far into doubt, if you can help it. Everyone goes through this at some point. Keeping a flash of hope alive will pull you onwards.

And, while you're trying to keep the faith in your journey alive, don't let the naysayers direct your vessel too far off course. People are going to tell you you're doing it wrong. They might be scared for you if you step too far away from the prescribed path. Try to see wisdom for what it is, but don't confuse it with fear or a love of comfort and predictability. If your spirit is calling you, it's your responsibility to meet it.

It's easy to think you don't belong or even that the world doesn't need your voice.

You're the one who has walked this path, who did the work to get to this point. You carry the pain, both earned and undeserved, as well as all the lessons learned along the way. That means your voice and your perspective belong to you alone. And that makes these things special. I believe that the world can always use more people striving to make it wilder, wiser and more loving.

So don't worry about whether you're needed or whether you'll be accepted.

That isn't your job.

Your job is to step out onto that bridge.

And keep walking.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

2016 Top Ten Films.... Lofgie Time!

The Lofgies are a special award I give to my ten favorite films of the year. These are the films that moved me and stuck with me. They expanded my world and gave me something to chew on. (Please note, I've listed them in alphabetical order).

10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane took me by surprise. It was getting great buzz, so I gave it a chance and ended up enjoying it far more than anticipated. What helped was an excellent performance by John Goodman, who can go from terrifying to endearing before my heart has a chance to slow down. The movie takes a twisty path, but the turns are based on real, human psychology and not cheap shocks or scares. The tension is real and, though I know some found them to be a point of contention, the sci-fi elements worked for me.


These are exciting times for film buffs who love science fiction. We're getting so many different flavors and angles, it almost makes me excited for the actual future. Arrival won me over based on the nerdy, process-based approach it took to its central dilemma. The emotion in the film is affecting, but what makes everything work is the satisfying process of unwinding the puzzle, as well as the excellent cinematography and acting. Though I left the film with one big disappointment (no spoilers), I was still moved and excited by everything I'd witnessed.

Don't Think Twice

Performing artists in their 30s will identify with much of this film. I certainly did, finding much that was familiar, much that hurt and much that made me laugh. The cast has great chemistry, creating an interesting group dynamic, and the film's style is light, natural and engrossing. Since Don't Think Twice is set in the world of improvisational comedy, I expected the laughs to come quicker and cheaper, but instead they were wry, thoughtful and inescapably human.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

There's a touch of Anne of Green Gables in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, where a foster kid with a  talent for rebellion slowly forges a bond with the displeased older man who finds himself in the role of caretaker, a bigger task than anyone could have imagined. It's a funny and thoughtful film, with plenty of adventure and beautiful shots of the New Zealand bush. Rhys Darby also makes an appearance, which pushes the overall hilarity up several notches.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Laika, the production company behind Kubo and the Two Strings, is developing quite the reputation for gorgeous and challenging children's movies. This film is no different. Kubo and the Two Strings is filled with action and adventure, but at the heart of the plot is the bond between family. It's beautiful and funny, but one of the movie's strongest points is its assertion that victories are won not through strength, but because of courage, love and artistry.

The Lobster

The Lobster is very strange. This must be acknowledged before anything else is acknowledged. This is a strange movie and you will not always understand what is happening or why it is happening. Though, you might laugh and occasionally cringe. Ultimately, The Lobster is an exploration of how we are shaped by social norms and rules, how our actual physical presence on this earth gets battered down to fit into the correct size hole, especially in regards to romantic relationships. Highly recommended if normal Hollywood fare is getting a little too predictable for you.


Moonlight is a beautifully shot and scored ode to the troubled process of growing up when you never quite fit into your world or feel comfortable in your skin. It follows Chiron, an awkward and quiet kid, through three different stages of his life. In each stage, he navigates the expectations of who he's supposed to be, the dangers of who he really is and the relentless hunger for validation and love. It's a film that is gentle and harsh, quiet and angry, but ultimately hopeful.


Paterson is consumed with patterns. It shows us the world from its main character's point of view, a man named Paterson who drives busses in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. He makes connection after connection between moments and themes, processing everything and writing it down in a private notebook. It seems a simple film, until you attempt to write a simple review that reflects the humility of it and realize how many lovely little moments of truth and beauty it contains.

Sing Street

This one's for all the rebels and the nerds, as well as anyone who has dreamed of starting a rock band and becoming awesome. Sing Street is set in the Dublin of the 80s, where the big dreams of its young misfits are set against a world that doesn't give them much reason to hope. The movie's pulse is in its music, which fits perfectly with the ambitions of the characters. Its strength is in its message: Don't hold back.

Train to Busan

Train to Busan boasts a straightforward formula: train + zombies = wow. It does it with flair. The zombies are hardcore, the effects are dazzling, the characters are sympathetic, and the overall effect is something that will make you hold tight to your chair. As with the best zombie movies, Train to Busan is also a study of how people choose to react in the worst of situations and whether fear drives them to take their places with the monsters, or rise above their circumstances.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land 
  • Manchester By The Sea 
  • Silence

At the time of this entry I haven't seen: A Bigger Splash, Elle, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, The Witch 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Lofgies - 2015 Edition

Hi everyone! Here it is, my top ten films of 2015 (ranked alphabetically). I have to admit, it was a weird year for film and a few of these movies might seem like odd picks, but their presence here is mostly explained by the fact that they stuck with me, making me feel something long after I viewed them. I also agonized a bit over these choices, shifting a few movies between Top Ten and Honorable Mention status.

Here we go…


There isn't another film out there quite like Anomalisa. It's a bit of a downer, but it's so creative about its depressive qualities that I can't help but forgive it and be a bit haunted by it. The lead character navigates a limited world where every face and voice seems a bit familiar. Then, something changes. Anamolisa is such a weird and thoughtful little film, where every choice is intentional and no moment is wasted.

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies is an old-fashioned, grown-up movie that harkens back to films like To Kill a Mockingbird and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, acknowledging how messy the world can be, but giving us faith that it can still be changed for the better with enough backbone. The shots of East Berlin are breathtaking, letting you see the city's dark future being built brick by brick. Mark Rylance gives an excellent supporting performance that helps make the movie. Strongly recommended for history buffs.


Brooklyn is the beautifully filmed story of a young Irish woman immigrating to the United States. As such, it succeeds brilliantly, showing how it feels to be alone, immersed in a completely different world and trying to build a new life. It's a quiet and lovingly detailed experience that brings the past to life. Saoirse Ronan kills it in the leading role and her shyness and strength help build a portrait of the American experience that is both specific and universal.


Dope is here because of its rhythm, balance of pessimism and optimism, and the articulate world it creates where the indie film quirks and misadventures might not only ruin your shot at a top college, but could also get you killed. Though the stakes aren't always felt as powerfully as they would be in a more serious movie, Dope paints its central characters clearly and sympathetically. This movie wrestles with some big questions, but it also has a distinct humor and charm.

Inside Out

Inside Out is an amazing gem of a film, dealing with a high-minded, cerebral (ha ha) concept and making it digestible for the tiniest of tots. That doesn't mean it takes the easy way out. This movie maps out the inner workings of the mind, painting it in colorful, imaginative brushstrokes, without trivializing the real pain that comes with growing up. As with the best Pixar films, Inside Out is both fun and silently devastating.

Love & Mercy

I don't like biopics very much. There's such a predictable path to your typical biopic that I tend to get really bored and annoyed. However, I do very much enjoy process-oriented movies. Love & Mercy takes the wise choice of not just following Bryan Wilson around for a while, but instead digging into his struggles and process. It's thrilling to watch familiar musical cues emerge as everyone else scrambles to understand what seems like madness.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Let's all hope that Mad Max: Fury Road revolutionizes the action movie. Let's all hope that action directors are inspirited to let real human bodies fly through the air and be pulled down by real gravity. Let's hope they set aside the same filters, the same music, the same structure that's always kind of worked in the past. Let's hope they start imagining bigger worlds, bolder worlds and weirder worlds. Because now we know what we've been missing.

Shaun the Sheep

Anyone who can watch Shaun the Sheep without smiling is probably a psychopath. I realize that's a bold statement, but I mean it. The care and creativity with which this film was crafted is a real testament to the art of stop animation. There are a million things to look at in any moment and each frame is stuffed with a sense of genuine fun. It's not often we get films that manage to be clever, funny and gentle.


Remember back when I said I love movies about process? Welp, Spotlight manages to tick that box and tick it with vigor. While the topic could be filled with overwrought sentiment and self-righteousness, Spotlight balances the emotional aspects of the sex scandals perfectly, without minimizing the pain of the victims portrayed. It shows the value of challenging the status quo, asking the right questions and amplifying the voices of the powerless.

What We Do in the Shadows

If there's a funny bone anywhere in your body, you need to check out What We Do in the Shadows. There were a few moments when I lost it entirely, which I don't normally do in the theater. But it was okay, because everyone else was losing it, too. Yes, vampires are a little played out, but that just gives more ammunition to What We Do in the Shadows. If I didn't suspect it might result in my untimely death, I'd be so down to hang out with these unconventional flatmates.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Going Clear
  • The Hateful Eight
  • The Revenant
  • Sicario
  • Z for Zachariah

2015 films making a lot of top ten lists that I haven't seen: Room, 45 Years, It Follows, Tangerine, Creed, Son of Saul, Beasts of No Nation

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tips for the Socially Awkward Dancer

It's no picnic being socially awkward. You tend to say the wrong thing at the wrong time,  inadvertently hurt people's feelings, walk into stationary objects, have no idea when to stop (or start) talking, and get excited at inappropriate moments. It feels like you missed a day at school and, while you were gone, everyone else learned how to communicate with each other.

I started dancing so I would be cool.

Because I wasn't cool.

I saw people dancing and they seemed cool, so I figured I'd dance and be cool, too.

But you can't chase your own dorkiness away with a few hitch-kicks and a pirouette. As a matter of fact, the further your average awkward human gets into the world of dance, the more they might feel hamstrung by their social limitations. Dance is about communication. It's about collaboration. It's about moving with confidence. It's about being able to hold 1000 different conversations with your audience.

There's also an ingrained hierarchy to much of the dance world, which means you have to be able to network your butt off if you want to get ahead. Not the easiest task for the socially awkward amongst us.

Here are a few tips that have worked for me:

1. Don't take it personally.

There are all kinds of people in the world. Chances are, a lot of them aren't going to "get you". Taking it personally can cripple your progress. Brush it off, keep working on your chaine turns and find a positive mantra you can repeat to yourself. Negative thoughts are easy to dwell on. Don't get lost going down that path.

2. Find your tribe.

No matter how alone you might feel, there are others out there like you. Maybe they're in dance class. Maybe they aren't. Maybe they're online. Maybe they aren't. You might have to put some effort into those relationships, but they can be invaluable. Not just for the support and validation you get out of them, but for the support and validation you can give. Which leads us to our next tip…

3. It isn't about you.

Self-conciousness is often at the root of social awkwardness. You grow overly aware of every little thing you're doing or saying, subscribing too much weight to those moments, and allowing them to crumble beneath an artificial importance. You don't have to do this. Instead, ask a question. Ask a follow-up question. Allow yourself to think about what you're being told. (Normal people out there might laugh, but this doesn't come naturally to everyone.) If you can turn the spotlight softly onto someone else, that means you don't have to burn beneath its light.

4. Fake it till you make it, baby.

Dancers hear this a lot, but it's true. Pretend you're a bad ass and, not only might you trick a couple of people, you might also convince yourself. Keep putting yourself in challenging positions and don't let discomfort or fear stop you from giving it 100%. If dancers only danced the way they felt at any given time, we would end up with a lot of tired, hungry, cranky dances. It's the same way for conversation.

5. But don't sacrifice your authenticity.

"ARGHHHHH," you're probably saying. "How am I supposed to fake it while I make it, and be authentic at the same time?"

Beats me. I'm still working on it.

If you figure it out, let me know.

Here's the good news:

This is the best time in history to be a socially awkward dancer. Our culture is embracing nerds like never before, the internet gives us previously unheard of opportunities to connect with like-minded people and there are a million fun, wacky and weird things going on in the dance world. Being different allows you to contribute to dance in a way that is wholly unique. Eventually, if you stick around, the awkwardness that haunted you so much early on becomes a gift.

Show us the world from your point of view.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Top Films of 2014 - The Lofgies

Time for the Lofgies, folks! I know you've been eagerly awaiting this one. :)

Just a few words before we start - I acknowledge that there might be better movies out there, but these are the ones that spoke to me personally, stuck with me over time and got me excited about the art of film. Movies I've seen more recently have a bit of an advantage since they're fresher in my mind, but I try to be as fair as I can.

Alrighty. Ranked alphabetically and not in order of preference…. here we go!

The Boxtrolls

Laika, the production company behind The Boxtrolls, is killing it. Their films are so lovingly crafted, so creative and visually astounding that it's almost impossible not to be entertained. The Boxtrolls is set in the town of Cheesebridge (I know!) where the inventive and skuzzy boxtrolls squeak out an existence underground, away from the humans who hate and fear them. There's a lot more about a cheese-loving mayor, his adventurous daughter, a kidnapped baby, and a Snatcher who steals the movie. The Boxtrolls drips with detail and boasts a handful of genuinely moving moments. Though it might be a bit grotesque for very young children, The Boxtrolls has a level of personality and sophistication that make it an animated film to remember.


Boyhood is quite the accomplishment and I would argue that all the attention and praise it has earned is deserved. Watching the cast grow up before your eyes is strange and moving, but this film earns its accolades in the quiet moments, the snapshots of a childhood filled with awkwardness, love and misunderstandings. Linklater captures the way it feels to spend your childhood fumbling toward genuine connection and understanding. Boyhood is a movie that isn't afraid to ask questions. It understands that growing up only means the questions get bigger and the moments of connection more precious.


Calvary captures its viewers from the very first minutes, setting up a scenario rife with tension and unease. It also introduces us to Father James, a priest played masterfully by Brendan Gleeson. In an Scottish town where the Catholic Church is increasingly mistrusted and irrelevant, Father James does everything he can to reach out to his disinterested community. But is his compassion a liability or a gift? Can selflessness undo any of the horror that selfishness visits upon us? Is the act of forgiveness worth the cost? It sounds kinda serious, but this is also a movie that moves quickly and knows how to milk a laugh.


Surprise entry! Frank is a quirky little film that follows a few of the familiar indie beats. What elevates it for me is the remarkable performance Michael Fassbender gives as Frank, as well as the movie's enthralling portrayal of the creative act. Why do we create? For recognition, or because there's something inside us that must be released? Frank follows an experimental, underground band during the process of creating their album. They're quirky and, viewed through the eyes of outsider Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) they might even be deranged. The tension between Jon, who wants to be famous and Frank, a purer soul, creates dynamics which pay off in spades for the viewer. Oh yeah, and Michael Fassbender wears a big, plastic head for most of the film, so there's that.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the most Wes Andersony film you could imagine, with varying screen ratios, loads of miniatures, nesting stories, and plenty of deadpan quips. It's cute and startling and odd. The music works. The caper is suspenseful. Ralph Fiennes steps into his role like he was born for it (how delightful is he when he's having a good time?). Moments of poignancy and nostalgia give The Grand Budapest Hotel a weight that keeps it from getting overwhelmed by its own kitsch. Though there are a ton of details and cares taken, it's the storytelling that stands out.

Only Lovers Left Alive

This is a lush, impassioned, hazy adventure of a film. Labelled a vampire hangout movie by reviewers, Only Lovers Left Alive revisits the vampire mythology in a way that feels fresh and untainted by any of the silliness we've been subjected to in other recent vampire movies. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are electric together and they're so believable as ancient beings both gifted and burdened by immortality. Sure there's some plot stuff that happens, but the characters and the murky midnight world they live in are the real stars of this film.


We could stand to have more action movies like Snowpiercer. Sure, the dystopian theme isn't the most original ever, but the conviction and creativity with which this movie treats its plot is inspiring. The action scenes are shocking and breathtaking. The worlds encountered are completely unique. The actors sell the story, with a few supporting characters (like Tilda Swinton and Alison Pill) getting standout moments to shine. It's just a beautiful, brutal and enthralling piece of filmmaking. More like this, please.

Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night is about a journey out of depression. In unglamorous fashion, it follows Sandra (Marion Cotillard) as she fights to save her job. Even though she'd rather hide away in bed, she hits the pavement, pitching her story to anyone with the power to help. Two Days, One Night uses repetition to great effect, playing with variations that allow the overall theme to add up to something greater. Marion inhabits her character so fully that you can't help but feel for her, afraid that each new discouragement might be one too many. A powerful portrayal of depression.

Under the Skin

Even though it's about an alien roaming around Scotland, I identified with this movie and found it extremely emotional. Under the Skin is a bizarre experiment, but it's one that works. Scarlett Johansson is mesmerizing in the leading role and watching her character undergo a gradual evolution is an experience that stuck with me. There's a lot to explore here, including the ever-changing relationship between predator and prey, how people relate when they both want something, and the ways we view and commodify female sexuality. It isn't always the easiest film, but it's completely worthwhile.


By now you've heard a lot of conversation about how extraordinary J.K. Simmons is in Whiplash. It's all true. The man is a force of nature, completely believable as a repellent figure you'd sell your soul to impress. However, that doesn't mean you should overlook Miles Teller, who also turns in a stellar and impassioned performance as an ambitious young drummer. From a distance, Whiplash looks an awful lot like your typical "Follow Your Dreams" movie, but to leave it at that is to do it a disservice. Where a lesser film would turn away, Whiplash keeps looking. It understands that the pursuit of genius is never simple and the road to excellence requires sacrifices that aren't glamorous or easy. Whiplash is a film of tremendous insight and intensity.

Because it was a pretty great year for movies, I'll include a few more notable films below. Consider these your honorable mentions:

Coherence: This film's low budget doesn't get in the way of its big ideas. A sci-fi piece that centers around a small group of friends holding a dinner party as a comet streaks overhead. Things get weird. People make choices. Oh, and Xander from Buffy is in it.

Jodorowksy's Dune: This documentary tells the story of the Dune that never was, a film that almost made it to production under the direction of oddball genius Alejandro Jodorowsky, then was scrapped.

The Lego Movie: Ambitious, creative, touching, and fun. The Lego Movie proves that films conceived for the purpose of selling toys and making money can actually turn out pretty awesome in the right hands.

Selma: Selma is beautifully shot and emotionally resonant. It take a historical figure who has become more myth than man and brings new life and perspective to his journey.

Wild: Reese Witherspoon kills it in this story of discovery and redemption. This film features great acting and beautiful shots of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Your turn! What were your favorite films of 2014? Do you have a favorite you're rooting for in the Oscar race?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I've been wearing man shoes and I have some thoughts.

A bit of a tomboy, I'm no stranger to shopping in the men's department.

But shoes? I've never considered men's shoes because it just seemed a little… wacky. Like crossing an invisible line.

But I was helping my husband pick out a new pair of work shoes and I realized that some of these dude shoes were actually really cute. So, I went down about 1.5 from my lady size and started browsing through the men's selection. It didn't take me long to find two different pairs of boots that were super cute. I slipped them onto my feet and was stunned. They were comfortable. Very comfortable. There wasn't some mysterious "lady" difference in my feet that kept the shoes from fitting properly. Instead, the boots felt like they'd already been broken in.

Some backstory that you're welcome to skip: I'm a dancer with extremely sensitive feet. My toes, heels and arches blister up at the drop of a coin, I've got high arches and short achilles tendons and I've suffered through issues with my tendons and plantar fasciitis. If I'm standing or walking around, my feet are probably hurting. My younger sister has inherited hundreds of shoes from me because they ended up being so uncomfortable that I couldn't stand to wear them.

This all brings us to today. I've been wearing these boots for a few days. And ladies? I have some things to report.

1. Men's shoes have thicker soles.

It's true. I'm not sure why men get thicker soles on their shoes, but there it is. Lady boots at an equivalent price would have a thin, synthetic sole with very little traction on the bottom. If I planned to wear said lady boots for any period of time, I'd have to get an insole thicker than a classic novel to make them bearable. But not men's shoes. They've got these big, thick rubbery soles that hug the pavement and are never, ever slippery. I feel like I could run in them without falling and hitting my face on the ground.

2. Men's shoes have better quality fabric.

I've bought a lot of shoes and I'm pretty aware of value. To get a women's boot with thick leather or suede, you have to be ready to shell out some major bucks. But men's boots? Quality fabrics are almost a given. Both my men's boots were under a hundred dollars and both have fairly high quality leather that is warm and doesn't soak through to my socks when it rains. They're also soft enough that they doesn't rub my feet and cause blisters. Speaking of which:

3. Men's shoes don't have to be broken in.

What? Maybe I was just extremely lucky in the only two pairs of men's boots I've ever bought. But there has been absolutely no break in process. No carefully selected outings where I know I won't have to walk too much so I don't end up getting stuck somewhere with aching feet. No limping at the end of the day. No whispering to myself that if I can just keep at it, one day they'll be slightly less uncomfortable. Instead, I put the shoes on my feet and walk outside. For reals.

4. Men's shoes are foot-shaped.

Dudes, you might be laughing at me right now. "Of course they're foot-shaped," you say. "What else would shoes be shaped like?" But women know what I'm talking about. You know how it feels to resent your pinky toe. To frown at your heels. To wish your arches weren't quite so high, your calves so big, or the front of your foot so wide. You've spent a lot of your life wondering why you had to get stuck with such difficult feet.

But it isn't your feet at all. It's the fantasy of what a woman's foot is supposed to look like. Thin, delicate and small (and pointy at the front? what's with that?). Heaven forbid any of us have a normal foot. No, we have to squeeze them into the most desirable shape, just like we're supposed to squeeze everything else into the most desirable shape. Forget walking comfortably and existing like a normal human being. Not a priority.

(Just a note: I'm not talking about the occasional pair of impractical, sky-high heels. Those can be fun are supposed to be uncomfortable. I'm talking about the everyday shoes we use to get to work, run errands and walk around downtown.)

5. Men's shoes are durable.

Okay, so I've only had these for a week and I'll have to get back at you with my long-term observations, but these cookies sure seem more durable than the average lady shoe.

My man shoes
It's been a bit of a mind-bender. You don't always know what you're putting up with until you get to step away from it and see how the other side lives. And you can't always step away when your feet are hurting. Why are men's shoes so superior? Why are they more comfortable? And why are they cheaper?

I worked in retail for a while and I observed that men tend to shop differently than women. Your typical man (thought there are lots of exceptions!) will walk into a store and buy what he needs. He doesn't spend long there. Bonus points if he doesn't have to try anything on. Don't expect to see him again until whatever he bought falls apart or starts to smell. Maybe not even then.

Are women vulnerable because we buy more into the fantasy, the experience of shopping? Are we vulnerable because we truly believe that the right accessory will make us better people? The right shoe will change our lives? Is it blinding us to what's actually being provided? Keeping us from realizing the lengths retailers are going to keep us on the treadmill of fashion? Are we really such impractical creatures? And, if so, is it because we were born that way, or because it is what's wanted of us?

There are so many issues at play when you talk about women's clothing. So many historical references you can make which have led us to where we are, from corsets and bustles to bloomers and pants. An obvious line can be drawn from foot binding and heels if you choose. It's never simple with us. It's never straightforward. There's always a world of sexual politics behind every brooch and bouffant, whether we want it there or not. Maybe that will change one day.

In the meantime, I'll be over here with my man shoes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

You can't have it all… but maybe you can have more than you think

Shame is such a persistent element of this modern life. Perhaps it is because we have so much constant input coming in from every angle, a million how-to books, a million blog articles offering advice, with think pieces on productivity, maturity, parenting, spirituality, career choices, nutrition, social justice, politics, and more.

They may be well-intentioned, but it can create a lingering suspicion that we're always doing it wrong. Even if we correct our behavior or opinions in response to a convincing argument, there's an opposing viewpoint one week later. It's good that we're listening, it's good that we're evaluating and challenging our own beliefs, I think it's a sign of positive change, but it's also an awful lot of noise. With time, it can become an awful lot of weight.

Or, maybe that's just me. Perhaps I'm uniquely influenced by guilt. I kept taking piano lessons for years because I thought not playing piano would make me a bad person. I feared I'd end up regretting my choices.

Many times I don't even realize guilt is influencing my behavior.

All of this leads into a book review…

I recently read "The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One". The title says it all. This is a book for people who are always finding themselves pulled in a million different directions, by a million different interests.

Our culture preaches the importance of choosing. This is especially pervasive in the dance industry. How often have dancers heard variations of the idea, "Dance requires everything"? There's a lot of talk of sacrifice and focus. Dedicating yourself completely. Not doing so makes you less of a dancer. It means you don't love it as much as the next guy.

It isn't only true for dancers. The further you get in any career or field of study, the more focused you're expected to get. I believe it discourages a lot of people. It's easy to get depressed looking at a future of doing one thing forever if that isn't ingrained into your personality.

I've learned that love doesn't always requires exclusivity. Each time I crack open a history book, sit down at the piano (yes, I eventually went back to piano), create a unique design element, or take time out to work on my novel, it isn't making me less of a dancer.

Maybe that sounds obvious and silly to you, but it was a major illumination for me. I needed permission to love a lot of things, even if permission only came from a book. I needed someone to tell me that my art wouldn't suffer if I widened my scope a little. I wanted to be set free of the guilt I didn't even know I was bearing.

The author, Lobenstine, uses the example of Leonardo da Vinci, who followed his curiosity down many different paths. The guy is credited as a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. Would anyone dare to criticize him, telling him to focus his interests and dedicate himself to one field? No, because he's frickin' Leonardo da Vinci. For all the paths he took, his Mona Lisa is still one of the most celebrated paintings of all time. I'd argue his diverse interests made him a better artist than he would have been if he limited himself to one field.

That isn't to say I'm anywhere near the level of Leonardo da Vinci, but I do think I have some similar wiring in the way that I approach art. Lobenstine does a great job outlining practical strategies and plans for those with a Renaissance Soul personality type. Though I didn't fill out all the worksheets, they got me thinking in a more productive way and enabled me to create a few of my own plans.

If you think you might be a Renaissance Soul, I can't recommend this book enough. The career plans are great, but the best part is finding permission to embrace your own curiosity.