As we advance along our ballroom dance journey, the fixes, adjustments and tweaks we make to create higher quality movement become smaller and smaller. We learn what the steps are, how to do those steps, and then how to actually dance in between and through the steps. Each level builds on the one before it. This process can get frustrating though because every time you start to think you know what you’re doing, you find out you’ve barely scratched the surface.
Eventually (hopefully) you start to build an appreciation for the little adjustments that have a big impact on your dancing. That minor tweak to your posture that made your frame feel huge. That tiny adjustment in the way you engaged your core that made your Cuban motion feel sexier than ever.
In a world full of instant gratification and filtered/edited highlight reels of people’s lives advertised on social media, the appreciation for the little wins along the journey is becoming a lost art. You finally found your balance in that double turn and stuck the landing instead of falling out of it! But who cares, it’s not like you won a championship or anything.
I care! And you should too, especially now in 2020 when there are no championships.
I celebrated a little thing at my dance lesson this past week that had nothing to do with anything big or profound. I learned how to skip like in the Wizard of Oz.
It’s a lot harder than it looks! I spent probably half of my lesson trying to learn that skip. In the process, I forgot how to skip. Then, I forgot how to walk. Then, all I could manage was a weird hop. Teacher and I laughed a lot!
It’s just a silly thing that we’re doing for fun, and I am still enjoying that victory days later. I may have skipped a few times while walking the dogs.
Appreciating the little things means recognizing they have value on their own. They don’t have to be a means to another end. They can be their own end.
I’m finding this way of thinking helpful in our current situation. It’s difficult to see or plan beyond the end of the week because who knows what next week will bring. All we have is what’s in front of us.
Unfortunately, part of what’s in front of us is a LOT of distractions. Social media, 24/7 news, and TV and movie streaming all provide escapes (positive and negative) from our immediate reality as we sit at home maintaining distance.
I did a little experiment yesterday regarding those distractions. Normally, on a Saturday morning, I’ll walk the dogs, make breakfast, and then watch an episode of something or other on Netflix while also browsing Instagram or Facebook on my phone. Yesterday, I decided I didn’t want any electronics in my morning. I walked the dogs, made breakfast (ok, I did use an electric kettle to make my tea), and then I sat on my chaise and wrote with a pen and paper. I didn’t look at my phone. I didn’t turn on the TV. I didn’t even turn on any music, which is another favorite habit on the weekends.
I felt good after finishing my essay. The creative energy was flowing and made me feel more awake, even though I had only drunk half of my tea. Out of habit, I started to reach for my phone but stopped myself. I didn’t want to look at a screen just yet. What else could I do?
Over the next couple hours, I vacuumed, I washed dishes, I cleaned the kitchen counters, the stove, and the windows. I mopped the kitchen floor. I even pulled out the refrigerator so I could vacuum behind it. I sorted through a pile of junk mail and took a bunch of boxes downstairs to the recycling. I ate lunch.
All the while, there was no music, and no movie playing in the background. Just the sounds of a summer breeze and traffic coming in through the windows. I felt both productive and relaxed.
I finally did turn on my computer when I decided my morning essay was worth sharing with the public. I made it my first original story published on Medium. Fair warning, it’s like nothing you’ve read from me before. It’s not about dance (ok, there is a tiny bit of dance). Just a fun musing/writing exercise.
My little Saturday morning experiment reminded me how much those screen “escapes” can actually drain and drag you down. You’re not present, but you’re also not in the past or future. You’re in this artificially created “other” space where you’re here but you’re not here.
Because of the pandemic, we’re forced to spend a lot more time in front of screens in order to work, dance, exercise, and “see” other people. I already spent a significant portion of my life in front of a computer screen between the day job and the blog. Now I’m feeling the effects.
My brain is tired of the constant stream of input, whether it’s emails, video conference calls, social media, online TV and movie streaming, or even just music streaming. It’s been forced to work in overdrive all day, every day.
So it makes sense that I would feel relaxed and energized at the same time after spending a morning away from the screens, doing things that only required my brain to be here, not here and also somewhere else. Basically, it was the opposite of multi-tasking. Instead of washing dishes while playing a movie and checking comments on my latest blog post, I just washed the dishes. Then I sat on the couch and watched my dogs sleep for five minutes. It was wonderful.
If you’re feeling tired, heavy, distracted and/or unable to focus, after you finish reading this post, try turning everything off. Look and listen to your home when it’s quiet. Watch your fur baby sleep. Stare out the window. Go for a walk without your phone (*gasp*). Give your brain a break and let it appreciate just one little thing at a time. Then, when you’re ready, come back online and share how it felt.
As more of Life gets transferred online, it will become more and more important to take time away from the screens to appreciate the little things in the here and now. Even if it’s having a staring contest with your dog or practicing the yellow brick road skip just because. Like the little tweaks we make in our dancing, the little things will help you feel more grounded and balanced in reality.