Allow for Space

Four days out of seven this past week, I had some kind of appointment (multiple on two of the days) and I was reminded why pre-pandemic me always seemed to be tired.

I’ll admit it. My ego got satisfaction from never having unscheduled time, always being on the go from one thing to the next. I was proud of how well I juggled a day job, a side business, and training as a competitive dancer, while keeping my apartment relatively clean, the kitchen more or less stocked, and my fur babies healthy and happy. That was what you had to do to succeed on your own, right? You had to hustle. #cantstopwontstop

I even used my packed life to demonstrate how one could still get in quality solo practice even with limited time. If I can do it, others can do it.

While it’s 100% true that you can get an effective practice in even if you only have 15 minutes, only having 15 minutes doesn’t feel like something I want to brag about anymore.

When the pandemic cleared my schedule, I found myself actually enjoying my free evenings and weekends instead of looking for ways to fill them. I was still working full time and running this blog. I was still training. But there was noticeable space between each thing, in which I could pause and breathe. I had space to cook dinner and eat it at a regular pace, instead of inhaling my food and then rushing back out to the next thing on my calendar.

As a society, we like our schedules with everything having a set time. Time management is a buzzword and something people will pay to be taught. Productivity means squeezing as much as possible out of every second of the day. If I didn’t get everything done on my to-do list that week, I assumed it was because I didn’t manage my time effectively enough. In reality, I was just trying to squeeze too much into my schedule. Yes, there are 24 hours in a day, but that doesn’t mean every hour needs to be assigned to something.

It feels contradictory to be someone who works full time, side hustles and trains as a dancer and feel like I shouldn’t need to have every day scheduled precisely. But then again, I don’t follow the “normal” path in any of my endeavors, so is this stance really that surprising?

Since Dance imitates Life (or is it the other way around?), it’s also not surprising that this idea of allowing for space and not rushing to the next thing has come up in my private lessons. We had a mini breakthrough in Waltz the other week when I was able to maintain a strong enough connection with Teacher so that I could stretch out certain moments without throwing him off. He could feel where I was through our connection, so he knew when I chose to create that space to breathe.

Before, I had a tendency to rush through moments, which would cause Teacher to scramble to keep up with me. Sound familiar? (Life imitating Dance.) The interesting thing is when I slowed down and took the time and space to stretch out a moment, instead of feeling behind, I felt like I had all the time I needed.

When everything is precisely planned to the minute, room for error doesn’t exist. When error drops by unannounced, the entire plan collapses like a rickety Jenga tower. This happened to me so much before the pandemic! It was exhausting and it was stressful.

You’ve probably seen it happen on the dancefloor as well, when a couple gets cut off by another and they falter because the routine as they knew it was interrupted. This is why floorcraft is such an important skill. You can’t be so rigid in your plan that you can’t make adjustments mid-dance. You have to allow the space for those interruptions, so you can move smoothly around them.

While this week wasn’t nearly as packed as a typical pre-pandemic week, it was busy enough to trigger a cranky emotional response. The shades of “old normal” brought up the old pressures to go go go.

As we continue moving forward into the “new normal”, I think I’ll try scheduling more around the space, rather than scheduling to fill it. Sometimes a busy week can’t be avoided, just like a crowded dancefloor, but it doesn’t need to be turned into a personal goal.

An amusing side effect of me knowing my routines so precisely thanks to solo practice was I would stiffen up when Teacher led something different. He would joke that he could always tell when he screwed up a sequence because he could feel me resisting the change. I had to refresh my follow skills to keep dancing without that hesitation. He says he can still tell that alarm bells are going off in my head when he goes off script though.

Your turn – Are you more flexible or rigid when it comes to your schedule? What about your dance routines?

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