When the Usual Creative Outlets are Unavailable, Pull Weeds

Remember that ballroom dance lesson where I learned to lead? It was actually my last lesson. One of my boys needed minor surgery (he’s fine), but even minor surgery always comes with a major bill. So unless it had already been paid for, dance and fitness classes have been cut from my calendar until that vet bill is paid. This is far from the first time I’ve had to pause dance because funds had to be redirected. I’ve been blessed along my dance journey to have had generous dance teachers who would let me owe them for a few weeks so that my training wouldn’t be disrupted. But the kindness of strangers (and people I know well) can only go so far. Sometimes I just have to cut back.

As you’re probably aware, I also cut back on blogging and social media posting.

It’s been about a month since my last blog post, if you don’t count the Instagram stories turned “let’s call it this week’s blog post” that I published about two weeks ago. It was nice to release the pressure of needing to maintain a constant online presence. I’ve still been writing; I drafted a cute little short story just last weekend. I just haven’t jumped to publish anything.

Now, I don’t know if these are related, but one change I noticed in myself over this break period in my creative endeavors is increased irritation at certain aspects of my day job. For the most part, I like my day job – it challenges me and keeps me engaged, I’m recognized for my skills and accomplishments, and I have flexibility in my work schedule that permits me to take care of things like my fur baby having surgery. But no one is perfect, and since companies are run by humans, no company is perfect. Some days, I’m glad I work from home so I can groan out loud without restraint. And that’s ok. The positive still outweighs the not-so-positive.

I have to wonder though if not utilizing my creative outlets made me more susceptible to the irritation and frustration triggers. When the day job is the only place I’m using my creative brain, when it’s the only place I have to get that satisfaction and fulfilment from being creative, dealing with the obstacles or roadblocks that have to be in place to keep unfettered creativity from throwing a business off track can feel frustrating on the mild end and soul-crushing on the extreme end. Certain things have to be done certain ways to keep the business in business. I get that. So even though I’ve drank many glasses of wine while considering whether to cut my losses and shut the blog down, I need this blog as an unchecked creative outlet. I need my own space to express my own thoughts, unrestrained.

Dance is my outlet for expressing my creativity through movement. It’s a way for me to creatively take predefined structures and bend them to fit my personal style. With the ballroom dances in particular, I also get inspired by the collaboration between dance partners – working together to create something larger and more magical than we individually could ever do. I have felt the closest to my true self when performing on a dance floor with a trusted partner.

Unfortunately, that kind of dancing is unavailable to me right now. On top of financial restraints, various body parts are speaking up, including my shoulder, hip, lower back, and foot. I feel a little like Sally in A Nightmare Before Christmas, just falling apart at the seams.

So what’s The Girl to do? My body doesn’t do well staying sedentary, but finances and apparent mild injuries prevent me from the usual, more intense physical activities that also satiate my creative soul. Of course, there are plenty of free online videos of ballet and Zumba to more than make up for my lost live classes. As you all know from the pandemic shutdowns, it’s just not the same. Sometimes something is not better than nothing.

I also never stay consistent when I try to do all of my exercise and dance training at home on my own. I’ll be on point for about two weeks, something happens to disrupt my momentum, and I never gain it back. It may sound lazy or undisciplined, but I’ve accepted that this is just part of who I am. Scheduled classes outside the home work better for me. It’s one reason I struggled with solo practice at first, until I started scheduling a specific day and time to go to the dance studio to practice. The same dancers would see me every week and even comment to my teacher on how consistent I was. That external acknowledgement encouraged me to keep going. Plus, I enjoyed seeing those dancers every week, just like I look forward to seeing others in my ballet or Zumba classes.

In a curious twist, yard work has introduced itself as an alternative physical activity. While other areas of the country have been dealing with triple digit temperatures, the leaves are starting to turn here. Autumn is coming, and the garden beds that became completely overgrown with weeds over the summer, or as I like to call them “the unintentionally planted”, need to be cleaned out before winter. There’s something very satisfying about ripping an unintentional plant out of the ground after a frustrating work day. In addition to needing my creative outlets, I need time out in nature in order to remain a fully functional member of society. Feeling productive during my time outside is a bonus that keeps me from rolling my eyes while on camera during meetings that could have been emails.

It sucks when I can’t dance the way I want to because of finances and injuries. The good news is this time, I was able to stay open to other opportunities and outlets. The creative juices certainly aren’t flowing just because I managed to pull a weed with its roots intact (even though that is the weed-puller’s dream). But the time spent outside in the garden beds is giving my brain the break it needs and my body the movement it needs to welcome the thoughts and stories eager to be written down. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s free and I’ll actually do it.

I think the lesson here is if you know a certain path doesn’t work for you, like me and home workouts/dance classes, don’t try to force it. Acknowledge and accept that it isn’t who you are, and then try thinking outside the box for an alternative path. Stay open to activities or experiences that leave you feeling pretty good afterwards.

I didn’t get up one Saturday thinking “I know what I’ll enjoy!” and then pulled weeds. It was something that had to be done, but then I realized two hours passed before I even thought about stopping. For whatever reason, it put me in that focused zone like when I’m trying to maintain turnout, posture, arm positioning and 15 other things during barre sequences. So I’m going with it because at least for now, it’s giving me what I need.

Plus the pre-winter yard work is getting done, so there’s that.

Shout out to Amy for her generous support this week!

You can support The Girl with the Tree Tattoo’s creative endeavors by clicking the button below. Thank you, and happy dancing!

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