My schedule is a giant, hairy, screaming, thorny, fiery pit of doom right now. The kids are home for the summer, new clients are coming out of the woodwork, the market is insane; I could go on and on.
A byproduct of the scary schedule is a condition I like to call ‘Excessively Tight Woundness’ or ETW. Some of the symptoms of ETW are: undeserved screaminess in the direction of various family members, waking up at 2:05AM to make mental lists of who needs to be emailed immediately by order of importance, inability to complete a task without losing one’s shit over another task that really REALLY needs to be completed rightthissecond, over-indulgence in beverages that are both caffeinated and zero-calorie.
Recent studies have shown the best way to effectively treat ETW is to indulge in athletic activity that is particularly enjoyable to the sufferer. The distraction combined with the resulting endorphins produces a calming effect that can reduce the irritations of the symptoms, especially on those nearest to the afflicted person at any given time.
Because of these studies, I decided, at 7:12 yesterday morning (directly after Jason fled our house to escape from my irrational screaming) that regardless of what else happened that day, regardless of what work piled up or emails that needed to be returned, I needed to attend ballet class.
That’s why yesterday, even after I’d already driven 113 miles showing property and was utterly exhausted, I threw on some workout clothes, drove 25 miles to my parents’ house, dropped off my kids and got my butt to class. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t check my email on my phone a few times during class. I did. It’s part of the ETW illness. I understand that now. The point is: it helped. I walked away from the class with my brain a little looser and life a little clearer. I came home… and didn’t scream at anyone for like 12 whole hours.
The funny thing is, ballet class doesn’t actually help me de-stress. In itself, ballet is an incredibly stressful activity. I stand in class struggling to be aware of every part of my body. I must remember at all moments to:
Lift up on my standing leg
Curl my arms in and strongly down to support myself
Hold my stomach in and tuck my butt under
Keep my shoulders down
Elongate my neck
Open my chest
Turn out my feet by pushing forward with my heel
Remember the combination my legs are trying to perform
Count the number of movements I’m on
Change my arms in relation to what my legs are doing
And various other things.
Not to mention the fact, of course, that I’m wearing tight clothes and surrounded by mirrors and several girls who are younger and thinner than I am. I can’t stop staring at how cute and muscular their butts are. I want a cute and muscular butt. How many of these classes do I have to take and meals do I have to skip to get a cute and muscular butt?
You can see how this is also a stressful situation, right?
Plus, sometimes I’m concentrating so hard on understanding the combination my brain stops working properly.
Ballet teacher going over the combination: Ok, so you tendu front and back to fifth, and then side and back to fifth, and back and back to fifth and side and back, generic. In fours, en croix. And then…
Me: So… what does ‘generic’ mean? (Knowing full well what the word ‘generic’ means, but thinking there’s a French ballet term I don’t know that refers to where I’m supposed to end with my foot at the end of the combination.)
Ballet teacher thinking I might be a slow adult: Well, it just means like the boring, typical combo. Just standard, not creative at all.
Me: Oh… right. I thought that was a foot position I didn’t know.
Ballet teacher ready to move on: Anyway…
Helpful, younger, thinner, better ballerina student next to me who isn’t sure I know how to read: You know, it just means something normal or standard.
Me: I… right. I get it. I know what the word ‘generic’ means. I just thought she was saying some ballet thing I didn’t know.
But all of this activity and distraction is actually exactly what I need to get my mind off of work. It’s impossible for me to make a mental to-do list when I’m trying to remember all of the ways my body needs to contort itself so I don’t get manhandled by the ballet teacher (that’s the punishment for failure in ballet classs). The new and different stress is kryptonite to work stress. Neither can exist in my body together at once. If I’m under ballet stress, the other stress just melts away, even if it’s only for an hour and fifteen minutes.
I’m sure to the professional ballerina, the ballet stress takes over her life just like my work stress does mine. But for now, I know it’s just a lovely and brutal distraction. It’s something tough enough to fight off real estate, if only for a little while.