Dancing, Writing, Sharing (or, why I think I’ve felt shut down recently)

Dancing, Writing, Sharing (or, why I think I’ve felt shut down recently) March 29, 2017
A post-butoh selfie, reflecting how ragged I've felt lately.
A post-butoh selfie, reflecting how ragged I’ve felt lately.

I know I’ve been uncharacteristically silent on here. It’s because I’ve been processing a lot, and have clammed up a bit as a result.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for me, not least because I gave a (successful!) Folklore Roundtable talk at UC Berkeley and traveled to present at a conference and oh yeah midterms. I’d forgotten how stressful midterms can be, not just as a student but also as an instructor (I had multiple nightmares leading up to them this semester).

Additionally, I’ve just been feeling… shut down… in general. Some of it might be burnout from how hard I’m working at making this an awesome semester, and some of it is probably related to how I’ve been processing things through dance and writing.

In my last post about butoh, I wrote about accessing an emotional core while dancing that left me in tears. It was intense and cathartic. However, the next time I went to butoh, I felt awful afterwards: immensely alone and quiet and scared. I had trouble making eye contact with people afterwards. Fellow students smiled at me and invited me to talk or hang out, and it was all I could do to politely say no thank you instead of flinching.

I don’t know what exactly was going on with me, but I think expressive movement dredged up some emotions that I didn’t really have the capacity to deal with at the same. I’ve felt awkward and unsettled in social interactions since then. It’s as though a wounded inner part was exposed, and I’m struggling to both nurture it so it can heal while simultaneously keeping my shit together in order to do Adulting things that need to get done.

Similarly, I’ve written (what I think is) some really good stuff lately. Some of it’s been poetry that I’ve only shared selectively, and some of it’s material from my essay in Split. (if you want to know why my poetry often feels vulnerable and private to me, here’s one poem I did publish, and yes, some facets are based on my life experiences, but no, I’m not saying which)

Like dancing, writing can both bring up intense emotions, and help me work through them. I can never predict which will be the dominant mode, though. Sometimes catharsis comes easily and moves through me like lightning. Other times, the creative activity shines a light on a place of pain, and I just have to sit with it and tend to it until it works itself out (or shows itself out, to play with the metaphor of unwanted emotion as temporary house guest).

Reflecting on writing and risk, I wrote:

Taking risks with our writing is scary, but it’s often worth it. Do the self-care you need to get through it, and pull back when you need to… but when you can share, do it. You may help pave the way for someone else to open up, in scholarship or beyond.

I think I’ve been at a “step back for self care’s sake” point for a short while now, and just not admitted it to myself. I’m not strong enough to be open and vulnerable all the time, as much as it’s an ideal that I might strive for.

So, I don’t know if there’s a phrase other than vulnerability hangover for the kind of burnout we experience when we’re too raw from processing and need to pull back a bit… but I think that’s where I’ve been lately. It’s been difficult for me to dance, both because of traveling and scheduling, but also because I’m having trouble being in my body and connecting with other people (as one does in my main style of belly dance).

I was just at one of my favorite conferences and will have a recap post up shortly. I’m hoping to get back into the swing of writing, but as with all things in my life right now that aren’t firm deadlines or commitments, I’ll just have to see how it goes.

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