“You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!”–a five year old once told me, and a seriously underpaid kindergarten teacher once told him.
Catchy isn’t it? You may want to remember it next time you are divvying out fruit snacks amongst four year old’s who only want the red ones. It is also a good mantra to sing to yourself when you are fed up with your jealousy map.
Remember the jealousy map? I needed a refresher this week. I found myself justifying, and therefore blocking myself, by blaming my inability to progress on the wretched fact: life was just not fair.
Ok, ok, ok, so maybe being jealous of someone helps me to really pinpoint a direction I should be headed in my life, but honestly–was it fair that some people had been ushered in that direction? Pampered with support and loving kindness? Given money? Given opportunities? Had more time? Can’t I still not like them since obviously life isn’t nearly as hard for them as it is for me?
Pretend for a minute that you have thought the same thing so that I don’t feel like the only clod.
Has it ever bothered you that a camera you worked really hard for was just gifted to a friend? Has it ever just itched at those unreachable irritable places that someone got that scholarship, that opportunity, that hand up, the constant support, the financial backing, the talent that came out of no where?
(Stamp your feet and yell YEAH! with me).
Now I have riled you up and taken you back a few paces I want to share a modern dance memory with you. Before I proceed, you must know that modern dance memories are gems, so you really need to feel privileged in the next couple of moments.
Brace yourself, there will be some improvisation, but no one will be asked to pretend to be a tree.
Have I told you before that I am a dancer? Oh yea, I bring it up all the time. But did I tell you about my first run-in with modern dance? It started at a dance tryout where I was told to dance like I was “peanut butter” and then proceeded throughout my degree at BYU where I did everything from improvising for fifteen minutes only using my toes, to a painful and awkward touch improvisation where I was paired with a boy (yeck) and we had to touch each other and move together (double weird and yeck).
There was a point that the weirdness of improvisation caught on in my mind and I found myself enjoying the uncharted land of my imagination and movement. I started to see the organic truth in vulnerable moments as I danced–not trying to be right, or pretty, but purely bent on discovery.
I could stop right here and sell you all sorts of truthful propaganda about how modern dance is therapeutic, and self revealing, and spiritual, and …, but I would have to bring in refrigerator lights and neon dance pants as props and then we might all get distracted.
Instead I will tell you about a particular project we were assigned for a choreography class. We were exploring ( dancer’s don’t learn–they explore…) the fundamentals of dance: time, space, and energy.
Our teacher randomly assigned topics, and then had the gall to impose some serious restrictions! Some were limited in the space they could use, others were allowed the entirety of the room. Some were limited in body parts they were allowed to dance with. One was told she could not get off the floor. Half were told they could only move quickly, the other half were informed that they could only move slow. The restrictions were very particular for each dancer and were suspiciously catered towards our weaknesses. (Since I was always in a hurry to “be done” with performing in front of my peers I was not surprised to be told I had to dance r e a l l y slow and cover the entirety of the room.)
We were given ten minutes to “create”. That, is not a lot of time to pull something magical out of a hat. I began this project feeling overwhelmed, and slightly annoyed by my non-conformist modern dance teachers. Why couldn’t we just put on some pretty music and dance? Yet I persisted as I knew that as awkward as just standing their doing nothing would feel, the more awkward and unusual my movement was would actually earn me a better grade.
Our time to create trickled by.
We dimmed the lights and watched each creation.
A fiery folk dancer, practically famous for her Irish footwork, did an entire dance standing on one leg.
A poised ballerina, army-crawled, and crab-walked a quirky, comical solo.
I embarrassed myself. But I also accomplished said mission of dancing r e a l l y slow across the whole floor, and it was r e a l l y painful. Yet, oh so poignant.
Why? Because we had all mustered up movement that our bodies had never done before. These weren’t steps we had been taught, or routines that we had memorized. With our limitations we found new paths. We abandoned our tried and true methods of performing and discovered that even in our weaknesses we could create. Our professor summed up the experience.
“Restrictions are Miracle Grow to creativity.”
If you are reading this you are breathing, and if you are breathing you have life, and if you have life, then you have dreams. Oh that we could all rub a lamp and have a genie appear and hand us some help on a silver platter. But a five year old told me once, and an underpaid teacher told him, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit!”
Instead, explore the space of your restrictions. You may not have the money, but what do you have? Resources? You may not have as much time, but what do you have? Focus? You may just have things really hard, but what do you have? Strength?
Sometimes what we wish we had, what we think we need, what everyone else has, is too much. Having nothing may initially feel kind of crappy, but restrictions–and crap, are the Miracle Grow to creativity.
Lindsey Maughan is a mango enthusiast with a degree in modern and ballroom dance from BYU. She believes that when you read books you should take notes in the margins, that sandwiches taste better when cut on the diagonal, and that most mundane tasks can be improved upon with the right background music.
She lives with her tall, dark, and logical husband, and her almond eyed, airplane loving daughter in Hawaii. In April of this year they will welcome a second child, a boy, into the family. Both parents hope he will grow to love hiking, vacuuming, and Indian food.
Lindsey loves her jogging stroller, her ipod, good books, her journal, music, writing, dancing, cooking, yoga, and going on dates with her husband.