It’s a Wobbleful Life
On our trip to New York, my friend and I decided to take a class in a Broadway dance studio — a heels class, my first ever. And the teacher said something during the warm-up that struck me.
She had us stand with our feet together, do a relevé (the ballet term for standing on the balls of your feet, as seen above), and then she asked us to hold that position.
I watched my feet wobble in the mirror. My upper body tilted in different directions. I bit my lip and clenched my fists as if that would help me keep my balance. Over the music, the teacher shouted, pushing us to stay on our toes. And as I fought to keep myself upright and steady, she said, “It’s not about staying still. It’s about adjusting.”
I’m not a ballet dancer, but in the golden days of my cheerleader core power, I’d been taught and trained on how to hold that position: keep your core tight, butt squeezed, and imagine a straight line traversing you vertically like a barbecue stick. The only acceptable state, I always thought, was to be in full control, aware of my body, rigid as a bamboo.
Was my dance teacher saying that the key is in one’s ability to adjust? Sure, that’s one way to turn this into a broader life lesson. There were a few things I could do to hold that relevé: Put a bit more distance between my feet, turn my toes out, raise my arms slightly, or maybe even put my feet down and reset if I need to. And I did try all of those. I kept wobbling, but my face and fists were more relaxed now.
And I think it’s because I heeded her advice: I stopped trying to be perfectly still. She granted me some (literal) wiggle room, and I took it. This was the first time I considered that, maybe, holding my own — keeping myself together — was less about imagining a stick up my ass and more about accepting my own unsteadiness. It was so refreshing — this take on dealing with challenges and changes. And Pema Chodron puts it wonderfully in her book When Things Fall Apart: “We could step into uncharted territory and relax with the groundlessness of our situation.”
When I began writing this piece last week, it was a Tuesday — my second day at my new job (my third company since the…