Tag Archives: belly dance

Quickie update

It’s been a heck of a couple weeks, which is why it’s been quiet on this blog.  There will soon be a post on Fierce Freethinking Fatties about my first week using the scooter (affectionately known as my first week as a Scooter Fatty)…let’s just say that once I pushed past my anxiety, it’s been liberating!

Off white wall and medium brown desk in background, small metal scooter with basket in back & crutch balanced on it.
My TravelScoot sitting behind my desk at work on the first full day of using it.

My next immediate hurdle is figuring out how to do appropriate spoon management while teaching so I can get back to dancing more.  A standard classroom technology podium is built for someone that’s over 5’2″ (approximately) and trying to lecture while seated in a classroom with barely movable rows isn’t working, so I’ve been standing & leaning on a rolling chair or other creative stand/sitting hybrids to be able to operate classroom technology.  I could probably fight to get a presentation remote clicker to use, but since I’m considered an adjunct professor I doubt the university would spring for that.  The other thing I’ve figured out is that the scooter is basically unhelpful in a classroom with the way I want to teach.  I’m a kinesiologist and a dancer, so I like to be in pretty constant motion in some manner, and a scooter just doesn’t allow for that.  If I can figure out how to conquer some public speaking fear to be able to teach in front of twenty college freshmen, I can definitely figure this out!

In terms of scholarly stuff in general, I’m severely struggling.  I still have my incomplete courses, but I’ve not made significant headway on my independent study for the semester either.  In all honesty, I’m barely keeping up with the one in-person course I’m in (Autism, Disability Theory, & Philosophy).  A little bit of that is from not having a background in philosophy, and a little more is from some really weird dynamics in the class that have pegged me as the token disabled person.  The rest is just from dealing with my body and what I’m trying to force it to do.  I spend most of my weekends laying in bed trying to recover.  Unfortunately, my cognitive abilities get dumped into the recovery bin as well (chronic pain is tiring on its own, even without the assortment of other bodily oddities I deal with).  I’m honestly scared because of it….I’m trying to put together my committee for my plan of study & comprehensive exams (depending on dissertation, the committee might change), but I don’t want to come across as someone that will be stuck in ABD land (“All But Dissertation”).  One way or another it’ll work itself out.

As for dance, I’m really feeling awful that I haven’t been to a dance class or a troupe rehearsal in a couple months. The combination of my work/class schedule, increasing spine problems, and tight finances have left me with doing some mental rehearsal & occasionally doing FCBD drill videos from YouTube (on my tv with my Xbox 360!  I love technology!).  It’s better than nothing, but I fiercely miss my Helix dance siblings…not only is ATS a primarily group format, but I just don’t enjoy soloing that much (which is why I never became a pro dancer…semi-pro was the best I managed in my whole-spine days).  I’m nervous getting back into the swing of it all because my anxiety disordered brain keeps spinning me tales of angry troupemates and passive aggressive garbage (the latter has happened in a previous troupe…fears with connections to reality are the hardest to overcome).

The scooter arrived just in time…for me to get a flat in one of my manual wheelchair wheels.  Since I’m still going to use the manual chair for smaller things like shopping trips and longer trips like academic conferences (I cannot bring myself to use the scooter at the upcoming Sport Sociology conference…I’m too afraid of being treated poorly and giving a first impression that will keep me from getting a job post-PhD), I’ve decided to check into solid tires that don’t have inner tubes.  They’re a bit heavier and don’t have as good of traction, but will keep me from being stuck in a random city trying to find a bike shop to pump or fix my wheels (which has happened).

In a few days, I’ll post a few OotD posts from Gwynnie Bee.  While I probably shouldn’t be spending money on it, having a guaranteed nice thing to wear once a week that I don’t have to worry about washing/drying/maintaining is absolutely lovely.  It decreases my stress, lets me have a package come in the mail about once a week, and always feels like I’m playing a grownup version of dress-up.  If I could afford upping my subscription, I would!  I could have two outfits a week for teaching in that help me not waste spoons on clothing maintenance and to help me pretend that life isn’t really hard with chronic pain & nerve damage.  Less laundry = less wasted spoons = happier Casey = I win!

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Cyborg Dance Projekt: Fears for the future

2009 CONvergence, photo by Dave Stagner Photography
2009 CONvergence, photo by Dave Stagner Photography

I’ve been avoiding this post for a while.  It started with missing a few classes, which I attributed to a bad combination of working my job plus doing my mentored teaching plus trying (still) to finish my incomplete coursework.  Then the first summer session ended, leaving me with only my job and my coursework, but I was still having trouble making it to classes & troupe rehearsals.  Then my trip to Minnesota for CONvergence at the beginning of July where I realized that my pain problems with flying have little to do with the crappy seats and are related to pressure changes in flight.

I’ve known for a couple months now that my spine is visibly doing worse via the most recent CT scan.  My L4/5 disc (the one above my fusion) is bulging.  I’ve had nerve issues related to that joint since surgery in January 2013 that I really hoped were temporary, but are getting worse.  It wouldn’t surprise me if I was looking at another spinal fusion in a few years.

Because of this, I’m currently trying to sell my spot for ATS® General Skills & the ATS® Homecoming: Return to the Mothership workshops.  It hurts so much to do this as I feel like it’s the first solid nail in the coffin of my return to bellydance.  In the back of my mind I felt like I could somehow outrun these issues, somehow return to the semi-pro level that I used to dance at.  Perhaps I was just hoping that my demise would be happening this quickly, allowing me to go to San Francisco with two of my troupe mates to learn at the Mothership (the FatChanceBellyDance studio where ATS® began and where I began ATS®).

I’m utterly heartbroken and I cry every time I think about not being able to go, but I logically know that there’s no way I could be able to handle the flight, sleep in an unfamiliar bed in a hotel, dance for 6 hours or more a day for about a week straight.  Maybe if I wasn’t a poor grad student with awful medical bills scraping by, maybe I would risk it.  The thing is that ATS® is a group improv format of bellydance, and my spine causing me to sit at the sidelines of a workshop could negatively impact another dancer’s experience (especially in the duet workshop I signed up for).  That’s not fair for whoever would be paired with me.

Despite this, I’m going to keep on bellydancing as much as I can.  I’ll keep on doing ATS® until my troupe mates kick me out for being too broken.  I don’t know what kind of shot clock I’m on (I’ve known that there is a shot clock for a long while…some of the other Projekt posts talk about it), but I’m going to try to make the best of what I have.  I’m constantly fighting between time, money, and spoons to make dancing happen, but I’m trying.  I’m also trying to remind myself that I can still do other forms of dance, and I will be fundraising to get to the annual AXIS Dance summer intensive in August of 2015 (between taking my comps early summer and defending my dissertation proposal in late summer or early fall).

Right now I’m feeling really emotionally raw.  I was hoping to get either my CONvergence 2014 post or my Flying with Wheels post finished before this, but I felt like I needed to make a more public declaration.  Finances willing, I’m going to try to make the most out of regional dance events to make up for not being able to physically handle going back to the Mothership.

As my mom says, “it is what it is.”

Cyborg Dance Projekt: Failing, but not actually failing

I remember when I first got back to belly dancing post-surgery.  That was the birth of the Cyborg Dance Projekt.  When I started that journey, I wasn’t sure if my body would be able to handle it.  It was around 6 months post-op, and I was still in a lot of pain that still necessitated opioid pain medication.

As I reflect on this almost-year long project, I’ve been beating myself up the past four or so months about dance.  My pain level has been creeping up again, and I found out that my L4/L5 vertebral joint (the one above my fusion) is having physiological issues.  I’ve known this symptomatically since a month or two after surgery, but I couldn’t get a doctor to listen to me or to take my concerns seriously.  

I’ve been beating myself up because I’m signed up for ATS Homecoming in January including General Skills & Teacher Training, and I’m afraid that my body can’t handle it (it’s 4 days of GS, 3 days of workshops, then 2 days of TT, each with about six hours of studio time).  I’m not comparing myself to my semi-pro dancer days (which, in retrospect, would have been pro if I wasn’t so shy and socially awkward), but I am comparing myself to last summer.  I would sometimes take three classes back-to-back.  I would take classes several days in a row.  I had a better home practice routine.

This fear was really eating me up until I realized something while talking to my partner.  The difference between the past few months and last summer is that I’m in classes for my PhD.  I have six hours a week sitting upright in a classroom on top of my 20 hour a week assistantship (along with the other meetings and whatnot that are unpaid requirements for getting a doctoral degree).  I have things that eat up my energy and my time, and I’m not a supercrip.  My body is just telling me that I can either have my academic work or my dance work, that something has to flex for the other thing to fit in my life.

This realization isn’t giving me any peace like I hoped it would though.  It’s making me realize that if I want to dance more while working and going to school, I need to figure out where I can conserve spoons (time/energy units).  I really need to get a mobility scooter for campus so I don’t waste my ability to be upright on things that don’t contribute to my goals.  Heck, I’ve been so bad lately that I haven’t been doing any extraneous walking….it’s to and from my car, from my car to a close building, back to my car.  I don’t go to the library for any reason unless it’s an absolute requirement.  I will go without eating for 12 hours so I don’t hurt myself going to the student union for food.  Pain is jacking up my mental health, and I need to figure out a way to get my needs met as a student, as an employee, as a spouse, as a pet parent, as a friend, and as a dancer.

So, I’m back to fundraising for a scooter that will help me be able to have the time & energy to dance, be a fully functioning doctoral student, and a happier individual that is active.  Here’s the GoFundMe link if you can help out….most insurance companies won’t pay for mobility equipment if it’s not used all of the time, including inside the home, so I’m forced to figure out how to pay for this on a grad student stipend…which means I’m fundraising.

TL;DR- Dance isn’t going as well because school is wearing down my body…but it’s ok, I’m figuring out how to cope