RSS Feed

Category Archives: being a better person

~ “Movement never lies.” ~ Martha Graham

Her arm rose with bewitching ease. It was as if she were playfully tossing a brightly coloured ball to her lover … The instant she turned, smiled and waved … she was unaware of her age. The essence of her charm, independent of time, revealed itself for a second in that gesture and dazzled me. I was strangely moved. And then the word Agnes entered my mind. Agnes. I had never known a woman by that name.

And so begins Milan Kundera’s Immortality. A woman named Agnes and the impact of her gesture. I’ve always loved the word “gesture.” There’s a kind of elegance in the way it sounds and in the way it’s described, like this particularly poignant version: The thing to remember about gesture, whether you’re using it as a verb or a noun, is that not only is it a movement of the hands or body, but it’s also a movement that has some meaning, intention or emotion behind it. When you use gesture, you are entering into a whole history of human communication, because there is no language that exists entirely without gesture. People can’t communicate without gesture. It’s so connected to intention that there is a phrase “empty gesture,” used to mean an action or movement that is without genuine feeling.

My long career as a dance artist has revolved around gesture and intention. The foundation of my training, performing, teaching and directing is based on expressing and recognizing authentic gesture. Are your actions expressing what you want to convey? Are your actions belying what you want to convey?

You don’t need to be a dancer to understand gesture and intention. Over the course of our lives, we’ve learned to trust our instincts, our spidey senses. For the most part, we know when we’re witnessing acts of kindness or assholy-ness, when we’re buying something or calling bullshit. Of course, being wonderfully complex people, our perceptions are coloured by everything that makes us us. Our environment, age, sex, where we have/haven’t been, who we do/don’t interact with etc., all influence how we interpret and absorb gestures and intentions. But I’d like to believe, from a purely people-are-more-good-than-bad standpoint, we’re often on the same page.

Years ago, I saw a video of a young Japanese girl (she was around 3 years-old), trying to cross two concrete steps separated by a gap. Her older brother (around 5 years-old) had already crossed and was reaching out to help her. So afraid was his sister that he lay down, creating a bridge with his body, on which his sister crawled across. And… bawl! Brother, love, protection, sister. This little boy’s spontaneous gesture broke my heart.

Most of us would watch this video and be moved, to varying degrees perhaps, but in my mind, there’s simply no other way to respond. We witness all kinds of gestures each day. And, though they may not be quite as dramatic as this one, I think we learn a lot about people from these seemingly benign gestures, these momentary glimpses into their soul. Alright, now I’m being dramatic. But then again, not really. I mean, sometimes you get a pretty good snapshot of someone from a simple gesture. Like the gal who didn’t hold the elevator door open, knowing you were almost there; the guy who gave you his seat on the bus; the momentary eye contact and smile with a neighbor in the hallway, etc. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been that gal in the elevator before. I’m not proud of it and I certainly don’t make a habit of it, but I’m sure the person I didn’t wait for thought I was an asshole. And I mean who are we kidding? I totally was! I like to think that somewhere in the Karmic universe, my good gestures override my bad. That in the end, I’m more often a good person with good intentions. But I have bad moments, we all do. The good news is, we get plenty of chances to try again, to be better.

One of my favourite quotes, and one I’ve mentioned before in my blog, is by Maya Angelou: “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Now, in the case of a negative first impression, I’m usually willing to give a person more than one chance to show me they’re better than that. But if a person continually shows a deficiency in their character, an absence of decency and empathy, then my ongoing engagement with them is just fucking stupid.

It may come as a surprise to some that at age 49, in 2017, in my beloved Toronto Canada, where I was born and raised, I still encounter racism. An ignorant or outright racist remark now and again always comes out of nowhere, like a sucker punch, and lands squarely on my heart. Yes folks, this happens.

Considering the escalating volatility in the world, and unimaginable displays of arrogance, deception and cruelty, I can’t help thinking, “Have we completely lost our fucking minds?! Is this really who we are? Is this really who we want to be?” Like our reaction to the Japanese brother and sister, how can we NOT be on the same page about this shit show?!

Some days, I’m completely  overwhelmed by all the noise and despicable gestures that show humanity at its very worst. It’s caused me to take a good look at myself, how I am in the world, how I want to be. My gestures and intentions matter, and so do yours.

We can all do better.

~ The One Before 50 ~

Posted on

Snippets and general musings as I begin my 49th year.

Everyone who knows me well is aware of my severe phobia of bedbugs. That being said, I love hotels. Ever since I was a kid, I get excited when I walk into a beautiful hotel. I suppose it’s the anticipation of exploring everything new – city, country, lifestyle – and a dreamy home away from home that someone else cleans every day. Throw in a sexy lobby bar, and hello happy hour! I also have a thing for office buildings during Christmas, with the lights and the trees and the shiny marble floors…

On the other hand, motels have always made me feel sad. Something about being in a stale room, next to a remote highway with nothing to do but stay inside your stale room. That and the lonely plastic lawn chair outside the front door. Cue the Counting Crows’ Raining in Baltimore and pass the vodka.

~

The 49-year-old neck. Enough said.

~

Making all my connections on public transit is a great way to start the day. As an added bonus, it’s fantastic when I get a seat, the seat is clean, there are no inappropriately close-standers (especially when there’s plenty of room), and the door to the train, streetcar or bus stops directly in front of me.

Another great way to start the day is with a killer poop! Sorry, but it’s true and you know it. Especially the kind (and I’ll try not to get too graphic here), that is astoundingly voluminous and thoroughly purging. The kind that amazes me so much, I almost feel like calling M in to witness my dinasauric ever-loving feat! I’m lighter, less bloated and ready to kick up my heels! For a gal who gets backed up just by saying, “backed up,” these rare moments are golden.

~

Wheel-trans buses can be late; friends can get side-tracked; doctors can get swamped. But a sincere, “I’m sorry for being late,” really can buffer my irritation… as long as it doesn’t become habitual.

I’m genuinely perplexed by the perpetually late. I’ve read numerous theories and psychological profiles about the chronically late. Whatever the underlying reasons, the bottom line is absolutely, positively and without question NO ONE likes to be kept waiting, even the person who is (wait for it), ALWAYS LATE. What really chafes my ass is when there’s no apparent effort to remedy the lateness, no effort to find a solution. Because then it feels like you don’t give a shit about me, and that’s not cool at all. It’s like bad breath. If you have it, I’ll always think of you as the person with bad breath.

~

Any act of kindness genuinely moves me. Not to get all Kumbaya about it but seriously, when the customer service rep or the parking attendant or the receptionist for that perpetually late doctor is kind, I get tingly happy feelings. I was at the airport flying to the States awhile back and all of humanity seemed to be flying out the same day. Airport staff corralled us in a holding area and only let us line up for customs based on our departure times (so much for arriving 2.5 hours before my flight, thinking I could get through the rigmarole, then lollygag in book stores and duty-free).

Departure time 8:00am!” an agent called out. “Please line up now.” They continued this process every so often, in 5 minute increments. My departure time was 9:10am. No lollygagging for me!

When I finally reached security, there was a gem of a female security agent there to greet me. So friendly and easygoing, her smile and breeziness made the previous 1.5 hours a fading memory.

Despite my conscious effort to be a breezier person, I can turn on a fucking dime, and it’s all I can do to channel my inner peace and fucking calm. Like when M and I were crossing the street in front of the ACC before a Raptors game and it was insane with traffic (meaning cars were not moving), and there was a gap in front of a stopped cab that M and I walked through, and the cab driver randomly honked and scared the shit out of us! I mean where the hell was he in a hurry to go? One more inch forward? I lost my shit and after some erratic hand gestures indicating how pissed off I was, I went up to his window and yelled, “Shut up!” Nothing too serious or threatening, but it’s kind of scary how quickly I can go from breezy to fuck you!

How we cope when confronted with shit, really speaks to the kind of person we are, doesn’t it? I mean bad things can happen, and they can happen to even the best people. I know two people who have faced unimaginable, truly devastating shit, and yet they somehow persevere, maintain their light and positivity without blame, bitterness, fanfare or Facebook. They are my constant beacons of what I hope to be like, during and after, those epically shitty times.

Based on my breezy to fuck you acceleration, I have a ways to go.

Onward to 50.

 

%d bloggers like this: