O the various things that float by

1. Dance

This fall’s Dancevision concert at Culver Academies was on Amy’s birthday weekend. What a lovely treat for her last night.

The concert featured student dancers in various large and small ensembles, solos and duets, ballet and modern styles, recordings and the school’s jazz band and a few student vocalists, too.

One student — Asia — choreographed a stunning solo that actually choked me up. She has amazing technique, and expression as well.

I loved the first piece, ballet in several movements — ballet is just as beautiful, just as witty and clever, just as humorous, just as moving, as more modern styles, and it annoys me when people malign it. If you don’t care for it, fine — but it’s not because there’s anything wrong or outdated about it.

That said, I loved the more modern things, too.

I took modern dance in college all four years — I think I only had to miss one semester. Oh how I loved it! Not that I was particularly good at it, and I had no delusions of dancerly grandeur — but it was still wonderful to do. It’s great exercise, reaching every part of the body, in stretching, slow and quick movements, movement in a small space, movement across a large space, movement standing, movement on the floor. Unlike most exercise, to me anyway, it’s also beautiful and meaningful movement that nourishes the soul. Other forms of exercise nourish my soul a little bit, in that exercise does work on brain chemistry, and a body that feels good helps a soul feel good — but dance does it better.

Plus, we were blessed to have a pianist to accompany our classes, and he was very, very good. He always matched the music to the movement so deftly.

I don’t think there are any dance studios in Plymouth, and even if there are I don’t think we could afford for me to take classes “just” for the sake of having a form of exercise I enjoy, and yet — how lovely that would be.

2. Shopping with a conscience

One of my facebook friends posted the 2010 Sweatshop Hall of Shame, which I reposted, and another friend reposted after me.

I think I might have been in college before it even occurred to me to think about who was involved in making the things I had. One of my friends was in a production of the musical Working, based on Studs Terkel’s book of the same title. It’s a series of interviews with workers in various fields.

Starting to think about how one’s activities as a consumer affect other people can get overwhelming fast. It’s not obvious anymore — one store might have who knows how many suppliers in how many countries, shifting however often, and it’s not always easy to find out whether the suppliers are adequately paid, working in safe environments, and protected in various human rights. Some of the countries have good laws, some don’t, and not all supplier companies obey the laws. Some companies have inspections. Some suppliers lie and coach their workers to lie.

Looking at the labor rights organizations’ recommended shopping list is also a bit disheartening — there’s no well-known companies listed, and nothing local. Do you order something bland, boring, and expensive online that involves extensive transportation, for the sake of ethical treatment of workers, or do you buy at the local Wal-mart because it’s the only local supplier of what you need, and you want to avoid the transportation costs and keep at least some of your money in your own community?

Then there’s the issue of relationships — you don’t want to get so caught up in this or any other issue that your relationships suffer unduly. You still want your family to have a pleasant, joyful, peaceful home with things they can enjoy. You still want your friends to enjoy being with you. There’s more to life than any cause, and when every activity is tagged with conscience-raising, life gets exhausting and frustrating and dull quite quickly.

And yet — as soon as you see a face associated with that thing you’re coveting, it’s a lot harder to just buy it uncritically.

3. Sugar, sugar — and other abundances

Let me just say that it is interesting how an abundance of sugar — or any other food — can be distressing.

I don’t really think of myself as a Causie with a Vengeance — someone who’s out to sell the Simple Life to the universe — although I suspect some folks see me that way.

But, well, just four days of birthday cake has me stressed. Really, three days of it, with one day in between.

I love birthday cake. But I like it better when I have one really nice piece and then go back to regular life for a while.

I also like my refrigerator and pantry to be full of spaces — when they’re packed I get nervous. Will I eat the fresh stuff before it goes bad… I like to have enough things on hand to have choices, but I don’t like it when the sense of obligation rises above a certain threshold.

We’re on the holiday season now. Kick-started with little girl’s birthday, heading into Thanksgiving, with Christmas around the corner. Not to mention little girl still has Halloween candy she’s working on.

Again, I’m all for a splurge on tasty nothings once in a while — it’s just the overabundance of them, without much rest in between, that gets to me.

4. Thoughts on three

I forgot to make or buy a birthday card for Amy. And I haven’t written down any thoughts on her turning three. And I don’t have any right now.

Um…

Yeah. Maybe later.

5. Emotional peacekeeping

I think I’ve often taken on the role of emotional peacekeeper. I don’t like to see people being upset. I don’t like seeing conflict. I especially don’t like it when I’m involved, but it’s distressing even when I’m not. I often find myself trying to soothe all the wild beasts — either by the unproductive method of minimizing myself and my intrusion in the world, or by remaining calm and speaking calmly and offering calm advice, or by stepping in and separating people (like Amy and me).

I’ve made some progress on being able to tolerate my and other people’s distress — sometimes people just need to be distressed for a while and get through it on their own time. Sometimes I misjudge those cases, and don’t step in when Amy really needs me. Sometimes I think other people are surprised and disapprove even when I think I’m right to give her the space to cry and face her situation independently. Some people seem to get it.

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