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Anticipation, Dave Grohl’s right leg, and perfect days

Way back in December, I bought two tickets to see the Foo Fighters play Murrayfield stadium on the 23rd of June. I’ve wanted to see them live for 16 years. To say I was excited would be an incredible understatement.

In the past month, I’ve been listening to their back catalogue while pounding out websites at work trying to decide what my favourite album is and failing. (And reminding myself what a cracking album The Colour and the Shape is.) I’ve been impatiently waiting for this Tuesday. I was ready – and well overdue – for a big, loud rock show where I could jump around and scream along. My enthusiasm for this gig was dangerously boundless.

So of course, Dave Grohl broke his leg.

Oh, Dave. How awesome can you get?

I believe ‘gutted’ is probably the correct term here. (Thank you, UK vocabulary.) The news that the rest of the UK tour would be cancelled fell on top of a particularly crap week. So I DID actually cry when I read it.

First of all, how completely terrible that this had to happen to The Nicest Man In Rock. Dave FINISHED THE SHOW while his leg was held together by his EMT (and probably a whole lot of adrenaline). He is a friggin’ legend. After that though, the doctors were like, ‘ehhh, no, you need to not play some shows, because NO’.

You can tell in the statement he wrote on the Foo Fighters website that he is so disappointed and frustrated about the whole thing. I’m sure no fan would want him to screw himself up any more, so of course it’s fine that the show is cancelled. But it’s also just completely depressing. Or at least it was for a while.

I gave myself Wednesday to be in a funk, because the shit had just piled up a little too much and sometimes, as Louis CK has said in the following well-circulated (and great) clip, you gotta let yourself feel fully sad before you crush it or push it away. So I did.

And then I went dancing, sweat my face off, properly tired myself out, and felt a billion times better.

I know I’ll get to see the Foo Fighters someday. So this is really not that big a deal. I mean, when I tried to see Radiohead the first time in Bull Run, Virginia, we made it to the venue on this blistering hot, sunny day where we were all ironically praying for a bit of rain to cool everything down just a little. But then 30 minutes after the gates opened, the heavens ALSO opened and there was a ridiculous torrential thunderstorm and the entire place flooded and it was all cancelled. And man, that day became a story to tell, because how could it not when thousands of people were more or less trapped in a flooded mud pit since everyone had parked in the grass?

We did not get to see Radiohead that day, and I had been at least as excited about that if not MORE than Foo Fighters this week. But I DID get to see Radiohead. A few years later in Rhode Island. And then again in Glasgow. And it was all fine and worth the wait and after I stopped blithering last Tuesday night that’s what I thought about.

And actually, the week hit an upswing and kept getting better. Dancing again on Thursday with a great class on fast Lindy, a chilled out Friday night, and one of the best Saturdays I’ve had all year. One of those rare, unplanned, absolutely perfect days – a killer dance workshop in the morning, an amazing pub lunch, and a party in Holyrood park with rounders, boules, a Swedish candle, the fire brigade, lots of beer, and a midnight walk up the Crags for midsummer. All in excellent company.

Rounders in the park. I can still pitch!

Rounders in the park. I can still pitch!

Part of the reason swing dancing is so good for me is, as a follow, it forces me to kill my anticipation and give up most of my control-freak tendencies, because the more I can do that the better follow I’ll be. When we were coming down the Crags in the dark, it had just started raining so everything was already hard to see but also suddenly got very slippery. We’d all been joking about how our appropriate-for-Lindy-shoes were not exactly appropriate-for-tromping-up-hills-in-the-dark shoes. I’d also been talking about worrying about unexpectedly messing up my ankles or knees and not being able to dance. And someone said I probably just shouldn’t think about that stuff because really, how can you control for freak accidents?

And THEN I slipped and had a moment where I thought I might have REALLY killed my ankle. (NOT A GOOD WEEK FOR LEGS, GUYS.) Incredibly luckily, after a bit of a shake out, my ankle was fine, but it was as close a call as I’d like to have.

I don’t really know what any of that proves, but maybe if I’d not been thinking or yammering so much about it, it wouldn’t have happened.

I’m always going to be the kind of person who gets incredibly excited about things. I don’t think that’s bad, but maybe if I could kill some of my anticipation OUTSIDE of dancing, I’d be able to relax about things more. It often get so extreme I give myself anxiety stomachaches. It’s not normal. It’s probably not healthy (it certainly doesn’t feel it). But it’s the way I am. It makes the disappointment of something not happening the way I planned or imagined a lot more crushing than it should be sometimes. Big ups equal big downs. I worry about this in terms of travel planning because despite being able to handle it now that I understand my own head, I know how I’ll feel if something goes completely wrong. I guess at least I’ve got some self-awareness though.

I also know from experience that things will just work themselves out. I may not be able to stop the initial air-knocked-out-of-life feeling, but I can at least tell my jerkbrain that it will pass, and that a perfect day will crop up to turn things around when I least expect it.

Summer’s gonna rock, you guys

This beauty is on its way to me.

Right as I got home from the US and declared it’s now The Six Months Of Saving A Lot For The Trip, I just spent a whole load of money this weekend. And NOT on travel.

I bought a bike (and related accoutrements) and I registered for a few swing dance events.

I feel this is all justified.

A lot of what I thought about on my lazy train rides to and from North Carolina was what I wanted the summer (and all the time preceding my whole rip-it-up-and-start-again thing) to look like. My priorities surfaced pretty quickly: friends, dancing, Scotland. All of these overlap quite nicely.

I tend to say yes to way too much extra work and crap I really don’t need to. Between that and seemingly endless life admin bullshit, I’ve been feeling really overloaded when all I really want to do is make time for the stuff that makes me feel like life is awesome. So really I just want to say yes to doing more with my friends around Edinburgh and the rest of the country. And I want to do as much dancing as possible. And hopefully feel like I’m getting better at it.

You may remember that I was thinking of going to Sweden for a week of Herräng dance camp this summer. I decided in the end that I’d have to push that plan to another year in order to save more for the Trans-Siberian. As luck would have it though, Rob and Diane Van Haaren, who have taught at Herräng for most of the last 20 or so years, are doing a workshop in Edinburgh in July, so I can get a taste of swing dance summer camp without leaving home (and for an incredible price). Then just before I run away in November, Edinburgh Winter Swing Weekend happens, which also includes super amazing teachers (Jo Hoffberg, Kevin St. Laurent, Jenny Thomas and Scott Cupit) and a whoooole lotta dancing. It’ll make for an excellent leaving party.

I’m incredibly excited about all of that. And I’ll also be doing Edinburgh Lindy Exchange in September as well as all my usual weekly stuff and various social dances here and there. All of this covers every single one of those priorities – in addition to helping keep me relatively sane. It’s good money to spend, and it’s not actually all that much in the end.

As for the bike, I had already decided to buy it before I went away, because I thought if I didn’t budget for it before the trip, I’d never afford it right away when I got back. I am not exaggerating when I say just about everyone I know has a bike, and I’ve been considering it for a pretty long time. I got a pretty entry-level one in terms of price and fanciness, but good enough that it should last a fairly long time. (And I can’t waaaaait for it to arrive. 7-10 days, gah!)

So now I can zip back and forth between home and dance stuff and friends’ places and the beach and anywhere else I feel like going. And I can go for longer rides on the weekends or take it on the train and explore other places relatively cheaply. I walk everywhere in this city, which I love to do, but it does take up a lot of time, so this will allow me to claim some of that time back without losing the exercise. Then I can spend more time with people or reading books or sleeping, which I need to do a bit more of as well.

These things are all making the summer look pretty awesome. Plus there are hiking trips to the highlands, Balkan music club nights, Foo Fighters at Murrayfield (finally!), lazy Sunday morning breakfasts in cafes, local beer festivals, and all manner of other things planned. And my parents will be visiting in September, when we’ll probably go to Arran or somewhere equally cool.

And I think I’ve managed to fit it all in the budget while still saving enough for 3 months away. Seriously. HOORAY!

Hard stuff: The Truth, Charleston, and Doing It Anyway

My brain (and limbs) have been absolutely all over the place this weekend, so what follows will sort of be too. Bear with me. It pretty much ties together.

I had my citizenship party on Friday night, during which something like 30-40 people from every corner of my life were in the same room in a bar. I barely spoke to anyone for longer than 5 minutes at a stretch because: big parties. But it was great to have SO many different people there drinking and mixing and celebrating (and eating a lot of brownies).

At some point near the start of the night, I had a brief conversation about The Impending Big Trip during which the phrase ‘this trip gets shorter every time I talk to you’ was used. As well as ‘That’s how they get you!’ when discussing work and money and possible promotions and all that rubbish.

Before I had time to think about it properly, I was whisked into another completely different conversation. But by the end of the night it had rolled around enough in my head that I went to sleep thinking THAT’S ME TOLD.

It’s like the frog in the cold pot of water slowly coming to the boil. Or something like that. I’ve been getting dragged, bit by bit, into the security of money. Without even realising it. And yeah, that kind of security is important to some people and that’s cool. But I have no one to support but me, and work drives me nuts at the best of times. The day job was never the plan. The plan was to save the money and throw that security to the wind. I’ve been shying away from that. I have been slowly CHICKENING OUT.

This is my keychain. Seriously. I SHOULD LOOK AT IT MORE OFTEN.

This is my keychain. Seriously. I SHOULD LOOK AT IT MORE OFTEN.

Saturday night I went to a social dance and was then convinced to come to the second half of a weekend of workshops with Ksenia Parkhatskaya on solo Charleston, Jazz and Blues. I had never intended to go because I figured I’d be flattened from the effects of my party-time drinkin’. But I had mostly recovered by Saturday night, and Ksenia’s performance at the dance as well as my friends’ raving about that day’s classes was enough to convince me I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity.

So I spent Sunday learning some pretty advanced 20s Charleston all morning. It was FUCKING HARD. I think I sweat enough to fill Loch Ness. I was confused and lost most of the time. It was fast and impressive and frustrating and utterly, utterly brilliant. And the Jazz and Blues workshops in the afternoon were equally mind-bending, if not quite as sweaty.

My confusion was nothing to do with the teaching – Ksenia was a fantastic teacher. I’d like to know where she gets the endless reserves of energy from because after having danced like mad all weekend, she still looked fresh as a daisy. She was fun and lovely and SO good.

The frustration lies in the fact that the moves are difficult, and despite having been doing the whole swing dance thing for a while now, I am still not super great on rhythm. It’s a difficult thing to learn. I’m way better than I was a year ago, but you just have to do these things over and over and over to get any better at them.

If you want to be a writer you have to write, if you want to be a dancer you have to dance. And you have to do it badly for a long time before you do it remotely well. Like that Ira Glass quote. Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough. And that is a hard thing to do. Especially when you’re tired and you feel your feet are gonna fall right the hell off. (Because TWISTING. My god. And I don’t even want to think about how I’m gonna feel tomorrow morning. If I can walk at all it’ll be a miracle.)

I went through these waves of discouragement and motivation all day in my head during these classes. I’d lose the beat or the steps and get completely frustrated. I’d pick it back up but only a little bit and lose it again. I’d get completely down on myself about it and want to give up. But not REALLY. Just in that way your brain feels like it canNOT cope with another variation on something you haven’t even got the basics of down yet anyway. And then it would get faster. And then I’d just try to go with it the best I could and push through the fact that I was not going to nail it. And that is totally ok.

My downstairs neighbours are going to start to truly hate me because I will be practising this shit all over my flat (once I can move my ankles again anyway). And I will be kind of crap at it. And I will NEVER be as good as Ksenia, but that is not a problem. I will get better than I am. And I’ll be better as a human for all the working at it.

All of this Doing Hard Stuff along with the realisation that I was getting too comfortable with the security of money over the things I actually want to do kicked me back into high gear on the travel prep. I need to get out of this flat. I need to store most of my earthly possessions (after getting rid of a bunch of them). I need to get out and explore. It’s going to be frustrating and hard but it will be SO MUCH BETTER than sitting around in the safe, boring world of a job with a pension and benefits and a flat and all that. And I have other kinds of security. I have the power of not one, but two countries behind me. Two embassies to call in a travel crisis!

But more importantly, I have the kind of security no money or nationality can buy: There were nearly 40 people out celebrating with me on Friday, and those were just the ones who live in this country and could make it. I know the most AMAZING people, here and around the world. That is no exaggeration. Even my newest friends are just so fucking awesome I can barely contain myself about it. They are all Just. Great. And all of these friends I have are incredibly lovely and smart and helpful and supportive, and I have no doubt I could count on so many of them in a crisis. I HAVE counted on so many of them in a crisis. I am so unbelievably lucky I could explode. I cannot overstate that.

In a world of things to worry about (and I do worry a lot), it does me some good to be reminded every once in a while that I needn’t be so concerned because I’ve got the really important stuff covered. I must be doing something more than brownies right.

So here I am, sucking it up and remembering the frustration is better than the cash. Here I am in the bit of the class where I stumble through all the scary, hard stuff where I know I look like a total wreck but I HAVE to keep going. Here I am getting quotes for self-storage and negotiating how moving out of my flat will work at the end of the year. (Yes, I have done all of these things in the past 48 hours.) Here I am finding the money. Feeling the terror and doing it anyway.

I might well need a foot massage in the morning though. Eesh.