Sunday, July 20, 2014

Small things, Big Picture

When working on choreography, I look at the basic elements of the song (like the number of beats per phrase), but I also have to step back and look at the song as a whole (such as, how many times the chorus repeats before the bridge comes in).  There are an infinite number of movement choices in every musical phrase.  I choose which ones to make “real” when I create choreography.  In life, every moment presents an infinite number of response (or behavior) choices.  What we choose to do and say is what becomes “real.”  Additionally, what we choose to look at dictates our state of mind and affects how we experience our lives.

In life, we can often get stuck, focused on small things that just do not matter in the context of the bigger picture.  I’ve found that when a person is mad about a particular situation, getting stuck on something small is a symptom of anxiety rather than a rational response to a problem.  This hyper-focus is born of anger and narrows the array of possible choices.  What is being made “real” is the person’s fear.  It never ends well. 

When I was much younger and getting a divorce, I left my wedding dress at the house I was living in with my then-husband.  I had a crazy grandmother who was living with my mother at the time.  She was enraged because instead of coming home to them, I chose to live at a friend’s house.  Every day, my grandmother would call and badger me about retrieving my wedding dress.  Apparently, she felt it was imperative and had to be done NOW.  Of course, that was the least of my worries as I was very sad over the break-up of my marriage and didn’t care if I ever saw that dress again.  But my grandmother would just not let go.  She ended up getting the dress from my soon-to-be-ex-husband and took it to a dry cleaner to be “preserved.” 

Can I take a break here and just stand to the side, look at the larger picture, and ask you, “Crazy?! Right?!?”

Anyway, she ended up getting into a HUGE fight with the dry cleaner over the dress.  It didn’t help anyone and it certainly didn’t make me feel better.  To this day, I don’t know what happened to that dress. My grandmother was certain that either the dry cleaner stole it or my ex-husband was wearing it all over town – I don’t know what story she told herself.  The point is, in the larger picture it wasn’t about the dress.  It was about her rage at not being in control and how (once again) I’d proven my inadequacy as a granddaughter and human being.

On the other hand, focusing on the small things can get you through a tough time by consciously putting one foot in front of the other.  This is a very different kind of focus.  It’s one of openness to new ways of seeing situations and experiences.  It has to do with staying in the now.  The options one has in this case widen because the focus is on asking, “What’s the next right thing to do?”  This hopefully springs from love of oneself and trust that we will know “the next right thing.”  When you put a lot of “right things” together, you get one really big, good thing.  

In the context of dance, small movements sometimes set up the momentum for the bigger dramatic sequences.  It’s like a build-up before the leap.  In life, every step we make is creating the big picture of our lives and a build-up for the next leap.

We have no idea what the big picture is going to look like. We just have to go phrase by phrase, beat by beat, and trust that if every step is an expression of our heart’s truth, it will bring us to a beautiful song – or a big picture we are thrilled to see.

Photo by MaryEllen Hendricks

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