first, a video:

then, some context:

out of the frame is my wheelchair that I use full-time to get around. I was born without a tail bone and a bunch of confused nerve endings. My legs got left out of the electrical loop. I was never supposed to sit upright independently. Parts of what you just saw, is unexplainable, medically speaking.

And also because I have never been able to really explain it either.

A fact I have spent a long time frustrated by. I felt burdened to extrapolate, give meaning to these feats I regularly undertake. To declare whether I am disabled or not disabled, to choose one side or the other and to have a full understanding and personal responsibility for the effect my feats have on other people.

I felt the need to have well-thought out responses to the social reactions around me and how that must relate somehow to the psychological state i’m in or my beliefs.

I want to explain it and myself so it can be duplicated by other people who tell me they admire it, wish it for themselves, grasp for it and don’t find it. If I knew how the mechanism worked, despite how it looks or seems, then I could help, and that includes helping myself out when I’m grasping and not finding.

But I don’t. I have no idea how it works.

Now, more context:

what you don’t hear is how much I complain and whine about how hard it is or how frustrated I am with the process. It’s a lot. People see the end result and often tell me how inspired they are by my ‘can do’ attitude. And I always feel terribly guilty and dishonest. I never really went through it all cheery. I vexed the entire time. I pouted a lot. I tried to back out. I lost hope. Thank god for incredibly patient coaches who take me at face value (I showed up, so I must intend to keep trying, whatever else is coming out of my mouth), but who also don’t take it all too seriously – or give up on me.

I started aerial silks almost two years ago on a whim. It sounded cool. It sounded fun. I was drawn to the quirkiness of it, and by some instinct my body has for what it can do and the pleasure I get from doing things that make me feel strong and agile. This instinct is almost entirely subconscious and impervious to my attempts to tease it out and explain itself to me so, despite my body’s tendency to be really precise and particular about what It can and can’t do by the time i’m conscious of it I’m left with two explanations: because I wanted to, or, because I didn’t feel like it.

And when people were asking me what I think about independence or the experience of the disabled person or anything at all in the vicinity of being an inspiration, strength, ability I always felt like there was something really jackassy about saying ‘uh. I just felt like it so I did it and it worked out?’ like i’m leaving out the essential and secret ingredient to a family recipe. (I slowly grow more aware of how it’s the opposite. I get really jackassy and defensive when I try to make more out of it than there is. When it feels to me like my abilities are a lot more like brownies from the box than any secret-recipe type of accomplishment.)

I took a weekend workshop with the Aerial Angels while they were in London, Ontario where we made up variations that suited me on the fly and mostly just had a blast. I was still an anomaly, but all the trying stuff out and the inventions and variations were interesting to every one. It levelled the playing field.

That weekend Allison Williams told me that what I was doing on the silks was interesting and had potential. If I wanted to ever pursue it she thought it was a totally viable path for me.

And then I was hooked.

That’s what I wanted. To perform this. To create aerial pieces that intrigued and awed people and expressed something different than what I was used to expressing through music, to push that boundary in myself to use my body to say something.

It’s been two years since then. most of that two years I could barely string two moves together before having to come down. And there was a lot of discovering what I couldn’t do. And don’t forget all the whining. Especially about how scared I am of heights and how I don’t like letting go when i’m up in them.

And there was a lot of insecurity. My body doesn’t make straight lines. not those glorious acrobat lines I enjoy looking at. my feet flop around in a sloppy, dangly, unintentional way. Always in the back of my mind was this discrepancy between how I wanted things to look and how they actually did when I got to see them. I am impressively strong, and I easily trust that, but being graceful? It almost hurts to even try. (when people started to compare my movements to lightening, I eased up on myself a bit, because that’s cool.)

And when I think of all that: How it should be impossible, how I whine about all the parts, how my insecurities are fiercely flailing all over the open air, how some really cool stuff is actually impossible, how long it took to get anywhere near performance quality, how much farther I have to go to hit some of my highest hopes for this…

…how am I still doing this?

I have no idea how it works. I have no idea how I work, when I get right down to it.

I want to know. So much of my struggle, my *effort* as a counsellor, an artist, a human being has not been in the pursuit or expression of things – but in trying to understand how they work. I feel afraid to not know how they work. I feel like it’s a failure to help others If I can’t explain it. Like it’s an incomplete effort. Like, knowing *how* they work is permission to *let* them work for me.

This miracle body.

This miracle life.

I don’t know how it works. I feel so vulnerable saying it. like a mantra. over and over.

I just don’t know.

Finally:

That video is a small excerpt from a routine I am currently working on. It’s based on a lot of the ideas I’m trying to write about here, and the inadequacy of these words is the driving force behind this routine – I *can’t* say these things. I try to talk about it *all* the time. The words contradict me or are adjacent to where I desperately mean for them to land.

So, I move instead.

p.s.
My first ever silks performance will be on the 28th of April as part of Heliummm’s student showcase. If you are in or near New York City, I would be so happy to share this moment with you.

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