Saturday, March 10, 2012

I want to be Ingrid

Every Wednesday and Friday at the gym, I do my physical therapy warm-ups in a quiet, open area next to the almost-empty group exercise room. I say almost empty because, in that cavernous room, is one elderly lady, gracefully doing plies at the bar.

Ingrid is 70 years old and has been a ballerina all her life. We met in passing two weeks ago and have become informal "gym buddies".

Ingrid is in better shape than me, without a doubt. Her posture is almost perfect, she is lithe and strong, and her movements are graceful and purposeful. She can lift her 70 year old foot above her waist with a control and poise I'm quite certain I have never mustered in all my 37 years. She can sweep her arms around her body so beautifully so that, if you squinted a little, you would believe our ages to be reversed.

But this is not why I want to be Ingrid - although I do wish that I had pursued a vocation that kept me in better shape.

What gets me is when Ingrid talks about ballet.

When Ingrid talks about ballet, her face lights up, her eyes twinkle, and her body vibrates with passion. She was a company dancer for the New York City Opera House, has tutored many a young girl to some of the country's top dance schools, and devoted much of her early years to teaching ballet as therapy to children with polio, in some cases helping children walk unaided for the first time.

Although she retired from teaching ballet several years ago, she recently returned to work after a school in Sacramento practically begged her to. She talks about her students with love, affection, and pride and, is again, watching with eager anticipation as one of them applies to the New York City Ballet.

And as my ears listened to her stories, my heart beat a little faster, feeling her enthusiasm through osmosis and wishing that I had spent my life doing something I felt so passionate about that, at age 70, I would still look and sound like that when talking about it.

In 30 years, I want to be Ingrid.

Separately, and on a seemingly unrelated note, I watched the Kony 2012 video this week and was blown away. (If you have not watched it yet, first of all, where have you been? Secondly, you should do so right now. Click my link.)

Of course I was moved by the plight of those kidnapped children and, yes, I put my money where my mouth was and signed-up to support the movement. But, yet again, what "got" me more than anything else was the film-maker. He saw something so unimaginably wrong, a situation so large and overwhelming that it was absorbing thousands of children a year, thousands of miles away and he dared to think that he could make a difference. He didn't quietly lament the state of the world or give $20 to some Christian aid charity, he put his money and his time where his mouth and heart were and achieved something truly worthwhile.

At this point in my life, at this crossroads, I am struggling with what my life means and what's the point. What is the difference I have made? What is the reason for my existence if not to be Ingrid and living it in pursuit of something that I really give a shit about? The things I thought would matter no longer seem to or, at least, seem to matter a lot less than I imagined they would and, in many ways, it feels as though I've been heading in the wrong direction for 20 years.

I have no answers right now, only questions.


Vickie Horvath said...

In many ways your are like Ingrid. When you talk and share stories about your daughter your face lights up with delight; its so obvious and wonderful to watch.

Photography is also something that you talk about with such passion, it's infectious and contagious. Your love of photography re-ignited my passion. YOU are the reason I picked up a camera again.

Your husband...even though he can frustrate you (what husband does), he can also make you smile. He is an important part of your life.

You will find your way over this crossroad and YOU will know are ingrid

All My Love To YOU!

e said...

I'll be interested to hear what answers you come up with. I know what you mean, why are we not all pursuing something we're passionate about? What happens in life that takes our focus away?

I also wonder what comes first: the passion or the thing itself? I think the happiest people are the ones who are able to get passionate about whatever is already there. So maybe it's not about us finding what we're passionate about, but being passionate about whatever we're doing and wherever we are in life.

e said...

Incidentally, it's about time people started paying attention to this Kony issue. Kony's only one guy, this problem has been going on all over sub-Saharan Africa on and off for decades. What surprised me the most is how surprised people are about this happening. Really?? Where has everybody been? Anyway, whatever it takes, good for the guy for making this film, I hope it makes a difference.

MACMD said...

I actually disagree with your comment, E, about people being passionate about what they're doing vs. finding something they are passionate about.

What could be true is that people fall into something they love, even though they were not necessarily searching for it or didn't "know" they were passionate about it. Photography is kind of that for me.

However, I don't buy this stuff that you can just think yourself into liking or loving something through some kind of positive-thinking, love-the-one-your-with mentality. I just don't. Maybe it's for some folk, it's not for me.

If I don't like something or I'm unhappy, something's got to change and, while I can definitely suck it up or focus on other positive things in my life in the short term, in order to "balance", eventually you just can't continue to do something that makes you miserable, no matter how hard you work to try and make it not so.

I mean, why did you leave the entertainment industry? Should you have just stayed and slogged away in an industry that did not make you happy, adjusting your mentality to "love it"? I think not.

e said...

LOL well, there really wasn't anything to disagree with. I was just posing a query. I think you're right, there are definitely things that don't work and that need to be changed, especially if they're making us unhappy. Yet, there are people that in the worst circumstances find passion and happiness. So where's the line?

My comment wasn't meant to suggest that you, or anyone, should get passionate about things that suck, or that you should like your life no matter what and accept it no matter what without making a change. It was also not specifically directed at you, by the way, but I think you know that.

I was just thinking that both things seem to be true: that if you don't like something you should make a change; and that nothing and no one can make you happy if you're committed to being dissatisfied.

But what I am not clear on is where does one bleed into the other? Especially since most people seem to be wired to focus on the negative (for example, many of us will get 100 accolades and one criticism, and we obsess over the criticism like our life depended on it).

I see this in myself, for example. There are days that the same exact circumstances make me feel hopeless and trapped, and days that I think I'm blessed beyond belief and wow what a life I have. Which is the truth? Either? Neither? A combination of both? But which combination?

I do think you're 100% nail on the head, however, about not accepting a life that is not satisfying.

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