All jokes aside, I am three days away from turning 40. People have been asking me what I want to do for my birthday and I don't know what to tell them. When I turned 30, we were living in Madrid and we planned a 30-hour party with our friends. There was an itinerary that was distributed and anyone could join up with the party at any given time. If you wanted to join us for drinks at 7pm, we were there. If you wanted churros and chocolate at 6am the next day, there we were. Most of the big details were planned out, with room for improvisation--we all came upon a playground at 3am, which led to this:
Now, 10 years later, I have no idea how to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 30-hour party. Things feel fuzzy. The thought at the time was, "I'm turning 30 and I'm in Spain; it should be epic!". Now it really feels like, "Uh, I don't know...?".
Now, I don't want you to take this as me being negative about my age or anything like that. I like that I'm turning 40. It feels like an age with some character to it. I get to say things like, "Kids these days" and "I can't be bothered" and mean it. It's a great age.
I think the thing that feels nebulous to me is that everything is up in the air right now. I grew up being told that a woman needs to have her life settled by the time she's 40--her career, her family, her home; every detail should be in place.
Hmmm. But....what happens when you've chosen a career in the arts? I'm not even talking about the financial questions that I know come up for everyone when they hear "artist", although those are very real questions. I'm talking about art itself. The simple act of creation is a constant question. When I get up onstage, I never know exactly how the performance is going to go, especially with Flamenco since so much of it is based on improvisation and communicating with your cuadro* in real time. When I sat down to write this blog post, I had no idea what was going to come out. I still don't know where this is going to end up.
And what happens when your husband suddenly gets a job in Africa and is gone for a couple of months at a time, in a region that is not particularly stable, working for an industry that is not particularly stable?
What happens when you get diagnosed with a chronic illness that is known for being unpredictable?
What happens is the truth of life--nothing is certain. Nothing can be "settled". The moment you think things are settled, a tremor or an earthquake will hit and unsettle things. Foundations crack. Structures shift or crumble altogether.
This is where being a Flamenco dancer has given me an edge. I have been trained to improvise. If things aren't exactly going the way I had planned, I listen for cues and shift until everything gels together again and it always does. It may not end up coming out the way I originally envisioned, but sometimes that insecure moment leads to something even better. Sometimes it doesn't, but it always leaves me more confident in my ability to handle what comes.
So this birthday, with so many things in my life feeling unsettled, it seems perfect that I just let go and see what happens for my birthday weekend. So far, I've been asked to perform at El Cid on Saturday, the day after my birthday. I know many of my Flamenca friends are throwing a brunch for me the day after that. I love that the weekend has spontaneously come together and it feels very right that Flamenco is playing a big part in it.
I also find it interesting that my actual birthday day is still wide open for anything. I'm feeling a little unsettled about that, given that it's the big 4-0 and all, but I'm just going to breathe, listen for the cues, go with what comes, and know that it will be perfect.
*cuadro--the ensemble of Flamenco performers onstage.
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