Search

circusMAMA blog

my account of balancing motherhood, circus, and sanity

A Disclaimer

This blog started out as a record of resuming aerial acrobatics after a c-section, a goal that I was more successful with some months than others. At this point, I feel that I am “recovered” for all intents and purposes. Sure, my body is still affected by having had two c-sections, but no more so than some one who has torn their rotator cuff in high school or has a bad back. I have to be mindful to engage my abs so that they do not separate, and I am still working on cuing my lower abs to fire, especially in things like straight-arm inversions. My joint stability is not great at the best of times, and it did not even start to even out until I stopped breastfeeding at about a year. At 16(ish) months post partum, I am only recently back to approximately my pre-baby size and have only been breaking new ground in aerial work in the last few months.

I remember sobbing when I read that many mothers took a full year to get back to their fitness level after baby, and the helplessness I felt when there wasn’t even a path for those who had had a c-section. Now that I am on the other side of it, I will say that it was not what I expected. Yes, it took me about a year but it wasn’t that until that magical year timestamp came that I was just struggling and struggling to regain control of my body. I had been expecting to have to fight for every motion, as I had when I first learned, and it was amazing to see things come back so naturally. Yes, I started at a weaker place than when I first began aerial (remember, I couldn’t lift my feet off the ground) but things came back faster and with more clarity. I understood my body better. I feel like this year has been huge in terms of becoming more expressive and economical with my movement, and I am a better aerialist (even if sitting up out of an ankle hang is a struggle many days).

So much has changed this last year. I am now the co-owner of a small aerial studio (www.abqcircusarts.com) that grew out of our spunky little collective. I’m also running a small graphic design business (www.sarahsuskidesign.com) and raising three kiddos. From here out, this blog is likely to be a hodgepodge of all the things that my life centers on: Circus, Health, Parenting, Creating, and generally being a human right here and now. I hope you will stick along for the ride!

 

Advertisements

New Year’s Resolutions and opposition to resolutions.

I was thinking about how my own life goes in waves of feeling productive and ready for change, and times where it feels almost impossible to make changes. I realized that the New Year is genuinely a time in which I feel primed for self-improvement and that it makes sense to me to capitalize on that internal spark. If I were to map out my year in terms of how motivated I feel to enact internal change, it would probably look something like this:

January through February: Strong drive tends to be health and lifestyle oriented.

March and April: These months tend to be hard on me, at least in New Mexico. I think it’s largely because I’m tired of the cold, and think it should be warm, and instead it’s cold and windy. I tend to really miss the ocean and feel stretched thin.

May and June: Another drive spark. It tends to be focused on getting the house sorted (as the kids are home for the summer and it really highlights any areas of overcrowding) and physical goals that are focused on abilities.

August: August is like being buffeted by a windstorm. Three birthdays, school starts, and it’s 100 degrees outside. If I can remember to shower and eat, it’s a success.

September and October: These months seem to be times of buckling down and doing strong, steady work. I have more control over my schedule, and while I’m not generally starting new missions, I can hit my regularly set patterns with confidence.

November and December: 5 family birthdays and 5ish holidays leave me wiped. I tend to do reasonably well keeping things together through the middle of December and by that point I just need to hibernate and drift for a couple weeks until the new year starts.

It seems, in looking at my own life, that rather than creating the social pressure for change (New Year’s Resolutions!!! Get Your Beach Body!!!), that commercialism has just capitalized on an already present internal timeclock in my own system. While it’s totally impossible to suss out how much of that is caused by social/commercial pressures in the first place, I think it’s useful to understand that I feel these drives in my own self, and also that I go through times in which the drive is very low. This gives me the freedom to go ahead and time some time for rest and indulgence throughout the year, knowing that I will be ready to take life by the horns again shortly.

With these things in mind, here are my resolutions:

Overall: Prioritize the small life choices that make my days easier and happier.

  • Create a more mindful morning. Make coffee in the evening. Pick out clothing. Set an alarm. This gives me:
  • Time to meditate. It may be 5 minutes, it may be 20, but creating the conscious habit of mindfulness.
  • Weekly meal planning. Prioritizing getting 2-3 servings of protein and 3-4 servings of green veggies each day, drinking enough water, and staying away from wheat.
  • Stretch before bed.

**A Note: The only NEW thing in this whole she-bang is meditating. All of the other things I already do with some frequency, and the goal is prioritizing doing them instead of allowing them to slip when I get stressed.

Do your times of motivation follow a predictable pattern? Do your goals tend to be specific or systemic?

The Knot

I’d like to talk to you a little bit about anxiety…

I am, and always have been a pretty anxious person. When I look back on any chunk of my life, the overwhelming characteristic of any piece of it was a sense of Herculean effort that it not go spiraling out of control and fall apart. High School: Must make All the Grades to get Scholarship and be A Perfect Big Sister to Not FAIL. College: Must Do Best Work on Hardest Classes and Work All the Job to Not FAIL. Post College: Must Figure Out Life Plan and Make Best Choices to not FAIL. Motherhood: Must be Patient, Firm, Consistent and Present At All Times and Not FAIL. The list goes on and on. I spent the first year and a half of my daughter’s life being terrified that she was literally going to stop breathing in the middle of the night and die. I think a huge part of that was hormones, but clearly, the hormones exacerbated a portion of myself that was already pretty strong.

I find myself now in a life circumstance, that if I can allow myself to enjoy it, is pretty much everything I want in life. I am resisting the urge to catch up on everything that has happened in the last four months, but, in short, the big change is that I am now co-owner of a circus studio here in Albuquerque, ABQ Circus Arts. While everything is more complex than it is in daydreams, this is still a huge positive in my life. So to take a step back:

  1. It is the cusp of Fall in New Mexico, which is one of the most beautiful times and places to be in the world. The air is crisp and chill in the morning, and almost every morning there are hot air balloons floating through the sky. For Real. The afternoons are warm, without being hot, and we’ve been privileged to a late monsoon and resulting beautiful clouds and rainbows.
  2. I have three healthy, (reasonably) happy kidlets and a husband who is a supportive spouse, parent, and business sounding board.
  3. My body, while not the same as before baby(ies), is strong and allowing me to continue to grow and progress as an aerialist.
  4. My “contract” jobs, both as a graphic designer and as an aerial instructor, allow me to supplement my income while we start this new business venture and give me the flexibility to still be there for my children.

I would like to be able to look back at this time and remember how happy I was, how fulfilled, and in order to that, I need to make the conscious decision to interact with my own life in a way that is different from the way I always have. Clichéd sayings like, “Life’s a Journey and not a Destination,” keep peppering my thoughts. It is so easy, to feel like I am one step away from failure, and like that must be controlled and managed at all times. In the bigger picture though, I cannot Be A Good Parent or Run A Successful Business or Make Meaningful Art in my day to day life. It’s impossible. I don’t have the perspective to know or control that destination.

Instead, it feels to me like a giant knot that needs to be untied. (I like untying knots by the way). This whole jumble of how to be a good parent, while running a new business, and not allowing my relationship with my spouse to suffer, and finding time for my own creative pursuits, is all part of the same string.  Some sections pull out smoothly, and sometimes you hit a fiddly bit that you have to sit and work on, and sometimes it feels like you are never going to get the whole thing sorted. In the end though, the knot is just the knot. You can enjoy the process, or you can get frustrated, but the knot is still there.

It is surprisingly freeing to try to change my perspective, to realize that this is something that I can start to have the tiniest tendrils of control over, and not so much, the things I have always tried to control. That I have the luxury of deciding how to approach each day in my life, and deciding from day to day what elements of my life to prioritize. It’s sorting the knot. Determining what needs my attention that day, and consciously allowing the other things to NOT get that attention for that particular moment of time.

I share these thoughts with you for two reasons.

The first, is as a preface to saying that I don’t think this blog is going to be able Aerial Acrobatics after Recovering from A C-Section anymore. My journey as an aerialist is, at this point, influenced by my children and their deliveries, but no more so than other people’s journeys are influenced by their own lives. Circus is hard, guys. I will continue to talk about my experiences and research and thoughts, but I no longer feel like the incision in my abdomen is a defining characteristic of that journey. I remember reading other non-Cesaerian moms saying that it took the better part of a year for them to start progressing in aerial acrobatics again, and crying and crying. It seemed like so long since I had been able to train like I loved, and pregnancy and childbirth were so hard, and it all seemed insurmountable. Now, from the other side of a year, I will say that I am just now starting to be able to feel like I am advancing from where I was pre-pregnancy but that I did not feel “stuck” before now. There were certainly periods of frustration, but just going in and being able to get on that bar and focus on doing a thing was immeasurably more positive in my life than it was negative.

The other reason, is that in my interactions with aerialists, it seems that as a bunch, we can tend to be on the perfectionistic (neurotic, anxious, overachieving ahem) side of things. Let’s work together to make space for one another to take a deep breath, to feel supported, to trust the process of day to day work instead of Lifetime Achievement. Whether these are your struggles in circus, in parenting, or in another part of your life, I want encourage to ourselves to work in our own communities and our own selves to find that room.

What things or habits have helped yourself find presence in your lives? What work can we do in the culture of circus to promote supportiveness, of not only parenthood but whole personhood?

Smallshow Recap

Last week was crazypants. First was Saturday’s performance, which ended up being unexpectedly hard on my body. Then we had  rehearsals Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and I had trapeze class Tuesday morning. The show ran Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday matinee, and Sunday night.

I am super exhausted but the shows went really well. We sold out the first two shows and then had smaller but decent crowds for the Sunday shows. The theme was radical self-acceptance and we tried to get at that by performing pieces that were about either the struggles we have faced or how we have handled those struggles. My piece was specifically about having dislocating knees and asthma, but also about how circus allowed me to change from seeing myself as weak to strong, fit, and able.

When I choreographed my piece 6 weeks ago, it was really hard for me. By Friday though, it felt disappointingly simple. After running it back to back though, I’m glad that it was easier because I successfully performed it each time. I got stuck in a foot flag to layana on the first run, but just made it work with my piece. I did some break down before the next show and figured out why I was getting stuck, and now I understand the move better.

In general, my piece was well-received, although unfortunately the person before me actually hurt himself in rehearsals, and it felt a bit contrived to be pretending to be hurt immediately after someone who actually was. All in all, I was so happy to have been involved in this performance, and am excited to see what we come up with for our summer smallshow.

I don’t really have pictures and such from the event yet, since the show was just over yesterday, but I’ll post some images as they start popping up.

Brains and Bodies

Oh man. I thought I had the body negativity under control by being aware of it. My first big show back is in two days and it is hitting full force. I think the good thing about having awareness is being able to say, “Ok brain-chatter, I hear you but you are not a real assessment.” The truth is, my weight loss has slowed to infinitesimal. I’ve really not lost anything significantly measurable in the last 3 months. That being said, I know that last week I was taking it in stride and felt comfortable in my skin. I’m eating healthily, exercising regularly, increased my training in preparation for the shows, and am still breastfeeding. I know that I have to just let my body do what it is going to do, and I feel confident in a routine that was a challenge for me four weeks ago. This lets me know that despite being a work in progress, the vitriol my brain is spewing is a product of nerves and should be ignored, not indulged.

Recovering after a baby, much less after a c-section, can seem like such a landmine. A pregnant friend commented to me a few weeks ago, that one of her acquaintances had said that she “had her body back” after a c-section in 3 months, and from the pregnant side of the glass 3 months seems like a long time. It’s a whole trimester! I remember so clearly after Z was born reading that other aerialists took 6 months to a year to get back to feeling ready to perform and just crying. After 9 months of an incredibly uncomfortable pregnancy, followed by a c-section, the thought that I would need to wait almost as much time again until I felt normal seemed like more than I could handle. (And, you know, post-partum emotional rollercoaster probably had something to do with that.) Now, I’m not knocking anyone who recovers in that quickly, and for some people I’m sure it’s possible, but I am not one of those people. At almost 8 months post-partum, I am just starting to feel like I’m living in a familiar body. I now have a clean pike over onto a 6’ high trapeze, I have a hit-or-miss meathook, and I am progressing in new skills. My abs have grown strong enough that I can reach up out of an ankle hang and grab the bar and my muscles are generally following a predictable pattern of fatigue so that I’m not constantly afraid that they are going to cut out and leave me stuck or falling.

In other news, I had beautiful circus pictures taken by the lovely and talented Emma Katz, and really am happy with the way they turned out. I also performed a small piece at Emerge ABQ’s “ShowOff,” which was a ton of fun. I ended up being the very first act, which is always a little nervousing, and had to improvise almost the whole piece, because the lyra ended up being about 18” off the stage floor. Still, I had a blast and it seemed to be well-received.

My body seems to be having a hard time the last couple of weeks. We’ve had a cycle of sick sweep through. I only got the first wave, but my daughter got both, the baby got sick, allergies are in full swing, and I think my system is just fighting hard to not get sick again. I also think that any time I increase the amount of aerial activity I do, my body takes a while to get used to it. Right now I am covered in some pretty gnarly bruises, and my muscles and joints are pretty grumpy at me. Next week, after the show, I plan on taking a week of easy training to let myself recoup. I’m also going to start teaching a beginning lyra class at the Albuquerque Aerialist Collective, and am so excited to be back to teaching.

All the things! All the time!

I Don’t Know Where I’m Going…

…but I Promise It Won’t Be Boring

Performing! Ack! I have a love/hate relationship with it. On one hand, it seems to be the thing that justifies all of the hard work I put into aerial. Without an audience, it’s just a therapeutic workout. On the other hand, it tends to exacerbate all of my perfectionist tendencies and personal insecurities. I will be performing for the first time since the birth of my son this Saturday, at a collaborative event called Circo for the Community. I am using the term “performing” very loosely. I’m doing a half hour set of ambient lyra work, along with three other ladies before the main choreographed performance. Despite my efforts to give myself the most low-key entrance back into performing, it still feels very “real” to me. There is the ubiquitous, “But I have to wear a leotard….in front of people…and I’m not back to where I want to be…” mental clamor. I’m trying to calm that by reminding myself that body snarking is one of the things my brain likes to do to myself when I’m nervous, coming back from pregnancy or not, so that voice can just hush. My skill vocabulary is still on the light side, but I think I have enough that ambient will go off well. We are also getting ready for the Albuquerque Aerialist Collective’s next smallshow in April, in which I will be performing on static trapeze. This piece will be much more ambitious, both in skill and in intent.

These performances, so close to each other have my nervousness amped up high. I often feel like I have Imposter Syndrome, both as an aerialist and a graphic designer, and I have been trying to read books and engage in activities that will help me feel more grounded, as an artist, as a small business owner, and generally as a person. I attended an Adobe Creative Jam in February that was inspired by the above quote by David Bowie. It was inspiring to listen to other art professionals in my city talk about their process, and then to see works inspired by one of my favorite musicians. His passing has affected me deeply, much more profoundly than I was expecting actually. (But really, it’s sort of ridiculous.) His perseverance, his cerebral approach, and feelings of isolation have proved meaningful to me. If David Bowie feels like an imposter weirdo while hanging out with John Lennon and Mick Jagger and being one of the most successful musicians in the world at the time, then clearly these thoughts are not actually based in reality. The Power of No was a strange read, but reinforced the need for setting good boundaries, daily working on fulfilling my goals, and creating habits that make the other two possible. Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman, is a pure shot of self-confidence in a nice small package. I’m also currently about half-way through Daily Rituals. Most of these people were not primary caretakers of children, and did not have jobs other than the creation of their art, so my situation is quite a bit different. Toni Morrison’s routine was inspiring, and I think that the recognition that so many approaches to creation at many different stages of life is calming.

Another really useful thing that I have started to do is to get up after the baby wakes up to eat at 5:00 or 5:30. It’s obnoxiously early (and to think, I used to be a night owl), but it allows for several important things. The first of these is that I can pee and then make and drink my cup of coffee before I do anything else. Previously, I would go back to bed but often only get to sleep for a half hour to an hour before the other kids were awake. I’d be groggy and exhausted, and often be up for an hour reacting to the things that they needed, before even having the wherewithal to go to the bathroom. Then all I’d want to do is drink my coffee, but was trying to do that while nursing a baby, and having my five-year-old want breakfast and rapidfire asking questions. The next thing I knew it would be 10:00 and I’d still be in my pjs, with no breakfast, and a cold cup of coffee. No good. Now I can leisurely drink my coffee, and often spend that half hour to an hour working and getting projects done. If the kids sleep in, then suddenly, I’ve gotten two hours of work done and can focus on them once they’re up. It’s been an unspeakably helpful thing to my days.

Are there routines, inspiration, or habits that have helped you be successful in your goals? Please share below! I’m creating a list, and will review them as I go.

Aerial Body 6 Months Post-partum

Well. It’s been almost two months since my last post, and almost four since my last body update. In general, the time seems to be slipping by faster than I can process it. I still am struggling to define clear boundaries for my time and efforts, and as a result, things just seem to bleed from one thing into the next, and by the end of the day it is often hard for me to remember what I accomplished.

Most weeks, I am back to training four or five days a week. I am taking a trapeze class on Tuesdays, and either do a fabrics class on Wednesdays or a Pilates class for aerialists on Fridays (depending on the week). Then I either practice for the classes or my own skills on Sunday, Monday, and/or Friday depending on what else has happened that week and the general state of my body. I’m continuing to do the 21 Day Fix Extreme workouts at home, primarily the Plyo, Upper Fix, Lower Fix, Pilates, and Yoga. (I almost never do the Cardio or Dirty 30 workouts). I also try to stretch and foam roll three times a week. Add to that the general realities of chasing around after a 5-year-old, taking care of a baby, a teenager,  and a dog, and teaching a kids’ circus class once a week, and I am a busy lady.

At the end of December, I had written down the following bullet points as my “Aerial Accomplishments”:

  • Grab robes on trapeze, mermaid, star hang, l-sits, lean backs, gazelles
  • Straddle from bottom of lyra and pike over, both with catching legs
  • Single knee hangs
  • Jumping egg inversion of fabrics
  • No clean versions, pull-ups, or tuck ups without momentum
  • Can sit up from laying down without arms

A month and a half later, here is my current list:

  • Cleanly pike over a lowish (4-5’ high) trapeze bar or lyra
  • Straddle from ground without catching legs (still no straddle from air)
  • Hip Key from a climb (most of the time)
  • Beginning to feel comfortable in pre-baby routines on trapeze and lyra
  • Can tuck up cleanly with momentum under the trapeze bar
  • Flat left split
  • Hip Circle!!!!

I’m still in the stage where I can do many things once or twice in a training session but that is all. Also, I have found that I definitely hit a wall where I have no ab engagement. My control goes to zero without much warning. I feel like that grey area is starting to grow a bit on trapeze, but I am less comfortable on fabric and am still usually caught by surprise when my abs simply refuse to fire.

I have worked very little on lyra since returning, which used to be my primary apparatus. I think it is mostly because I am relying on classes right now to retrain my body and make sure I am relearning things with the right form, and I don’t have access to a lyra teacher.

 

12651201_10153150197031377_8946042723261214235_nBody Weight and Numbers

(If reading about numbers squicks you out and makes you think unhealthy things, please don’t read!)

I know numbers are hard for a lot of people, but I also think it’s a factor that a lot of people worry about when returning from pregnancy, so I just wanted to touch on it. People, I gain A LOT of weight when I’m pregnant. Both times, I gained around 50 lbs. and I’m only 5’ nada. Both times I’ve stayed active, tried to eat reasonably healthy etc. and that’s just what my body does. At almost exactly 6 months post-partum, I am still hanging on to about 10 lbs. from where I was when I got pregnant, and about 20 from where I really feel good. (I got pregnant during the holidays so had a little extra padding there to begin with.) My upper body and waist are almost back to where they were, but I’m carrying all my extra weight in my butt and hips. This totally makes sense because gluteal femoral fat is where women’s body hold on to stores, specifically for reproduction/breastfeeding and I am thankful that my body seems to be taking good care of my little dude.  It makes inversions hard though, and I probably will not lose the majority of that extra until I stop breastfeeding.

This is just to say, for any of you mamas coming back to aerials, be kind with your bodies. Some people snap back right away, and that is awesome, but many do not. Your body knows what it’s doing, and as long as you are putting the work into it to be a healthy you, relax knowing that your body is doing what it thinks is best.

Helloooooo

Soooo…. Hi there. It’s basically been two months since I posted last.

I have two times of year that the time seems to just get eaten, and one of them is Halloween through Christmas. We’ve got five holidays and five birthdays in a 60 day period and it also tends to be a busy time for my graphic design business and crafting endeavors. Throw in a newish baby, who decided to go through 4-month sleep regression and you get…no blogs.

I think the best way to do this may be to break things into sections. A whole lot has happened, and I don’t think anyone wants to read a novel.

World Wide Splitters Challenge

I participated in my second 60-day splits challenge hosted by the World Wide Splitters Facebook group in October/November 2015. These challenges require that you post at least 5 pictures, 5 days of the week of specific poses. I completed the first one while I was pregnant, and had much more thoroughly participated. I did splits-specific training and stretches, held each required pose a minimum of three times, and felt really keyed in to training flexibility since it was one of the few ways I felt like I was continuing to train circus during my pregnancy.

11220821_10152733958541377_2923440270953944045_n

I was much more lax during this latest challenge. I was working out daily and would just easily stretch to wherever my body felt like it could hold with strength and alignment after my workout. I only held each position once, and never pushed it. A large part of this was because I wanted to make sure that I was being good to my relaxin-filled ligaments, but another was just sheer exhaustion. To my surprise, I saw the same increase in flexibility half-assing the second challenge as I did dedicating myself in the first.

Splits October - December

I am going to do their back flexibility challenge in January and will post about that once it is done.

 

 

 

Also, for the body geeks

I’ll just leave this here…

The BE CALM Protocol

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑