Tuesday, January 17, 2012

According to this promise...

Since we moved from Albuquerque to Tucson, Jason and I have had a particular conversation that pops up every six months or so, like a recurring dream... one with some of the same characters, sometimes the same setting, always recognizable. Inevitably we sit down and talk, and talk, and talk. Inevitably, we end the conversation knowing that the end of it is never really over. We wonder when it might come up again next; will it be three months this time? Or will it be just three weeks? Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes we even sob quietly to ourselves. Sometimes it seems like the topic is too unimportant "in the big scheme of things" for us to be discussing again. Mostly, I think, we get tired of the repetition. We get tired of reaffirming what we thought we had already confirmed before. Yet, the question always rolls itself back over to us... should we quit flamenco?

When I say "quit," I don't mean QUIT. I don't mean that we mull over whether or not we should say goodbye to flamenco forever, though often it feels like that. What I mean is that we wonder if we should continue to try (and try again) to make flamenco our career. If we were making a living - even a modest living - on flamenco, then I guess it wouldn't be in question, but that has never been the case. And I'm guessing that that has never been the case for a whole lot of flamencos, flamenco families, and artists in general.

I usually wonder if we have set out aims too high. After all, most of our parents were not working successfully at something they were passionate about. They simply graduated from high school, got a job, then didn't quit that job until they got a better job, and so forth. Passion had little to do with it. But that same generation told us we could believe in dreaming. I don't remember much from school, but I know the idea of turning what you love into a career was definitely in there somewhere. That wasn't just a fluke idea I made up on my own. "Whatever you put your mind to," they quipped. All the way back to kindergarten we were practically singing the mantra of the American Dream. So, when it doesn't happen right away - which we were also warned about - we are told to hang in there and stick to our guns. But sadly, Jason and I often feel like we've run out of ammunition. We try this, and we try that. We roam around in the artists' world looking for our niche, hoping that we can somehow use what we love to do to pay the bills. In the process, we attempt to not "sell out." We attempt to keep whatever integrity we can. But integrity and money don't always make a good pair.

So then comes the doubt - either for one or both of us. Suspicion slowly creeps in. We ask ourselves again, do we need to wake up from the impractical dreams we've manufactured for ourselves? Then comes another round of talking. And year after year we realize that we haven't "woken up" from much. At the cost of financial instability for ourselves and for our family, we find ourselves swimming in dreamland, and it is only in those moments of near paralyzed consciousness that we wonder if we should go ahead and take that alluring (and probably irreversible) red pill.

As frustrating as this process can be, I have solace in something that not everyone has - I am not alone in it. Jason and I have to go through this grind, but at least we get to go through it together. That is what makes us a family. That is what marriage is. It complicates things, yes. It doesn't always make it easier, no. But when it comes to flamenco, his strengths can cover my weaknesses, and vice versa. And that can be a powerful thing.

I can't say that I was smart enough at the beginning of our relationship to know this would be the case for us, and that we would have the same "stupid" conversation so many times over. But after nearly ten years of marriage, you could say that I'm acquainted with the concept now. Years ago, I half believed that when you made a big commitment in your life, you were forever bound to that decision simply because you made it in the first place. Almost like magic. Even at our wedding, I half believed that saying "I do" meant "I will." But just like committing to a marriage, committing to a dream doesn't really work like that. You don't say "I do" just once - not in a successful commitment, anyway. You end up having to say it over and over. You constantly decide to be committed. You say "I do" every single day, and on some days, every single hour. Repetition, I'm learning, can be a wonderful thing. Recommitting to dreams can be like falling in love again and again.

On the other hand, love and passion aren't exactly the same. Of those of you who know me, probably none of you have ever heard me say, "I love flamenco," and to be honest, I don't. (What a shock, right?) But I'm sure you've heard me say it about Jason. I'm glad I can reserve that word for people in my life. No matter how passionate we are about our dreams, they will never totally fulfill us. And I can almost guarantee that they didn't teach your THAT in school.

Luckily for me, if Jason and I someday divorce ourselves from flamenco dreams, we get to stay together. Actually, its not luck at all; its a gracious blessing.


  1. Wow. I really love what you wrote Mele. You've stated what I've felt about dance, but just could not quite articulate. Thank you for this beautiful post. I love you and your beautiful flamenco family. Even if you decide to not do flamenco as a career, you are still flamenco. You will never escape that. To me, flamenco seems to be an inner flame that never quite leaves one. :) with love, from Sylvita (aka Sylvanius)

  2. Dear Mele and Jason,

    I'm not one to say whether you should quit pursuing your dreams or not. Gabe and I go through this cycle (well, mostly me and he just listens and offers me his support and feedback) and I personally have quit flamenco from time to time but I always come back. I don't think I can offer much insight, I'm just happy to read we are not alone, and this constant question of whether you should pursue your dream or not is not a product of me being tired of failures and hardships. It is true, you have to say "I do" many times, but in my case, when I decided to say "I don't" I got the opportunity to develop other aspects and skills and I gave myself the gift of time and perspective. Looking at flamenco from the distance made me realize the things I disliked deeply about it but also the joy it can bring to my like and how it can enrich me as a person. Food for thought, for sure.

  3. From Leisa on Facebook: Of course I think you shouldn't "quit", but that was a fascinating blog. Great work!Hopefully there's always a way to restructure, rather than quitting

    From Kerstin on Facebook: I read both blogs; the first made me smile, the second sad - both because it is so hard to live off what you are passionate about (we know that feeling 1st hand) and because you talk about quitting. I second Leisa's comments. Please don't quit. Your students and the Tucson community would lose some of the very best Flamencos! :)

    Mele: Thanks guys. For our sanity, and for our family, I think we will always need to keep that option on the table, even though it goes against what a "real flamenco artist" would ever consider. But that is okay. We know that we are family before flamenco, and not the other way around. But hearing your encouragement is great! And I hope that the second blog isn't too sad... it was meant to encourage people like us who really do have to think about their commitment to their art form.

  4. I really concur with lots of your feelings about flamenco and the artist's way of life. It is double hard indeed, but you both have made major strides for yourselves and flamenco in Tucson. I believe in you both no matter what you do and I know that you both are damn good Flamencos. I am proud to have played by your side and I know that I am not alone when i have the same feelings about Flamenco. Your family is strong and that is what makes your Flamenco even stronger. I look forward to reading more of your blogs of the heart.

  5. Thanks for these great comments, everyone. And here's to flamenco and family and sound finance! LOL! Cheers!