56 And a (slightly smaller) city

It is 6:00 a.m., and I’ve been up for about an hour or so. Unable to silence my rapidly spinning thoughts, I relinquished my attempts at sleep, rose from my bed, and started the coffee maker. 

I am currently sitting in Boulder, at my carefully curated dining room table that I have listed for sale, thinking about how our life in Colorado will be a memory in just mere days. A lovely, beautiful memory. 

I’ve done my fair share of moving in my life. I left my childhood home for college, leaving that college for another, going to Illinois for grad school, five moves within Chicago proper, two houses in Boulder, and now our home in NYC! But, leaving this town, this home, where we raised our daughter, grew as a family, and generally had a pretty remarkable life is bringing about some melancholy.  If you’ve ever been lucky enough to live in Colorado, you know what a miracle it is to see the mountains every day. Sometimes it feels akin to living in a painting — big brushstrokes of jagged peaks, tall pine trees, and glorious open space. 

But, sometimes our tastes change, and the art we’d like to see resembles something more modern, geometric, and frenetic. 

Since October, we’ve been residing in Manhattan – that almost feels unreal when I say that. I’ve been reading a book about writers living in and then leaving and sometimes returning to New York City. One writer said, “every writer dreams of coming to the city in their twenties.” Well, I’m not in my twenties, but in the city, I will live. Realizing a dream I’ve had since I was seventeen is an accomplishment on its own, and I’m eager to see what transpires in my next chapter. It is exciting and daunting all in one. But, rise to the occasion, I must! I need to remind myself of this one basic notion – I am an artist, and I must create. Full stop! And so, I will continue applying for dance teaching jobs, choreographic residencies, and writing gigs. I know I will get some rejections, but I also know that the right opportunities are out there. It just might take a little more effort to unearth them. 

The morning’s light is beginning to appear, and the mountains that I can see from my window reveal themselves. I will revel in this time that I was living in a painting. Soon I will sell this table and the rest of our belongings worth selling. And I will bid farewell to Colorado. 

As I sip my delicious steaming beverage, I know this much to be true – people change, art will always happen, and my coffee never lets me down. 

On NYC and Me…

Two things sparked my thoughts last night about New York City and my place in it.

First – My two beloveds and I began reminiscing about our life in Boulder. It all started when Ashay was suddenly experiencing pangs of nostalgia and missing our life in Colorado – things like long, beautiful hikes, open space, glorious mountains, our larger home, and, well, cleaner smelling air. Akasha quickly caught this train of thinking and expressed her love of the town she grew up in and the home we all shared. Intellectually she was pretty aware that Ashay and I would relocate to NYC, but when her holiday break from college rolled around, it tossed her for a loop when it became clear that this would be her new home to visit. It would seem that her love for NYC and her affection for Boulder could not coexist. And so we all went deeply into what we loved about Boulder and what we would miss – Ashay and Akasha did, indeed, feel it all a little more than I did. As we wrapped up our end-of-the-day Boulder retrospection, everyone did their nighttime routine, and one by one, drifted into slumber.

The second event that elicited some thoughts about my decision to stick with NYC and see what kind of magic can happen was this – around 1:00 a.m. I couldn’t sleep, and going against any healthy recommendation to stay off of electronics when unable to snooze, my fingers glided their way to Instagram. I happened upon a post that Debbie Allen had made about celebrating the anniversary of the movie Fame. Oh, that movie. If my recollection is correct, I saw Fame at the age of 17. I was stunned for a midwestern girl growing up in a relatively small town in Ohio. How I wanted to be in New York – to dance, sing, act – anything that could bring out the performer in me. With a belief so deep in my heart that I belonged in the city, I was going to end up there without one iota of doubt. I had a lot of stops along the way, college in Ohio, grad school in southern Illinois, professional life in Chicago, and then moving to Boulder. Well, it took me 39 years, but I’m here. And I still have to believe that I owe it to myself to give it the ole college try. I want to be inspired by the people, the antics, the culture. I want to create, both as a choreographer and a writer. I want to wake up in this sleepless city and live, really live. 

I know living here is complex,  the population and architecture dense, and yes… the smell, the smell is really something sometimes. The occasional smell and grit of the city remind me that life is gritty. But if I have learned anything about my years on this earth, it is this – sometimes, you can find a metaphor for just about everything. This world is socially and politically pungent. The reality is we need to see the challenges, embrace them, and then fight for change. 

I know I’m not gonna live forever, and people may not remember my name. But, I’m going to reach for the limitless sky and see what happens. And so I’m fighting for this city. I’m just hoping it reciprocates.

On Finding The Right Words

Let’s talk about looking for the “right” words. Lately, I feel as if I have constantly been searching – a search for purpose, a search for meaning, and now a search for words. Now that I am forging this new path as a writer, I feel as though I should always be writing – writing something pithy, deeply profound, humorous, or intellectual. However, for the past week or two, I haven’t found the right story to tell, antics to relate to, or a blunder in my thought process. Not that the shenanigans have been in short supply, but nothing story-worthy, I suppose. So the word search continues. 

And then there are the moments where I’ve been in conversations in which the other person confides in me, sharing their fears, anxieties. I rummage through my catalog of compassionate replies but always seem to fall short of excellent, thoughtful advice. I’m not sure where I go wrong, but I just can’t seem to be helpful. Maybe it is that we are coming up on year 2 of a pandemic, and I’ve run out of optimism. Or it could be that I just am not as wise as I had hoped to be at this stage of my life. But to suffice it to say, I fear I am not necessarily the wealth of solid advice I thought I was. But, frankly, my listening skills feel as though they’ve grown – and that, I believe, is a good thing. More often than not, in the past, I used to find myself thinking of a witty comeback, a deep thought, or an experience I could tell while someone else was sharing their feelings of experiences. That is to say; I think I wouldn’t always be listening fully but rather be engaged in my thought process. Now, however, I stop and listen. Then, I formulate a thoughtful response, or, sometimes better yet, I say nothing and just let them vent. Venting can be a very cathartic act. Sometimes the listener needs simply listen – say nothing. 

These are some of the words I’d like to close with. I began writing this post days ago when it was still 2021, and since then, we have shifted into a new year, hopefully, a new beginning – one that could bring hope, change, and the promise of a better, brighter future. But that is up to all of us. We have to choose our actions carefully, and our words too. We need to listen to each other and make efforts to work together. We have to stop. Stop everything now and again to breathe in the air, take in the silence (or the noise), and observe all that life has to offer. Even now – sitting with my laptop, a cup of coffee to my right,  and the sounds of the city behind my head, I stop. I breathe. And I behold the magic of a cleansing moment. 

On feeding – my soul, our bellies 

Since moving to NYC, I have become more of a housewife/home manager/chef/director of housekeeping – essentially all of the above. It seems as though I’m typically in charge of figuring out what is going in our bellies at any given time. So, I’ve been the one making dinner reservations, ordering food online, grocery shopping, cooking, or just generally trying to manage how and what we are eating. We’ve had some delicious food and have made some mistakes, but that is how one discovers their favorite restaurants and recipes. 

So now we have a few solid go-to places to order from or visit in-person – Joe’s Shanghai, Thai Villa, Fraunces Tavern, Bengal Tiger, Mamouns, just to name a few. And, we’ve found some places that serve a mighty fine Manhattan too! Still, though, we continue to be on the search for the best pizza (gluten-free for Ash, gluten-full for me), but that will present itself, I have no doubt. 

Feeding my soul, however, well, that can tend to be a bit more elusive. It typically comes when I create new work or guide dancers to find their internal energetic flow, but those moments are currently in short supply. I haven’t found myself in a studio for over two months now, so the soul fuel needs to come from other sources. Writing tends to make me feel better – it feels cathartic. I often wonder if anyone is reading this or if “writing a blog” is just another name for publicizing my diary simply for my own sake. With all of that being said, I still find that it feeds me as an artist and a human. 

And lastly, social interactions are vital to keeping me from falling into despair, and fortunately, I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, former colleagues, and sweet college mates! Since we arrived in NYC, I’ve combined feeding my soul and belly with our reunited friends. On a few occasions, we’ve had friends to our home to share a meal and laughs, met up at restaurants to catch up over coffee, cocktails, or delicious food, and I’ve even managed to convince a friend to join me at a modern dance concert. I’ll continue seeking out good food, good friends, and for the good of the blog; I’ll keep wandering around NYC – any rookie blunder I make feeds the stories! This is all to say that the essential ingredient for moving through a series of changes is finding what genuinely sustains you. Latch on to that and drink in the new experiences, old connections, and all this city has to offer.

On seeing through the fog…

In a city like Boulder, Colorado, where they boast that the sun shines nearly 300 days a week, it’s always a little strange when you can’t see the mountains behind the clouds. And, then, it’s always such a revelation when they begin to lift and expose the glorious peaks. It was like I had never seen them before if we had several cloudy days in a row. You could almost forget just how majestic they are. In New York, my view is vastly different yet just as striking. The other morning, as I was strolling along through the twists and turns of the BPC Esplanade, I couldn’t see the Statue of Liberty because of the heavy fog that had rolled in. Much like the disappearance of Lady Liberty or those glorious mountains in Colorado, I haven’t been able to see my own “bravery” because of my thick fog of insecurity. Am I brave? That is the question du jour. On Sunday, Ashay and I hosted a brunch for some of my old college friends. Over coffee and mimosas, I began to share our news that we had officially decided to let go of the Boulder home and dive fully into life in NYC. I also depicted how I plotted to continue working as a choreographer and grow as a writer. Upon hearing this, Jimmy called me courageous. “Courageous or delusional?” I wanted to reply, but somehow I couldn’t say it because I didn’t want to admit how uncertain I really was. Instead, I laughed and sipped a little more mimosa.

Hours later, as the fog began to lift and I could start to see the outline of the Statue of Liberty, it made me understand something about life and the pursuit of happiness. Seeing the faintest contour within the haze is akin to hoping that a goal you want to realize is there, tucked under water vapors, condensation, or the weight of your self-doubt. There are two cards that Ashay and I bought to send to Akasha. These cards have been sitting out on our counter, and though I need to get them in the mail, I’m enjoying reading them on repeat. One says, “You are one Bad Ass female,” and the second one posits this “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. they went and out and happened to things.” (Leonardo DiVinci). I just need to be reminded of both of these thoughts. Fearless, badass, and thing doer!

Though it may sometimes feel elusive, it’s there – a mountain, a monument, or a monumental change in view that changes your life. You have to believe all will be revealed exactly as it is meant. Clear as crystal. 

On reunions…On justice…On Pandemics…On goodbyes

It’s been a few days since I’ve sat down at my computer to notate some insights about life, love, and navigation. 

Ashay and I became empty-nesters about 12 weeks ago, for those of you who might not know. And so, I was visiting another city, Boston, for the long weekend to be with my great love – my daughter, Akasha. Our Akasha, the one who makes our trio whole, my best friend, began her college journey in Massachusetts. 

On reunions…

On that 1st day of September, I liken our moment of saying goodbye to our daughter to something straight out of a movie. The rain was pouring, our tears were streaming, and my breath was so caught up in my throat I could barely breathe. This past week marks the 2nd time we have traveled to Boston to visit Akasha since our parting. The first moment of each reunion offers the sweetest moment, the biggest hug, and the most resounding sigh of relief. It was a lovely weekend, filled with food, hugs, deep conversations, the Nutcracker, and a night of karaoke. 

Of course, there is always a goodbye now, tagged at the end of glorious weekends. But, that, I suppose, is life. It is filled with beautiful memories that are bookended with beautiful reunions and sorrowful goodbyes. 

On justice…

While we were in Boston, the verdict in the Ahmaud Arbery case came out. Days prior, I watched, fascinated as I am during a trial with the legal language and the navigation through all of the rules and laws, as the defense utilized racism and victim-blaming for their obviously guilty clients. I was worried that this case would follow in the footsteps of trials past, and an acquittal would be the conclusion. A sense of relief that justice prevailed and the guilty verdicts for each of the murderers were announced. But, just as suddenly as my relief came, so did the reality of why I felt it. So many times over, there is no fairness. Racist murderers are acquitted all the time. My heart also realized that Ahmaud’s family still does not have him in their lives. And no amount of singular justice can erase the decades and decades of racism, violence, and hate. We all need to be better, to do better. I know that is a simple statement, and I wish I had a more profound way to say it – but there it is – do better. 

On pandemics…

While in Boston, there was the news of yet another variant. We do not yet know how serious it is, if at all. Still, the notion that this virus – as many viruses do – has limitless possibilities of mutation has me wondering, will we ever be out of the woods entirely? Maybe, but my guess is this is something we learn to live with as we continue to mask up, vax up, and take care of each other. 

Lastly, on goodbyes…

Saying goodbye has now become our new normal. Until September, our goodbyes were more of a “see ya in a few hours” or “I’ll see you tomorrow” if she were sleeping over at a friend’s house. But now, when we say goodbye, it feels like a bit of a heartbreak each time. So far, we’ve known exactly when we’ll see each other again, but I fear that as the months and years pass, our time away from Akasha will grow longer, and we won’t always know when we’ll meet again. And this is how it is supposed to be – or so I’m told. I have to wonder if it gets easier. Will our bond begin to slip away? I imagine it will change in some form or another. Again, heartbreaking. But for now, I’ll cherish the long first hugs of the reunion, enjoy the times we have together, and not focus too much on the sorrowful goodbyes. Life’s joys really are found in the present moment.

I’m starting with the girl in the mirror…

I decided to go easy on myself for the first two weeks living in New York. I unpacked our belongings, ordered items that we needed on almost a daily basis, and shed some tears on what I thought was my early retirement from the career I loved. You see, this was the deal I had made with myself based on advice from my beloved. “Give yourself some time,” he said. “Start with two weeks.” 

And so, two weeks flew by, and I started applying for residencies and jobs. It is a rarity when I hear back from someone, and I’ve only received rejections so far. To be honest, I’m no stranger to rejections, but it can sting,  and even more so when you are feeling particularly vulnerable. Giving it time makes complete sense. Of course, things don’t happen magically overnight. But, when you are 56, you must strike while the iron is still lukewarm. And so I’m striking and so far mostly only hearing the sound of crickets. Recently I had a video chat with a dear friend who has known me since I started coloring my hair for fun – not just to cover grays. She reminded me that it took some time when I moved to Chicago and then to Boulder, and now I just have to give it time here. She’s right. 

Nearly every morning, I open the blinds and look out into the city, and I utter these words “You’re not gonna break me today.” Silly, really, but I do. Today, however, as I was walking Sami, I had a clear realization that whipped me as hard as the wind was blowing onto my face, and this is what I thought “You, Cindy Brandle, you are not gonna break me today.” 

Here is my plan. Instead of looking out of the window, I’ve decided to look at myself. Face my face in the mirror and declare that I am the master of my fate. I’m starting with the girl in the mirror. I think I’ll give it a couple more weeks. 

A Brooklyn Story

When one goes on a, shall we say, “sabbatical, with no schedule and few meetings to attend, one might feel that the days bleed into each other. Imagine my excitement when I had something on my calendar to go to! Ashay and I made ourselves cute and ready to socialize as we headed out for dear friends’ housewarming/birthday party. After dropping off our fur baby at his NYC grandmother’s house, we headed to the train station. We arrived at our destination by riding one train, transferring to another, and finishing our trek with a short(ish) walk. We proceeded to plug in the code to their apartment only to receive a voicemail message. Fast forward to a few attempts later, I decided to call on my phone. Upon hearing another voicemail, I left the following message…“Robbie, it’s Cindy and Ashay. We’re outside your building”. It was at that moment I thought I should revisit the email with the party invite. Yep, the party was on the 21st. “It is the 21st, I declared!” I then pulled up my calendar and realized that as my days bled into each other, I convinced myself that it was the 21st when it was only the 20th! As I texted my friend to acknowledge my faux pas, my tail dropped between my legs, and my leg, it turns out, is incapable of kicking my own butt! We managed to get ourselves to a pizza joint, made it back to Manhattan to make Manhattans, and then proceeded to laugh hysterically for some time about our misadventure!
As I like to say on repeat these days, “each new day is a chance to start all over again.” And so we will. See you later today Brooklyn. If at first, you don’t succeed…

The Day After The Rittenhouse Verdict

It’s that time of the week again where I give thanks to the one constant joy of my life…coffee ☕️In a world so rife with injustice I find myself, once again, deep in contemplation. I know the comfort of a warm beverage won’t hold the key to understanding, but it certainly helps as I gaze out the window looking at a seemingly peaceful city at 6:30 a.m thinking about what happened yesterday – what might happen today. It feels like each day shines a new light on the problems of the world. I can’t help but hold out hope that we can turn it all around. You see it’s in my nature to try to believe there is some good in the world, though many times over the opposite is proven. I wish I had some words of wisdom, some evidence that justice will prevail, that good can conquer evil, but it just isn’t in me this morning. But, I will say this – Today is a new day, and with each new day lies a chance to start all over again. So, my friends, here’s to a new day, another chance, and to warm beverages providing comfort in a world so devoid of fairness. Namaste

On creating an introduction …

On WordPress, when one embarks on a new blogging adventure, they ask you to create an introduction. So, this morning, while walking my extremely cute and still very vibrant senior dog, Sami the Shih Tzu, I began to develop a list in my mind. You see, for me to introduce myself, it became increasingly important to tally up the multitude of roles I’ve played throughout my life. Dance performing artist, then choreographer, then director, then singer/songwriter, then writer, then a fledgling filmmaker. And, let’s not forget wife, mother, friend, caretaker, and overall overthinking overly sensitive human. 

So, here I am, relocated in my 50’s and starting over. Though to say “starting over” isn’t exactly what I am doing. I am continuing to pursue my life’s goals and my life’s creative work, just in another city.  But, to say “just in another city” isn’t exactly right either. It’s New York City baby. The most exciting city in the world. Right now, however, in the most exciting city in the world, I am feeling a little akin to a speck of dust floating around in a whirlwind of young, beautiful, talented, and ambitious people. I can’t help but ask myself – how does one make it here? But that is why I am here – to try and find out.  I believe that each new day brings the opportunity to start again and, of course, it ain’t over til it’s over!

Here is my introduction…I am 56 and just moved to New York City. For many years I have worked as a professional modern dance artist, performer, educator, choreographer, and wanna-be writer. I am married to the most beautiful man and the love of my life, who happens to be 12 years younger than me – but that is another story for another time. I have an amazing daughter who just started college and is my best friend. I also have the cutest dog in the world, whose tongue perpetually hangs out the side of his mouth. I am creative, insecure, confident, and nervous. I’m reaching out through this blog hoping that my thoughts, stories, worries, and observations will somehow resonate with others. 

My name is Cindy. Let’s begin…