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  • Kaeti

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Hi, friends! Welcome to my blog. This space has gotten very little attention over the last few years, largely in lieu of the quick, easy, convenient, and addictive allure and influence that Facebook and Instagram have had on my shared content. In deciding to log out and stop engaging with those platforms, I will be periodically sharing long-form posts right here, on my own website, and on my own terms. This is an experiment that I am committing to for at least a few weeks, and perhaps indefinitely.


My Facebook profile has been deactivated since the summer (of 2020), and I haven’t found any compelling reasons to reactivate it. However, I currently plan to keep my Instagram account open and viewable to anyone for the time being. Several folks have voiced that they had saved some of my PT and conditioning videos from Instagram, and I would like that material to continue being accessible to anyone who has found it helpful.


On a more personal note, I admit that I am currently being confronted with what feel like some very primal fears associated with social disconnect – that, in unplugging myself from these platforms, I am leaving myself open and vulnerable to being forgotten and left behind by my clan. That said, I do not believe that these feelings are incidental – indeed, it is this innate need to connect that is so easily and readily exploited by these tech companies in the name of profit. In leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs from my now-inert Instagram account to this space, I feel somewhat more at ease in my decision…Y’all know where to find me! On a related note – the “CONTACT” page on my website takes you to a message box that goes directly to my email inbox! I’m here, and I’m listening. So…why am I quitting social media?


I have felt disillusioned and frustrated with social media for years now, and yet I have never found the wherewithal to fully disconnect from it. I have used it extensively as a professional tool as a performing artist, movement educator, massage therapist, and even as a student PT assistant. As someone who spent my twenties traveling extensively and living in several different places, social media made it incredibly easy to stay connected with my friends all over the world. Using social media, I have found homes and housemates, connected with new clients and students, made professional contacts leading to gainful employment, found rideshares and carpools, enrolled in classes and workshops, received local news and updates from my local community, gotten invites to secret house shows and other small-scale events…and so much more. Quitting social media involves accepting that you will miss things and fall out of touch with people…and when it comes time to remove yourself from social media, it’s easy to feel like you’re snubbing your friends and family more than you’re snubbing Mark Zuckerberg.


That said, many of us are quite aware by now of the broad impacts that social media has had on our collective mental health, how we receive and process information, and the structure of our relationships (both with ourselves and each other). I don’t feel a need to reiterate what is better articulated by many books, documentaries, and articles out there right now, but would like to share some thoughts on how I feel that social media has impacted a few areas of my own life, and how I feel that disconnecting from social media will change them.


Attention Span and Instant Gratification Culture


I have definitely noticed my attention span diminish during periods of heavier social media engagement, particularly Instagram. I have made many attempts to curate my feeds with things that interest and inspire me (art and design, poetry, inspiring movement and choreography, physical therapy exercises and tips…), but I feel that the format has ultimately diluted and devalued the content. Rather than fully exploring and appreciating one thing at a time, we are encouraged to give each item mere seconds of our time before scrolling to the next shiny thing competing for our attention…and the next…and the next…and then wondering why we feel anxious and restless rather than fulfilled. We not only take in our entertainment this way, but also our news, social and political views, and social input that can profoundly influence our closest relationships.


This promotion of fast, squirrely, diffused attention feeds right into instant gratification culture, which is the antithesis of presence, process, sustained attention and effort, depth and complexity, and ultimately, satisfaction. It affects our creativity, our ability to interpret and articulate nuanced and complex information, our patience and tolerance, and how we perceive the world and each other. One of my intentions in removing myself from social media is to replace this rapid-fire blast of absorbed through scrolling with a slower and sustained intake of longer-form material and full conversations that allow more space for expansion and compassion.


Movement, Creative Process, and Body Image


This is a big one for me! I used to derive a tremendous amount of inspiration and motivation from watching videos of full circus acts on YouTube, particularly while living in smaller communities with few professional artists and coaches nearby. When I was in circus school in Vermont, I got through my early morning cardio sessions by playing a queue of trapeze, contortion, and handbalancing acts back-to-back because they passed the time and motivated me to run faster and work harder. When more artists started popping up on Instagram, sharing little 15-second snack-sized snippets of their work, I was immediately hooked. I must have hundreds of saved videos, organized by skill and apparatus, of “to-do” drills (most of which I have honestly never touched), and I regularly shared videos of my own training…carefully edited to exclude most of my fails and flaws.


Despite the amount of inspiration I have received from all of these talented artists/athletes, I have also watched the landscape of learning and innovation change drastically with the explosion of social media sharing, and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I appreciate the culture of exchange that I have seen many movers and artists adapt: for example, “I figured this thing out – can you add onto it? What kinds of movements can this lead into?” I have also seen many forms of generosity and positive support between artists, coaches, and students alike.


On the other hand, I have also felt that my own movement practice and process becomes less creative and more (for lack of a better word) reactive when I am constantly bombarded with these loose fragments of other peoples’ work removed from any meaningful context. It’s completely different from watching a full show in person, or sharing training space with a peer, or participating in a class…and I find myself moving in the direction of trying to align my messy, experiential, and embodied process with those loose fragments, despite knowing that they’re completely different things…that some things simply don’t fit inside of a square.


As for body image – I acknowledge that I am thin-privileged, and I feel angry and frustrated when I see the Instagram algorithm (and, in turn, my own audience) spotlight videos in which my abdominal muscles are visible, while my other videos that perhaps have more substance but less abs tend to fade into the background. This gives me clear and immediate feedback that my abs are more valuable and interesting than anything else I may have to share, and invites me to lean more into that value system in order to increase engagement with my work (“yeah yeah, write whatever you want…just make sure your abs are showing!”). I do not wish to contribute to a system that praises my conformity to a narrow and harmful set of physical attributes, and I no longer wish to buy into to being constantly bombarded with a steady stream of filtered, edited, and strategically angled images selling me what I could or should look like (or, even more insidiously, how I could FEEL if I buy into ____). No, thank you.

Time Management, Social Comparison, and Experiential Enjoyment


The busier I have been with the demands of school, clinical rotations, and commuting all over the place on Philly’s notoriously unreliable public transit, the more rare and precious my free time has become. I have admittedly spent a little too much energy lately bemoaning my lack of free time to do things that relieve my stress and bring me joy, but when I look objectively at my usage of time (even during my most stressful weeks of cramming!), the cumulative minutes I would spend procrastinating or taking breaks by engaging with social media could easily add up to the amount of time spent on a walk around the neighborhood, a cup of tea on the porch, or a call to my family. Hell, I would be better off just gazing off into space and letting myself be bored for a few minutes – boredom is wonderful for creativity!


I managed to somehow stay relatively unscathed from the toxicity of social comparison on social media for a long time – or, more likely, it was just affecting me subconsciously. I have, however, recently found myself seeing my own life in a noticeably more negative light when I see updates of friends who have managed to travel, train in a studio, and develop hobbies during this moment of heightened inequities. Of course, I know logically that I am seeing an extremely distorted snapshot of what people have elected to share, and the things that may look so aspiration are, more often than not, coping mechanisms for navigating what has been an extraordinarily difficult time for just about everyone. I hope to replace this skewed and unhealthy perspective with gratitude for my own circumstances (because I truly have much to be grateful for!) and a more honest and balanced understanding of what surviving and coping and making lemonade can look like for different people.


As for my own experiences, I am looking very forward to enjoying the freedom of simply being in the moment without automatically assessing whether the moment is something that needs to be shared immediately with everyone, or whether the moment can be appealingly filtered and framed within a square worthy of someone’s millisecond of attention. I am looking forward to taking and saving pictures for my own memories and sharing them discriminately, or, when I do share them with a broader audience, giving them the space and context they deserve.


So…What’s Next?


I definitely plan to keep writing and sharing long-form content right here, and will likely start putting together a video library of PT tools for friends, clients, and anyone else who could benefit from them. My romantic partner Noah has promised to save all the cute husky videos that I have been incessantly sharing with him via Instagram. I will hold him to that. Socially, I hope that the eventual reopening of public spaces and group activities will do wonders to fill the social vacuum that many of us have been filling with increased social media engagement. I am personally interested in reconnecting with the local circus community in group classes and open training spaces, perhaps even popping into some classes at other dance and movement studios that I have had my eye on since moving to the Philly area. Noah and I were just starting to take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lessons (after talking about it for months!) right before gyms were shut down...hopefully our finances and the availability of training spaces will align to let this happen (for real this time). I miss moving with people!


In the more immediate future, Noah and I are spending New Years’ in a sweet little cabin a few hours out of the city– woods, visible stars, fireplace, no wifi – and I can’t think of a better way than that to recenter and be in the moment.


Wishing you well, and thank you so much for reading! Kaeti

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  • Kaeti

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

NOTE TO MY READERS (8/22/2020):

Well, friends...this is awkward.

This post, written almost two years ago, has stood alone as my one and only blog post, in what was intended to be a full series of writings and musings -- an outlet to share my experiences as a post-op aerialist who underwent a major orthopedic surgery. In my mind, there would be trials and tribulations, yes, but ultimately a straight-shot positive outcome involving a full and enthusiastic return to my previous life as a professional performer, movement teacher, and massage therapist...hooray!

Things did not turn out that way at all, and yet, I am a wiser, more compassionate, and more resilient individual for it. I no longer have any intention of being a professional circus performer, but the physical and mental training as a circus artist will always inform my work going forward. I underwent a process that, in its complexities and ups-and-downs, turned out to be far too complex to wrap my head around and interpret in a tidy, shareable blog format. This post has been hanging over my head, nagging me with its incompleteness this entire time. In undertaking the task of restructuring my website in a way that better reflects my current focii as a bodyworker and movement educator, I initially considered deleting this post; however, I have elected to keep it, since I believe that it is an important and relatable part of my story. My experiences as an injured performer navigating the US healthcare system and my own rehabilitation have had a tremendous impact on the ways in which I approach the therapeutic process for my patients and students. So, here is my initial post-op account, presented in its original, incomplete state. (Spoiler alert: This story does have a happy ending - just not the one I had in mind at the time of writing this.) - Kaeti

Hello, world!


At the time of [onehandedly] typing this, I am almost 2 weeks post-op, recovering from a surgical repair of my left shoulder capsule (specifically, a posterior labral tear and a capsular shift to tighten the anterior ligaments). I decided that I wanted to document my recovery process and my experience of returning to training as a professional circus artist, since I have found it tremendously helpful and reassuring to read and hear about other peoples’ experiences (particularly within my industry). I hope that my voice can provide comfort to someone else who may be in the position in which I found myself almost a year ago.


To necessarily state the obvious: This is only an account of my personal experience with my unique injuries and the choices I have made while under the care of a team of skilled medical professionals. This is not to be taken as medical advice. I cannot stress the importance of seeking professional help if you are injured.


The Injury

How did we get here?

I believe that my left shoulder was a bit compromised long before I touched a trapeze for the first time (at age 21, in 2011), but my work in circus exacerbated the problem. I had a particularly nasty ice fall as a kid, and have noticed that the left shoulder that broke my fall has always had poorer stability and alignment in any overhead work. I noticed the difference when I took up martial arts as a teenager, and more so when I began training overhead hanging as a recreational student aerialist. In my 7 years of training, I experienced a few minor overuse injuries that required me to limit or avoid overhead training from 1-4 weeks, but never had a major traumatic incident that immediately sent me to the hospital. As I began training more intensively (eventually training full-time at a preprofessional level), I picked up a few strategies to stabilize my shoulders from my coaches and healthcare practitioners. After being forced by circumstance to build my two circus school graduation acts around my injuries (both shoulders at the time — so much fun for a trapeze artist!), I made a point of prioritizing my injury treatment/prevention work with a good PT after graduating.


As the realities of being a working artist set in after completing school, I found myself struggling with the reduction in the amount of time I was able to dedicate to training each week. While my body thanked me for finally giving it time to rest and recover instead of chronically overtraining, I did begin to feel my motivation to train disintegrate as the stress and fatigue from my work as a teacher emerged and grew. I often forced myself to bike to the gym directly after work or set up my yoga mat at home in the evening, but my practice was generally uninspired — I prioritized the PT exercises that were necessary to maintaining my baseline fitness as an aerialist, but did little to nourish my artist’s soul. Of course, that was a pretty miserable space in which to find oneself, so I soon began giving myself artistic homework assignments to play with during training…and it was good. Briefly.


I pushed aside the amount of time I was spending conditioning in favor of improvisation and creation (and it was so much fun…!). I also spent a lot of time moving through my flexibility and pushing my range of motion in choreography. Unfortunately, that was a recipe for disaster for my lax shoulder capsule! I felt a pop and a subtle tearing sensation while training dynamically one day (and, yikes, proceeded to teach and demo in the air for three hours after that before realizing how inflamed it was), took a full month off of all overhead training by recommendation of my PT, and waited impatiently for the damn thing to heal.


…It didn’t.

Well, not really.


After moving to a new city in the Spring, my new insurance coverage enabled me to affordably see a specialist and get an MRI. By then, it was about 3 months post-injury, and I was concerned about the unusual amount of time it was taking to regain my pain-free range of motion. I still didn’t feel stable while hanging, and I could just manage to do a few crooked handstands with questionable form that were balanced by compensation and sheer willpower. My orthopedic physician suspected a subscapularis (rotator cuff) tear, but my MRI reported a labral tear and a subchondral humeral cyst that was presumably linked to the amount of space in the joint capsule due to my stretched-out ligaments. The cyst seemed to indicate a longer-term, chronic issue, but I have no idea whether the tear was recent.


I managed to regain a bit more range and stability with time and sustained effort, but still felt unsafe hanging and moving freely (not for lack of trying). I decided to treat the injury as conservatively as possible to start, and collected a few more clinical opinions. I eventually consulted with an orthopedic surgeon about 6 months post-injury, who agreed that I should exhaust every possible option before considering surgery. I completed yet another round of PT, which was helpful for improving my connectivity and movement quality, but did not prevent my shoulder from subluxing during sleep or while doing minor daily tasks. My surgeon was unimpressed with my progress, and recommended moving forward with the surgical repair. At this point, I was easy to convince. It had already been the greater part of a year since I injured it, and I could have conceivably already had the surgery and recovered from it in the amount of time I had spent avoiding it. Both my surgeon and the therapists with whom I consulted said that I had a good chance of regaining most, if not all, of my functionality and returning to my aerial work due to my age (29 next month), motivation, and positive outlook.


Surgery it was.


Preparation

I am actually very grateful that I took a full 9 months between injury and the date of the surgery to figure some things out. Abruptly halting my specialized work after making my movement practice the focal point of my life for years felt devastating, and I needed time to manage the transition and my expectations. I initially felt like part of myself had died, and I simultaneously felt ashamed about the degree to which being injured effected my outlook.


After spending a few tortured months riding the melodramatic rollercoaster of my own emotions and trying very hard to find a new niche for myself within circus, I consciously decided let go of the part of my self-created identity to which I had been furiously clinging, and I was eventually able to find some peace in my situation and move forward from a place of logic and clarity. I started to find the training culture in which I had been immersed rather toxic to my current state, and elected to temporarily remove myself from most circus-focused spaces. I immersed myself in researching the risks, potential benefits, and possible outcomes of the surgery. By the time I felt prepared to go through with it, I had completely restructured my life in a way that could feasibly accommodate the recovery process. I had taken on two jobs with a PT and a chiropractor who were both willing to modify my duties while I was in the sling; my housemate was able to help me with transportation and random human tasks; my new insurance thankfully covered everything.


I haven’t been leading the most artistically fulfilling lifestyle lately, but I do feel that I planned intelligently. I suck at planning and generally prefer to improvise, wander, and live impulsively and romantically, with few attachments. My self-control in this situation did pay off, and I am so thankful that I will be moving through my recovery in the company of a group of rehab specialists who are more than willing to weigh in on my process and answer any questions within their scope. I will also have access to a fully-equipped PT gym in which I could feasibly complete my exercises between my work shifts. Sometimes you just need stability…in shoulders and in life.


Material preparation was relatively easy, albeit constrained by my lean budget. My surgeon did not provide me with very much information about the recovery process, so it was particularly helpful to be able to consult the therapists at my workplace and reach out to my friends who have gone through this. I was repeatedly warned about the challenges and pitfalls of sleeping, cooking, and getting dressed while immobilized. I ended up purchasing a microwave, a set of wedge pillows so I could sleep in a supported position in my bed, a sweater poncho, and a few secondhand pairs of those funny stretch-pants-disguised-as-work-pants. All of these things have made my life much easier. Yay, planning and calculated decision-making!


During the week leading up to the surgery, I simmered a giant stock pot of bone broth on the stove, purchased foods that were nutrient-dense and easy to prepare, and transferred my food to easy-to-open containers. I threw a few ice packs in the freezer, did all of my laundry, put fresh sheets on my bed, organized my room, and vacuumed my apartment. I did not want anything at home to be any more tedious or constraining than it needed to be. My friend sent me a guided visualization mp3 made specifically for people who are about to get surgery. I went for many walks in the woods alone, which I found to be more soothing than anything. I improvised a bit on trapeze, which was not particularly inspiring (but made me all the more excited to have a working shoulder soon).


Anesthesia necessitates fasting. My procedure was scheduled for the afternoon, which meant a relatively long break from food (17 hours in my case), but my anxiety killed my appetite anyway. I also appreciated the ritualistic aspect of fasting before a transformative event.


…I’m going to leave off here for now, and will pick up next time with details on the procedure itself, as well as my first two weeks post-op. Cheers.

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