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Life Through Dance

Suck It Up

By Elizabeth Dickinson

There are several places in my smooth routines where I stand on one leg, leaning forward, back arched, with my other leg extended high in the air behind me. Sometimes my arms are held behind me or I am connected to my partner by one arm as I am being spun backward. To transition to the next step, I have to return to neutral, which usually means lowering my extended leg and making my torso vertical again. It feels quite vulnerable, and I find it challenging to perform this consistently well.

My teacher reminded me to use my lower abdominal muscles to power the return to vertical. Using these muscles literally feels like sucking my internal organs up against my spine, but somehow it works. Using those muscles makes me more stable and balanced and makes it easier to execute difficult movements.

In life, to suck it up means to endure something without complaining. I’ve never been a big fan of the phrase when it’s used to shut someone down; it sounds utterly devoid of sympathy. But there are times in life when the only way you can endure something difficult is by toughing it out.

When you are alone in a situation and far from your home territory, or your usual supports are absent because of business or illness, or when you’re pursuing a goal no one in your circle understands, you have to suck it up and get on with it.

My English mother was a survivor of the World War II German blitz. She rarely spoke in detail about the bombings, but sucking it up could summarize much of her public expectations of life. “Never explain or complain,” she liked to say.

Somehow there needs to be balance between falling apart and sucking it up. There will always be times in life that require us to be quiet, to process things on our own that are too intimate, too vulnerable to share with others. Sometimes the only way we can get up and restore balance is to reach down into our insides and use our deepest hidden muscles, finding an honorable way to suck it up.

May we pursue our paths knowing when and where to tough it out.