Footage Friday: Quiet Rain

It’s week 2 of Footage Fridays! Huzzah!!! (technically it’s my third Friday video, but I didn’t come up with the nifty alliterative name until Week 2 :P). I’m falling into a really nice rhythm here. I film on Wednesday night, edit on Thursday night, upload overnight (because it takes FOREVER), and post on Friday. It’s great!

This video is a wee bit melancholy. I was having a sad afternoon-and-evening on Wednesday, and this piece of music jumped out at me from my “OK for videos” list (yes, I have a list like that…it helps a LOT).

I did most of this dance sitting in a chair. I’m an upper body dancer by inclination, and this just felt right.

It’s not a happy dance, but it’s a true dance. It exactly expressed how I was feeling. And that’s what dance is all about.

 

(If you can’t see the video, click here to view on YouTube)

…I’m feeling a lot better now

Breaking the Silence

Words words words.

My head is stuffed full of words unspoken and words unwritten. I am stifled, smothered, crushed by the weight of unspoken thoughts and untold stories. I am self-censored to the point of utter silence, mired in the shame that comes when you feel that your thoughts and feelings are not worthy of expression.

When you look at me, you might think I look a little sad, a little tired, a little stressed. But I am drowning, lost in a sea of words and stories and emotions, and unable to find my way out.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for days. I kept writing “blog post” on my to-do list and then…checking Facebook, opening tabs for other people’s blogs, obsessively collecting information about the thoughts and feelings of others instead of being in my own head and heart and processing their contents. As if salvation was possible only outside myself, as if other people’s breakthroughs could take the place of my own.

The only expression that has managed to break through the chaos is dancing…brief moments of release and escape from the crowded prison of my brain.

 

Big changes are coming for my family. Big changes for me, the stay-at-home mama. Changes which mean stepping out of my safe little bubble, smashing through my comfort zone, and doing the things I’ve said for ages that I wanted to do…but didn’t make time or space for because I was too afraid. It’s already starting. And I haven’t said one word on this blog or anywhere else on the Internet.

I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Didn’t want to upset anyone or take the risk and fail. Thought that if I kept quiet and didn’t tell anyone, maybe the Big Scary Changes would wander off and bother someone else.

And that makes me shake my head in disgust, because the second-to-last real post I wrote was about my epiphany: how I didn’t want to live in fear anymore, wanted to live out loud and be 100% me 100% of the time.

“Now look at you,” my inner critic cackles, “Stuck in the mud, quiet and cowed like you always will be.” The untold stories threaten to bury me, to cover my head and suck me down into a life of silence and shame once again.

But, eventually, I stop them. I close down Facebook and all the other browser tabs full of other people’s stories. I open my word processing program. I begin to type this out. And the pressure inside my head and heart begins to ease. I start to feel more like myself again. Like maybe my stories are as worth telling as anyone else’s. Like maybe it would be OK if I just wrote what I was feeling. Like maybe this is only the beginning.

I know me. I know that in a week, or even a day, this collection of sentences won’t remotely resemble what I’m feeling, just as it bears no resemblance to how I was feeling 2 weeks ago. I’m an air sign, as changeable as the breeze. But this is my story right now…and I will tell it. Keeping silent hurts too much.

The words flow out of my head and onto the screen, and I breathe a little deeper, sit a little more solidly in my body, make plans to dance again tomorrow. I remember why I started blogging in the first place, remember the relief of letting my stories out into the Universe. I start to think of new stories to tell, now that the dam is broken.

There are always stories to tell.

An epiphany…

I spent part of yesterday morning in a frenzy of self-doubt and worry. This in itself is nothing rare, sadly, and it usually makes me frustrated and sad in addition to the aforementioned frenzy (SO MUCH FUN!).

But yesterday, as I began the tailspin into self-criticism and doubt, fear and smallness, I looked at myself in the mirror. And all of a sudden, rage shot through me. I stamped my foot.

“What the HELL is this?!” I thought out loud.

And things shifted. Suddenly, I saw my life so far as a whole, patterns revealed and easy to see. I saw my past and my present, my achievements and challenges, my triumphs and fears. And over and over again, I saw myself playing small.

I saw myself constantly worrying about what people thought of me and fearing they might “realize that I was worthless and stupid” (“Realize”?!…WHAT?!). I saw myself hiding my light, pretending to be “normal” (whatever that means) for the sake of fitting in. I saw myself limiting my dreams according to what “they” said could be done (whoever “they” are), not even giving them a try on my own. I saw myself avoiding other people because I was afraid of what they would think of me. I saw an awful lot of worrying, shutting up, and putting things off.

I’m not saying this in a self-critical way, I swear, but it IS what I saw. 

I saw my gifts, lined up and ready…no…ACHING to be used. I felt the rage of pent-up energy longing to race forward while I held it back out of fear of what other people would think or say (what about what *I* think? What about what *I* have to say?).

I walked into the living room and I looked at my son, who radiates his light without even thinking about it, without questioning whether or not he “can” or “should.”

And it really hit home…

…All the times I hid that unique glowing part of myself so that I could fit in, or because I was afraid of failure or rejection, came rushing back to me. And I almost quivered with rage. I wanted to find every person who (directly or indirectly) taught me that it wasn’t OK to be me, that it was more important, more prudent, safer to fit in than to be myself, and PUNCH THEM IN THE FACE (I’m not a particularly violent person, so this was unusual).

And then, with all of these images flashing through my mind, I took a deep breath…and I said “Enough.”

Enough of this. Enough selling myself short, holding myself up to invisible (and imaginary) standards of how I “should” be. Enough hesitating out of fear and waiting to be “perfect” before I do anything. Enough limiting what I DO do to what I know I can succeed at immediately.

Enough hiding and pretending. Enough trying to “play by the rules,” dimming my light to fit in, enough trying not to be the weird one at the party. Enough assuming that people will think I suck…enough worrying about what they think, period. Enough assuming that someone else knows what I can and can’t do better than I do myself. SCREW ALL OF IT.

I want to live my life out loud. I want to be 100% me 100% of the time. I want to do what I love, and thrive. I want to be the person who walks down the street radiating joy and confidence, complimenting strangers and dancing in the rain. I want to be the person whe asks “Why not?” when someone says, “Oh, you can’t do that!” And then, if that thing calls to my heart, I want to do it anyway.

I’m so tired of worrying that I’m not good enough, not fit enough, not creative or talented or driven enough, not original enough, too old, too tired, too shy, too…unworthy.

Enough of this.

I AM WORTHY.

More than that…I AM AMAZING.

Amazingness is my birthright. It’s mine because I’m human and I’m me. We all come into this world as glowing sparks of light. We all come into this world shining our unique and amazing light. You’re amazing in a unique way that is 100% yours. You’re amazing because you’re human and you’re you.

Maybe it’s because I walk by this sign every time I go into my kitchen, but dammit, I’m ready to shine my light in the world. I’m more than ready. In fact, I’m shining now. My light is bursting out of my chest and filling every space I move through. I am blinding, shimmering, radiating light. I am ON FIRE…in the best possible way. It’s not that there’s nothing wrong with me…it’s that there’s everything right with me. My true self is beautiful, whole, and perfect because that’s how each of us is born…we just need to remember it.

Imagine a world in which all you had to do was inhabit your You-ness 100% of the time. What kind of magic would you make? What would it feel like?

Let’s try it together. Let’s paint the world in a glorious rainbow of unique colours.

Watch out, world. I’m done hiding. Prepare to be rocked.

…What if?

I’m starting to think that I actually had my dream calling figured out when I was 26.

In the span of a year, I had discovered ecstatic dance and taken a Reiki Healing Dance™ course and a Kripalu DansKinetics® teacher training course. I was 100% grounded in this new, free, intuitive, healing dance modality. I felt powerful and free. And then my old teacher asked me to teach modern dance to her senior students.

…in hindsight, it’s probably a good thing that she never officially paid me for my time, because I certainly didn’t teach what she was expecting.

Of the three students I taught, two were girls I’d known when I was one of the senior girls and they were just six and eight years old. I knew what they were experiencing in their ballet classes—the endless grind of repetitive exercises, the screaming and snapping, the feelings of helplessness, the barely-contained rage.

I knew because I had lived it.

…I needed someone like me SO badly…

 

And I set out to give them what I would have wanted when I was in their shoes: I made it my mission to remind them why they loved to dance. And that there was more to dancing than what they were used to.

I did teach some modern technique, I suppose. And I used elements of the trainings I’d just taken, a bit. But mostly, I just set the stage and let them do the rest. I allowed the classes to be whatever the girls needed. Together, we lay on the floor and envisioned glowing bubbles of safety and love. We followed the breath into beautiful dances. We grounded and oozed. We pushed and pulled. We played games. We followed music into beautiful unknown spaces.

Occasionally I would catch my old teacher’s disapproving glares through the windows as we danced. But it didn’t matter. The girls were lost in the dance. They were glowing and grinning. They were safe. It. Was. Glorious.

Later, the girls were split up, and I taught one of them one-on-one. I’d known her since she was little, and our classes (if you can call them that) quickly morphed into something else entirely. We would sit and chat about whatever happened to be going on with her at the time, sometimes for half the class time. I would give her any insight I could. And then we would open up to the dance. We danced shapes, textures, elements and emotions. We went outside and found beautiful things to portray through movement. We played with oracle cards and energy work. We made our dance into a healing thing, a tool for transformation, a safe means of expression.

I still look back on that time as a major highlight of my 20s. I was in my element. I was connected. I was making a difference. I believed so passionately in my power to help that it brought tears to my eyes. And I saw the effects of my work every time the girls walked into my class.

Ever since then, I’ve been longing to get back to that place of service, of magic, of belief. But I told myself it was impossible. That I only managed it then because of my history with the girls and our shared rebellion. That I had to find a new, “more realistic” dream, fit inside a box, get the Certifications®  and the Trainings™ and follow the Rules©.

But now I’m starting to wonder…What if?

What if I could build upon those foundations and create something unique, personal, and deeply healing? What if it could really help people? And not just downtrodden ballet-dancers-in-training, but anyone—trained or not—who felt called to dance?

What if I had it figured out way back then, and all I needed was the confidence to translate it beyond the walls of that studio?

What if? What if?

Even entertaining the possibility and asking the question is progress.

Dance 12: When They Tell You Not to Sing

Well, here we are, the last day and the last video of the Delicious Body Dance-a-thon.

I just need to take a second and really let that sink in.

One month. Twelve videos.

AND I DID IT.

When I started out with this project, I was absolutely terrified. I was so afraid to let go and dance on film. Over and over and over again.

But I posted that first video, and then the second and then the third…and I slowly, haltingly realized that this  sharing didn’t make me feel small and scared and not-good-enough. It made me feel bigger, more powerful, and more willing to take risks with my dance.

I feel like you can see that progression from the first video to this last one. It makes me so happy.

In ballet school, I was taught that I would never be good enough. That I would never be perfect, and that perfect was all that mattered. I was taught a lot of other terrible, damaging things too. But this project helped me move through that baggage and let it go. Because there are no scales to measure self-worth, and no way to compare your soul’s unique expression. No matter what they’ve told you. No matter how hard it is to believe.

…I feel like this piece is the perfect one to end on.

Thank you so much for witnessing this journey. Thank you to commenters and lurkers alike. Your support and appreciation radiated through the past month, and I will never forget it. <3

 

When They Tell You Not to Sing 

(By Suzi Q. Smith)

Has anyone called you beautiful today?
Have you seen the exploding stars in your smile, or are they already
black holes when greeted by a mirror?
Are you tall enough to reach your reflection,
or do the crushing boot heels keep you too close to the ground to reach?
Did they tell you that your face is impossible?

Did they tell you not to sing?
Did they tell you that you belong as close to the ground as you can get?
Did you believe them?

Did they rock and lull you with distractions,
or did they stone you into silence so that you no longer
spoke of your greatness?
Has anyone told you that you are a sleeping giant?
That you could rumble the earth all the way open if you wake up and stand?

Are you trapped inside a nightmare laced with villagers and ropes?
Have they named you ‘monster’?
Do you see the torches coming?
Are you yet to discover the might in your fingers?
Are you still buried in the slumber?

Has anyone told you of your majestic glory?
Have you heard whispers of possibility in your breath?
Have you reveled in the power of your sweetest dreams?

Do your teeth have welts?
Have they called your prison ‘cocoon’?
Are you ready to break out?
Are they so afraid of you that you have become
afraid of yourself?

Have they called you clumsy?
Have your legs gone numb in the box they’ve crammed you into?
Can you still wiggle your toes?

Do they mock your wings?
Do they echo the name ‘freak’ in their flapping?
Are you clinging, desperate to a branch?
Are your feathers atrophied?
Have you hardened into stone?

Do they treat you like an artifact?
Has your size become an idle exhibit
now that you are no longer a threat?
Are you still a threat?
Are you history, or are you making it still?

Has anyone told you today that you are still breathing?
That you can melt stones into water with a touch?
That the sun and moon are sheepish at the sight of you?

That the struggle free is what strengthens your wings
to carry you forward?
I offer you every mirror.
Your reflection is in love with you,
waiting.

 

Dance 9: …

I didn’t meant to take as long as I did between videos. But giving myself permission to rest and not pressure myself made me realize just how strung out and stressed and self-crtical I had been feeling. Letting go of that made me feel like a 50 lb weight had been lifted from my chest…and I knew that I needed more than a day to enjoy it.

So I let myself rest. I watched movies. I read books (not even useful, informative books! Trashy books! It was AWESOME!). I stretched. I played with Xander (and realized how little I’d been connecting with him in the previous few weeks, even though we’re together 24/7). I didn’t even LOOK at the blog (so please forgive me if your comments went unanswered…I appreciated ALL of them).

And then one day I knew I was ready to dance again. But I wanted to try a video without music…just like my first one. I wanted to let my body dance however it needed to in order to get back into the swing of things. So I set a timer and I danced in silence.

It’s not a perfect video. My inner critic and I duked it out several times. There are moments where you can see my focus slip. My inner dance critic had a field day. But now that I watch it again…I wouldn’t change a thing. This is me at a moment when I decided to keep moving in spite of that inner critic, to share what my body has to express, regardless of how “good” it is (oh, that hateful voice inside). And that makes it perfect and beautiful all on its own.

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utJLYHocG4Q)

Are you struggling to push through resistance? Are you being really insanely hard on yourself? How would it feel to let that pressure go, to rest peacefully, and to pick things back up once it feels right? How much of the weight you’re carrying is your own self-criticism? 

xox

Meg

Pause for Buffering…

I was going to film a dance video tonight.

I was. I cleared the space. I swept the floor. I tried to pick out a song to use…I was exhausted, but I told myself to push through it. Push push. People are expecting a video, Meg. You should have had one up on Tuesday. I don’t care if you’re tired. Pick a $&#%ing song and %#&@ing dance.

Woah there.

What?!

No.

Forcing myself to make a video out of guilt and stress and fear and in spite of being incredibly tired and not particularly inspired…that’s not what this dance-a-thon is about. That’s not a recipe for self-expression. That’s not sharing the joy of moving my body.

You know what that is? An all-too-familiar place. The place where dancing is a should and not a joy. Where moving is impeded by layers of pain, my body weighed down by resistance and fear. Where injury waits for me. Where I can never be good enough. Where the drill-sergeant voice in my head screams “TRY HARDER!” and I leap to attention, no matter how tired or sick I am.

Screw that.

I knew that this process would bring me face to face with a very dark part of me. This is the part that I always run away from. This is the part that either makes me stop dancing to get away from it or push through in obedience and hurt myself because I’m not fully embodied and I’m not moving with love.

What do I do this time?

I take a step back. I remind myself that:
a) Not dancing tonight doesn’t make me a quitter. There’s still plenty of time.
b)  If I want to learn to dance on my terms, then I need to respect my body’s requests for rest.
c) Tomorrow I’ll be able to start earlier  and hopefully won’t be so tired
d) The only person pressuring me is me.
e) Forcing myself to dance right now when I can’t even pick a song to move to is a sure-fire recipe for hating the resulting video.

There are times to push. There are times when resistance is something you can move through in a healthy way. I encountered that kind of resistance when I first considered doing the dance-a-thon.

But there are also times when resistance is telling you something, when pushing through would make the problem worse.

The former feels exhilarating. It lights you up and makes you feel what author John Green once called “a shimmering nervousness” (I love that). The latter is heavy. It feels like you’re trapped between a rock and a hard place. It sucks.

Only you know which you’re encountering at any given time. Only you know which is the right choice for you. Only you can make that call.

Tonight I know.

I’ll try again tomorrow. It’s the loving thing to do.