Last week, I finally took a step I have been meaning to take for months. Well, maybe for years. I signed up for belly dance class. It’s been years since I was in class. Afro-Caribbean dance class is still something I intend to come back to now and again but I have been yearning to go back to be apart of something that speaks to my femininity.
For the last couple of years, I have watched my sister bloom and thrive with pole fitness. It always reminds me of the confidence I built when I was dancing to belly dance videos or with other women in class. It reminds me of how much I love sisterhood.
That kind of sisterhood is something I think will only enhance the quality of this quest for health. I am definitely ready to see if what I think may be true.
I think it’s fitting that today is the start of a new year because I devote Tuesdays to all aspects of health. Although I decided to ramp up my efforts at the end of November, like most people the holidays got to me and it is definitely time to recommit. I didn’t stop moving but the raw foods did take a backseat for a couple of weeks.
I began looking for a reset. A lot of people fast, diet and make all sorts of resolutions and promises on New Year’s Day. All I want to do is commit to more raw food. I can’t forget (nor do I want to forget) the way I felt throughout July when I was raw vegan for 30 days. It wasn’t just the increased energy. Anxiety and fatigue seemed like states of being that could never be attributed to me.
So my reset is to cling to what I know: walking, being a high raw vegan embracing juices and smoothies, yoga, dance classes, massages, prayer, therapy and letting go of fears and mindsets that no longer serve me.
There is something comforting about knowing I can be whole by myself. In addition to adding a dance class, I want to try to incorporate yoga or Pilates, too this upcoming year. I am not saying I am fractured or broken but just like anyone else, I have my moments. And those moments are a wake-up call to change my status quo. I heard about an exercise that asked you to write out a schedule in 15-minute increments of your ideal life and then asked you write out that same schedule with your actual life. Hearing about the exercise was sobering enough–holding up your ideal life next to your real one was absolutely jarring.
One way I know to ease those feelings is to commit to being a whole woman.
If I can’t be whole for me, how can I ever be the wife, daughter, sister, servant and writer I know I am supposed to be?
This past Sunday I went to Love Fest in Hampton. It was a 4-hour festival of dance, specifically Mixxed Fit and Zumba. There were scores of teams performing and teaching routines from the stage and plenty of vendors. It was benefiting The Lupus Foundation and The Natasha House which I personally loved. I had a wonderful time with my friends and danced so hard I was sore for a couple of days.
I have always loved dance and prefer it over many other types of exercise. When I go to the Afro-Caribbean dance class, I generally go alone (and enjoy it) but it was refreshing to go with a group of women and be among a crowd of people with such an electric energy.
It was an important reminder during this wellness journey to get out of my comfort zone and do more fitness activities that challenge me. I could have easily assumed the event was primarily for teachers and decided it wasn’t for me.
But how do I know if something is for me if I don’t bother to try.
I had an amazing time and will try another Zumba or Mixxed Fit class soon. When I weighed in today (I lost .8lbs), I actually thought about everything I did this week and was proud that part of this loss came from sweating at live dance fest in a city I do not call my home.
On Saturday, I was back at Afro-Caribbean dance class. It had been a few weeks because of holiday, cancellations, illness, etc. I was ecstatic to join the group of smiling faces for the last class of 2017. Towards the end of every class, our instructor has us gather in a circle. Some people get out in the middle of the circle and dance while the rest of us clap and cheer them on.
One of the fabulous dancers settled next to me at one point during this time. We were both smiling and clapping at this gorgeous little girl who couldn’t stop herself from throwing herself in the middle and jumping around with her parents. Nothing but pure joy. The woman next to me leaned in and said “We all have a little girl inside of us just like her.”
And that’s when it hit me. I have learned not sit on the sidelines with my writing in 2017 but the woman who used to embrace the center of the dance floor has not made an appearance in a long time. Anyone who really knows me remembers that I may not have always been the first person on the dance floor but I was certainly never the last. If I was feeling the music, that was it. All she wrote. I don’t know if it’s my island roots (Ayiti!) or the fact that my family was never shy about burning up the dance floor when I was younger. Til this day, watching dancers makes me tear up. The type of dance has never mattered to me-belly, ballet, modern, African, jazz, hip-hop. The fluidity, the sharp and precise movements and the grace of the dancer has always spoken to me.
Anyway, after she leaned back and the music continued to pulsate throughout the circle, I found myself drawn, not all the way to the center but away from the sidelines and let the beat find me.
And even if only for a few moments, the little girl inside of me made an appearance.
Next week, I have a schedule change that will have me up earlier in the morning. When I was in my early 20’s, I jogged a few miles before class about 4 times a week. During one of my jogs, I fell hard and suffered a bad sprain that took a long time to heal. I never worked out the same again and I quickly gained back all the weight I had initially lost plus more.
With this schedule change, I would like to get up early again to exercise. I have worked out before and after work, off and on, for years since the sprain but I have not been intentional about picking a time, unless it was to attend a class or meet with a personal trainer.
I believe making this change will provide more of the discipline I need to meet my goals. Taking dance class this past month has empowered me. Setting a concrete time to workout, especially in the mornings is a habit I’ve read about for many years and I am inspired to make it my habit.
I went to dance class today. I did not want to go. My husband has been pretty sick these last couple of days and I have not been sleeping well. But because I was feeling a little under the weather last Saturday and missed class, I was determined not to miss two in a row.
While I was there, I felt out of step. It was evident that missing class last week put me behind in learning choreography for their upcoming performance. Being worried about my husband drained me. Not having control over when he is healed and having to cancel plans to celebrate my birthday this weekend threw me off kilter. But I wanted to be as present as I could be while I was there. I needed to move and sweat.
I am embracing the process. I literally wrote about this yesterday. When I imagine all of the intense workouts that are to come on this journey, I picture the endorphin release that generally comes and not still feeling sadness afterwards but this is what life is sometimes.
These are the moments when I want to crawl back under the covers and cry a little bit. But I choose not to right now. I am wrapping my whole arms, legs, torso around this moment.
I sat in my car after Afro-Caribbean dance class and recorded a quick video about how I felt. I was tired, flushed and revealing a bit too much nostril but that was alright. More than alright. It was real. I was grateful to be engaged in an activity that was just for me. It has nothing to do with furthering my career, no one was making me do it and I hadn’t enlisted any of my friends to come with me.
It’s not that I wouldn’t welcome company because I would. Sometimes, I think we all need to give ourselves permission to try new things without any expectations or opinions from others.
Go it alone.
And that’s what I’ve been doing. This is a need I’ve had for some time. I wrote a piece about it a few months ago. If you would like to read more about it, here is the link: Epiphany
When I had this epiphany a few months ago, I started crying. That’s how much I missed taking dance classes, moving this brown mass of a body rhythmically around a room, in a line, smiling, sweaty, even shy and nervous with others. Collapsing in the car this morning, I recognized I had made it happen. I made the choice to put away my silly fears about being too big, fretting about the psoriasis scars up and down my arms and moved from stillness into action.
I knocked one goal out since last week. I submitted a piece to another publication this past week! I haven’t worked out consistently, hit my water goal or completed two essays. I definitely need to find the balance of working, going to thrilling events like the dance production “Claves Unidos” I attended on Sunday, visiting family and keeping up with my exercise and writing goals.
Claves Unidos led by Kevin Lamarr Jones. Excellent dance production. I will always make time for events like this!
But I do need to be consistent with my exercise schedule as well.
I wrote half of one essay that I actually really loved starting to write. All I can say right now is that while I wrote it, a lot of specific memories came up that shocked me. My goal is to finish it tomorrow. I can’t wait to publish it as part of my book.
In addition to all of these goals which I did not quite hit this past week, I realized during my See Jane Write Collective virtual coaching meeting this evening that I was not doing everything I can (or anything) to promote how much I love helping people write vows and speeches. Why bother hiding all that I love to do? I answered a message from somebody recently telling them how much I love writing words that were meant to be spoken whether it is a speech, vows, creative non-fiction pieces or poetry.
Even though I did not hit all of my goals, it is already a new week. I can work out for the rest of this week, drink my water, finish my essay, write a new one and publish a new post on Thursday. These are all clearly outlined actionable goals.
I was invited to their inner sanctum, a darkened dance studio with poles and lush fabric cascading down from the ceiling. I sat on a leather couch, An Untamed State lying in my lap. For two hours, I watched as a group of women twisted and flexed their bodies to pop and trap, swung their figures to melody and bass. I observed women opening and closing their palms, clap clap. Lifting each other up, there was no collapse.
I spied the sinewy, willowy, muscled, curvy Beautiful slick with sweat move in and out of time. And then my eyes burned and there were tears edging its way out of the corners of my eyes and gliding down my cheeks.
And it wasn’t about them. I think this had been coming on for a while, the tide coming in. I felt it coming when I walked out of my sister’s house and kept moving for an hour drowning the world out, even the wind whistling through the trees. And then when I held my nephew’s basketball in my hands, palms covering the leather and I raised my arms and shot over and over again.
I missed doing something just for me and my body knew it before I did. The ache went deep and as those things tend to do, it arrived on the surface.
I welcome anything else my body has to tell me as I continue on this journey.