Many of us have experiences that cause us to slow down, examine how we react to things, and start making changes. Over the last week, I had two.
While in physical therapy, I chatted with a new friend as we were both left to do some independent exercises by our therapists. She and I made plans to go to an “Aqua Strength” class at her gym. She also offered to teach me some stretching techniques afterwards. I was moonwalking on air when I came home from the session. As we get older, it can be harder to establish new connections and I had made one with a bubbly, helpful person who is healing from the same injury!
After the class, she and I worked one-on-one with for almost two hours in their warm water pool. Now, here is where the first revelation came: she constantly had to remind me to put my shoulders down. I fully realized my natural state (when engaged in activity) is to have them hunched up around my ears. Although I was present with her, that realization was never too far away. It instantly conjured up a memory of an initial visit to an acupuncturist where he observed I hold my breath often during conversation. Between the shoulder and stifling of my breath issues, it’s as if I am in a near constant state of bracing myself for something to happen. It is as if my body is preparing for trauma.
Here comes number two: Many of you know outside of my writing I have worked for several years in the human services field. Yesterday, I spoke with someone who was having a particularly hard time which is nothing new because of the nature of my position. However, due to the intensity of the call which almost led me to trying to meet them for a moment, I had another flashback. As I was hurriedly throwing on clothes to dash over there, the mode I was in felt eerily familiar. I had just done this when taking my husband to the hospital just over a week ago (he is home and healing). The rush, the sadness and adrenaline pumping at the same time, and this urge to say “Forget about yourself because you know what you have to do ” enveloped me. Some of this is completely natural but the urge to grind a message of tossing myself aside into my being is unhealthy. While tending to and being of service to others is ultimately about that person, perhaps the message to myself in the midst of these emergencies needs to be more “I am scared but glad I am here to help right now. Let’s go!” and less “forget about you..you don’t count right now.”
All the bracing and unhealthy internal messaging sounds like one tight ball of trauma. It doesn’t sound like the woman who has been dancing in the shower to Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” all week and actually giggled with glee driving from home a shopping trip a few days ago (I usually hate shopping).
But it is the same woman.
I am both.
I am all.
As I take the time to breathe in and out, I release my shoulders. They don’t have to carry it all. When I am in “go mode”, I can be a bit kinder to myself.
This weekend I watched “Star Wars” for the first time. I don’t shun sci-fi at all but I was never drawn to that particular franchise (I grew up in a Star Trek household). I may not have fallen in love with it but I tried to see it through my husband’s eyes. He was a child when it came out so while the technology and the acting made me cringe at times, he must have seen nothing but magic and heroes stretch the fabric of reality and his budding imagination.
It was a sweet reminder of the power of nostalgia. I can instantly connect to how I felt jumping rope in my cousin’s backyard on Long Island, pouring over the pages of “The Baby-sitters’ Club” books, dancing to Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul in our living room and watching with bated breath to see if Whitley and Dwayne were finally going to get together on “A Different World.”
I love that I don’t care if any of it was perfect. I didn’t want flawless. I wanted fun. I didn’t know it then but all I needed was simplicity. Laughing hard until the breath sputters and there is guffawing. Pumping the volume up to dance and sweat. Turning the pages, losing myself in hours of uncomplicated storyline.
I hope to reconnect with more of that..the simplicity. Fondly remembering what was is beautiful but being able to carry its essence with me now–in the present moment–is priceless.
Thursday wellness update time! This past week I lost 1.2lbs which felt amazing to me. I worked hard even when I slipped up and ate too much on some days. There were many reasons why this week felt amazing to me. For one, I rediscovered some belly dance videos on YouTube I used to do several years ago featuring the Bellydance Twins Veena and Neena. I spent many hours doing their workouts and learning routines which led to classes I eventually took years later. I had a ball doing their intense Arms & Abs video. It reminded me how much is available for me to do even when we don’t make it to the gym.
Another reason is that I just attended a networking event for women at an awesome juice bar this evening. I spent the evening learning about how to brand yourself led by a photographer and business coach. Their presentation was dynamic and interactive. We even got a chance to learn about the origin story of Ginger Juice, the venue where the event was held. It was incredibly encouraging to listen to this woman recount how she left the corporate world to take the risk to found a business where she is contributing to the health of her community and spending more time with her children.
I am grateful for rediscovering old joys and having the chance to surround myself with new, enterprising women.
Have you revisited anything you used to love doing lately? Or had any new experiences lately? I would love to hear from you in the comments.
I have been thinking about what should be next in plant-based journey. I have thought about cutting out wheat, oil and finally going ahead and removing all soy-based products from my diet. It would be hard for me to stop myself from feasting on the chicken-fried tofu from Whole Foods but of course, I would survive. I can’t help but feel like there is something I am missing and something I am moving towards. In terms of what I am missing, I am missing consistent discipline with everything to be truthful. I have been able to maintain my blogging schedule, met my E-Book publication goal and will start working back on my novel and another project soon. However, when it comes to my self-care I am definitely slipping. I have not focused on doing both. I have thought about it but I would be a liar if I said I have taken consistent action. I’ve been missing dance class which I love and have been snacking late for no reason whatsoever. I wrote a piece about being scared to be empty in one of my writing classes. I could mull over the reasons why or try to develop an origin story for this fear but I would rather funnel that energy into moving, getting to bed early and forming new habits. I am moving towards a new me that is healthy and for the first time, is starting to see animals. I mean, really value them. I even told hubby I wanted to visit an animal sanctuary. For those who don’t know me, this has NEVER been me. I have never owned a pet or particularly cared to pet an animal. It was not for me or to ever be for me but eating this way has changed me. I find myself more curious than I have ever been. I don’t know where this newfound curiosity will take me but I am willing to follow along.
A important part of this blog is to focus on my wellness journey. My healing from it all-the weight, the PCOS, the psoriasis, etc..I know I don’t write enough or almost at all about it. I post what I cook on Mondays but not much else. I think I want Thursdays to be a wellness update.
I am not sure if I will include pounds lost or skin cleared but it will be real and it will be here.
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.
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.
Even though I write a lot of non-fiction and lately, have been inundated with a lot of personal development books, my first love is fiction. Yesterday, after thanking God for waking me and my husband up, I grabbed the latest book I am reading: “The Perfect Find” by Tia Williams. She is one of the authors I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of weeks ago at the James River Writers Conference 2017. I am not ashamed to admit I spent my morning wrapped up in my blankets, getting caught up in the tension and excitement of the story.
The words “keep the story moving forward” have been ringing in my head for a while now and it got louder as I read yesterday. One of my writing teachers, author Sadeqa Johnson offered similar advice to me during the Pens Up, Fears Down course I took earlier this year. I heard it again at the James River Writers Conference during the Library of Virginia Nonfiction Awards Finalists panel from Annette Gordon-Reed.
Writing has taken a more central role in my life this year so those words do ring true. However, why the volume turn-up right now? As I am writing, I am having an onslaught of realization. Those words have been my theme “song” this year. I have challenged myself to do more writing, traveling, confronting of my health, posting, applying, conference-attending and class-taking than any other year of my life. The song is just beginning to build, no deep-throated belting yet but make no mistake, it is audible. With my acceptance of the #bloglikecrazy challenge next month, the commitment to complete my first draft of my novel, starting the process of establishing my business and falling in love with dance again, the vision and the song have clarity.
I have been moving my story forward.
Your turn: What have you been doing to move your story forward?
Since I wrote about it and I promised I would do it and I talked about it out loud where other people outside of myself could hear it, I went. I don’t mean to sound reluctant. It was just fear..fear of not being in good enough shape, not catching on fast enough, not being able to keep up.
So like I said, I went. I attended my first Afro-Caribbean dance class just as I declared I would in my last post. And it was exhilarating! I probably looked like a scared toddler creeping up to the door but there was no reason to fear. The instructor was kind, immediately asked if it was my first time and welcomed me with open arms.
For an hour, we danced and I felt that good sweat! If you have ever been so engaged in an activity, you don’t even realize you are drenched until it’s time to take a break, then you know of what I speak. I missed letting my body speak the words that have been muted for so long. I loved seeing my joyful, vibrant, moving reflection in the studio mirrors. I didn’t even think about my psoriasis scars on my arms, not even once.
There was comfort being in a group of people of all sizes, shapes, colors, ages and skill level smiling and popping their bodies and bare feet to the beat. We danced in lines, mimicking our instructor’s movements and enjoyed the eclectic variety of music played. I was on a high doing African-inspired movements to the classic “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J.
I guess there is no need to ask if I am coming back.
There will be no languishing in the dark, underneath the covers this Saturday.
This weekend I will be trying my first dance class in years. It will be an Afro-Caribbean dance class. As a little girl, I took ballet and tap for a year. I loved to workout to dance videos and fell in love with Neena and Veena, the Bellydance twins’, work especially. A few years ago, I even took a bellydance class. For reasons I cannot remember now, I stopped. I still continued doing Zumba and going on walks now and again. But I haven’t committed to a class in years and I finally feel like I’m ready. Hesitant but ready. Doubtful but ready.
But as I have said before if I am claiming to be on this wellness journey, then I want to throw everything at my disposal at it. In a previous post, I talked about how my husband and I are leaving for California in mid-January. I want to see and feel a visible difference in myself by then. I want to take those runs, move every inch of this body with more ease and erase the doubts that have taken up residence within me.
What have you given up that you would like to try again?
The first day in this challenge with a schedule change. It was really Sleep-In Saturday for me. I didn’t want to leave the bed. Getting out of it was a struggle and as beautiful as it was outside today, I chose to let my body rest. I eventually got up and did another Afrifitness video. My husband and I had a signing we planned to go to for Arvat McClaine’s new book, When Black Women Speak the Universe Listens. I decided to wait until after the signing to get another workout in. In the meantime, I was able to fit in about half of my water intake for the day. As I am writing this, I still have the other half to go.
We thoroughly enjoyed the signing. It is always inspiring to watch a new author stand up and talk about his/her work, observe their nervous energy and then watch it fall away as they answer questions about their baby they’ve just birthed and are finally sharing with the world. I know my turn is coming. This challenge is teaching me I can build the discipline muscle to finish the works I have been writing and outlining for some time now. The fears I harbor about rejection don’t seem as daunting anymore.
After the signing, we walked downtown. I have been walking alone lately which I love but I always appreciate my husband’s company. Today taught me that I have to be ready for any schedule changes in completing this challenge. Adapt.