The Dance*

When I was a little girl, I took dance lessons. From the age of 4 or so, I took, tap, jazz and ballet. I have vague memories of doing some kind of moving across the floor and the teacher saying “Jeté, jeté!” as we stepped from foot to foot.

I loved those lessons. There was a big dance recital, where my mom made costumes for me: I played a bumblebee and a munchkin.

When we moved to Dallas when I was 5, for some reason, the dance lessons stopped. It was a hectic year, and the business venture that my Dad had moved us there for failed, so after the year, we moved back to Houston, to a different part of town and a different set of circumstances. Finances were tight, so extras like lessons were put to the side.

But. I did not stop dancing. I would put my parents’ albums on the record player and dance my little heart out. This was way before MTV or dance videos. The only references I had were old Hollywood musicals, which I adored. So my dances were my own versions of what I had grown up watching: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn moving dramatically across streets and fields in passionate, emotive and song-filled scenes.

I had plenty to be working out. In my young life I had already suffered a great deal. But my trauma had been locked away tight in a safe room of my psyche, so I wasn’t consciously trying to tell any particular story through these dances. My body-mind just needed to move and my soul just needed to express through that movement.

Favorite songs were Wings’ “Live and Let Die” and most of the album “Whipped Cream” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Band. But I would dance to just about anything.

The dancing stopped somewhere around age 11. By that time, I had discovered food and TV and they became a kind of narcotic, a way to numb out the confusing feelings and thoughts that made life difficult. They became my number one coping mechanism, and saw me through until the teen years when other substances became available and appealing to me.

Did I dance again? Sure. At dance clubs in the 80’s and 90’s, where alcohol and often drugs were a part of the mix. At weddings, always somewhat self-consciously. There were a few attempts to go back to dance lessons so that as an actor I could be more marketable for musical theatre. I’ve danced in musicals and loved every moment. But the kind of dancing that I did in that living room back when? Nope.

Through my 20’s and 30’s, I had pics of me from that recital in my costumes, beaming. I think I even still have a bumblebee wing. Over the years, I have often used those pictures as self-reference, proof that there had been a time when I had been confident, happy in my body and free-feeling. I looked to those pictures to try to find hope that perhaps one day, I could find those ways of being again. Through much healing over the years, I have made a lot of progress. I go deep in my work as an actor and singer, and work from a place of a great deal of freedom often. But it has always still seemed to me that the girl I had been – with her total lack of self-consciousness, innocence and creative freedom – was to be forever out of my reach no matter how hard I worked for it.

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Then. Last week, a young director reached out to me and asked me to do his film. He’d had me in mind for the Woman in the script, he said, and he really, really wanted me to play her.

In the script, during the character’s most private inner moment, she transports herself through fantasy from her home bathroom to a gorgeous copper bathtub in a tiled tunnel in Central Park by the Bethesda Fountain. She is wearing a beautiful dress and a sax player is playing music in the background as she has this very free, very private, very joyful moment.

From the moment I read the scene, I imagined the woman dancing around the fountain.

I asked the director had he imagined the Woman staying in the tub in her private moment. He said yes, but that it was my private moment, and he wanted me to have complete freedom. (What a wonderful gift he gave me, that freedom. So grateful for his desire to collaborate.) So I had imagined my moments in the tub and was excited and curious for how the shoot would go.

I had not seen the location, so did not know that the tiled tunnel was a beautifully lit space that had arches in the background and copper hues, and that the tub would be placed in it, not near the fountain.

So that morning, as we arrived on location, when I saw the actual scene – the brick tunnel and the beautiful space that was surrounding the copper tub – and then heard the song the saxaphone player was to play, I knew that I had to dance out of the tub and around that beautiful tunnel.

And so on the first take, as the camera began to film, I began my private moment, made my way out of the tub, and I began to dance.

It was one of the most magical experiences I have ever lived. In the moments of my improvised dance, with the sax player playing for me and with me, the sun beginning to come up behind the fountain in the distance, hearing only the music and the echo of my own laughter, I felt myself dancing simultaneously as the woman I am right now and the little girl I was then. The tunnel and that living room became one across space and time. The joy that bubbled up through my body was total and whole, and it was such an honor to be in those moments bringing the Woman of the film and the director/writer’s vision to life.

Afterwards, we did more takes, and they were each wonderful but different in their own ways. There was no way to repeat that first take, and that was perfect too.

But I walked away from that shoot forever changed.

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There are moments in life where you feel that you are in the exact right place at the exact right time doing exactly what you were meant to do. In those moments, you can see that every other moment of your life has been a part of the making of this one magical moment. Every thing you’ve lived, every person you’ve met — the good, the bad, the ugly — it all makes total sense in those moments.

Those moments are astonishing. They are when I know I am a wondrous creation, a part of the whole that is this incredible Universe. I know in those moments that my life has been intricately designed, just as a rose has, or a peacock, or snowflakes. That nothing in my life – from the worst trauma to the most brutal pain – has been for naught. That it has all led to this moment in time, to this me that I have become.

That dance is forever in my heart now. It lives inside me, and it is the beginning of a whole new level of personal and creative freedom. I do not know what will grow from it, but I know that I have re-awakened something important inside, and I am so very grateful for that role finding its way to me, for giving me back the Dance.

#actorslife #danceforever #theheartremembers #itsnevertoolate #TheDanceoftheHeart

*Repost Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: dancing

This is a repost, but I really, really needed to re-read this today. I am feeling a bit lost, especially creatively. It feels like that connection with The Dance inside me is very faint if not non-existent – there’s been too much chatter going on inside lately that has nothing to do with joy, freedom and the sheer bliss of creation.

I needed to remember that in-between the astonishing moments of feeling like I am exactly where I am meant to be, there are moments of feeling totally lost. And each gives value and meaning to the other.

Sometimes I am dancing, sometimes I am stuck, or falling. Sometimes I am in the fetal position. Sometimes I am flat on my face.

I m reminded of a spiritual teacher who taught me to write a letter to myself during a time I am very, very happy and to save it for my unhappy self to read, to give me hope during the down times, to help me remember that there will be better times again. To remember the ebb and flow, the ups and downs. The times of movement and the times of apparent stasis. It has been a powerful exercise at times.

I will dance again, soon.

May we dance for each other when it is time to dance. May we dance for those who cannot hear their own music today.

 

 

Good Fences

For as long as I recall, I’ve carried within me the following line:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

I can’t usually remember what poem it is from. I probably read it in high school English.

But it has stayed with me all of these years intact, the way wonderful writing can. It visits me at times, like an echoed wisdom from an ancestor since passed.

I think it stuck with me because even in high school, I sensed the existence of walls inside me.

I didn’t know it consciously. But often the Frost quote would float through my mind paraphrased as “There is something in me that doesn’t love a wall.”

Looking back, the Freudian slip was prophetic.

Those walls were walls that I’d built to protect me, but they’d also held me prisoner, because I did not know then that they were of my own making, and therefore my own to remove.

Years later, through much personal healing and growth, I’ve come to terms with my inner walls, and I find I am both of the people in Frost’s poem.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

Like the narrator, I, too, find that my walls want to come down.

Though I’ve come to accept them as a part of me to love and find compassion for, they also feel like something that wants to be dislodged, or that needs to disintegrate, feeling like foreign matter in the organic soul forest I inhabit within.

And like the neighbor, some ancient part of me feels them to be necessary. It’s as if there’s an ancestral heritage in place that pulls me to them, at odds with the part within that wants them down.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

I thank those parts within for their concern, and the peoples from which I came who needed walls to survive.

I thank them for their love and care.

I respectfully let them know that today, I choose a different way.

I feel their support at my back as I step out into the Great Adventure.

I lovingly dismantle each wall, and face the leafy, lush green of the world within and without, with my face towards the sun, unafraid of the shadows.

I wonder if Robert Frost was speaking of the walls within, too.

I like to think so. It makes me feel we are connected, like good neighbors can be.

Mending Wall

BY ROBERT FROST

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.”

I could say “Elves” to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

More on my walls: Palisade

And: Essential Excavation

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: neighbors

Ch-Ch-Changes

Four months ago, I wrote a whole blog about my experiences finding my inner athlete and how important that has been for me, for my healing. I meant every word.

I called it Athlete, Interrupted because my story really was of how the innate joy of being in my own body had been interrupted in my childhood.

I discovered running while I was on a quest that had begun in 2011 to “rediscover my inner athlete.” From July 2014 until around February of this year, running, training and races were a huge part of my life. If you’d have asked me a year ago if I would ever consider stopping running, I’d have said, “No way!”

I can’t believe it, but something has been shifting in me, and I’ve found it confusing.

It began with the last half marathon I trained for. I trained for 10 weeks, and loved it. On the morning of the race, it felt like any other. I had no idea what was coming.

It was a gorgeous but chilly January day in Central Park. I found my corral, and the race began. This particular race was two laps around the park.

Towards the end of the first lap around, right at the half way point in the race (6.5 mi,) I suddenly realized that I didn’t;t want to run any further. That I truly didn’t care if I finished and had no desire to do so.

Now, over the course of the years since 2012, in training for two marathons, and countless half’s, I’ve had the desire to stop while running. That comes up a lot. You push through, and you are usually the better for it. Sometimes, you really might need to stop, especially if you have the tendency to overtrain (as I have had.)

This was not one of those situations.

I felt so compelled that I ran off the path and let myself stop. I immediately felt overcome with emotion. Something in me was finally being given my own attention, and was so grateful.

But I felt guilty too. And sad. What was happening to me? How could my desire and commitment change so radically?

But was it truly radical? If I’m honest, looking back, I had been pushing myself to keep on running as intently as I had been for at least a year.

I had gotten so caught up in the running culture. It had given me so much joy, and such a respect for my body and its abilities. Awe for my own will and what I can accomplish if I decide to.

How could i be considering letting that go? To what? Run just to run? No more longer distances? No concern for pace?

Who was I to go from 5 days and 30 miles a week to 3-4 and 10- 18 miles? Wasn’t I going to go to hell in a hand basket? How could I change now? What if I reverted to before?

Yet, my spirit wanted other things. I was wanting to bring more creativity in my life. Not revolve my life around my training and running anymore. I felt a drive to write, to create more and revolve my life around that.

I wanted to simplify. I found myself craving other kinds of movement: Gyrotonic, Pilates. I had let those things fall away the last year.

My body was revolting! Calling me to wake up.

I fought the messages it was sending me. I didn’t trust them. What if it was laziness?

But I wanted to move, so it couldn’t be laziness. I even still wanted to run. Just not like I had been since 2012.

My body had to literally break down in order to get my attention. That is another blog when I have more distance. Suffice it to say that this was The Summer of Being Slowed Down. My body made it so that I had to listen.

I am still unraveling why I found it so hard to listen and trust my body. Why I held on so hard to running’s place in my life.

There’s always a part of me unconsciously looking for a formula. If I find something that creates happiness in my life, I want to keep doing A+ B to equal that C. As if as long as I just keep doing A+B, I’ll get C.

I think it has to do with my relationship to change. I mean, I know cerebrally we are supposed to change and grow. Still, some part of me gets scared that in letting go of something good, I will lose the good I have gained.

I guess that reveals a scarcity mentality. Some part of me fears losing what little good she has managed to get, so she thinks she can never change, or else she risks returning to the misery of before.

I am trying to work with the fears of that part of me. Help myself trust that change is good. That I am still being athletic, but in a different way.

And new – different – is good. It brings new – different – experiences. And that brings new information.

And through the new information gained in the experience, I become different. More.

I will help myself meet the change with trust and excitement instead of resistance and fear.

It means I am a living thing, that change-induced growth. Not a computer that can be programmed and set to repeat.

After all, I am always a work in progress. And that’s the way it is supposed to be.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word prompt: athletic

The In-Between

I was born a square peg

But I didn’t know enough to value it

Tried to force myself into that circle:

that round hole I was so sure I wanted to fit

Now I am neither round nor square

My corners are worn and I’ve scrapes on my sides

Neither shape feels like home

Guess I’ll have to make my own mark

“Squale” anyone?

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: circle

Chances Are

Coincidence? I think not. Happenstance? No.

It was divine guidance. Fate. Destiny. Meant to be.

I would never have been in Central Park otherwise that day. Hadn’t been there for years.

Avoided it, actually, as I did any person, place or thing that connected me to you, or the us that we had been.

But for some reason (it felt so random at the time,) I decided to get on the train and head uptown.

It was a sunny Labor Day. New York City felt generous without most of her locals taking up space.

I had no plans. I was trying to stay active so as not to slip into loneliness.

I came out of the subway at Columbus Circle. No plan. No route in mind. I wandered, following my nose, enjoying just being in the world.

I suddenly realized I was in “our” spot, on the Great Lawn. A fluttery fear made its presence known in my belly.

Without conscious intention, my eyes scanned the horizon, and just as I realized what I was doing, I saw you lying there.

Even face down, I’d know your body anywhere. Long, lanky, tanned. Shirt off, ripped, worn jeans low on your hips.

My heart somersaulted. A rush of heartache and bruised love and attraction rushed through my body.

In a moment of agonizing indecision, I considered turning away, walking past, walking on.

But my feet and heart had other ideas, and they took me to where I was standing over you.

Did you feel my presence, or was it just that I was blocking the sun?

You turned your head and said hello.

Just like that.

It had been three years of no contact. Three years since I came home to an apartment emptied of your things. A total shock.

Three years since I learned you’d been seeing other people for at least the last year of our relationship.

Three years of putting the pieces of my heart and my life back together, mending the gaping holes you left.

And today, of all days, “randomly,” our paths cross.

I say I’m well, and I mean it. I ask how you are, and then I wish you well, and I mean that too.

The truth is, I’ve never been better. The truth is, you don’t look so well.

I see the pack of cigarettes and the empty tallboys in the grass. I see a guy who is nursing last night’s drunk with midday hair of the dog.

You look like you’re in exactly the same place you were before the shit hit the fan. The place where we both drank too much. The lost place. The place where our love did not survive.

I see this, and I wish you well, from my heart, and I walk away.

I smile to myself, a bit astonished at my strength. The capacity of my heart to forgive. My resilience. My spirit. At the Universe knowing the perfect moment, the exact moment I am ready for it, providing me with this chance to see that I have healed. This chance to let it all go.

I move forward, into the sunlight, into the lush green of the park, into the present beauty of my life.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: coincidence

Wallflower Heart

She waits in the shadows

Yearning to be seen

Afraid to be found lacking

Wearing her best, new, outfit

Hair curled, lips glossy peach

Rubs her lip against her braces

Her heart flutters as he walks by

Calls his name, a tentative whisper

The vibration of her voice

Floats off into the beating music

He doesn’t turn, doesn’t notice

Her hope sinks deep

Back to the well of loneliness

Where her heart lives

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: tentative

Beach Day

First the shock, then I screamed

Sharp stings across my calves

Filled my chest with angry hurt

Blue water, friendly one moment,

Betraying my trust the next

You swept me up in your Goliath arms

Held my beating heart against yours

Pulled me to the safe crevices I knew as Daddy

I squeezed my eyes tight in fury

You asked to see where the hurt was

Rubbed and kissed it, swore at the fish

I think that’s the last happy memory I have of us

Wish I could go back in time

Into the crawlspace of your chest

And be just your daughter again

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: sting

Unlearn Me

Such a good girl

Learned early on that love is earned

Don’t rock the boat

Don’t step out of line

Now I know

I disobeyed my own instincts

Pushed away what made me me

Learned to sit on my own impulses

Well, I’ve started a reeducation

Gonna free me from my self

Gonna be a good girl to my own girls

Get a masters in following my own heart

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: disobey

PSA

It is with great sympathy

That I must report

The end of an era:

The Era of Me Caring What You Think.

What you think about me or what I am doing with my life. About anything you think about, really.

(And when I say “with great sympathy” I’m being ironic, in case you missed it, being so wrapped up in your own megalomania and all.)

Buh-bye!

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: sympathy