Empowered to Take Up All My Space

December 14, 2017

It took a LOT of courage to do this, but the person after me doing the poem with the drums asked me to partner with him and… I did it.

Here’s the text:

With sweat pouring off me, I’m stomping my feet and swishing my long skirt around me. I’m not quite on rhythm and I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror because I know my steps look nothing like my flamenco instructor, but I feel free. I’ve taken dance classes before – ballet and tap when I was young, swing and salsa in college and as a young adult – but flamenco is the one I want to continue with. Even more, it’s what I want to be a metaphor for my life.

When I took ballet, it was always about trying to be graceful, staying quiet and in my place, and – even as a young child – not being too large. It took me until I was about seven or eight to lose my baby fat and slim down, and my ballet teacher poked at my belly and told me that I ate too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and that I needed to suck in my stomach. I was five.

Ballet dancers look beautiful and I admire their hard work and dedication. But I also know the sacrifices they make for their art – the long, unbroken lines come from brutally carrying their weight on the tips of their toes, something the human body is not made for.  The slim physique of ballet dancers comes from strenuous physical activity, but also, too often, from disordered eating or substance abuse.

Flamenco, on the other hand, embraces whatever size, shape, or age a woman is. My flamenco teacher is constantly telling us to “take up all your space.” It’s about being stable on your feet and your hips, using all the body that you have, and learning the technique in a way that you can impart the dance with all the soul and feeling needed. You are encouraged to land heavily on the floor, to lean into steps with all your weight, and to use your hands and arms in large, sweeping movements. You are also encouraged to make noise.

Another thing that draws me to flamenco is how empowered the women look. There is a specific look cultivated with this dance, and empowered really is the best word I can think of for it. Women keep their head up, look proud, and don’t lower their eyes for anyone.

There’s also the stomping – which is clearly not the official term and my flamenco teacher would be angry with me for using it – that is so cathartic. I found the perfect description from the unlikeliest of sources, Wikipedia.) “El baile flamenco is known for its emotional intensity, proud carriage, expressive use of the arms, and rhythmic stamping of the feet.” Female flamenco dancers often use large, colorful scarves and skirts, taking up all their space like proud tropical birds, but fiercer.

I keep going back to these dance lessons because they remind me that I want to live like that. Not proud in a narcissistic way, but proud in a non-apologetic way. I had to spend so much of my life apologizing for who I was, in both words and actions, that I didn’t get to have that proud carriage. I still feel so often like my spirit is broken and flawed in an irreparable way that it’s hard for me to accept that I have the right to have a “proud carriage.” I come off as empowered to many people because I’m opinionated and not afraid of public speaking, but that’s not how I feel. I want to have the empowerment inside too.

I also want to feel like I have the right to take up all my space. I don’t want to try to be smaller or shrink into spaces that don’t quite fit me. I want to take up the space that I take up and stomp if I need to. Not to be angry and reactionary, but to be myself, proud, expressive, and fighting for my rights. I want to express myself in stomping if I need to. I want to stomp because I am beautiful and persevering and have learned to hold my head up high.




I Felt Hopeful Last Night

August 25, 2017

I’m really tired so it’s hard to remember details, but last night, I felt really hopeful.

I felt like my life was good and I was going to be OK, and I felt happy and hopeful.

I just feel like it’s important to write that down and remember. Today wasn’t bad, but last night, there was a flash of incredible hopefulness.

When the Meds Work…

June 11, 2017

…they really work. I feel like a normal person again. I hope it lasts!

I’ll be traveling soon, so I’m not sure when I can check in but I will when I can!

That Afterward Feeling

May 1, 2017

I had a wonderful day today. I took my four-year-old nephew across the bay in the ferry into the big city, where we had lunch and “treats” (truth be told, he had way more treats than lunch, but aunties get to spoil people, right?). It was an absolutely beautiful sunny day and he had fun making up stories about his stuffed bunny, riding the ferry, passing close by bridges, seeing fire boats and police boats, eating ice cream, and much more. It was absolutely joyful.

He’s still in the cuddly stage and is a little small for his age, so he sits on my lap and holds my hand, and I have to bend way down to hear what he’s saying as he chatters along about everything. He has the adorable little-kid trait of not yet speaking in contractions. On the way back, he said, “I  cannot wait to tell Mommy and Daddy how much fun we had and everything we did that was so fun.” I’m a really good auntie!

It was wonderful. Then I came home and took a nap with my dog who is freshly washed and smells good and whose fur is so soft.

I couldn’t have asked for better.

So now, of course, my brain and its messed-up chemistry is kicking in. Now instead of realizing that it’s a blessing to be able to go home from a hot, busy, noisy day with a little boy I love and be alone and quiet, I am fixating on the fact that I’m alone. That no one would know right away if I lived or died. That there’s no one who puts me first in their life. That my nephew loves me but of course, his immediate family will always come first. I’ve managed to negate everything that was so special and wonderful about today.

Instead of realizing how wonderful I am to have such a wonderful dog, I’m worried about when she’ll die. She’s seven years old, barely, so she’s in the second half of her life but may have 5+ more years. And I’m wasting them by worrying about what I’ll do when she dies.

I don’t know if this is depression or growing up in an alcoholic family and always having to be prepared for the worst, because no one else was. I’m sure it’s b18222306_10155025134535700_2956203768163496233_noth. But I do not want this legacy any more. I need to find a way to change this; I am not willing to go through the rest of my life losing out on this joy.

Some Good Things

September 10, 2012

I’ve been working on gratitude lately.  Gratitude is tough for me and I’m not totally sure why.  I have some ideas which I’ll talk about in another post, but people who I trust tell me gratitude is important.  The Bible says so too.

I’ve been self-employed for five years now: this month is my anniversary of self-employment.  A couple of my friends recognized how hard I’ve worked (and it has been hard!) and are throwing a party for me.  A classy party, with dressing up and people saying good things about me.  I’m a little terrified and a little excited and a lot amazed.

I spent the weekend in Mendocino with two other amazing friends and rested and relaxed.  This was the view from the hammock.

There are some good things happening, and I’m trying to be aware.


March 29, 2012

My life feels like it’s going by so quickly lately (and almost everyone I know feels that way – can’t we make some sort of deal to slow it down??)

I just got more work which, being self-employed, is fantastic, but leaves me with little thinking time.  Truthfully, I can usually use less thinking in my life, but it also leaves me with less prayer/talking to God time.  I’ve been thinking of doing the try to read the Bible in a year thing or the try to read a book in the Bible I’ve been wanting to read thing, but what seems to be working most for me is just to pick a little bit of it that is what I need to hear and have it roll around in my head for a while.  It can be dangerous to take things out of context, I know, so I am making sure I have read the context and that it is consistent with what I know about God.  (although so many things are so hard to know about God).

Anyway, after all that rambling, I’m thinking about Jeremiah today.  I’ve loved Jeremiah 29:11 for a long time: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  I have had so many times when I’ve needed to know that God has these plans for me, just like he had them for the exiles.  But I also was struck by the part right after that verse: “2 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

It’s very intimate.  It makes me feel like God really wants to get to know me.  I mean, I know he does know me, but like he really wants me to be a participant in that.  It’s exciting and honoring.  Like if you have a friend of a friend you’ve admired who makes a point of getting to know you.  Only better because I already know somewhere inside of me how much God loves me.  And wants me to seek him.  Not sure about how that works though.  Maybe I’ll have more thoughts about it tomorrow.


November 21, 2010

Whenever I’ve thought about my dog dying in the past, it’s felt like I was going to die.  He was one of my best friends for almost eleven years and there through so much of my struggles.  Also, I don’t deal well with loss.  I have worked myself up into anxiety attacks wondering when he was going to die – long before he was sick.  Now he’s gone, and I’m OK.

I was really really sad at first, obviously.  I was with him while he passed away which was both wonderful and horribly difficult.  I thought that I would be paralyzed with grief, and asked everyone I knew who prayed to pray for me.  They did.  And I’m OK.  I’m remembering him with joy and love – I miss him, but it’s not overwhelming.  It feels like God has given me a cushion – like I was starting to fall and he took the rocks away and placed something soft in my path.  I have a huge fear of falling – literally and figuratively – and I thought this was going to be one of those falling into a pit times. I thought the bottom would fall out of my life and I’d go back into despair.  If anything, the bottom got higher.  I’m doing better than I have, EVER.  Literally EVER in my life.

I have absolutely no explanation for it other than people praying for me and God rescuing me.  To me, it feels every bit as miraculous as if God swooped down to catch me as I was falling off a cliff.  My companion of 10+ years who I loved so much and loved me is gone.  I’m single.  I’m cold because it’s winter, and I don’t do well with cold, dark, and impending holidays.  And yet, I’m not just “OK for me.”   I’m actually feeling totally emotionally stable.  This has never happened and part of me feels like taking out a full page ad in the newspaper because it’s so incredible.

There’s probably something in the Psalms that describes this feeling.