Monday, November 11, 2013
Friday November 8, 2013:
Zumba with Irina Peschan at Alvin Ailey
"What happened to your blogs? no more?"
Her question was simple. In a moment, it cracked me open. I search her face - my friend - another incredible woman that I've met through Zumba classes. Her expression is kind, her words are supportive - and yet my heart aches.
"I will start again. It's just been....a tough time."
A tough time.
Right now, these three tiny words hold more sadness than I'd ever expect to have put on them. I haven't written a blog post for almost a month - and every time, my excuse was - I can't, I'm having a tough time. The truth is, I just didn't have the words. Not only haven't I written blog posts in the last month, I haven't written anything at all. I was taking classes though - I took some classes that were very powerful for me because they were my only escapes from days of sadness, worry, pain, frustration, anger, and stress. Danielle, Irina, Sarah, Edmee stood in front of me and lead classes on days where I couldn't feel my body from how disconnected I felt from myself. They encouraged me to move - at my own pace and comfort - on days where I was so deeply tired. The classes I didn't write about are what enabled me to make it here - and to start writing again.
I can't go into details of why I haven't written - just that it was a sad and difficult time and that energy I had outside of class and teaching was spoken for. I didn't write about what I was witnessing and going through, because I couldn't. Why have I come back now? The biggest part of it is behind me - and every day I am now working to let go, to move forward, and to recharge myself, my life, my health. I won't lie - because I can't here - my health suffered during this time of sadness and stress. Nights without sleep, days filled with stress - I was tested. I went back to my old coping mechanisms a couple of times. Thankfully, not fully - I found that I have the strength to remember myself, to stop - to also heal.
Irina's class on Friday was the first one I went to after the storm passed - but before I began to survey the debris in my life. There is one song she plays in her class that I was afraid to hear - it links directly to where the sadness comes from right now.
What if she plays it? - I'm going to have to leave. I don't want to start crying in class - and I will.
I was worried - afraid - nervous - tired.
I chose Irina's class as the first one to go back to because no matter how I feel, it has a positive effect on me. Her positive energy charms the room and embraces it for the duration of the class. It's amazing, it's fortunate - it's a privilege to take her class. Wow - I felt so oddly out of place. The last class I'd take before that was...Wednesday, but it wasn't really a class. It was a goodbye - it was sad. It was...hard. I thought that I'd never be able to do Zumba again - that it would be too hard for me to deal with the emotional upheaval that certain dance moves would cause for me.
I have too much to process.
It will be too hard.
I don't want to even try...
So, of course I went. Irina never teaches on Fridays and I've never been to Alvin Ailey. There was no question I'd be there. Well, no - there were about 27 questions of whether I'd be there, but I was. I was awake from Wednesday at 7am until Thursday at 11:30pm. Without a night of sleep, I knew I wouldn't be allowed into this class. I slept some....I still felt tired. Earlier in the day, I had gone to Yoga and began to open up the places in my body where I was storing the pain, the sadness - I started to release. The day wasn't easy - the situation wasn't willing to leave me yet. Just before class, I had to deal with something again. The voices in my head threw themselves at each other even as I sat and tried to answer the question about whether I'd ever write posts again. Until the very last second, I wondered if I dared leave before class began. I stayed - of course - I don't tend to run from something because I know it will be hard.
I struggled to stay in the moment in class - my mind kept taking me back to the moments of the few days before. I kept seeing, hearing, feeling moments where I was tested and where I had to swallow my own emotion for the sake of someone else's safety. We did songs from Afro Fusion Burn and I was thrilled - that music takes me away from my thoughts completely and allows me to be free.
I love Alingo - love that she played it - and love all the styles that I can't name but that my feet start to tap at and my heart starts to breathe with. I was free. For a blissful few minutes in the class -I was free - and I could let go. I could move. I could smile.
"Move over so you can see yourself in the mirror."
This wasn't a suggestion. Irina came over to me and physically moved me so I would no longer hide from myself. I didn't want to see me - I realized that I hadn't actually seen me for so many weeks - I was so focused on...other things. There I was - in the mirror - wearing all black and trying to understand how my body was moving when I felt so disconnected from it. I watched my eyes then allowed myself to watch my body.
I'm not bad...
It always comes as a surprise to me. After more than a year of Zumba, Afro Fusion, Aqua Zumba, some Hip Hop, an Instructor Training ...I'm actually, well, good at it. Every time I found myself behind someone, I moved back to the mirror - it became a game. When my thoughts drifted and I missed steps, I looked at myself and checked in.
It will be okay.
I watched the people in the class a lot more than I usually do - I only knew a couple of them. This was a different studio, a different crowd, and such a beautiful moment. I felt the pain in my body shaking as I moved around. I felt my muscles exhaling as they released tension and sadness. I felt oddly free. Oddly, I felt. There was no clock in the room and I was so happy. I wanted it to keep going, I wanted to watch myself move through my pain and see that I can still do it. I walked out of class with my heart still racing. Yet, it wasn't from the exercise. It was from the relief -from the knowledge that I have healing in my life and that little by little, I will get back to myself and I will still continue to dance, and more importantly - to also write.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Tuesday October 15, 2013:
Zumba with Irena Meletiou at Reebok Sports Club
I feel connected.
This was such an incongruous thought for me yesterday. There I was, about five songs into class, and these words swept through my mind and my body like a welcome sip of tea on a bitter morning. In that moment, it was like the rest of the day hadn't existed. I was THERE - in class, connected, present - and most of all, felling good in myself. It was incredible because a mere hour before I felt as though the weight of the day was threatening to crush me into a puddle of mush and self-hate. One of my biggest challenges in healing is learning to treat myself with kindness and compassion when I'm feeling tired, weak, vulnerable - when I'm the one in need of healing and the tools I teach my students. Learning to accept that I struggle has actually been easier than learning to be kind to myself during it.
I sometimes have some trouble understanding my space in class and I tend to move around more than I intend to. Yesterday, I started the class in the second row, but in every song kept edging forward and finding myself in the front row. There was definitely space for me there, but I was reluctant to step into it - to have nothing but air and energy between me in the mirror, between me and Irena. I kept moving back because I was scared - I kept coming up on my fears and I didn't want to see them. When I looked in the mirror, it scared me to think -
I'm actually doing okay.
Have you ever experienced that? Being afraid of being yourself - of being okay with being yourself? That's what I was going through yesterday. It was a really tough day. I felt lonely, I felt frustrated, I felt anxious - I did not, at all, feel connected. The irony is that what brought this up for me was having to write a paragraph about my curriculum and how I develop my tools through my recovery. There are some days where I feel the weight of my life sitting on my neck and my shoulders, where my mind isn't quiet and I can't always find the ways to be nice to me. Yesterday, I struggled through most of the day. I got very little sleep and had to continuously check in and encourage myself to make it through the day. I wanted to slip - I wanted to just give into the that habit that makes me feel so comforted - for a moment - and then floods me with murky waters of shame for many, many moments afterwards.
I wasn't even sure that I wanted to go to class.
Why put myself through an hour of having to stare at myself looking ridiculous?
Why even pretend like I'll enjoy it?
Why even subject other people to me right now?
What's the point anyway?
Yeah, I went there yesterday. Those days are hard - and we all have them - where we just feel low, unworthy, incapable - tired and sick of everything. Yet, there is still, thankfully, that part of me that wants me to be better - to heal - to grow. It's the part of me that packed my Zumba clothes into my bag that morning, knowing that I could go to this class tonight. There are some days that merely knowing that I have a class I can go to later helps me get through - and yesterday was one of those. I walked to the gym with leaden steps. Even after I'd changed, I wasn't sure.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Monday October 14, 2013:
Irena Dance Training
There was a nostalgic breeze rustling down 26th st as I walked towards what was to be final session of Summer Irena Dance Training. I've been debating with myself for the last week about whether or not to attend this session. The weeks of IDT were so tumultuous - I struggled with injury, exhaustion, intense emotional overwhelm, and most of all how to be nice to myself during all of that. Even through I've practiced, my body still associated some of the dance moves with a time of struggle.
We haven't practiced the IDT songs for three weeks - two of them I missed entirely. The last session of IDT is typing the one where we perform for Irena and she rewards the best performers out all of us. Yeah, I was pretty nervous - especially since in the last IDT, I had burst through my own expectations of myself to come out in the "top 3". Funnily enough, it wasn't even the fact that I didn't know the songs that worried me so much, it was my own fear of not doing well - of failing - and how I would ever manage to be kind to myself knowing that I could have done better.
I'm going to be disastrous...
Imagine thinking that about yourself on a loop before you are set to perform. If I ever entertained that thought before teaching a workshop, I would be frozen in place, horrified by a classroom of eyes focused on me, needing me to lead them.
Where is this thought coming from?
Who are you afraid of disappointing?
Who are you trying to please?
What can you let go of now?...
Funnily enough, the answer had little to do with "pleasing" anyone - Irena herself walked into this class with an open and accepting energy - "we are going to do this one for fun, for review, maybe for the future. Nobody wins today, but everybody who is here already won."
It is so easy for me to get caught up in my thoughts and forget that if I'm nervous, at least one other person in the class probably is too. As we started, my heart was definitely beating a little bit faster and my body began tool remember the lessons where I learned these moves. Suddenly, it was no longer October 15, but the middle of August and I was afraid that my tendon would fully tear while learning Janet Jackson's "If"...My muscles began to remember and hold the energy of fear and sadness into my body and here, now, in class, my task was to finally release it. Somehow, I was...I felt okay and safe while all this noise fizzed around in my mind.
How am I supposed to access this compassion for myself while being so ashamed and afraid?
How can I forgive myself?
let it go...it's okay, really, I promise...
In a moment where I was desperately trying to figure out how to Get Jiggy With It while staying on rhythm, I looked over at Irena who was trying to hold back her laughter, and we both just let it go...and laughed. I looked in the mirror and laughed at myself, and then, with myself. At that moment, I realized - I'm having fun. While my mind was running in circles, my body was happily enjoying the opportunity to dance to different songs and to practice routines that are still challenging.
Laughing helped me connect my mind and body and let go of the talk that was holding me back. Instead, I allowed myself to hear the joy that dancing brings for me. Strangely, I felt alive - connected to a part of me that absorbed the strength to heal and practiced it in such a raw way in Irena's class. There are a lot of moments in life - some that we love, some that we would rather forget. Each and every one of them feeds our life with a different energy. In last night's IDT, I allowed a moment of struggle to become a moment of strength by allowing myself to join in the spirit of the class, rather than sinking into my anxiety.
Let yourself feel...
In every moment, feel the powerful dance that is your life...
Sunday October 13, 2013:
Afro Fusion Burn with Irina Peschan at Z Club NY
Monday October 14, 2013:
Zumba with Irina Peschan at Z Club NY
Ooooh... I'm tired today!!
I woke up 40 minutes before class on Sunday. I stared at my phone for a good three minutes before I registered this fact. I was planning to go to Afro Fusion Burn again since I rarely get to go - let alone twice in one week! It was been a weekend full of celebration, dancing, outings, and a couple of very late nights! I was surprised to be awake on time at all. I took a moment to check in with my body before I got up around whether my whole being wanted to go - the answer was a resounding yes. I was surprised, but nonetheless excited to go.
Morning classes are a bit tougher for me because it takes my body a little bit of time to fully awaken in all of my joints and muscles. I have been gradually building up the amount of classes that I've been taking and I've started to feel more present and centered in myself when I do go to class. Sometimes, I feel like it's becoming less about being "right on" and more about feeling the music and the rhythm in my body and learning what that actually means - what it feels like. I'm learning to be more forgiving of myself than I have in the past during class wen I don't "get it".
I had a very interesting thought during Monday's class though. I felt very tired in my body, as I also did during Afro Fusion Burn. My shoulders were tight and lifting or waving my arms proved to be quite a challenge. I felt as thought I had just carried heavy cartons up the stairs, and I could really feel the weight in my joints and in my bones even. I had to stop a couple of times during the jumping-heavy songs so that I could catch my breath and let my body settle. It was during one of these moments that I had this thought -
this is so much easier when I'm nice to myself.
It felt as though something burst open within me. I started to think about why I have had an easier time in the last couple of classes that I've gone to. As we were Merengue-ing our way across the room, I heard the answer within me - because even though I Am struggling still, I Am still battling myself on occasion, and I HAVE TO stay present and mindful as I edge through recovery, I have been much nicer to myself about it.
Instead of feeling ashamed or angry for struggling, I've started to embrace it as part of my process. I allow the challenge to be part of my healing by accepting its purpose and presence in my life. Do I want to stop struggling? sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I find my creative energy in the struggle - but it is also where I lose it. There's an element of comfort in old habits and ways of coping that is difficult to shed on days where I don't feel kind enough to exist with myself and my emotions.
However, when my life is full and full of purpose, I fuel myself with the good that I can do in the world. It comes into play when I am in a dance class, when I am struggling. I've played with it in the past before, but now I am feeling the difference between days where I speak kindly to myself and days where I am harsh and judgmental.
You messed up? It's okay! Try again!
Watch the teacher too.... there is help all around you!
In both of Irina's classes, I allowed myself to be in the state that my body was in. When I realized that I'm having an easier time because I was actually encouraging myself to do better, rather than chastising myself, I actually could improve. In Monday's class, Irina helped me with many of the moves that I still stumble a little bit in - and I was able to laugh at myself, to greet my struggle with a smile, to feel just a tiny bit more free.
Friday, October 11, 2013
Thursday October 10, 2013 (My Birthday!)
Afro Fusion Burn with Irina Peschan at Z Club NY
It was such a treat to be able to take this class on my birthday. After a day of teaching, I felt very tired but also filled with an energy and light that I couldn't wait to share. I rarely get to go to Afro Fusion on Thursdays since I now usually teach at that time, so I was thrilled. I also felt a little bit nervous about it since I was so hard on myself the last time I took it (see: For the Love Of Me). In the week or so since this class, I've been trying to learn how to be kinder to myself - especially when I am not feeling well, or when I am struggling in class.
I've had the joy of taking varied classes since and really discovering that not only do I have the foundation to be able to follow, but also the strength to do so. I came in a couple of minutes late to class since I was running from the train, but I was greeted with an effusive "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" from Irina, which warmed my heart and helped me shed any nerves and access the light I needed for this class. It was like no time had passed since I'd last hopped around with the best of them in Afro Fusion - I immediately hooked back into the energy of the class and allowed myself to be more free than I've been in classes recently.
I feel open...
I usually have a hard time isolating my upper body - if I'm trying to move my shoulders, it is my hips that end up moving. In Afro Fusion there is a lot of movement where we isolate parts of the body where I tend to store a lot of emotion - as do many women - the hips, shoulders, and thighs. In the joints where we can be our most flexible and beautiful, I tend to be the most tight and nervous. When I first started to work towards accessing my physical strength and getting in touch with my body, I did a lot of work on isolating these parts of my body. I went through an entire year of feeling intense pain on my right side as I worked to open the joints and access the emotional memory I had stored within them.
In class yesterday, I felt as though I was riding on the waves of this emotion and accessing its power to uplift me, rather than weigh me down. I felt so much different than I did in the last class - my feet were lead and I could barely move. I was glued to the ground and couldn't find the strength to be compassionate to myself...I couldn't hear the messages coming from my body because I was too busy being mean to myself about being tired. This class was so different - I actually felt as though I could jump up and stay there, flying above the ground. I felt light, present -and happy.
With every drop of sweat, I felt myself telling my body -
I know you are strong
I trust you to carry me
I trust you to help me land
I trust you to help me
I am happy with me
I can be free...
Hmm. I just had a thought - earlier this week I heard Irina explaining the history, culture, and emotion behind many of the moves we do in Afro Fusion. A lot of them came from times where the cultures form which they emerge were enslaved. Thus, many of the movements embody the feeling of being shackled, tied together. The dance is about bringing joy to moments of pain and using that power to overcome, to survive, to thrive, and to rise above fear, our cages, and our personal shackles. "I have often seen my eating disorder and the pain I have been through in the past as shackles - tying me to self-doubt, judgement, criticism, fear, and sometimes self-harm. When I am tied down to my thoughts in class - as in life - I can't perform, I feel ashamed and afraid to be in myself.
Yesterday in class I experienced a feeling of freedom - of being able to just be okay with myself even when I get tired and when I make mistakes -or especially during those times. The process of healing is an intricate one, and often some actions don't look like they're helping. Becoming aware of how I talk to myself and how I have, in effect, made my shackles tighter, has helped me a tremendous amount in being able to break through them and access my light and my power. Accessing my love for myself and my body through movement and my Zumba practice has been an incredible tool for me. As I witnessed yesterday, the power of positive energy and light casts a glow so wide that when I tap into it, it actually can dispel the darkness that I carry within me. There was not one mean word for me in class yesterday, just pure love and light - I was happy to share in the energy of class and to be able to contribute from my own well of positive waves...
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Wednesday October 9, 2013:
Zumba with Sarah Grimaud at NYSC
I was excited for class today. Not only because I haven't taken Sarah's class in a good long while, but also because I was still carrying in my body the positive feeling I'd harnessed during class on Monday. I'm rather enjoying being able to redefine my experience in Zumba class based on how I connect to the music and the energy within my body, and less about the specific class itself. Of course, a talented and passionate instructor doesn't hurt.
"This playlist is killer - watch out!"
I've known Sarah's classes to be very fitness-y and high cardio in the past, and I was definitely not surprised to see an abundance of squats, lunges, and abdominal work. I was worried, at first, that I wasn't really at my top strength yet - my legs burned throughout the squats. When Sarah shouted, "ABS IN!" - mine responded, "in what?". It took me about two songs to get used to Sarah's style again and fully be able to let go into myself. I was a little self conscious about my space as it was a rather large class and somewhat tight quarters. When I finally connected to it though, it was like a firecracker - the energy surged through me and burned through any anxiety that I was holding.
So many jumps! More jumps!
At some point between "Dale Dale" and "Rompe El Piso" (so about 15 minutes into class), I felt myself letting go. At the start, I had a couple of moments of - this is hard. I can't do this. I should stop - but they were quickly pushed out by the pure fact that I was doing it, that I was following along and actually having a good time doing so. I had two very clear thoughts that really pushed me through the moments where I was in my head:
I get the rhythms.
I've been trained well.
It was really something - it actually helped me move through tension that had been building up in my body throughout the day from a busy schedule and a very heavy bag. I started class steel in my shoulders and in my neck - they felt stiff, heavy, jagged. As I moved through class, I was careful and attentive to my body - sometimes I wouldn't go full out with my arms if I felt the motions pulling on my shoulders.
I felt a young part of me come alive during this class - as thought I'd been waiting by the door for it to stop raining so I could go play outside.it was just about being in the moment and enjoying every aspect of it. I love classes where everything falls away and I just have fun - and I was very pleasantly surprised to experience that today. I was afraid, as I even told Sarah before class, that I'd be in my head and that I wouldn't follow as well. I know there were some steps I missed, and some I modified because I was tired. I started to experience the class as 45 minutes of frolicking - as pure fun. I kept coming back to the fact that the foundation I've been building in my body - both in knowledge of dance and rhythm and in the strength that moving through the challenges of healing has allowed me to experience, to accept, to get to know.
Hey, I look pretty good...
This was a thought that really surprised me. Where I stood in the studio allowed me to have an almost 360 view of myself in the mirrors, and I actually started to use them. I was standing directly next to a pole in the middle of the room that has mirrors on it, and when we would turn to the left for certain moves, I watched myself and observed my form. I saw where I compensate, where I hold shame and anxiety and I tried to guide myself through it....
You can open....
You can step wider....
You are allowed to take up space....
You can dance taller...
You can be graceful!
I gave myself acceptance - a great gift that I am learning to discover can come even in moments when I'm not feeling at my best. I felt generally uplifted and positive after the class, and really grateful to have been able to take it. I almost didn't want it to end (although I was pretty tired afterwards) - I wanted to continue to play with the young version of me that had come out to dance....
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Monday: October 7, 2013
Zumba with Irina Peschan at Z Club NY
"Why do you share so much?"
"I think you share too much."
"Can't you just take class to take class?"
"Why are you always so hard on yourself?"
"If I had your body, I'd be dancing around freely and happily..."
Sometimes, it is the voices outside of me that are too loud. One lesson I've learned through sharing my experience and healing in such a public forum is that everyone has something to say. I know that my writing accesses parts of people that they are sometimes unwilling to face. It sometimes causes transference of their experience onto mine since, well, it's right there, and I share it, so why not?
There are people who are quick to applaud when I have a seemingly positive class. Then there are people, some the same, who can't understand why I would talk to myself the way that I sometimes do in class. The truth is that both are part of the same parcel and journey. I believe that it is hard to appreciate the light if you don't allow yourself to explore the darkness. I can only exist where I am on my path. There are moments in which I am running, full steam ahead, fueled by my passion and with love for myself. There are also moments where I trip, I fall, I get stuck, and I don't necessarily know how to pick myself up. Sometimes, that fall is what I need because it allows me to stop and get perspective.
If there is anything that I can hope to pass on through these blog posts is to healing is not a goal, it is a state of being. The first step in healing for me was accepting that I am wounded. That step was challenging in its own right - being able to look at myself in the mirror every day and, knowing that I've admitted to myself that I have issues to work on, and being okay with that. It's not an easy feat for anyone, and it hasn't been easy for me either. I made a very conscious decision to take my healing journey public because one voice that I was lacking was the voice of "it's okay to struggle." I grew up in a culture - and most of my readers are part of it - where we are taught that we cannot be anything less than our perfect selves.
We are taught to compete, not to tap into our innate curiosity and creativity. That completion turns into an unquenchable thirst for approval and the "need to be needed". I have often grappled with how to validate myself in my struggle in the same way that I am quick to accept and validate others in theirs. That need for approval, for being seen and accepted and wanted and needed by people in our lives is something, I think, that many people have trouble with.
My blog is where I converse with the thoughts and fears that when, left untended to, cause me to doubt myself and lead me to slips and to relapse. I write about my ,journey through class because it how I show myself that I love and accept myself and my journey. Zumba, dance ...these se practices were foreign to me until a year ago, and now they are where I bring myself to heal.
"Why are you so hard on yourself in something that a year ago you didn't know how to even do?"
Well, the truth is that it isn't just in this place in my life, but as this place is so young, it is where I am able to be transparent. When my body hurts, it hurts. When I'm feeling sad, I'm sad. When I'm frustrated, I'm frustrated. When I'm in tune, I'm in tune. Dance is the one part of my life that does not have almost-twenty-eight years of emotional layers masking my sensations and feelings. Zumba practice - as it is where I experience dance - allows me to play with using my emotions as fuel, rather than getting bogged down in their potentially heavy energy. Emotion is kinetic - it is a powerful driving force in helping us live with passion and purpose. It can also engulf and overwhelm us with its force. Some of the most brilliant minds were and are tortured by their emotions. Likewise, some of the greatest works of art, science, literature - some of the inventions we can't live without - were creative ideas fueled with the energy of emotion.
I chose to write about this with respect to Irina's class yesterday because I was really aware of my emotions at play. When I'm in a class where I'm familiar with the instructor's style and the dances, I am more likely to let go of the fear of am I doing this right? Am I okay? Do I look ridiculous? In yesterday's class, I became more aware of how I tend to block myself from full expression. As I've said before, I feel safe enough in Irina's class to fully explore the emotions that the movements release in my body. The Monday lunch class feels like dancing with family - we are all in there to support each other with positive energy - at least, that's the way I feel in it.
This year, my goals are to bring myself closer to getting to know who I am and living in harmony with whoever that is. My tools are patience, kindness, compassion, trust, and love. Yesterday in class, I played with trust and with compassion when I looked in the mirror and actually used it as a tool rather than a judgement piece. Irina showed some steps after class - and a couple access areas of me that I'm still struggling to meet with love - I hold a lot of emotion in my hips and especially when it comes to claiming My space and the length in my body. I feel awkward still and shedding those old feelings is sometimes a challenge - but I feel like I am able to learn this kindness in the environment of this class.
"Your healing has nothing to do with your instructor, it's about you."
I agree and disagree. The instructor plays a huge role in creating the energy of the class. Since I am so open in these classes, I am often sensitive to the energies at play. Certain people attract specific types of students, and all of it contributes to how I feel in a class. Yes, my own healing does not depend on a specific person, but my ability to accesses myself is facilitated by positive support and a richness in the experience. I truly felt that yesterday and in Irina's class in general. After class, I felt lighter in my body because I looked at my fear and awkwardness and found a way go see myself through my own kind eyes. I feel more able to trust myself in the space and allow whatever emotion I am in to emerge.