I was scrolling through Instagram a hundred and seventy years ago when I landed on a story by Liz Gilbert. Her beloved partner, Rayya, had just passed and on her stories was this video of her dancing with a friend to whatever song came up on their iPod shuffle. There was no choreography, they were just going with whatever their bodies needed to do in grief. Spastic movements, flow-y movements... I thought it looked incredibly freeing.
She writes in her post: "Dear Ones: Grief is a full-body experience. This is what I’ve learned in the months since Rayya died: Grief is a living energy field that wants to move through you (the way storms move across the summer sky) and grief can’t move unless you allow it to. Otherwise it settles in your bones, and makes you sink in pain. You can help grief move through you with music and with dance — this is what my friends and I have learned. Those of us who loved Rayya will sometimes come together and dance out our pain, or sing out our pain...just to MOVE, so that our grief can move through us."
You can see her original post below:
I thought the whole sentiment was incredibly beautiful and while there was a gentle nudge from the universe-- like all great ideas, it settled into the outer banks of my mind and I forgot about it.
More recently, a friend posted about a documentary she took part in on Netflix called, "Strip Down: Rise Up." It's a film about women taking a pole dancing class in Los Angeles. I watching it to support my friend, truthfully not expecting much, as I assumed it was all about a lot of attention seeking women that needed to look sexy for men and call it 'self worth.' (Oh, I love the smell of judgment in the morning...) But five minutes in, I really had grossly misjudged everything about this film and already found myself tearing up at their vulnerability and courage to tell their stories.
This documentary was not about pole dancing. It was not about the male gaze. It was about working through years of trauma that some of these women didn't even know they had. It was a gamut of stories about dealing with rejection, self-worth, the boxes we put ourselves in, the inability of wallflowers to see themselves as sexual beings, those with sexual assault stories, etc. and then, watching them heal through this incredibly intimate dance of release. There was a story for everyone. Anyway, I highly recommend it.
The night my aunt died, I just really felt the need to dance. I won't lie in saying that my aunt and I were super, super close, but I loved her very much and she was a huuuge part of a childhood that I cherish. The Thanksgivings we had, summers by the pool, etc. She was a force to be reckoned with and in her absence, she left a wake of grief among the people closest to her (not to mention an entire community as she was a beloved track official)... which is really heartbreaking to witness.
But I was also dancing for a situation in my life where a person had lashed out at me, questioning my integrity in a really blindsided manner. It cut me to my core in a way that has never happened to me. A huge befuddling loss the night my aunt died. Anything that felt safe about that relationship was pulled out from under me. It didn't feel real. And with everything in me, I felt these forms of grief really needed to come out my body.
I could be totally wrong but I feel like Liz's rule was that whatever came up on the shuffle, you had to dance to. So no skipping, no chosen songs... Spirit would pick for you. And I kid you not, I think my first three songs were 'Rumpshaker,' the 'Theme from Jurassic Park' and 'Freak Me, Baby.' I was embarrassed for me and was like, "Ugh... you really want me to go with this TONIGHT?"
Disclaimer: I should quick mention that I don't tend to my iPod often. It's pretty much a mix of George Strait, 90's hits, movie soundtracks and songs from 2012 when I was living in Chicago. Needless to say, I wish I had thought of that prior!
But as much as it felt grossly inappropriate to dance to 'Rumpshaker' the night of a literal death, I also kid you not... every song was what it was supposed to be. Some songs were great for anger, some songs were great for being transported to someplace beautiful, some songs allowed me to just cry and snot and dance through a shit ton of emotion. And some felt like perfect homages to my aunt.
I cannot and could not express how life changing it was to dance that night. And to continue to do so. I haven't had that experience every time. I think the big stuff comes out at first and then the rest is kind of maintenance emotionally. But daaaaamn, how my life has felt different since. How grounded and in my body I feel. How connected and lighter it makes me feel.
Some nights I go in to dance, down in the dumps, expecting hear Taylor Swifts new whimsically dreary albums, but all happy songs come on. And I'm transported to nights we'd close down the bar at karaoke with my friends in Los Angeles. And it reminds me, "Oh right, I'm a fun person!" when I needed to hear it most. Some nights I feel totally fine and I think, "Let's move and burn some calories" and Spirit's all like, "Hell, no. You got shit to work out, girl." And I do. I think they also say, "This isn't about calories, homeslice."
It's has also opened me up more creatively. I have more ideas in general. I had to stop editing one night because I felt compelled to write a song. I wrote a song. I don't write songs. Now I have one for... a future game night? Christmas morning? lol No idea... But that's the way creativity works sometimes. Certain experiences can crack you back open (like the start of writing morning pages) and for that, I'm grateful. It's also helped the process of reconnecting with my 6 year old self. The little girl who came out of the womb dancing. The girl who could never stop moving and was always completely in her body. But then shut it down as she got older and got more into sports.
The last New Moon, I went to a fire circle. I'd been once before when we first moved here but life got in the way. It's beautiful and really lovely. If I remember correctly (I'm a bit new to this), these ceremonies were started to remind us (especially us westerners) that we're connected to the earth, that a slower pace and respect of others is not only healthy but fulfilling. After the offerings are made by The Fire Keeper in ceremony, everyone goes around the circle and shares a bit about what is coming up for them that night. You speak your worries, fears, excitement to 'Grandfather Fire' as a means of release or celebration or falling away. And in hopes that you're able to take some of that spark and warmth back home with you.
Well on the New Moon, I talked about dance because I was just enthralled with this experience. I spoke about how it felt like fire, felt like it ignited something. I was overjoyed to come back on the Full Moon to find that a few of the women had also begun dancing, or dancing again. I mean, when do any of us have a chance to be in our bodies like that? Athletics, I suppose, when you're in 'the zone' or weddings for fun, etc., but getting lost in music is an emotional gift in itself as well.
I heard a lot about 'I forgot how much my body loves to dance' and 'At one point I was laughing, at another point I was crying-- I was surprised how emotional I became.' Especially in a year or two where we've all experienced various traumas in our society and collectively, it just feels good. I find myself in the car wanting to dance when music comes on, I find myself wanting to dance with my girl... It really changes something in you. AND!! Before closing out the night, The Fire Keeper turned a song on and we all got to dance under the full moon- ha!!! Amazing!!! What is this 'Outlander??' LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I AM that girl and I loooove her.
And while it might seem weird (all of my conditioning tells me 'this is what hippies do' and I have to battle sometimes that notion of who I decide I--with emphasis-- am at my core), I cannot implore you enough to try it. Turn the old iPod on and see what comes out... and then see what comes out. After a few times, I'll pick songs sometimes or skip through. But to start, it's really incredible to make peace with what comes on. You won't be sorry!
Now at the risk of every insecurity I have-- the hippiness, the overweightness, the fears of what people might think and their disappointment at every one of my life choices-- Grandfather Fire, help me-- but I'm posting a little video. When I'm dancing I feel like a waif-like gazelle, flitting about like a magical fairy but in reality, am more of that Star Wars kid with his fighting stick that went viral a few years ago? Remember him? lol Spastic and unabashedly uncool while having the time of his life. Also known as: MY HERO.
But if I can do it, you can do it. EVERYONE is a dancer. Every body and soul is yearning to reconnect again. And yes, I have run into those lights more times than I care to admit... They're pretty much my padded walls at this point. ;) Here ya go...
Now get to it! ;) xoxox