Releasing Shame through Dance

After expertly breaking down the next sequence of moves in hip hop class, our dance teacher asked, “Any questions?” Before I could consider the appropriateness of the words, I blurted out, “I was wondering how old you are?”

I could attribute my occasional impulsivity to having been diagnosed with ADHD, but in fact, we all say and do obscure things from time to time. It’s human. What I was not prepared for was the intense wave of heat that quickly traveled up my body, landing in my chest and head, when the class understandably began laughing heartily. I don’t fault them for their reaction. It was an odd time for such an off-the-wall question, not to mention a bit of a boundary pusher. None of that really even matters.

What matters is where it lead me—SHAME. Immediate, intense, powerful shame. I was suddenly so shame-filled that I lost track of the dance moves and instead noticed the whole slew of harsh criticisms suddenly slamming around in my head:shame

“I’m the old lady in this class. No one else is afraid their knees will hurt from doing the floor work.”

“I’m crappy at this. My moves have no flavor.”

“I can barely keep the steps straight and everyone else has it all down. I look like an idiot.”

The belief is simple, “I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH.”

Dance has consistently offered itself to me as an invitation to greet–head on–my greatest insecurities. Through it’s raw body-centered expression it nudges out all my old judgements, perceived flaws, lingering fears.  Because my body loves to move, because I found a studio whose teachers profoundly honor their students, because dancing enhances my vitality and creativity, I accept the invitation over and over again.

Having the tough stuff triggered, while sometimes intensely painful, is not a “bad” thing. It’s an opportunity to do the work of life, the work I am wholly committed to from within and as a transmitter of healing in my personal and professional life. Each of us has an internal landscape strewn with golden nuggets of beauty and truth as well as those of uncertainty and criticism.

One day, I just might gracefully dance my way through it all.

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9 year old girls scare me…and now I have one

September 20, 2015

Today my daughter, Mackenzie, turned 9 years old.  A milestone normally celebrated with gusto has left me distracted and with great unease. You see, I have been afraid of 9 year old girls for over two decades.

“What could possibly be scary about 9-year-old girls?” you may wonder. I wasn’t bullied by a crew of 3rd graders and I would have no problem putting a gaggle of them in their place if necessary. My fear isn’t so much OF them as it is FOR them. TOMKID38

My biological father is a twice convicted pedophile (which does not account for all the victims for which he did not serve jail time). In clinical terms, 9-year-old’s are consistently his “age of preference.” And not just any 9-year-old girl, mind you, but ones that fit a particular profile; sweet, artistic, highly sensitive, hopeful, trusting to a fault. Stanley scouts out little girls, deeming some desirable victims and others too clever or judicious to adequately manipulate. It’s beyond difficult for me to stomach.

Growing up, my older sister was, thankfully, one of the sophisticated ones. We joke that Stanley was more afraid of her than anything else. I didn’t quite make the same cut. I was 7 when Stanley began “grooming” me, 8 when his parental rights were terminated. I didn’t survive him completely unscathed, but was miraculously spared the worst of his atrocities. I turned 9 just outside of his reach.

During a time when girls are often deeply exploratory, enthusiastic, and exuberant I have come to imagine them as terrifyingly vulnerable.  Who knows how many other 9-year-old girls were his victims? Most days, I’m no longer haunted by the thought. Today was different.

Mackenzie is incredibly sweet, charismatic and animated. She’s got a clever sense of humor and a sometimes painfully compassionate heart. She’s witty, creative and imaginative. Today, in alignment with her true nature, Mackenzie literally danced her way into her 9th year. She did so encompassing the same innocent and enchanted spirit with which, I too, identified at her age, making it all the more unnerving.

girl-running-through-field-photo-by-Kristin-DokozaBeing in fear is a choice I have made. For, as long as 9-year-old girls are imagined beacons of abuse, than I can focus on ways to control and protect them. The alternate reality has, until now, been much more appalling; that I will never, ever be able to control him.

Choice is a gift; the choice to interpret, the choice to heal…of course, it often requires patience to integrate a new way of thinking.  Today my intention is to release 9-year-old girls from this imagined cloak of vulnerability and, instead, become present to the glowing light that is my daughter; to celebrate her blooming.

On this, my daughter’s 9th birthday, I choose to acknowledge that she is wildly free and, in doing so, I have freed myself.

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