revisit the words from previous wordshops™ and see how far you've come
#1 Ballerina Thighs
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina. After years of dancing I finally became aware that I was never cast in any piece that was costumed in a short tu-tu. I was cast in the roles with the skirts than fell below the knee. This was because my thighs were twice the size of all the other little girls around me. In spite of trying to minimize myself by almost any means necessary, I simply could not drop under 112 pounds on my 5 foot 6 frame. I was big-boned, as they say. August 19, 2014
Somewhere along the line I fell in love with my bicycle. I could ride and ride and ride for hours. I would get lost and end up on highways, to be escorted off of the highways by the state police. I felt like I was flying. I felt I could be daring. I found a new way to dance, balanced on two slick wheels, swerving and swirling and squealing downhill.
I took my bike to college. Impatient to wait for the campus bus, hating to be dependent on public transportation, I rode my bike to campus. And all over Pittsburgh. I brought my bike to NYC during a year off from college. Afraid to ride the subway and to be caught confused trying to read the signs, I learned Manhattan above ground. It made sense, needing a job, that I should try being a bike messenger. One of three girls on the road that year, I discovered an entire sub-culture swimming through traffic, obsessed with their bikes and bearing super-hero names. I was called "LEGS". Funny that. And I was fast. And my legs were thick. And I started to become a little less embarrassed about my thighs.
Back to college. Messengering summers. Graduating. Back to NYC. Messengering and auditioning for acting roles between runs. My dress folded up under my jacket, my bag full of packages, I locked my bike, let down my dress, removed my helmet and applied some lip-gloss and prayed the audition wouldn't take too long.
"Hey LEGS! You gotta answer you pager! Where've you been? The client is calling for the package! That was a RUSH JOB!"
"So sorry man, I got a flat. I'm on it!"
After work, riding 8 hours a day, a few of us would take a couple laps in central park, in the dark. This was thrilling. We would go around three times, dodging each other and randomly someone would call out "SPRINT!!!!" We'd all surge forward. I surged to the lead enough times that some said I should race. So I did. And I won.
Within a year, I wasn't acting anymore. Within two I was sponsored and racing against girls four years younger who had been racing four years longer, and keeping up nationally.
Fast forward another year to motherhood and weighing in at 190- after the baby. So here is where it gets tricky. I comforted myself with knowing I had experienced the unexpected athlete within me. I had ridden right through the wall of my body-image issues. I was strong. And now, I was going to fully embrace my plus-size self and become a model.
I got a gig with a TV shopping network. The only thing was, that in order to work, I needed to purchase padding. WHAT?! I wasn't big enough! They needed me to bulk up from size 14-16 to 20-22. I was astounded. I was always too big. Now I wasn't big enough. Mind blown.
Before heading onto the set, I always checked the outfit, checked my posture and smiled at this padded version of myself. After a year of mechanically smiling at myself in the mirror, something clicked. I had confused 'settling' for 'acceptance'. These are two different things. At that moment, a voice in my head said, "This isn't your truth. This is not your authentic self. Your body was meant to move. Let's do an experiment. Lets see how strong you could be. Forget this padding. You want to stand free of any padding, naked and strong in your true self". So I finished on set that day and did not go back.
Fast forward a year. I'm certified to teach Indoor Cycling. I get strong again. Fast forward five years. I race a few times. I take 3rd place overall for the season. The following year I decide to commit. I go to Masters National. I take a gold and a bronze. Again the next year, two silver and a bronze.
These thighs that consumed my thoughts and fed my shame finally became the thing that made me proud. It is one of my deepest hopes that someone might be inspired by my journey to truly embrace, accept and build on your natural gifts. We are worth so much more than a smaller pair of pants.
#2 Excess vs. Absence
SEPTEMBER 19, 2015
YOU JUST WON A RACE.... WHAT DO YOU DO?
You throw your arms up in the air and take up space. This is proud, joyous, happy.
Stay there. Stay there long enough to let chemicals this releases take an affect. This is why we hold up our arms in class. Three times.
You may even spontaneously clap your hands.
This workshop is inspired by a woman who scared the crap out of me. I was so intimidated by her. I had anxiety every time she passed and every time i went to class. This is because she could see my truth.
Her name was Victoria Santa Cruz. She was an activist, a revolutionary for afro-peruvian culture. Her work tapped into the life-force of personal truth. Her work taught living in the present without the weight of the past and yet with the honor of history. She taught a class called RHYTHM at Carnegie Mellon University while I attended.
She taught us the games of her afro-peruvian childhood. With jump ropes and sticks and clapping hands, not unlike the games our children play.....miss mary mack, all dressed in black,....Andit was through observing our PLAY that she was able glean a great deal about our schemas. The way in which we play, is the way we live our lives. None of us knew what we were singing....Dom Choco-lat-ay-AH-AH-AH.......and it didn't matter. It was sounds that we could mimic, as is the case in how children learn.
She observed. And in her observations, she assessed our life's story in our movement. Our quality of movement, our hesitation ( fear of getting it wrong), our anticipation ( thinking we know what's next), our over confidence, our insecurities...all of our deepest compensations from all of our childhood hurts were bare bones obvious to her through these games.
What does that mean?
We all have myriad stories that affect our everydayness. Hurts anxieties fears hopes- all sorts of strings are attached to our thoughts that pull us away from being present. And by not being present- we miss our own lives potential.
The more we ALLOW the strings of our hurts to pull on us, the more they thicken-to rope, to cables...to anchors...mooring us in the past, in our head. And when we become this moored, we are no longer moving. And when we are no longer moving, an emptiness begins to hollow us out, creating a state of absence.
I was moored in the feminine archetype that I was too big. Too big to be beautiful, too big to be pretty, to big to be valuable.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina, but my thighs were twice the size of all the other little girls. It wasn't til i realized that this was why they did not put me in performances with a short tutu. This was devastating. I went to a renowned Acting Conservatory...I discovered my audition feedback form said, "She's a little heavy in the thigh, but says she can control it."
The absence of worth, absence of being a meaningful member of the world citizenry due to the size of my thighs....provoked a string of excessive, risky behaviors.....attempting to fill that absence.
Here is where things become dangerous. In the absence we begin to medicate. This is our excess, the cycle of self-medicating.
how do we dislodge ourselves? how do we untether?
I keep coming back to movement. Moving the body. The deeper we breathe, the more oxygen we mindfully intake, the more awake we become.
The more we move in ways that engage psychological gesture and neuroplasticity, the greater the likelihood we begin the process of dislodging.
And here is what's funny. THIS is about playing. Psychological gesture and neuroplasticity are intrinsic to the rhythm games we play as children. Itsy Bitsy spider, jump rope, double dutch. Even the pattern of the rhyme of miss mary.
She observed in me that I was stuck in my head.
Kid, you are stuck in your head. Here is what I want to see. I want you to bring a piece of music. Something you like, but not too familiar. I want you to meet me in the studio and i want to see you move. PLAN NOTHING. (absence of anticipation. being present.) ABSOLUTE PANIC
This may have been the most frightening moment of my entire life.
I danced. She watched.
After, she said, KID! So often you are on the verge of creating something entirely new.. you got scared....then you fall back into what is familiar.
OH MY GOD, MY LIFE. WHO IS THIS WOMAN!? GOD?!
There was no failure in that moment ( my 44 year old self can look back and say to the 19 year girl). There was discovery of patterns already set of excess fear for absence of confidence, excess of ego for absence of self trust, excess thinking for absence of ability to hear instinct, excess of drinking for absence of social skills, excess of trying for absence of stillness.
24 years later I am ready to talk about it. The untethering can be a long journey, but if we are not IN the journey, we are missing out on ourselves.
After college I discovered bike racing- and I WON- LOTS of races and I thought - THATS what these thighs are for! I was built for something....We all are. What are you built for????
BEGIN your journey
BE IN your journey
So lets carry this into a mantra framed thus;
Considering our own absences and our excesses
Finish the sentences;
I AM (where are you...)
I CAN (what is possible?)
I WILL (make one decision.)
I DO (make a declaration!)
now INVERT THE VOID and be sure you Said something good to yourself and make a new mantra.