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Dancing the Feels

Thursday I took my first ballet class in over two months. God it felt like being back in my body again. Except a really unhappy, uncomfortable, out of shape, exhausted body that didn’t quite remember how to stand in first position. Like damn turn out is hard.

I was kind to my body, gentle and forgiving of myself. I acknowledged my brain body and soul were rebooting a little bit. Not necessarily a reboot to refresh, but a remember how to retain combinations, remember how to use muscles, to find turn out, working through pain and discomfort, fighting the body battle.

My body is used to being trained in very specific ways, dance, yoga and running, seasonal paddling with occasional HIIT classes thrown in. And the last two months or so, I go to work and stand for hours on end and get home too tired to function. My body has been talking for weeks, discomfort and grumpy muscles keeping me up at night, begging for vitamin D and sure sunshine but more specifically dance... or just movement. My body doesn’t function well or know how to be still and as my muscles have faded away, my strength and cardio have decreased - my body has began to scream fighting this unwanted shift. A seeming lack of support. (I am realizing when I get to a point in life when I can no longer be physically active, I’m going to be the CROTCHETY-EST old lady if this is just a sampling of what to expect. Yikes).

But moving again opened my muscles, while they didn’t feel good, it felt like a first shot of WD40 on my rusted cracked joints. It felt so good and absolutely terrible. This was just the physicality of it and didn’t begin to touch the spiral of mental headspace following all my friends and colleagues use this time to work out many times a day and that's where shame and guilt and jealousy that came in.

Beyond the physical reality, working through set backs and shifts in body, I felt more connected with myself. Movement has always been my safe haven. my therapy... and with reawakening that, by opening those doors, came a flood of emotions I had been tucking aside for the sake of my sanity, my work life, and because I don’t really feel capable of taking on the grief.

The grief - the weight of work, the weight of the world, this pandemic, of wanting to be alone but also not, the rollercoaster of emotions I had been sidelining. But of biggest value in this moment, the grief of not dancing and being away from my family.

Dance was the whole reason I uprooted my life, left my family and friends, my jobs back home was to come here and dance my ass off. And the way I came to terms with this new reality of the quarantine was putting all of that on hold, to just power through. I haven't really necessarily allowed all the other emotions to have their time . I went to work, gave my 200% plus whatever energy and heart went to dance before and would come home on autopilot. Looking back, I’d come home some days and just sit on my floor until dinner time. I’d accomplish nothing some days. Some days I’d work on my sourdough starter, but I’m not even upset at the lack of productivity. I'm frankly speaking, too tired. I just didn’t have the energy or heart to give more. And I was okay finding that balance. I kept saying when I got home I needed to "feel my feelings" and that’s why I was distant but the truth is, I think I just was on autopilot, I’m not really sure I really felt a whole lot. Frustration yes. But sad, angry, heartbroken, lonely? Less so. In reflection, when I said, “feeling my feelings” it was more about not supporting or serving anyone for a few hours other than myself, and that felt necessary.

And I saw all these videos, and Instagram and Facebook LIVE classes - dance yoga fitness etc and I felt all this guilt for not participating, not supporting them (my art form, my colleagues, my friends). And one thing I've been writing about a lot is the mixed feelings of teaching myself, the guilt for not offering teachings of my own while also questioning my own intentions for offering. I started pulling away. I became less socially tuned in because even that felt like too much.

Taking class Thursday was like the universe handing me something it knew I needed. When Martin reached out about his dad teaching class, the fact that I actually had off work and could take and knowing how much I do love his energy and class - I knew it was time. Time to put away the tough strong girl front, time to face the fear of dancing and seeing how far behind I really was, time to face what I subconsciously knew would be a lot emotionally.

Dance has always been an emotion center for me. A release. That and running. And when I finally danced Thursday morning, I opened myself to the real grief and emotions that I wasn’t ready to face. And now that I’ve taken class the pressure of being behind, losing that muscle tone and strength, having made and eaten so much bread, not getting to take X amount of classes because I am still working full time and commuting to work and when I get home I’m too tired to do more... all those weird dancer, athlete mentalities came back, but less mean and just a little sad. But one thing I noted right off the bat was social media has shifted for me. It went from being a place to be inspired, encouraged, entertained... and now has become filled with what feels like toxic positivity and toxic productivity that just feels too much for me to even want to engage in. So even that, I’ve been doing less. Opening less. Engaging less. I post about my bread, and then my blog yesterday but that’s about it.

My dear friend Jeramie and I have been having really deep and fulfilling conversations that have given me some reassurance and needed perspective. One thing we’ve been talking about is authenticity. And I was expressing the pressure I’ve been feeling to offer more, because people say we should be offering more in times of darkness - just talking it out really helped me find grounding in my choices and when he mentioned something along the lines of “Mack there is no wrong, no right, just feeling. And your transparency about it IS authentic” I felt like something clicked. I didn’t feel any less uncomfortable per say, but I did feel justified in my allowing myself to choose. (Thank you Jeramie, our chats always bring me to a level headed space, whether just catching up, deep life talks, or venting about things that have come up in this time or in journaling etc. Love you lots sir, thankful for our chats).

And when class ended, I was sad. No pirouettes or jumps, F*** no grand allegro?!?!? I was sad that I could not go hug my friends who were in the zoom call - most I haven’t seen in years. I was sad I couldn’t bow to Hernan in gratitude and with respect for his class in the flesh. Though it felt so good to do it, to connect with inner self and just allow the flood - it made me really think.

I miss the sprung floors that protected my shins as I attempt to out jump all the men in class, and fly. I miss feeling music in my skin and bones. Whether live or not, volume that went deeper than the surface (literal or not). I miss the smell of the marley, not so much dancer feet, but marley floors have this smell. Like home. I miss when the windows fog in class because the dancers are leaving it all on the floor. I miss having my brain feeling like mush trying to learn a Nick Palmquist class but so reassured both by his words and energy but also by the dancers surrounding me. I miss seeing people who "got me". People who weren't weirded out that I pick things up with straight legs. I miss the feel of the floor on my skin. Why my own floor, that I sweep and clean regularly to me is so much dirtier than floor that people sweat, step on and so much more on... I miss rolling on the ground. I miss flying across big open space. I miss taking classes that made me cry with joy because life was so exactly... it was just exactly what I wanted moving here. Whether here in NYC, back home or in a random dance studio, there is a sacred feel... its like church. It's where God and I talk. I wouldn't say I miss pointe shoes terribly but it did cross my mind for a half second. I miss accompanists who couldn't help but play with their whole body and heart in the music.

By opening that door, so much more flooded out. It allowed me to be sad, but it helped me see some less proud things: jealousy of all these people home with their family or able to take class all day. It helped me acknowledge anger in finding out some unemployed people were making more than I was a week between unemployment and the CARES act. That I don’t love my job, I am happy to providing in hard times but more importantly - I love what this job will eventually allow me to do when things open... to dance. I don't dislike Trader Joe's but I'm not drawn to TJ's right now. I'm aching for the dance studio. I'm aching to be on the water. I'm aching to do what I'm meant to do.

So Thursday night after a long call (4 hours) with a dear friend, I danced. Trying to dance the emotions in my 3 ft of space, finding more often than not I felt too many things for the small space so I ended up sitting, wiggling and being uncommitted to any movements because I couldn’t keep up with the flood in my head. I’m not much of a cryer but I sat and listened and moved in a way that felt like my body crying. Had I had more space that may have looked more frantic but much like the rest of the world, I am boxed in. Isolated. So instead of dancing the panic, the frantic, the emotions, I just allowed my body to move through air, sing it’s own song.

And with it, it helped me realize for right now, I need to step away from some of these pressures to be doing more, giving more, receiving everything the world is throwing out there and the biggest source of that right now in my life is social media. Every class, every inspirational quote, every time I was told I couldn't be sad. Right now, my normal, my healthy place of stasis will look different than it has been, I’m not disappearing entirely, but my mind needs a break from the never ending input of everyone online and around me. My own inner voice in my head has enough input to keep me occupied for a lifetime. So to be true to acknowledging my most authentic self, I’m going to decompress and go off the grid for a little while. To tend to my body mind and Soul’s needs without input of the social media world. I may force myself to dance a little more if only to calm my body’s pain, to really grieve and truly "feel all the feels". I’m just going to reconnect with myself and catch and ride the waves this flood of emotions creates.

I’ll be blogging, so you can check in here if you’d like but I’ll be back when I’ve come to a place where I am able to accept input and output, until then, tons of love, encouragement and air hugs.from NYC!

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