Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Learning to Create My Own Place of Belonging

Twenty two years ago the most significant thing in my life happened: I joined a dance school. A friend's mother was a dance teacher and she noticed how desperate I was to join a dance class and so she offered to transport me back and forth every week. She thought she was just reaching out to help a friend, since my mother didn't have the ability to get me to class every week. What she really did was help me to find the means of expression that would one day save my life. I am forever grateful to Jerry for taking me in as a dance daughter and helping me to become the dance-obsessed woman I am.

I was fortunate enough to go to a dance school based on love instead of greed. I was given all the right tools: technique, encouragement, and no judgement of size, shape, or ability. Dance came naturally to me and my dance teachers encouraged me to always try new things. It wasn't long before I was choreographing dances with my friend, Nicole, and helping during the recital weekends. I truly loved dance. 

Unfortunately, by age 16 I also truly loved the idea of committing suicide. I was depressed, self injuring, dealing with body issues, and stuck in a mental health system that preferred labels to actual help. The only thing that kept me going was dance. My goal every time I was inpatient was to get out so I could return to dance class. It was the only place I felt okay enough to want to live, even if only for that hour or so. 

I don't know how aware my dance teachers at the time, Jen and Susan, were of my depression, but I do know they made me feel as if depression wasn't the only part of me. No one pointed out my long sleeves when it was hot, nor did they ask me "how are you" every five minutes. Instead, I was commended on remembering dance steps every week. I was encouraged to try the harder version of the choreography and I was invited to help out the studio with different events. I felt like I belonged.

This feeling of belonging was lost after graduating high school and moving away. All the studios I tried weren't the home-based love-for-dance studio I had known. My larger size and boldness were not met with the kindness and acceptance I once knew and this made me feel wrong. Suddenly, I felt as if my love for dance wasn't enough to keep me dancing. I was frustrated, knowing in my heart that my dance practice was wonderful and that dancing for fun was perfectly okay, but being told by others that the only type of dance practice is a professional one. My practice fell by the wayside and my life lost some of it's spark.

A year ago I found myself saved again by dance. I made friends with a woman who decided to flip off the "professional" studios and made dance her journey. Jamie introduced me to Dancing Mindfulness and re-introduced me to myself. After finding the Dancing Mindfulness practice I felt I had come home again. Here was a type of dance that WANTED people like me! My size, shape, experience didn't matter. The only thing I needed was my love for dance and my need to tell my story.  

For the first time ever I did not give up when I found out there were no classes in my area. Instead I'm taking this into my own hands and bringing Dancing Mindfulness to NJ and sharing it with people like me who just need a space to feel they belong. My friend Lexie, along with Jamie, encouraged me take the facilitator training in February and now I am blessed to have a Yoga and Wellness studio that hosts Dancing Mindfulness about once a week.  My business is just starting and my classes have been only about 1-2 people thus far, but I am doing what I love and loving what I do. My life has purpose!

It isn't about being perfect for the practice, it's about making the practice perfect for you. I encourage all those out there saying "I'd do (insert favorite activity here) if only I had more time, less stress, a better teacher..." to go out there and JUST DO IT! Determine to make it what you want and you will get exactly what you need!

Want to learn about my amazing friend Jamie? You can find Dr. Jamie Marich's home here: Mindful Ohio
Want to hear more about the practice? Visit the site here: Dancing Mindfulness
In the NY/NJ area and want to try it out? You can find Dancing Mindfulness NJ's home here: Dancing Mindfulness NJ

No comments:

Post a Comment