Woke Up In the Light

To waken this morning with some inspiration and a feeling of creativity running through me was a relief! I have been so stuck, so depressed for what felt like so long, I didn’t know if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Were my eyes just closed or had the light gone forever. Today the eyes opened and the deep need to write came to me again. Not just writing to put words on paper, like I do for my job, but real writing. Like a force that needs to flow out of me or the waves will pull me back into the storming ocean.

This has been a period of surrender. I have surrendered before and each time it does not become any more comfortable. This time I had to look in the mirror and surrender to the realization that I have pushed and defense mechanism-ed myself through a life of depression. Even to write this now a depth of shame washes over me. A questioning of my inner strength. Why can’t I just “affirmation” my way through this? Why do the things I love so dearly, not bring me joy? There isn’t enough dance, surf or community to bring me out of my emptiness. There isn’t anything I or anyone else can do to “cheer me up”.

keely_jenbeachwalkI am optimistic by nature. I believe in the best in people. I am always ready to try new things and am grateful for the life I live. Yet there have been times in my life when none of that have mattered. Just like everything in life, society wants to categorize it, put it in a nice little box wrapped up in a bow; this is what depression looks like! Either you fit this mold or you don’t. Life doesn’t work that way. Depression, just like everything else in life, is a spectrum! I am a stubborn little bitch, so when I get into these periods I continue to bull my way through life. From the outside, no one will know the inner turmoil I might be feeling. On the inside, I want to give up. Nothing is worth the pain and struggle I feel.

So, I put on my mask and plugged along until I got tired of looking for the mask. Over three years ago I put down the mask. Wow, is the world ever bright! Wow, is the world ever dark! The stark extremes I have finally begun to feel, felt as though they would literally kill me, at times. Some days were so wrapped in a surreal beauty, I lived heaven on earth. Some days I laid in bed with an emptiness that felt more meaningless than I could have imagined possible.

I do the work, I eat well, I exercise, I live a healthy life, I meditate, I see a therapist, I live the life I love living…most of the time…and yet none of that was enough to keep me from having bouts of depression. I could always attach them to some trigger. Moving 7 times in less than a year; that was enough to make anyone feel blue, right??? Ending a relationship that never got a real chance to grow due to circumstances, who wouldn’t get sad? One of my closest friends for the last few years dying of breast cancer, that one deserves a level of grief worthy of major depression! Yet all the times in between were also peppered with this disproportionate feeling of unresolved anguish.

Then I surrendered, only a few weeks ago, after decades of needlessly hiding who I really am out of shame for admitting I have depression, a mental illness!?! I finally acquiesced to trying medication. The first few weeks were worse than before but I knew this could be the case and my ever hopeful self hung on. Until today, when I woke up and things felt brighter. The sun in shining in the land of Pura Vida, even though the morning started off overcast. Even in the overcast I felt hopeful, I felt positive. Right now I feel good,I feel creative and ready to begin sharing again.

I hope if this resonated with you, you will reach out for help. Only through my community have I been able to accept myself.
So blessed! Jen

Loving Ourselves

What if our only life purpose is to remember our true nature and to Love ALL of ourselves?

The old paradigm taught us that we have to love others more than ourselves. Slowly we are coming to realize that we can’t give away something we don’t possess. Only by loving ourselves are we able to truly love and accept others. What does self-love feel like? Contentment with who we are whether we are acting in a healthy or an unhealthy manner. Embracing our anger, our sadness, our ego with open arms and an open heart. Acknowledging and sharing our wisdom, our inner strength, our joy. Understanding that we all have triumphs and challenges, that we are not alone in this human condition. Remembering that we are more than this body and mind, we are an piece of an intricate spiritual construct that needs our talents and unique gifts in order to function efficiently. Some of our greatest talents can be what others may think are our weaknesses. How do we view All of ourselves?

I am currently putting great attention to what I tell myself, about myself. When I speak lovingly to myself, I naturally speak more lovingly to those around me. Taking care of myself by trusting my own inner knowing and letting go of other peoples opinions if a beautiful way to love myself. Sometimes I have to remember the basics of healthy eating, exercise, rest, play and fun are also a part of loving myself. Staying in self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-respect and patience seems like an easy concept and yet I continuously hear self negating thoughts running through my mind. This is where mindful presence is so beneficial as life path. Listening to what my feelings are trying to communicate regarding my self talk gives me the opportunity to practice extra compassion as I release any self flagellation and return to a more positive train of thought.

Until I made a conscious effort to be mindful of my thoughts I didn’t realize the small insipid lies I was constantly running through. Lies like I am not good enough, I am unlovable, I am worthless and have no value. These are old stories forged in a young and sensitive being with every slight and reprimand we all endure as children. I now know, I am not unique in this. The details may be different for each individual but the feeling of not fitting in, of not getting our needs met in the way we wanted, are common amongst us all.

We all too have a common solution to release these old stories, embrace the unique and amazing being we are. Be grateful for our individual talents, as no one else can gift this world with exactly what we can. Have the courage to share all of who we are, our authentic self.


Being Good Enough

As I continue to grow in self-love and acceptance, I have the courage to share my art with others and allow it to be good enough.  I may wish that I was a principle dancer for the New York City Ballet or a dancer on Madonna’s tours. In self acceptance, I can find joy in being a dancer in Costa Rica who has a deep love of choreography and the strength and technique to perform that choreography at a certain level.  At a level that is good enough for me to share with the world or my small community of friends and family.

The love and joy I felt in creating this piece. The challenge that I overcame in performing it in front of a group. The vulnerability in exposing my soul through my art and now to share that with an even wider audience, is a lesson in growth. I hope it gives others the permission to share their “good enough” selves and know that there is a perfection in being exactly who we are. Dance Camp was an amazing discovery in bring me back to what I truly love about dance. I enjoy the process of choreography immensely, I create lyrically, based on the lyrics of the song; I always have. I listen to the song and find movement that expresses the words as they touch my heart. Repeating over and over again a few movements at a time before moving on to the next part of the song, until a cohesive dance is created. Sometimes I will map out an overall theme, as I did in this piece, entitled “Fly”.  I wanted to use the different parts of the song, the singing versus the rapping and incorporate different types of movements for the two styles.  I also used choreography from two additional dancers, Lily Lucia our ballet, modern and jazz instructor and from Matt Steffanina’s online hip hop tutorials. It is easier for me to use my own movements and so this was an additional challenge to mesh all of our styles together. Then comes the practice to remember the transitions and the individual moves. Dancing the dance over and over and over again. 

Dance_Camp_FlyI also reconnected with my inner ballerina, that little girl inside me who loved ballet class.  Prior to camp I was looking forward to the other classes, such as hip-hop and belly dancing, more than ballet. In the end it proved to be my favorite class. I remembered how much I love the grace and the simplicity of the long extended movements, of the precision of the smaller repetitive movements and the level of difficulty for something that well trained ballerinas can make look so easy as they fly through the air, suspended in time. I also believe that it is a beautiful base for all other forms of dance.  I took ballet lessons for many years as a girl and I am able to pick up all other forms of dance, relatively easily, with continued practice of course. I may not master them but having the ballet movements in my body memory allows me to refer to that movement to dance other styles.

Intention to GrowThis whole experience has also helped me to see that while the dance I performed at camp was good enough and that I am good enough as a dancer, that I do want to continue to grow as a human being and as an artist. This image from my vision board is what I want to strive for and given where I am at, I feel it is an attainable goal. If I want to improve then I need to be willing to put in the work and strive to achieve what is important to me in my life. If I want to be able to execute my choreography physically the way I envision it in my imagination then I can train for that. There are concrete steps I can take to increase my strength, flexibility and confidence. I know how much I improved during our 1 month dance camp so I have set a realistic goal of 6 months to train and then perform this dance again. It is also my intention to extend the choreography to complete the 3.5 minute song. This is my declaration to myself, to set this intention publicly and to make a daily practice towards working on this goal. Dance is something that fills my soul with joy so putting intention to it is a declaration of self love! Loving the dancer that I Am!

A Whole New Image

What we believe about ourselves is formed by the time we are 6 years old through subtle societal norms, the media that brainwashes us and our family & friends who unwittingly teach by example what to do to fit in. As a certified member of the itty-bitty-titty comittee, as one of the tallest girls in 6th grade, and as the whitest California girl I knew, I have residual body image issues that I didn’t even realize I still had.

I teach Pilates and Zumba, my natural body type is long and lean AND I still have times when I am disgusted with my body. I didn’t think this was an issue for me until watching the video below. I realize all the times I wished I was stronger and had more muscle definition, I wasn’t loving myself exactly as I am.  Every time I’m around younger people and feel bad about my wrinkles, I’m forgetting self-love. When I’m on my period and feel fat, I’m judging myself as not being good enough. I hope to share a new self-image with others while becoming more conscious of how I Love My Body however it looks, at every stage of life.

This past month, I had the blessing to join a group of 20 amazing women to participate in a month long dance camp in Hermosa, Costa Rica. Every single one of these women are beautiful, amazing dancers. Every single one of these women has different body types. There is no one definition of a dancers body and there is no one definition of a beautiful woman’s body. Everyone moves in her own natural grace and we have an opportunity to celebrate ourselves exactly as we are.

photo by Alyssa Keys
photo by Alyssa Keys

We were blessed with an inspiring teacher who believes each one of us can bring our own majik and magnificence to the world as Unstoppable Goddesses when we truly embrace our unique gifts and share them with the world. We can Love our bodies, we can create a whole new image of what beauty means, we can reach our full potential when we are grateful for these sacred vessels that we live in. Our human body is an incredible work of art no matter what its shape, size, height, weight, color or age! It is our bright inner light shining through that people notice. Love yourself, YOU and the world deserves it.

Healing through Creativity

Sometimes we know what will help us to heal but we are frozen by fear of what the results will be. Perhaps more feelings will come up if we begin to look at something we know is painful. Perhaps we will have to do something different and actually make a change in our lives. I have been sitting in my emotions for the last few weeks. I have written about what is coming up and while this is cathartic, as a dancer, I know what can catapult me forward and begin to heal the wound. Moving!!! Dancing!!! Blasting some sad, heartfelt songs and then some angry, powerful songs and just allowing my body to do whatever it needs to do to release the energy that has been pent up for so long, it is almost as much a part of who I am as the color of my hair or the way I laugh. This is the type of energy that will take many sessions to shake out of me, to spin and fling it to another dimension…And it is a beginning!Movement_Therapy_Expressive_Art

This was my first conscious practice to heal this particular deep wound, to begin exploring its shape and location. I have always used movement to help me feel things I didn’t want to feel but this summer I was introduced to a specific method for healing through movement and creativity. I attended a workshop at Tamalpa Institute in Marin County, California. Through the use of movement and art the group was able to explore whatever feelings were present for them that day. We shared our movement and art with other group members to experience a sense of being seen. I was amazed at how the combined energy of both expressive movement and art allowed for an integrated connectedness to what needed to be healed.

Today I practiced this on my own, first dancing and then drawing and finally creating these words to share with you, on my journey:

Love that is Not Love
Twisted and Broken
Cannot hold the seeming normalization of my life
Betrayal kept silent even from my self
Knowing is a beginning, at least I can start there