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

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!

Ramblings on Growth

How do we know we have grown? There isn’t a chart on our wall, that shows how much taller we have gotten, like when we were kids. There is no one looking at us saying, “Well look how much you’ve grown.” We know through our actions, through the small decisions we make on a daily basis. We know when we look ourselves in the mirror and we can look directly into our own eyes. We know when we talk to others and we can look them in their eyes. When our small self denials and fabricated stories begin to disappear and we make conscious choices, even when we know that they aren’t the healthiest choices we can make. We take responsibility for our own feelings, actions and choices AND we feel empowered. Even when we do something that hurts, we know that the hurt was worth the growth.

Tamescal_sandy_splitsThis illusion that we, somehow turn 18 years old and are all grown up kept me struggling and judging myself for more years than I care to admit. I am just now beginning to comprehend that Growing Up doesn’t exist. The best I can hope for is that something that happened to me today, will help me to grow ever so slightly for tomorrow. I am making different choices and able to be patient enough to sit in the Unknown. This can be a scary place at times. I am leaning in to the unknown, trusting that something beyond my wildest dreams is possible if I make a choice today to grow a little bit.

At times I want to plant a seed one night and climb Jack’s beanstalk the next morning but this human path is rarely like that.  Perseverance, doing the next right thing, in this moment is my best chance to look back on my life and know that I allowed myself the opportunity to experience abundance. Every experience has been an opportunity and some of my best opportunities have come with pain. Like the snake slithering out of its old skin, I too slough off the old behaviors that kept me from the blessings that I now know today. There is no regret, since I can only know what I want and deserve for today by living and growing from the experiences of the past. I am grateful to do something different today and to be open to what possibilities that might flower.