Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ballet, to find my birthright

One of the most courageous women I have met this year is my co-worker, S, who is recovering from Ovarian cancer. She is currently under going chemotherapy and has been very active despite all of the treatment she is undergoing. Whenever she able she goes to a dance studio over on H Street. We have had some great chats about the dance classes there and through her encouragement and advice, I decided to try a ballet class this weekend. I took ballet classes for about 8 consecutive years as a child, but sometime in middle school, the nonathletic child in me, decided to involve herself in "real" sports like soccer. Needless to say, soccer was a disaster and that quickly ended after one season.

As I biked to ballet class on Sunday, I was slightly nervous yet expectant. I wondered what I would remember from my childhood ballet classes--I wondered what body parts would be sore after the class. I wondered if any instructions would help me better tap into truths about who am I and who I was as a child.

In Parker Palmer's book, Let Your Life Speak, he writes about noticing his granddaughters inclinations and proclivities that were planted in her. Palmer plans to give her a letter in her mid twenties so she is able to remember who she was when she first arrived and able to reclaim her birthright gifts. He teaches that we all have birthright gifts--we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them.

"As young people, we are surrounded by expectations held by people who fit us into slots under social pressures of race or gender. Our original shape is deformed beyond recognition and we are driven by fear simply seeking the approval of others. We are disabused of original gifted-ness in the first half of our lives--if we are awake--we will spend the second half trying to recover and reclaim the gift we once possessed. "

Ballet, in itself, is far from my original gifted-ness (no false humility here). Yet, as I stood at the barre and looked at the 25 year old woman in the mirror--I saw a 9 year-old looking back at her in a navy leotard and horrendous thick pink itchy tights. She was still trying to compare her movements to the other people in the class and wished she didn't have curly hair. The moves she knew really well, she did twice as fast as needed. Nothing has changed, I kept thinking. My memory could very clearly recall what position was next, but my body had fallen out of practice.

So many parts of me have changed since going to ballet class at 5:45 PM on Monday evenings on Piedmont Road.  I don't own those terrible tights anymore. I don't get to eat my mom's delicious lentils, spinach, and yellow rice after dance class (we did meatless Monday at our house). I don't even own ballet shoes.

At the same time, nothing has changed. I'm still not very good at ballet but ballet is very good to me. It brings me back to my original self that struggles to fit in, is flooded with comparison, and wonders why the person in front of her is always better. But, all of that is quite negligible to the bits of wholeness that I find in attempting each gran plie without sticking my butt out and looking a fool. There is an energy that is offered to me during ballet which I don't fully understand. It just feels right--it lets me tap into what I think may be my birthright.

I am on the quest to find my birthright and morph into my original shape.  I never star in the Swan Lake, but I will try to fly some kites, read aloud to my stuffed animals, and do this.

I long for my original spirit and pray for the vulnerability too keep searching for her.

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