I am humbled by surprise, and I have no shame.
Last night, my graduate program was introduced to a practice with the embarrassingly unblushing name of authentic movement
. I'd had a vague notion of what the exercise entailed; we'd been already well-steeped in the verbal equivalent, in the sort of radical community building in which a group of adults sit together in a circle with no agenda and no direction, and speak - honestly - only when they felt personally moved to do so. I'd known full well the intensity of that form of relating, and, too, the excitement of such an unpredictable situation. Still, the prospect of exploring the same realm without the use of language seemed ridiculous. I had dinner with a few of my classmates before hand, and commented cynically that I didn't think I'd be "moved to move" that night. I thought, frankly, that the whole notion of dance therapy fell within a bubble of pretentious exhibitionism.
The description of the exercise served only to solidify this belief. We sat as a group in a dimly lit room, and were told we would be split into dyads. We would take turns at moving and witnessing the movement, with half the class first taking center stage, closing their eyes, and exploring what they felt, while the other half watched. The movers were instructed only to stand, or sit, until they felt within themselves the impulse to move, at which point they could follow that impulse; the witnesses were instructed only to make sure their partners didn't inadvertently injure each other.
It sounded stupid.
I volunteered to move first.
I stood, eyes closed, limbs relaxed, and waited, and waited, and waited, and because standing in one position cannot be done for long, I eventually felt a pull, a tug, a plea: some tension in my body was asking to be released. And so I started moving, tentatively at first, and then with more assurance.
There is nothing more I can say; the experience was incredible. I don't remember exactly how long our sessions were, but my own exploration led me from a tense prowl - imagine being blindfolded in a room, surrounded by other moving bodies, and you can get a feeling of how alert one's senses become - to the oddly luxurious sensation of rolling, cat-like, on the carpeted floor, with all manner of utterly unforeseen motions and rhythms and moments of relaxation in between. I felt like laughing; the entire experience was ripe with indulgence and relief. My body felt amazing.
And so the time spent moving was over too soon. The bell rang and I reluctantly opened my eyes. Half the class reluctantly opened their eyes. I felt exhilarated, but it was time to watch, and I took a seat at the edge of the room. Those who had been watching stood within. I waited.
I've never seen a dance more elegant, or more raw, or more true. It sounds like an overstatement, but the looks on the faces of this collection of persons were so peaceful, and so self-contained, and so utterly and blissfully alone; it was like nothing I've ever seen before. It sounds like an overstatement, but the intricacy of the movement, the way in which this collection of blinded individuals moved and circled around each other, looked like nothing less than brilliant choreography. I wanted to cry at how beautiful it all was. I wanted to cry at how wrong I'd been.
We talked a little, after the exercise, about what we'd felt, but this discussion, while wonderful, paled in comparison to the practice. I wanted nothing more than to come home, to sit as in meditation, and instead of directing my body's gestures, to allow them to direct me. I couldn't believe how fascinating such a thing could be. I couldn't believe how out-of-touch I'd been.
I'd thought I'd danced before. I'd taken ballet for years. I thought I'd danced before; I'm not unfamiliar with clubbing. What I'd done before was not dancing.
I write this only as a reminder. I don't know whether I have the courage or the commitment to make a practice of this - it's a frightening and bewildering and uncomfortable exercise to explain - but I want to remember how lovely it was. I want to remember what it was like to be, creatively, in my body. I want to remember how different it was than running or yoga or swimming. I want to remember how free I felt, and I want to remember how grateful I was when my cynicism so easily dissolved.
I had no idea.Close your eyes. Flood your body with attention. See where it wants to move.
Posted by Siona
I posted this as a comment at another site
, but wanted to save it here as well.
I've been reading with half-hearted dismay the recent revelations about James Frey's A Million Little Pieces
I feel terrible for Frey. He's obviously got some incredible lack within him to feel the need to fabricate something so extreme, and to feel the need to lie so drastically in return for affection. The whole story is just sad. I don't by any means want to excuse what he did, though; I've already seen any number of attempted defenses of his work, people who've said that they felt the emotional timbre of the story is true, and people who've said they credit him for capturing the psychological reality of addiction. Because of this, they say, and because of how his work has served as the inspiration for others to heal, he should not be villified for the work.
I dont' believe he should be vilified. I also don't believe that he came anywhere near to capturing the emotional truths of addiction or recovery. He did put his finger on the pain and compulsion associated with being an addict (there were entire passages that could have been the blind and blunted howls of my own brain), but being able to describe the primitive nature of those drives is only part of it. It was strange to me, when I read the book, that Frey didn't touch on the petrifying emptiness, the inability to love oneself, or the reasons behind the viscious attempt to escape. He wrote he was focused on the future; that he didn't see the point of blame, but it sounded more to me as though he hadn't come to accept the roots of his past.
(I say this in part because is no necessary blame that comes from exploring these roots, an important realization that he didn't seem to understand. He wanted to take the entire blame for his history, but this claim rings so hollow. I take full responsbility for my own wrong-headed youth, and full responsibility for the damage I inflicted on myself and those I loved, but I don't blame
myself, nor anyone else, for it. I understand the difficulties in my childhood that led to my decisions, and I accept them. Blame plays no role.)
I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt - his path was not mine, nor could mine possibly be anyone else's - but the fact that he so virulently rejected AA and the 12-step program in favor of 'will-power' seemed a little unbelievable to me. No one recovers alone, and it's irresponsible and cruel to tell other addicts that it's merely a lack of will-power that's destroying them. It's not will-power that saves, but love, and this seems so sadly absent from both Frey's book and his situation now. It might be true that not every addict 'finds God,' but every addict does and must surrender to something greater than his or her own ego. Frey never does.
I don't wish to say much more about this, though, other than it's a sad story on all fronts and it's tragic that the pain and insecurity that lead to the book being published is causing so much more pain and anger now.
Posted by Siona
I survived Las Vegas. No; that's an understatement: Las Vegas was wonderful. I had a good time there last winter (I went with a friend of mine in an attempt to escape the holidays: we chose the least Christmas-y venue we could think of, curious about what sort of human being would end up on the Strip on December 25th), but this post-New Year's event was phenomenal. The Adult Entertainment Expo was itself a bizarrely wonderful experience, but M and I, who stayed through the entire weekend, managed to take advantage of far, far too much good food (Rosemary's was outstanding), and one excellent show. We spent Saturday night at ICE, where I danced my legs into jelly during John Digweed's set. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be putting it lightly: the stereotypical sense of a weekend in Vegas is not exactly my idea of a good time, but I was thoroughly impressed by the nightlife and the dining and the general voyeurism of the place. I made it back in time to put in half-a-day at the office on Monday, although my attempt at compiling a database of all the contacts I'd made was a little embarrassing. I have a pile of business cards, and stacks of material, but the starlets had started to blur together by the second day, and I'm still trying to make sense of my notes.
We drove back; I was at work on Monday, and it was only then that I realized that the winter semester was starting on Wednesday. I still feel exhausted. I'm still trying to get an idea of my workload this semseter (it's going to be a bit more; I know I have papers due weekly; I'm a little overwhelmed already by what we're expected to produce for my Thursday class) and still trying to readjust to the grad school mindset. It'll happen, I'm sure. The next few months are going to push my time management skills to new levels.
This entry is the product of a dulled mind, though. I'm looking forward to establishing a necessary routine over the next few months: I've been keeping up with my meditation and weights and I want, desperately, to start running again. I have a feeling that I won't be engaging in anything particularly exciting before March, when this section of classes end, but I also have the sense that this will be a period of accomplishment. I need to focus on myself for a bit. I've written this before.
I just finished writing a review of Jessica Vale's (excellent) Sex Album
; though I feel as though I haven't been as productive today as I would have liked. I have another book to cover, which I'd like to get done before this weekend, and another puff piece on one of our members, but right now I'm lacking the motivation to produce anything work-related. I'm too distracted by my poorly-shaped weekend (two papers, an art project, a scary amount of reading, and the fact that I want to catch up with a small group of friends post-holiday). Sad, this; I'd just determined that one of my goals for the upcoming 6-8 months is to remain as engaged as possible at work: I want to focus on the writing I do here, and I want to affect the lives of those I write for, and those I write about. I feel fortunate to be in such a position and it bothers me when the demands of the rest of my life interfere with my ability to feel connected.
I'm going to go for a quick walk. I'm going to write more tonight. I'm going to be gentle.
Posted by Siona
I've been thinking about work recently.
This short week is leading to a little added pressure; I'm allowing myself a little slack in the number of articles I come up with because I've got extra background work to do before this weekend's Expo. I haven't really had time to think about what it is I need to do there, and haven't had time to so much as think about packing. I've been preoccupied with my sets of interviews and conversations for the community magazine I'm responsible for. And so I've been thinking about work.
It took me a while to find a voice and a place for myself in this fledgling production. When I was first brought on board to the company, which runs all manner of online networking sites, and first given the task of shaping the new magazine, I was at a loss as to what direction to take. The magazine is, ostensibly, part of a dating site, yet the articles I posted, fluffy cosmopolitan bits about big-city serial daters, about how-tos for sharp profiles, about navigating that first face-to-face meeting, received only a lukewarm response. I tried for spicier. No luck. I tried more conservative. Nothing there either. My confusion grew. I was used to writing for a specific reader, yet this readership was too wide-spread to easily pitch anything to. It was impossible to please them all.
A few months into the job, still frustrated by the broadness of the audience and their seeming disinterest in any of the topics I approached, I stumbled across a member profile that sounded interesting. I wrote, curious about this woman's story, and ended up conducting an impromptu interview about what turned out to be an extraordinary life. I shaped it into a quick feature article, posted it to the site with a link to her profile, and found, to my surprise, that the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
I'd found the answer. The site members, it turns out, love reading about their own. They love reading about the variety of lives, and the shared threads of emotion and growth and occasional loneliness they all experience. They love reading about other members who live in other parts of the world. And I love doing the work . . . I love scrounging around for intriguing voices (not always easy . . . the most banal personals ads hide the most incredible stories), and I love engaging them in conversation, and I love teasing out what's most remarkable about their lives. I wrote about a woman who'd survived last year's tsunami. I wrote about an Australian who witnessed the car accident that killed her long-estranged sister. I'm working right now on a short article about a former civics teacher who took up triathlons after he retired, and has now completed five Ironmans, including one in which he crashed and fractured three vertebrae in his neck. These people are all amazing; their perspectives on life are beautiful; none of this was mentioned in their profiles.
I love hearing these people's stories, and I love telling them, and it's funny, because when I took the job, I never thought I'd end up making the connections (and by this I mean the connections between others, not personal connections for my own ambitions) I do. I never thought I'd end up spreading these little seeds of community. It's gratifying, and I'm surprisingly happy to be there.
After I commented, at lunch today, on this sense of satisfaction, one of my co-workers reminded me that it was my doing: I could have just kept on posting pieces about the perils of singledom in NYC, just as I was hired to do. Instead, I kept hunting for some way to engage. It's funny how much of a difference making a difference (however minor) can make in oneself, and to one's approach to work. I feel, now, as though the writing I do matters somehow: I give voice to the humanity behind all these searching faces. It's small, but it's something, and I'm happy for this.
I'm happy, too, that I'm being flown to Las Vegas tomorrow, to cover the Adult Entertainment Expo for another site the company runs. The AVN Awards are on Sunday. It's not every job that gives you the opportunity to attend The Oscars of Porn.
Posted by Siona
Today I had a beautiful talk with Lorianne
; today I requested my birth certificate from the New York Vital Records department (I'm working on getting citizenship in the EU. Today's demand was a first step, but a significant one); today I holed up in my apartment while the rain poured down and made, contrary to my earlier indignancies about the New Year, all sorts of lists of what I wanted to do before I die and the dreams I have for this next year. (It's a strange position to be in: I at once both love my life and, given the chance, would not change one iota of it, but also am looking forward to so, so much in my future. Sometimes it's hard to stay present.) I committed to 100days
, and though I think I'm already a few months into this dedication, I like checking in with a community.
(And a note of happiness. M is on his way down to visit. It almost scares me how I just keep falling more and more deeply in love with this man.)
It's daunting, writing again. I feel as though I'm stumbling over myself with all I want to express, or all I want to commit to the page. I keep wanting to go back and catch up (I could write about Christmas; I could write about Syriana
, the first film I've seen, or wanted to see, in theaters since June; I could write about how I looked at a newspaper this past weekend for the first time in weeks and wondered how it was that I ever used to need
that morning ritual; I could write about this
sound and how it reminds me being a little girl again), but this seems somehow both useless and silly. I'm here now, and that was then, and while the past is invaluable and there is nothing wrong with reflection I should come at it from a place of enthusiasm and curiosity, and not overwhelmed obligation.
Now, though, here, there is triviality. I'm looking forward to a short week. Today was a vacation - one which I'd forgotten completely about; it was an admittedly appreciated surprise - and on Friday I'm flying to Las Vegas for work
. Fortunately I don't have too many other obligations - a client on Tuesday and my own Wednesday appointment - but it's still going to mean I'll be a little more cramped for time than usual.
Did I mention my New Year's Eve was wonderful? Did I mention I love the word auspicious? Did I mention that these three questions are intimately related?
Posted by Siona
I’ve been forced, this morning, to take a bath.
A week ago, our building manager, in a poorly-planned attempt to clean the pipes in my apartment complex, managed to clog the cold water line feeding the showers, so whilst my sinks function perfectly, I’ve been stranded with a shower that spews forth only scalding water. I have a high tolerance for heat, and a love of spa-like excursions, and for a while was able to improvise with what I can only describe as a steam shower: I would stand next to the boiling flow and ‘bathe’ in escaped droplets. While I didn’t ever feel entirely rinsed, it made for pleasantly relaxing mornings at work.
Today, though, I feel I really do need to get more seriously wet. And so I’ve drawn a tub full of superhot water, I’ve lit a stick of mild lavender incense, and I’m waiting for the Jacuzzi to cool enough for me to step in.
It’s a nice excuse, I must admit. I’ve been here for half a year and have only once made full use of the Japanese tub; ordinarily it merely serves as the area in which I stand to shower. It’s a nicely symbolic exercise: a cleansing of the past year.
The thing is, I don’t want to wash myself of this past year. I’d been intending to write a little retrospective (this is expected, no? a reflection on the past twelve months, a summing up, a setting of goals for the future?), but year has been too wonderful to wrap up in a package of assessment, and the weird feeling of transition I have right now doesn't lend itself to the arbitrary snipping of tonight. I'm in the middle of too much; I'm happy with my life, giddily so, and not much interested in reflection.
Perhaps this is an excuse, though. I’m not sure why I’m expressing any reluctance to summarize. I feel embarrassingly proud of what I’ve accomplished, and there is still something in me that feels unable to take complete credit for it all: I feel so much more as though life has slid beautifully in to place. This, though, is absurd: I’ve worked hard – more so than I’ve ever done in the past, and this is saying something – over the last six months especially. I feel a little, too, as though to take the time to breathe into it all might somehow jinx things, though this is also absurd. What I feel most of all, though, is that I am still in transition, and what might seem like culmination on the outside, what might seem like objective accomplishment, is, subjectively, merely another step on a path I’ve only just begun. It’s not that I’d feel dissatisfied with stepping back, or disappointed, but more something like impatience: yes, yes, this is all good, but let’s keep living
. . . let’s work with what’s here now
I don’t know.
I feel the need to say something about this time last year.
M had broken up with me a few weeks month prior. This, while not the worst, was certainly the most painful experience of my life: for the first time ever I was learning what it meant to allow myself to feel, and for the first time ever I’d understood what emotions meant. I felt more in that relationship than I had in my entire life up to that point, and to have it so brutally ripped from me was devastating.
His reasons were clear, and understandable; he was worried he was getting in the way of my recovery and was worried he would end up inadvertently enabling my still-limping addictions, and my anorexia especially. I don’t want to explain this; there were certainly events that, in retrospect, I was too flippant about. Still, when he told me he couldn’t see me anymore, I’d thought I’d stop breathing.
What I wrote to a friend of mine not long ago was that the month that we spent apart was overwhelming valuable. I gave M up entirely; I thought I’d never see him again. And in doing so, I realized during that all the love and brilliance and perfection I'd felt for and from him was something I was responsible for. I realized the relationship was merely a mirror for projecting those shining parts of me I couldn't bring myself to take credit for on my own (to do so would seem unbearably narcissistic). I realized that if I was capable of feeling that for and with him, then it was certainly possible for me to experience that on my own. I relished the pain because it was MINE: I'd walked into that relationship, and chosen to make myself vulnerable, and it was me (and only me) who could bear responsibility for the result. So it was my bliss, and my pain, and I reveled in both, and walked (and sobbed and wailed) through the latter.
The paradoxical result was that experience freed me to love so much more fearlessly. I know that I’m perfectly capable of being – in the fullest sense of the word – on my own, and knowing this allows me to love (and not just in a romantic sense, but my family and friends as well) without expectation and without fear of consequences. And I’m unbearably grateful for this.
My point, though, in writing that, was merely to say that the month of December and early January were a period of amazing growth for me: the health gains I made, not just emotionally, but physically as well, were tremendous. My point is that I feel in many ways as though I went through a similar growth spurt this past month: from the outside markers of making certain financial investments and launching my new practice, to the interior (and harder to express) changes in how I relate to myself and my future, I feel as though I’ve grown a great deal in a short amount of time. I’m looking forward to the shakeout over this spring.
But I think my bath had cooled enough by now. It’s time to sit.
Posted by Siona