When I was 10, I learned that I needed glasses. Unbeknownst to me, my vision was terrible — I had no idea one could see actual leaves on trees and they did not merely look like the green clouds on sticks I drew with my stick figures. What I remember most profoundly about getting glasses, however, was not my newfound ability to read street signs or identify friends from afar. What I remember most was wearing my glasses to dance class for the first time.
See, in my mind, I was an extraordinary dancer. I knew what felt right in my body, and — because I could not see myself as anything but a blob in the mirrors surrounding us — I was able to rely solely on how dancing felt — and for me, dancing felt wonderful. I knew myself to be a strong and graceful dancer.
But when I showed up to dance class in my glasses, I learned that my dancing body did not look at all like I imagined. What had felt just-right was revealed to be awkward or wrong: my knees were too bent, or my elbows too high, or my head too crooked. While I am certain that my dancing “improved” when my vision did, I am equally certain that my dancing changed. I was more self-conscious and hesitant. I was less able to rely on what felt right.
In recent years, I started to have dreams several times a week about dance. In the 15 years since I have danced, my body has changed dramatically — due to normal aging, illness, and chronic health conditions. The thought of dancing again after multiple surgeries was intimidating. I was unsure of how (or if) my body would move, and how (or if) my body would be able to generate and sustain movements. Regardless, after months of dance dreams, I took the frightening leap of registering for an adult dance class.
When I got home from my first class, my partner, Tara, asked how it went.
“I was terrible,” I laughed, filled with the joy of engaging in a purely fun, embodied activity. “And it was so good.”
Dancing again has meant unlearning all the rules and judgment and expectations I carried, and learning how to move my body in the ways that feel right. Amazingly, my body remembers how 10-year-old me felt before I got glasses: my internal sense of rightness, of grace, of strength has persisted all these years.
I wish 10-year-old me had known how to love the terrible moves: the bent knees, the crooked head, the too-high elbows. The scars, the glasses, the things my body will not do. Embodying myself, focusing only on what feels right, allowing myself to be terrible at a thing I love is the ultimate act of self-care. Embodying all of me is the best way I know to love the world.
How are you loving yourself and the world these days? Where are you finding glimpses of a rightness you know in your body or your soul? Forgetting about how “good” you are at it — where are you finding joy in the doing of something you love?
I hope you are finding joy in the knowledge of the rightness of you.
Rev. Laura Solomon