Tiny Dancer

This quote from my friend and author KJ Ramsey kicked me square in my elastic waistband, comfy pants.

unless peace begins within my very breath + bones, it might just be performance.

Gah. I feel attacked. Well, not really attacked, but uncovered. Revealed. The phrase has bubbled around in my guts for a couple of days.

Why?

Why is it dwelling and gurgling in my soul?

Truth be told y’all, it’s conviction. Conviction is easily defined as declaration/pronouncement of guilt, sentence, judgment. {And if you’ve been hanging around here long enough, y’all know that I come from a long line of guilt riddled/flinging women.}

But why did this particular quote convict me so?

Because. It. Is. ME!!

I’m in a pretty strange season of deconstructing, uncovering and discovering Self. It seems somewhat silly, at 53, that I wouldn’t really know Self; but I am learning and unlearning more every day. The little revelation nugget shared by KJ really cut me to the marrow.

Has my life been a performance?

Have I learned how to behave based on the cues from “directors” in my life?

Have I acted in a way just to please an “audience”?

The short answer to the above questions is yes. But y’all know I can’t just give a short answer.

As the daughter of big time people, in a small, small town; there is an element of constant performance.

Don’t behave in a way that disgraces the name.

Be a good girl.

Smile and always be gracious.

I was that girl for a little while… My mom would tell a particular story of my childhood, over and over. I don’t recall my age but it was my very first dance recital. I had practiced and practiced and felt confident in my steps. When the little dance number was finished, every other child ran off stage. (Allegedly), I remained steadfast and blew kisses to the roaring applause of the crowd.

The birth of the performer.

I used to think she retold the story because she thought it adorable. As I grew older, I realized it was mostly an accusation, a spotlight on my flair for being dramatic or need to be the center of attention.

Ironically, I truly dislike being the center of attention. My exterior is somewhat a misnomer. It would appear that I like to be seen, but truth be told, it’s armor. (And a scoop of rebellion.) People are quick to make assumptions about you based on outward appearances. For some, the exterior is porcupine-esque. If you look dangerous, people will not approach. It’s safety. It’s protection.

For years, I was the shape-shifter. If I was more like “this”, So-and-So would approve of me. If I was more like “that”, What’s-Their-Name would love me more. Shape-shifting is performance. It isn’t authentic. Neither is people-pleasing. And it was pretty good at that as well. But you know who wasn’t pleased? Me.

I was a pretty good phony. Making it all look like life was ok. While I quietly recoiled and lost Self. It took decades for me to realize that I wasn’t happy and neither were the people around me. It was up to me to stop performing and seek Peace.

I had no clue what Peace looked like. I still struggle with it. The need to be valued and seen and blow kisses to an adoring audience simmers beneath the surface. The need to strive and please still bubbles up occasionally. The sure fire way to quiet that urge is Truth.

Truth speaks and reminds us our value is non-negotiable. To others, it simply is or it isn’t. Our performance does not increase our value. “But if I do this, they will love me more”. Nope. If love and acceptance is performance based, it isn’t genuine. No act of service, gift, performance will tip the value scale. It just teaches others how to treat you.

The Critic will watch for your misstep, that’s a given. But, the Fan will applaud when you rise up. They will truly roar with adoration for being authentically, albeit clumsily, Self.

I am an eternal student. I will always seek new and interesting pathways. I will always ruminate on the ways of old and uncover their meaning. I will always learn a way to dance through my chronic life. Even when the physical body is unwilling; my soul still will tap dance.

Performance or Peace?

Excuse me while I just shuffle-ball-change my way, exit stage left.

I choose Peace

Mary Lee’s School of Dance circa 1970-something

Ruminating..

I felt an urgency, a nudge to explore today, albeit a bit strange writing for me to begin, mostly because I don’t know where it will land. Possibly it will be just me preaching to myself, but I hope that along the way, it speaks to you. I’m usually so intentional as to my message, but there are days when you just need to see what bubbles up…

It’s no secret that I have a collection of autoimmune diseases. I’m quite transparent about them. I don’t share for the sympathy, but for solidarity. Most of us that battle chronic illness look quite normal on the outside, while inside, our body rages against itself.

The medications for said illnesses are more like poison than relief; although attempting to navigate the illnesses without them would cause more damage and devastation to the body. While many go a more holistic route, I’m trusting the science…

…however, at some point you have to take some accountability. To love yourself enough to make changes. For yourself.

The level of chaos that stress, anxiety and unprocessed trauma leaves within your body is insurmountable.

The body remembers.

The soul holds space.

I won’t replay “old tapes” here, as I’ve already written volumes on it, but pain is universal.

I’ve always joked about my Lithuanian/Catholic heritage and that my people invented guilt, but sometimes the level of guilt we hold-in, roll-around-in and walk-in daily is more destructive than anything. I do feel guilty that I’ve not taken better care of me. I do feel guilty that had I made better choices, some level of illness could have been prevented. Even while most of it is just really bad genetics.

Guilt and shame are really heavy. I mean really fucking heavy. But they are not independent, they are co-dependent. They require a “target” for their strength. While some carry enough guilt themselves, to punish themselves; others may feel their strength by serving it to others.

Guilt and shame are manufactured, they are not naturally occurring. Whether you are the one to hold it or the one to serve it, at its core, is pain. I know for certain that I have caused a lot of people, a lot of pain. I carry that burden. I own it. But I can no longer carry it. I have to put it down.

My body remembers.

My soul holds space.

Perhaps, you’re reading this feeling as though you have been served a lifetime of guilt and shame.

Your body remembers.

Your soul holds space.

That guilt and shame is not yours to carry. It is the deep rooted pain in someone else that felt better by hurling it at you.

“When you know better, you do better.” I’ve heard it a million times and said it almost as much. But there is such truth; a necessary accountability. When we know better, if we do not do better, we just play Ring-around-the-Rosie with the pain until we ALL fall down. When we take the accountability for doing better, we can be better.

I’m not that crazy to believe that by being better that I can make myself well. Yes, I have incurable illnesses, but I can be better. Shaking off guilt and shame ventilates a space that allows Love to expand her footprint.

To love each other better, is a grande notion, but what amazing and potential power there is in loving ourselves better.

When we learn to love ourselves better, we create a lighthouse for others to navigate their way. When we love ourselves enough to say “enough” to the things that no longer serve us or create real joy in us, we can truly be better.

This shedding of the things that are no longer serving us, might be:

  • Bad behaviors or habits that you have used for coping skills
  • A job that you dislike and carry with you to the point of punishing those around you.
  • A relationship that feels one-sided, empty or unhealthy
  • The “old tapes” that I mentioned earlier that seem to replay over and over.

The body remembers.

The soul holds space.

Peeling back the layers of pain is super messy and really fucking hard. YOU. ARE. WORTH. IT. Your literal health is depending on it.

The old joke, “ How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” is actually pretty sage advice. Make a conscious choice today, to do ONE thing better. And the next day, ONE more.

Help your body to change its memory.

Give your soul the nourishment it needs to grow and not just hold space.

Be well.

Love well.

For Yourself.

Blessed be ❤️

A Five Second Prayer

I recently attended the (2nd) book launch for my pal, Tom Zuba. It was so horribly out of my comfort zone, to walk into an event by myself, but I did. I didn’t know a soul (besides Tom) and sent up the smallest of pop-up prayers and text my hubby that ‘I won’t be long, I don’t know anyone’.

A kind man, with a delightful British accent, approached and introduced himself and began to ask about how I knew Tom. I explained, a mutual friend connected us to help mentor me and be the kick-in-the-pants I needed during my book writing process. Accordingly, the conversation shifted to my book. I have forgotten my “elevator pitch” about Faith, Fat and Other F-Words. I hadn’t forgotten “f-words” but I have neglected it and it’s purpose. I thanked the chap as Tom approached and led me to a table of ”cool people”.

A table with a couple of chicks that were cool indeed. The conversation came easy. The connection made. Smiles aplenty. The conversation again came around to my book. Starting to remember the “baby” I birthed and speak with a bit more passion. A couple of photos with the cool chicks later, I thanked them and set off towards towards the one other human I recognize.

As I’m walking the 15 steps toward my friend, the Kind Brit’s wife approaches me and introduces herself. She’s stunning and articulate and I feel a little small. AGAIN, the conversation shifts to my book and the prospect of a second book. She cheered, “brilliant”! We spoke more and more about being a 50 year old, the life of a mom, and being a chick in general. I’m breathing deep and with a bit more confidence.

I eventually make my way to my friend and hug her ferociously. We chat briefly and walk out of the event together. As we are walking, a kind faced woman approached and asked if I was Annisa. I have a familiarity while looking at her, but cannot discern from where. As she hugs me, she whispers her name in my ear. She was my counselor during some really dark times. Her face shone bright and I am instantly at ease. I had such trauma and darkness in the season I spent with her, I had zero recall of her face. She spoke beautiful things over me and filled my soul.

As I’m walking out to the car, with my friend, I could practically skip I’m so filled with peace and joy. I hug her goodbye and promise to be in touch. It’s only when I get in my car do I realize what has just happened…

That little pop-up prayer was answered, but in His way. It may have been really easy to miss since it wasn’t the solution I asked for, not in the slightest. Many times when we ask Him for a solution, He sends people.

People who will feed your soul.

People who will speak kindness.

People who will cheer for you.

People who will remind you how far you’ve come.

Look around you, realize that the people around you are there for a reason.

They may be only there for a season.

They may be the solution.

They may be the lesson. (Ugh)

They may be the hand that leads you to your next step.

They just may remind you of your purpose.

Thank you God for not giving me what I asked for, but for giving me what I needed.

One Word

2017 was the first year I purposefully set a “one word” into being, rather than offering up a well meaning, but never fulfilled “resolution”.

My word for 2017 was Boundaries. I totally lost sight of my word, allowed myself beyond boundaries that were healthy or helpful. My word rediscovered me, revealed itself where I had least expected, and showed me lessons learned while I wasn’t looking.

My word for 2018 can be found in the waiting; for my 3rd grandchild to be born, for a BIG birthday year, and the vision of a 2nd book (yet to be written).

My word can be found in the hoping, believing in better health solutions and for relationships restored.

Yes, I can safely say, 2018 is to be filled with Expectation!

Cheers to 2018! And all that you are expecting!!