*disclaimer: I did not take these photos*
I took a belly dancing class today. The woman in the middle of this picture was my teacher. I have always wanted to learn and there was a free class today - so why not?
Did you know that belly dancing originated from the movements women made during labor to ease the pain and help the baby move into the birth canal?
I had read this before, but had forgotten. When our teacher reminded us today I kind of gasped. I loved that I was participating in something tied so closely to birth and labor. I thought about being in labor with my child one day but I also thought about the labor I feel I have been in for quite some time. It has been painful, intense, and there have been times I thought I wouldn't make it through the next "contraction" - but all the while I have had to believe that the labor is bringing something very very good.
The other really powerful thing about the class was how completely connected and proud I felt of my body, my hips, my tummy, my breasts. I cried a little, with joy, as we shimmied and spun. I realized it had been a really long time since I had felt that content and happy with and in my own body. I felt like I owed my body a bit of an apology for that.
Our teacher was a middle aged to older woman who grew up in Romania. She had this soft squishy tummy that looked as if it had nurtured a child at some point. She was far from our culture's standard of beauty - but here she was: belly exposed, legs bare, breasts swaying - and looking completely beautiful, free, and sexy all the while. Her husband was there too, he was playing a drum to help us with the rhythm. He stared at his wife with joy, admiration, and desire. His attraction to her was obvious.
I loved this moment, this reprieve from thinking about what's wrong with my body - what isn't working right. I loved not wishing for it to be or do anything different - and just enjoying it in that moment. I want to be a woman like her, free and proud of my body - sensual and fun - and I want my husband to stare at me the way her husband stared at her today, forever.
This is a picture of Feist - I love her. Well, I love her music. And her bangs.
On a whim today I called to see when my stylist had an appointment next available (she's usually booked at least a week or two out). She had an opening today. So I went in and I got bangs! Feist bangs! My hair isn't as thick and my bangs are just a touch shorter and more sharp. But I love them. I really needed something new and bangs it was!!! Yay bangs!
So - pretty good day, right? Yes, but that's where it gets tricky.
I remember seeing a interview weeks ago with a severely anorexic woman and I will never forget when she said that she worried if she wasn't "thin enough" no one would help her. She talked about how miserable she felt inside and how much she knew she needed help, but she worried that if she wasn't a severe enough case, if she wasn't practically on her death bed, no one would take her seriously. She had a history of abuse as a child and I thought in that moment - "I know how that feels" - I know what it is like to feel that if your outside symptoms aren't shocking or terrible enough then no one will really recognize how much pain you are in on the inside. I spent years feigning or inducing illness or self-harm when I was younger for this very purpose. I didn't trust that anyone would hear me or help me if I seemed too "ok". And really - I was always so strong, and capable and so terrible at asking for help - that I was kind of right about this.
I have been feeling that same feeling again lately. The fear that if I have a good day, if I let anyone know that I have experienced joy - that they will forget or ignore that I am still hurting, still grieving, still struggling. That they will not know that even when a good day happens, even when I laugh - the "infertility" is always there, the weight of what is ahead is always there, the longing and aching to be a parent is always there - and for now, the grieving I am going through - it is always there. It doesn't go away. It isn't all better just because I was happy for a few hours, or even a whole day. It doesn't take a break. It lives with me, with us, every second. And I guess in some ways I feel like it has been such a struggle to express this - to feel heard in this - that I am afraid of losing that. I am afraid my friends will think, "well she seems just fine now!" and expect me to be ok, expect me to be "myself" again.
I also feel guilty for having a good time. Especially since losing Mr. Jones. It feels as if I am not honoring my grief if I am able to enjoy something too much. I know this isn't true. I know I can hold both. I know there is space enough for both. But I am afraid that in these moments of joy, I might forget that still hurting and broken space within. I might forget why it is there. I might forget to tend to it. I might neglect myself. I might forget myself.
I want to be able to enjoy days like today without fearing that I will lose the support I need right now, without fearing that no one will see me - the happiness and the grief, without fearing that I will forget myself. Because it is possible to receive these moments, hours, and days of tremendous gifts and beauty - even in the midst of hurting really deeply. The two can and do coexist. Life and death together. Light and darkness.
As Annacyclopedia so eloquently stated on her beautiful blog recently:
"there is still a beautiful, fertile garden inside me that requires care."
In the midst of pain, there is still this beauty within - but both the pain and beauty, both are a part of my garden and both require care.