March 30, 2008

Bellies, Bangs, and Blues

*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.


HeidiM said...

I love the belly-dancing picture. I had done belly dancing once at a woman's retreat years ago, and it was a powerful way to feel good about your body and to celebrate it. I have gone back to that memory many times over the years, especially if I'm particularly unhappy at my body -- I remember that room full of women dancing with no shame or self-concsiouslness and it makes me feel thankful for the wonderful body God gave me.

Denise said...

You have this way of putting how you feel into words that I can completely understand and didn't even know I was feeling too. Thank you for that.

I remember my brother expressing a very similar sentiment on how people expected him to be okay after a certain period of time after he and my SIL lost their first child because he wasn't crying anymore. But that wasn't the case. This must be a very common experience to any kind of grief. You don't always express it outwardly every second of every day because you can't live like that. But that doesn't mean it is gone or any less raw.

Darcy said...

I totally got bangs first!!! the week before easter! I love bangs...they make things great!!!

JJ said...

Wow-go you! Belly dancing is something I am a bit timid to try, but it looks so amazing! I also did not the origins--very cool.
Im sure your Feist bangs look great!
And you are so right: beauty and pain both need tending to-as they are both so delicate.

Meg said...

Man, slow down. Everyday I read your post and think I will comment later. Then I come back and there is an even more interesting and thought provoking post... I tried to go and finally comment on all. I think maybe I should have just called the boy knitting, awesome flowers, loving your body, I need some of that!.....bangs!

You are having a lot of good moments Spice. This is so exciting and I can literally feel your good energy. I love it.

annacyclopedia said...

Ok, you are so brilliant that I always find myself needing time to compose myself before commenting. But then I come back and I get all "I am not worthy" again. So I'm breaking things up a la Io so that I can respond without getting too slobbery.
1. Dancing is so amazing. I've never tried belly dancing, but I just started learning flamenco and I feel the same pride and love for my body when I'm dancing. I think every person on the earth should dance every single day - wouldn't it make the world so much better?
2. I love Feist, too. Her music, her bangs, and just her. She rules! Her grandparents live in the city I live in, and when she plays here she just makes us all so happy cause she loves this place, too. Plus it does my heart good to see a woman with a guitar who can totally rock out. I bet your bangs are awesome - I'm so jealous. They don't really look good on me, and my hair sticks out like a shelf when I get bangs, so I've pretty much given up. Doesn't stop me from lusting over other people's great bangs, though. And have you heard the They Might Be Giants song "Bangs"? Check it out - it has the greatest bang-worshipping lyrics ever.
3. About this: "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." As you go on after this, it seems like you are saying (forgive me if I'm misconstruing things) that this is not entirely about other people, but really about yourself, too. That you feel the need to really honour the pain that's there and not neglect its importance. I don't know what else to say except I KNOW! I feel like your name being Spicy Sister is just extra fated, because you feel like my soul sister, like my twin. Thank you for your gift of being able to speak your heart like this.

People are so uncomfortable with pain, and that in itself causes so much suffering in this whole journey of life, and particularly with infertility. I've always found it hard to reach out to other people when I'm in need, but it's very easy for me to help other people. Often to my own detriment where I'm neglecting my own needs and taking care of others'. I've been trying to remedy this by going deeper into my own suffering, by turning towards it and embracing it sometimes. I find that when I can really open my heart to my own suffering, joy can come in, too. I guess when my heart is shut down, it's shut down to everything. And I've found that when I'm able to give myself this kind of care, it matters far, far less whether anyone else can.

Thank you again for this post(lastest in a long string of amazing ones.) I feel understood reading your words.

Anonymous said...

You are a fabulous writer and I cant believe I stumbled across your blog so late! Its just amazing how you speak from your heart and echo all our IF thoughts. Thanks! Your blog has given me a reason to engage my mind into something other than my depressive thoughts about IF.

God bless,