There is something about compliments and attention that has always made me hesitant.
Lately (not shockingly), I have been settling into the image of my perfect single life. It’s the image of world travel, and photography, and caftans, and essentially perfection. But it’s a band-aid image. It is the image the covers up the wound that says, you don’t get a relationship or a family. It is the brightly colored Dora the Explorer band-aid that keeps out the dirty and the ugly and gives you a chance to heal. And one day, it will heal and it will also probably leave a bit of a scar. That doesn’t make it good, but it also doesn’t make it bad it just makes it life.
Me. I’m skittish. I would say I probably always have been. I grew up in a land where princes and princesses reigned supreme in my imagination and all of my friends “kissed dating goodbye.” The rest of them, hussies. Obviously. Good girls, the golden children, they didn’t date…they went to school and got good grades and when to more school and got a job and their attention wasn’t to be pulled to the right or the left by a man. And so I was, and remain, highly cautious of everything and everyone. I shy away from connections and with that, I probably self-sabotage any chance of relationships. With that realization, the need for the band-aid became more of a necessity than a want. Because it is easier to imagine a jet-setting life of adventure, than a life of endless yearning.
A yearning and a mental picture of the what if and the what could be. It doesn’t need to define my life and all of my choices, but it does exist and it deserves a voice. It is a voice that longs for someone to call my own, for babies, to care for the orphans and those left with no one to love on them. There are silly family portraits and dance classes and hippie-dippy schools.
When push comes to shove and the curtain is drawn back, the hope and the desire still exist. The belief that someone can break through the stubborn and sharp edges to see that I might be a wee bit of a challenge, but I really am just full of a lot of feelings.
Maybe the actually realization, is believing that about myself.
The moment hits when the thought in my head isn’t a never-ending blame game, but it’s the realization that is may not be about what others don’t see and more that what I choose not to acknowledge on a regular basis. The unending loop of “not being enough” never really goes away. Instead, it is about staying so busy that I really don’t have time to think about what is lacking. It isn’t shocking to believe that I doubt the future existence of relationship, because I also doubt the chance of even a coffee date. I friend-zone myself to keep the world on one side of the glass, while I remain safe on the other side. Compliments often make me think, at some point the rug will be pulled out from under my feet because this is just the build up for a good joke. I doubt the possibility in my mind because I know if I was the one choosing, I wouldn’t pick me. There are better choices; ones who are fun, pretty, active, charming, not abrasive, and less panicked about life. Whether it is true or not, it becomes part of the narrative to cover the wound and plan for what feels like reality.
Though the truth of the matter is, the want and the yearning won’t go away. We are beings created to want and long for more. The reality won’t be dramatically altered, but it makes us pursue higher callings and when taken off a pedestal and placed into the guiding hands of a God who loves, it can lead to a more fulfilling and wholehearted life.
But sometimes, it also just makes you want to weep a little bit.
This weekend I spent a lot of my time with a group of almost all girls that dance from a place that many of us can only dream of. And I sat and stared. And I took pictures. And I thought back to when I was their age and for a second I wished I was right back there because for a hot second, it seemed simpler. But you know what, I actually love the here and now. Through the ups and downs and the fears and loathing, I really like me now. It is so easy to forget that when outside voices come roaring in. And after a week of feeling disconnected, body, mind and soul, it all came rushing back.
…it turns out I’m just little old me
And oh heavens, that is very much, very very much, fine by me.
I don’t wanna be her / I just want to be little old me
Shouldn’t have to think / Who am I suppose to be today
And what give you the right / To tell me who I should be
Who gave you that right
Cause I, I feel lovely
Just the way that I am
Yes I feel lovely
The way that I am
I know you want the best / Yeah only good things for me
But you have to realize / I can’t be all these things you project on me
Cause I’m beautiful to me / Doesn’t that mean a thing
I feel lovely
Just the way that I am
Yes I feel lovely
The way that I am
I need that to be enough for you
Need that to be enough for you
Cause it’s enough for me
It’s enough for me
Am I suppose to give up everything I am / Just to make you happy
I thought I was the one you / Always wanted me to be
It turns out I’m just little old me / I’m just little old me
And that’s fine by me
Cause I, I am lovely
Just the way that I am
Oh yes I am,
Yes I am lovely
The way that I am
I am lovely lovely
I am lovely
I have been dancing for well over 20 years.
I don’t know what is more terrifying. That I have actually been dancing for that long or that I am old enough to have been dancing for that long. Either way, it was a bit of a surprise.
There is something about the dance world that makes it your life blood and also your worst enemy. I find myself craving the solace that class gives, but also leaving class thinking I could have pushed myself harder. And it sounds crazy when you vent about this to friends that aren’t dancers. Mostly because it goes something like this:
Me: and then the compliments are handed out: “you just flowed” “i couldn’t look away” “it was so beautiful”…”whitney, do you know you have perfect technique”… also, i sure as heck better have perfect technique
Ann: haha, did it feel like the compliments were disingenuous?
Me: no, not at all. it sounds totally weird and bizarre (i know and acknowledge this)…but technique isn’t something to compliment, it’s just supposed to be the norm … at least it is when you’ve been doing it this long.
at this point it should be about the art, and the emotion, and the drawing people in, and the feeling. I just get stuck in my brain on the mechanics of the movement, probably cause I feel like my body is a bit broken down (not in real life, just in dance life), so I never make it to the “this looks carefree” state
Ann: that makes sense, I can see why that would be frustrating
Me: also, i own that this sounds crazy
What is especially crazy is that I actually had that conversation.
There is nothing easy about growing up in the dance world, especially in the ballet world. There are always new steps and sequences, turn out could be better, legs could be held higher, there can always be more rotations in a turning sequence, and of course, you could always be smaller (and more muscular…all at the same time).
When I stopped dancing with a company, I thought all that stress would go away. But it’s actually pretty well ingrained in my life, and definitely in my head. My turn out is still there, much to my orthopedic’s chagrin, but could be better and my legs could have better extensions and my turns could actually turn. But somewhere the over-thinking of technique needs to fade away, and I need to just trust that my body knows what it’s been trained to do. And when it comes down to it, I’m not all that trusting.
So I stand in class and I go through the motions and I spin and a jump and I think, once upon a time I was so much better at this. And then I remember, I was also 16 and it’s amazing how your body actually begins to breakdown. So you work harder then ever before, for half the output. Mind you, in the world of ballet, you body breaks down faster than most. I had my first orthopedic at around ten or eleven and I’ve had so many MRIs on my knee that I can almost fall asleep during the 45 minute process. Stress fractures, shin splints, blisters, callouses…really ugly feet. You dance through the pain that you can and the injuries that take you out leave you praying that it won’t be forever. All of this, and it isn’t even my professional career.
Where I lack is the artistry. It is the thing that sets dance apart from the athletic world. It takes it from jumps and spins and leaps to a place of art and emotion and magic. Nothing is more magical then watching dancers tell a story that stretches beyond the steps into a place of raw feeling and expression. There is lies my current struggle. Finding the magic and the feelings. Somewhere my movement lost it’s artistic edge. Somewhere along the way it also lost part of the technique, but I’m pretending that isn’t the case. But it’s a tough pill to swallow. To see something slip away, to wonder if you are holding too tightly, or not enough. But mostly to realize that it’s going to be an uphill battle. Isn’t that the way that life always works, one uphill battle after the next.
Climbing one mountain after another…and the view is lovely.
“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own, and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being human is all about.” Frederick Buechner
Recently I feel like I have been bombarded by articles on the concept of waiting. You know the ones, people waiting for their dream job, families waiting for kids, women waiting for a man. That last one is a frequently used one, especially in the church, and over time you start to wonder if maybe we aren’t just slightly off the mark, but if we missed it entirely. Like, we have sailed way passed it as we wait for the big moment, the one that will tie up the story in a neat and tidy bow and make it all make sense.
The moments race through my head at a mile a minute. But they are small ones, not the giant moments that I can easily make up in the fantasy world in my head. Yesterday was a rough day and I can’t really explain why, but the fantasy world in my head wasn’t there to fall back on.
My long-standing pessimism is what I utilize to keep me out of magical, fantasy land. It is the little voice that reminds me that there is precedent to things, that reality isn’t make-believe and that when everyone else thinks random man a is interested, the answer is always no. My brain and my soul don’t like to match up. One weaves stories full of little moments and tiny hopes that create one wholehearted life. The other keeps my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds, and in all honesty, that isn’t quite so bad either.
Pathetically enough, I manage to both love and loathe my life all at the same time. It feels like my sanity is being pulled in opposite directions, but sweet goodness, all I want is to catch a break. And then I remember how many I have actually had. The want to feel normal and like everyone else, but then again, why be normal when you can be as fun as a barrel of monkeys. Y’all it is super lame but I will own this (at least on paper), I don’t have time for a relationship and I’m actually pretty great in where my life is at the moment, but darn it all, can I at least have the option of being like, x person is interested and totally wants to go out. Is that asking too much? Apparently the answer to that is yes. And instead I am inundated with bad Christian articles about the sad, waiting women. Please God, I refuse to be that person.
I take a breath and I let myself sit in the brief sadness and annoyance, and then I remember the great moments. Because we should not ever be waiting, we should be remembering. And remembering doesn’t come with a requirement of it always being happy.
“Where we settle is where we die”
I recall to mind those words from a speaker at Urbana06 and think about how true that is. I think of the image that i recently read about the woman who stands at the gate waiting for her prince to come. Team, where we settle is where we die and ladies, do you want to die standing at a fence, alone. If I am going to be single, I better be living fully and jet-setting around the world with a camera, wearing crazy head scarves and flowy long skirts and…sorry, tangent…that’s my fantasy, moving on. No matter how much it hurts or how rough it is, and no matter how much you feel like you’re coming apart at the seams please please don’t settle.
Sometimes life feels like it is spiraling out of control. It’s a whirlwind and I can’t see the start or the end. But at the same time, it isn’t actually a terrifying problem. For so long it stemmed from a disjointed feeling of not being enough, and then one day it was something different. It hadn’t magically been made better, and the crazy feels didn’t disappear, but acceptance of reality and the goodness of a God who is in control takes away the power that fear of the unknown can hold over us. Remembering the truth and grace that has been given to us.
Wonderfully created and perfectly formed. Even in moments of quiet and prayerful reflection, we are not meant to just wait without purpose. And so it goes. Life isn’t all bad, it’s actually pretty wonderful and it can be a bit rocky all at the same time.
Here’s to the little moments that make up the big ones that make life so much more worth living. Without all the ups and downs, where would all the fun be. Here is to not waiting without purpose but remembering the little moments that make up the seemingly large ones. And even in the moments of annoyance, there will always, eventually, be a victory!
There are just some things that are so amazing and powerful that you just need to let them speak for themselves. But then, I’ve never been one to not get in a word.
My love of SoulPancake is pretty large. It’s hilarious, it provides great videos. And then they went and made the That’s What She Said series with Darling Magazine, which pretty much guaranteed my love. I mean, let’s talk about a crazy powerful series that makes you think. I started with the Beauty and Body Image conversation, for reasons that would shock no one that knows me well. Authentic women having authentic meaningful conversation.
But the one I love the most is about perception and confidence. It is so simple for people to look at the outer and have no idea what is going on inside. I hear a lot of comments about how I have it all together. Pull myself together and be perfect. It spins in my head like a mantra. I fight it and I know that it’s a lie, but how to know and how to move past it.
“Wait, you don’t think well of yourself.”
Little did I know that what had slipped out of my mouth would get me that response. Much do I know that truth always comes in the most unexpected places and wonderful people. But I grew up in a world where the presentation is perfect and failure is non-existent. Where arguments were loud discussions but we always went above and beyond for family, friends and neighbors. There will be time for boys and relationships after college, after you’ve built a career, when you don’t need the distraction. Above all, never ever weigh more then 130lbs. The stress weighs upon you. Some of it projected and some of it self-inflicted. But no matter what, it weighs you down.
You feel like there is no way to catch up, no way to be the best, no way to be the smartest, and definitely no way to be perfect. My home isn’t always tidy and lately I can’t respond to email to save my life. I am about as non-confrontational as they come and I feel insanely guilty when I don’t bend over backwards to accommodate everyone else. There will be time for relationships and the time is now, even if I am the largest hinderance in that department. But mostly, I weigh way more than 130lbs and on most days, that thought makes me want to curl up in a ball and never eat again. Once upon a time, that would have been my response. Because the pain and suffering of being a little hungry fades to a feeling of being numb, and when the goal is getting away from the millions of voices telling you that you aren’t enough (or your size is too much), numb always wins.
Public perception is never right and true. And confidence can wane. But we are better then that. I am better then that. So I repeat it over and over again.
I am enough. I am always enough.
It plays like a loop in my brain. When I can’t hear it anymore, I say it outloud. I sharpie it on my arm. When that fades (or accidentally transfers to my clean white sheets), I wonder if people would think I was nuts to permanently tattoo it on the inside of my wrist. Then I remember it doesn’t matter if they do. A reminder to take anywhere, at anytime and to anyone…enough. We have had enough of the ups and downs. I have had enough of meddlesome people who write insensitive articles and blog posts that do nothing to further goodness. So no, to some people I may not be enough and I may not be perfect. And you know what, I’m not perfect. Thank God. But I am enough.
My voice may not be louder, but it is greater, and it will be the last one standing. I may not be an amazing author, but there is power in words written in power and emotion.
You are allowed to be as you truly are
There is space for every person on the spectrum
We are dynamic if nothing else
We are women of something greater
Speak and the universe will react
Align your actions with your intentions
And watch your life become breathtaking as sunset.
I DARE YOU! — Natalie Patterson
I always wish I had the perfect words to say. Mentally I always think it would be especially nice in the situations that really matter. You know the ones, the world-changing and life-saving conversations.
Oh, and maybe all the rest of the time too.
Alas, I am about the least confrontational person ever, which is a little weird because I also don’t really believe in sugar-coating things. So, there lies my counselor’s favorite issue of mine. We spent a lot of time on one issue, the oh so fun “when people are big, and God is small” [if you haven't read the book, you should].
But 2014, it’s a new year. And for some reason, it feels so much more solid then 2013, or 2012, or 2011, or….you get the picture, it was a real rough patch there. The part that bothered me the most probably wasn’t really the totally out of control feeling of life, it was that I didn’t feel like me and even when I did I managed to feel guilty about it. Which makes me wonder, how often do we put forward a half-hearted attempt of ourselves? Towing the middle of the road so not to offend.
I look ahead to establishing goals. I look ahead to establishing me. The fun, crazy, detail-orientated, kinda insane me. Because I love that me. I love that me that is crazy enough to tell the Madewell clerk that they are vanity sizing, because I sure as heck don’t believe that I’ve lost two pants sizes. I love the me that befriends every food vendor that I talk to. I love the me that consumes a lot of ice cream and an equally larger amount of Mexican Food. I love the me that cries at movies and laughs at every bad joke I hear. I love the me that actually has conversations that start, “no it wasn’t a date, it was just a friendly hangout!” and believes it wholeheartedly.
The simplicity of this thought isn’t anything of major note. It isn’t a life changing discovery and it won’t save the world from the injustices that occur with every second of every day. But it is good. It is the realization that God is ever moving, and ever moving me. That one season of life grows and develops you for the next season of life and that pattern will continue on for as long as I hope to breathe breath.
Me today, in essentials, isn’t much different than the me of yesterday. But the walls are being chipped away in the most unlikely places and in even more unlikely ways. It is the reminder that I am not in control, and by being okay with that, I allow myself to be moved. And while it can be terrifying to not know what is next, I do know that no matter what, it will be worth it.
The fear was then. Real life is now.
“Worldly is that which is sensual, that which stimulates, titillates or inflames the flesh. This includes many dating activities such as kissing, touching (forerunners to sex), petting (sex with your clothes on), or dancing (sex with your clothes on standing up). It also includes how you dress. Certain dress and hairstyles are sensual because they make a sexual statement and stimulate the flesh. Christian young ladies need to understand that certain sensual dress and frizzy hairstyles say to a boy, “Try me, I might. ” They are a subtle offer of sex. That is what makes them popular and exciting, isn’t it?”
You guys, I have slutty hair. Words I never thought I would speak. I mean obviously I must think then all the time, cause when you have slutty hair, what else can you think.
The above came to me third hand, a friend of a friend has a mom that writes a uber-conservative mom blog. It is full of stories about not letting your kids date, how they shouldn’t be alone with their significant others before they wed, and other things that make me cringe. This however was the best statement. I mean, you guys, if this is true I may need to reconsider aspects of my life.
First, I dance.
I dance a lot. I love taking class. My life was ballet from a young age through my early 20s. Now it’s all sorts of stuff: jazz, lyrical, contemporary, pop, belly dance, jazz burlesque (Yeah, take a moment and digest that last one). And let me tell you, me in my t-shirt and yoga pants, I am just leading people astray left and right. At no point when dancing, do I think I am having sex standing up fully clothed. I mean first, cause it’s just me in a class full of people and second, that would be totally awkward and totally not PG at all. Sometimes, when going out dancing there are other people, and in my world those are church people. If dancing was having sex, standing up, fully clothed, do you know how awkward it would be to pass the peace on Sunday. “The peace of the Lord be with you, also sorry if we had fully clothed sex on a dance floor last night.” Yeah, no. I don’t deny that some people get a little out of hand on a dance floor, and I really don’t deny that actual sex probably happens on dance floors. But that isn’t the norm, it’s the exception.
Second, frizzy hair.
I’m going to be honest, I wish my hair said, “try me, I might.” I would get way more dates if that was the case. I mean, it would be amazing! That invitation may be all come hither, but the key to “try me, I might” is that it can also include, “I might shut you down” and in my world, clearly I’m shutting you down. Pretty much I love it so. I have come hither hair! How can that be bad?
But mostly, I just laugh at our fascination with these things, especially in the church. Because I, according to the conservative set somewhere in America, am one step away from being the loose women of the night that I studied in college. No it wasn’t a training course, just the history of Europe. My hair does a decent come hither and my dancing is setting me up for a fall. Neither of those are even close to the truth. I feel most at peace when I am in dance. And well, the hair I can’t do anything about, it just grows that way. I mean, I could spend a lot of money to change it, but that just isn’t in the budget because, well, I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I work for a non-profit dance studio.
Funny how that works out.