“I can do it slowly, without music, when I’m alone in my studio”, I told my Bellydancing teacher Julz as she showed me for the millionth time how to move my feet for the Turkish Shimmy Half Turn.
“One, two, turn, turn,” I repeat over and over to my feet in a whisper, hoping they’ll hear.
There is so much more to this dancemove, but the feet have to become automatic, then I can work on the rest of it. So I’m practicing, hoping that when I get to class and the music is playing and the dancer I’m following moves smoothly into a Turkish Shimmy Half Turn, my feet will remember.
When I get discouraged, I think of how I keep hearing how healthy it is for our brains to keep learning something new. How learning to move my body in this way, a way I never moved it before or even imagined I could, is sparking nuerons in my brain, carving new pathways, keeping my brain guessing and engaged.
I’m actaully practicing three of the many things I’ll someday be doing when I get the Turkish, I’m practing moving my feet, keeping my posture and spotting (which is turning my head and looking at where I’m going before I get there, to keep from getting dizzy.)
And throught it all, I’m givng my brain, as well as my body, a work-out.
Here’s a video of what the Turkish Shimmy with quarter and half turns looks like:
I don’t know what it is about Bellydancing, but every time dance I feel better. It happened again tonight and I’m just hoping I can hold onto this feeling.
Ever since I started accepting monthly donations on my blog I’ve been out of sorts. Sometimes it’s worse than others. My anxiety, which felt like it had been gradually dissipating over the years has come back full force. And it’s not just that I’m anxious, it depletes my confidence and self-worth.
It feels equally emotional and physical which makes me wonder if it isn’t partially menopausal. The last couple of days have been the worse as if my old insecure self has risen up, like a zombie out of its grave and taken me over.
I’ve been trying to understand it, to figure it out, by doing the things I’ve learned to do when I feel this way. By talking about it, walking, doing my work, meditating and going inside myself and asking for help.
And I think I do understand what triggered this bout of anxiety.
It has to do with my beliefs that I shouldn’t really be able to succeed. That success is for other people, not me. And if I found myself doing well, I should take a step back and make room for someone else to succeed.
I learned as a girl, never to do better at anything, than boy. And as I grew older, until I met Jon, I found that my doing well was met by anger, ridicule, and dismissal from the men in my life. I also had a mother and a good part of society reinforcing this belief.
So, this fear of doing well, of succeeding is a part of me on a very instinctual level.
Talking to Jon about it this morning, I feel like I came to understand it a little bit better. And later as I meditated on it in my studio, I felt strength, through words, rising in me.
I am Maria Wulf, I said out loud, I am an artist, I am responsible for my life.
I repeated these words again and again. As if introducing me to myself for the first time.
Because that’s what if felt like.
As if I hadn’t caught up with who I am now. My old self and new self weren’t integrated. There wasn’t one Maria living inside my body and mind, but two. And they were at odds with each other.
I drove to my bellydancing class hopefully, knowing how good I feel when I dance, repeating out loud, the words that came to me in meditation.
I’m at a threshold I thought to myself. If I go back it’s like death, if I stay where I am now, it’s purgatory, a no man’s land, oscillating between darkness and hope. But if I cross the threshold I get to live my life more fully. With all the joy and disappointment, courage and responsibility that it takes. A life that frightens me so much I can’t even imagine it.
And now after an hour and forty-five minutes of dance class, I feel, for the first time in weeks, like myself again. Like the person I’ve become in the last 10 years, not the person I used to be before that.
My mind and body are clear, free from anxiety.
I feel like I worked my way to becoming aware of the threshold I’ve been living under for the past few weeks and that tonight, dancing, I stepped through it, onto the other side.
“Do you think I can hold onto it.” I asked Jon as we ate dinner. “This is who I really am, I feel like me again. Maybe I need to dance every day. I’ll write myself a note that says, Fucking Dance Maria! to remind me.”
I know it’s not just one thing.
There isn’t an easy solution, no magical thinking, no silver bullet. Anxiety knows where and how to find me, it probably always will. But I’ve added Bellydancing to my list of things to do when I feel myself start to slip away.
Maybe dancing balances some chemicals in my body, or maybe it’s the class itself, the comradery, feeling safe and welcome like I belong, even though dancing doesn’t come naturally to me.
I imagine it’s both and everything else that’s good and fulfilling in my life.
I’m going to go to bed now. I’ll ask for a dream that will help me imagine what’s on the other side of the threshold. I’m not looking for a rainbow and a pot of gold, but maybe some understanding and acceptance of who I’ve become, who I really am now.
I woke up slowly, the morning sun softly lighting up the windows in the bedroom. Jon is alway awake long before me, usually reading the news or a book. “What time is it?” is ask, my eyes closed again.
It’s always somewhere between 6:40 and 7am, then I try to remember what day it is. Today and every Thursday, Jon answers, kind of gleefully, “It’s Bellydancing day”.
Bellydancing has entered our lives like a new animal on the farm. Not a puppy, more like an cat who lives outside, but has a presence strong enough to permeate the house.
Jon seems to enjoy how I’ve taken to Bellydancing almost as much as I enjoy doing it. He’s an advocate and encourager. Because he see’s what it does for me, how it boosts my confidence and belief in myself and my body. I always feel better when I get home from class, no matter how I felt when I left. And me being in a good mood, is better not only for me, but for Jon too.
Last week I took the choker that Melinda sent me (along with so many other beautiful pieces of Bellydancing jewelry) to Heather at the bead shop in town. It was a little to big, so Heather put a smaller sterling silver chain on the back with a carnelian bead to match the stones on the front of the choker.
Now it fits perfectly and I love the way it feels and looks on my neck.
I wore it to class last week and Kathleen pointed out how when you wear a special piece of jewelry like that it actually helps you hold your head higher and keep your neck long.
And I know what she means. Wearing the choker made me feel like I was worthy of it. And that feeling affected my body posture. And because it’s heavy around my neck, it makes it’s presence known.
Melinda’s choker a demanding piece of jewelry that wants to be noticed and admired.
Until now I’ve been reluctant to own or wear too much bellydancing clothes or jewelry. I have this feeling that I need to earn it. I didn’t want to dress the part, without being able to actually do it.
But I’m also seeing how there are times when the costume can help with the dance. Like how the sound and movement of the the coins, on the coin belt, tell me about my own movements, especially when I shimmying. And like the feeling of the choker around my neck.
Melinda also gave me a silver snake armband that I haven’t had the guts to wear yet, but I’ll get there. I have a feeling that it will have its own power and I’ll learn something from it too.
I’m sitting on the front porch, Flo is laying next to me on the wicker bench, there’s a breeze blowing the bamboo shades which are blocking the sun, back and forth and the sound of cars going by on Route 22.
I’m thinking about how I feel about Bellydancing yesterday at the Farmers Market. I want to write about it in a way that conveys the what I’m feeling, because I know it’s important, but I’m still not sure exactly how I do feel about it.
So I sit here asking myself… How do you feel about Bellydancing Maria?
Then I remember how last night I felt like it was “another me” who danced on stage.
It had to be “another me” because the person I’ve been my whole life would never have done what I did yesterday. That person could never even clap to the beat of song, could never move her feet or body the way I did yesterday. She never let anyone see her belly, actually spent her whole life being ashamed of her stomach, which she was told, was never flat enough.
And for as long as I can remember, until I met Jon, I was made to feel, first by my parents then by my ex-husband, ashamed of my own femininity and the power of it.
But right now, I’m not feeling like there’s two versions of me, I feel like the genie has been let out of the bottle. And she’s not going back in.
The words that come to mind are self possessed.
So I looked them up. My dictionary says…calm, confident, and in control of one’s feelings; composed. That’s sounds right.
Bellydancing with Kathleen, Kat, Callie, and Trish yesterday was like walking through a portal. Like stepping into the mirror and realizing that I had been living on the wrong side.
I think, yesterday, I danced myself into my own skin.
I was doing so many things for the first time, dancing in front of an audience, dancing with a group of women I admire, showing my naked belly and wearing makeup. But, not for a moment, was I uncomfortable with who I was and what I was doing.
This doesn’t mean I did everything right. I didn’t. I did plenty of things wrong. But it’s not about right and wrong. It’s about doing and learning. Constantly.
Now I’m thinking of my mistakes with genuine curiosity, not judgment. And that is another completely new experience for me.
I don’t know what it is about Bellydancing that has made this possible.
Maybe it has something to do with the movement releasing certain chemical in the body. Maybe it’s the ancient ritual of the dance. I’m curious to understand it better, but I don’t need to know “why”. I’m already a believer.
I’ll write more about Bellydancing at the Farmers Markets yesterday later. But for now here’s a video that Jon took. Some of you may have seen it already on Jon’s blog.
I was thrilled to dance with Kathleen McBrien, Kat Farnham, Callie Raspuzzi and Trish Gardner. I was a wonderful experience for me and I’m needed some time to fully absorb it all before writing about it.
We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day, in the low seventies, then, just as we were finishing up the last dance it began to rain.
“Remember,” Kathleen, our teacher said before we began the performance, “Have fun, don’t get hurt and have fun.”
There were a few things I wanted to change about my costume after our dress rehearsal last night in Bellydancing class. So this afternoon I dressed up adding some things and changing others.
Now I feel confident with my outfit and will be ready to get into it tomorrow morning.
I still have to try out the makeup. I got some more makeup this morning after talking to some of the women in my class last night. They gave me tips about things like how to keep the makeup from running when I get sweaty.
I’m thinking of dancing tomorrow as a kind of exorcism, as a way of dancing my old body image away. Somehow, that idea helps keep me from getting too nervous.
But I’m also thinking about the women I’m dancing with. This has less to do with me and more to do with us dancing together. That’s the miracle of bellydancing for me, the way we need and depend on each other to dance. We can’t do it alone. And I’m looking forward to being a part of that.
I’m going to go and work on my make up now. I’ll keep doing it till I’m comfortable with it. Till I feel confident that tomorrow morning I’ll be able to wake up, get dressed, put on my makeup and feel good about it all as I drive into Bennington Vermont.
Jon will be taking some pictures and video, so I’ll write all about it and post some pictures on Sunday.
I’ll be dancing with the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancers tomorrow at the Bennington Farmers Market in Bennington Vermont from 10am-1pm.
After a glass of wine for me, and scotch for Jon, then ice cream, with make-up on my face, Jon and I decided to do a podcast. It was 9:30 pm, not our usual time for this kind of work.
We talk about Bellydancing (which is top of mind with me) and the farm and animals. We talk about Bud and our new found trust in him and what the next steps with Zelda, our aging sheep will be. We also talk about caring for the pastures and the book Never Home Alone by Rob Dunn.
So come and listen to our night time podcast called Bellydancing Week. You can listen to it here.
You can also listen to any of our podcasts, anytime, by clicking on podcast buttons at the top and bottom of my blog.
I don’t wear make-up. I have never worn make-up. Never, in my whole life.
I don’t know how to buy it, I don’t know how to put it on. But on Saturday, when I dance with the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancers, I’ll be wearing make-up and it has to look good.
Kat (aka Kitty), my friend who introduced me to Bellydancing, gave me a little bag stuffed with make-up in December when my Bellydancing class had our holiday Hafla. I wore the costume and the turban for that, but I skipped the make-up.
Someday, I thought to myself then, just not right now.
Six months later and now it’s “Someday“. So last night I got out the little bag of make-up that Kat gave me and started drawing on my face. Then I spit on a tissue and used it to rub all the make-up off.
I needed YouTube.
I chose a video where a woman, was applying eyeliner. I paused the video before she began curling her eyelashes, but got a few pointers and most of all realized that the lines didn’t have to be perfect.
Then I took the bag of make-up into the brightly lit bathroom and tried again and again and again.
I looked at the pictures of the women I dance with every week, in full make-up, on the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancing website, and copied what they did.
It was the eyeshadow that made me feel old.
It seemed to bring out my wrinkles in a way that made me feel like I was trying to cover them up. I felt like an unsuccessful Cross-dresser. Because Cross-dressing is supposed to make a person feel more comfortable in their skin, not less.
I sent a picture of myself to my friend Suzy, who just happened to text me. “Well, just do what your comfortable with, she wrote back, if it’s not fun or enjoyable then keep finding what works.”
Jon said I looked like a Madi Gras Hooker. I took that as the compliment it was. But I won’t dwell there.
I like Suzy’s advice.
So, before class this evening, I’ll go back to the bathroom with my make-up bag and try to find what works for me. First I’m going to check out YouTube again and see if it’s best to put the eye shadow on first, or the eyeliner. There’s also some cover make-up in the bag, maybe I’ll get brave and see how that works too.
I knew I had to have one. I have enough of those little travel sewing kits around, it was just a matter of finding it.
It was the first thing that came to my mind when I started thinking about things to sew on my coin bra.
There was one in the sewing box (a shoe box covered in contact paper) that my grandmother gave me when I was five years old. At the time I couldn’t understand why it was easier to fit the thin loop of metal through the eye of a needle and use it to pull the thread thought the eye. Just threading the needle seemed easier to me.
Now I get it.
I Imagine that the one my grandmother gave me was made of a something heavier than the thin aluminum one I eventually found in the sewing kit stuck in the back of my desk drawer. But it still has the woman’s profile (I wonder who she is) embossed on the part you hold between two fingers.
It was easy to punch a hole in the thin metal of the needle threader with my scissor, then sew it onto my coin bra.
This is how I spent a lot of my time last week. Obsessing about what I could sew onto my coin bra.
I usually wear two different earrings, so I don’t really need two of each. Now half my earrings decorate my coin bra. I finally found a function for the tiny brass lock and key that was in the house when we moved in. I took apart necklaces, went though my button box and have a few more places in the house, my studio and car to search for just the right medals.
My coin bra is beginning to feel like a fetish.
How can it not, with all the positive, personal energy I’m imbuing it with.
It’s been a long time since I’ve worn a bra. I gave it up in high school as a symbol of feminist freedom (I was too young to be around for bra burning but was aware of it) and for comfort. But now it takes on new meaning.
Last night during Bellydancing class I wore two long skirts, my pantaloons, my coin bra over a cholie and my water shoes (we won’t be able to dance barefoot on the plywood stage), much of what I’ll be dancing in next Saturday at the Bennington Farmers Market. After a half hour work out, Callie walked up to me and told me my breast was hanging out of my cholie and coin bra.
“Well I said, tucking her back in, better here than at the Farmers Market.
Then Trish came over and helped me tie my cholie so tight I could barely breathe. And Emily looked for some extra ribbons to cross tie the straps on the coin bra to keep it from rising up.
Perhaps my breasts were protesting being confined, after being free for so long. Except that the coin bra doesn’t feel confining. It’s just the opposite really. It’s like my Yes/No Dress covered in carpet tacks.
When I’m Bellydancing, I’m reclaiming my body, putting it out into the world in the way I choose. No one can tell me how it should look or what I should or shouldn’t be doing with it.
Standing on tip toes, I pulled the clothes line towards me then pinned the pink gauze on it. Even though there was half a waxing moon, it was still unusually dark out.
I was hoping to make the pantaloons, but forgot I had to pre shrink the fabric. Jon and I had just gotten back from a trip to Joann Fabric in Glens Falls where I got the pink gauze and the silk flowers (which I’ll wear in my hair).
In less than two weeks, I’ll be Bellydancing at the Bennington Farmers Market with the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers. The same women that I practice with and learn from every week.
I’ve been listening to the music we’ll be dancing to, practicing my Zilling every day, and thinking about and preparing my costume. Under my two skirts I’ll be wearing pantaloons. Big billowy pants that the audience really only sees when you spin around. But they’re as important a part of the costume as everything else.
Usually I’m fine with buying or borrowing what I need, but I had this impulse to make my own pantaloons.
I found a pattern online and they look easy enough to make. So last night I bought three yards of pink gauze fabric (my friend and fellow bellydancer, Kat, said gauze would be the coolest since it will most like be hot at the Farmers Market dancing with all those clothes on).
Even though I really wanted to make the pantaloons last night, I liked the idea of letting them dry overnight in the moon light. Soaking in her light.
Back in my studio I worked on my coin bra. Jon bought that for me, but in our class and many other ATS classes, the coin bra is something unique to each person. (Kathleen, one of my teachers, told me that one woman she knew used all her cats old rabies tags on her coin bra) So I’m removing some of the brass coins the bra came with and replacing them with pieces metal that have meaning for me.
I’m not nervous about the idea of dancing at the Farmers Market, not yet anyway.
Maybe because I’m too busy thinking about getting ready for it. I’m sure I will be nervous on that Saturday morning, though I’m going to try to turn any fear I’m feeling into excitement. I realized a while ago that my body reacts the same to both, so if I can choose what I’m feeling, I’d rather it be excitement than fear.
I’m planning on making the pantaloons today, I’ll post a picture of them, no matter how they turn out, when I do.
And if you’re in the Bennington, Vermont area, on Saturday, June 22nd between 10am and 1pm, come see us dance at the Bennington Farmers Market.