July 17, 2010
I started this blog a year ago on my birthday, so happy birthday, Introspection Dance! As I reread some of my blog posts, I realized what an adventure this past year has been, and I wanted to commemorate it.
It has been a year of growth, renewal, change and adventure! I hope to grow even more in the coming years and continue to learn about myself and people around me as I become the woman God designed me to be.
I started this blog because 1) I like to write, and wanted to start making my writing style more publishable, which I did accomplish getting a few reviews published in student papers. And 2) I was at another very trying time and transitional time of life last year that I hoped by writing about it I could be of encouragement to others. While I began this as a very personal blog, I have strayed away from writing about many personal issues while I studied abroad this spring and blogged about my travels for my friends back home. Honesty and openness are my aims however, whatever the topic.
I have achieved some things in the past year that I expected, and some very good things that I did not expect. Let this be only an encouragement to my dear friends that your situation is never hopeless, that God does indeed grow us and change us for the better, but we don’t always see it. Sometimes all it takes is stopping to reflect to see God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives. I don’t intend to brag to build myself up here, but what I do brag about, I give honor and thanks to my God for allowing me to do so this far.
Praise God! This time last year I was still having my small group girls pray for me to conquer an eating disorder I had struggled with off and on since I was a young dancer. I felt I had to quit dancing for a time, and that was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Spring 2009 was a long 7 months of therapy and heart-crushing openness I never thought I could do, but through it all, God freed me from something I had been trying to fix myself for years. I can recall hours spent crying and feeling alone, and crying out to God to take it away from me, but somehow I was never willing to give it up completely to Him. He had to humble me before I could give it up. I had found my identity in my dancing and my talent for too long.
Last year I felt miserable at myself for getting so out of shape and not maintaining my dance career. I felt embarrassed and wouldn’t even tell people I had been a professional ballerina. I didn’t feel pretty and I didn’t feel worth anything not being a dancer. I had wondered what is was like to be normal, and now I was normal: studying at university, trying to keep my head above water, paying my bills and working late nights at the coffee shop. Before I make it sound all grim and gray, let me say that I discovered joy that I had never felt before in the last couple years while my dance career that was so important to me slipped away before my eyes; I found health and healing through friends, prayer and professional help. Although I was stressed, the burden of living up to people’s expectations was lifted; I no longer had to compete with the girls (bodies) next to me to be worth something, I made true friends in a place where I never wanted to live in the first place (Columbia, SC), I laughed a lot and let myself go maybe a bit too much, but I felt life that I hadn’t felt in years. It still puzzles me – that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, wasn’t where I wanted to be, and certainly didn’t look the way I wanted to look, yet I felt more joyful than I had been while I was pursuing the career I wanted.
At one extremely difficult month last summer, I decided ‘I have to quit ballet for my health.’ I didn’t want to. I didn’t even believe what I said, but it was easy to stop going to class because I had already seceded my responsibility to the dance company. I changed my priorities on the outside; I told people I was just going to be an English major, and maybe write about dance and the arts to stay in touch with it, but on the inside my heart was breaking. It still is breaking to dance. Over a year later, I am just finding the freedom to dance again – just dance – because I love it, and not care what I look like or if I am good enough or if I will look slim enough onstage. Anymore, I just appreciate getting the chance to dance, because it is who I am. The desire God set in my heart is still there. I cannot keep denying it. I chose what I felt I needed to – my mental, physical, and spiritual health over my career and identity as a dancer. Although I was scared to death that it might mean giving up dancing for good, but how could a who God healed me and set me free want that for me?
I still worry that I will not ever dance professionally again, and I have come to accept it, but that flame of my dancing heart is still flickering inside me, and I am beginning to feed the fire again with new logs, and in a different way. The only dancing I do now is not in pointe shoes on marley floor in a massive mirrored studio with other dancers, a ballet master, and a pianist; no, you will find me outside in my trainers and gym shorts and shirt in a secluded area of the park or the street where no one can see me, or in a studio room by myself with bare feet and the lights off, flailing myself around to the tunes on my iPod as the music transforms to movement in my body. It makes me happy and it makes me feel alive. It makes me grateful that I still have two legs and two arms, and it makes me want to praise my God. I have a wise friend who told me over a year ago when I was in despair, ‘be patient. God will give your dancing back to you.’ I may have to accept it might not be in the way I want it to be, and it may never be onstage again, but I believe that my God is pleased when he sees me happy and praising him.
I grew a lot during my time in Leeds in terms of my worshipful attitude of the Lord. As far as the dancing goes, I learned most about myself and dancing over this past year not in a studio, or onstage, not even in the audience of a theatre or at ballroom or swing dancing class, but at church. I always despised the idea of dance in worship or ‘interpretive dancing’, deeming it not an educated and proper form of dance. People from my church growing up tried to tell me I should dance during the worship songs. Some still do. Even if I feel moved to dance in worship, I feel self-conscious. Not until I came to this church in Leeds did I feel in a comfortable enough setting to break out of my shell and start dancing during worship to the Lord on a Sunday morning. I do it in my house while no one is looking, why not on Sunday during worship? I am there to worship God, not to worry about what people think of me. I graduated over my six months in Leeds to getting up and moving into the back of the congregation or the pews where I didn’t think anyone would notice me to move to the worship. It’s not great dancing, by any means, but it’s natural to me, the most natural way to worship. I may say I don’t want to draw attention to myself in worship service, but perhaps I am still scared of what people will think of me, or that I’m not up to the caliber of performing. Those are things I need to work through and let God grow me, because, as an elder at City Church Leeds encouraged me: ‘When you’re ready, dance in front where everyone can see you.’ My immediate reaction was to grimace and shake my head. Instead I cried. He said I blessed and encouraged him from the front where he was playing guitar where he could see me in the back, waving my arms in the air to my God. I must look silly, I admit, but as long as God thinks I look beautiful, I am dancing for Him, and I will keep on dancing.