Full of Myself

Sometimes you find two photos that show the arc of an entire story.

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On the left is me at 5 years old, owning the dance floor at my uncle’s wedding. Arms flailing, hips rocking, red patent leather shoes doing…something with the beat. On the right is me at 12. It’s 1990, so I’m wearing pegged jeans, a fuchsia mock turtle neck, and a Swatch watch.

I’m also sporting a look that says I’d like to please just disappear into a hole in the forest floor.

As I approached high school, I tamped down my exuberance and started practicing smallness. I stopped swinging my arms wildly and snort laughing. It wasn’t so much a choice as a creeping posture. Head down, shoulders stooped. I performed impressive contortions to avoid that most terrible of stamps, that I was too much. Or worse, that I was full of myself.

Turns out I had it just a little bit entirely backwards.

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To walk through the garden in late summer is to see what it actually means to be full of yourself. Sunflowers pointing their heads to the sun, milkweed leaves thick with caterpillars, peaches so heavy and sweet that the branches snap under the weight. Look at me, they say, I am feeling myself. I am so full of me.

One of the great gifts of getting older is when old distortions finally rub off to reveal the truth underneath: To live fully, you’ll need to fill up with what you are. This isn’t about perfectionism or comparison, just embrace.

We could call it occupancy or embodiment, but I love full because it turns that old insult right on its head and reclaims it. It replaces a shouldn’t with a yes. In the work I do, in the transformations clients show me daily, there is nothing as luscious or laudable as seeing someone full of who they are.

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How I wish I could wrap my arms around my own young shoulders and say, with much soft tenderness, “This idea that you shouldn’t be full of yourself is 100% bonkers. Girl, let me save you some time and suffering: Be full. Fill up with yourself.”

The arc of this story is, of course, unfolding. But these days when I step out on the dance floor, that wild flailing dancer child comes right along with me. I still may be off beat, but I am full in the movement, and it feels wonderful.


Some exciting updates at Root Therapy:

  • Session packages. Until November 1st, I’m offering session packages online at the current session rate (prices will increase on November 1st). These don’t expire, and you’re welcome to use them at any future date. As always, please contact me if you’d like to schedule.
  • Tending the Self. In this 5-week series, we’ll use breath, movement, creativity, sound and rest to translate some of the Root Therapy session work to creating more ease in our daily lives. Participants will leave with new tools for caring for their own nervous systems. Classes start October 1st and meet weekly from 11am – 12:30pm. Learn more.
  • And! Many folks have enquired about the next Embodied Writing series, which I’m delighted to offer beginning October 17th. Details and registration.

Movements.

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“Activism is not a journey to the corner store; it is a plunge into the unknown. The future is always dark.”
— Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark.

This election, this time. So many of us are surfing between despair and determination, navigating how to help, grieve, get out of the way, get in the way.

The ground shifts and the old tools seem small. Where writing has helped me make sense of things in the past, “making sense” now feels like the wrong frame. Instead, I’m thinking about movements. The kind we make with our bodies, and the ways we move as a collective, mobilizing towards change.

At my wedding, nearly ten years back, I watched my cousin – 20 years old, visiting from Sweden, lanky, towering and fine-boned – step onto a dance floor for the first time. She looked around at all the others, twisting and turning to the music, and… started jumping. Feet together, arms at her side, sailing above the crowd, great unstoppable pogo stick bounds. She danced like this for hours. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, both discovery and arrival. Her face beamed.

My cousin did not wait for instructions, wade into Facebook arguments, wring her hands on the side. I’m in danger of stretching this parable too far, but she was teaching something big: When the music compels you, just go.

If we are committed to movement, we need to move. And rarely are new movements graceful. They are bumbling and unfamiliar and create something we haven’t seen before. We don’t need to wait until we figure it out before we act.

img_1833If we’re stepping into the terrain of social movements, our missteps can be particularly uncomfortable. We’ll screw up in small and large ways and if we’re lucky these mistakes will be brought to our attention. And hopefully, we’ll listen. We’ll listen like children do, not holding the cloak of our egos against us for protection, but letting it in. Trying again. We have to get out on the floor.

What that floor looks like depends on who we are. I’m deeply inspired by what I see around me: healer friends offering sessions by donation, business owners offering profits to the ACLU, people organizing in kitchens and city halls, teachers standing up for the safety of their students.

I don’t know that it’s going to be okay.  But a few questions are helping guide me anyhow:

  • Where do I spend (and not spend) my money to align with what I value?
  • How and where will I gather with other bodies to organize, plot, subvert, protect, create?
  • How can I leverage my privilege in places where it matters?
  • How do I self-correct, learn, go deeper, and account for my mistakes?
  • How will I listen?
  • How will I keep myself resourced and grounded so I can keep doing this work?

There is so much good material out there on what we can do. For a start, I’ll be donating a portion of my December earnings toward the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project and our local Planned Parenthood chapter. I’ll be walking, gathering, and listening, and then I’ll try something different.