I denied myself the slow, healing pleasure of feminine movement for 31 years.
Ask some of my 20s-era friends if they ever saw me dance, and you would get an earful of stories about me dancing on stage into the early morning hours. After about two alcoholic drinks, I was no stranger to the dance floor at a dive bar or a high-end nightclub. Booty grinding, flirty eye gazing, sweaty drunken bliss. I had my fair share of fun, and I have not an ounce of regret for that period of my life, which served a necessary self-exploratory purpose.
By the time I was in my late 20s, I was annoyed at the other people at the club. Approaching 30, I felt out of place next to the college partiers, and my same-age friends were staying in on Friday night with their boyfriends. I began to admit that grown-ass bitches like myself need eight hours of good sleep, so I was no longer interested in staying up all night nor waking up hungover.
Where else is a girl to go for some hip-swaying fun? I wasn’t entirely comfortable dancing without the liquid courage of a few beers, and the only people dancing during the waking hours were holding up a sign for a $20 haircut at the traffic light. I had an erotic urge in my body to move, but with no space for daytime adults to express this need, I gave up.
Growing up in a hyper conservative, punishment-driven, southern religious environment, I learned to be leery of making mistakes. I believed it was possible to be perfect, or at least I was trying hard enough to always be righteous for fear of being a sinner and subject to life in hell.
Expressing one’s anger, jealousy, frustration, sadness, or other “negative” feelings was not allowed. The physical manifestation of those denied feelings were felt throughout my little childhood body. I lacked even a basic understanding of body awareness for most of my life. I began armoring–a chronic pattern of involuntary tension in the body–probably before my first memory. Jaw clenching, muscle tightening, and rigidity were so normalized, that I was in disbelief when my Network Spinal Analysis chiropractor informed me that I was completely locked-up in the spring of 2019. My shock at her assessment was despite the fact that the height of my armoring-induced chronic pain hit me about seven years earlier, while living in rural Japan. I suffered terrifying pain in my neck and back in my mid-twenties. I drove half an hour once a week down a desolate mountainous road to the middle of nowhere to see a family of ashiatsu therapists who pushed, pulled, poked, and prodded my body to offer me some kind of relief.
Armoring is the body’s natural defense mechanism. It’s the body protecting its core from anticipated injury, an evolutionary response to the signs of danger, including emotional danger. I was especially impacted by perceived danger because I am a Highly Sensitive Person, meaning that my central nervous system is more sensitive to physical, emotional, and social stimuli.
Soon after breaking-up with someone who brought me not an inkling of joy in 2018, I had the epiphany that left me wondering why I felt so worthless. I decided to start therapy with a Hungarian-Canadian woman who happened to be a Jungian psychoanalyst. Every weekend that autumn I woke up and choose a different trail in the redwood forests to go on solo hikes, and I decided on a complete whim to join a pole dancing studio.
The synchronicity of those decisions can only be explained by the power of the unconscious affecting the conscious. I knew exactly what I needed as soon as I slowed down my distracted mind and busybody proclivities. Suppressed desires and ideas were coming to me like a waterfall.
I needed to dance in booty shorts in a safe, daytime space with other women. I was invited to pelvic grinding, hair tossing, self-touching transformation in a weekly class called S Factor. Six months into it, the photo featured above was taken of me at the dance studio.
This is the playful, present feminine that initiated the undoing of decades of armoring. Along with other forms of play and somatic therapies, my mind and body began to slowly open up. I am still hard-wired to armor and get lost in the tunnels of my own mind, but I’m retraining my body how to be.
This is a lifelong journey. I won’t wake up one day and never have to worry about stress-induced physical pain or triggering childhood wounds. Not to mention future traumas. But the quality of my life today is unrecognizable compared to just a couple years ago.