Dear Ladies…

Dance has always been a constant in my life. I have been dancing since I was 4 years old. And I have never stopped.

Belly Dance is where I found my happy place. I have been Belly Dancing since 2003. In the past 16 years, I have lost weight, gained weight and lost it again. I am older. I am not in my 20’s anymore. In fact, I am in my late 30’s.

I still love dance. My body may not look like it did in my 20’s, though I am still in pretty good shape. My hair color has changed. My age has increased—but guess what—I still love dance. Belly Dancing has taught me a lot of things. First and foremost, it taught me to love and appreciate my body. My body during belly dance, expresses my emotions, fears, and joys.

I have no desire to stop. Just because I do not fit into society’s image of an “ideal body” doesn’t mean I am going to stop doing what I love. As a professional belly dancer I know what society thinks I should be– but fuck that.  Its taken me years to love my body, regardless of where the hell I am on the scale. And I will be the first person to admit, that sometimes, I have moments of insecurities-then I remember– I am a badass. I dance with snakes and sharp pointy things!

You should never stop dreaming or doing what you love because you are fat, skinny, short or tall. You are you. Love you and love your body. Its where your soul lives. Express yourself through movement and art. You do not have to fit into a fucking societal box of judgment.

Its time we stop comparing ourselves to others and learn to love who we are. Why is it so easy to forget? We are all different for a reason. Anyone who judges you and your talent based on your body can fly into the no-fucks-given bucket.

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What IS Happiness?

I have struggled with this question for most of my adult life. What does it really mean to be happy? Is anyone truly happy? Or are we just content? Is happiness a permanent state of mind or is it something that happens in little spurts?

I am not unhappy but I am also not happy. I know that makes zero sense. I am happy right now with my life; however, I am always looking for that “something more.” Maybe it’s just my personality– but I find that things and places get old for me fast.

 I am always looking for the next big adventure, meeting new people, stardownloadting a new hobby and of course, being a life long learner. And all while I am chasing this idea of happiness- I am also craving stability and normalcy. I am seeking happiness in just being content with myself and my life. 

I often find myself jealous of people who seem content in their lives. Married, with a family in a little home and jobs they love. What is that like? But then I have to question– are they really happy?

What defines happiness?

Money? Love? A home? A job? Marriage? or is happiness something much more? Do we trick ourselves into believing that happiness are all the things we are supposed to have and want in life? Or is happiness just something we occasionally experience? Is true happiness deeper or spiritual? 

And is anyone really happy?

A Soap Box Moment

Ok. I need to stand on a soapbox for a moment. My speech of “I am going to change the criminal justice system” has begun. Or not? Sometimes I think it’s so far gone that change is impossible. Yet, here I am accumulating student loan debt that probably will not get paid off until I am dead.

Let me be frank here: The justice system sets people up for failure.

Sorry, it does.

I work (currently) as a Drug Screen Coordinator at a rehabilitation clinic for recovering drug addicts. It’s not the most exciting job, but it allows me to get a sneak peek on the crappy court system that these patients go through. Now, I am not going to lie. When I started his job, I was like “fuck drug addicts they did it to themselves.” Yeah, me being judgmental. I learned from it though.

Yes, there are patients who will more than likely be repeating and repeating rehab for years. You can tell the ones that are only there because the court ordered them to be there to avoid jail time and not that they really want to change themselves.

But then there are the ones who are working their asses off, following rules and doing everything they can to start over again. However, the stories I hear piss me off so bad that I would love to just go to court with these people and tell the judge a thing or to (not that thats his/her fault.)

Here are just a few:

A patient was in a court-ordered rehabilitation class. She was wearing grey shorts and got her period. She asked the instructor if she could leave. The instructor told her if she leaves, then she will be marked incomplete. Her choice was just to sit there and bleed through her clothes or leave the class to put in a tampon and have a mark against. She left of course. And at her next court hearing, she had to explain to a room full of people on how she got her period and had to leave.

A patient is a single mother and low income and can’t afford a sitter. She has to come in and do a drug test. She brings her 3-month-old baby to the clinic, and because we are not allowed to watch the baby while she does her drug test, she gets marked incomplete. Meanwhile, there are six staff members who could have easily watched her baby for the 5 minutes it takes her to do her drug screen.

Another patient is ready to complete his rehabilitation with our clinic. He is still on probation and will have to report to his probation officer for drug screens. Mind you, this patient is working a full-time job and getting his shit together. Our clinic is open from 6a-6p so patients who work have time to come in and do their thing. Now he is on probation and they only do drug screen check-ins from 10a-4p. So this guy who is finally working and getting on his feet now has to leave randomly during his workday to see his probation officer. If he doesn’t, well….back to prison.

These are just a few examples of how the justice system sets people up for failure. It’s frankly not fair. One on hand they expect them to better themselves, and on the other hand,  they fuck with their opportunities to get their shit together.

Can this be fixed? I have no idea. But I can tell you, I will do whatever I can to help people recover and get their lives back in order….somehow…..

 

My New Book

It is small. It took me over a year. But it is done!

Grave Spirits contains a collection of my writing (some published some not) pertaining to death, ancestors, death rites, voodoo and more!

It also contains a bunch of my photography of various cemeteries that I have visited over the years.

If anything! I hope this book makes you a death positive person!

You can purchase it here!

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Grief

Back in September, I lost a very close friend, teacher, and mentor. I had known him for over 17 years. It was a hard loss. I allowed myself time to grieve. I was able to obtain copies of his writings in hopes to s3e11eea45850e506a164770fcad895cf--cemetery-angels-cemetery-statuesomeday carry on his memory and teachings. And thankfully, I was fortunate enough to let him know how important he was to me before he passed away.

It was not easy for me to lose someone so close to me, and I understood the importance of grief. Making sure that not only I honored his memory, but also making sure I was taking care of myself.

The other night I attended a Witches Ball which held an ancestor ceremony to honor those who have passed. As a death positive advocate, anything that honors and recognizes not only death but the death of those closest to us. This was my first ancestor ritual since the passing of my friend. I was fine up until the point where I had to light a candle on the altar. Then it was like the wound opened up wide.

My tears would not stop flowing. In our circle, we yelled the names of our loved ones. I never thought that it would be my friend’s name coming out of my mouth. Especially since in 2005, when I lost a dear friend to domestic violence, he did a special ritual just for her. He knew how much pain I was in and gathered everyone together to hold a ceremony for a person he didn’t even know. And there I was, lighting a candle and shouting his name.

It broke the flood gates for me. It all came rushing it. Grief is weird like that. Even for someone who acknowledges and appreciates death in all aspects. I understand the nature of grief. It ebbs and flows– but never makes it easier.

I recently had a patient whose grandmother passed away. She was in the office inconsolable. I hugged her and said how sorry I was, but I also told her how important it was that she grieves. A week later she showed up looking cheerful and happy. I asked her how she was feeling. She said that she was doing great. She had taken a second job the day after her grandmother died and had been to busy to grieve. She hadn’t allowed herself to feel the pain of loss. She covered it up by intentionally making herself busy. I reminded her that she needed to take the time to remember and honor her grandmother. That it is unhealthy not grieve.

Why are we so afraid to allow ourselves to feel the pain of loss? The death of one we love is a pain that will never go away. And that pain creeps up out of nowhere. And it sucks. But its what we need to do to honor our loved ones and turn our pain into something so much more.