You Are Worthy

As 2019 exits its way to a new year, I always reflect on what I learned over the past 365 days. The biggest less I learned was to value my self worth– and to not be afraid to walk away from situations (and people) who don’t.

Oddly enough, when it comes to my dance career, I always knew my worth. And it’s why over the past 15 years I have been able to essentially have my own successful business as a Belly Dancer. For the most part, I have the entrepreneurial stuff down pretty well. When a gig request comes in, I know what my value is. Its years of dance classes, rehearsals, performances. Its years of directing and producing and choreographing. When I give a quote, 90% of it is my value. I do not negotiate my rates. I do not do performances for “exposure.” I am a  professional performer. I am an artist. And while people do not always understand artists — we do expect to get paid for our worth and work.

When it came to my everyday life, I had such a hard time excepting my worth. I found myself falling into the habit of being putting myself down. I have always been hard on myself. I was raised to be a perfectionist. But I never learned to value my worth. 2019 changed that. Almost 20 years working in the same field, I knew my education and experience were worth a lot more than what was being offered. It took the entire year for me to finally find the right place and the right people who saw my value.

I also learned that there are people who will not recognize your worth.  I am not talking about monetary worth. I am talking about people who do not recognize you and your creative abilities, your intellect, your personality, your humor and so much more. I learned that those people are not worth wasting your time on. They do not value you. I’ve taught myself that it’s better to not allow those people to take space in your head. Knowing who you are and what you deserve — what your worth is–its important. And I am grateful that this was the lesson I learned in 2019.

Now…..what does 2020 have to teach me?

The Unattainable

We all have something: a person place or thing that lies just out of our reach. So close that you can touch it with your fingertips and yet it’s so far away. And it not that you couldn’t have it- but just that you can’t. You can’t because after all the wishing, work and desire- it is just not meant to be yours. You relish in your mind, the moment that you have it. Even for a little while. You relish the way it makes you feel. The way you imagine yourself in that place where you always wanted to go. Mending a relationship that was shattered. Holding something/someone in your arms that you can almost feel and smell. Hearing words you wanted to hear. All the magic in the world couldn’t change the fact that what you want you may never get. The proverbial “follow your dreams,” just doesn’t happen. It may to some, but not everyone. We all have an unattainable. And there needs to a moment where you take a breath and accept that the journey has gone as far as it can, and its time to let go.

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Xanax and Caffeine

I am really good at introverting. I think I have surpassed the skills required to be an introvert. Wait? How could I be an introvert? After all, I am a performer. I am a professional dancer. I have performed for audiences between 10 and 500. I am also very outspoken. I say how I feel and fight for what is right. So maybe I am extroverted???

Whether introverted or extroverted, I know one thing for certain: I have an anxiety disorder.

I wake up with it. I go to bed with it. I perform with it. I work with it. It’s always there. Anxiety is a part of me. I am not defined by it. However, I do not believe I would be me if I didn’t have it.

Yes. There are days when my anxiety is so bad, its almost impossible to even walk out the door of my house to go to work. There are days when grocery shopping makes my heart race. There are days when I hate driving because my brain keeps telling me something dangerous is going to happen. Do I BELIEVE that something is actually going to happen? No. But anxiety thinks I should believe it. And that is what helps me live my life with anxiety.

Anxiety makes me want to believe that at any moment, the floor is going to fall out. I experienced this daily. But I do not let it control me. When it tells me something it wants me to believe, I have to mentally challenge myself to realize it’s a lie.

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Do I require benzodiazepines? At one time, I thought I did. I was hooked on Ativan. It was my lifeline. I became dependent on it because my anxiety wanted me to believe that if I didn’t take them- then something was going to happen. It took me years (and therapy) to learn how to control my thoughts and feelings. How to talk myself down from panic attacks. Not that I do not have one here or there. I do. And I do have Ativan to help me. However, I only take it when I really need it. When I can’t control my thoughts. And that’s ok.

There are still days when I have to cancel plans last minute or think it’s just to peoplely out there. I know those days will always come. But I have worked hard to recognize when I am able to talk myself down from a panic attack. I have recognized when my anxiety is trying to make me feel scared- and I have learned how to quiet the noise.

Whether I am introverted or extroverted who knows! What I do know is that learning how to live with anxiety so it doesn’t control my life is what is really important.

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…..