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.
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.
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.
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, starting 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?
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 someday 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.