I brought my beautiful girl, Arayla (10.5) with me to Ecstatic Dance in Oakland today, for the first time in a couple of years, as it's often one of my only kid-free spaces. It was so sweet having her with me today; both of us doing our own separate thing in the space -- her running around the room playing with a longtime soul sister, as I enjoyed stretching, moving, breathing, praying my dance prayers.
Hours later, as we drove home up North, I asked her: "What was your favorite part of dance today?" She was quiet, considering. Then she said: "I think my favorite part was watching you DANCE, Mom." This took me by such sweet surprise, and I responded: "Really? Why's that?" She shrugged, smiling, then said: "You're just SO together with yourself."
Laughing, (considering how not together with myself I often am), yet appreciating her word choice, I repeated: "I'm just SO together with myself?" She nodded: "Yes. I watched you just dance right out to the middle of the floor, so inside your body. I could see in your dance your love for being in your body, your being so comfortable inside your own skin, and it was amazing! It was really inspiring for me, Mom." Genuinely moved, I reached for her hand and squeezed it, saying: "Thank you so much for that reflection my love. That is truly beautiful to hear. Especially coming from YOU."
We rode on in silence, and I reveled at the gift of this mirroring from my daughter. To model true self-love and authentic body-joy for my tween-age girl as she sits on the brink of womanly metamorphosis; this feels revolutionary. For this to be what she noticed when she watched me? My comfort and ease and delight in my own flesh? This feels like a huge WIN. A win for this lifetime. A win for my generation, and hers. A win for our relationship. A win for our grandmothers and our unborn grandchildren. A win for womanhood and sisterhood. A win for this culture. A win for the future.
Especially considering how many years I struggled to find my way to peace with my body. Through intense childhood illness, medical invasion, and the severe neurological issues these left me with, causing me to wear leg braces for years; through layers of self-hatred and shame, the feeling of having a "broken body," through receiving the ancestral torch of thin-obsessed, fat-phobic, curve-banning consciousness, alongside aggressive cultural imprints of poison towards the feminine body. All of this contributed to the painful disassociation and unhealthy body image I struggled with, as I know so many of us have, for a very long time.
But starting at 20 years old I began to work against the odds by choosing to fully incarnate into this holy human woman flesh. It took years and years of healing, of dancing, of yoga, of grieving, of forgiving, of ritualistic self-embrace -- to counteract and dismantle the toxic remnants of this personal and cultural dis-ease of disembodiment. It wasn't easy. The imprints were strong, deeply-rooted, and tempting to believe in. Yet I continuously chose to find my way back IN to my feminine body, back home to self-cherishing, home to this temporary body of Love, that is so sweet, soft, strong, and loveable beyond belief.
I remember when I was pregnant for the first time, carrying my long-awaited daughter inside my body, and as she grew rounder and longer I could feel her little feet pressing up against my insides. I knew she was a girl, a woman in the making, and I prayed and prayed that she would be spared the torch of body misperception. I was terrified by the thought that somehow I might pass to this precious little girl any lingering body-ambivalence still inside me. It became an imperative that this pattern would end with me.
I remember how I begged Spirit: May it end here! It doesn't go to her! You understand? It ends here! I was fierce as I prayed, protecting her innocent right to self-love, and I saw that she would be the first in a long line of women to fully and truly love her own body, her femininity, her fleshly beauty, her sexuality, with unapologetic self-celebration.
And I know we still have the adolescent years ahead, with the many forces of peer influence and cultural brain-wash that will try to have its way with her tenderly impressionable self-perception. And I know I cannot protect her from the lessons she's here to learn.
But today we had a WIN. Today she watched me, the woman she came from, to whom she still looks up with eyes of awe, respect and admiration, and saw me authentically exposed in self-love, deeply at home in my woman flesh and embodied joy: "I could see in your dance your love for being in your body... and it was amazing!"
Yes my love, it is amazing. Truly amazing.
Photo credit (of Jesua and her daughter): Lone Morch
To find out more about Jesua, her writings and other offerings, please visit jesua.com