I danced with a chair last night. You heard me, a chair. The invitation during the night’s meditation cycle of sit, walk, dance, was to feel into what it is like to be beloved, to know your presence matters to others. And though it was not posed as a question, my mind translated: how would I move if I were certain of being loved? I have little problem with loving myself. That wasn’t always true, but the amount of romance between me-myself-and-I is downright blush-worthy these days. It’s other people’s love I am not always sure of.
As I got ready to leave the first sitting meditation, I almost missed my own quick whisper: take the chair with you. Wait, what? If you really believed you were loved, you would not feel you have to do anything to earn that. You would plop a metaphorical chair down wherever you needed. You would learn to be, and be involved, without doing. Oh.
I can’t tell you how awkward I felt. Not only does a chair have different weight and dimensions than my usual dance partners, but I felt very visible. Carrying the possibility of not working for love, while still asserting my right to take up space, felt dangerous. I was afraid of accidentally poking people with the chair legs, and when I finally picked my moments and my spots to sit, right amidst all the other dancers, I had no idea what to do. In short, it was perfect.
I know it doesn’t sound perfect, but I find myself contemplating another question lately that is closely tied to this one: how do I notice oncoming exhaustion and do something different before it gets here, including possibly leaving? This can apply to exhaustion with people, events, places, or ideas. Needing to earn love is part of why I have little blueprint for how to do that. In this light, I feel mercy flavor my frustration for myself. I’ve been trying to protect what I once viewed as a finite love supply, by running myself into the ground (gotta love perfectionist logic). In this same vein, I realized a few weeks ago that I have been confusing protection for support. Turns out they are not the same thing, though they may be related. I’ve been staying where I feel protected, not seeing that there was little to no UNCONDITIONAL support available–people are surprisingly willing to protect their martyrs, those who have died for the cause, without being willing to step into the lions den with them.
I have however started to change these patterns in recent years. Exhibit A: It took me multiple years to recognize that I was exhausted with both Christianity and public education. Exhibit B: I stayed with my last relationship about a year past the point of being done. Exhibit C: I only stewed in my done-ness with being a flower shop girl this Fall for about a month. I understand much more quickly these days when things aren’t fitting, but I still stay with bad fits for longer than I would care to, feel the need to justify my leaving with, “I did everything I could.” I have trouble softening the rigidity of my thinking when things are “good” and I decide steadfastly to stay forever. I pledged my undying love to the salted caramel ice cream from Rick’s Rather Rich in Palo Alto….somewhere during the first bite? I then ate it for months, till I could barely stand the smell of it.
Thus, I am once again marshaling my creativity to once again face this piece of myself. I am accepting, mostly with gratitude, how many smaller questions and lessons flow into this larger one. I dance with chairs. I stop eating halfway through. I’ve even entertained the possibility of taking a Monday a month away from dance, not to deprive myself, but to allow for things to stay flexible and not dogmatic. I can leave the good, I can leave the bad, and endings are rarely tied into a perfect bow. Sadly, I know I have tremendous resistance to all of this: not being exhausted, not being a perfectionist, a martyr. I’ve literally played a couple hundred games of Fruit Ninja on my phone in the last few weeks, always when I finally have some time to write this post. This is a tremendously confusing paradox, since I have enjoyed nothing more this year than slowing the fuck down. I could guess at what I am afraid of, but I haven’t really met it yet.
I now have this unfinished mandala hanging on my bathroom mirror. It literally makes my skin crawl and my ears itch with all the white spaces that should be filled in, but I will leave it there as I keep learning (even if sometimes I have to brush my teeth in the living room as a result). I’ve hit on a foundational question for me, and I am willing to stick with it while I learn how not to stick with it.