PASSION, PUSH and PERFORMANCE…my journey with awkwardness, uncertainty, motherhood, and a partial explanation.
I think I’ve been a lover of movement since I can remember. And I’ve been told that I would not stop moving unless I was near collapse. That adoration of motion led me to constantly perform and want to be better, learn more, move more. I was absolutely a dancer, my life was enveloped by the craft and it became an enormous part of my identity. It was what I knew, how I’d describe myself if asked by anyone interested. And thank the lord above! Because I was a gawky, ridiculously awkward tween and teen. I am so grateful (I’m sure my parents are too) to have had the dance studio where I basically grew up. I was loved and supported and respected. I learned about friendship, team work, perseverance, and even the birds and bees! My teachers and fellow dancers gave me huge gifts of incredible memories, acceptance, encouragement and the confidence to move on and push for more as a dancer. But I always felt different. Although I was accepted, I still felt strange in their midst, as if something was off about me. Rather than try to investigate those feelings, I kept on going.
. I became a dance major at UCLA and was also on the Dance Team. Again, rock solid friendships and history were created. Odd man out would easily describe how I felt, despite these wonderful relationships. I had an absolute blast performing on stages, basketball courts and football fields. I was certainly one of the smaller ladies in my major and on the team. And I had been so as a child and teen dancer, as well. Not short, but thin and strong. A strange combination to be so, both very muscular, while very waify. Most people in my family assumed I worked too hard, physically, that I dedicated too much of my time to dance and all that it encompassed. I chose it because I loved it and the way it made me feel, think, wonder. It was a lifeline for me and has been so, even after I graduated from UCLA.
I became a Pilates and GYROTONIC instructor because I fell in love with the connection the two movement modalities have with dance. Still the strange girl, I was highly aware of being a bit different from my peer teachers. But I learned so much about the body and how we work within movement, that my need for knowledge and motion was satiated and I began to teach a great deal. Dance was still a huge part of my life, and I believe becoming an instructor allowed me to do even more as a performer.
I got lucky. I danced professionally with a few small companies, a cruise ship line, even did some dance modeling. I moved to Chicago to dance in a foreign context, needing to be challenged by an environment different from LA. I still felt like the weird one, even though I was hired to teach at a studio in the city because of my training. No matter how many times I was in class, or at an audition, I still felt weird, awkward and different. I danced at a supper club (no, nothing scandalous like wearing pasties), I was on scholarship at a fabulous studio, I danced w a small company and I became a pro cheerleader for the Bulls. It was an absolutely phenomenal time of my life! I was teaching clients and becoming a more seasoned instructor, along with performing my buns off. I danced until I got on the plane to move home to California…I decided to return to my roots after 9/11 and be closer to family. Then, with zero warning, I got sick. I had shingles at 26 years old. Running non stop for months from rehearsal to clients to specialized trainings to my apartment in order to pack had taken a tremendous toll. But I refused to slow down! I still rehearsed and performed even while I was contagious…such stupidity. I knew nothing else. I only felt right if I was pushing, struggling, fighting for more, to be better. This is when the dancer in me took a back seat to the part of me that only felt alive when tapped to the max. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my identity as a dancer and a teacher of movement was being overridden by the ferocity of that part of my brain that told me to never, ever stop.
Upon moving back to Southern California, I began teaching and became a member of a company in Orange County. I also opened my own Pilates, yoga and GYROTONIC studio in Santa Monica. I taught and taught and taught and never took a day off. I saw my non dance, non fitness friends partying and celebrating their youth. Not me. I was the different one, yet again who insisted on being social and supportive with my friends, but would consistently put clients and dance first. Physically, I was exhausted, but didn’t know any better. I kept going like this for years. When my dad nearly died after a simple knee surgery, it was status quo for me, ignoring the necessity to take time, be patient, and truly face his mortality. I lost weight. I became weak. But that voice in my head kept cracking the whip.
I got sick again. This time, I was off the charts toxic with mercury poisoning. I tested positive for Epstein barre, mono and arsenic, as well. You’d think I’d get the message and slow the hell down…nope! Paris and Nice were two cities my dance bestie and I had planned a trip to and she’s a travel whiz, so I picked up my boot straps and I did those cities like there was zero wrong with me. I lost weight again. I was eating jars of peanut butter to keep weight on, but it was futile. I went through chelation treatment to rid my body of the toxicity. And that endeavor was no treat! Every injection I received was a reminder of how ill I was, how incredibly sensitive my body is. My brain, though, kept saying, push and ignore the signs. My doctor said I must slow down and even stop completely. What?! How could I stop…teaching, dancing, running my studio. I was also planning my wedding! I don’t think so, doc. I continued the frantic qualities and chose not to make a peep about how thoroughly worn out I was so everyone would stop telling me to STOP!
I then moved to Houston due to my infant marriage. I no more than stepped off the plane, before I dove into the IVF process in order to get pregnant. I took crazy drugs and poked and prodded my belly with injections to prepare for pregnancy. I was so hopeful. I was so ready to become a mommy. Despite my subconscious telling me my marriage would tank, (that’s a whole other diatribe!) I pushed forward. I had a surgery to enable my body to receive fertilized eggs. I gained 17 pounds in a few weeks. My heart was compromised. I felt terrible, as if all my strength and endurance had evaporated. My eggs didn’t fertilize. I was actually told, “you failed.” I cannot describe the disappointment in that moment. I mourned for about two weeks. But, as my brain urged me onward, I researched alternatives. One option was to use another woman’s eggs and inseminate, then carry to term. But after looking at nearly 2,000 egg donors, I was not drawn to any of them. Again, I was crushed. I knew being a mommy was what I wanted, and by damn, I was going to make it happen!
Adoption became high on my radar. I was connected to an attorney and consultant and we got right to work. Within a few weeks, a birth mom reached out and chose me as the mommy. She had one more month of pregnancy, which meant I had less than thirty days to prepare for the baby! After speaking to her on a Monday night in June of 2013, I had my mental list memorized of all I needed to tackle. But wait!! I received a text the following wee hours of the morning…”come now. I’m in labor!” What?!??Oh my goodness, I’m going to be a mommy TODAY and I don’t know how to change a diaper, choose a car seat or mix formula. I threw clothes in a duffle bag so fast, my arms seemed detached from my body, all while speaking with a nurse, a social worker and my consultant. I drove myself to the Austin airport, as I had just moved from Houston to a town north of Austin 6 days prior. I boarded the plane and trembled with joy, fear, anxiety for the three hour flight. My parents picked me up at the Long Beach airport and for the two hour drive in LA traffic to Northridge Hospital, I asked myself seventeen times, “Do I look like a mom?!” I checked and re checked my make up another seventeen times until we FINALLY arrived. I ran to the hospital doors in my most mom-like heels with my doe eyed parents in tow. The three of us clutched each other’s purse straps and pant legs, as we walked, like a tiny rugby huddle into the intensive care unit for new born babies. I saw her from across the room and EVERYTHING melted away. I felt nothing, aside from pure love and happiness. My brain actually took a break and my heart stepped forward. I had never experienced that before. Phoebe was now my daughter and I, as idiotic and naive and lame I was as a want-to-be mommy, was precisely that…a mommy! I spent seven days in that hospital and was then able to take her home to my parents house in Huntington Beach, where we remained for two months, until we were given the go ahead to cross state line to Texas.
I stopped running, dancing, teaching, and barely even stretched. My body was doing so much more by holding and cradling and loving my baby girl. I even experienced breast and pelvic pain during Phoebe’s infancy. I had been amenhoreic on and off for many years, but just a few weeks after Phoebe was born, my cycle returned like clock work. This is due to the mommy hormones kicking into high gear, plus my ever powerful oxytocin levels were surging…I was over the moon in love with this precious being. And what a gift! My parents had two full months with Phoebe, and I had their help and support. We became much closer as a family.
Sadly, one month later, I was researching divorce. At this point, I could list experiences and qualities that were simply unacceptable. But I won’t. What I will share is that I chose to exit the marriage in order for me and Phoebe to have a healthier home life. She has a relationship with her father now, which I applaud. But I also want Phoebe to witness her mommy being loved and respected, so that she knows those are non negotiable qualities in a relationship and partnership.
My two years being a wife were peppered with minimal joy. However, my now three years of being Phoebe’s mommy have been absolutely incredible! My brain does not urge me onward, against all odds, as it did before motherhood. The exhaustion is still there, and my body’s response to stress is to grit my proverbial teeth, with clenched fists and barrel through. However, I now have way more knowledge about myself than ever before.
After researching, questioning, listening and sharing, I have discovered part of the reason why when I’ve gotten sick, it’s been extreme. I’ve learned why, for so much if my life I have been different, felt different, and in a way, appeared different. Having this knowledge is super duper new. And it’s so powerful! I get it, I can actually comprehend that I developed a condition when I was a child, that I did not know was an illness until I was 32, and only four months ago learned is an auto immune disease.
For years, I’ve had digestion issues. My eyes burn. I am intensely sensitive to light and sound. My body cannot handle big changes in diet, nor can it accept any sort of injection, despite the necessity of any many types of medicine. I can dance circles around the most energetic of terrible two toddlers, but put something in my body that is designed to help me sleep, relax, feel more energized, it will reject it and I become highly inflamed. This, too can compromise my heart. I have palpitations and feel as if I can’t catch my breath. Ask me to teach seven sessions of Pilates, yoga, or Barre Jane, (that’s my trademark style/check it out!) and I’m happy as a clam, but give me a bite of overly seasoned French fries and an ounce of alcohol, and my body turns on me. My auto immune disease is no walk in the park, but it’s quite manageable. There are myriad other people, mostly women who suffer greatly with more severe cases of auto immune diseases.
I am lucky. I have not felt better in at least five years! I have some keys to my own, daily happiness now and that is truly a profound feeling. Knowing I’m not so incredibly weird or strange or awkwardly gawky and skinny feels great! I feel like, for once, I’m in the driver’s seat. I control where this mommy bus goes. And when I’m asked, “What brought you to Texas,?” or, “What’s the difference between Pilates and yoga,?” or, “Why are you so tiny,?” I don’t feel flustered, as if I need to explain my marriage sob story, or give them every detail about what and how I teach, or feel ashamed of my physique. I proudly state that I landed in Texas because I jumped, head first into a marriage that is no more. I describe my love for both forms of movement in two sentences. I explain that my size is reflective of my genetics, along with years as a dancer and lover of movement.
So, I’m different than most who struggle with their bodies. I don’t count calories to lose weight. I count colors in my food and I make certain it’s whole. I’m better for it and so is my body and my daughter. I am small, but mighty with an insane passion for motion and helping others find joy in their bodies and its immense potential.