20th May 2007
Today, I danced naked in my living room. It was not planned. It was not even without its difficulties. I had to negotiate my daughter who was playing semi-noisily with her myriad of toys on a mat on the floor. I had to negotiate my own feelings of embarrassment, insecurity and mirth brought about by just the thought of what I might look like. Me, naked, dancing to my own tune. I wondered what the neighbours would make of it if they caught sight of me through their side window. I wondered if they ever looked through their side window. Then, just be safe, I turned off the living room light.
As I danced I thought about myself. Selfishly yet in a pure and unadulterated way. I thought about my body, soft, doughy and warm since the birth of my daughter just 7 months ago. I felt the excess fleshiness of it, the extra weight that still clings to my contours and I danced into its heaviness. Though it felt like I was swinging bags of cooked semolina around me as I twirled, I tried to inhabit my own skin once again. I could almost see the clouds of dust rising into the air around me. I stamped and kicked and shook every limb. I swung my long hair around like a demented Woodstock hippy. I stretched into each sinew, each bone sighing with delight and each muscle smiling with the effort. I thought about what I have become and what I might yet become. I thought about the reasons my body is the way it is. For once, I didn’t feel shame or sorrow at the loss of firmness and youth. I felt pride. Pride that this body, my body, had brought new life into the world. Pride that my body could withstand the pain of labour and birth spirit into matter. Pride that I could still find some warmth, some passion within the dusty confines of this skin suit I inhabit but rarely enjoy.
As I danced and occasionally worried that my husband would return early from his errands and find his crazy wife dancing naked in front of his DVD collection, I realised that I am a MOTHER. I believe it needs capitalising because I have, for so long, been whispering that name to myself, scarcely believing that this is who I have become. Not all that I am you understand. I am not only MOTHER. But it informs everything I do, like the word printed through the centre of a piece of rock, like the jam at the centre of a yummy sugary doughnut. The world can nibble away at the rest of me but my soft red centre is for my family alone. And it will always be so. For the first time my body shook around that centre and was warmed by the thought. I felt connected to myself again and through that sacred connection, to my daughter, so shining and new and, most importantly, to my husband who has felt the loss of the intimacy that once graced our relationship because I have been so totally disconnected from my earthly body and so tapped out with touch catering to the needs of my darling daughter.
I shook, I swayed, I danced, I pranced, I lunged and hip hopped (yes, who knew?!) and I twirled and swirled like the water spirit that I am at heart. It was blissful and funny and sad and wonderful all at once and I revelled in the feel of the warm (ducted) air on my skin. I felt silly and insecure too but they were quickly replaced with the thought that if I can’t dance naked in my own living room then where can I dance naked?
I gathered my daughter up in my arms and whooshed her through the air, captivated by her giggles and her smiles. We played together, truly played, without an agenda, without my thoughts always leaning towards her development and her learning. We just laughed and swooped around the house to the music. Dancing to our own inner beats and finding our rhythm together. And that’s when it struck me.
I picked her up and played with her when I felt that desire but when I needed to dance alone, I put her down and danced in my own being and this is how it should be. I am not only a mother. I am an individual. I am a lover. I am a wife. I am a businesswoman. I am a spirit in an earthly body. I am a woman. Sometimes my dance will bring my daughter and I closer together. Sometimes my dance will take me away. Sometimes her spirit and mine don’t mesh fully. We are still discovering the ways in which we touch and communicate. Sometimes her spirit and mine soar like a kite on a windy day. And that’s good enough. We are not meant to live enmeshed like one soul. We are meant to inform, to share, to grow and to challenge each other as all good relationships do and it felt wonderful to realise this.
I can now go to my own self without reproach because by nourishing myself I am ultimately nourishing her. By exploring who I am as a mother and as a woman I can, in time, help her to discover herself. But most of all I can be the mother that I want to be, calm, patient, involved only if I listen to and honour the needs of my own spirit. Without it I am simply running on empty as so many of us do caught up in the trap of perfect motherhood and feeling so out of step with our energy and passions.
I get it wrong all the time. I miss cues, I miss signs, I forget that she is the most important job I will ever do and get caught up in the emails, the phone calls, the bookings, the outer world again. But today as I danced it all faded into its rightful place somewhere at the back of my mind, and I let go. I relit the fire of old passions. I felt the heat rising in my womb again and felt the energy there lifting its tired head and nodding to the beat. It will take time to integrate these new things I know. It’s too easy when tiredness and crankiness take over to ignore our needs and get caught up again. I know also that sometimes it’s easier to give in to old habits than it is to make the effort to make even much needed changes so I want to finish by saying this, do what you can do when you can do it and don’t worry about the rest. That’s all.
When my husband finally came home and found me sitting naked on the floor breastfeeding our daughter and asked me what I had been doing. I told him in all seriousness ‘dancing naked in the living room!’ He grinned and replied ‘Awesome!’ And so it was.