Saturday, December 24, 2005

the death and rebirth of self-acceptance

I feel like I’m forced to jump (hop?) into an entry about dancing. And I don’t have the time to post another entry first that would give you context or a history of my dancing. And I’ve already told you that it's important for me to make sure you have context for some reason (one that I do not yet understand). But what I need to get out here feels important and big and necessary to do now before it is lost in some word.doc never to be found again.

So here we go... a dancing post, sans context:
Wednesday night I met with a few members of the dance company I will be performing with in 2006. We were to be led in a night of dance, art and solstice ritual... the core material for the evening relating to the performance piece that is being created/choreographed, and ritual being part of the process guiding us to the performance.

Doffing our clothes and becoming naked, we each chose our own little space in the room. We relaxed onto the floor and were led to connect with a part of ourselves that is “dying” and then improvised movement from that place. Then we were led to come to stillness again and then connect with a part of ourselves that is “birthing”. And we danced from that place, as well. At some point we checked for poignant or repetitive movements from both dying and birthing, and we brought the movements together.

Well, Wednesday was my first time wearing the new prosthesis. It’s been six months since I’d made an attempt at making it work, and the several attempst I have made over the last year and a half have not been what I’d call successful (even though I’ve learned a little bit each time, and I seem to have retained what I’ve learned--hoorah). There have been so many attempts, that I no longer have the excitement I have had about it in the past, like the first time I put it on. Like when I realized I could be standing and moving through space and be holding the hand of someone I care about... all at the same time. Or like when I had the excitement of putting on pants and realizing that the Average Joe probably wouldn’t be able to figure out why I have a limp. The excitement of "I've got a little secret under here!" (I know it's nothing close, but it's kind of like going to office in a business suit when you're wearing a leather g-string or something underneath.).

Well, this time, I don't have excitement. At all. What I have (and yes, I know it will change) is the sinking feeling that I have to do a whole lot of work for what I see as no instant return of gratification.

* I am wearing a prosthesis that is still under construction and makes me look as much, if not more, like a freak as being limbless (you have no idea how bad I want a digital camera folks — you really need to see this thing — the socket has DUCT TAPE on it for crying out loud... it looks like I went out into the garage and made it myself).
* I am wearing a prosthesis AND using crutches, because that's the point I'm at in my physical therapy... so I don’t have an ease of movement. What I have is a gangly mess of equipment.
* I have pain and discomfort and my skin and my muscles adapt to the materials and the workload.
* I have mental strain as I think about every single fricking step I take. I have a very frustrating time as it takes me twice as long to get from point A to point B as it usually does

I mean NOTHING in my life is immediately improved by my wearing this damn thing, AT THIS POINT. I grant you that down the road this may all change, but it makes it very very difficult to want to sign-up to put this damn thing on every day, when leaving it off means I could remain fast, comfortable, relaxed and pain free.

So back to Wednesday night and what it is that's dying and what is being birthed. It is basically the same thing in each case. And it made me cry while I was dancing it.

What is dying is my self-acceptance.

I’ve worked very hard to come to a place where I completely accept myself, my body, now, as it is, in this new configuration. I have done quite a bit of emotional processing and I now see myself as whole and complete again, just as I am. I accept myself. I feel natural.

There is something about wearing a prosthesis that to me feels like, in part, it negates my self-acceptance and takes it away from me. My emotions are extremeley complex, and this feeling of losing self acceptance is one of many sides of the same coin, believe me. But the point I'm trying to explain here is that I have this very strong feeling that putting on the prosthesis is completely contrary to my accepting the fact that I am missing a limb.

What goes along with this, is that I also feeling like I am not wearing a prosthesis for me, but that instead I am wearing a prosthesis for you (the collective “you”) because you need to see me looking like I have two legs so that you can accept me. Well, I already accept myself. But you want to help me be “restored to normalcy”. Are you helping me to be "normal" again so that I can be normal? Or are you helping me to be "normal" because it makes you more confortable than having to deal with someone different from you?

Well, I already feel normal. And so somehow, I feel my acceptance of myself dying just a bit.

What is birthing for me, oddly enought, is exactly the same damn thing. Self-acceptance. It's just in the seedling stage, but with a little water and sunlight, it shall grow. It would seem there might be a very high probability in my gaining something wonderful by having two legs again. I think it’s going to take awhile, but I think I will gain things like being able to hold your hand and walk with you. Being able to carry my own plate down the buffet line (which, actually, I have mastered on crutches…and that is something I eventually will blog about and teach you). Things like being able have options when going places that are not necessarily crutch or wheelchair accessible, not that much stops me, but it would be nice to have more ease.

Because I am so very curious about the mystery of what newness may be out there for me, I WILL give wearing a prosthesis more than a college try. I will give it everything I can give it before I make any kind of assessment of it’s benefit. And in doing so, part-time-trying will inlcude my birthing another layer of self-acceptance.

After we finished dancing our deaths and rebirths, we layed down onto body sized pieces of paper, and had another person trace our outline. We spent some time adding artwork onto the paper with our shape, just as a beginning. Apparently we will work with these images again throughout the preparation for performance.

I always find tracing the body like that, kind of like making angels in the snow, to be completely magical and the little kid in me gets very jazzed.

This was my first time seeing my outline with only one leg. And I liked it. I think it looked neato. I was a little surprised I like it, but quite pleased by that. I probably liked it because it was my little inner 5 year old looking at it, and she isn't judgemental... but like I said, my adult brain is now comfortable with myself, too. And no, I'm not phsychotic and I don't read inner child books, so shut up.

As I did the artwork, I realized something else that’s been bugging me, and wrote it on the big paper:

You look at me and see what’s missing.
You don’t look at me and see what is still there.
I am still here.
I am HERE.
Over HERE.

This has made me think quite a bit about positive and negative space, and that’s all I can really say about it now, because I'm still deep in though about it.... but if you are a dancer or a visual artist of just about any kind, you probably know what I’m talking about. There is richness in the negative space. Because it is part of what defines the positive space.

Now, since this is AmpuTeeHee and it’s "often quite funny" (hoping you, too, see irony as a type of funny) let me tell you that I’ve relayed the “I am HERE” story to several people since Wednesday, and what has been hilariously sad is that EVERY SINGLE WOMAN I’ve told this to has said exactly the same thing back to me:

"I can't claim to know your experience, but it sounds kind of like how I feel when I’m talking to someone and they are looking at my boobs. It’s like, 'Hellooooo…my face is up HERE!' ”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.


Robin said...

you nailed it with this post. i'm starting to wake up to the fact that i bought into this whole idea that the ultimate goal is basically to trick everyone, including myself, that i have two legs. i can't believe i've put so much energy into such a sick and impossible goal. nice to hear some of the same sentiments from somebody else.

MsAmpuTeeHee said...

robin ~ wow, this post is 2-1/2 years old! I just skimmed it, and when I have more time I want to really re-read it and see if my beliefs have changed any since then. To be honest though, I don't think they've changed much.
Thanks for reading.