The music takes hold of my being as it always does. I see notes as movements in my head. I used to be afraid of it, but now I can dive in and whirl with each measure. I can feel the pulse of the bass as it flows through my body.
I connect to a universe that is all mine and that allows me to be present and connected. The movements are bold and broad, aligned with the drums, which sync with my heartbeat. The African dance form fits my need to be free like wild horses. The rhythms swelled inside of me. I give it my all; I’m spent.
Reflecting on my African Dance performance, I assessed that I’d like to increase my flexibility. I have always judged myself way too harshly, but I do consider the aspects of my dance movements that need improvement or change. With my mom’s approval, I decided to enroll in another dance class: beginner ballet.
Yes, it sounds ridiculous for someone who enjoys the unrestricted movements of African and Interpretive dance forms; however, I knew those stretches would be ideal for increased flexibility.
I had no idea that this was going to change my life profoundly. This was the start of a journey that would influence decisions and behaviors for a very long time.
I walked into the first ballet class and immediately felt like I couldn’t breathe. The air was so thick like being in the desert at the height of the day. There were girls in the room but there was no life.
Our instructor called everyone to attention and the other girls ran to the bar. I slowly meandered over. Our instructor, a well-known New York City dancer and owner of the studio, side-eyed me. I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to it.
I struggled through the class, yet I was eager to come back because I saw the benefits to my stamina, and suppleness. Those pliés were going to make my other dance forms so much better. They are designed to render joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic, and to develop a sense of balance. I needed help with balance: I’m clumsy, which continues to this day.
I went to several classes and had finally gotten the hang of the basic moves. During class one day, the instructor pulled me aside. I didn’t think I’d done anything to deserve an impromptu discussion. She didn’t start the conversation with “I’ve seen your progress” or “I’m proud of you for hanging in there because I know ballet is not your forte.”
Instead, she said, “You don’t have the look.”
Call me naïve, I asked her what she meant.
She quickly clarified for me. She made me look around the room and describe what I saw. I told her I saw the other girls working on the most recent moves provided for us. She then told me to look closely. She must have had doubts that I would ever get it, so she said, “they’re beautiful: you don’t have the look.”
When I looked around, I saw the true picture of what she meant. Whereas I first saw ten-year-old girls learning ballet moves, at second glance I saw that I was the darkest and heaviest. I had the tightest curl pattern in the room. Today I am proud of my caramel/toffee complexion, but at that point I could’ve been the color of my black Crayola crayon.
“You’ll never be a ballerina,” she scoffed.
I tried to explain why I was taking this class; I thought it would change how she looked at me. It didn’t change her thoughts, but it sure changed mine.
Instead of being comfortable with loving myself and the dance forms I enjoyed, I allowed this respected dancer, choreographer and woman to strip me of the essence of who I am because I didn’t fit into her defined image of a dancer.
This was too much for a ten-year-old girl to really wrap her head around and make a conscious decision.
So my mind embraced the belief: “You’re not good enough and you’re not welcome here.”
I stopped being a dancer all together.
And I began the process of trying to fit in and be accepted by changing my look to what I thought met the need.
I’ve had my share of chemical processes, extensions, weaves, trending clothing fads, popping up at the popular spots, wearing the makeup brand of the day and trying to morph myself into the look.
I’ve dated, took employment opportunities, chose residences, and chose “the right people to hang around.”
It was exhausting and eventually I burned out, disgusted with trying to fit in and said, “screw it.”
I am NOT a “fit in the traditional mold” type of person.
When I went back to my spiritual tradition, I took a real hard look at myself. Where I have been searching outside for acceptance and validation of being enough, I had to start with me. It seemed that as soon as the instructor said those words to me as a 10-year-old girl, it manifested in the universe and weaved itself into my life.
Through energy healings training, more training to work as a mental health counselor and addiction counselor, reflective teachings, and restorative practices, a new mentality developed. I established the attitude of self-care.
No, I wasn’t thinking of bubble baths, candles and wine (although this is a lovely activity). I took a stand and said no more of being afraid to be me.
The professional trainings I received made me perceive my clients as broken and in need of “fixing.” We all have light and shadows, but we are not broken. We do not need fixing.
Fast forward to 2017 … I discovered Sistership Circle.
To this day, I am not sure how I received a notification to sign up for the newsletter. After perusing their webpage, I decided to sign up. I received emails, read blogs and posts on their Facebook page and connected with the energy. The message was the same, “We support women to fulfill their place in Divine Feminine Leadership.” I thought, hmmmm, another organization that supports women stepping into their specific divine leadership roles. I was hesitant after having been part of mentorship programs, meet-ups, social and civic organizations, sororities, and social clubs, that were always more of the same; judgment and the expectation to be a carbon copy of everyone in the group.
But something felt different this time. When I received a notification that the 2019 Spring Enrollment of How to Lead Circle was open, I signed up, having no idea how much I would receive.
Circle gives what it is divinely supposed to do; breakthroughs experienced by each woman as she receives support, no feedback unless she asks and best of all no judgment. I’d finally found a place to “be me” in whatever form showed up that day.
I felt on top of the world and wanted all women to feel like I did. I wanted to scream out to any women that felt like she wasn’t accepted, didn’t have a tribe or just needed someone to listen to what she had to say without judgment: “Come to circle! YOU BELONG HERE!”
Yes, this judgment-free place does exist within Sistership Circle. That little ten-year-old girl is now set to answer her soul’s calling of making sure other women who also received that same message that “you aren’t welcome here” have a safe place for their Ugly Duckling, Nerdy Nancy, Awkward Annie or Clumsy Clara to embrace “all of her.”
I love to dance, now only at a party or family get together, am still clumsy (fell down 11 stairs recently), love Discovery Channel because I look forward to Shark Week and have embraced my Womb Wisdom and Wild Woman aspects.
I’ve finally been accepted by the most important person in the world: me.
Circles create a sacred container for me to work on changing my belief of my flaws and shadow side, challenges my behavior and reactions, all while being held. Sistership Circle provides the hugs of life that I give to and receive from other women.
Whereas the elderly women used to say to me “there, there dear,” I now confidently say to the women: “I got you.”
Sistership Circle holds you through your breakdowns and breakthroughs, your reclamation of the dynamic woman you are and your individual call to assume your divine feminine leadership role (not someone else’s: strictly yours) without judgment.
All my sisters are welcome! Be my Sis-TUH. (Sisters Towards Understanding and Healing).
Today and forever more this “Black Swan” is unexpected, authentic, evolving, beautiful, not broken, accepting and most of all, accepted by her own self.