I miss being 8 years old and how freely I danced. My mother was in graduate school, and she listened to classical music while she studied. And I would dance. And dance and dance. I loved to move.
Until puberty. This is familiar story to so many women. The moment when their body became a stranger. The realization that their body apparently is not theirs, but rather a public commodity. Something freely commented on, criticized, cleansed, changed and never good enough.
What is lost in that? Now that I am middle aged, I am invisible. My female students, middle schoolers, tell me about what they have to deal with out in the world. Being told to smile, followed by cars, being bothered, and yet, I know they also do not feel good enough. They do not feeling beautiful.
We become so disconnected to our bodies.
Author David Richio, in the book How to Be an Adult, has an affirmation:
"This is my body."
When I first read it, it hit me so hard. This is my body, that I have so taken for granted, and still do. I've been blessed with good health. But now, in middle age, it is beginning to change. What a scary thing.
I've been working on a workshop called Body Love. It combines drawing, watercolor, writing with spirituality in order to frame and reconsider our attitudes towards our bodies. I've facilitated it as an in-person workshop, and I am now restructuring as an online program. This is forcing me to go first, to test out my ideas about how expressive arts can change my relationship to my physical form and my health.
How deep can I go with it? Is it just a nice idea, a fun theme for a glorified art project, or can it transform my relationship to my body and health? Healthy eating and exercise have become critical to my well being, and yet my resistance to them remains as strong as ever.
Can an expressive arts practice have any meaningful affect on my ability to love myself well enough to take my body's needs seriously for once?
My experience with expressive arts so far has taught me that it is a deeply spiritual and transformational approach to creativity. I experienced it in my own life and saw its power in the lives of others. It allowed me to try on new ways of being, to practice those new ways, gave me touchstones to help me remember my path, and to reconnect with my own inner strength. In a safe group I could stumble and stutter my way through these new ways of being until it began to feel natural. I got in touch with a spiritual side of myself that helped me to feel guided, and loved.
Now, as I take a leadership role in a new way of teaching art, one that bridges the divide between art education and art therapy, I am my own student. I will let you know how it goes. Right now, it all remains an open question. One that I would love to have a conversation about. Let me know your thoughts: how do your own art practices affect your body and self care? Do they at all?