I just went through a big change. My husband and I bought our first house. Just a few months after marrying, Steven and I moved to the little town of Lockhart, an up and coming spot 30 miles from Austin, We kept our jobs and he lengthened his commute. We packed up our belongings, six canoes and three bikes, two pets, a U-Haul and many, many boxes, and I cried a lot. I was nervous about living in a town of 13,000 people. And I hate moving. And change. When we went to unload we found that the utilities had been shut off, so after depositing a couch and chairs and clothes and bedding, we trucked back to Austin for another week. We kept our bed, our crappy tv, and ate meatloaf and green beans and potatoes from the prepared foods section of the nice grocery store, while we watched Rick Steves reruns on the bed with Milton and Guthrie.
Now that we are settling in our new town is immensely charming and hospitable. We have a chorus of frogs in our big back yard, and can see the stars at night. There is still a lot to adjust to, a lot of work to be done at the house, but possibility seems to surround this new move.
One of the Austin treasures I was most anxious to leave was my Zumba class.
The fall after I finished treatment, I felt too tired to do much more then walk around the block at night. Though I handled chemo with as much spunk as I could muster, and my body worked brilliantly and beautifully for me, it all took the wind out of my sails. I still haven't quite felt the same since then. I felt upset that the steroids that combated nausea and hormone treatments to preserve fertility led me to gain weight. I didn't like the chemo curls that grew into my hair. I think mostly, I wanted to feel like I had more control, like things had never changed. But they had. And different people's grief wants to eat different things, and mine wanted carbs. A lot of carbs. Good, thick rosemary bread with salt crusted on top. Mama lil's peppers marinating in olive oil- hunks of goat milk feta, glasses of wine, sausage and sauerkraut. Soul food. My grief did not want to eat salad.
So it has been a slow and confusing process, and it turns out the part after the hard part can feel just as hard. And my (now) husband was, and continues to be, an endless well of patience and kindness, even when I come home in a small tornado of sadness and fear, blowing that wind through all the cracks in the house.
So I decided that staying home every night wasn't helping. And walking wasn't enough. I needed community. And some cardio.
My parents helped me get a gym membership at an LA Fitness close to me. When I signed up they offered a free hour consultation with a trainer, and like a real dummy I went for it. It was terrible- the guy would have been nice enough if we shared beers at a bar, but as he tried to educate me on my body mass index and how I was overweight and different ways I could workout to get fit, I completely shut down. He wasn't trained to hear real truth from women, and I think this is probably a common experience. It was not the place to disclose things like- "Actually I am depressed because not too long ago I was bald and can't make sense of this experience, and no, I don't want to lift weights, but do you have any fun dance classes? And fuck off."
Well, it turns out, they did. I went to a few Zumba classes that were lacking a certain spark and level of quality, and then on a fateful Tuesday night I walked into Priscilla's class. And she was a force. A gorgeous dancer, and a beautiful human being who radiated confidence, joy, and positivity. All qualities that seemed to be in short supply in my own life. The music was loud. I sweated and I stayed the whole time, and I didn't fall over, or feel pain in my chest. I could do it. I tried to go every Tuesday and Thursday. One week we did a song she loved and she had us bring flags from our home countries. It was amazing. On her birthday someone brought cake and we ate it right after class at a table next to all the treadmills. I started to recognize the other women who came every week, and there was a whole die hard crew of us. I swam laps a few times, and tried some of the machines (they all made me feel motion sick after awhile, so I stopped using them.) But the only class I wanted to go to was Zumba.
There was no way to really convey to Priscilla what her classes meant to me. It was the first time I had felt confident in my body after going through some serious trauma. It hammers home that just by being who we are in the world and sharing our gifts, we may offer strength in ways that we may never know. By sharing that light within you, you truly help others find their own.
And Zumba helped fulfill a lifelong fantasy of mine. In another life I would have loved to be a dancer. I envy their grace and their athleticism. Maybe even more then being a dancer I want to be in a dance MOVIE. On my best days in Zumba, I felt like I was in that scene in Center Stage when Jodi goes to the dance class in the city, the co-ed one, and she just lets loose. I felt just like that.
So, I cried when I told Priscilla I was moving. Traffic in Austin is too horrendous, the timing was not right for me to drive back into the city for her classes. I couldn't stop crying, in fact.
And yet. This is where the story keeps getting better. Steven, without my asking, looked for Zumba in Lockhart. And there is a studio. With a teacher named Ariana. She has four kids, and the first time I went to class there were so many fun ladies there, including her 74 year old Mom, wearing sparkly silver sneakers! And she shines in a different way then Priscilla, and just as brightly. And I got to thinking- these classes, when they are done well, is what I imagine church should feel like. Fellowship, feeling safe, singing and sweating and dancing, and at the end you leave cleansed, and with new energy, and maybe you still carry tiredness or brokenness, but you were surrounded by love, and you left feeling capable and whole again. And sometimes there is twerking.
So, I don't go to church, But I do go to Zumba. And I am starting to feel like myself again, little by little, My old self, funnier and more confident and wanting to be creative and take more risks. And I hope I will find lots of places for new community, and lots of hidden treasures, in my new town of Lockhart. And I will do my best to keep you posted.