beauty

What These Women Have Taught Me

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I promise, you can do this!

I am more in love with my work than I have ever been. One of the most beautiful parts of my work and my life is The Burlesque Experience. Running now for five and a half years and 22 seasons, around 230 women have come through this program, and  I gotta tell ya, it doesn’t get old. In fact, tomorrow, another group is finishing their program, the end of the line. Tonight, the last sleep tonight before Bust-Out.

And I have fallen in love with each of them.

Could I love this work any more than I do right now? I doubt it.

It starts with a strut.
It starts with a strut.

Like any marriage, my relationship to the Burlesque Experience has been challenging at times. At one point I even wanted to leave it (some of you may remember, Last Year’s Burn-Out…) But I realized that what I really needed was rest. I know now that I must do my best to keep my tank filled, keep my head on straight, focused, adulting, dedicated. I know that if I stay awake, stay present and in service to the group, it’s a sheer delight.

I’ve learned (the hard way) that impeccable self-care is the key to being good at what I do. It’s not just a novelty or ‘good-to-do’ kind of thing. It is paramount. And when I show up fully, I get the most out of it. I get to spend an exciting six weeks with a group of brave women who transform, bond, blossom and bloom in seriously palpable, sustaining and powerful ways.

I have the best job in the world. And I don’t just teach them. They teach me, too.

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Am I really doing this?

Here’s what these women have taught me lately…

  • We are so much more than we think we are. Every semester, week one, women come to that first intro circle, uncertain, curious, wanting more. They also come with their stories about who they are or who they are not, and sometimes even who they think they can never be. And then, I watch, as they shed those stories and prove to themselves they are so much more than they ever thought.
  • We need each other. Each semester, I watch a bunch of strangers sheepishly approach one another, wondering who will they like. Will they be liked? Do they fit in? By the time they reach their Bust-Out, they are soul sisters, they are intimately connected and they trust each other. They hold each other up, they wipe each other’s tears. They show up for one another in such inspiring ways. No one does this alone. In life, and in the Burlesque Experience.
  • We can be afraid and do it anyway. People who wait for the courage to arrive, before they say yes to their Burlesque Experience may be waiting forever. The courage comes while you are doing it. And afterward, you are more courageous than you were before you did it. That’s how courage works.Tomorrow, the Spring/Summer 2016 class busts out. Are they excited? Hell yeah. Are they terrified? Of course. Will they do it anyway? I have no doubt. Fear is part of the package. We don’t get to skip it. But we can move through it. When we start to realize we can do brave things AND be afraid at the same time, the world opens up for us. We become unstoppable.
  • We can do anything we set our minds to, even if a part of us thinks we cannot. Around week three, this group, and the ones before it, realize what’s ahead, and it feels insurmountable. Freak outs begin. Meltdowns are common. Fear works overtime. Overwhelm kicks in. I plead with them to stay with me, it’s possible, we can do this. And most of the time, they stay. But it’s not my pleading that convinces them. It is they, themselves. They work their tails off, they practice, they create, they stay connected to each other and dedicated to the process and to themselves, and then, they reach the end, and lo and behold, they do it, and hot damn, they do it well.
  • We all want to be seen. We all are meant to shine. I’ve worked with every type of woman you can imagine. Shy women, open women, closed women, wounded women, loud women, quiet women, younger women, older women, sweet women, sour women, and we all share so many things in common. One of them being this deep desire to be seen. To stand in a spotlight, to bravely say, “Hey world, here I am! Notice me!” This requires great bravery. And they have it. And every woman is capable of shining brightly. It’s not just reserved for a certain few. We all have it in us. In class, I call it our inner showgirl. We could also call it our essence, our spirit, our bright shining soul. We are meant to shine. Marianne Williamson said it best…

“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine… It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It’s almost showtime.

I hope you will be there with me. It’s so much more than a “show.”

Hold space with me as we watch these women shine, as they are liberated from their fears, and in doing so, liberate others.

Cheer with me as they boldly step onto that stage and into the powerful glow of their very own light.

I am in awe of these women. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I couldn’t feel more blessed.

I think they're ready.

They’re ready. Let’s do this.     

Photos by Sunset Hoots Monroe & Dee Hill.

Fashion Rules, Pumpkin Spice, Leggings, Shaming and a Better Way

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A couple years ago, I decided to cut my hair because I’d been hearing and reading that women over 40 should not have long hair. I did it. I hated it. I could not grow my long hair back quickly enough.

I decided then to have long hair forever and ever amen, or at least as long as I wanted to.

Call it a perk of being in my 40s, but something new is emerging in me, and I’m embracing and welcoming an absolute resolve to wear what I want, be who I want, ignore “fashion rules” when I want. I’m getting better at loving myself, and one way I show love to me is by dressing and adorning myself in ways that please me. About me. For me. Screw the “rules”.

Let’s stop telling each other how to dress, what clothes or hair or shoes or whatnot is age appropriate, size appropriate, life appropriate.

If you like it, it’s appropriate.

And can we quit with this “basic” thing, please? It’s become a running quip that liking Uggs and pumpkin spice and yoga pants makes you “basic.” I am not defending Uggs specifically, because I personally don’t like them, but I promise not to judge you or your worth or your depth by the boots you choose to wear, even if I think they’re Uggly.  And somehow pumpkin spice and yoga pants have worked their way into the “basic” qualifying checklist, among other preferences and likes. Can we all come to terms with how dumb that is?

Like what you like. Let me like what I like.

Here’s the thing. We are all basic. And none of us are.

It is not your business what I wear and or how I like my lattes.

We joke “Haha, I’m so basic!” as a way of diffusing this, I suppose. It helps. Offsetting, detracting, self-deprecating silliness, sure.

But this woman-on-woman ridiculing– we cannot afford it. It is a waste of time and energy and eats away at any sort of progress we are making together as women. Subtle, like termites, but damaging nonetheless.

A quick Google search of “fashion rules” brought up 146,000,000 hits. Apparently there are a lot of people with a lot to say about how I should or shouldn’t dress.

The infamous “People of Wal-Mart” has over 1.3 million followers on Facebook alone, mostly by posting ridiculing pictures of people, mostly women, and their outfits, without their even knowing they are being photographed.

The shaming has got to stop.

If we’re going to band together to save the world like the superheroes we are, like a world in crisis needs us to, we have got to stop with the subtle and not-so-subtle ridiculing and shaming, and turn our judgment inward, as an opportunity to reflect on the question “Who the hell do I think I am?”

It’s a humbling question. And it’s the curiously contrary flipside to the paradox that we are eternal, ethereal, divine and powerful. But at the same time, who the hell do we think we are when we pass judgment, in jest or in seriousness, on the way another woman is expressing herself, dressing or not dressing, adorning herself, taking her coffee, wearing leggings as pants, long hair over 40, white after labor day, shaving or not shaving?

It is not our place. It does not matter.

What matters more is showing up in the world expressively reflecting the beauty and radiance that exists within you. Looking to the woman we’re inclined to judge and noticing and drawing attention to the beauty and radiance that exists within her.

What matters more is having the freedom to be exactly who you are, and honoring and respecting my freedom to be exactly who I am.

What matters more is that we stand up for each other, with each other, that we set down our protective mechanisms of judgment, snark, sarcasm and ridicule, and embrace a braver, more vulnerable, more accepting, more compassionate and more loving way of being a woman.

Imagine, just imagine, how beautiful we’d all be, if we lived like this every day. If we showed up for one another like this every day. Or even every other day. Imagine what we could accomplish together.

Trust me, I’m not claiming to be perfect. I am not claiming to be immune or righteous or some magnanimous being, floating around, sending love 24/7.  Of course I sometimes slip into this cheap and easy way of sorting and classifying and organizing the world. I’m tempted and sometimes succumb in conversations, before I realize it, mindlessly munching on this low-hanging fruit of female bonding. But I’m getting better at noticing it, and at choosing differently.

So if we’re hanging out, and you catch me in this sort of conversation, call me out, stop me. Remind me there’s a better way.

There’s a higher fruit, up there, in the top branches. It’s juicy, full of nourishment and love and respect and support. And it’s delicious. Wanna bite? There’s plenty for everyone, just requires a little more reach and a little more stretch.