A Few Details about Joy Ride

I’ve been wrestling with whether I’m doing enough to promote my recently published book, and so I thought I’d post a short synopsis and excerpt here. Sometimes just doing something helps settle whatever restless beast is stirring things up inside.

Joy Ride: My One-legged Journey to Self-Acceptance tells my story of losing my right leg to cancer at age 11 in the 1960s. This was an era when “cripple” was an accepted word to refer to someone like me, and the choice for the disabled to live either as a “cripple’ or as “normal” was a difficult one either way. 

I chose “normal” and how my life unfolded after that is my story.  I would look for love in all the wrong places, and it would surprise me in the right places, too. I would meet generous people of all abilities along the way, ski, sail, and swim with self-referred “gimps,” and create opportunities for career and travel. 

And yet I kept important parts of myself hidden from those around me, and especially from myself.

When I discovered improvisational dance and began work with Karen Nelson and later with Alito Alessi, I found my inspiration and the life I was meant to live, one without secrets.  I found the courage to shine the light on those hidden and terrifying places.

I wrote Joy Ride to come to terms with the secrets I kept. I wrote to remember and embrace all the things I tried so hard to forget. I wrote to celebrate finding a relationship with my body, soul, and spirit through movement and share its extraordinary gifts of joy and freedom.

And I wrote because I hope others would find something in my life that would remind them of their own bravery and their own joy ride.

Thanks for reading. I leave you with this. I’m following Mary – heading out to dance! XOIMG_0264

 

 

I am.

Those two words are true–I am . Simple, and yet enormously difficult to comprehend. I want to add words that describe me, or what I want, or what I’m working on, or hope for. Essentially, how I want to be different from, or apologize for, or know, right now in total, all of who/what I am.

I ran into one of my DanceAbility friends at a local event last week and asked him what he’s been up to . He’s a man with cerebral palsy who rolls around in a wheelchair, and has aides who help him with activities of daily living. His response to my question?

“I live,” he said with an enormous smile. Nothing more, nothing less. In truth, he thrives: he makes music and art on a computer; he rides a bike more than ten miles most days; he always has at least one dog who is devoted to him; he’s loved at the yearly Oregon Country Fair for the Flamingo Taxi he pedals around after hours, picking up those who had a little bit too much fun partying. But he never tells people what he does, or what he is, or thinks. He just is – himself. I’ve danced and been in DanceAbility workshops he’s taught many times over the years. His words of wisdom to all participants and spectators always are: “Have fun!” He utters them with a wide grin as his body involuntarily contracts and spasms.

Another friend I met at a Diverse Dance workshop in 1994 uttered the same “I live” when I asked her what she did. She’s a paraplegic, dancer, bike rider, world traveler, a fantastic cook, and vibrant party hostess. She’s always impeccably dressed and ready for the next adventure. She is herself, lives her life, and feels no need to embellish her existence.

I mention these two friends because, like me, they have altered physical abilities – sometimes referred to as disabilities – and I’ve been thinking about something I heard at the amputee event I attended last week. Could it be that having physical challenges opens people to other abilities that are not so readily visible? Maybe empathy and compassion are more keenly honed in folks with altered bodies. Maybe we’re more skilled at improvisation, or seeing things for what they are. Maybe we’re less concerned about what others think, and more willing to pursue what matters to us. Maybe we know we’re lucky to be alive, and that makes many things easier to bear.

Like all creatures, I am and I live, until I die. “Who am I?” is an open question, a curiosity – maybe ever changing, maybe something I’m awakening to in each moment, consciously and unconsciously. I am, and I live are realities that I can relax into, words I can say to simplify.

Here’s a quote from Marcus Aurelius (AD121-AD180):

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive–to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.

It’s enough to be, and to live.

Creating to find Peace

I recently came across this quote by Maxine Hong Kingston:

In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment. 

Seems like almost every day we hear about some awful destruction happening somewhere in the world, sometimes in our own backyards. And, for sure, I’ve created many moments of destruction in my own life. This quote reminds me of the power of creating – something I allude to in my book, Joy Ride: My One-Legged Journey to Self-Acceptance, and continue to experience whenever I give myself the gift of time to create.

I spent part of this morning working on an adaption of a much performed DanceAbility piece with Alito and Jana, a lovely, young, committed DanceAbility artist. Moving together and finding images others will take in with their eyes, and hopefully with their hearts, is good for my heart. So was playing within the Tuning Scores structure I immersed myself in for the first two weeks of this month. Exploring space with my eyes closed and open, finding stillnesses with my fellow dancers, making shapes, feeling my skin, muscles and bones as I roll around the floor or slide across walls – all that, and the gift of witnessing others do the same. And making marks on paper, whether they be lines and shapes or letters and words, it’s all creating – allowing parts of me that get left behind in the day-to-day frenzy of living, working, and being surrounded by the news to have their say.

There are many ways to promote peaceful moments and I’m with Ms. Kingston in that I know, somewhere deep in my cells, that finding that peaceful place in me is one of the things I can do anywhere, anytime I create the space needed to make the inward journey to that place. When I do, things settle inside and I’m able to bring more of my heart to whatever I’m involved in.

I made some silly (in a most fun and fulfilling way) computer images during my two weeks of dancing this month. Till the next time, here’s one I really like:

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Post Launch Mania

I read a review of the book, Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, in this week’s local Sunday paper. Mr. Kagge is a Norwegian explorer, author and publisher who’s been searching for the ultimate silence for many years. He trekked to the South Pole in 1993 and was alone there for fifty days and nights.

The newspaper article quoted him as saying, “When you start you have all the noise in your head,” and by journeys end, “you feel your brain is wider than the sky…To be alone and experience the silence feels very safe, very meaningful.”

That same day I had a massage with a wonderful masseuse friend with whom I spill my guts about my mental and physical state before we begin. That morning I was reeling from the overwhelming response to my book launch from local friends and acquaintances, family living clear across the continent, and New Jersey high school classmates spread far and wide. I’ve been getting emails, calls, requests for additional books that many want to sent to their friends and relatives. The outpouring of support and encouragement is at once humbling, exhilarating and exhausting! My head was like a bus full of screaming kids – yelling at me about how I wasn’t responding to emails or getting books to people quickly enough, and I was remiss in not ordering more so I wouldn’t run out, which I did before I filled all the requests people had made. Those notorious voices accused me of scheduling too many things – a DanceAbility performance for a local non-profit, Christmas cards and packages to finish and mail, on and on. As I lay on the massage table I felt like I just consumed a gallon of pure caffeine – me, a decaf coffee drinker! As Sadie methodically moved her experienced, healing hands over my flesh and reaching far down into my muscles and bones, I felt the reality of the quote seeping into my body and mind. Suddenly there was space, my cells had calmed down and time seemed endless.

The next day I met with Mary, my long time Authentic Movement partner, for our regular weekly practice. She’s a somatic practitioner and teacher experiencing a recent acceleration in requests for her time and wisdom. It seems the two of us are often moving with the unplanned intention of returning to ourselves and allowing our bodies to speak about what they need. My movement that day began with a deep, seated forward bend during which I covered my ears and was immediately transported deep inside myself. As the silent twenty minutes of movement unfolded I played a game with my moving self with the theme of reaching far outside my boundaries – exploring, searching, seeking – then coming back in to find a way to connect again to that deep place within. When my twenty minutes was up, I spoke about it with Mary as part of the movement practice, noticing how important it felt to return home to that deep place of silence, to never let myself get so far outside of that place that I feel I could lose control of who I am at the core. This is an ongoing challenge. I love being in the world –  socializing, offering myself as a volunteer, doing my best as part of my work team and lately, responding to all the support, encouragement, praise and requests about my book. And, I need and love to slip into that place of silence, when my brain becomes “wider than the sky…and the silence feels safe and very meaningful,” in the words of Mr. Kagge.

And so – I’ll sign off with a promise to remember to re-member myself, lest I’m no good to anyone, anywhere, anytime.