A few weeks ago I almost wrote here “I wish I could say that my art has saved me but the reality is it did not save me at all.”
I went on, in my journal to explain how that was true until I realized that… no it wasn’t. There was one period in my life when my expression was limited. I was 19, had just flown the nest and was living in a new city all by myself. I was writing for a little while and truly, it was just so damn painful that I couldn’t anymore. For many years, actually I stopped writing. I didn’t even keep a journal. And for a few months there was nothing. And I was over full, brimming over with pain I could not face alone, with no one in my corner to face it with me. And I could not write it down because the words were too sharp and pointy and cut in ways I did not like. Writing was like eviscerating myself and picking through my own guts… just to look at it. There was no one I felt I could share what I wrote with and so… it would sit in a notebook untouched and unloved and I would feel so hollow that it felt better to keep the hurts inside. Like company.
That was the only time art didn’t help me. Not that it couldn’t though; had I had enough courage to seek out the community here that would have embraced me, I would have been able to keep going. But that courage and thought didn’t exist for me so I sat alone in the dark with my hurts.
And then that was just shitty.
So I started dancing in my living room. I would put on this tape (I still have it, yes, a cassette) called Percussive Environments and I would set up my altar of candles and tarot cards and notebook and I would dance like a wild woman in circles. The point? Just keep moving. Don’t stop moving. It doesn’t matter if it looks beautiful or not, it doesn’t matter if it’s graceful or not because the appearance is not the point. Follow the feeling.
For hours I would do this until dizzy and tired, and I would sink into the circle of sweat and energy and candle light and pull tarot cards, concentrate on the 4 directions and the animals I associated with them, fill myself up with the energy of everything around me and all the other things inside me I did not yet recognize and write in my journal what I saw. What I felt. What I knew to be true even without facts or evidence other than the inside of me resting on the knife edge of knowing and not knowing.
Those evenings, pouring myself into a cauldron of imagination became my art. Using tarot and interpreting them to try and understand the inside of myself better became my art. And the journal I used was added to the box of journals I had lugged with me from my home in Toronto to my new home in Hamilton. Magic became my art.
Shortly after that I sought out dance classes. Or maybe they found me, I’m not sure. I began attending an Belly Dance studio and it was like I cracked open. All those other things in me, the not hurts, began to stand up to attention. Belly dance was the expression of my joy, my love, my strength, my beauty, my courage. And it became my art. I would wait with such anticipation each week for the next class, practicing in between, following dance videos I borrowed and working on my drills. And for a couple of years, belly dance was saving me.
When I decided to go to college, I felt that it would have to be one or the other. I wouldn’t have the time to go to dance classes which took me almost an hour to get to, since I would need the time to study. So I decided to leave dance and just focus on school. That worked for about 5 months. The stress started to get to me and I still was not writing so I decided fuck it, I need a dance class. And sought out another dance studio.
This was when I met hoop dance. I’d never heard of it before, thought it sounded ridiculous and signed up for the belly dance. Through some divine guidance, after sitting through a hoop class waiting for my class to start and realizing, oh, that’s what I am here for… shit…. My class got canceled as I was the only student. It was offered to me that I could just attend the hoop dance class and without really even thinking about all the nuances and synchronicities of that moment I said well yeah of course. I bought my hoop at the beginning of my second class. All through college hoop dance saved me. It was how I dealt with the stress of studying for tests and exams, the stress of having my heart broken, the stress of having to work and be a successful student all at the same time. Hooping was the outlet. The way to get the feelings out of me. The writing I did was for study, it was my expression of my intellect. I did eventually begin keeping a journal again though I don’t think I wrote in it all that frequently. Hoop dance remained my main means of expression for quite some time after college.
After college, my writing had everything to do with business. How marketing worked, business plans, more marketing, strategies for marketing, marketing content… marketing marketing marketing. I remember once, walking to the grocery store thinking, I used to be a poet, now my poems are business plans. I even have at least one journal (plus a whole binder) that is devoted exclusively to business and marketing. And I began to realize that I missed writing poetry. It was hard to make it come though. Occasionally I would be struck with inspiration but it was rare. Most of my creativity was poured into hoop dance choreographies or business plans.
It wasn’t until relatively recently, maybe the last 2 years that poetry began to come back to me. Private journalling was flowing readily and I was realizing that I had a lot unsaid and it was hard navigating the waters of my mind. It had been so long since I had allowed the wilds in me to speak. Movement was the only currency I gave them but voice… voice was beginning to return.
It’s funny because now, I almost never dance. Not nearly as frequently and frankly… I don’t miss it yet. Because writing has returned like a whale swimming me to the bottom of the ocean, promising that I can hold my breath long enough or maybe even learn to breathe. My creative energy has shifted outlets and I write frequently. Both in one of my… what 2? 3 journals? On wordpress, on facebook, on napkins when I forget my notebook….
So my original statement, that my art didn’t save me, is wrong. It’s wrong because I think I didn’t really understand what “my art” actually meant. I had this thought that my art could only be one thing, hoop dance or writing. In a conversation with a friend I said this, “I saw the cabaret… It made me feel weird and sad and disappointed in myself. Like my art should have gotten me through that hard time but instead it was too hard to do art. That somehow that made me weak or less good, less of an “artist” because my art didn’t save me. Instead I abandoned it.” At the time I said that, I thought that dance was “my art” and nothing else could be. His response was, “Jen the way you live is your art the hoop is just one part of that.”
My art is my life and the way I live it. My art is all the things I do to express myself; being a kick ass RMT, being a writer, being a dancer, being a listener, being a tarot reader, a journaller and a petter of cats. All these things are my art. All these things have saved me.