The pure pleasure of just trying

I've just returned from my first ever hip-hop dance class. My body is so deliciously tired, used, and stronger somehow. I'm so drowsy, I can barely type. I don't remember the last time I've ever been so body tired ( I'm lying. LABOR!).

I've suffered a dance-less existence for too long. Every therapist I've ever seen has prescribed "dance more!" in just about every session.

The desire for a dark dance floor and loud (but just the right kind of) music quickens my heartbeat like it used to when I'd spot the guy(s) I had a crush on in college. It's that brand new, unbridled, unused joy bubble reserved for novel experiences that slam your awareness into NOW.

I felt that rush of excitement this morning while walking to do some work at a coffee shop and thinking about class tonight. As I strolled along the familiar street, I contemplated that rare quickening, the joy only accessible to me when I dance. Absolutely no other time in no other circumstance can I tap into this particular, specific kind of joy.

I think people assume that because I make a spectacle of myself on the dance floor, that I would not find this class uncomfortable or look awkward or that I would pick it up easily. Error.

As I stumbled though new movements (WTF hip hop! Why you have to stay so low? Man, my thighs!) and conditioning exercise (I did NOT just sign up to do planks, oh hell no) with my flabby arms and thick ankles, I decided to thank my body for movement. I hugged those puffy, strong ankles and smiled at them. Those ankles are as endearing to me as Joel's gray patch of hair behind his left ear or Bowie's ill-timed demands for hugs and kisses.

As I danced, I felt my body feeling foolish. I looked silly. I couldn't get the simplest of steps, despite my years of high school cheerleading and illustrious career as a dancing wedding entertainer.

Not too long ago, if I'd endured that kind of imperfection in a new experience, I would have cried myself all the way home. I would have felt my heart beat anger and disappointment through my veins. Worst of all, I would have quit. Just like that. Because if I didn't KILL it the first time, it would have meant I wasn't supposed to be a hip hop dancer and I wouldn't want to waste my one precious life pursuing something I wasn't good at.

Nah. It's time for a new way to be.

That's why I've embarked on a new campaign to rewire how I walk this earth. Phase one: Unteach the know-it-all inside of me that she has to be perfect. Taste and see that the real pleasure of life is buried in the trying and trying again. Feed my dance-shaped curiosity and know that once I master this silly hip hop walk we learned tonight (it's fucking fierce when my teacher does it, but I somehow end up looking like a creepy upright octopus), I will just want something else to master, another  thigh-burning sway o' the hips to get good at. And then, I'll look stupid once again.

And that's the point. Learn something new, look stupid, keep doing it, find joy, learn something new, look stupid, keep doing it, find joy.

Let's call it full on fool acceptance. Unlearning perfection and poise. Saying YES to the whimsical, unconcerned, costumed freak who wants to jump around like a lunatic asshole and laugh about it.

I don't have any guarantees of this, but I have a hunch that cultivating some crazy might just help me tap into a formidable source of power. An unbridled, scary with joy, thigh-strong monster of a woman that just might gobble you up on the dance floor.


Now I must go watch Beyonce dance and sit humble before my queen.

What the island water gave me.

Back in April, we took a trip to Oahu.

Oahu folded me in so gently, earlier than most land. We awoke just before sunrise on our first day, so we threw on shoes and walked the 200 feet from our beds. The sand was cool and fine. The water, quiet and expectant. The light, unholy in its consummate beauty.

We attended a wedding, our main impetus for going to Hawaii. At the reception, Bowie made her debut as a dancing fool.

I do not listen to popular music, so you can imagine my surprise when the song  'Uptown funk-y up," (as she affectionately calls the Bruno Mars song) and screamed at me to remove her carefully arranged bun and threw her head around like the demons of dance had possessed her. I stood in awe of her for a short minute before I answered the call of those same demons myself.

A moment in time. I sat lounging under a short beach umbrella with Tim and Julie sunbathing on my left and Jess and Joel sharing a bottle of cheap rose on my right. Ben lying contentedly on the shore as the waves pushed sand up his shorts. Phoenix and Bowie playing separately together, lost in a world of sweet sand and sea.

One evening Jess and Joel went shopping for dinner and Ben and I stayed back at the house with the girls. We sat in the fake plastic Adirondack chairs as the stars and I were invited to romp around in Ben's playground of a mind. The gentle breeze cool enough to pull my sun dress over my knees, but warm enough to keep me from breaking the spell by fetching a sweater. We looked deep into the night sky and found Jupiter.

One tequila morning was spent chatting with the always scantily-clad Jess. She had asked Ben to please save her from toddler hell, so Ben and Joel took the girls down to the beach. We were out of Pinot Grigio and decided to polish off a bottle of tequila instead (did I mention it was morning?). It's not every relationship that can handle some of what I told her, but Jess isn't your everyday kind of gal.

I can still feel the warm water of the outdoor shower as I helped Phoenix de-sand herself. We lingered there, with her chubby arms held tightly around my neck, still unsure of the water.

Holding her while she learns to trust being held.

Another moment. Jess swam off in the distance, Joel sat on the shore, Bowie buried herself in the sand, Ben answered the call of a far off island and took a trek, Phoenix stood on the wet sand, yelling at her Mom to fucking take her back into the water.

I swam in utter solitude, surrounded by these people I've decided are everything..

No breaking waves, just a rock-a-bye undulation.
Green and turquoise and deep gray blue water, warm as the sand.
The liquid salt so fine you didn't notice it, but felt lighter, easier to love somehow.

I lifted my feet, laid back, and began to float.
I thought of the people and souls inside of me. The archetypes I contain, the multitudes Whitman spoke of in Leaves of Grass.

And I felt something gently swim away from my being. Something good and lovely, but that needed a break.

The absolute authoritarian reigning supreme inside of me:  my judge, my skeptic. She was dethroned. She's so fucking beautiful and wise and vigilant and terrifying and damn strong, but she's tired.

I didn't even cast her off, there was no battle. She just wanted a break, she wanted to quick dip in some salty solitude. She mermaid-ed herself out of me, gently twisting with one easy ebb toward the shore.

But it wasn't permanent, because I'm learning that no part of me wants to be cut out. But, with the precious break, she came back to me having been bathed in solitude - that is, we reunited with a softer focus and a kinder lens.

It's what the island water gave me.

Lots more photos here:

Bowie Andromeda, 4 years old

To my one and only daughter on her 4th birthday. Let's continue to worship the great questions together, yes?

Why I named my daughter Bowie

Despite having tried for 6 months to get pregnant (which is shorter than many but longer that I was prepared to hold out my hope for), I found myself pregnant and miserable during the holiday season of 2011.

I wanted the baby, but I never wanted to be pregnant. I didn't know it would feel this way until I saw the pee stick reveal a positive line - well, technically two positive lines. Two = pregnant. One = not.

I knew I was pregnant before science confirmed it. Not surprising, really. Knowing is kind of my thing.

On the morning I found out, Joel and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. He was working at home that day.  I had woken up at 5am, took a pregnancy test, saw a quick negative, and went back to my barren bed bleary eyed and pissed. But when I woke up for real at 8:30am, I knew I was pregnant. To help keep me sane, I tore into the bathroom garbage for evidence, and indeed I saw a negative turned positive.

Heart beating fast, I unwrapped my last clean $20 pee stick. This time I read the directions and 3 minutes later, the test confirmed what my body already knew - hell, I hadn't even missed a period yet. I was 3 weeks pregnant, hyper vigilance and all.

Relieved, yes. Excited, no. Happy, kind of. Feeling dread, completely. I walked out to Joel as he sat at our tall kitchen table. I wore a black and white striped shirt and black jeans. My hair was recovering from a bad cut. I was barefoot and cliche.

I bashfully told him that it we had completed our mission. He smiled, but I saw in his smile exactly what I was feeling - WTF have we done?

Flash forward three weeks and you'll see a bitchy and crazy tired Candace attending a holiday party with Joel at the Showbox in Downtown Seattle. It's an 80s themed party (the best) and here I am, unable to make any kind of outfit work (WTF! This never happens to me!) and unable to drink (WTF! How am I supposed to face a room full of strangers?!!) and advised not to dance (WTF! I PERISH).

I did okay for the first two hours. I faked my gin and tonic with lime and seltzer. I tried really hard to smile and converse. But when the DJ began to play the 'Sixteen Candles' soundtrack, I nearly began sobbing - everything inside of me aching to dance.

So I told myself I would dance very lightly. Whatever that means. If you know me or have seen the spectacle that is Candace dancing, you'll know I don't do it...well, lightly. Think Pat Benetar (esp at 3 min 15 seconds in) meets the gal from Flashdance (I wish) channeling every choreographic move from Footloose and aerobics competitions.

So I did it. I tried to hold back, I really did. And I thought I was okay until about 25 minutes in and I felt the familiar wet heat. It was either a lot of dance sweat, per my usual. Or it was blood.

I walked ran to the ladies. Oh god, don't let it be blood. Don't let it be blood. Just as many women have prayed for no blood and for blood for billions of bloody fucking years.

It was blood. I grabbed a bunch of toilet paper to sop it up. It wasn't a ton, but still - it was blood. I left the bathroom, told Joel we needed to leave immediately and politely excused ourselves from the dance floor and friends.

On the car ride home, the cold and dark felt so good. I was so hot. We discussed going to the hospital. We wondered if something was wrong with us because we didn't feel anything. We were both eerily calm, very flat affect. I didn't care. I couldn't care. I didn't even have time to get attached to the little thing inside of me, the dread hadn't passed yet (btw, the dread didn't pass until Bowie was 4 months old, just for the record. And it's started again as we think about her enrolling her in kindergarten next year).

At home, my toilet sits just under a window that somehow always boasts a kick ass view of the moon. On this particular December night, it was crazy clear and big - our moon. Managing blood and the worst fear I've known before or since - the wanting of something that doesn't want to stay - I texted my sister, the only person aside from Joel who knew I was pregnant.

The conversation went something like this:
Me: I was dancing at Joel's holiday party. I tried to dance like a normal person. It didn't work. I am bleeding now.
Her: How much...and other medical questions.
Me: Not too much, but still.
Her: If the baby wants to be, it will be. There's a star man, sister, waiting in the sky. He'd like to come and meet you but he thinks he'd blow your mind.
Me: Let the children boogie.
Her: Look out the window, you can see his light.
Me: If we can sparkle, he may land tonight.

This wasn't uncommon, we often have nothing but lyrics to say to each other. It's our thing.

That moment, when she said the thing about looking out the window, I looked hard and fast at the moon, directing all my wishes and power so hard at the moon. I wanted the baby. I knew it in that moment. If she made it, I'd name her 'Bowie.' In part for Teresa, in part for the moon path she'd travel, in part for David Bowie for giving us words to make the moment bearable.

She made it.
And damn, that girl boogies.

Tonight, I've spent the evening listening to David Bowie on spotify, drinking wine, watching videos of his concerts, following links like a crazy person. I've wanted desperately to join with the souls in Bowie's hometown as they sing out live in homage. I wanted to dance all night. I have wept. It has felt so good. That I could feel this way about someone I never met, simply because of his art - his words, and every thing he stood for - that is a kind of god feeling to me, if ever there was one.

David Robert Jones, you hot tramp. I love you soo. I'll try not to blow it.

"I don't know where I am going from here, but I promise it won't be boring." 

Look out your window, I can see his light.

Year in Photos 2015: aka gratitude and red wine

Joel noticed that I hadn't created my normal end-of-year slideshow. The holidays took a lot out of me this year and didn't give back as fully as usual. That's fine - not every Holiday season can be totally filled with Christmas wonder. I think I am finally old enough to realize that - to realize that it's even good to have scrooge-y years.

I could have helped myself if only there'd been more down time, more introspection and reflection. But that would have meant saying 'no' to a lot of really fun things.

When I stayed home from a NYE party I really wanted to go to, I realized...I just couldn't handle one more fun thing.

And that included making my annual EOY slideshow. I usually make them for my own benefit, not thinking anyone would even miss it or notice.

So when Joel asked why I hadn't created the slideshow, he implored me, "You have to! I love those."

So I set to work. And wouldn't you know it, the nearly 20 hours required to put these slideshows together afforded time to reflect upon my year. An unexpected benefit.

As the photos of my life scrolled across my screen
As I fed my wanderlust with visions of my travels (a lot this year!)
As I relived the musical atmosphere that Joel curates for us so well every single year
As I touched again the faces of the souls whom I love beyond words,
I felt the deepest movement of gratitude.

Gratitude (and my red wine) brought me to tears. I have such a great life - my friends are irreplaceable and inspirational. My family, scattered, but fascinating, loving, and supportive. My travels - varied and made of unforgettable memories. My work - a soulful enabler of a soulful and generous lifestyle.

So I created another slideshow in their honor.
I do these to feel the scope of my vast year and all its feelings and faces
into 10 minutes.
An unjust treatment, no doubt.
But still.