Few know this about me, but eleven years ago I took belly dancing lessons. It was something I chose to do for me. I enjoyed the class so much that I looked forward to it each week, and practiced secretly behind my closed bedroom doors. I actually wasn't too bad at it. Each movement brought me my own satisfaction. I worked hard, rolling my shoulders, swaying my hips. In a room with 20 other women ranging in age from 20 to 60 years, I danced. As diverse as our age was, so was our size. I really had nothing to be insecure about, my features were not altered with any marks that might some how make me stand out differently, and my weight was at 105 pounds. I was simply put- fairly attractive and a perfect size 2. I stood in line during class commanding my body to move to the rhythmic music. Demanding my body to follow the music, with motions that made me feel sexy and even a bit beautiful.
The day finally came when it was time to start preparing for our recital. I was frightened. The thought that a crowd of people would look at me and judge me filled me with anxiety. The thought that my fellow comm rads would all have significant others in the audience, applauding for them left me feeling awkward and lonely. I felt vulnerable and could not imagine anything more frightening than being exposed openly to scrutiny and ridicule. This was all at a very difficult time for me. A time when I was going through my divorce and reentering the dating world. As I was struggling to gain a new confidence, I was also working through old wounds.
I caved into the demons that haunted me that weekend. I let fear over whelm me and did not perform in the recital. In fact I was so ridden with self doubt and anxiety, I used my children as an excuse to not be available the weekend of our performance. In truth it was my child weekend off. I know most people who know me today, cannot even imagine this very insecure, awkward and shy side of me. A side of me that only my sons and two sisters really have witnessed.
So this was also a time in my life when my new availability sparked some interest with several men in the dating world. Unknowingly giving me more demons to contend with. So with nothing else to do in my life, on my weekends when my sons visited their father, I accepted some invitations out. Always being very cautious to not set my hopes up to high. I remember one particular time when I was out on a blind date. The gentleman I was having dinner with asked me what I did for a living. I watched the color slowly drain from his face as I spoke about my job, caring for my two younger sons. He quickly changed the subject to comment on the vikings and said little through the rest of dinner. He walked me to my car without a word, other than goodbye and good luck. It was shortly after that through a chain of gossip I learned exactly the kind of battle that laid ahead for me.
I was a single mother with two terminally ill children. A mother who spent her days and nights caring for the special needs of her sons, alone. A mother fighting for her children's acceptance and her own, in a selfish world. A world who marketed strength and beauty as though they are the catalyst to success. But I was also a mother who would find the strength to go against the odds to start a new life for her and her sons alone.
I don't regret not performing in the recital. In fact I embrace that I accepted - fear and insecurity, as part of who I am. Eleven years ago I was in a very difficult place. A place that brought me to such a low that I did not even believe in myself. I let what I heard from a handful of people fill me with self doubt. I let hurtful words that had nothing to do with Belly dancing and everything to do with my sons leave me feeling as an outcast and unwanted. I knew better, but the insults that found their way back to me outweighed my inner strength. I was stripped of hope and no match for the despair that threatened my world.
That was eleven long years ago and so much has changed. Yes, Duchenne the terminal disease that my two younger sons have, has progressed. Their daily care is much more demanding. As my sons face more challenges with their weakening muscles -Life has not become easier. I am still their single mother, facing new fears as I watch them loose in their battle with Duchenne.
But I am not that same woman who once lacked confidence in herself , and took to heart the negative thoughts of others. I am not that same woman who lacked inner strength and struggled with finding hope. I have found the strength I need to face each day and the hope I need to face the challenges ahead of us, But more importantly I have found my confidence in me- no matter what anyone else thinks. Today I would not hesitate to perform in that recital. Because I know I am the best me I can be and really no one ever expects anyone to ever be more.