When I say this year has been chaos, I feel like I’m lying because it’s such an understatement. And I know I’m not alone—from what I can tell, it’s been a veritable hellscape for most of us. My list of chaotic life events includes (in no particular order): ruining the relationship of my dreams (and his)—I’m talking blowtorch—with my previously unexamined shadow perfectionism and repressed trauma; being permanently thrown out of my house by my roommate while he was in the throws of a ketamine-and-cocaine-induced paranoid hallucination; my car’s clutch exploding whilst driving 80 on the highway two hours from familiar territory; being fired from the most well-suited job I’d ever had before I even started, not being paid for the six months of remote work I’d already done on the job, and then being gaslit by my boss for not “manifesting” enough business for him; being arrested for a seven years old arrest warrant (of which I knew nothing) for a minor traffic ticket and spending a day in jail; learning I was pregnant with an unplanned—and very much protected AGAINST—kid while in a foreign country where I had no health insurance, a revelation which prompted an emergency surgery which turned out to be unnecessary, waking up from said surgery still pregnant, going through a very intense process about whether or not I should keep my child, only to have a miscarriage two days before the doctors were going to give me a D&C because, as it turned out, the pregnancy wasn’t viable after all.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been astoundingly perfect, mind you. Just wild beyond belief.
There have been some good chaos things, too, like quitting cigarettes, shifting my focus in a major way from nihilistic partying to purpose-driven soul work, finishing my master's degree, moving to Zurich to pursue advanced training in my life’s calling, beginning a magically creative and impactful embodiment project with people I cherish deeply, lining up successful writing and teaching work for myself (which was a career change, to say the least), and generally just becoming psychologically, physically, mentally, and sexually healthier. But even good change causes stress, as the Stressful Life Experiences studies show us (getting a promotion, moving in with a partner, or changing life habits, while all potentially positive developments, still score on a stress index). Add to this rather comically woebegotten list of major life events all the minor daily ups and downs of being a sensitive human with a tendency toward over-thinking, and you can start to understand how “this year has been chaos” could be an understatement.
That’s not to say it hasn’t been astoundingly perfect, mind you. Just wild beyond belief.
Please note, I’m not expounding on my struggles to garner pity or brag about my temperament. I’m merely trying to capture the gist of what this year consisted, that I can show you how I made it through (read: how we can ALL make it through when chaos strikes).
The most astonishing thing about this year? It’s the best I’ve ever felt, consistently. The three years leading up to 2018 were the darkest, most tumultuous, self-hating, drug-fueled, confounding, alienating, and meaningless I hope to ever encounter. I do not say this lightly: I barely survived 2017. 2015 and 2016 were no different. There would be entire days (upon days upon days) that the only “accomplishment” I managed was to stop wailing for long enough to drink some water. Looking back, I almost laugh at myself and the intensity of my melodrama, but at the time, it was just. so. real.
The depression, self-destruction, and existential crisis of years 2015 - 2017 was partially because at the end of 2014 I flung myself head first into an exploration of darkness, without any notion of when I’d reemerge, in order to put to the test my understanding of god, life, death, and meaning. My realizations all but possessed me, and I could barely breathe through the suffocating madness. It hurt. A lot. So, when 2018 rolled around and I started to actually feel good and right internally—present, alive, powerful, meaningful, well-used, content—it came as a major shock that externally the gods of chaos seemed to increase in power. It’s as if my internal and external worlds were in a negatively correlated relationship: 2014-2017 my life looked great on the outside, while I raged and thrashed and cascaded through hell on the inside, but 2018 absolutely nothing “went right,” and I’ve been close to chipper through it all. Indeed, every door that has slammed shut on my nose, every pivot I've been forced at proverbial gun point to make, every surprise expense, shift in priorities, and tragic loss has felt utterly perfect. I've been a blindfolded child in a game of piñata, striking wildly at what appeared to me as opportunities, and some unseen flawless force has been gently steering my shoulders as I stab the skies, assuring that I strike at what is worthwhile, not only at what is expedient. This year, because of it's chaos, has unfolded preposterously perfectly.
Again, I’m not saying this to brag about my equanimity or hold myself over others who have not managed to find such a lofty outlook. I'm sharing my story as an observation of the facts (of which I am in disbelief), and in solidarity. Because even if I'm seeing the holy whoa in perfect clarity right now, this year has been fucking hell for so many of us, on so many levels.
Jung says that one of the keys that unlocks the door of our wholeness, our unique superpower and human potential, is to make the ego an object. To observe one’s own behavior, actions, thought-patterns, and shifting mood with an air of objectivity, as if viewing a character in a film. Instead of “why?” one simply observes, “isn’t that interesting…?” It’s only after adopting this level of detachment and embracing the resulting clarity that a person can start to embody positive transformation, because they’ve welcomed more of their truth (whether they like what they see or not) and in so doing, can take responsibility for the direction of their growth. And yes, yes, upon reflecting and observing myself these past years I can wholeheartedly say, it is indeed interesting. This past year and my unexpected, inexplicable surrender, is the most interesting of all. In fact, I’d say it’s a downright miracle.
having a dance practiceactually worksto make life better when shit hits the fan, nothing is going to plan, and everything feels paper thin, fragile, and uncomfortably transparent.
I have to ask myself, in observing and noticing and taking stock, what has resulted in the resilience I’ve mustered this year? Resilience I could barely utter in years previous? How did I come to be able to handle such a ludicrously heavy laundry list of external circumstances and not only NOT let it spin me out, but actually uncover ever-deepening layers of unshakeable trust within myself? How was I able to surrender and take the beating—erm, I mean directional advice—without losing faith? How did all this madness make me belly-laugh on the regs in recognition of the sheer magic in the world? For what reason have I been able to transmute this year’s curveballs into real feelings of peace, presence, and intimacy with reality?
The answer that keeps coming, and the reason I’m telling you all of this and sounding like an arrogant f***head, is because I dance. I’ve literally been riding the waves of this year with a joke in my pocket and a lightness in my heart because of my f***ing dance practice. Like, it actually worked. Works. Whatever.
And that, my friends, is why we’re here, reading my un-nuanced telling of this year’s calamity and the turns of events that have caught me—again and again—off guard. So that I can tell you—nay, guarantee to you—that having a dance practice actually works to make life better when shit hits the fan, nothing is going to plan, and everything feels paper thin, fragile, and uncomfortably transparent. Having a practice wherein the entire point is to let go into the flow of life as it moves through you means that when life moves through you in ways you couldn’t have possibly predicted, or imagined, or prepared for, or even tolerated (in your previous life wherein you had no practice), you can actually flow with it.
It’s as if every dance I ever danced, every moment of release that lead me to a new part of the dance floor, every drop of sweat that poured off my body while it thrashed in the throws of sweet surrender, every elbow thrown, knee wiggled, vertebra unlocked in a writhing spiral, lead to this year. And each of those moments were whispering in my ears as life continued to pull the proverbial rug out from under me: “just keep moving, we’ve done this a million times.”
Because when you practice chaos, it becomes a numinous experience. When you embody wildness, release, softness, and freedom on a dance floor, those states become habituated, such that you can call on them in times of tumult off a dance floor and not only survive the disaster, but thrive in the depth of the lessons. Because in chaos, you’re still only just dancing. And whether you’re dancing demons or delights, you’re still only just dancing. Moving and breathing, practicing being alive in the flow, no matter the direction or force. With practice, surrender is no longer a dirty word that requires at least one resistant tantrum before its begrudgingly permitted through tense body and glaring eyes, it’s a soft shape-shift that effortlessly re-writes your psychic DNA, your soul’s muscle memory. I have had a 5Rhythms® dance practice for ten years, and I can honestly say, there is nothing that could have granted me the grace, dedication, and insight I’ve been blessed with this year besides the dance. As powerful as it is simple, and almost too obvious for me to state, but practicing embodiment really does work.
Practice, it turns out, actually does make perfect.