I was in high school when I first realized I loved to dance.
Our school district required a certain number of physical education credits, but if you were in the marching band or a sport, you could get out of taking actual P.E. I found this incredibly unfair--my choice was either join band or run laps? Neither was at all appealing.
Luckily I discovered another option: something called "Dance P.E." All the girls who wanted to be on the drill team took the class, as did pretty much every other non-band, non-sports girl. Several of my friends were taking it too, and I thought surely it had to be better than being forced to play volleyball with the boys.
I had a blast. Everything we did--even square dancing--came naturally and happily to me. I learned to waltz, I learned what jazz hands are, I learned how to choreograph and choose music for performances. For a young woman whose success had always been mental, this was earth-shaking and strange.
I came dangerously close to trying out for drill team, too, but I couldn't overcome the basic truth that I was too fat. The drill team at our school won awards and was famous for its high kick routines, and while I could learn choreography with remarkable speed for an awkward chubby girl, there was no way they would let me into a group that wore thigh-high skirts and did splits on the football field. Instead of working harder and trying to get in better shape, I did what would become my pattern throughout life: I gave up.
I spent the next three years watching the team perform with bitter jealous longing in my heart. The girls who made the team had taken dance lessons from childhood, and had perfected their big vacant smiles and big hairdos. I don't think many of them really had a passion for dance; it was just something they were expected to do, as the white, upper-middle-class popular girls whose parents had dragged them to recitals and classes all their lives. I didn't want to dance to encourage school spirit, or to show off my long legs. I didn't care about competitions. I wanted to dance because, even at fifteen, I knew there was something there.
Something between the rhythm and the motion...something underneath the cheesy techno remixes and the horrid Spandex unitards...something there, something elemental and visceral, something that itched beneath my skin, a knowledge, a hunger to move.
On a subconscious level it frightened me. A teenager just barely beginning to understand there's more to spirituality than bowing and scraping before the Big Bearded Warden in the Sky is not really ready for the ecstasy of the Antlered One Himself. God and I, at that point, were not really on speaking terms. My last semester of Dance P.E. was my sophomore year, coincidentally the same year I discovered Wicca, and I turned my attention to the Goddess, not ready to grasp that She was intensely physical, sensual, and loved to dance as much as I once had.
As it turns out I'm grateful I never tried out for drill team and never had dance lessons as a child. I would come to dance on my own terms, without the specter of competition and the threat of weigh-ins and leotards. Years later, after trauma and suicidal depression had scoured my soul of its expectations and left me empty from root to crown, there was finally room inside me to move.
Now, on the cusp of 30, it's happening again.
We lost each other, He and I, this year. I lost my practice and I lost my spark. A soul in motion tends to stay in motion--and when the soul is locked in park, the body is sure to follow. There are two demons who have dogged my steps my entire life. One is fear. The other is inertia.
There was a time when every Faery Oracle reading I did turned up the same card: #17, Himself, the closest thing to a portrait of God I have ever seen. Every time I look at that card I feel my spirit quiver. Over the course of 2007, 17 turned up less and less often, and then not at all. I can't fully articulate the sense of abandonment I felt, or the fear that I would never feel that energy again, that driving passion that flows from the Earth via the power of Fire.
The thing that people forget when they feel abandoned by God is that the world, and its Divine nature, have not changed. Goddess has not disappeared; She has not turned Her back on you. There may be a reason you need to face something on your own, or you may have grossly misinterpreted the message, or you may simply have lost the connection...but it's still there. It happens to everyone. Even Mother Teresa had her Dark Night of the Soul.
We live in a world that does its damnedest to drive us away from the sacred--if we can find God on our own, we don't need the institutions of church and clergy to act as intermediaries for us. People in touch with the ecstasy of creation are impossible to control with the reins of guilt. If we were all to figure out that we don't need some outside authority to sanctify our lives, and that we don't need to kneel at the altar of the Almighty Dollar to reach heaven, all those people who make money and gain power at the expense of our freedom would have no place in society. This, as you can imagine, scares the shit out of them, so they try even harder. You must buy this, look like this, act like this, or you are not good enough. Even worse, if you love the way you want to love and fuck the way you want to fuck and dance and sing and eat and play with abandon, you are sinful, and God will cast you into the fiery pit for all eternity. Jesus loves me, this I know...but his dad is kind of a bastard, judging by His fandom.
And so, with so much effort being made to keep us divorced from our own sanctity, to keep us running and running for external approval, unless you can go live in a cave naked and eat roots and fungus, eventually you're going to become bogged down in the conflict and dissonance and depression and fear. The connection between you and Deity cannot be broken, but it can be buried, denied, ignored, and pushed to its limits of distance.
I blamed myself for a while--if I had prayed more, made myself dance, done more ritual, maybe...but that's just buying into the lie of "not good enough." When your life is at stake there's no time for blame. However it happens, the first step back is deciding to stand up.
So I got medicated, among other things. Color began to come back into the world. Music began to have rhythm again. There was suddenly more to life than mournful violin: there were drums. I have begun, very slowly, to wake up.
Last night, I found myself turning over Faery Oracle cards, and right in the center of the reading, there He was.
I laughed. I placed my palm on the card, felt heat begin to buzz in my chest and hips. At that exact moment, the Tori Amos mix CD I had absentmindedly loaded into the stereo changed tracks from the sedate "Pretty Good Year" to the pounding, spiraling explosion of "Raspberry Swirl."
That's when I heard it--the voice, missing from my head for months while I hid under the covers and waited for the end of the world. Still faint, but familiar, and carrying with it the sound of rain on leaves, the whisper of a shadow passing over the Moon.
"It took you long enough."
I was already on my feet. "Where have You been?"
I knew it was a stupid question, and I knew the answer before I heard it. "Right here. A better question is, where have you been?"
"Hell," I replied. "I designed and built it myself."
"And where are you now?"
"Standing outside the doorway of Hell staring at a map that's written in gibberish. You don't happen to have a Gibberish/English dictionary, do You?"
It might have been a laugh, or it might have been me laughing; in the end, there's no difference anyway. The reply was the same as always, in the same tone, one that could command worlds into being, or a Witch into healing herself. I closed my eyes and smiled as I heard,
"Shut up and dance."