Oh, what a few weeks it has been since I started this blog. I feel that I finally have a reason to continue to re-learn the art of hoop dance – documentation. There is something incredibly attractive to me about being the person at a gathering who is taking a video of everything going on, rather than truly engaging in conversation. I’m not sure if this is because I was fascinated with The Blair Witch Project as a child, or if it’s because I agree with the wise albeit fictional Susie Salmon about how photographs give us a moment in time that is all our own; whatever the reason, I took a video of myself hooping yesterday.
I have not made it a habit to take videos lately. Hooping has frustrated me. The repeated motions of abdominal muscles have, as previously mentioned, aggravated my endometriosis. I remember when I first had an ovarian cyst, my freshman year of college, and how I could feel the bump through my skin by my hip bone. I did not know at the time that, while I would try to rekindle my love for hooping a few times over the course of the years to come, the same love and passion would always be just out of reach for some reason or another. Not enough sleep. Another ovarian cyst. Too depressed. Too bulimic. Too –something-. Lately, too tired, too pained. Endometriosis can interfere much more with a person’s life than I ever would have realized.
I did not plan to hoop yesterday. My mother and I drove the thirty minutes between my city and my parents’ home, and on the way, I realized it was a beautiful day. It was sunny, and the temperature seemed relatively stable. Upon arriving home, I thought it would be nice to walk down to the creek by the railroad tracks. I grew up in a neighborhood that’s very small. Through one street run tracks, and if you walk down them a short ways (maybe fifty feet), you will find yourself on a small bridge framed by trees and our town’s usually muddy creek. Out where I live, the creek is very bright and clear. There are hummingbirds. I actually wasn’t allowed to go there when growing up because my parents feared that I wouldn’t hear a train. I reasoned, who wouldn’t hear a train?, and walked often down to the little bridge. I would lower myself onto one side or another, sit with my feet dangling over the concrete edge, and just listen. There are few things in life that please me more than sitting on a bridge, or a high place like a stairwell, staring out, and listening. Since yesterday was a beautiful day and I was feeling oddly nostalgic, I got an old hula hoop out from under my bed (38″ diameter polypro with silver and orange tape), and told my mom I was going for a walk. She saw the hoop and warned me to be careful of a large rottweiler nearby who will viciously protect his yard if anyone walks by. I took my pepper spray at my mother’s suggestion, hoping not to use it, and stepped out.
It truly was beautiful outside. As I walked down the slight hill that leads away from my house and to the railroad tracks, I was struck by how quiet the world was. When you are constantly surrounded by noises like people, television, radio, etc., you forget that you do not always need noise; the world is your radio, the sky your television, the wind your music. When indoors, or when a thought is repeating itself incessantly in my head, silence makes me very anxious. I brought my phone for music on my walk so that should I become anxious, I would have something to listen to that was not from my anxiety’s personalized soundtrack. The second I came across the small wooded area that approaches the bottom of the hill, I realized I didn’t need it. My anxiety was relieved by the air washing over me. My fears were taken away with the breeze. I remember thinking, “Oh, this is going to be a good day.”
I think I got very lucky in that I did not have to worry about the dog. He was not in his yard. Large dogs frighten me very much, and having been told multiple stories about this one being particularly aggressive, I was in no way looking forward to the prospect of having to defend myself from someone else’s pet. I approached the railroad tracks and turned towards the direction of the creek, my anxiety about the dog lessening with each step.
Eventually, I got to the small bridge. It is a simple place. In the middle of the mound of rocks, there are the railroad tracks themselves. You have to carefully climb down the rocks a couple of feet to get to the sides. Facing away from the main road, on the right side there are woods, and a small path. This side is harder to get down to. On the left side, there are far fewer trees. The path is easier to get to, but doesn’t go very far before you are in someone else’s property, which is why I usually favored the right side when I was younger. I stared out for a minute, hoop in hand, wishing I had worn sneakers instead of $5 flats. I went down the left side, set my hoop beside me, took off my shoes, and sat down.
There is little use in trying to describe the peace a place like this will give you if you have never been to a place like this. If you have never sat down with nature, really sat down, without taking out your phone to play and without talking, I suggest that you do it. Go to the part of your local park where no one walks anymore. Sit on the top of a building. Sit somewhere where there is grass nearby and trees are bowing and just do absolutely nothing. Let it immerse you. Let yourself be nothing, just for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine that there is no difference between you and the brook, that you are the trees, that you are the insects in the gravel; you are everything around you, and nothing at all. This can feel scary at first if you are used to constant validation. I promise that it is very much like prayer, except there are no words, and there is no being there with you. You are nature. You are human, and you are nothing, and for a moment, that is the best thing you can be.
There are few ways to truly articulate how serene it feels, how wonderful the water is to watch, how wonderful it is to listen, just listen, to nothingness. It is not exactly silence; nothing is really silent. It is more like listening to the absence of people. It is more like contemplating where you belong and why, for a brief moment, it is okay that you do not belong with other people. I have felt this many times in my life, and many times it has brought anxiety. In places like this, it brings a feeling of wellness within my very soul.
I do not know how long I sat there. I know that after a time, I became warm, and wished for shorts. I held on to the lip of the bridge and leaned over, towards the water, washing it rush below me. I wondered, as I always have, how long the moment would last between the bridge and the water if I let go. This is, as before, not a suicidal wish. For a moment, you imagine that the fall would last forever, and you would exist there forever with the wind and the spring air and the fast, rushing water. Realistically, it probably wasn’t very long. Over years and years of doing this, of wondering if I could fall perfectly down spiraling stairwells, of holding myself over edges and feeling myself no longer be there, I find the feeling comes easily to me. There are times when this produces anxiety. This time, it produced peace, hope, and after a while, a desire to dance.
I am a clumsy dancer. At least, I think so… other dancers, trained ones, have told me I am graceful. Perhaps in my perfectionism, I am just insecure, especially since there is so much I’ve forgotten. I learned a lot within my first year or so of hoop dance. However, I really haven’t learned anything since the culmination of what was in all honesty, one of the worst times of my life. In addition, keeping up with the hoop community and all its chaos means giving up a great deal of personal time, or time I would have previously been using to learn new tricks. I am a workaholic and very much academically driven. My illnesses, the trauma I went through my second semester of college, my class overload, my perfectionism, and my attempt to keep pace with a community who moves much faster than I honestly believe I can – it was all too much.
I started hooping seven years ago. I have not been hooping for seven years; I have been hooping for a total of, oh, probably three years.
So, when I got out my camera, knowing that there are many things I need to relearn, knowing I had not practiced, knowing that I feel extremely self conscious at my current weight, I was not sure that I should record a video at all. I set the phone on some rocks after I climbed down to the ground, just outside of the field. I did not have a plan. I simply listened, and began to move.
Posting this kind of video, this sort of unpracticed, unplanned thing is still odd to me. It is not the first time I have made a post of this sort, and I doubt it will be the last. The strange thing is that seeing myself like this, raw, unpracticed, simply moving, is somewhat like opening my diary, putting it on the internet and yelling, “Look! Look I did a thing!” I feel silly. I feel naked, instead of nude. (For context, please read this excellent poem by Robert Graves, titled The Naked and the Nude). I have, overtime, become increasingly paranoid about what I look like online. This is not an easy video for me to post.
I am posting it though, and I suppose I should explain why. When I danced, I felt like nothing again, like I was one with nature, with the hoop, with the movement. Just as on the bridge, I felt serene. I felt no need to be impressive or put on a performance, as I usually do when I do – well – anything. I almost forgot I was recording myself.
This is the kind of feeling I want to continue to capture. I want to continue to just move. I want to stop worrying about views, likes, or anything like that. I have worried too much about that for too long. It is nice when people watch my videos, and it would be nice to have more than one subscriber – but people will either gravitate towards me, or they won’t. I can either embrace my weirdness or I can regret not embracing it. I can either let endometriosis rule my life, or I can say, “I’m going to try anyway.” I should mention that April 1st was a blessing in that my abdomen did not flair up in pain because I danced. I rejoiced with several pictures. The feeling was sublime, to just… to just dance. I forgot that that was what this was supposed to be about. This wasn’t about likes, this wasn’t about members or followers. Those things are nice, and there were things I wanted to do with Unity that I never got to do – but when I began to truly, really dance, that was not the purpose. This was about that feeling I have when I dance. I had forgotten where the heart of it was, and yesterday, it came back, just a little.
I may be a quiet person, but when I dance, when I move… I become loud. I speak. I move and, in the words of Georgia O’Keeffe, I say “things I have no words for”. This is what hooping was to me when I first started to find flow. I have to stop being afraid that someone might see me make a mistake. I have to instead simply let go and dance.
More to come. Happy hooping.